True and false arguments against electric vehicles

One of the main services provided by Fremsyn is the Fleet Analysis, where we create a comprehensive report on the stakes of gradually converting a company’s fleet to electric vehicles alongside to the best way of doing so. However, some people are still very skeptical about the merits of EVs, for various reasons:

”They are way more expensive!”, ”They are actually worse for the environment!”, ”I don’t enjoy driving them.”, ”They take ages to charge!”…

People use many arguments to justify not changing to electric vehicles and, granted, some of them are true and sound. Some. Some others, while true, are not by any measure relevant arguments. And some more are just bogus, spread around either by misinformed or dishonest people. Let’s delve into all that.

I.                    Actual, legitimate arguments

a.      “I don’t need to use a car.”

Great! If your feet, your bike, or your preferred mode of public transportation are enough for your needs and wants, it would indeed not be the best of ideas to buy a vehicle!

b.      “I don’t need to own a car.”

Brilliant! There are many ways to get around, depending on where you live. If the aforementioned options are not enough for your comfort, before relying on purchasing your very own car, consider some alternatives: If you only need a car for a few months (to survive commute during winter, for example), leasing one ends up way cheaper ; if you need a car only for a few days every month, be sure to check if short-term car renting is available in your area ; if you only need a car for very specific routes, ask around to see if you can carpool with a coworker or a neighbor!

In short, simply give a good think about whether actually owning a car would be a big plus in your life.

c.      “My current car is still in good shape!”

Nice! Maintaining a well-functioning vehicle is usually a wise choice. First, it can help getting the most out of the money you spent buying it and can get more kilometers driven out of the large amount of emissions spent building it. And second, while you wait, electric cars get more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper.

However, this won’t last forever, eventually your car will become unsafe, or uncomfortable, or the maintenance will get more expensive than monthly payments for a new(er!) car. When the time comes to replace it, be sure to first reevaluate your need for car ownership, then consider switching to electric!

d.      “There’s almost no charging infrastructure around.”

That’s a shame. Hopefully that will change in the coming years. Be sure to check out any charging point development plans in your area, and give a think about whether this lack of infrastructure would really be an issue for you. If you know you would be able to charge at home every night, and that your potential long-distance trips would bring you to a destination where you can also easily charge, even sparse charging points may be enough to be perfectly fine.

e.      “I need to travel great distances as fast as possible and there’s no suitable public transport.”

This seems like a pretty rare case, but it is true that even the most powerful chargers won’t be able to fully replenish your car’s batteries in less than a minute like gasoline stations can. So, if you really are in a situation where every second counts, understandably, electric vehicles can slightly hinder your performance over very long distances.

f.        “I profoundly care about resource depletion, geopolitical tensions and labor conditions.”

Ah. The difficult one. It is indeed not good enough to only consider greenhouse gas emissions to evaluate the impact of something on the planet. Indeed, the production of batteries for EVs requires the extraction and processing of raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, which can have environmental impacts such as habitat destruction, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Additionally, the global supply chain for battery materials may involve social and ethical concerns related to labor practices, human rights, and resource governance.

Cobalt mining, for instance in DRC, is linked to deforestation and water pollution, and even to child labor in some places. Nickel mining in Indonesia is partially responsible for the displacement of indigenous people and conflicts over land rights and resource ownership. Not all EV manufacturers are equal on this topic, therefore if this topic may influence your decision, it is important to do some research about the measures taken by brands to ensure more ethical practices.

However, some comparable concerns are associated with the conventional car industry: oil extraction famously leads to habitat destruction, environmental damage, and water pollution, as seen in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. More recently, the EACOP project intended to transport crude oil poses high risks of freshwater pollution to the Lake Victoria, is projected to displace over 100.000 people, damage women rights, and put key wildlife at risk. Oil refining also produces large amounts of air pollutants which can harm nearby communities and wildlife. Also, everyone is by now aware of the impending depletion of crude oil, a finite resource, which causes harsher and harsher extraction activities. But most importantly, the transportation sector is one of the largest sources of GHG emissions worldwide, and thus an important driver of climate change, with all associated consequences to wildlife and human society.

To summarize, cars, whether conventional or electric, are bad for the planet, there is no questioning it. However, for most accounts, EVs are the noticeably fairer option, even if in some respects they fare worse than conventional cars for reasons related to battery production. Therefore, it is important for everyone to be able to make up their own mind.


II.                  Arguments that may be true, but are not relevant

a.      “I live in a very cold place; batteries won’t fare well here.”

It’s true that cold hinders the performance of batteries, but according to this test from Norway, some electric cars do just fine in temperatures around -40°C, a temperature where lots of fossil cars will also face hardship. So if this kind of cold is your reality, as long as you do some research to ensure you get one of the EVs that are not getting cold feet in extreme conditions, you should be fine. And if your extreme cold is more around -15/20°C, don’t think about it, EVs will be fine. Even if the cold may make them perform slightly worse, EVs will still be more cost-efficient and carbon-efficient than fossil vehicles for the same distance driven.

b.      “I don’t like automatic transmission.”

Well, that is a legitimate issue. However, depending on your values, it may not warrant having to spend and emit much more for every kilometer you drive. Also, maybe it is simply about getting used to it. It may not be as fun as driving a manual, but it comes with increased ease of use and safety!

c.      “I can’t afford the extra money needed to go electric.”

Electric cars indeed usually cost a few thousands of dollars more than their closest fossil counterparts. However, a 2018 study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that the average cost to fuel an electric car was US$485 a year, compared to $1,117 for a gas-powered vehicle. Similar trends are observed worldwide. And maintenance is typically cheaper for EVs due to fewer moving parts and regenerative braking. Moreover, electricity is getting cheaper, so the price per kilometer will keep dropping. And finally, in most areas, there are financial incentives of all kinds in favor of EVs: Tax deductions, partial funding of purchase, free parking… 

In summary, as stated in a 2024 study by Atlas Public Policy summarized here, the total cost of ownership of an electric vehicle will almost always be lower than for the equivalent fossil vehicle. So, in the long run, EVs are cheaper. Therefore, if you can afford tens of thousands to buy a new car, you will be better off waiting until you can afford the few extra thousands needed to go electric. Maybe rent something in the meantime?

d.      “But what about jobs in the oil and in the ICE cars industries?”

This is an understandable concern. The widespread adoption of EVs indeed has an impact on certain sectors of the economy. However, it’s important to also recognize the opportunities for job creation! The shift towards electric vehicles will stimulate demand for new industries. Lots of R&D projects have been started to study electric-related topics, most internal combustion engine-based manufacture jobs are just as relevant for EV manufacture, and for the people more specialized in engines, re-training opportunities to adapt to EV production are plenty, and their skills can also be very useful in other manufacturing, engineering, or logistics areas. This may be a hassle, but smaller than one would expect, and the payoff in regard to the environment is no doubt worth it!

e.      “Electricity is very dirty where I live…”

This is unfortunate. However, even in very carbon-intensive areas, over their lifetime, electric cars are responsible for less emissions than most ICE cars, as can be seen in this highly unrealistic, and absolute worst-case scenario where all electricity used in producing and driving the cars is 100% generated from coal (note: this is not even remotely true anywhere in the world):

In this very hypothetical scenario, only very efficient fossil cars end up noticeably cleaner, and gas-guzzlers are not depicted here. In reality, even in China (where lots of batteries are produced), the electricity mix only reaches 60% coal, and your local electricity mix is very likely cleaner than that.


III.                Arguments that are wrong

a.      “EVs are actually worse for the environment.”

The previous paragraph showed this is not true from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint in most areas. In relatively low carbon-intensity areas, there’s no contest, EVs are noticeably cleaner.

However, it is important to take other considerations into account.

On the positive side, EVs are also the clear winners on matters of air quality in urban areas, as they produce zero tailpipe emissions when conventional cars emit nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, all having adverse effects on human health. EVs are also noticeably quieter than ICE vehicles (since they don’t have literal explosions constantly happening inside, for example), especially at lower speeds, which is important for comfort but also for wildlife, since noise-related stress and disruptions are a very real issue for animals.

However, EVs also come with some downsides. As mentioned earlier, they fare worse than conventional vehicles on matters of rare metals depletion, also causing environmental damage and water pollution on those sites, and as it may require new facilities, the EV industry may be responsible for land-use change. A final element to take into account is that, as EVs are typically heavier, they usually cause slightly more particulate matter emissions from the wear on the asphalt, however, this is largely offset by the absence of tailpipe emissions.

Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that EVs aren’t devoid of any negative consequence. However, there is a strong scientific consensus on the fact that given the alternative, buying an electric vehicle instead of a similar ICE one is the more sustainable option.

b.      “Batteries are dangerous!”

There is no such thing as zero risk, indeed, and like any energy storage medium, batteries carry certain risks. However, modern battery technology has undergone significant advancements to ensure safety and reliability. They comply with very harsh safety standards about battery design manufacturing processes, thermal and mechanical resistance, and more. EVs are equipped with complex battery management systems monitoring and controlling various parameters, including temperature and voltage, to prevent hazards. Most EVs have stringent crash and fire safety measures to minimize risks in the event of an accident. When inside an EV, the road is a lot more dangerous than the battery.

On the disposal side, it is true that batteries pose environmental challenges, for instance in relation to heavy metals. However, landfilling is for the most part a thing of the past: the recycling programs in the EV industry are now quite advanced, and even if they are still pretty low, recovery rates for lithium, cobalt and nickel are constantly rising. Moreover, many batteries too old for EV use are still suitable for secondary application like energy storage systems, extending their useful lifespan. Finally, innovation is still going strong in matters of batteries, so it can be expected that the processes linked to them will only get safer and more sustainable.

c.      “The range is terrible, and EVs take way too long to charge!”

In Europe, the vast majority of trips are below 160 kilometers (about 100 miles), and the current worst ranges for EVs are around this value, while the average range stands around 380km at time of writing, with some cars such as the Air Grand Touring from Lucid breaking the 500 miles (800km) threshold. Therefore, you should be able to complete most trips without thinking about charging, as long as you do plug in at night. But for the occasional long trip, you should know that recent DC fast charging stations have enough output power to get you at least over 150 kilometers worth of electricity in only half an hour, if you can spare the time. Therefore, while it may take you a little bit longer to complete trips over thousands of kilometers with an electric vehicle, you are not at risk of ending up stranded in the middle of nowhere or end up stuck for an excruciating amount of time at roadside charging stations.


IV.               Additional considerations

a.      “What about the rebound effect?”

Some people are concerned about the possibility of EVs’ widespread adoption leading to increased vehicle usage and ownership, thus being a hindrance on the road and leading to greater environmental impacts. However, the development of the electric vehicle market also helps the development of light mobility, such as electric bikes and scooters. The development of charging infrastructure is also a welcome help in the creation of vehicle sharing systems like short term rentals or shared ownership. Another concern is that EVs help perpetuate car-centric urban design, and while this may be true, it can be argued that this negative impact is largely offset by the positive effects the transition to electric has on air and noise pollution.

b.      “I need to buy a car. Should I settle for a new or used one?”

This warrants profound consideration, and the answer is different for every situation. But the key elements are that used cars are cheaper, and so is insurance, and they will not lose their remaining value as fast as a new one. On the other hand, well, they don’t have the latest tech, may not be as efficient, and usually have higher maintenance costs. They also likely won’t be in your hands for as long. The choice is yours!



The first and foremost conclusion is: Don’t buy a car (fossil or electric) if you don’t need one. If you currently have a car and it’s not yet in shambles, keep using it to further decrease the cost per kilometer and the emissions per kilometer over its whole lifetime (including purchase cost, manufacturing emissions and yet-to-be disposal emissions). If you can go by punctually renting a car, borrowing one, or do carpooling (which is quite often possible for daily commute), then do so! You can probably use your thousands on other things! And this is even more true if you simply don’t need to use a car at all. An electric bicycle or a public transport card is on most accounts a way better deal per kilometer traversed.

With this important consideration out of the way, is there any reason left not to buy an electric car instead of a conventional one?

Unless you are concerned by one of the situations mentioned in the first section of this post, if you decided you need one or more personal cars for yourself or your company, electric vehicles seem like the better choice. Nowadays, they can cover impressive ranges and only rarely require daytime charging, ensuring rapid recharging when necessary. Moreover, they offer substantial savings regarding both money spent and GHG emissions. Therefore, spending some additional money on electric alternatives will end up being beneficial to both you and the planet.

If you decide on going deeper into the topic and explore potential options for your company, Fremsyn stands ready to assist. Our team can conduct a comprehensive fleet analysis and present various scenarios tailored to your needs. Furthermore, we can guide you through the implementation process, drawing upon the expertise of our members with years of experience in this field. 

True and false arguments against electric vehicles
Fremsyn March 27, 2024
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