The oil and automotive industries’ increasingly crude attempts to spread misinformation about electric vehicles is a bid to protect a business model increasingly recognized each day as harmful to the planet and to each and every one of us. Media outlets such as The Guardian and CNBC have written about this issue. The misinformation includes the contention that electric vehicles are bigger polluters than conventional vehicles; this has been disproven time and again, especially as more and more states and countries are generating their electricity from sustainable sources. And even when electricity is produced from fossil fuels, the use of electric cars still means a major reduction in air pollution in our cities.
Another falsehood is that transportation is not the real issue, that the actual causes of pollution are heating or industrial emissions. The truth is that cars and trucks account for more than a third of polluting emissions, a good part of which occur precisely in the places where we live and work. So any reduction is likely to have a positive effect on our quality of life.
Then there are the claims that electric vehicles are too expensive or generate anxiety in their drivers: an idea refuted by the growing driving range of electric vehicles, which is already approaching or even surpassing that of their fossil fuel counterparts. Mercedes says its next electric vehicle will have a range of 500 kilometers, and some Teslas, like the next Roadster, are expected to have a range of around 1,000 kilometers. Even though these examples are not precisely cars for regular people, the trend is clear. With the progressive increase in the density of batteries, these figures can only evolve one way: upward.
Batteries are also the targets of misinformation campaigns: some of my readers say that batteries rely on supposedly scarce mineral sources and can’t be recycled. First, batteries can be recycled. Their elements are perfectly reusable, and, contrary to what many think, batteries degrade with use or over time much less than expected. Rigorous scientific studies show battery degradation of around 1% every 30,000 kilometers, making them much more efficient than their internal combustion rivals. In many cases, this falsehood has led leasing or renting companies to offer bad deals (based on a supposed residual zero value at the end of the contract) to people interested in electric vehicles, thus discouraging sales. As more batteries are produced, the technology is improving and prices falling, while other technologies, such as solid-state batteries, offer even more potential.
Then there are the fearmongers spreading untruths about our inability to generate enough electricity to charge all those electric cars. This claim has already been refuted by none other than the UK’s association of energy providers, which says its members will be more than able to meet the demand of the several million electric vehicles that are projected to arrive in the coming years.
And then there’s the issue of maintenance. Internal combustion engines are have more than 10,ooo moving parts that must be permanently lubricated and periodically replaced. As any car owner knows, replacing spare parts is extremely expensive. A typical electric vehicle has around 18 moving parts, with very low degradation and drastically lower maintenance needs than vehicles with internal-combustion engines.
We need to move quickly and efficiently toward using electric vehicles, bypassing hybrids completely (hybrids are inefficient and are only meant to extend the life of the internal combustion engine, an already out-of-date technology that should be banned sooner rather than later. Anybody considering buying a car should forget diesel, gasoline or hybrids, and go electric.
In some countries, such as Spain, the automotive industry is still using trotting out arguments based on its fictional “technological neutrality” that are actually anything but neutral. These arguments are essentially designed for an extremely lengthy transition period to protect a traditional industry that has already exceeded all limits of ethics and corporate social responsibility.
By all means, let’s have a discussion about the future of transportation, but let’s do so based on facts, not rumors, half-truths and outright lies.