Electric Vehicles: Common Misconceptions

Will misconceptions stall electric vehicle success?

Electric vehicles are viewed as an incredibly important technological development, with good reason.

As climate concerns grow, the move to electric power is hoped to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging cleaner energy. Traditional non-electric vehicles are a major source of pollution, but by changing the way that vehicles are fuelled, the global transportation industry can drastically cut its carbon emissions. EVs are also expected to be cheaper and more efficient than their fossil fuelled equivalents.

So why isn’t everyone driving an electric car or catching an electric bus?

The current state of play

From luxury automakers to more affordable brands, automotive companies are committed to developing EVs that customers can feasibly buy and run. Leading manufacturers include BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Nissan, and of course Tesla. Governments and transport authorities across the world are also encouraging adoption through schemes and perks.

Earlier this year, the Canadian government announced a purchase incentive of $5,000 for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles costing under $45,000 (excluding Tesla models). This isn’t necessarily a snub at Tesla, but rather a call for other manufacturers to make more affordable cars.

The UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles offers a £3,500 subsidy for new electric cars, an £8,000 incentive for electric vans, and a £1,500 discount for electric motorbikes. The Indian government unveiled its National Electric Mobility Mission plan in 2013 with the aim of facilitating EV expansion by 2030, and in China, the goal is to have five million electric and hybrid cars on the roads next year.

In 2018, US EV sales hit a record high, and this year the European passenger EV market reportedly grew by 34 per cent. Similar surges are happening in other global markets, which is just as well considering ambitious targets to ban internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the next couple of decades.

In anticipation of this, many automakers have set 2020 as the benchmark for mass EV roll out. But even in the UK, where infrastructure development is well underway, EVs are still rare. Given the obvious advantages, it’s worth questioning why the adoption curve isn’t steeper.

Confusion driving down confidence

When it comes to growth, certainty is everything. Shareholders and stakeholders need to be confident in products and processes for markets to thrive. More often than not, uncertainty is the result of misconceptions.

In the EV space, misconceptions have deterred potential investors and buyers. One of the main misconceptions is that they are too expensive. Generally speaking, electric vehicles are pricier than regular ICE models. However, the initial extra spend is negated by cheaper running costs. Instead of buying cheap and then forking out for fuel, EV owners make savings over time. Theoretically, this could make EVs more affordable in the long run.

Another crippling misconception is that electric models don’t have a long enough range, and won’t be able to complete long journeys without multiple charging stops. Most diesel and petrol cars can travel between 300 and 400 miles on a full tank, which is much further than the 250 mile range of the majority of electric vehicles.

That said, there are now electric cars like the Kia e-Niro and the Jaguar I-Pace that can deliver over 250 miles on a single charge. The e-Niro, for instance, has an official range of 282 miles. While this is considerably lower than non-electric cars, extensive time and development that has gone into ICEs. It’s important to recognise the speed at which EVs are catching up.

The road to reality

While some misconceptions have challenged adoption, others have led to overestimations. The EV market is growing, but not universally. Electric charging points have become fairly standard at fuel stations in Europe and the US, but this doesn’t mean that other global locations are able or willing to install similar facilities.

Worldwide public infrastructure is a key issue for EV expansion… Tied to this is confusion over charge times. There are various super fast charging solutions in the works, but at the moment it makes most sense to charge EVs overnight, at home.

Most electric vehicles take six to eight hours to reach a full charge – even the Tesla Roadster’s 3.5 hours pales in comparison to almost instantaneous fuel pumps. Most car owners keep their car outside their house or in a garage at night, so far more work needs to go into domestic charging points.

Another serious misconception that has contributed to EV hype surrounds sustainability. Electricity is less polluting than diesel and petrol, but it may still come from non renewable sources. Even though electric vehicles are less damaging to the environment, it would be misleading to call them ‘environmentally friendly’ unless powered by 100 per cent clean energy.

Into the sunset

Misconceptions will either stop investment in electric vehicles, or lead businesses and consumers to make hasty, damaging decisions based on hype rather than reality. Fortunately, the EV market has already demonstrated a largely unspoken agreement between manufacturers and legislators. Governments recognise the importance of reducing transport emissions as part of sustainability goals, and manufacturers have accepted that fossil fuels are finite and should be phased out over time.

The challenge for organisations, corporate or otherwise, is to strike a balance between over-enthusiasm and apathy. The investment community – which includes consumers themselves – will need to understand the benefits and blockers of electric vehicles to make decisions based on fact. With expectations riding high, resolving these points of confusion is the only way to build truly supportive infrastructures and inspire market confidence.

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