We all know there’s a lot of misinformation about electric vehicles out there, but this is ridiculous. A recent survey found that 12% of UK motorists believe that electric cars cannot be driven in the rain!
Above: Tesla Model S driving in heavy rain (Twitter: MKBHD)
The UK media outlet This is Money recently reported on a survey conducted by LV= General Insurance, a UK insurer that offers comprehensive car insurance policies specially tailored for EVs. The survey, which polled 2,004 UK adults, found that 27% of respondents would consider buying an electric car, while 18% said they never would. Of the “never” group, 51% worried that their battery charge would run out, 48% believed that EVs are too expensive, and 45% said that EVs can’t be used for long journeys.
While some car buyers do have legitimate objections to EVs - their up-front costs are still comparatively high, and they may be inconvenient for drivers who regularly make long highway journeys - many of the objections cited by this survey’s respondents range from demonstrably false to head-shakingly absurd. The fact that there are people who really believe some of these things demonstrates the pressing need for more consumer education about plug-in vehicles.
While the highly informed readers of this column know that EVs offer far more power and torque than ICE vehicles (to cite only two examples, the Tesla Model S has the fastest acceleration of any production sedan ever built, and the Pininfarina Battista, revealed at the recent Geneva Motor Show, features 0-60 acceleration under 2 seconds and a top speed of over 217 mph), many of the general public assume that the opposite is the case. LV= General’s survey found that 55% of respondents believe EVs are less powerful than legacy vehicles.
Another prevalent myth, encouraged by the anti-EV crowd, is that the batteries in EVs and hybrids quickly wear out. Of the LV= survey’s participants, 23% believe that an EV battery would need to be replaced every five years. In fact, Tesla vehicles (and all other EVs sold in the US) carry a battery warranty of at least 8 years, and, while battery longevity depends on many factors, including temperatures and the type of use, most experts expect a typical battery to last much longer than that. Driver data collected by Nissan indicates that its LEAF batteries should last as long as 22 years.
Above: Electric cars at a charging station (Image: LV=)
For some buyers, an EV’s limited range compared to that of a legacy vehicle is a legitimate objection - even a Tesla Supercharger can’t top up a battery as quickly as filling a gas tank. However, as many, many real-world accounts attest, long road trips in a Tesla or other EV are quite feasible, and are getting more convenient every year as ranges increase and highway fast chargers proliferate. This fact hasn’t sunk in with Joe Six-Pack (or Ian Pint-o-Lager) - 45% of LV’s respondents said that EVs “can’t be used for long journeys,” and 12% believe that one “can’t drive an electric car on the motorway.” This is Money points out that the latest models offer at least 200 miles of range - about the distance from London to Manchester - and that public charging stations are getting easier to find every day. Ecotricity alone has 145 public stations (around 300 individual chargers) at motorway locations in the UK. In the US, Electrify America is building a comprehensive network of highway charging stations.
Another myth that’s plainly contrary to fact: EVs are more expensive to run. Some 25% of LV’s respondents said that driving on electrons costs more than driving on gas - most of them estimated EV charging costs at double what they actually are. In fact, while both gasoline and electric prices vary widely across different parts of the world, in the US the general rule of thumb is that you’ll save about two thirds on fuel costs by driving electric. In the UK, where petrol prices are ghastly, the savings can be gargantuan - according to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical EV can run for 100 miles at a cost of £4 to £6, compared to £13 to £164 for 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car. Electric cars are also exempt from UK road taxes and London’s Congestion Charge.
Now we move from the realm of understandable concerns into a fantasy world. Some 6% of LV’s nervous Nellies say they wouldn’t buy an EV because of the risk of electrocution. Some 12% say an electric car can’t be driven in the rain, and 18% claim to believe that you can’t wash an EV in a car wash. At this point, one may be tempted to question the validity of LV’s survey. Can an adult of sound mind really believe such things? Common sense dictates that, if one couldn’t drive an EV in the rain (do they melt like sugar in tea, or just stop running?), the adoption rate of EVs in drizzly Britain would be right around zero, and yet, as of April 2019, there were some 206,000 plug-in passenger cars, and 8,500 plug-in vans, on the UK’s roads (as reported by Next Green Car).
The LV= survey also found that people are ignorant of government incentives for EV purchases - 40% per cent of people were unaware of the UK’s Plug-in Grant, which offers rebates of up to £3,500 for EV buyers. Some 70% were unaware that the UK government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Let’s hope that policymakers, automakers and advocacy groups come together to educate the public about plug-in vehicles long before then.