EV Myths and Facts

Last updated 1999.11.26

Myth - electric cars don't reduce pollution, just move it
Fact - Electric cars reduce pollution. I live in Ontario, Canada. The largest producer of electricity here is Ontario Hydro. Ontario Hydro uses a mix of hydro-electric, Candu nuclear and fossil-fuel generation, but use virtually no fossil fuels in their base-load generation (low demand periods such as overnight when my car is charging). There are smaller producers in the province who use solely hydro-electric generation. So in my case, as in many places, my car is charged without the use of fossil fuels, and uses none in operation.

Only electric cars have the option of being recharged by wind power (wind generators), solar power (photovoltaics), low-head hydro and other forms of environmentally-friendly, renewable energy sources, many of which can be purchased, installed and maintained by individuals.

As an example, my electric boat carries a 33-watt photovoltaic panel. During its first season of operation, the solar panel provided approximately 40% of the charging energy used by the boat. Given the energy demands of my car in its normal use patterns, the amount of space for solar cells on its surface, and the efficiency of commercially available solar panels, my car would only get about 5% of its energy from solar charging.

Even when we get to the hydrogen energy economy, electric vehicles will be a major part of the equation. Electric cars, powered by hydrogen fuel-cells will be the preferred means of using hydrogen, not combustion engines.

EVs reduce more than air pollution. They reduce water pollution by virtue of reducing the amount of petroleum products being produced, transported, stored, used and disposed of. Every one of those activities contributes to pollution, in the form of refinery waste products and emissions, spills from tanker ships and tanker trucks, leaks from storage tanks and vehicle crankcases, and disposal by burning or being dumped into waterways and sewage systems. EVs are quieter than Otto and Diesel cycle engines, so they reduce the level of noise pollution. EVs produce far less waste heat than combustion engines (also known as heat engines), so they reduce the amount of heat pollution being produced.

Myth - Electric cars are slow
Fact - As of 1996, world land speed record for a battery-powered electric car is just under 200 mph (~320 km/h). (Electric trains in Europe and Japan go faster than this.)
Fact - According to the Popular Science review of the GM EV-1 (April 1997 issue, pages 68-72), the EV-1 accelerates from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. This is actually slower than the earlier Impact prototypes produced by GM before the EV-1. There are reports that an EV-1 without speed regulation in effect and super-tuned for performance exceeded 180 mph.
Fact - Lotus (the car company) claims its electric Elise will accelerate from 0 to 90 mph in 6.2 seconds - faster than the gasoline-powered version.
Fact - AC Propulsion's new electric accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds (see the news item below).
Thurs., Dec. 19 -- CALSTART News Notes
AC Propulsion's New EV Does 0-60 in 5 Seconds 12/19/96,
San Dimas, Calif. - Electric vehicle (EV) drive system-builder AC Propulsion has announced its new "t-ZERO" electric roadster - a high-performance, two-seat, mid-engined screamer - is clocking five-second 0-60 times. That performance puts it squarely in the company of cars such as the Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette. The car's 220-horsepower alternating-current powertrain was designed by the company's owner - the same person who designed the original power electronics for the car that later became General Motors' EV1. Despite being a "pocket rocket," the 2,400-pound car still has a range of 100 miles at 70 miles per hour. The custom sports car uses a tubular steel space frame that incorporates a roll bar, a fiberglass-reinforced body, four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. The price? $60,000 - $100,000; depending on production volumes. Options? A trailer-mounted generator that functions as a range extender for long trips, and a removable hardtop.

High Performance EVs

Myth - electric vehicles look funny.
Fact - Most EVs do not look much different than gasoline powered vehicles. In fact many EVs are conversions, gasoline cars with the gasoline-powered drivetrain removed and replaced by an electric motor, batteries and controller. Most people do not even realize that one of my EVs (a converted 1975 Renault 12) is electric, despite the front licence plate that says "The Future Is ELECTRIC", a rear window sign that says "This is a Pollution-Free Electric Car", and small signs that say "ELECTRIC" on both front fenders and the trunk lid.

Some electric cars do have an unusual appearance for a number of reasons. They may be more aerodynamic to reduce the energy consumption. Some use large quantities of non-rusting materials so that the car body can last longer because electric drive trains tend to have very long life spans. Some have unusual shapes to accommodate a large battery pack low in the vehicle to lower the center of gravity, allowing for better handling. And some EV makers just want to be sure that you know that this vehicle is something special and worth a second look.

Battery-powered EVs come in a lot of shapes and sizes, including some you might not expect:
Motorcycles, Mopeds, Scooters and Bicycles;
Tractors, Lawnmowers and other implements;
and even buses. There have even been a few (solar-powered) electric aircraft.

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