Pushing back against EV misinformation


The influx of misinformation around electric vehicles can be a barrier for organisations looking to make the switch. So what can we believe? Campaign group FairCharge has written a guide with the aim of settling some arguments in the EV debate.

According to the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), countering EV “scare stories” is becoming a key task for fleet managers.
The influx of misinformation and myths around electric vehicles – such as they catch fire more easily or are not as green as they claim to be – is presenting itself as a barrier for some organisations looking to transition to electric.

This is especially the case if drivers are reluctant to make the switch due to negative stories that they’ve heard and read.
Paul Hollick, AFP chair, commented: “Sadly, it seems to have become quite popular to create scare stories about EVs – that they catch fire easily and cannot be extinguished, that they will all run out of power simultaneously in cold weather and block motorways, that they are more environmentally damaging than ICE cars and vans, that current models will be worthless in a matter of years, and more.
“Of course, there are now hundreds of thousands of company car drivers happily using EVs who know that this stuff is largely nonsense or based only a few isolated instances, but there tend to be a handful of people in every organisation who will seize on these stories and share them with other employees.”
The Environment and Climate Change Committee recent report into the government’s electric vehicle strategy highlighted that the scale of misinformation about electric vehicles had not been matched by any urgency in tackling it from the government.

It said: “Faced with conflicting claims and alarmist headlines, consumers need a go-to source of comprehensive, clear and balanced information so they can make informed decisions about their vehicles.”
Positively, the EV industry is helping to push back and counter this misinformation.
Campaign group FairCharge has recently published an EV guide, called the Little Book of EV Myths, which was written in conjunction with the RAC and hopes to settle some of the arguments in the EV debate.
The guide is supported by FullyCharged Live, Stop Burning Stuff, Charge Safe and RechargeUK.
Here we take a look at some of the misinformation being tackled in the guide, in the hope of arming fleet managers with the information they need to counter any claims thrown there way.

Do EVs regularly catch fire?

Evidence suggest that there are no grounds to say that electric vehicles catch fire more easily than ICE vehicles.
FairCharge’s guide quotes fire service estimates that there are around 100,000 vehicle fires every year in the UK and records for 2022 to 2023 show that only 0.24 per cent were EV fires.
Meanwhile, the Swedish Contingencies Agency have reported that ‘Petrol and diesel cars are 20 times more likely to catch fire than EVs’.
In America, data from the National Transportation Safety Board reported that battery-powered vehicles suffer 25 fires for every 100,000 sold, compared to 1,530 fires for petrol vehicles.

Do EVs pollute more than ICE cars?

A common myth that comes up time and again is that electric vehicles are not as green as they claim to be.
The FairCharge guide says this has come from pollution from battery mining and manufacture, often in China, where coal-fired electricity grids power car and battery factories. But research by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has shown that when driven in Europe, an EV will pay off its carbon debt after around 11,000 miles, after which the full life cycle CO2 emissions are around three times lower than an average petrol car.
A Carbon Brief analysis in 2023, showed that a Tesla Model Y, driven in the UK, would pay off its carbon debt after around 13,000 miles – less than two years’ driving.

After 14 years of driving the average petrol car has a carbon footprint of 45 tonnes of CO2. A Tesla Model Y driven over the same period in the UK would emit 14 tonnes of CO2 - a saving of 68 per cent.

What about the electricity used to power EVs?

Another criticism of electric vehicles is that they still rely on power stations to get the electricity to charge.

But in the UK, we have a relatively green power system. The FairCharge guide says that in March 2024, 67 per cent of power to the UK grid came from zero carbon sources. Wind accounted for 49 per cent, gas 15 per cent, nuclear nine per cent, and solar nine per cent - the rest a mix of biomass, imports, and hydro.

Therefore, driving an EV in the UK, charged on a low-carbon grid, or better still on a low-cost evening tariff where only renewable electricity is used, means that the energy emissions produced for the electricity to charge the EV’s battery are low.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ICT) said in their report: “even with current grids, EVs reduce emissions in almost all cases.” Electric cars can reduce emissions even when being charged with electricity from fossil fuel heavy grids because they are roughly four times more energy efficient that combustion cars.

EVs don’t go far enough

An age-old criticism of electric vehicles is that they don’t have enough range to go where they need to go. This may have been a problem when electric vehicle technology and the public charging infrastructure was in its infancy – but they have advanced at a rapid rate.
The FairCharge guide quotes charging provider Gridserve, who says that the average real-world range of an EV in the UK in 2023 is 219 miles “meaning that the average motorist will be able to drive for two weeks on a single charge”.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) agree, with their average figure slightly higher at 236 miles. The latest models with improved battery chemistries have much higher ranges with the Polestar 3 claiming 379 miles, the Polestar 2 406 miles, and the latest Tesla Model 3 at 391 miles.
The highest range EV in the UK is currently the Mercedes EQS. A large 107.8 kWh battery pack and low drag coefficient means that the EQS can cover a claimed 458 miles on one charge. It’s important to say that these are all WLTP official battery range figures and - like combustion cars - will vary in real-world driving and colder temperatures.
Research from data provider, Cap hpi, shows that an average of 8,292 miles are driven annually by EV owners compared to 9,035 by petrol and diesel owners.

Mining of materials for EV batteries

The FairCharge book tackles the argument that the mining of materials for EV batteries is bad for the environment.

It cites the Energy Transition Commission’s latest report – Material and Resource Requirements for the Energy Transition – published July 2023, which says the cumulative global emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from battery mining and production of solar panels and wind turbines over the next 30 years will add up to between 15 to 35 gigatonnes of CO2.

This should be compared to the 40 gigatonnes of CO2 from global fossil fuel energy extraction that’s emitted every single year. In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that 89 per cent of global emissions come from fossil fuels.
The FairCharge book concludes therefore, that “attempting to argue that emissions from mining for battery minerals could possibly exceed the global emissions from exploration, drilling, extracting, shipping, refining, transporting, distribution and burning of fossil fuels is a bit of a stretch – even for a very hard-core EV doubter”.

The electricity grid won’t cope

Another topic that comes up time and again is the fear that the electricity grid would not be able to cope once everyone transitions to electric vehicles.
National Grid ESO says that the UK could “comfortably handle” even an overnight switch to EVs, because of a fall of around 16 per cent in electricity demand through technological efficiencies over the past two decades. It also says that EVs could actually “support the grid by storing excess generation from renewable sources and giving it back to the grid in times of high demand”.
National Grid also says that if the UK switched to EVs overnight “we estimate demand would only increase by around 10 per cent”.
However, the company does agree that more work is needed with distribution companies, government, OFGEM and others to ensure that “the wires, the connections to charge points” are in place to support EVs.

Moving forward

It must be acknowledged, however, that there are still some challenges when it comes to switching to electric vehicles - and these challenges are being ironed out through government policy, industry work, and of course, early adopters sharing their experiences.
But it is unhelpful and unnecessary to “scare” drivers with information that is not true, no longer true, or misrepresented.
Arming yourself with the facts to counter misinformation, sharing positive stories about electric vehicles, and getting more people test driving electric vehicles - is the way to move forward.
AFP Chair Paul Hollick said: “Fleet managers within the AFP are gathering and sharing EV facts and figures that they can use whenever one of these scare stories is raised by one or more employees. It’s become a process of reassurance.
“The overwhelming experience of most fleets is that once drivers start using EVs, they love them and few would return to an ICE vehicle. The objections tend to come from those with limited or no exposure. It’s not unknown for fleet managers who are successfully running hundreds of EVs to be solemnly warned by a colleague that electrification will never work.”