I’ve been working in the automotive industry for over 41 years, but I still get taken aback when I come across some of the common myths that people associate with this sector. However, I don’t think we should avoid talking about them — let’s discuss them instead! What do I think are the biggest myths surrounding the world of e-mobility?
Even though e-omobility has been around for centuries, it still remains a controversial and hotly debated topic. It’s natural that people have a tendency to believe some of the absurd e-mobility myths floating around. I’ve been working in the automotive industry for over 41 years, and I’ve contributed to the birth of one of the bestselling EVs in the world, as well as the famous brand of ‘super cars’ known from James Bond movies. And yet, these myths can still take me by surprise! Which ones do I think are the most common? We’ve already discussed this topic with Oto Pisoň, in the second episode of the BATTERYacademy project (you can watch the VIDEO or listen to the PODCAST here), but I’d like to sum it up in this blog post, too.
- MYTH: ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE NOT ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY
REALITY: They are not perfect, but they are more eco-friendly than gas or hybrid vehicles
Of course, electric vehicles are not completely carbon-neutral, as carbon is still used in the car manufacturing process — I won’t try to deny that. However, what is important is that the exhausts of EVs produce no carbon emissions. I wouldn’t dare say that electric vehicles are perfect, and people should not expect them to be. I think that we should, first, change the way that we look at electromobility. In terms of CO₂ emissions, it represents a huge “green” step forward, because it can significantly improve air quality in cities. Is that not, in and of itself, a good enough reason to give them a chance? I would also like to remind people that EVs produce significantly less CO₂ — not only in comparison to combustion, but also hybrid engines. Simply put, electric vehicles produce zero emissions. What else would I like to add? If we reduce exhaust emissions, we’ll be automatically able to breathe cleaner air. Another factor to consider is, of course, the energy mix of different countries — in Slovakia, the low carbon energy system is ideal for electromobility. In other words, an electric vehicle driven in Slovakia, with batteries manufactured within the country, could have a 74% lower carbon footprint than its combustion counterpart.
- MYTH: ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE EXPENSIVE
REALITY: They are not cheap, but let’s calculate the total ownership costs of an electric vehicle
We should look at EVs from two perspectives. The first is logical: it is a new technology and those are always expensive at the start. Once we begin mass manufacturing them, electric vehicles will get cheaper. In principle, this is Moore’s law. Secondly, consider the total costs of ownership. I would link the EV battery to a limitless fuel tank. Try to compare the recharging of the battery to the refueling of a gas engine, and add this to the overall expenses. With a middle-range car with an average consumption of 7.3 l/100 km, the cost of petrol is roughly 9.3 EUR/100 km. With a middle-range EV, the consumption is 20 kWh/100 km, and the recharging costs around 2.8 EUR. If our annual mileage is around 15 000 kilometres, we will save 990 EUR, just on the cost of fuel alone. Additionally, the maintenance costs of an average EV are around 60% lower. That will annually save us another 210 EUR. Moreover, Slovakia has cheaper registration fees, insurance and taxes than most other countries. That would save us another 200 EUR, each year. And let’s not forget about subsidies. Once we add this all up, what’s the result? If we were to swap an ordinary car for an EV, we would annually save around 1400 EUR.
- MYTH: ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE FIRE HAZARDS
REALITY: Explosive substances are present in all vehicle types, and they all have to meet the same standards and undergo the same testing procedures
I’ll give you a question. Do you think that the risk of fire is bigger with EVs, rather than combustion or hybrid engines? If you think the answer is yes, let me explain why that’s false. Combustible substances are present aboard all vehicles. Security concerns are natural — but manufacturers do their very best to avoid any so-called fire incidents. We try to prevent the associated risks in battery manufacturing, too. In the batteries’ development, we simulate these incidents and perform nail penetration tests, where we drive metallic nails through the battery cells to increase the internal heat. The batteries must be able to withstand this heat, so as to avoid catching fire. The standards set for combustion and hybrid engines are essentially the same, and the vehicle, regardless of its type, should not explode under any circumstances. In this regard, I’m completely certain that EVs are just as safe as any other vehicles.
- MYTH: ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE A DANGER TO PEDESTRIANS
REALITY: Tires are the dominant source of road noise — and EVs have tires, too
We discussed this issue often while we were developing the Nissan Leaf. When driving over 15-20 km/h, tires are a vehicle’s dominant noise source. I think this doesn’t need much further explanation, since we know that all vehicles — electric, gas, or hybrid — have tires. So when it comes to high speeds, there is not much to talk about. I would also like to point out that, in the majority of cities, legislation requires electric vehicles to have a warning system, to protect cyclists or people with poor hearing. There’s a lot of potential for fun here, too, because manufacturers always strive to find something that will give their brand an edge. And while the majority of standard engines sound the same, EVs can create their own sound — with a recognisable signature for each manufacturer.
- MYTH: WEATHER AFFECTS ELECTRIC VEHICLES MORE THAN OTHER VEHICLE TYPES
Reality: Our interaction with the vehicle is a bigger factor than the vehicle itself, or its battery
We often hear that the capacity of a battery changes depending on the weather. What’s the truth? Yes, battery-powered vehicles and extreme weather are not the best of friends, and we have to accept that. However, other types of vehicles are also prone to the dangers of extreme weather. In the case of EVs, moreover, our interaction with the vehicle is more crucial than the battery. Another related advantage is that EVs can heat themselves up before we’re even sitting inside. If we set up our EV to start heating or cooling down half an hour before we use it, and the vehicle is still connected to its electric source, the EV won’t consume any of the battery’s energy. We can comfortably board a car at -20°C and feel nice and warm.
- MYTH: BATTERIES FROM ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE NOT RECYCLABLE
Reality: Batteries can be crushed and recycled. The Slovakian InoBat company is tackling the recycling process
Batteries have three lives. The first concerns the battery while it’s inside the vehicle, where its service life is equal to that of the vehicle itself. Often, it can be even longer. The battery can remain useful in its second life, too, considering it still has 70-80% of its capacity. It can be used for example, for electricity storage on wind farms, or as a capacitor in households. Now, let’s look at the battery’s third life — where it gets crushed and recycled. The crushing of the battery results in a kind of powder, which can then be used in manufacturing new batteries, and so the old ones become part of the country’s circular economy. I think this is one of the most interesting areas that InoBat addresses, through its InoBat Recycling division. Here, we are not only eliminating the extraction of non-renewable resources, but we’re also aiming to achieve a 95% recovery rate for these metals, a 35% reduction in production costs, and a 20% reduction in CO₂ production.
- MYTH: ELECTRIC VEHICLES CAUSE POWER OUTAGES
Reality: The opposite is true! EVs can work as capacitors
Should we steel ourselves for more power outages? I don’t think so. Yes, it’s important to make sure our electric networks remain balanced. But let’s not forget that these vehicles are charged overnight and used during the day. I would like to debunk this myth with an example from my own life. Just after we’d developed and launched the Nissan Leaf in Japan, the country was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami. That’s when the Fukushima nuclear power plant got damaged, and many other power plants got shut down at the same time. In hospitals, huge numbers of people were dying because of power outages. Back then, we had already been working on the concept of “Leaf to Home” in our laboratories, and this allowed us to supply electric energy to many hospitals — and save lives as a result. That’s when we started thinking of EVs as potential capacitors, which can send energy back into the grid, in times when it is necessary. It’s precisely thanks to EVs that we won’t have to build more nuclear power plants in the future. It will be enough to “tailor” a new energetic system to our needs, and ensure that we won’t just be taking energy from this system, but also returning it.
- MYTH: ONLY PASSENGER CARS CAN RUN ON ELECTRIC ENGINES
REALITY: The list is much longer, but batteries are essential
I understand. It’s only natural to look at electromobility in terms of passenger cars, as the majority of us own these. But it’s not just about them. Electromobility is advancing in many other areas, such as kick and motor scooters, bicycles, buses, taxis, freight or air transport. Additionally, e-mobility is increasingly becoming a desirable option for meal and other delivery services. This is the path we should follow. I would like to make an additional point about freight transport. Now, hold on to your hats! If I remember well, around 13 to 15 cargo ships release more sulfites into the air than all vehicles in the world combined! Why am I mentioning this? If we can solve the emissions caused by freight transport, it will drastically change air quality and CO₂ levels worldwide.
So, how would I like to conclude this post? We should all pay more attention to batteries. We need them, and will need them in the future, in all areas of life: whether you have a hybrid car, one that uses synthetic fuel, or you’re storing energy from fuel cells or electric sources. Batteries are everywhere and our lives and mobility are bound to change. We need to move forward, especially in the areas of battery research, development and manufacturing — and this is the added value of InoBat, the company I’ve decided to join. I believe that together, we can accomplish our long term goals, ones that will benefit society as a whole.
As a model example, let me mention the BATTERYacademy project, which was created to educate people about electric vehicles and batteries. Projects like these are brilliant! They are a great way to avoid the spread of misinformation in this area. We need to realise that the automotive industry today is undergoing its biggest changes since the time that we decided to replace horses with cars. And that’s why it is necessary to talk about these myths. I’m glad that I also had a chance to contribute to the project and help educate the general public, and I hope people will find it beneficial.
Non-Executive Vice Chairman, InoBat Auto