Top electric car myths, busted
1. EVs are more environmentally friendly
That depends where and how you recharge them. Use renewable electricity – such as solar from your rooftop, or from any power point in Tasmania (which uses renewable and hydro power) – and there are no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
In Victoria, about 71 per cent of electricity is generated from CO2-intensive sources such as coal and gas. According to the The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning that amounts to 1.13 kg of CO2 per kiloWatt hour. In an EV with an 80kWh battery that amounts to 90.4kg of CO2.
Allowing for an energy use of 16kWh over 100km, a typical mid-sized EV will travel around 500km.
To get a similar 500-kilometre driving range from a similar petrol-powered car, such as a Kia Sportage or Mazda CX-5, you would need about 40 litres of fuel, which emits 92kg of CO2.
So the electric car is just ahead.
There’s also a broader debate about the environmental cost of sourcing materials, shipping vehicles and recycling older cars. That’s cracking the proverbial can of worms, albeit one many car makers are addressing, with plans to be CO2 neutral within decades.
2. EV batteries last longer
Like all batteries, those used in electric vehicles degrade over time, reducing their ability to hold charge. However, they’re designed to last much longer than those in your smartphone or laptop.
EVs also don’t use the entire capacity of the battery – again to extend its life.
Most car makers back their batteries for seven or eight years and guarantee the capacity won't drop below 70 or 80 per cent of its original capacity.
3. EVs are cheaper to run than petrol cars
Electricity typically costs about 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on what deal you’ve sourced and where you live (country areas can cost more).
On a small EV such as the Hyundai Kona Electric that translates to $19.20 for a full charge claimed to take you 450 kilometres. Away from the laboratory the range may be closer to 400km, so around $5 per 100km.
Assuming an average petrol price of $1.80 each 100km in the petrol version of the Kona (claimed consumption of 6.7L/100km for the 1.6 turbo engine) will cost more than $12 per 100km if we make the same assumptions that the official fuel figures are optimistic.
Those figures suggesting EVs cost about half as much to power as petrol cars are in keeping with comparisons on other models.
4. You can charge it at home with a normal power point
Yes, but very slowly. A household power point puts out 2.4kW of power, which for an 80kW/h battery, such as you’d find in a Tesla, means 33 hours of charging. A 40 to 65Kw/h battery, like the Kona’s, would take about 15 to 24 hours to charge. Fitting a 15-amp outlet would bring the time down to around 11 to 17 hours.
Smaller batteries, such as those used in PHEVs (with, say, a 12kW/h battery) can be charged in about five hours, although the electric-only driving range may only be about 30 kilometres.
Wallbox chargers priced from $2000 typically provide between 7.5 and 22kW of power, significantly reducing that charge time and making overnight charges feasible.
5. You can't drive as far between charges
As with petrol-powered cars, that depends on the size of the car, the capacity of the battery (or fuel tank) and how you drive it.
Most full EVs are targeting a range of at least 400km, although those figures are derived from government standards that usually aren’t representative of what you’ll achieve in the real world; you can usually knock about 10 to 15 per cent off the claims.
That said, some EVs claim a range of more than 500km and each new generation of battery has increased capacity, whcih improves travelling distance.
The outside temperature can also reduce the driving range because electricity is used to heat or cool the batteries, in turn sapping energy that would otherwise have been used to power the car.
6. An EV last longer than a petrol car and need fewer repairs
Electric motors don’t usually require regular maintenance and should easily outlast other components of the car. But items such as the batteries will degrade over time, potentially leading to big replacement bills – although that’s likely to be at least a decade or more into the car’s life.
Other wearing items such as windscreen wiper blades, tyres, brakes and suspension components will also need checking and replacing periodically.