As electromobility grows, so do the voices of its critics. One often hears the overloading of the power grid, the increased risk of fire, the disposal of batteries or the poor CO2 balance when considering the entire manufacturing process, as arguments against the purchase of an electric car. But which myth corresponds to the truth? We get to the bottom of these myths of electric cars and clear them up.
Myth 1: Electric cars overload the power grid
Some energy companies, such as Innogy, have been looking into the question of how the rise of electromobility will affect the stability of the power grids for quite some time. According to the studies, the power grid existing in 2019 could have already charged 45 million electric cars with smart control. The focus here is on intelligent control, as there could actually be an overload on the power grid if 30 million electric cars were charged simultaneously at 11 kW or 22 kW. However, the probability of this event occurring is close to zero. On the one hand, because it won’t happen that so many households actually charge their cars at the same time, as has already been shown in a Netze BW project, and on the other hand, because an intelligent power grid is increasingly becoming a reality. The latter refers primarily to the efficient use of existing energy resources through appropriate energy management. An example of efficient use would be charging at five kW instead of eleven kW overnight, as it makes no difference to the driver of the electric car, since in both cases his car is fully charged the next morning.
Myth 2: Electric cars have a higher fire risk than gasoline cars
This myth also holds up valiantly. In addition, one often hears that if an electric car burns, this fire would not be extinguishable by the fire department. However, neither of these is entirely true. Many studies, the fire department and test centers have proven that there is no increased fire risk with electric cars. Rather, it is the materials used that have an influence on the fire intensity. It can be determined that modern vehicles generally tend to burn faster or more than vehicles from 30 years ago, regardless of the type of drive. This is due to the fact that more plastic is used today. In addition, with an electric car it is important to know that a vehicle fire does not immediately trigger a battery fire. This is only the case if there is severe mechanical damage or they are exposed to prolonged heat from the outside.
Though it is true that a battery fire cannot be extinguished with conventional extinguishing agents, but here too the all-clear can be given. Peter Bachmeier, Chief Fire Officer and Chairman of the Preventive Fire and Hazard Protection Expert Committee of the German fire departments, explains: “Based on the current reporting in various media, it seems important to emphasize that electric vehicles can also be extinguished by firefighters. This may be somewhat more difficult than fighting fires from conventionally powered vehicles. However, no more complex or hazardous than, say, a gas-powered vehicle fire.”
Myth 3: Disposing of batteries creates even more e-waste
Over time, an electric car’s battery loses capacity, making it no longer powerful enough for an electric car. One myth claims that this battery then goes into the electric waste. However, this is not true. Just because the remaining capacity is no longer sufficient for an electric car does not mean that it can no longer be used. On the contrary, they can be used in secondary storage applications such as electricity storage for photovoltaic systems for private use. Then, when the batteries can no longer be used for secondary applications either, they are recycled. Currently, not all components can be recycled, but VW manages about 70 percent with current processes. As electromobility continues to grow, however, it is quite conceivable that even better recycling processes will soon be available.
Myth 4: When considering the entire manufacturing process, electric cars have a poor CO2 footprint.
Earlier this year, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, or BMU for short, looked at electromobility, including the CO2 balance over the “entire life cycle.” This means from production to service life to disposal of the vehicle. The following was found: “As a result, the greenhouse gas emissions of a current compact-class electric vehicle over its entire life cycle are lower than those of comparable vehicles with internal combustion engines. Compared with a gasoline-powered vehicle, it produces about 30 percent fewer climate gases. Compared to a comparable diesel, it’s about 23 percent less.” With expansion of renewable energy, these percentages will only continue to grow. So there is no doubt that this myth about electric vehicles is simply false.
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