The EV Backlash Has Begun

By Amy Barzdukas

Everyone loves a winner, but only for so long – then, all of a sudden, you see the backlash or contrarian views emerge. Take the Boston Red Sox for example: everyone rooted for them as an underdog, but once they started winning more than once every hundred or so years, people began to diss the Red Sox Nation.[1] Okay maybe that’s a bad example. But what we are seeing today is a bevy of reports, articles, and opinion pieces about how EVs are more expensive than ICE vehicles or worse for the environment or the biggest con job since trickle-down economics.

What to do with these headline grabbers?

First, recognize them for what they are: at best, necessary correctives to overenthusiasm; at worst, subjective manipulation of data or comparisons to impugn EVs. One of the most egregious variety of these stories are the “comparison” pieces that pretend to be unbiased.

What do I mean? The “studies” that try to make “apples to apples” comparisons of ICE to EV by, for example, assigning a cost per time to fill: as if a necessary chore to go the gas station has the same value, minute for minute, as plugging my car in and charging while I sleep. People who write reviewers’ guides for a  living know how to choose the comparisons so the product you are marketing wins (if my PC has the longest battery life known to the market, for sure that is a prime feature to promote; if it has a fantastic screen — that might shorten the battery life – then I’ll wax eloquent on color gamut) – but there is a difference between choosing the “right” features to highlight and inventing comparisons that make no sense.

Cherry Picking and False Comparisons

Cherry picking data and whataboutism provide other examples. You might read something that says “EVs may be worse for fossil fuels depending on where you live!” And yes, if you live in a place where electricity is generated primarily by coal, there is an argument to be made that it is perhaps a push. Where in the US is electricity primarily generated by coal? There are eight states that, as of 2020, still relied on coal for 50% or more of their electricity generation; those eight states accounted for just 11% of the nation’s energy generation. Moreover, an ICE engine is bad for the environment regardless of where you live.

There are lots of games to be played with comparing range, too. So my ICE vehicle can travel 320 miles between refills, and this EV I am considering can travel 280. The naysayers will tell you, “you’ll have to spend that much more time refueling!” Again – I don’t have a gas station in my garage or carport or in the parking lot at my office, but I just might have electricity.

It is human nature to understand new things by putting them in context of what we already know. But once we get to know that “new thing,” we start to understand the fundamental differences and new capabilities on their own terms. Don’t get sucked into the false comparisons. If you’re thinking about an EV, talk to an EV owner about what they’ve learned. You might find that an EV isn’t right for you, right now — or you might find yourself with a new electric car!

We recently surveyed a group of EV owners to ask them the number one thing they felt was misunderstood by people who’ve not experienced electric cars. Their answer? The charging experience. Charging isn’t like refueling, it’s not a chore, it’s something that goes away: “You develop a routine – and you never miss going to the gas station”

[1] Well, yes, I am a Red Sox fan, born and raised, but no, I am not biased.


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