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May 31, 2023

15 min. read

AS WITH ANY NEW TECHNOLOGY, people tend to cling to misconceptions based on misinformation and popular myths—until they have the opportunity to experience it for themselves. Electrical vehicles are no exception. Drivers want to know how EVs stack up against traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. We’re here to bust, confirm or qualify some of the common perceptions about EVs.

EVs are no better for the planet than ICE vehicles.


The bottom line: A typical EV will emit, over the course of its life, lower levels of greenhouse gases that impact climate change, compared with an equivalent ICE (gas-powered) vehicle. When considering life-cycle emissions—“cradle to grave” emissions from suppliers, along with manufacturing, logistics, driving and eventual recycling—Volvo found that its gas-powered XC40 emits 58 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), while the all-electric XC40 Recharge emits less, at 27–54 tonnes. The variation is due to the source of power going into electrical grids.

An EV charged by wind-generated electricity emits 73 percent less CO2e than its ICE counterpart over 200,000 kilometres. There is no data for Canada, but on Europe’s current electrical grid, the EV emits 25 percent less than its ICE counterpart. And, since Canada’s grid is less carbon-intensive on average than Europe’s, an EV would be an even cleaner choice here. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re doing the planet any favours if you replace a fuel-sipping Toyota Prius hybrid with a Hummer EV—but like-for-like, yes, EVs are better for the environment.

A truck and windmill next to a building.

Manufacturing EVs is currently dirtier than manufacturing ICE vehicles.


Yes, the manufacture of EV batteries is a carbon-intensive process. According to a report by Volvo Cars—which produces EVs and ICE vehicles—total emissions from materials production and refining for its battery-powered SUV is roughly 40 percent more than for its gas-powered equivalent. The battery alone in Volvo’s electric XC40 Recharge SUV is responsible for 10 to 30 percent of its total carbon footprint. However, new types of EV batteries have the potential to be less carbon-intensive. As the energy that goes into battery production becomes cleaner, overall emissions are coming down, too. Volkswagen Group’s battery subsidiary, PowerCo, recently chose St. Thomas, Ont., as the site for its first North American cell-manufacturing plant, in part because of the region’s access to clean electricity. The take-away? Yes, for now, manufacturing EVs is more carbon-intensive than manufacturing gas-powered (ICE) vehicles. But change is coming.

A map with cars and plugs.

There aren't enough public EV chargers.

TRUE (but it's complicated)

Today, the vast majority of EV owners charge at home or at their workplace. As EV adoption progresses, however, and more people without access to at-home charging jump on the EV bandwagon, there will be a need for more public chargers—millions more, according to some estimates.

Canada’s public charging network is growing—by almost one-third last year, based on research by Electric Autonomy Canada, a Toronto-based online publication that reports on EVs and autonomous transportation. As of March, there were more than 20,000 charging ports in the country. The big question: Is public charging infrastructure growing fast enough to meet demand?

The European Union recommends one public charger per 10 EVs. To date, charging infrastructure in the EU has come close to reaching that target, with 0.9 chargers per 10 EVs. Canada still has some work to do to meet EU recommendations, with only 0.6 chargers per 10 EVs. A 2022 study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada found a need for “significant acceleration in charging infrastructure deployment over the next five to 10 years.” Tesla is an exception since it has its own extensive nationwide charging network.

“While commercial charging infrastructure is not where it needs to be, the reality is that 90 percent of most consumer travel happens within small ranges of distance—to work and home, to the grocery store, out on weekends and so on,” says Colin Fritz, director of automotive services at the Alberta Motor Association. The good news is that reducing range anxiety is fairly easy. A home charger costs between $800 and $1,600 (installation requires an electrician).

A person holding a phone with a car battery on it.

EV batteries don't last.


Most of us have experienced the joy of getting a new smartphone—and the anguish of watching its battery degrade until it no longer lasts through the day. EV batteries degrade too, but they’re designed to last much longer—longer even than most buyers keep new vehicles. Check with the manufacturer, but EV batteries should be warrantied for at least eight years or 160,000 kilometres, at which point they must still have at least 70 percent of their original capacity.

Degradation was a serious problem for would-be buyers when EVs had 200 or 250 kilometres of range. Modern EVs now have 400 to 800 kilometres of range, so degrading batteries are less of an issue (at least, for new-EV shoppers—used-EV buyers should evaluate battery age). “When your battery goes, it doesn’t just fail one day,” notes Ryan Peterson, CAA’s manager of automotive services. “You lose a bit of range, but it’s not like an engine that you’ve got to rebuild when it goes.”

A blue alarm clock with a number on it.

Charging takes too long.

FALSE (in most cases)

EV drivers typically recharge their vehicles at home, overnight, so every morning, they wake up to a fully charged car.

For other, rarer scenarios—a road trip, for example—or for EV drivers without access to at-home charging, public DC fast chargers can juice a vehicle’s battery from near-empty to 80 percent in 30 to 40 minutes. In many cases, you can get enough of a recharge in the time it takes you to make a pit stop for a bathroom break and a coffee.

Charging technology is improving, too. For example, the soon-to-be-released Chevrolet Silverado RST pickup is equipped with 350-kilowatt (kW) DC fast-charging. Ten minutes gets you up to 160 kilometres of driving range. The caveat is that there aren’t many ultra-fast 350 kW chargers in Canada, at least not yet.

A blue car with a checkered flag on it.

EVs are boring to drive!


Just take one out for a spin. The bark of a flat-plane-crank V8 engine and the howl of a high-revving V12 are glorious sounds, but the spooky spaceship whirr of an EV warping towards the horizon never fails to evoke some strong emotion and audible expressions of wonder.

Curious about EVs?

Visit our EV Buyer’s Guide at evbuyersguide.caa.ca to learn more. Or email autoadvice@caasco.ca or call 1-866-464-6448 with your questions.

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