The Koch brothers and their oil rich allies are going to be saying a lot of bad things about electric vehicles. Though the Fueling U.S. Forward platform is currently cheerleading for oil and natural gas (relying on exaggeration, misrepresentation of facts, and outright deception) the campaign will endeavor to undermine the biggest single threat to oil extractors and refiners—electric vehicles.
They’re going to say that EVs are a niche product for the rich, that they don’t really reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that government shouldn’t be “picking winners.” The Koch campaign’s assault on EVs relies on cherry-picked data and arguments that are one-sided, misleading, or just plain wrong.
Fortunately, we have facts to counter the Koch’s EV myths.
Environmental Attributes of Electric Vehicles
Myth: EVs are charged on fossil fuels, so there’s no climate benefit.
Fact: For all Americans, plugging in anywhere in the United States, the average new EV produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the average new gasoline car. That’s according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who conducted a landmark “well-to-wheel” life cycle analysis of electric vehicles.
It’s true that the emissions from charging an EV will vary considerably depending on where you plug in. But as this UCS map shows, charing an EV off of the dirtiest grids in the country (in and around Colorado and Kansas) yield global warming pollutions equivalent to driving a 35 mile-per-gallon gasoline-powered car.
In California, where over 40% of the nation’s EVs have been sold, driving an EV produces emissions equal to a gasoline car that achieves 87 mpg.
Myth: Producing EVs is worse for the climate than producing cars with internal combustion engines.
Fact: While true that building an electric car produces more emissions than a conventional gasoline-powered car, mostly because of battery production, these emissions are dwarfed by those saved over the driving life of the EV.
Again, we turn to the UCS’s life cycle analysis: “the average EV in the U.S. produces less global warming emissions than the average gasoline vehicle. The peer-reviewed literature largely agrees: EVs produce more pollution than gas vehicles in the production of the vehicle, but then save emissions while driving which results in a net savings within the first couple years of driving.”
Myth: EV batteries are dirty and dangerous and can’t be recycled.
Fact: Even though lithium-ion batteries, the most common EV battery, are designated landfill-safe, there’s no good reason that they ever have to wind up there. EV batteries can and should be recycled, the lithium — currently in very high demand for laptops and phones and countless electronics — extracted for re-use.
Even more promising is the concept of reusing the batteries themselves for other applications. A battery considered “done” for electric vehicle use still has about 75-80% of its capacity, and can be used for home energy storage or for grid storage applications. Nissan and General Motors are already partnering with companies and utilities to explore options for EV battery afterlives.
Government Intervention in the Free Market
Myth: People don’t want them!
Fact: More than one out of every five car shoppers already say that they will consider a pure all electric vehicle as their next car purchase, and that number rises to nearly one in three if you include plug-in hybrids. The pessimist might argue that this is still a minority of drivers, but with nearly 17 1/2 million cars sold in the U.S. last year, we’re looking at over five million Americans who will consider an EV this year.
Once you get a driver into an EV, the demand is staggering. Ford recently surveyed EV drivers and found that more than 9 out of every 10 EV drivers don’t want to go back to gasoline and will buy another plug-in as their next vehicle.
Myth: EV incentives only benefit the rich.
Fact: This looks to be a favorite of the Koch vs. Electric Vehicles campaign, and was featured prominently in their full page advertorial in The Hill: “Or the tax credits (up to $7,500) the government offers to consumers who purchase hybrid and electric vehicles. Such credits may seem enticing to the general public, but the reality is that 90 percent of the beneficiaries come from the top income bracket.”
The federal government currently offers a tax credit of up to $7,500 to the first 200,000 buyers of each model of plug-in electric vehicle (including hybrid electrics and full battery EVs). Thus far, most of those credits have, in fact, been claimed by buyers of more expensive EV models.
But with that tax credit there are currently at least 14 plug-in models that cost under $30,000, which happens to be the average cost of a new car sold in the U.S., so there are plenty of affordable options as well.
What’s more, the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and localized air pollution benefit everyone, not just the drivers.
Myth: Electric vehicles are impractical, and the average driver can’t rely on them.
Fact: A full 69% of American drivers travel less than 60 miles on weekdays, which is well within the range of most EVs.
The Union of Concerned Scientists considered a number of other factors as well — access to charging, hauling needs, and passenger capacity — and found that today, 42% of American households could rely on an EV as their only vehicle. When you consider that the average household has roughly two cars, its clear that replacing one with an EV is more than practical.
Myth: The charging infrastructure just isn’t there for EVs yet.
Fact: Ask any EV driver where they charge, and nearly all of them will tell you at home and at work. In fact, 81% of all EV charging is done at home, so the lack of public charging stations is more of a psychological hurdle to EV adoption than it is a practical one.