I know a lot about the car business, and I know a lot about the environment, but I did not choose an EV.
There were multiple reasons, and two deal-killers. More on those in a moment.
EVs are certainly fast, quiet and clean. But they are also expensive and I worry about their range. The charging infrastructure is under-developed and charging them is a hassle unless you have a garage (which I don’t). I don’t like the driver interface, which is often badly thought out. I worry about the fire risk and the end-of-life disposal problems (those batteries are very hard to recycle). I think the insurance risks have been underestimated and that governments will eventually need to tax EVs more. I am concerned that EVs contain lots of environmentally damaging chemicals which are associated with child labour. I am concerned about the enormous emissions from the tyres.
Overall, I think they are a fad, over-hyped fashion items which are a poor technical solution to a problem which can be more easily solved. Making cars smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient would be a much more effective way to cut emissions, for example, as would restricting their use.
And from what I read, I’m not the only one. EV sales are stalling, notably in the US with production plans cut back.
I had two main gripes though.
The first is energy consumption. EVs use more energy than conventional cars. They use more energy to manufacture and they use more energy on the roads. Energy and mass are linked, and because they are heavy, EVs need more power to move about. And where does all this power come from? Globally, more than 80% comes from fossil fuels. EVs make sense in a country like Norway where the energy comes from hydropower. Otherwise they make very little sense. Instead of coming from the exhausts of conventional cars, the emissions come from power stations. More emissions mean more environmental damage. Urban air quality is better (if you forget those tyre emissions) but overall, EVs are not good for the environment.
The second reason is cost. EVs may be cheaper to run (for now), but I worry about depreciation. When an EV is five years old the batteries will have lost some of their energy and their range will be shorter. Second-hand buyers will know this. Second-hand buyers will also fret about how the car was maintained. Did the previous owner take care to maximise long term battery life? They will also worry about what happens if the batteries fail, and they will worry about the resale value when they come to sell the car a few years on. And all this will be reflected in the price. So I worry that the second-hand value of EVs will be much lower than conventional cars.
What did I do? I bought a Suzuki Swift: a small petrol car with low emissions, low fuel consumption, and which is light and fun to drive.
Photo Robert Linder.