Kuryente: Busting the EV myths

Tessa R. Salazar

There’s a term among journalists, called “kuryente.” In the media profession, when a writer is fed false or erroneous information, and passes it on as true and credible, only to find later on, after closer scrutiny and cross-checking, that the information he or she spread to the public was, indeed, bogus, that sinking feeling when one realizes he or she peddled wrong information is like a jolt, a shock to the system. “Na-kuryente,” or “jolted with the shock of truth.” If you are a messenger of news and information, that’s the worst feeling you’ll ever have, apart from realizing that your number won the grand lotto, but you forgot to place your bet.

It’s quite ironic, then, that the landscape surrounding the development of electric vehicles (EVs) as the cleaner and more sustainable alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered vehicles has been pock-marked by either ignorant or malicious information circulated by people who should know better. And because such erroneous information is being propagated by people who seemingly have credible backgrounds, one may already start wondering what has gotten into these people that they’re willingly (or unwittingly) circulating myths against EVs.

I won’t be naming names here. That’ll just give them undue attention. What I’ll be discussing, however, are their main arguments versus EVs, and the responses of the experts I know that expose these arguments as ultimately just myths. Who knows, maybe this will help get the truth out and make the myth peddlers realize that sudden jolt of truth.

Na-kuryente sila,” as they say in the newsroom.

Myth #1: EVs pollute more than ICEs

There’s the argument that the electricity required to charge up the EV batteries pollutes even more than burning gasoline or diesel fuels. To answer this extensively, you can watch a very informative explainer video on YouTube. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1oVrIHcdxjA. In a nutshell, this video uploaded by Mark Linthicum of the GasTroll channel more than three years ago (with able assistance from The Fully Charged Team) shows in no unclear terms that when it comes to pollution and emissions, it’s really a no-contest, and that extracting, refining, transporting, and then burning fossil fuels are the runaway winners when it comes to producing vast quantities of climate change-inducing greenhouse gases.

In fact, according to the video, just for extracting oil alone—offshore and on land—the energy required to do that would be able to power more than 70 million EVs every month.

Myth #2: Lithium batteries are hazardous, and have a short shelf life

Rico Severino, administrator of the Philippine EV Community (comprised of owners of EVs in the Philippines) said that one of the most notorious pieces of misinformation that he has read in social media involves lithium batteries, that they would eventually pile up and become hazardous to the environment in the long run.

He countered, “On the contrary, lithium batteries have a long shelf life similar to solar panels. In time, they degrade slowly; current estimates are 1 to 2 percent (degradation) per year. Imagine a shelf life of 3,000 to 6,000 charging cycles, depending on battery chemistry. If cycled every day, that’s equivalent to anywhere from 8 to 16 years. Your range just gets shorter after a long time. Also, batteries can be repurposed several times before finally being recycled. When recycled, up to 98 percent of the materials can be extracted and reused.”

Myth #3: The exploding EV

It’s the stuff horror stories are made of. Two EVs supposedly collided somewhere in Russia, with both exploding in huge flames. And, there’s a video of it, too, spreading in social media circles.

The thing is, after fact-checking with mainstream news agencies, it turns out that the two vehicles that collided were, in fact, ICE-powered vehicles, one of which was a truck carrying 119 gas cylinders, and that the accident happened nearly 10 years ago. Such misinformation, says Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines chair emeritus Ferdinand Raquelsantos, unjustly instills fear in the public’s perception of EVs.

There’s no denying that lithium batteries do catch fire if manufactured poorly and charged improperly. But such scenarios have been quite literally blown out of proportion by anti-EV “militants.” Remember, it’s easy to place any online video out of context and then share it to serve whatever agenda fits the poster.

Myth #4: Coal-sourced power to charge batteries makes EVs more unsustainable than ICEs

I recently came across a Facebook post positing the loaded question: “The charging stations for EVs at the malls are powered by what, renewable energy or coal?” Top Gear Philippines’ motoring journalist/test driver and EV expert Niky Tamayo commented, “about 30 percent or more renewable, if you are in Luzon. But also, some malls with EV chargers have their own solar panels. SM Santa Rosa has installed a huge array. It doesn’t go straight to the (single) charger at the mall, but it more than offsets it. There are also EV owners we’ve talked to who have installed solar panels at home to offset charging usage.”

Knowing Niky, you don’t just get a box of chocolates for an answer. You get a whole truckload of confectioneries. Here are some of the more delectable ones just for this single post:

• “Beyond that, EV charging is between 95-97 percent efficient, and battery discharging has similar efficiency rates. Gasoline engines have mechanical losses between the engine and transmission of about 10-15 percent, and 30-40 percent thermal efficiency at the engine at peak BMEP, but since they are constantly revving up and down, their average efficiency is much, much lower. Your losses in terms of energy wasted with a gasoline car are incredible.”

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• “This is also why plug-in electric cars cost much less to run, even when run off of coal-sourced electricity. Because that plant is usually running at peak thermal efficiency, and taking advantage of economies of scale. The bigger your turbine or engine is, the more efficient it is …. and coal plants run gigantic turbines.”

• “EVs will be run partially on coal. But their emissions per kilometer will be much, much lower than a gasoline-powered car because of scaled efficiency. And we’re not even talking about the cost to the environment of the extra refining required for automotive grade fuel over bunker oil or coal, the cost of having that fuel transported across the ocean, or of having hundreds of tanker trucks driving around the country refilling the gas stations used to fuel those gasoline cars, or the electricity needed to pump the gas into the car.”

Myth #5: Nobody wants EVs

Mikko David, former Inquirer Mobility columnist and now AC Mobility’s corporate communications and brand activation manager, said: “I think the biggest myth about EVs on social media which many doubters continue to propagate is that nobody wants them.”

He went on, “There have been claims that EVs are only being forced onto the public by government policy and that without subsidies, people simply wouldn’t buy them. In the Philippines, government support for EV adoption isn’t as extensive as in other countries. Some would say it’s not even that compelling. But the reality on the ground is that more and more people are becoming interested in them.”

He added: “People have done their research, and they clearly see the real-world benefits of EVs, such as up to 70-percent savings in operational costs and more than 70-percent savings in maintenance costs in the case of BYD EVs versus comparable ICE models.

“The mere fact that the per-kilo-watt-hour cost of electricity is significantly lower, at P11-12 per kWh, versus the cost per liter of gasoline, at P60-65, is already a convincing argument for most to make the switch to EVs. From our internal surveys as well, we have seen that the majority of people who have driven an EV for the first time will highly consider it their next vehicle when the time comes to purchase one. Technology has allowed mankind to evolve from the traditional ICE towards electrified mobility. Now, there are options, and sound ones at that,” he concluded.

If you’re serious about buying an EV, or if you simply want to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth about EVs, then go out and attend the May 26 “Coffee and EV meet and greet” set at 3 p.m. at the rooftop parking at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay.