As with any new technology, there can be a transition period—and a time of sifting through certain misconceptions and myths. Drivers want to know how EVs stack up against traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. We’re here to bust, confirm or qualify some of the common perceptions about EVs.
EVs ARE NO BETTER FOR THE PLANET THAN ICE VEHICLES
The bottom line: A typical EV will emit, over the course of its life, lower levels of greenhouse gases that impact climate change, compared to an equivalent ICE (gas-powered) vehicle. When considering life-cycle emissions—“cradle to grave” emissions from suppliers, along with manufacturing, logistics, driving and eventual recycling—Volvo found that its gas-powered XC40 emits 58 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), while the all-electric XC40 Recharge emits less, at 27–54 tonnes. The large variation comes down to the source of power going into electrical grids. Coal provided 38 percent of electricity generation in Alberta in 2016 and just 7 percent in 2022. By the end of 2023, coal is expected to be retired from the province.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re doing the planet any favours if you replace a fuel-sipping Toyota Prius hybrid with a Hummer EV—but like-for-like, yes, EVs are better for the environment.
MANUFACTURING EVs IS CURRENTLY MORE CARBON-INTENSIVE THAN MANUFACTURING ICE VEHICLES
Yes, the manufacture of EV batteries is a carbon-intensive process. According to a report by Volvo—which produces electric and ICE vehicles—total emissions from materials production and refining for its battery-powered SUV is roughly 40 percent more than for its gas-powered equivalent. The battery alone in Volvo’s electric XC40 Recharge SUV is responsible for 10 to 30 percent of its total carbon footprint. However, new types of EV batteries have the potential to be less carbon-intensive. As the energy that goes into battery production becomes cleaner, overall emissions are coming down, too. Volkswagen Group’s battery subsidiary, PowerCo, recently chose St. Thomas, Ont., as the site for its first North American cell-manufacturing plant, in part because of the region’s access to clean electricity. The take-away? Yes, for now, manufacturing EVs is more carbon-intensive than manufacturing gas-powered (ICE) vehicles. But change is coming.
THERE AREN’T ENOUGH PUBLIC EV CHARGERS
Today, the vast majority of EV owners charge at home or at their workplace. As EV adoption progresses, however, and more people without access to at-home charging jump on the EV bandwagon, there will be a need for more public chargers. Canada’s public charging network is growing—by almost one-third last year, based on research by Electric Autonomy Canada, an organization that reports on EVs and autonomous transportation. As of March, there are more than 20,000 charging ports in the country. Alberta has 429 station locations and almost 1,000 EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) ports, according to Natural Resources Canada. The big question: Is public charging infrastructure growing fast enough to meet demand?
A 2022 study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada found a need for “significant acceleration in charging infrastructure deployment over the next five to ten years.” Tesla is an exception since it has its own nationwide charging network that’s already extensive.
“While commercial charging infrastructure is not where it needs to be, the reality is that 90 percent of most consumer travel happens within small ranges of distance—to work and home, to the grocery store, out on weekends, etc.,” says Colin Fritz, associate vice president of operations at the Alberta Motor Association. AMA Level 2 charging stations are now available in Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, with more locations coming in 2023.
Visit ama.ab.ca/EV to find out all about electric vehicles and determine which EV may be right for you.
EV BATTERIES DON’T LAST
Most of us have experienced the joy of getting a new smartphone—and the anguish of watching its battery degrade until it no longer lasts through the day. EV batteries will also degrade, but they are designed to last much longer—even longer than most buyers keep new vehicles. Check with the manufacturer, but EV batteries are typically warrantied for at least eight years or 160,000 kilometres, at which point they must still have at least 70 percent of their original capacity.
Degradation may have been a serious problem for would-be buyers when EVs had 200 or 250 kilometres of range. Modern EVs now have 400 to 800 kilometres of range, so degrading batteries are less of an issue (at least, for new-EV shoppers; used-EV buyers should evaluate battery age).
“When your battery goes, it doesn’t just fail one day,” notes Ryan Peterson, CAA Club Group’s manager of automotive services. “You lose a bit of range, but it’s not like an engine [that] you’ve got to rebuild when it goes.”
CHARGING TAKES TOO LONG
FALSE (IN MOST CASES)
Since EV drivers typically recharge their vehicles at home overnight, recharging is easy. Every morning, you wake up to a fully charged vehicle. For other, rarer scenarios—a road trip, for example—or for EV drivers without access to at-home charging, public DC fast chargers can juice a vehicle’s battery from near-empty to 80 percent in 30 to 40 minutes. In many cases, you can get enough of a recharge in the time it takes you to make a pit stop for a bathroom break and a coffee.
Charging technology is improving, too. For example, the soon-to-be-released Chevrolet Silverado RST pickup is equipped with 350-kilowatt (kW) DC fast-charging. Ten minutes gets you up to 160 kilometres of driving range. The caveat is that there aren’t many ultra-fast 350 kW chargers in Canada, at least not yet.
EVs ARE BORING TO DRIVE!
Just take one out for a spin, preferably on a racetrack. The bark of a flat-plane-crank V8 engine and the howl of a high-revving V12 are glorious sounds, but the spaceship whirr of an EV warping towards the horizon never fails to evoke some strong emotions…and audible expressions of wonder.