You don’t see whether it’s a wind turbine or gas turbine that sends the electrons to your home, you just plug in your appliances. But lots of people have a very personal relationship with the internal combustion engine, in that the car remains a steadfast relic of mid-century (manly) Americana that we just can’t seem to shake.
That makes electric vehicles one of the biggest consumer-facing targets for climate disinformation, an issue that brings otherwise esoteric policy discussions home for many, particularly those in prized suburban voting blocks.
When it comes from professionals, it can look very nuanced and mathematically sound, for example Bjorn Lomborg’s citation of a Nature study to falsely claim electric vehicles are worse than combustion engines. But that’s not what the study actually says, as a fact check pointed out. Another example of this sort of paltering, the term for using true facts to construct a false argument, can be found in a recent FT op-ed, where R Street’s Ashley Nunes did the same sort of thing we spotted him doing in 2020, and attacked the cost of EVs compared to gas cars without ever actually disclosing the lower lifetime cost of not buying gas.
For a third example, consider this Hill op-ed in which Johan Bracht complains that tax credits for electric vehicles being made in America are pointless because companies are already building factories, or something. It’s not particularly sharp in argument or writing, and not clear on much beyond the contention that spending on EVs is bad.
But the thing about this sort of numbers-heavy pseudo-intellectualism is that it’s not the kind of thing that actual people want to read or share- Bracht’s Hill piece has all of 10 shares, for example.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean EV attacks don’t go viral. They do, they’re just really, really stupid. For example, in September, Facebook users were recently sharing a claim that EVs were seven times more expensive than gas cars- except that assumed they were paying 10 times more for energy than actual prices.
At the end of October, an image showing a snowy traffic jam, with a caption about how bad it would be to get stuck in a snowstorm and three-hour traffic jam at night with an electric car, because the battery would go dead and you’d have no heat.
But as Oxford associate professor David Howey told Reuters for a fact check, “electric vehicles use very little power when stationary. The motor doesn’t consume power at zero speed.”
Oh! Well, waddya know, turns out an EV’s actually better than a gas car, and could probably run all the internal climate controls and electronics for “at least a day, probably many days” if it weren’t going anywhere. All this with the added bonus of not killing you with carbon monoxide if you're stuck in a snowbank!
Howey’s Oxford colleague Dr. Katherine Collet told Reuters that the Nissan Leaf could probably provide around 10 hours of heating- just on half a battery charge!
And then in November, some 10,000+ Facebook users had the opposite idea- what if it were “93 degrees outside” and cars have to idle with the A/C on? “The Brains behind the EV movement don’t have this figured out. These folks will die from heat, while in cold weather states, people will freeze to death. What do you say to that, Greta Thunberg?”
Well Ms. Thunberg knows well enough to only respond to the biggest trolls, so instead we’ll have to get an answer from Monique Curet, who pointed out in PolitiFact that, “While an internal-combustion car’s engine stays on and burns fuel while idling, electric vehicles use little battery power when at a standstill.”
Curet spoke with Centre for Automotive Industry Research director Peter Wells, who corroborated Dr. Collet's comments to Reuters and explained that an EV battery could power the average house for two days, and that even half-charged, an EV battery could provide 10 to 15 hours of heating. And, of course, don't forget: an electric F-150 can power a wedding!
A gas car, on the other hand, burns gas just sitting around, making it less efficient than an electric vehicle.
Most efficient, though, and a great way to avoid getting stuck in traffic jams all together, if we were to get really serious, is of course public transit.