Snowstorm of Misinformation: A Consumer’s Guide to Shoveling Out of EV Falsehoods

My Tesla Model Y charging at a public charging station the morning after the recent snowstorm in Virginia.

EV misinformation has reared its head again, but this time it seems to be stuck spinning its wheels in the snow. You may have seen a recent Washington Post editorial that expressed some concern about electric vehicle (EV) performance in cold conditions and falsely claimed that vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) are better. Prompted by a false anti-EV meme that’s been circulating on the internet (about a worried Tesla driver stuck in Virginia’s recent 48-mile snowy traffic jam), the editorial is sadly based on the author’s longtime bias against EVs–rather than on EV facts or science.

Don’t be fooled by skepticism towards unfamiliar tech. Electric vehicles not only keep pace with gas-guzzling cars in the snow–in some ways, they’re even better.

So, here are some key points for consumers to consider when you’re knee-deep in this type of EV misinformation this winter season (from a car guy who grew up dealing with snowy winters in New England, but now lives in Virginia, and drives an EV… even in the snow):

  1. ICE vehicles are just as likely to run out of gas as EVs are to run out of charge in unforeseen instances like a days-long traffic jam or debilitating weather events. Regardless of whether you drive an EV or ICE vehicle, you can just as easily forget to top off before heading out or, as everyone in that incredibly rare traffic jam experienced, be stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, in many ways you are less likely to fail to reach a destination in an EV rather than an ICE vehicle. My EV is tuned to carefully monitor its charge level and range in real time. That means it will immediately notify a driver if a destination is outside of your range and recommend a charging location.
  2. EV battery tech is getting better every year especially in cold weather. The “new” heat pump that the editorial author is suspicious of has actually been in use in Teslas for two years now and it is a proven advantage in cold weather. A cold, dormant EV will have a harder time maximizing the usage of its battery charge because cold temperatures slow down the chemical processes that occur in the batteries. However, the warming of the batteries by either the heat pump or just… driving the vehicle… will get the batteries up to temperature and minimize any negative effects of the cold (worth noting: if you hit a traffic jam on the highway, your batteries are probably already warmed up… because you were just driving on a highway). And if you’re still worried about EV drivers being more likely than ICE vehicles drivers to break down and beg for blankets in the snow, check out this Tesla owner’s actual test of cold weather performance of EVs (as well as his opinion about this same WaPo editorial), in this incredible video (TL;DW: his Model X could last 28 hours in those cold conditions at comfortable internal temps and his Model Y could last 36 hours so… either one could have lasted through that disastrous traffic jam with charge to spare).
  3. When infrastructure and grids start to shut down because of climate or other major circumstances, drivers of every type of vehicle suffer. That means, you can equally depend upon (or fear for) both an EV or ICE vehicle in the same “extraordinary conditions.” When gas stations run out of gas or lose power, a disabled ICE vehicle is going to have a hard time getting going again. That’s the same for an EV when all charging stations go down or are too scarce. During an event like the one that occurred recently in Virginia, cars were being stranded and abandoned, EV and ICE vehicles alike. When the time came, they were all getting towed away. And it is certainly amazing when AAA Roadside Assistance can show up with a gallon of gas for an ICE, but what about EVs? Well, AAA seems to be testing out an answer to that very situation right now in Portland, Oregon. What’s clear is that your vehicle, regardless of what powers it, is only as good as the infrastructure that supports it. Our transportation infrastructure is fundamental to keeping us moving and that is where our focus should be right now. That’s why the investments and initiatives in the currently debated Build Back Better legislation are important–they are only going to strengthen the reliability of current and emerging modes of transportation for everyone. BONUS FACT: The Build Back Better legislation also includes important support to research and curb climate change so as to hopefully minimize future “extraordinary conditions” before they become… ordinary.
  4. My EV handles pretty great in the snow. As someone who grew up in New England, I was very accustomed to throwing sandbags in the back of my truck when it was the winter season. My truck-driving buddies and I always had to weigh down our vehicles and help redistribute the weight to combat fishtailing. So, driving around a pretty well-distributed, heavy vehicle like my Tesla is pretty awesome when I know it’s a matter of equally-applied friction that is going to get me to the grocery store to get that gallon of milk or off a highway to get home in the snow. And all those classic winter accessories from snow chains to winter tires… yeah… they have those for EVs just like ICE vehicles if you want that extra measure of support.
  5. The “price and total cost” of an EV is not the same as an ICE vehicle… it’s better. It’s understandable that for several years Teslas were the mark of someone with money to spend. However, that time is quickly melting away. Tesla understands that the only way to truly disrupt the automotive market is to make an affordable EV. That’s why its introduction of the Model 3 and subsequently the Model Y (the vehicle I own) were pivotal. Right now you can purchase a Model 3 for just over $46,000 USD. Other EVs are competitively priced as well. By comparison: a new Chevy Bolt starts at just over $32,000 USD; a new Ford Mach-E starts at around $44,000 USD; and Ford’s newest and very popular EV, the F-150 Lightning starts at just under $42,000 USD. Every one of those price tags are all less than what Americans paid for a car last year on average! And if you purchase an EV from an automaker that entered the EV market more recently than Tesla, then you could very well be eligible for a discount. However, that’s just the price… not the “total cost.” If you consider two major categories of total cost, it becomes clear that EVs already deliver a massive advantage for consumers:


  • Fuel – One of the interesting things about an EV is that the second you drive it off the lot, the cost of fueling that vehicle will be cheaper moving forward than that of any ICE vehicle driving off another lot. Even if you feel you got a deal on an ICE, you are going to spend more every day–every mile–fueling that car. A 2018 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study found that “the average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117.” In fact, you can check for yourself to see what the going rate for a gas gallon vs what a comparable electric “egallon” is going for right now on the Energy Department’s website.
  • Maintenance – Perhaps the greatest factor that isn’t given enough attention is maintenance costs. I grew up working on cars. Nevermind oil and brake changes, we were swapping axles and pulling/rebuilding engines when needed. So, I’m no stranger to car mechanics and what it takes to repair and maintain a vehicle (as well as the cost for those components and work). I cannot even begin to calculate the amount of money I have spent either for parts or labor on ICE vehicles I or those close to me have owned. AAA estimates that it costs about 9 cents per mile for necessary maintenance to your car on an annual basis. That means if you drive 10,000 miles a year, you’re looking at spending $900 just to prevent major problems… nevermind fixing them if they actually occur. In contrast, during the two years I’ve owned my EV I’ve needed to pay… $50. That’s understandable when you consider an ICE vehicle has 1,700 moving parts and my Tesla has 17. That’s not a typo… it has only 17 moving parts. I don’t even have to worry about oil changes. The only consumables I have to concern myself with are windshield wiper fluids, windshield wipers (that are still perfectly fine), tires (which I have yet to change and can rotate myself… but a rotation otherwise costs $50), air filters (which I swapped out myself for $50), and brakes. However, when it comes to brakes, you should never need a brake change. Why? Because Teslas, like other EVs, have regenerative braking. Every time you use the brakes it captures the energy of your momentum as you slow through magnets (not the brake pad itself) so as to actually recharge your batteries. If you turn up the level of regenerative braking strength, you can (as I do) simply do one-pedal driving. That means you are literally only using the accelerator and then allowing the EV to slow and stop itself through the power of magnets, thus never wearing away your brakes. BONUS FACT: Speaking of money, not only has my EV saved me money in the ways I have mentioned, but I just entered in the attributes of my 2020 Model Y into Kelley Blue Book and found that it’s actually gone up in value. I can expect to receive $1,000 more than I paid just in trade-in and up to $5,000 more in a private sale.

Fundamentally, there’s one thing to remember above all: unlike those vehicles stuck in that awful traffic jam, EV technology is what’s moving forward. EV tech is getting more innovative, more popular, more reliable, and more affordable for both consumers and industries (large and small) every single year. The automotive world has changed a lot in the last decade. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the author of that opinion piece since it’s just a restatement of a 10-year-old opinion. But clearly – no matter the fact or billions in investments from the automotive industry – it seems that some skeptics are always going to remain stuck in the ICE.

And if you want to learn more about the latest advancements in clean energy tech and the profound benefits it has to consumers everywhere, make sure to follow all of EDF’s social media accounts today.

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