Mythbusters: debunking electric vehicle misconceptions
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Electric vehicles are already a staple in countries such as Norway where they account for 10 per cent of all cars. As they become more common on Kiwi roads, we thought it high time to debunk some common myths about them.
There aren’t enough charging stations
This is trotted out around the world and though more will be needed, there are hundreds already here. No one seems to know the official number but most experts reckon it’s about 500.
ChargeNet operates 155 of these stations nationally, and 28 of the approximately 100 in Auckland. According to the charging station map at charge.net.nz, Houhora Game Fishing Club, just an hour from Cape Reinga, has the most northerly charger.
One in Invercargill is the most southerly, with another in Bluff on the way. According to ChargeNet, you can drive the length of State Highway 1 using its fast chargers.
It’s worth remembering that every building with a power supply is potentially a charging station. You can plug into a standard wall socket or get a proper wall-mounted set-up.
Range anxiety ruins trips
Range and anxiety — these two words are the electric vehicle’s Kryptonite. It seems no matter how much charge one has, there’s going to be an element of worry. It’s worth noting that this anxiety usually affects only those on long journeys, rather than the majority who use their EV for their daily commute.
This myth ties in with the first. The truth is that it’s not too much difference to taking a road trip in a traditionally powered car.
When planning a road trip, a full tank of fuel is usually the first priority, and it shouldn’t be any different in an EV.
But if you’re still worried about running out of charge in the middle of nowhere, a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) might be a better option. These vehicles use a mild hybrid system that uses battery power, while giving you peace of mind about your trip. You’d still need to charge but a lot less planning is needed.
EVs cost more than petrol-powered counterparts
In the current climate, an electric vehicle might cost more than a petrol-powered car upfront, especially if you’re comparing similar models.
But that doesn’t mean high prices are here to stay.
Energywise found the cost of running an EV in New Zealand is equivalent to paying 30c a litre of petrol, or around 15 per cent of the cost of using a similar-sized petrol vehicle. With no exhaust or intake systems, and fewer moving parts powering the vehicle, it’s easy to see how they are cheaper to maintain.
Using the Energywise stats shows a $50,000 EV will end up cheaper than a $50,000 petrol car in the long run.
Charging an electric car takes too long
There’s no question you could fill up your petrol or diesel vehicle a lot faster, but the figures might surprise you.
Before we dive into fast charging, you’re probably used to plugging your phone in every night before you go to bed, so why not your car? Plus, charging at off-peak times means you’re paying less for power, a win-win situation.
Plugging into a standard three-prong wall socket at home will take your EV a long time to reach full charge, but a fast charger will reduce that time significantly. It will take only 25 minutes to get an average EV to 80 per cent charge with a fast charger. That’s because a small onboard charger converts power from AC to DC, as the batteries can’t be charged with AC.
When using a fast charger, the power enters the large, external charger as DC, bypassing the car’s internal charger. The bottom line here is, it currently takes longer than a petrol pump, but it isn’t going to be “too long” with a fast charger. And high-powered charging coming to New Zealand next year will allow long-range EVs to be charged six times faster than now.
Electric cars aren’t fun to drive
Like “too long”, fun is a subjective term. If, for you, it means speed, no worries: the base model Tesla Model S makes the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.2s, while the top of the line P100D does it in just 2.2.
If the Tesla’s a bit too rich for your tastes, Honda has announced that a fully electric, rear-wheel drive two-door is on the way. This will be a breakthrough in the electric world because most of the “fun” to be had is at the high end of the market. Besides performance figures, having instant torque at the touch of a pedal is an incredible sensation available in every single EV.
They’re no better for the environment than petrol-powered cars
If we’re talking stats, an electric motor converts around 75 per cent of the chemical energy from the batteries into power to the wheels; traditional cars convert only 20 per cent. Beyond the short-term effects, what about the big picture?
Earlier this year, Volkswagen had to prove EVs were “greener” in the long run, after finding itself in hot water over some of its claims about the e-Golf claims.
So VW compared the lifespan of a diesel Golf and an e-Golf, tracking both vehicles to 200,000km. It found that even though more emissions are produced in the production stage of the electric vehicle, by the time it’s done its dash on the road and the batteries are recycled, the e-Golf will have produced fewer emissions than its diesel counterpart.