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The TRUTH About Electric Cars and Their Impact

An Electric Car Being Charged
Photo by myenergi on Unsplash

Depending on who you are, electric cars are either the worst things ever, or the Earth’s savoir. There doesn’t seem to be any in between. At least online.

The problem with EXTREMES is that the truth is often in between. It isn’t some cut and dry one size fits all answer. That doesn’t fit into a Twitter comment, though, so it’s worth expanding on in a bigger article like this one. 

The EV Hate Wars

Car enthusiasts often hate EVs. So do a lot of vocal people who feel that EVs are a product of government overreach or misinformation. 

On the other hand, a lot of people would like to think that they are doing their part to save the Earth by considering a more expensive electric. 

The Arguments

We have actually done a lot of research into EVs before, and how green they are. The problem is that not only is the information constantly changing, but it seems like every person has their own idea of what “green” even is. 

You can watch our breakdown here. 

On the one hand, they don’t pollute after you buy them. On the other hand, batteries are pretty terrible for the environment. 

EVs Are Terrible

They make no noise, are pretty boring to drive and look at, are SUPER expensive, and might not be good for the Earth. 

At least, that’s what you will see in the comment section of any video talking about EVs. There are three main arguments. 

  1. Batteries are terrible for the planet because the materials they use won’t be offset.
  2. Batteries are terrible for humanity because they use child labor.
  3. Electric cars are worse because power comes from coal.

The Truth

We can start with the easy ones. First, most lithium is not from child labor. In fact, a lot of it comes from Australia and China, where it’s heavily controlled.

Then there’s the argument that electric cars are worse because they still use a lot of energy, and generating energy is bad for the planet. There is some truth to that, but it’s not as cut and dry as people might have you believe. It turns out that the super-high efficiency of electric vehicles means that it’s a lot better than burning gas for power. 

You don’t even need to understand energy generation, or refining fuel, to know that it’s simply way more efficient to charge an EV. You just need to look at your wallet.

A tesla model X has a 100 KW battery. The most expensive Electricity is in Hawaii. It’s 35 cents per Kilowatt there, which is 3 times the national average. And it means your Tesla X takes 100 times point three five is…

35$ to fill up.  

It has a range of 350 miles, which is an easy ten cents per mile.

Now let’s compare it too, and we can be really charitable, a Camry in the state with the cheapest gas. That would be Texas, where at the time of writing this gas is $3.66 per gallon. God willing it’s cheaper when you are reading.  

With 35 MPGS, that would be ten cents per mile.

That means ANYWHERE other than Texas, or with any car that has a little bit worse gas mileage than a new Camry, even the big fat boat Tesla Model X is MORE efficient. 

When you factor in the fact that EVs are constantly evolving, and that most of them are better than a Tesla X, it’s easy to see that we are headed to a more efficient future. 

Does that mean EVs are good for the planet, end of story? Unfortunately, no.  

Volvo’s Long Term Study

Like we mentioned before, it’s a very complicated issue. The efficiency is only one small part of the equation, and it’s nearly impossible to compare gas and electric since very few one to one comparisons exist. 

Thankfully, Volvo did a huge amount of work for us. They compared two nearly identical cars made in the same way by the same company. They are both SUVs based on the same platform, and many of the components are made in the same factory. The only difference is that one SUV is the electrified version of the standard ICE SUV.

A single EV generates 70 TIMES the amount of greenhouse emissions to make when compared to the ICE equivalent. That means to just break even, you have to drive the EV for 124,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles, and a many people will never even reach that number. 

In fact, the average person only drives around 14.5k a year. 

Since the average person only owns a car for about seven years, well… They will never break even. You have to own a Volvo EV for at least eight and a half years before it will actually be better for the Earth, and the average person is not going to do that. That means they are never going to offset the carbon emissions of the batteries. 

Sure, there are some people who will. But they are probably the type that is already super into the environment and driving an ancient diesel Jetta that has 400k on the odometer. They aren’t buying new vehicles.

A Volvo SUV in a hay field
Photo by Remy Lovesy on Unsplash

Will That Effect EV Sales?

As it turns out, the average person on the street is not an internet commentator. While it’s easy to find people that love electrics, and even easier to find people who hate them, most people just see “car.”

The requirements for a car, as far as the average person is concerned, are pretty different from what enthusiasts or ecology majors want. The number one reason that American drivers would consider buying an EV, is because they are “Cool.” 

As in, people will think you are cool if you own an electric vehicle. Owning a Tesla is as much of a status symbol as owning a Mercedes-Benz, and it’s popular to own new technology. Apple proved that decades ago. 

The number two reason that 70% of car buyers are considering EVs instead of ICE vehicles?

Not having to buy gas. Simply put, EVs cost less over time and are quiet, which is way more important to your average “cars are an appliance” driver than how they affect the Earth.  

Then there’s the Elephant, and Donkey, in the room.

The Gubbermant 

Lots of governments around the earth are pushing for EVs. Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, China and some others are considering an end of ICE vehicles in 2030. France, Germany, and some others are aiming for 2050. Even the US of A keeps threatening it, with a current goal of 2035 for a complete phase out of internal combustion. 

Just like with everything else, it’s not as simple as people want to make it. Governments consider a lot of factors, including the wars fought over oil, lobby groups that are bigger than anyone can comprehend, and a strong public perception to maintain.

We may disagree with it. There’s a good reason to think we should treat EVs like LED lights. The mass adoption of LEDs only happened when LEDs were actually better than normal light bulbs. They didn’t need laws to make it happen. 

There’s not really any point in dwelling on the laws, though, since they aren’t actually what’s pushing the EV revolution. 

The Manufacturers

See, Governments, and hippies, are all about the Earth. We know that it’s not that simple, but like we said before, most people buying EVs are not buying them because of the Earth.

So Ford doesn’t give a single crap about the Earth either, they only care about what people will buy. Which is why they are switching to EVs only by 2035. Same with GM. 

Jaguar will be EV only by 2025. Lexus is in line to be EV only in 2030, with a seriously sick LFA EV concept. Audi will be selling its last ICE car in 2026

You’ll notice that most of those companies are planning on switching way before the governments of the world enact their laws. Mini, Jaguar, Audi, and Lotus are already nearly there, even though it’s 15 years before even the strictest ICE bans start. 

Because that’s where the money is. Never blame the government, evil hippies, or haters when the answer is simple. Money is going to dictate the future, and the money is in electric vehicles.

SO WHAT DO!?

But it’s not the end of the world. There are no plans to actually ban ICE cars on the roads. Even if there was, we have at least 50 years before they can pull it off.

SO DRIVE MY FRIENDS.

Keep ICE cars on the road, and enjoy the fact that as demand for gas falls, so will the prices. There’s a bunch of people having conniptions about EVs, but think of all the gas that EV drivers won’t be using. Think of all the used high power combustion cars that tech bros WON’T Be buying.

Just sitting there waiting for a historian like yourself to pick them up. 

Ken Steinberger
I swear officer, I had no idea the speed limit wasn't 120mph.
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