Why are there conflicting opinions on EVs?

When it comes to climate change, it’s often hard to know whose opinion to trust.

Media companies, especially ones which are funded by online advertising, often write divisive headlines designed to spark a strong reaction simply to attract traffic to their site - this is known as clickbait. 

Articles on these types of websites can often contain inaccurate information, and are rarely backed up by scientific evidence. Companies who profit from fossil fuels can also publish misleading articles designed to discredit the environmental movement, for their own financial gain. This thread by Colin Walker gives an example of a deceptive article published in the Telegraph, written by a journalist with a vested interest in the oil and gas industry.

Claims which are supported by long-term studies, real data and unbiased research are more likely to be trustworthy than off-the-cuff quotes. To develop an informed opinion, we’d always recommend looking to scientific experts, as they tend to be more impartial than politicians or big corporations. 

What is FUD?

An acronym for ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt’, FUD is a tactic often used in politics and the media to influence our opinion on something by sharing misleading or confusing information. 

FUD is often seen when discussing sustainability and net zero - as many large corporations have financial interests in fossil fuels, they can use FUD in an attempt to slow down the transition to renewable energy and net zero alternatives, allowing them to continue to profit from the oil and gas industry.

EV campaign group FairCharge and Robert Llewellyn’s Fully Charged Show have launched the #StopBurningStuff campaign to counter anti-EV FUD with facts.

Let’s look into a few of these claims in more detail, and try to see through the FUD…

Are EVs bad for the environment?

Almost everything we produce has some form of environmental impact - especially when it comes to large products like cars. 
While low emission forms of transport like walking and cycling are always going to be the most environmentally friendly option, sometimes we do need to use cars to get around. In this case, where possible, it’s good to choose a cleaner option. 

Cobalt is one of the issues cited as making EV less environmentally friendly - however, cobalt is also used heavily by the oil and gas industry to refine petrol. The EV industry is in the process of moving away from cobalt in batteries, with both Ford and Tesla moving towards lithium-iron phosphate batteries that remove the need for cobalt. 

While creating an EV battery does release CO2, this is more than offset by the far lower levels of CO2 emitted over the car’s lifetime, compared to a petrol or diesel vehicle. At the end of an EV's life, only 30kg of material is left after recycling. At the end of a petrol car's life, 17,000 litres of fuel have been burnt.

As electric vehicles are much more efficient than petrol engines, this means that even in countries with ‘dirty’ electric supply (fuelled by coal or gas), EVs need far less electricity than the petrol or diesel equivalent. For example, an EV charged in Poland still produces 37% less total lifetime CO2 emissions than a petrol car - and in the UK (with a cleaner electric grid), this figure rises to 65% lower lifetime CO2 emissions. As the proportion of renewable energy in our grid grows, the emission saving will rise to 74% in 2030, and 84% once we’re at 100% zero carbon energy.

This is why the experts at the Climate Change Committee have stated that  ‘delivering the 2030 phase-out of new conventional car and van sales is vital to meeting the UK’s decarbonization pathway’.

The huge and undeniable benefit of opting for an EV is that you’re reducing the amount of carbon dioxide being added to our atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, as well as other pollutants that can harm our health from petrol and diesel exhausts. 

You can read more about the impact of EV batteries on the environment with insights from electrochemist Dr Euan McTurk in our guide here, and find out whether some of the most common EV assumptions are accurate here.

Are EVs unreliable?

Some media sources claim that EVs are less reliable than petrol or diesel vehicles. 

However, the MOT failure rate for EVs is currently far less than petrol vehicles - data from the DVSA shows that just 14.84% of hybrid cars and 17.87% of electric cars failed their MOT between 2019 and 2021, compared to 20.07% of petrol vehicles and  23.11% of diesels.

An electric vehicle has far less mechanical moving parts than a conventional engine, meaning that they are generally easier to repair and less likely to fail an MOT. Petrol and diesel vehicles are subject to checks on fuel lines, catalytic converters and particulate filters; because EVs have none of these parts, there are simply fewer parts to need replacing.

It’s important to note that EVs can require slightly more frequency tyre changes than petrol and diesel cars - as electric vehicles tend to be heavier due to the weight of their battery, this can accelerate tyre wear and tear.

Are EVs expensive to run?

You may have heard media outlets discussing whether EVs are more expensive to run than petrol or diesel cars. 

This often uses the example of super-fast motorway charging stations, where you’re paying a premium for the convenience of a fast charge at a service station. 

However, regular charging at standard residential charging stations, whether at a home or a business, is much more cost-effective than fossil fuels. The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit found that the driver of a Nissan Leaf would only pay 7.7p per mile to charge their vehicle, compared to 13.4p per mile in petrol for a Nissan Juke.

You can read more about how our Transformer, Fiona, found the switch to driving electric here. Fiona pays around £8 to £10 for a full charge at public charging points, giving her 150 miles of range.