The auto industry has a colorful history with electric vehicles (EVs), to say the least, and the battle to keep the facts first is frustrating when one side isn’t playing by the rules.
There are a few myths about EVs that are perpetuated by traditional auto interests in particular, and while EV enthusiasts are well aware of their falsehoods, consumers who are simply considering their options when looking for a new car are often bombarded with the myths over the realities.
One of Colorado’s primary representatives of legacy auto interests, President Tim Jackson of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), recently spoke at a Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (CAQCC) hearing over a mandate that would require auto manufacturers to make Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) nearly 5% of their vehicles for sale in the state by 2023.
In his statement arguing against the mandate, Jackson presented the same misunderstood information about EVs that gets circulated time and time again.
Any number of reasons are likely behind CADA’s intent to muddy the truth, but let’s address what was claimed about EVs in a fair light.
Myth: Charging times, charging infrastructure, and range anxiety are where EVs still fail
In his comments at the CAQCC hearing, Jackson feigned concern for consumers, reminding the audience that “range anxiety is real” and even painted a fearful scenario for Colorado residents, saying “Consumers do not want be left on the side of a mountain.”
Then, adding to that misleading picture, he said that “the time needed to charge a battery is 4-5 times longer than it takes to drive the car fully charged to full drained.”
However, Jackson chose to only refer to 110V power sources, which is disingenuous, but the worst part about those numbers was how CADA’s president missed the realities of how EV owners actually charge their cars.
It’s true that you’d only achieve a few miles of range per hour charged in a 110V outlet, meaning days to achieve full battery power, but hardly any EV owners seriously plan to maintain their vehicle’s power that way alone.
It’s actually the slowest of three charging options and meant to be used as either a backup or a top off when faster versions aren’t available. What’s more typical is an at-home 240V charger that takes 7-8 hours to fill a near-empty battery. In other words, plug the car in when you get home, and it will be ready to go in the morning. Factor in public DC fast-charging stations when on a road trip and it reduces the charge time to less than 40 minutes.
Overall, there are more than 8,000 different public charging locations across the United States with more than 20,000 charging outlets in operation today, making range anxiety an issue well on its way out.
On top of that, almost every EV above 200 miles being sold in Colorado from traditional manufacturers has a fast-charge rate similar Tesla’s 200-250 kW. The Audi e-tron offers a 150 kW, which will charge the vehicle 80% in 30 minutes.
The Jaguar I-Pace and Nissan Leaf Plus have a 100 kW or 80% in 40-minute charge rate. Upcoming EVs like the Porsche Taycan, Mercedes EQC, Volvo’s Polestar 2, and VW ID.3 will also offer charge rates north of 100 kW.
Myth: Cold weather kills EV batteries.
The discussion about range anxiety in Colorado naturally leads to the question of cold weather’s effect on batteries. This is one area where Tim Jackson’s claims are simply wrong as stated and confusing for consumers even if he’s given the benefit of the doubt.
At the hearing, he said: “News that cold weather can dramatically reduce battery life adds to the concerns” about EVs, but the reality for Colorado drivers is quite optimistic.
EVs do see some range loss in colder weather, though combustion vehicles are not immune to performance loss at winter temperatures, either.
During this past winter I tested this very thing in my EV in the Denver area. While driving 138 miles in early February with the heater running at 80 degrees, I only saw a 15% loss of range during temperatures between 10-20 degrees when comparing to summer driving efficiency.
This equated to a loss of 33 miles for a total range of 186 miles available, which is plenty for most driving in Colorado. During a second test 10 days later with similar temperatures and a test distance of 86 miles, I only saw an 11% range loss.
Myth: Consumers don’t want electric cars
Many groups like CADA claim on one hand to be acting in the interest of consumers while on the other hand actively work to limit consumer choice using legal hurdles.
In his remarks at the CAQCC hearing, Tim Jackson commented that customers “will not be bullied … compromised or misled” without any hint of irony or mention that just recently, he and CADA successfully lobbied against bipartisan state legislation that would enable EV manufacturers to sell their cars directly to Colorado consumers without using loopholes.
CADA claimed its lobbying efforts were to protect dealer investments into their franchises and, by extension, protect consumers who would be hurt if a manufacturer closed shop.
It’s not clear why that same franchise network couldn’t respond similarly for Tesla customers if the company went belly up one day. Before groups like CADA decide what customers do and don’t want, perhaps a level playing field should take effect first.
To be fair, Colorado’s consumers primarily prefer vehicles with more ground clearance, so the current low EV sales in the state may indeed correlate to the lack of EV variety on the market in those classes.
There are some very viable electric trucks and SUVs on the horizon, however. Newcomer Rivian is ready to meet that shortcoming head on with their upcoming R1S SUV and R1T truck that will have a 400-plus mile range, 700-plus horsepower and an 11,000-plus pounds towing capacity. Tesla also has its truck and Model Y crossover coming soon.
Furthermore, both Ford and GM have been on the record that they, too, are working on electric trucks, with Ford likely taking advantages of Rivian’s electric platform after their $500 million investment into the budding EV startup.
As a concept that was first commercialized over 100 years ago, EVs are finally competitive with the rest of the market, but it hasn’t been an easy route.
Cheap, subsidized, abundant gasoline has been the primary driver in the rise of internal combustion engine cars, but the age of the electric car seems to finally be here to stay.
Just as fuel shortages have driven interest in EVs at various points over the past century, we are again at a juncture where changes in our planetary environment demand a change in our consumption behavior.
It’s helpful to know the facts we face on our planet so we can respond accordingly, but misinformation by traditional interests is decidedly not helpful. Hopefully, this helps set the record straight.
Sean Mitchell is a real estate agent in the Denver area. In his spare time he heads up the Denver Tesla Club and advocates for electric vehicle owners along the Front Range.