Globally, electric vehicle (EV) uptake is booming, thanks to the huge progress in EV innovation, range and affordability in recent years.
In Australia the revolution is also underway, but slower to take hold. While EV technology and infrastructure is now at a point where mass uptake is possible, myths around EVs still persist and muddy the waters for consumers.
Below, we’ve gathered the top 10 EV myths and uncovered some surprising truths, using facts and figures to help ensure Australians can make a more informed choice around EV ownership.
Myth #1: Not enough driving range
The average driving distance from a single charge of an EV currently available in Australia, is more than five hours of continuous driving per day. The average Australian household owns more than two cars, and completes about one hour of continuous driving - or 38kms - per day. This means EV driving ranges are more than enough to fulfil our everyday driving needs, assuming drivers are recharging vehicles overnight.
EV technology is continually improving, along with vehicle range. The minimum range available from a pure EV in the Australian market today is estimated to be between 130km and 160km. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tesla Model S can travel 632kms on a single charge.
For those wanting to travel even longer distances (and charge less), plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) might be a suitable option. PHEVs combine a petrol engine with electric motors and a rechargeable battery.
The Mitsubishi Outlander, which is available in Australia, is a PHEV which automatically selects a drive mode based on your driving conditions. This gives you the best of both worlds: allowing your short range driving to use pure EV, and long range driving to use hybrid technology.
An alternative to pure EVs and plug-in hybrids and pure EVs is range-extended EVs, which are pure EVs with a back-up petrol generator. The BMW i3 has a 200km range on a standard battery and a 350km range when used with a range extender.
Myth #2: Charging takes too long
With EV technology continually improving, charging times are falling rapidly. From empty battery to fully charged now takes most EVs between six to 10 hours (using residential AC charging), making overnight charging ideal. For non-fully depleted batteries, charging times are much shorter.
Pro tip: The key to efficient EV charging is to top up the battery every day or two, rather than waiting for the battery to be fully depleted.
For those needing to top-up batteries on the go, DC fast charging is a gamechanger. At DC fast charging stations EVs can be charged to 80 percent capacity in around 20 minutes. There are currently 29 public fast charging stations around Australia. Tesla also offer superchargers which can add 270 kms of range to Tesla vehicles in only 30 minutes.
Power levels is one reason charging times may differ. Commercial chargers often run on higher kilowatts than residential chargers, delivering a faster charge. But EV owners can also speed up home charging times by installing a dedicated charging unit connected to a higher kilowatt power supply.
Myth #3: Too few places to charge EVs
EV owners are discovering that charging during non-use periods (ie. overnight or while at work) is sufficient for everyday driving needs.
However, as EV uptake increases globally, charging infrastructure is also making its own quiet revolution. Check out this interactive map by Plugshare which tracks the expanding public and private charging stations around the world, including in Australia.
An ever expanding network of public charging infrastructure also ensures those without access to home or work charging can own an EV, as well as offering convenience and road trip charging to all EV driver.
Myth #4: Expensive to buy
Not strictly a myth if you only take into account upfront purchase costs - as opposed to total costs of vehicle ownership, as EVs in general are more expensive to buy than comparable conventional fuel vehicles.
However, the main driver for this cost difference is the costs of batteries which is plummeting, falling by an average of 14 per cent per year between 2007 and 2014.
Bloomberg predict that by 2025, the total cost of EV ownership will fall below that of conventional fuel vehicles.
Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo also produce PHEVs available in Australia, with prices ranging from AUD$45,000 for the Mitsubishi Outlander to AUD$100,000 for the Volvo XC90 SUV. Another option for lower-cost EV ownership is to purchase a second-hand EV.
Myth #5: Expensive to run
When calculating total vehicle ownership costs, it is important to consider all costs of owning and running an EV compared to a conventional vehicle, including purchase price, distance travelled, fuel costs, maintenance (including for engines, brakes, exhaust systems etc.), depreciation and insurance.
EVs benefit from not requiring oil changes or maintenance for exhaust systems and studies show that this can help reduce car maintenance costs by 35-46% over time.
Myth #6: EVs are inferior performers
Even more modest EVs can accelerate faster than many conventional vehicles, delivering full force in rotating the car’s wheels (or in more technical terms, ‘torque’) as soon as the vehicle starts moving. Conventional vehicles don’t reach this amount of force until their engines rev to higher.
EVs reach 100 per cent full force to rotate wheels instantly, giving them much faster acceleration than petrol and diesel vehicles.
The FIA Formula E Championship began in 2014 and is a class of auto racing that uses only electric-powered cars. An average Formula E car can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in three seconds, with maximum speed of 225 kilometres per hour.
Myth #7: No one is buying EVs
Global EV uptake is growing rapidly. In 2011 45,000 EVs were sold, in 2014, 300,000 - a 566 per cent increase.
This pattern is reflected around the world. In Norway, EV ownership represents close to 20 per cent of all vehicles. In China, the country enjoyed an influx of 83,000 electric passenger vehicles as well as 230 million electric bikes and 36,500 electric buses in 2014.
Uptake in Europe is expected to increase sharply in the coming years due to the EU’s combined EV target which equals around eight to nine million EVs on the road by 2020.
In Australia in 2015, 942 fully electric vehicles were sold. While this is a small percentage of the 1.1 million-plus cars bought by Australians in the same period, one forecast has estimated EV uptake to reach over 2.85 million or 17.7 per cent of all vehicles on the road by 2036. Major factors expected to drive this include falling battery prices, improved model choice and support from government and industry to remove barriers to EV uptake.
While these numbers are impressive, many believe the real number of EVs on the road (both globally and in Australia) are much higher, as some EV manufacturers such as Tesla choose not to publicise sales data.
Myth #8: Not any better for the environment
The transport sector is one of the fastest growing sources of emissions in Australia, increasing 47.5 per cent since 1990 and projected to rise a further six per cent by 2020. However if Australia were to shift to 100 per cent EVs, operating on renewable electricity, this would eliminate 6% of Australia’s greenhouse gases.
Depending on the source of electricity, state or community plans for shifting to renewables, and type of vehicle, carbon dioxide produced from powering an EV from the grid can be less than the carbon dioxide pollution produced from using petrol to power conventional vehicles. An EV charged from a renewable power source produces almost zero emissions.
The positive impacts of this are not just limited to the environment; reductions in conventional vehicle use have also been found to improve urban air quality and reduce traffic noise.
Myth #9: Batteries are no good
Battery technology is evolving at a rapid pace. While many people assume EV batteries have similar lifespans to car batteries - around five years - new research indicates EV batteries have significantly longer lifespan. Need some extra comfort? Many vehicle manufacturers are now offering warranties of up to 10 years for EV batteries.
Sticking to modest estimates, however, we can safely assume over a 10-year period, battery effectiveness is likely to only reduce 15-25 per cent and can be repurposed to use as home energy storage for another 10 years. After this time batteries are also almost completely recyclable.
Myth #10: EVs will overload the grid
Bloomberg estimates that by 2040, EVs will use 1,900 terawatt-hours of power globally, which equates to about 10 per cent of all global electricity produced in 2015.
Most concerns around the potential impact of EVs on Australia’s electricity grid are based on worries the grid will be overloaded during peak demand.
Peak demand occurs when demand for electricity spikes, for example in the early evening when most people arrive home from work, or when a large section of the population use air conditioners at full capacity during a heatwave. However EVs are often charged at home during off-peak periods (for example overnight).
This content was created on behalf of the Electric Vehicle Council by ClimateWorks Australia, supported by ARENA.