When I bought my first electric car (Nissan Leaf with nearly 70 miles of range) on December 1, 2011, I wasn’t planning on promoting this as a disruption to the world’s auto industry. I just thought driving on electrons was a pretty cool life hack as gas was close to $5 a gallon. My Republican friends thought I was a little crazy (and I’m a little crazy), but I didn’t see many attacks on electric vehicles, because they only looked at it as a joke and no one felt threatened by them.
Times have changed. As soon as I ordered my first Tesla (Model 3 March 31, 2016), my opinions changed and I began to think that a $35,000 car that looked as good as a Tesla with decent range and a great charging network could really be the future. When I wrote this article in 2018 for CleanTechnica On why electric cars cost so low for fuel, I was really trying to see if there is a strong economic basis for electric cars, even if you ignore all the environmental benefits, and come to the conclusion. This was an important turning point for me, because it meant that I could promote electric vehicles to people who don’t have a strong (or even weak) preference for saving the planet. As a Republican, most of my friends are either Republicans or Libertarians and I’ve noticed that both groups are very hostile (but definitely getting better) for anything to do with carbon or climate change. On the other hand, they pay little attention to air pollution, so articles on health effects due to air pollution are not very effective in reaching them. I still don’t drive with that. It’s much better to stir up driving fun, style, or even safety with this crowd.
Electric cars are getting more and more popular now
As someone who’s used to having unpopular opinions, I was surprised that many people in my neighborhood, and even my business department, are buying Model Ys this year! I see that sales of plug-in cars in both Europe and China have recently reached 20%. In the US, the share is much lower (about 4%), mainly due to the fact that Tesla is the only company in the US that offers large quantities of electric or electric vehicles.
For some reason (and hopefully soon), I thought my role on social media would be to accept the apologies of all my anti-EV friends and say whatever you believed in in the past was in the past, let’s find you a great electric car and help you set up your charger. Well, some of that has happened, but mostly the level of misinformation about electric cars has gone up. I’ve noticed that misinformation isn’t even good, it’s just anecdotal stuff being posted on Facebook, usually without any sources. These posts are shared like wildfire and get many likes. Fortunately, electric vehicles are popular enough that they do not go unchallenged. Oftentimes, I’m not the only Republican to advocate for electric cars, and by the time I see a post, most of the misinformation has been corrected. There are usually a few sticking points for me to get rid of.
A recent example of electric vehicle misinformation
Recently a friend of mine pointed me to this poorly written article and asked me to debunk it. The first two things I noticed are that they are #1, it doesn’t take a single point against electric cars and back it up. It takes the gun’s approach of brushing off a wide range of real or imagined issues and hoping that some of them will remain consistent. The second thing I’ve noticed is that it’s from the Heartland Institute and is funded by the fossil fuel industry, in my opinion to protect the industry for a few more years.
This is the reply I sent to my friend. I think it’s important to honestly admit that electric cars are not better in every respect so far and have some minor issues.
- Cars take a long time to charge, so filling up the parking lot at the gas station. Response: Electric vehicles have two charging methods — Level 1 and Level 2 are slow (3 to 45 miles add up per hour), so you can do them where you sleep, not at a gas station. Level 3 is fast (200 to 1,000 mph), so you use it on trips and spend 15 to 30 minutes taking a quick break and using the bathroom or eating. Unlike gas cars that are not safe to refuel unattended, you can leave electric vehicles while you enjoy your vacation.
- Chargers will cost a lot. Partially true. Electric vehicles come with the slow charger (the Tesla is changing to charging $200 for this now) and it can cost $200 to $1,000 to install an outlet if you drive enough to need 240V. You likely have a 120-volt outlet in your garage already. It will be a few years before the apartments add outlets, so the tenants can collect the fees. Quick chargers are expensive, as are gas pumps and tanks, so it’s pretty much a wash. Since 90% of the charging takes place where you sleep, you need chargers that are less fast than gas pumps.
- The grid recovers your power from your car. This is a feature (still rarely implemented) that gives you the option to power your home (great for blackouts) or the grid (make money for grid stability). Both are optional and very good.
- The nation will need more electricity if we all buy electric cars. True, but not a big problem. Some power will come from a time when we have excess energy that we don’t use today. Some new force will be needed. Fortunately, solar energy costs are dropping rapidly and electric cars are incredibly efficient as I wrote here.
My strategy is to always get involved, stay polite, and realize that even though it’s been a long battle, we only have a few years left until the tide turns and your friends will only ask which electric car to buy or how to install a charger, not to spread nonsense on electric vehicles.
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA]BYD [BYDDY]New [NIO]and XPeng [XPEV]. But I am not providing here any investment advice of any kind.
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