Electric Cars-Makes You Think: Commentary About Real Cost of Electric Cars-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Variations of a commentary titled “Electric Cars-Makes You Think” that compare “the real cost” of operating electric vs. gasoline cars, and claim that the U.S. electric infrastructure can’t handle electric cars, has gone viral.
The “Electric Cars-Makes You Think” commentary’s claims that U.S. energy infrastructure can’t handle electric cars and that “the real cost of electric cars” is far greater than gasoline-powered cars are both false.
It’s not clear where this commentary started, but it went into widespread circulation as driving season kicked-off in summer of 2017. By July 2017, a number of versions of the “Electric Cars-Makes You Think” commentary had been posted to discussion forums and circulated in forwarded emails.
The general gist of the commentary is that the writer was talking to an executive from BC Hydro — a public-private electrical utility based in British Columbia — at a backyard BBQ and learned some surprising facts about electric cars. First, the author claims that the U.S. energy grid can’t handle the power load required for widespread use of electric cars (this is false). Next, the author uses some fuzzy math (and inflated electricity rates) to claim that it costs $46,000 (over what period isn’t clear) to operate an electric car compared to $15,000 for a gasoline powered car (this is also false). We’ll take a look at each claim.
The U.S. Electrical Infrastructure Can’t Support Electric Cars-Fiction!
The commentary claims that Tesla electric cars require 75 amp service to charge, and that a normal electrical grid couldn’t support more than three Teslas on the same block. That claim demonstrates a real lack of understanding about both Tesla charging and energy usage.
In reality, there are three different charging levels for Teslas. The different levels each use different voltages, and that impacts how quickly a Tesla battery can be charged. Level 1 “trickle charging” requires 15-20 amp service and can be done using the standard 120v outlet that most household electronics use (with an adapter). Level 2 chargers use 240v electrical circuits (similar to those used by washers and dryers) and run up to 80 amp service. Level 3 chargers run on a 480v circuits that are powered by 300 amp services (this is what you’d find at a public charging station), according to Evatran, a startup that develops electric vehicle (EV) technology.
Level 1 nets two miles of Tesla range per hour charged (1.4 kilowatt hour power delivery), level 2 nets 9-52 miles of Tesla range per hour charged (3.7-17.2 kilowatt hour power delivery, and Level 3 provides up to 130 miles of Tesla range per hour charged (up to 140 kilowatt power delivery). For home charging docks, level 2 is most widely used. And, given that level 2 charging can be comparable to the amount of electricity used by a clothes dryer or electric stovetop, the commentary’s claim that the electric grid couldn’t support more than three Teslas on the same block does not reflect reality.
Gasoline Car Costs $15,000 to Operate, Electric Car Costs $46,000-Fiction!
The commentary veers into some fuzzy math when it (falsely) claims that it costs 75 cents per mile to operate an electric car compared to just 10 cents per mile to operate a gasoline powered car. This led the writer to conclude that the cost of operating a gasoline car was $15,000 compared to $46,000 for an electric car.
The idea that it costs 75 cents per mile to drive an electric car is based on claims that it takes 10 hours to fully charge a Chevy Volt hybrid battery, that electricity costs $1.16 per kilowatt hour, and that a fully charged Volt battery can only drive 25 miles on full electric. All three of those factors are wrong.
The commentary’s first mistake is the idea that electricity costs $1.16 per kilowatt hour. Electricity prices vary across the country, but none are that high. When this commentary went viral in July 2017, for example, the average national cost was 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The commentary’s second mistake is the idea that a fully charged Volt battery can only go 25 miles on pure electric. In reality, it can go up to 53 pure electric miles on a full charge, and up to 420 miles with a full charge and a full tank of gas, according to Chevy.
In the end, it would take 370 kilowatt hours of electricity to drive 1,000 miles per month (2.7 miles per kwh) in a fully electric car. Using the national median rate of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, that would cost $44.44 in electricity costs per month. Given that the national median price for gasoline was $2.28 per gallon when this commentary went viral, it would cost $72 per month to drive 1,000 miles in a gasoline-powered car that averages 32 mpg.
The “Electric Cars-Makes You Think” commentary’s claim that the real cost of driving an electric car is $46,000 compared to $15,000 for a gas-powered car is false. Its claim that the U.S. energy grid can’t handle home charging of electric cars is also false.