Common misconceptions about electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are too expensive

Reality: EVs do cost more to buy outright but, in many cases, have a lower cost over 4 years.

According to recent industry estimates, an EV can save £176 in running costs for every 1,000 miles driven. This means it can cost as little as 2 pence a mile to run an EV when charging on off-peak electricity. This is compared to over 20 pence per mile for petrol and diesel. As EVs have far fewer moving parts there’s also less maintenance to be done.

There are tax incentives in place for owners of EVs, including zero road tax and favourable company car tax rates. These can save some drivers over £2,000 per year. All this means that the market for more affordable zero emission vehicles is growing rapidly.

As of May 2022, 24 models are priced under £32,000 compared to 15 at the same time in 2021. With production costs reducing, some forecasts show that some EVs could be the same price to purchase as a petrol or diesel car well within the 2020s.

EVs do not have the battery range to travel as far as people need

Reality: 99% of car journeys in England are under 100 miles. This means most drivers’ needs are easily met by an EV.

For those travelling further, there are over 20 models available with a quoted 200-plus mile range. There are also some new electric cars coming soon with a range of over 300 miles, enough to get from Exeter to Leeds.

With battery prices having fallen to 80% of what they were in 2010, continued price decreases in 2021 and further drops forecasted in the long term, we expect to see more EVs available with greater range.

Building an EV generates more greenhouse gas emissions than it saves

Reality: This has been debunked in numerous well-respected studies.

A new battery-electric car has just a third of the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of an equivalent new petrol car, even when taking into account battery production and disposal. EVs are getting progressively cleaner as electricity generation decarbonises.

Only 1% of EV drivers want to switch back to petrol or diesel.

Source: Zap-Map

The battery will need replacing after 5 years

Reality: There are well over 10 million EVs on the world’s roads already. There is no evidence to suggest their lifespans are any different from a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Most EV batteries have warranties of around 8 years (or 100,000 miles) but are expected to last much longer, and their lifespan continues to improve. EVs are in daily use across the UK’s roads as taxis and in other high mileage roles.

The government has committed £330 million to the Faraday Battery Challenge to support the research, development and scale-up of world-leading battery technology right here in the UK, including pioneering work on improving battery lifespan.

Batteries cannot be recycled and will all end up in landfill

Reality: Existing regulations ban the disposal of EV batteries to landfill and incineration. Car manufacturers are obligated to take back EV batteries free of charge and ensure they are treated at permitted facilities that meet the required recycling efficiency standards.

With the increasing number of EV batteries, we are reviewing these regulations to strengthen them. The government’s £330 million Faraday Battery Challenge has an aim of increasing recyclability of an EV battery to 95% by 2035, increasing the amount of minerals, like lithium and cobalt, that can be extracted and reused.

We want to create a circular economy for EV batteries to maximise the economic and environmental opportunities of the transition to zero emission vehicles.

Materials used in batteries come from questionable sources

Reality: It is true that there are current challenges in ensuring the transparency and sustainability of materials used in batteries and electric motors. However, this applies across many manufactured goods including smartphones and laptops.

The UK is part of international efforts to secure a transparent, sustainable and ethical supply of raw materials, protecting the lives and livelihoods of miners.

EV manufacturers are already committed to the responsible sourcing and reduction of ‘rare earth’ raw materials in their supply chains. They are also focusing on both transparency and security in their supply chain (for good business reasons) and on minimising the use of elements like cobalt and ‘rare earths’ in their designs.

Government is funding schemes to trial the recycling of key raw materials in batteries, and to localise more of the battery supply chain.

There is not enough lithium to manufacture the batteries needed

Reality: There are more than enough global resources for EV batteries to meet the UK and global demands until at least 2050. Production will need to scale up in line with the increasing demand for EVs.

Recycling facilities and techniques are also improving to ensure a circular economy. Achievements in battery technology and chemistries are further decreasing pressure on resources.

EVs cannot be driven or charged in the rain

Reality: Not true. EVs have to comply with tough technical rules prior to entering the market, including crash and electrical safety. This means they are safe to drive and charge in a wide range of weather conditions.

Drivers should take the usual precautions by:

  • following the manufacturer’s instructions
  • only using the correct charging cable
  • checking the EV and cable are not damaged

As with any vehicle, drivers should also consult the owner manual for guidance on the maximum depth of water a car is safe to drive through.

EVs cannot tow or be towed

Reality: Like all other cars, electric vehicles need to be ‘type approved’ to tow a caravan or trailer. An increasing number of EVs are coming to market with this capability.

A caravan or trailer towed by an EV can also display a green number plate. When an EV is being towed by another vehicle at higher speeds and longer distances, many manufacturers require that they must be towed with the wheels off the ground. This is also the case for any automatic petrol and diesel vehicles, so this is not a new challenge for vehicle recovery companies.

If an EV breaks down and is in immediate danger (for example, when in a live traffic lane), it can be towed slowly a short distance to a safe location to await further assistance, just like any other vehicle.

There are not enough chargepoints to meet demand

Reality: Research has found that the UK has one of the most extensive rapid charging networks in Europe.

Industry statistics show that there are over 31,000 public chargepoints available across the UK, a significant increase from 7,211 in 2017. There are also more than 5,800 rapid chargers.

We expect continued, accelerated deployment of public chargepoints. On average, over 600 new chargers are being added to the UK’s road network each month, of which over 100 are rapid. Today, a driver is never more than 25 miles away from a chargepoint anywhere along England’s motorways and A-roads.

Most drivers charge at home and we expect to see this trend to continue. There are nearly 900,000 plug-in vehicles on UK roads and evidence suggests that those with off-street parking can meet the vast majority of their charging needs at home while their vehicles are parked.

It takes too long to charge an EV

Reality: Most charging will be done at or near home overnight. However, some new cars can charge up 200 miles in as little as 20 minutes – the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Potential charging speeds have increased by a factor of 5 in the past few years as businesses have started to focus seriously on EVs as the future of road transport.

Only people with off-street parking will be able to easily charge their EV

Reality: We want to ensure that lack of access to off-street parking is not a barrier to realising the benefits of owning a plug-in electric vehicle.

The On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) is available to all UK local authorities (LAs) to provide public chargepoints for their residents without access to private parking. This year, £20 million is available under the scheme to ensure more LAs and residents can benefit. The scheme has supported over 150 different LAs to fund more than 11,000 chargepoints for residents who do not have off-street parking.

In March 2022 we announced our £450 million local EV infrastructure (LEVI) fund. This will deliver a step-change in the rollout of EV infrastructure. This will focus on providing for households without off-street parking. We have launched a first tranche of £10m as a springboard for the development of the full fund, which closed to applicants on 17 June 2022.

Government’s £950m rapid charging fund (RCF) aims to future-proof electrical grid capacity at service areas on motorways and major A-roads to prepare the network for uptake of zero emission cars and vans ahead of need.

Rapid charging hubs and electric forecourts (equivalent to current petrol or diesel refuelling) are emerging as further options for EV drivers to recharge. Charging at workplaces is also growing. Government has supported the installation of over 26,000 workplace charging sockets as of April 2022.

There are loads of chargers in London but hardly any in other cities or in rural areas

Reality: All regions in the UK have seen increases in publicly available chargepoints in the year to April 2022.

In addition to the ORCS scheme, government has also supported the installation of chargepoints in residential buildings and workplaces across the UK, including rural areas, through the EV Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) and the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS).

London has received the second lowest number of grants per household in England under the EVHS and the lowest number of chargepoint sockets per person in the whole of the UK under the WCS.

Government will also be providing additional funding to install chargepoints for small accommodation businesses, which are disproportionately found in rural areas. This will help boost destination charging across the UK in such locations.

Public chargepoints are all broken

Reality: EV users should expect a reliable public network wherever they drive in the UK.

Having chargepoints out of action is inconvenient, frustrating and can be unsafe. However, according to Zap-Map, 9 out of 10 chargepoints are working at any point in time.

We are working to ensure that all consumers have a positive experience using the public charging network and any poor performing chargepoint operators are held to account. We are mandating a 99% reliability standard for rapid chargepoints in the UK and a free round-the-clock helpline for people struggling to charge. We will lay legislation later this year.

There are too many different apps and different types of connectors

Reality: We will lay legislation later in 2022 to mandate payment roaming. This means chargepoint operators will have to work with each other to ensure that consumers can pay without having to download an app each time you use a different charging network.

This will also support the business sector to electrify their vehicle fleets. We legislated in 2017 to ensure all new and replacement public chargepoints must offer standardised connectors (plugs). This means that the vast majority of EVs can charge on the entire UK public charging network The notable exceptions are the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander, which can charge at over 95% of public chargepoints.

As manufacturers are increasingly standardising their connectors, government has no plans to intervene in the vehicle market.

The grid will not be able to cope if everyone switches to EVs

Reality: The Committee on Climate Change suggests that electrifying the vehicle fleet could result in road transport making up 15% to 20% of total electricity demand in 2050.

We are confident the grid will be able to cope through the robust processes in place for bringing forward new generation and grid updates.

Government has given Ofgem, the energy regulator, legal responsibilities and powers to deliver an energy system fit for both current and future consumers. We are also ensuring that Ofgem considers our energy policy priorities for delivering net zero in its regulatory decisions.

Smart charging is an important part of this process. Smart charging technologies allow EV charging to take place when demand for electricity is lower. For example, at night or when there is lots of renewable energy on the grid.

This reduces electricity system costs, lowering prices for everyone. The motorist pays less for charging their EV and the electricity powering the EVs is greener.

EVs are not ‘greener’ because of emissions from electricity generation

Reality: Since 1990, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in our electricity system by over 70%. Taken together, renewables and other low carbon generation, such as nuclear, currently provide over 50% of our electricity.

Government continues to support the deployment of low carbon and renewable technologies to deliver a cleaner greener system at least cost to consumers and that maintains a secure supply of electricity.

Our plans could see 95% of our electricity come from low carbon sources by 2030. By 2035, all our electricity will come from low carbon sources, subject to security of supply.

You will have to dig up all of the country to lay more cables

Reality: Ofgem ensures that electricity network companies are funded to meet the additional demand from EVs.

This incentivises them to plan and deliver the work as efficiently as possible. This includes minimising unnecessary disruption and expense, for example by laying larger cables to avoid reopening roads twice.

You could easily just switch all petrol and diesel cars to burn hydrogen without going to all this trouble

Reality: Government remains technology neutral. However, currently combustion hydrogen in a conventional engine still produces nitrogen oxide (NOx) and some CO2 exhaust emissions. This means that for now it is not zero emissions.

By comparison, the only exhaust emissions from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is water. As set out in the government’s hydrogen strategy, we expect hydrogen to play a significant role in decarbonising transport. We expect it will probably be most effectively used in heavier transport applications ‘that batteries might not reach’ like large trucks, maritime and aviation.

For cars and vans, battery electric technology is the chosen route for a clear majority of manufacturers and motorists.