Fully Charged Show, a renowned platform founded by ten-year partners Robert Llewellyn and Dan Caesar, has become a beacon of knowledge for electric vehicles and renewable energy enthusiasts. With over 1 million subscribers and 168 million views on YouTube as of April 2023, the show has become a go-to resource for everything electric.
In the latest episode of the Fully Charged Show, released on September 29, 2023, the focus shifted to debunking myths surrounding electric vehicles. The episode saw the participation of Llewellyn himself, Quentin Wilson from FairCharge UK, Lorna McAtear from National Grid, and Euan McTurk from Plug Life Consulting.
Are Electric Cars Really Green?
One of the most common misconceptions tackled in the episode was the carbon footprint of electric cars. Many critics argue that the production of EV batteries and the electricity they use are less clean than they seem.
The infamous Volvo report, which claimed that EVs take around ten years and 70,000 kilometres to offset their carbon debt, was discussed. However, the information has been debunked by numerous universities that consider factors such as the production of oil, refining, distribution, and the recycling of EV batteries.
In the show, panellists reveal that the carbon debt myth has persisted for a long time due to misinformation and corporate PR. In reality, electric cars can pay back their carbon debt in as little as a year, and afterward, they become an environmental asset.
Another critical point made during the discussion was the air quality benefits of electric vehicles. These cars do not emit harmful fumes when parked outside schools, in underground car parks, or in workshops. They contribute to cleaner air, reducing health issues, and enhancing the overall driving experience.
The second myth tackled in the episode concerns the environmental impact of electric vehicle batteries. It’s often believed that battery production is inherently harmful to the environment, especially when manufactured in carbon-intensive gigafactories powered by dirty energy sources. However, this belief overlooks a critical point.
Research has shown that battery manufacturing’s environmental impact greatly improves when cleaner energy sources are used. For example, when gigafactories are powered by renewable energy and clean methods are employed to extract raw materials, such as lithium, from geothermal waters, the carbon footprint is significantly reduced.
Many modern batteries, like lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, contain no cobalt or nickel, making them ethical, long-lasting, and safer. The reduction of cobalt usage and the emergence of new battery chemistries are rapidly reducing the environmental impact of battery production.
Furthermore, the myth that batteries are not recyclable is debunked. Advanced recycling techniques can recover a substantial portion of materials in lithium-ion batteries, including lithium, cobalt, and copper, with sustainable processes achieving up to 100% material recovery.
Recognising the potential for recycling batteries and reusing their materials multiple times, thus significantly reducing the environmental footprint, becomes of great importance. This approach aligns with global sustainability efforts and responsible resource management.
The show further addresses the third topic of whether electric vehicle batteries are inherently easy to catch fire. One prevalent misconception suggests that EVs are prone to battery fires.
However, the reality is quite the opposite. Studies reveal that EVs are 19 times less likely to catch fire than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.
A striking example comes from a large fleet of over 165,000 electric vehicles managed by Lex Autolease, where there have been no reported battery fires or drivetrain failures. This extensive sample size offers robust evidence of the safety of EVs.
Tusker Direct, with a fleet of 23,000 electric vehicles, further confirms the safety of EVs. They have experienced significantly fewer incidents of running out of energy compared to petrol and diesel vehicles.
The myth that EVs frequently run out of power is disproven by the data, showing a minimal occurrence of 0.2% in electric vehicles versus 2.6% in petrol and diesel cars.
Tire and Brake Easily Wear?
Additionally, the myth that EVs produce more particulates due to tire and brake wear is also debunked by the experiences of EV owners.
Many report using their original tire sets for tens of thousands of miles without significant degradation, indicating that tire wear in electric vehicles is not a significant concern.
Fleet managers of large EV fleets, such as Lex Autolease and Tusker Direct, once again confirm that tire maintenance budgets for EVs are comparable to those of diesel and petrol vehicles.
Furthermore, the claim that electric vehicles generate more particulates due to brake wear is dispelled by the presence of regenerative braking in EVs. Regenerative braking significantly extends the lifespan of brake pads, with some electric vehicles needing brake replacements only after 100,000 miles or more.
Can The Grid Cope?
The notion that the grid cannot handle the transition to electric vehicles is debunked with several key points. The grid can adapt and evolve to accommodate the growing demand for electric vehicles. It’s essential to recognise that this transition is a gradual process, not an abrupt shift. The grid has consistently adapted to meet changing energy demands.
Technological advancements have also significantly improved energy efficiency. For instance, the introduction of LED light bulbs has led to reduced electricity consumption, giving the grid additional capacity to handle electric vehicle charging.
Furthermore, the grid is shifting from a one-way energy flow model to a two-way model, accommodating energy generation from distributed sources like solar panels and batteries. This transition further enhances grid resilience.
The commitment to expanding renewable energy sources, like onshore wind, is evident. Over the next seven years, five times more onshore wind capacity is planned than what was installed over the past three decades. This demonstrates the ongoing efforts to enhance the grid’s capabilities.
Will Heavy EVs Have A Problem?
The concern surrounding heavy electric vehicles revolves around their weight and potential structural issues. It’s worth noting that the top 10 heaviest cars on the road in the UK are primarily petrol or petrol-diesel models, with the Tesla Model X being the first electric vehicle on the list.
While EVs tend to be heavier than some traditional vehicles, their weight is not necessarily a cause for concern. For example, the Tesla Model 3 weighs about 1.8 tons, which is comparable to many internal combustion engine counterparts. As battery technology evolves and becomes more energy-dense, EVs are likely to get lighter, improving their overall efficiency.
Concerns about EVs causing damage to concrete structures, car parks, and bridges are generally unfounded. Modern EVs, equipped with thermal management systems, have less power draw for heating, making them efficient even in extreme weather conditions.
In colder climates, EVs do experience some range reduction, which is not significantly different from the reduced efficiency of traditional petrol cars in cold weather. Additionally, advancements in battery management and the use of new chemistries, such as lithium iron phosphate, are mitigating these concerns.
Cost is ultimately a legitimate concern when it comes to electric vehicles. While prices have come down over the years, EVs can still be more expensive than their petrol or diesel counterparts. The average price difference can be around £10,000.
It has become crucial to look beyond the upfront cost, however, and consider the total cost of ownership. Electric vehicles often have lower maintenance costs, resulting in a 31% reduction in lifetime maintenance expenses. Additionally, the savings on fuel costs contribute to making EVs a more economical choice in the long run.
While cheaper Chinese EVs are entering the market, there are questions about their quality and long-term value. The 2030 ban on the sale of new combustion engine vehicles in the UK has provided policy certainty, encouraging significant investments in the EV industry. Pulling back on this commitment would disrupt the motor industry’s plans and could be detrimental to the UK’s economy.
For EV adoption to continue to grow, governments need to provide clear incentives and regulations, ensuring a smoother transition to electric vehicles on a larger scale.