Electric vehicles: four myths debunked

By Mara Nov 25, 2021

The decarbonisation of the transport sector is an essential step towards net zero. Transport makes up 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, equating to around 126 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

Electric vehicles (EVs) can play a vital role in supporting the country’s efforts to reduce emissions and fight climate change. With 40 million EVs predicted to be on the road by 2040, this transition could bring significant benefits for the energy system, enabling the transport sector to move away from fossil fuels and improving air quality in towns and cities.

However, while the sale of electric vehicles is on the rise, some of us have reservations about the technology. Here, we want to set the record straight and debunk some of the most common EV myths. We’ve unpicked four common misconceptions to help start your electric journey.

Myth 1: Electric vehicles are not suited to long journeys

One of the most outdated myths of all is that EVs are not suited to long journeys. While this might have been a concern a few years ago, advances in technology, rapidly falling costs and greater investment in infrastructure mean when it comes to distance, EVs have few limitations.

Pure electric vehicles now have an average range of 197 miles, with many models able to go much further on a single charge. However, it’s worth noting that 99% of car journeys in England are under 100 miles, while the average length of a car trip is 8.4 miles. But if you want to travel further – you can. There are public rapid chargers at every motorway service station in the UK, making topping up on the go easy, and with growing numbers of chargepoints at hotels and places of interest charging when you get to where you want to be is really convenient.

Myth 2: There are not enough public charge points

This myth is far from the truth, with the UK now being home to a well-connected public charge point network. There are now more than 46,000 charge point connectors at over 17,000 locations in the UK (with more being added daily), so you’ll never be far from a chargepoint.

If you have off-street parking, you can install your very own charge point at home. If not, however, investment in chargepoints in frequently-visited areas such as supermarket car parks means that you can charge your car whilst doing the weekly shop.

Myth 3: EVs are not environmentally friendly

You may have come across arguments that electric vehicles are not sustainable because their batteries either can’t be recycled or it is difficult to give them a second life and ultimately end up in landfills. It’s true that producing an EV releases more CO2 into the environment than a traditional petrol or diesel vehicle. However, this higher initial outlay needs to be set into context not only of a much-reduced level of pollution during the use of the vehicle (which in itself more than makes up the difference) but also of a much longer lifespan of the batteries.

When the vehicle reaches the end of its life, the batteries can be used in other energy storage applications – further increasing their useful life. At the end of their life, the batteries can then be recycled, to produce new cells for future use, further reducing waste.

Myth 4: The grid can’t cope

Another common misconception is that the National Grid won’t be able to support all this extra EV charging demand. However, the National Grid itself predicts that, even if everyone decided to swap to an electric vehicle overnight, it would only increase demand by around 10%, with no risk of overwhelming the grid.

Moreover, in recent years the UK grid has been undergoing a massive shift to renewable energy, and the adoption of EVs is just one part of it. EVs will increase demand, but extensive plans are in place to balance supply and demand.

Designed to shift consumption away from peak times, smart charging has emerged as a key technology to take pressure off the grid whilst offering value to end customers. Intelligent chargers can automatically schedule charging for off-peak times when energy tariffs are cheaper, and carbon intensity is lower, helping homeowners save money while relieving pressure on the grid and keeping it in balance.

In the future, EV drivers might also benefit from bidirectional EV charging (also known as vehicle to grid, or V2G for short), enabling EVs to store energy and give it back to the grid when it’s most needed – for instance, at peak times of the day when usage across the UK is at its highest. Bidirectional technology is currently being tested, but challenges will still need to be solved to achieve scale. However, this does show how EVs can be a part of the wider solution to help reduce overall emissions and not just those from transport.