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Electric Vehicles: Myths vs. Reality

Shining a light on some of the most common myths in the Electric Vehicle industry

Myth 1: Just Switching from Oil to Coal

Switching to an electric vehicle will just mean that the same amount of pollution comes from the electricity generation rather than from the tailpipe — I'll just be switching from oil to coal.

Reality: Electric vehicles are cleaner than vehicles powered by burning dirty fossil fuels, full stop.

A fully electric vehicle uses electricity to power a battery - this means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, and no internal combustion engine. 

Studies show that driving on electricity produces significantly fewer emissions than using gasoline -- across the nation -- and is getting better over time. In some areas, like many on the West Coast that rely largely on wind or hydropower, the emissions are significantly lower for EVs. And that's today. As we retire more coal plants and bring cleaner sources of power online, the emissions from electric vehicle charging drop even further. Additionally, in some areas, night-time charging will increase the opportunity to take advantage of wind power -- another way to further reduce emissions.

A caveat to consider is that when coal plants supply the majority of the power in a given area, electric vehicles may emit more CO2 and SO2 pollution than hybrid electric vehicles. Learn where your electricity comes from, what plans your state or community has for shifting to renewable energy, and whether you have options for switching to cleaner power.

Myth 2: Recycling Batteries is Problematic

Electric vehicle batteries pose a recycling problem.

Reality: EV batteries last longer than the vehicle.

Internal combustion engine vehicles use lead-acid batteries, and their recycle rate is about 98% in the US. The newer batteries for electric vehicles, such as those made of lithium-ion, include even more valuable and recyclable metals and will have a life well beyond the vehicle.

The EV industry can be better than its predecessors and use batteries that are responsibly-sourced, don’t rely on cobalt, and have a higher percentage of recycled components. For example, Nissan started a remanufacturing facility that will repurpose used batteries, and other companies are building auto recycling plants to reduce the amount of new material required for a new EV battery pack.

Myth 3: Electricity Bill will Go Up

Because I'm charging a car, my electricity bill will increase a lot.

Reality: While you'll spend more on electricity, the savings on gas will more than cover it.

If you drive a pure battery electric vehicle 15,000 miles a year at current electricity rates (assuming $.12 per kilowatt hour though rates vary throughout the country), you'll pay about $500 per year for the electricity to charge your battery, but you'll save about $1900 in gas (assuming $3.54 per gallon, a 28 miles per gallon vehicle, and 15,000 miles driven). So $1900 minus $500 equals $1400 in savings - a 74% reduction in fueling costs. Some utilities are offering EV owners lower off-peak/nighttime rates. The more we successfully advocate for these off-peak incentives, the lower your electricity payments will go.

Myth 4: Battery will Die

EVs can't drive very far before their batteries run out of power.

Reality: The range of EV can handle most day-to-day driving and are constantly improving.

It is true that fueling an electric vehicle takes a different type of planning. But the range of today’s EVs exceeds the needs for the average American driver. 

The majority of drivers in the US drive less than 35 miles each day, sufficient for a fully charged battery electric vehicle (most can go 70 to 130 miles on one charge), and an extended range electric vehicle (that drives about 35 miles on electric and then the gasoline power kicks in). Using a 220-volt outlet and charging station, a plug-in hybrid recharges in about 100 minutes, an extended range plug-in electric in about four hours, and a pure electric in six to eight hours. A regular 110-volt outlet will mean significantly longer charging times, but for plug-in hybrids and extended range electrics, this outlet may be sufficient. Most of the time, the battery will not be empty when you plug in, thus reducing charging time.

Most people will charge at home, and public and workplace charging is rapidly increasing. Drivers have an increasing number of places where they can charge an EV; the number of public and workplace EV charging points in the U.S. increased from 430 in 2008 to over 68,800 in 2019.

Myth 5: EVs are Expensive

Electric vehicles are much more expensive than traditional vehicles.

Reality: Tax Credits decrease the price of EVs.

Incentives like the federal EV tax credit mean that many EVs cost the same or less than an average new vehicle, and Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds and political ideologies are interested in EVs.

Many states have additional tax credits on top of the federal ones. Additionally, the average electric vehicle driver will save between $700 and $1600 a year in fuel (the cost of electricity compared to gasoline). Due to a cleaner, more streamlined system under the hood, an EV may save the average driver about 46% in annual maintenance costs, according to one federal government study.

Myth 6: Electric vehicles Aren't Available in my State

Reality: You can get EVs anywhere in the U.S.

Several electric vehicle models are available nationwide, and many others are available in many locations. Electric vehicle makers include Nissan, General Motors/Chevy, Tesla, Ford, Mitsubishi, BMW, Toyota, Audi, Porsche, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, . Check your local dealerships for availability.

Myth 7: Can't Charge with Clean Energy

Charging an electric vehicle on solar power is a futuristic dream.

Reality: The technology to power your EV with solar power is already available.

The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity, but replacing much more expensive gasoline. According to Plug In America, EVs typically travel three to four miles (or more) per kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity. If you drive 12,000 miles per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW photovoltaic (PV) system to generate that much power for your vehicle using about 150 to 300 square feet of space on the roof of your home. 

According to SolarChargedDriving.org, for both vehicle and other home electricity needs, you will need about 7-10 kW of solar power in total on your roof. If your solar system is already in place but does not have enough panels for both home and vehicle charging needs, you may be able to buy a converter that can handle another "string;" micro inverter systems may be particularly good for this. Utility credits for the daytime solar power can offset the cost of charging the car at night. If solar PV isn't feasible at your home, find out if your utility offers a green energy option.


  1. * Union of Concerned Scientists. “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings Across the United States.” April, 2012. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

  2. MIT Energy Initiative. "The Electrification of the Transportation System." April, 2010.

  3. Electric Power Research Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council. "Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles." 2007. Cited February 16, 2011.