Clean Energy Canada is a clean energy think tank at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. Through media briefs, we aim to provide useful factual and contextual information related to Canada’s clean energy transition. Please use this as a resource, and let us know if there are any topics that you would like to see for future media briefs.
Electric vehicles now make up 9% of new car sales in Canada. In B.C. and Quebec, the market share is even higher, with electric vehicles making up around 20% and 14% of new cars sold in each province, respectively. But as EVs have gained in popularity, so have misinformed arguments against their adoption. This media brief unpacks a number of the most common ones with relevant, publicly available research.
Myth 1. “EVs have greater lifecycle emissions than gas cars”
Globally, electric vehicles have been shown repeatedly to have lower lifecycle emissions than traditional gas-powered vehicles even in regions with fossil-fuel-dependent electricity grids. Lifecycle emissions commonly include emissions from mineral sourcing like mining or recycling, mineral processing, vehicle and battery manufacturing, car use and, in some cases, disposal and recycling at end of life.
- A study from the International Council on Clean Transportation found that the lifecycle emissions of a new battery-electric vehicle are lower than a comparable gas car by around 60% to 69% in the U.S. and Europe and 37% to 45% in China, depending largely on the emissions intensity of the electricity used to charge the vehicle.
- Another recent study (which includes battery recycling in its calculation) found that when charged with 100% renewable electricity, electric vehicles are 89% lower emission than gas vehicles. Canada’s electricity grid is currently 84% non-emitting.
- A study from Ford Motors and the University of Michigan found that most passenger electric vehicles have approximately 64% lower lifecycle emissions than gas vehicles on average across the U.S.
- A Canada-specific study indicated that an EV would have lower lifecycle emissions regardless of the provincial grid it is plugged into, with emissions savings relative to an equivalent gas car ranging from 25% in Alberta to 85% in Quebec. Note that the federal government’s proposed Clean Electricity Regulations would see Canada reach a net-zero grid by 2035. If achieved, EVs in Canada would be charged with even cleaner power across the country, further reducing their lifecycle emissions.
- There is a significant push to reduce emissions associated with the manufacturing of EVs. Many automakers, like Tesla, Ford, and General Motors, are investing in battery materials recycling. Some are already preferentially buying materials from mines and manufacturers with lower carbon footprints.
Myth 2. “There are not enough metal and mineral resources to supply electric vehicles”
- Studies indicate that there are sufficient reserves of key minerals to supply future global EV demand. However, the adoption of recycling technologies is key to reducing the amount of new minerals and metals extracted, limiting environmental damage, and reducing social and economic costs.
- The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that battery recycling can reduce the need for new mining by 20% in 2040 and 40% in 2050 globally.
- Supply constraints may cause bottlenecks and price fluctuations in the near term, but these stresses will be temporary if policymakers and industry anticipate and prepare for them. According to BloombergNEF, global battery manufacturing capacity increased 84% between 2019 and 2021. Canada is making significant efforts to build its battery manufacturing capacity, backed by the Critical Minerals Strategy, while the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act is channeling billions of dollars toward building a North American battery supply chain.
- The EV battery recycling industry is growing, with a number of Canadian companies showing global leadership, including Lithion and Li-Cycle. In addition, some jurisdictions—like the EU—have set mandatory recycled content targets for cobalt, lead, lithium, and nickel from batteries.
- Many automakers have pledged not to use minerals sourced from deepsea mining.
- Various companies are advancing battery technologies that are less mineral-intensive or rely on cheaper, more readily available raw materials (e.g. solid-state batteries and iron-phosphate batteries). China’s BYD, which is the world’s second-largest EV manufacturer and also supplies other carmakers with its battery technology, announced it would produce batteries without nickel, cobalt, and manganese.
Myth 3. “EV batteries need replacing before the vehicle’s end of life”
- All EVs sold today include a battery warranty of at least eight years and 160,000 kilometres. A recent study showed that the majority of EVs that have been driven more than 160,000 kilometres still retained at least 90% of their original range.
- Tesla has claimed that the range on its Model S and X vehicles decreased by just 12% after 321,000 kilometers of driving (these models are older and therefore offer insights based on real-world data). This is reinforced by a crowd-sourced study by Tesla owners in the Netherlands that found that long-range Teslas typically held at least 90% of their original charge after 240,000 kilometers of driving.
- EVs have fewer moving parts, resulting in less engine wear, meaning they are likely to be longer-lasting than their gas counterparts and require fewer repairs.
Myth 4. “EVs are less affordable than gas cars”
- Clean Energy Canada analyzed a number of popular electric car models, comparing their total ownership costs with that of gas equivalents. With just one exception, the electric version of every car analyzed was cheaper, usually significantly so.
- Specifically, the analysis found that the electric Hyundai Kona, Canada’s second best-selling EV in 2021, is $17,800 cheaper to own than the gas-powered Kona with an average gas price of $2 per litre. Even at a gas price of $1.45, the Kona is still $10,500 cheaper. The electric Chevrolet Bolt offered even more cost savings, with the comparable gas-powered Toyota Corolla costing $22,000 more over its lifetime at a $2 gas price.
Myth 5. “EVs do not have enough range”
- The average range of new EVs sold in the U.S. last year was 468 kilometres (291 miles).
- Most Canadians drive less than 60 kilometres per day, and 80% of charging happens at home.
- As Canada’s fast-charging network grows, range and charging will become less of a concern for longer trips.
Myth 6. “The grid can’t handle EVs”
- While the switch to EVs will require good electricity planning, other countries around the world, like Norway (where EVs account for some 80% of new cars sold), have not experienced grid-related issues as a result of high EV adoption.
- In California, where EV sales made up 21% of new car sales in the first quarter of 2023 (the highest in North America, followed closely by B.C.), EV charging currently accounts for less than 1% of the grid’s total load during peak hours. In 2030, when EVs are set to account for 68% of new sales, charging is projected to make up less than 5% of that load.
- A federal government study on the anticipated electricity demand from EVs found that they would represent 3.4%, 16.1%, and 22.6% of the electrical power demand in 2030, 2040, and 2050 respectively. As the study states, “This number is significant, but since the growth is spread over 30 years, with most of the growth happening during the 2030 to 2050 timeframe, Canadian utilities have ten years to refine the load forecast and plan for grid expansion.”
- Utilities and manufacturers are also working on using EVs to help manage and decarbonize electricity grids. When plugged into the grid, EV batteries could provide valuable power storage by storing electricity in their batteries and then giving it back to the grid when required. One study showed that electric vehicle batteries alone could satisfy short-term global grid storage demand by as early as 2030. Some Canadian utilities are also offering lower off-peak electricity rates to encourage EV owners to charge their EVs during times of low demand, reducing the need for extra capacity.
- One of the best ways to support electric utilities in their grid readiness efforts is to offer market certainty, something that is provided in the forthcoming zero-emission vehicle regulated sales targets, which require an increasing proportion of new cars sold in Canada to be electric.
Myth 7. “EVs are not suitable for cold Canadian winters”
- EVs do lose some range during extreme cold. Some studies have shown range loss to be no more than 30% and as low as 8% for some makes and models. However, other studies of extreme cold have found it to be between 30% and 50%.
- EVs have considerably more range than required for most daily journeys (see myth five).
- What’s more, cold weather can also increase gas car fuel consumption by up to 28%, effectively reducing range and increasing fuel costs.
- In addition, most modern EVs have battery heating options that preheat the battery before driving to reduce range loss.
- Unlike a gas car, EVs do not have problems starting in cold weather, and many EVs allow owners to remotely preheat the passenger compartment before driving.
- A number of Canadians have spoken about their experiences driving EVs in Canadian winters (see here and here).
Myth 8. “EVs have a greater fire risk than gas cars”
- A 2022 study from insurance website AutoInsuranceEZ tracked car fires in the U.S., finding that electric vehicles saw just 25 fires per 100,000 EVs sold compared to 1,530 fires for every 100,000 gas cars. In other words, fires occurred in one in every 4,000 EVs compared to one in every 65 gas cars.