Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dispelling the Myths about Electric Vehicles

 There are a few criticisms that I see repeatedly.  Criticism is justified when it is true.  In addition to the criticisms are the false truths.  Some of these have originated from pre-production reviews and possibly after just reading media press kits.  Unfortunately too much of it appears to evolve around fear of the unknown or some type of perceived threat to life as people know it.  Let me list some of them and give a response.  Hopefully a response from someone with actual experience will have more weight than a critique from someone who has zero or limited actual experience.

1.    People won’t buy an EV unless they have charging stations nearby.  I have had my EV for two months.  In that time I have been able to perform 100% of my charging at home.  And from reading the i-MiEV forum (myimiev.com), there are plenty of others who have longer ownership time, and have done the same.  I even use just the factory supplied 120 Volt charger running on standard household current. 

2.    There aren’t enough charging stations around to support drivers.  This is similar to the criticism above, but I have seen it supported by stating the number of publicly available charging stations compared to the number of gas stations.  The huge omission that this leaves out is that charging can be done away from public stations.  If people were able to get gasoline from their house as easy as turning on a water faucet, there would be a lot less gas stations.  If charging could only be done away from the house, this statement might have some merit.

3.    You could run out of battery power somewhere inconvenient.  This criticism would be justified if it came from a person who routinely drives their car until it runs out of gas.  If a person has enough sense to realize how far their car can go before needing gas, they should be able to figure out how far their EV can go before needing a charge.  The difference is there is a larger safety net for fueled vehicles.  If a person lived in a small town where the only gas station closed at 8 PM every night and wasn’t open on Sundays, you would expect they would adjust their behavior to account for those limitations.

4.    Electric Vehicles are slow and can’t get out of their own way.  Have they heard of the Tesla Roadster?  But most of the time, the comment isn’t from someone who’s been in an electric car, it’s from someone who’s just looked at performance numbers.  How quickly does a person need to accelerate? Is every stop light treated like a drag race?  Actually, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has the potential to accelerate quickly when driven.  But when I’m in my Zen-like state, I don’t feel the need to accelerate quickly (most of time, anyway).  If there is traffic behind me, I will accelerate in a responsible manner to avoid impeding the progress of those following.  After all, most EV owners are also advocates and promoters of EVs.  Therefore it is in our best interest to not offend those behind us and allow the “slow” stereotype to be advanced.

5.    The cost is too prohibitive.  As of yet there aren’t many people making that comment that have backed it up with a break-even analysis.  True, the initial purchase price is higher than another vehicle that may suit their transportation needs.  And the negative reviewers that warn against the price and the cost of charging tend to look at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to public utility rates for electricity.  There are a few ways to counter this.  One is logical.  The other is emotional. 
·         Logically, one compares costs for a new ICE (Internal combustion engine) car against an EV.  Costs include initial purchase price, rebates and incentives, operating costs and maintenance costs.  Residual value should be a component as well.  The quick comparison would be to calculate the difference in cost (after rebates, incentives, and financing costs for each) and decide the break-even point using the cost of gas and fuel economy against the cost of electricity and cost per mile to operate.  For my particular situation, the cost per mile to operate the i-MiEV is $0.015 per mile.  Let’s use the 2012 Ford Fiesta with a mid-range sticker price of $15,500 as a comparison.  It is an available sub-compact with 33 MPG fuel economy and let's use gas at $3.50 gallon.  That yields a cost of $0.11 per mile.  If the purchase cost difference is $14,500.00 then the break-even point is around 30,500 miles.  The calculation also takes into account the $7,500 federal tax credit and the Illinois state rebate of $3,000 for a $30,000 electric vehicle.  That’s not bad for most drivers.  For someone who drives 10,000 miles a year the break-even would be around 3 years.  (That would equate to around 200 miles a week.) 
·         On the emotional side let’s see how the decision to buy an EV stacks up against other major purchases.  Would you expect an accountant, who just bought two new wave runners with a trailer, to question the financial sense behind buying an EV?  When would buying a full dresser Harley Davidson make sense financially?  What about ski boats, fishing boats, sport bikes, and vacation homes?  Those are lifestyle purchases.  They are rarely tools that one needs to earn a living.  Yet why is it that an EV, which can be legitimately used on a daily basis to assist in earning an income, must be defended as a purchase?  We’ll congratulate the person who drives home in a new motorcycle or shows off pictures of some other new acquisition.  But EV owners are asked to justify their purchase.  It can be thought of as a lifestyle purchase that has the added benefit of serving a utilitarian purpose.  Or a utilitarian vehicle that trades range limitations for long-term operating cost savings while making a environmental statement.

6.    Owners are required to set up a 240V charger in their house.  This is just completely untrue.  Fortunately there has only been one occurrence of this statement that I have seen.  But the misinformation has a way of spreading and becoming a deterrent to those who may be "on-the-fence" and don't fact check.  The Geek Squad from Best Buy only comes out to determine if your current household wiring can handle the load for the 120V charger.

7.    There is only one cup holder! The truth is there are three.  One is immediately visible behind the hand brake lever between the front seats.  The other two flip out from just below the air ducts on the outside portion of the dash.  The shape of these cup holders is square and I’ve even seen references to people using these as smart phone holders.


8.    The charging of Electric Vehicles will place additional burden on an already strained electric grid.  A fairly large percentage of owners are charging their vehicles at night (after returning home from work) and some even time their charging for net metering to take advantage of lower utility rates.  So peak demand during the warmest part of Summer days isn't too much of an issue.  Here's something else to consider.  It takes electricity to make gasoline too.  It takes 6 kilowatt hours of electricity to refine a gallon of gasoline.  (http://gatewayev.org/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline)  I can drive about 24 miles with that 6 kilowatts of electricity, and I haven't produced any tailpipe emissions in the process.

9.    The creation of electricity has an equal amount of negative environmental impact as the burning of fossil fuels.  This is the rebuttal from those trying to counter the “green” aspect of electric cars.  As mentioned above, electricity is used to create gasoline, then additional pollutants are released when the gas is used.


This may become an entry that gets updated as additional myths are found to dispel.

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