I live in Auckland and, like many others, I spent several days in January drying out my waterlogged garage. Fortunately for my family, the damage wasn’t nearly as severe as some other poor folk experienced during the flooding.
Those unprecedented rains, where Auckland observed its wettest ever month on record dating back to 1853, were a brutal reminder of the damage severe weather can do to homes and our infrastructure. It was a bleak preview of our future which is only expected to have more storms with greater intensity, particularly if we don’t take action on emissions.
Amidst the carnage, I saw some highly questionable things being said and shared about electric vehicles. There were a couple of images of flooded Teslas on the news, and the naysayers and deniers got stuck in. Call me cynical but when you read some of the myths spread about EVs it’s hard not to wonder which vested interests are behind them!
So, let’s bust some myths. To start with, EVs can and do get wet without issue. I drive my EV in the rain and take it through the car wash. It works as you would expect. It turns out that manufacturers of EVs, most of which also produce ICE vehicles, have considered experience with waterproofing the batteries and electrical systems. Of course, like a modern ICE vehicle, which also has electrical components, severe flooding will destroy the vehicle’s computer systems. In that regard EVs are no different.
What about fire? An EV is actually less likely to catch fire than a petrol or diesel car. Safety systems in electric vehicles automatically shut the power off and isolate the battery when a collision or short circuit is detected, lowering the likelihood of a fire. And fossil fuels are, by definition, highly flammable. In fact, data from the National Transport Safety Board in the US have shown that EVs have just 25.1 fires per 100,000 sales. This is strikingly lower than 1528 ICE fires per 100,000 sales.
Another common misconception is that EVs aren’t as safe as ICE equivalents. Nearly all the new electric cars for sale in New Zealand today have a five-star ANCAP safety rating (just one with a four-star score). Most EVs have amongst the highest individual safety scores, thanks partly to coming equipped with the latest in crash avoidance technologies, such as all-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot warnings. Crash tests show EVs perform at least on par with ICE equivalents, and many models outperform ICE powered vehicles.
There’s the old accusation that EVs aren’t actually better for emissions than ICE, when you take into account the manufacturing and use of the vehicle. Many studies have disproven this. In New Zealand, according to the Climate Change Commission and EECA, an EV used in Aotearoa emits about 60 per cent fewer emissions over its full life cycle than an equivalent petrol-powered vehicle.
A more modern legend is that EVs, with all their technology, are at greater risk of being hacked. It’s true your modern EV is more at risk of being hacked than your old 1990 Toyota Corolla because it has an on board computer and wireless technology. However, this is equally true of modern ICE vehicles. Anything that can connect to the Internet has some risk of being hacked but also has protections in place.
While there are a few examples of an EV being hacked internationally, it hasn’t happened here as far as I know. There are probably more real risks to worry about, like flooded motorways and landslides in our largest city.