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Electric car myths: what’s the truth about electric cars

Read about the most common misconceptions about electric cars.
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Summary
  • Many electric car myths and misconceptions make it difficult to know whether an EV is the right choice for your next car.
  • Most electric car myths are out-of-date — recent developments in EV technology mean electric cars now compete on cost, reliability, safety, and performance.
  • One of the most common misconceptions about electric cars is that EVs aren’t actually better for the environment — but this misconception has now been widely discredited.
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The EV market is growing. In 2021, electric car sales doubled from 3 million to 6.6 million in just one year [1]. And as the technology develops and drivers become more eco-conscious, this number will rise — especially as more people can now try an electric car before they buy, thanks to car subscriptions.

But despite growing popularity, there are many electric car myths and misconceptions. Go Ultra Low, a UK government-backed campaign, found that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about EVs among the UK public [2]. Many people believe electric cars are more expensive and less reliable — but this isn’t the case.

To set the record straight, we’ve uncovered the truth around some of the most common electric car myths. In this article, you’ll learn more about the misconceptions surrounding EVs and find out the facts about driving an electric car. Shall we debunk some EV myths?

Myth #1: There wouldn’t be enough energy to cope with demand if everyone drove an electric car

The energy crisis has hit the headlines recently, feeding rumours that the National Grid will struggle to cope with demand if there are more EV drivers on the roads.

But this isn’t true. While powering millions of cars does require a considerable amount of energy, it’s only actually a relatively small proportion of the country’s total energy usage.

The National Grid calculates that if every car in the UK switched to electricity, the total energy demand would only increase by around 10 per cent. Meanwhile, energy efficiency improvements in other areas such as heating have actually reduced the country’s energy consumption by around 16 per cent, which means that the grid is well within its capabilities.

It's not quite as simple as that, admittedly. The amount of power extracted from the grid depends on how many vehicles are charging at any one time (and how fast).

There’s currently a lot of development around the conception of smart charging, which prioritises charging at times when the demand on the grid is low. In fact, some cars now even feature a vehicle-to-grid capability that allows them to feed excess energy back into the grid at peak times, balancing out the load.

Learn more about EV energy tariffs.

Myth #2: Electric cars are more expensive than non-EVs

Electric cars are becoming increasingly competitive on price, particularly if you want a medium or large car from a premium manufacturer. It’s true that EVs are currently less well represented at the other end of the market, but smaller and more affordable models are starting to filter through.

But the key thing, particularly when you’re running a car on subscription, is the total cost of running the car. Even in the current energy climate, it’s generally cheaper to charge an electric car than it is to cover the same distance on petrol or diesel – potentially a lot cheaper if you charge at home and take advantage of off-peak energy tariffs.

Charging at motorway services can be expensive. It’s not unheard of for electric car drivers to pay more per mile than those running petrol or diesel cars here. Charge at home, however, and the situation reverses. A study from January 2023 concluded that charging an EV at home remains significantly cheaper than fuelling a petrol or diesel car; with off-peak charging, it worked out at around 11p per mile versus 15p per mile for the equivalent petrol car.

Want to read more? Find out how to save money on your EV.

Myth #3: Electric cars can’t go very far on a single charge

While this may have been true in the early days of electric cars, it’s less applicable now. As with petrol and diesel cars, the exact mileage that you’ll get from an EV is likely to be slightly less than the official laboratory figures would imply. Similarly, the energy usage will vary depending on factors such as weather conditions and driving style.

A real-world range of more than 200 miles is now achievable with many EVs, with some offering more than 300 miles in ideal conditions. On paper, electric cars with the longest range include:

  • Volkswagen ID.3 Pro S Tour — up to 340 miles (London to Dumfries)
  • Tesla Model S — up to 405 miles (London to Edinburgh)
  • Mercedes EQS 450+ — up to 453 miles (Portsmouth to Edinburgh).

Some mid-range cars also have substantial ranges. The Nissan Leaf e+ has a range of up to 239 miles (London to York) and the Kia EV6 RWD can travel up to 316 miles before it needs recharging (London to Newcastle).

In the UK, 99 per cent of all car journeys are under 100 miles – most by a significant margin – so EVs are well-equipped to fulfil most drivers’ needs.

Myth #4: EVs take too long to charge

It’s true that it takes longer to charge an electric car than it does to fill up at the petrol station. But it’s far less time consuming than you might think.

The time it takes to get from empty-to-full varies depending on battery capacity and charging point speed. Even charging from a three-pin socket at home, which is by far the slowest option, should give you a reasonable top-up if you leave the car overnight. And with the latest generation of ultra-fast public chargers, even an EV with a comparatively large battery like the Kia EV6 can be recharged (from 10 to 80 per cent) in under 20 minutes.

As with EV range, charging time will depend on a whole host of factors, including the charging technology on the vehicle, how busy the electricity grid is in your area, and even the ambient temperature.

One thing to bear in mind is that the only time most EV drivers fully recharge their battery is overnight. The rest of the time, a quick top-up usually suffices, and this can often be done when you’d be doing other things anyway, such as when stopping for lunch or calling into the shops.

Learn more about how long it takes to charge an electric car.

Myth #5: People in rural areas won’t have access to enough charging points

The average UK citizen believes there are 6,000 public charging stations in the UK. In reality, there are more than 22,000 separate locations, with nearly 38,000 individual devices. This includes many rapid chargers at service stations around the country. Worldwide, there is one public charger for every ten electric cars [3].

While there are fewer public charging stations in rural areas than in towns and cities, there are still more than enough to get by. Plus, only 5% of charging actually takes place at public chargers — most EV drivers charge their vehicles at home and/or work.

The UK government has also set out a plan and budget for improving the infrastructure for EVs across the country.

Find an electric car charging point near you!

Myth #6: Electric cars are slower and less reliable than non-EVs

Almost half of those surveyed believe petrol or diesel cars accelerate more quickly than electric cars — but this isn’t the case [2]. High-performing electric cars have much better torque than non-EVs, which enables them to deliver far greater horsepower and speed [10].

One Norwegian study found that most people who buy an electric car also own a non-EV. But they use their electric car for a large proportion of all trips, suggesting drivers actually prefer the performance of an EV to their traditional car [11].

Myth #7: It’s not environmentally friendly to drive an EV, as fossil fuels are used to create them and generate electricity

One of the most common electric car myths is that they’re not actually that good for the environment when you account for vehicle production, generating electricity, and charging the car. And it’s true that fossil fuels are sometimes used in these processes.

But research shows that electric cars are already reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 41% [12-14]. Compared with certain non-EVs, electric cars are more energy efficient and create fewer harmful emissions [15]:

Report: The 21st Century Electric Car: Tesla Motors

Producing and decommissioning a non-EV accounts for up to 20% of the car’s cradle-to-grave emissions. In an EV, this can be anywhere from 15-80% — but research shows that higher production emissions are almost always offset by lower operating emissions [3].

Widespread grid decarbonisation is needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric vehicle use. The UK government has already set out a plan to achieve this by 2035 [3, 15].

Myth #9: Electric cars are less safe than non-EVs

Certain safety issues have been identified with electric cars, including:

  • Highly reactive lithium ion batteries
  • Lack of engine noise doesn’t alert pedestrians to their presence
  • Risk of electric shock.

But these risks have been tested and addressed extensively. Protective measures including fuses and flame retardants prevent batteries from leaking electrolytes and/or catching fire. Also, despite the risks, researchers report very few serious incidents involving EV lithium ion batteries, despite their widespread use over the last few years [16].

It’s up for debate whether lack of engine noise is really a danger. Some reports suggest there’s a heightened risk of pedestrians being involved in a slow-moving collision with EVs than non-EVs. Others suggest the risk is equal [16]. Some researchers have advocated creating synthetic engine noise to mitigate this in future [17].

Myth #10: You can’t go through a car wash in an electric car

42% of people believe you can’t drive through a car wash in an electric car. And it’s not a myth that electricity and water don’t mix.

But electric cars are waterproof. Just as it’s safe to drive your electric car in the rain, so it’s perfectly safe to drive it through a car wash.

Myth #11: EVs only work for people who have off-street parking

Off-street parking is definitely a bonus for electric car drivers. You can install a home charger, and even charge your car using a three-pin socket if your cable is long enough.

But it’s still possible to own and charge an electric car if you don’t have a driveway. Some public charge points offer free charging — so while it’s a little less convenient, it can be much cheaper to charge your vehicle away from home. Many electric car apps can show you where to find local and/or free public charging stations. 

Myth #12: It’s not safe to charge an electric car in the rain

It is safe to charge your EV in the rain. All electric car chargers must meet international standards for waterproofing and before they can be used or sold. This is known as the IP rating. 

IP ratings have two numbers. The first shows the protection level against solids like dust. The second shows the protection level against liquids. The waterproofing scale runs from 1-8, with 8 offering the highest level of protection. IP44 chargers are protected against solid objects over 1mm and water splashes. IP67 chargers are fully protected against dust, and can be fully submerged in water.

As long as your charger meets these standards, it’s perfectly safe to charge your electric car in the rain.

Why is there so much misinformation about electric cars?

Electric cars are still relatively new, so people are naturally less trusting of them than the petrol and diesel cars that have been around for so long.

The internet also makes it much easier for electric car myths to spread. It’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to new technology. When making your next driving decision, ensure you have all the facts to make an informed choice.

It's worth checking our in-depth analysis of the common problems EVs have.

Is an electric car right for you?

It can take a while to get used to driving an electric car. That’s why electric car subscriptions are so popular. They enable you to test drive an electric car for as long as you like before you commit to buying one. Some car subscription providers specialise in electric cars, so they’re a great place to start.

Now you know the facts about EV driving, check out these 5 good reasons to drive an electric car.

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Article sources
Our writers are required to use primary sources of information to support their content. These include research from authoritative brands, government data sets, first-hand experience where relevant and advice from industry experts.

We also reference useful information from other reputable websites where appropriate and data is fact-checked. See our editorial guidelines.
  1. Global Electric Car Sales Doubled in 2021 
  2. The rise of electric vehicles—2020 status and future expectations  
  3. Evaluation of Utility System Impacts and Benefits of Optimally Dispatched Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles 
  4. Charging some electric cars ‘nearing cost of petrol’ due to energy crisis, RAC warns
  5. Evaluation of Utility System Impacts and Benefits of Optimally Dispatched Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
  6. Will charging electric cars ever be as fast as pumping gas? 
  7. A review of consumer preferences of and interactions with electric vehicle charging infrastructure 
  8. Taking charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy
  9. The 21st Century Electric Car Tesla Motors 
  10. Positive and negative spillover effects from electric car purchase to car use
  11. Life Cycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles: Implications for Policy
  12. Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles
  13. Current and Future United States Light-Duty Vehicle Pathways: Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment 
  14. Plans unveiled to decarbonise UK power system by 2035 
  15. Electric Vehicle Safety 
  16. Synthetic engine noise generation for improving electric vehicle safety
  17. Big Oil Is Getting Scared Of Electric Vehicles – And So It Should Be
  18. EV charging statistics
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