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AAA World | Auto
Electric Vehicles: Facts and Myths


Electric vehicles (EVs) represented 7.2 percent of all new vehicle sales in the US in the first quarter of 2023, and their numbers are growing, according to Kelley Blue Book. Two years ago, just 3.2 percent of new cars sold were EVs. The environmental advantages of EVs are prompting governments the world over to mandate an end to new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and light trucks.

Still, EVs are clearly not yet suitable for everyone. While they save money on fuel and maintenance over their lifespan, their initial purchase price is generally higher than comparable gasoline-powered models, their range limitations—though improving—may frustrate some drivers, and the still-developing infrastructure to charge them remains an issue, especially for apartment dwellers who may have difficulty in charging their vehicles at home.

It’s all enough to set off some spirited debate between EV boosters and equally ardent skeptics. In the following, we separate fact from fiction when it comes to some common beliefs about EVs.

Extracting needed minerals for batteries and constructing the batteries for EVs comes at a cost to the environment.

Fact. It is true that mining for the heavy metals needed for batteries has environmental costs. There are procedures that can reduce this impact on the environment, but not all countries have regulations in place to do this. Despite these upfront impacts, EVs are a net positive environmentally after being driven 30,000 miles, according to a study for the European Union conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

electric vehicle being charged in the snowPhoto by teksomolika/

EVs lose range in the cold.

Fact. When it comes to temperatures, EV batteries are a lot like us: They are happiest around 70 to 80 degrees. When it is colder or hotter, but primarily when it is colder, range declines. Running the heater worsens this problem. AAA testing shows that heater use when outside temperatures dip to 20 degrees can reduce range by about 40 percent.

Cold temperatures may make it difficult to charge an EV’s battery, making EVs undependable in the winter.

That depends. A lot depends on if the battery is preconditioned. Owners have the option of doing this on many EVs during cold weather—some simply by leaving the vehicle plugged in and others by turning on the heater 20 minutes or so before leaving. (Follow directions in your car’s owner’s manual.) This procedure can make charging much easier and driving more efficient.

working on an electric motor of an electric vehicle Photo by romaset/

Replacement EV batteries are expensive.

Fact. Although battery costs have come down significantly in recent years, depending on the vehicle and the battery, a replacement battery pack costs between $4,500 and $20,000, according to most sources. Fortunately, many EVs come with extended battery warranties, often for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

In addition, it is sometimes possible to repair an older failed battery pack by replacing just the defective cells. While this measure can save money, it is still costly because the process is labor intensive. Finally, lower-cost used or recycled batteries may be available for some EVs with battery problems.

In the long run, an EV will save drivers money.

Fact. Most studies, including those for Consumer Reports, confirm that buying an EV can produce long-term savings.

A AAA study concluded that the electricity required to drive 15,000 miles per year in a compact EV costs an average of $546, while the amount of gas required to drive the same number of miles costs $1,255. A study from the US Department of Energy found that fuel savings could be as much as $14,500 over a 15-year life cycle.

The annual maintenance cost for an EV is also notably lower because EVs do not need oil changes, air-filter replacements and some other routine maintenance required by gasoline-powered cars. AAA puts the maintenance costs for an EV at $330 less per year than for a similar gasoline-powered vehicle. Consumer Reports estimates that maintenance costs over the lifetime of an EV will be about half that of gasoline-powered vehicles.

When comparing lifetime costs for gasoline-powered vehicles with those for EVs—including purchase price, fueling costs and maintenance expenses—Consumer Reports concluded that the savings with an EV could range from $6,000 to $10,000. 

Another factor to consider, however, is insurance. Generally, EVs have higher insurance rates than gas-powered vehicles because EVs have higher purchase prices, are more prone to damage in an accident and are more costly to repair.