In her inspiring book, Saving Us, Canadian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe dissects many of the most common denial narratives on climate change. She notes that successful misinformation campaigns have elements of truth and sound scientific. But the goal of this communication strategy is to sow seeds of doubt and repeat it until the misinformation becomes accepted as fact.

Recently, The Globe and Mail added to a series of articles that appear to be aimed at turning public opinion against electric vehicles. The pieces are well-written and very effective at eliciting negative discussion points.

Hayhoe explains, “An analysis across 56 countries found that political affiliation and ideology was a much stronger indicator of their opinions on climate change than their education, their life experiences, or even their values.” This ideological split clearly extends to the EV debate, with the likes of Fox NewsTucker Carlson calling EVs a “disaster for the environment.”

Nathan VanderKlippe’s Globe and Mail opinion piece spreads the disinformation that electric vehicles are not suitable for cold weather. One only has to glance through some of the more than 400 comments on this article to see how it reaffirms the beliefs of EV critics across Canada.

VanderKlippe’s most damning evidence is from a test done by Norway’s electric vehicle association, where three out of five EVs failed to start after being left overnight in an environmental chamber set to -40 C. The article went on to share several other individuals’ concerns and skepticism over the practicality of using EVs in the winter.

It wasn’t until the end of the piece that it was revealed the 12-volt battery was the reason for the EVs failing to start. Having driven my gasoline cars in Canadian winters for more than 50 years, I’m intimately familiar with how 12-volt car batteries perform on the coldest days. The vehicles’ main batteries that power the electric motor still maintained a charge in this experiment.

How many people require boosts on -30 C mornings, not to mention the exceedingly rare -40 C events? In a CBC News article, the Canadian Automobile Association reported that over 40 per cent of the more than 35,000 service calls received in the Greater Toronto Area between Dec. 19, 2017 and Jan. 3, 2018 were battery calls, but “none apparently for EVs.” Five years later, some journalists continue to stoke doubt about EVs starting in cold weather when gas-powered vehicles have the same problem.

My curling partner drives a Tesla and simply shook his head when I mentioned the piece in The Globe. Recently, we finished a round of drinks after our game while the temperature outside was -27 C. As we started putting on our layers of clothing, I jealously watched him turn on his car heater using his cellphone. The beauty of electric heat is that you don’t have to shiver for 15 to 20 minutes in a frozen car before the engine finally warms up.

There are remote starters for combustion engines, too, but it still takes time to heat up the vehicle’s interior. I once had a neighbour who used to run his noisy pickup for half an hour at 6 a.m. every morning in the winter because he didn’t want to scrape the ice off his windshield. Not only did he wake me up with his fuel-wasting habit, but I was also disgusted by the amount of pollution visibly being spewed out his exhaust pipe.

Transport is one of the highest-emitting sectors in Canada, just behind electricity and heat. #ElectricVehicles are a solution gaining global adoption and will eventually become less expensive to purchase, writes @winexus #ZeroEmission

Most owners of electric vehicles plug them in to charge overnight. This provides a full charge in the morning and also heats the battery. In this scenario, there is very little chance of not being able to start your car in cold weather and you can also pre-heat the interior without filling your garage with carbon monoxide.

Range anxiety

Range anxiety is another common target for those who would like to discourage any trend that results in lower gas consumption and profits for the fossil fuel industry. Given the average range of an EV is around 350 kilometres and rising, it is unlikely that a 30 to 40 per cent loss of range on cold days will impact most city drivers.

If you need to travel long distances on extremely cold days, then you are looking at more charging stops. My curling buddy described how he drives from Calgary to Regina on those frigid days of winter. It takes two charges to get there and he simply selects two charging stations along the route using the car’s mapping system. As the Tesla nears the charging location, it activates the battery heater so the rapid charger still works in extreme cold.

Charging an EV in the winter doesn’t require freezing while the gas pump slowly fills your tank. You simply plug it in and then go inside for a coffee and a snack. Or you can sit in your heated car and use the vehicle’s computer to access entertainment or social media. It’s actually a welcome break when driving long distances.

There is a more nuanced argument against EVs that I find fascinating. Willem Klumpenhouwer is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Transit Analytics Lab. In his opinion, the problem with electric vehicles is that they’re still cars. Frequent, safe and reliable transit is the best way to transform our cities and we should be pouring more funding into transit systems, not EV subsidies.

Last fall at a Calgary city council meeting, I witnessed an impassioned plea from a young man who had just returned to Calgary after living in Montreal for several years. He described Montreal’s amazing transit system and support for cycling through initiatives like the BIXI bike network. This allowed him to live more affordably without driving a car.

This was a great example of how transit is an equity issue and I fully support better transit systems, more protected bike paths and policies to encourage more walkable neighbourhoods. But even the best European cities that offer these advantages are still choked with cars. All the transit options in the world aren’t going to stop people from driving to pick up their kids from school and whisking them off to soccer practice.

Klumpenhouwer’s opinion is closely aligned with that of The Globe’s European bureau chief Eric Reguly, who once told me, “I think EVs are the greatest con job ever. They are not the solution to anything.” In a series of opinion pieces, he details his perceived pitfalls of electric vehicles — from supply issues to bringing down the electrical grid.

In Canada, the CO2 emissions from the transport sector are once again on the rise, topping 165 million tonnes in 2021. Transport is the second-highest emitting sector in Canada, just behind electricity and heat. It is important to focus our emissions reduction efforts on the two largest sectors.

EVs are a solution gaining global adoption. They are already cheaper than internal combustion engine vehicles to maintain and operate and as automakers compete to introduce more affordable models, they will eventually become less expensive to purchase.

There are major concerns with the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs because of the short supply of minerals like cobalt, sourced from countries like the Congo where child labour persists. However, increases in Indonesian supply coupled with a reduction in demand are now resulting in long-term supply surpluses.

Efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor and battery manufacturers need to address child labour practices in the Congo, but there are also cobalt-free battery technologies emerging. Tesla is reported to already be using cobalt-free batteries in half the vehicles it produces.

An article in Scientific American dispels the myth that growing EV usage will bring down the electrical grid. In fact, EVs will be part of the solution. California is the national leader in EV usage and the expected rapid growth in EV usage is predicted to account for only five per cent of the grid’s total load during peak hours by 2030.

New charging station technology will allow grid operators to manage when vehicles are charged and use vehicle batteries to supply the grid during peak hours. Homeowners with solar panels can use the massive battery in their vehicles to power their homes after the sun goes down.

Despite the persistent misinformation attacks on electric vehicles, they’re an exciting contributor to the energy transition. All major automakers are rolling out attractive EV models and demand is growing exponentially, as indicated by the latest Statistics Canada data. In my mind, the greatest con job ever is the misinformation around EVs, renewable energy and any other viable solution that threatens Big Oil.

Rob Miller is a retired systems engineer, formerly with General Dynamics Canada, who now volunteers with the Calgary Climate Hub and writes on behalf of Eco-Elders for Climate Action.

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy

We misidentified the Scandinavian electric vehicle association. It is Norway.

Keep reading

Public transit infrastructure is the answer to emissions in personal transport. Not intensively mining more minerals in Africa to sell more electric vehicles to more consumers here.

The sustainable cities, anti-car culture, movement in environmentalism long predates the first public warnings about global warming and the advent of EVs. Those concerns and that movement are not going away just because Fox News rants against EVs.

Fossil fuel boosters defend the status quo, promoting the proliferation of internal combustion (gasoline and diesel) cars. Fossil fuel boosters and EV boosters accept the central role of the private automobile by default. They are merely fighting over what's under the hood.

Environmentalists recognize that car culture is not sustainable. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Environmentalists oppose cars, car-culture, and urban sprawl altogether. Regardless of what is under the hood. Instead, they promote public transit, cycling, and walking in sustainable cities designed for people, not cars.

The decisions we make now about urban design set the blueprint for generations to come. We cannot undo sprawl except at enormous cost. So let's not make it worse!
Doubling down on cars (EVs) makes already difficult problems intractable and puts solutions out of reach. Forever.

A one-Earth footprint cannot accommodate an energy-intensive lifestyle where people drive everywhere they go -- or an urban model relying on millions of cars to transport millions of people. Using two tons of metal to transport a 150 lb human being is an ecological non-starter.
We need to hit the brakes on sprawl and car culture ASAP.

As for EV subsidies, we can either invest in the private automobile, car culture, and sprawl -- or in the public good: transit, cycling, and smart urban design.
Choose one.

Sinking public dollars into private cars just slows public transit down — and puts the only sustainable solution out of reach.
There is no evolution from more private cars and more sprawl to efficient public transit. More private cars and more sprawl do not enable efficient public transit at some future date — they make it impossible.
If the goal is efficient public transit, it is self-defeating to promote car use and enable sprawl.

Affluent progressives support EV subsidies so they can salve their guilty conscience over their outsize footprint without having to make any real change in their unsustainable lifestyles.
Once middle- and upper-class consumers are happily ensconced in their automobiles, there is no shifting them. There is no incentive for governments to invest in and improve transit if the vast majority vote for cars and EV subsidies.
Transportation policy and investment focussed on cars abandons the marginalized — the poor without political power, seniors, the handicapped, and environmentalists — without hope of essential mobility options. Mass transit does not work without the masses.

"Rush to electric vehicles may be an expensive mistake, say climate strategists" (CBC)
"With their futuristic designs and new technology, EVs are the seductive consumer-friendly face of the energy transition.…For people with money and a conscience, EVs are doubly satisfying. They allow the affluent to indulge in the time-honoured pleasures of conspicuous consumption while at the same time saving the planet."
Urban planning advocate Jason Slaughter: "EVs are here to save the car industry, not the planet. Electric cars are still a horrendously inefficient way to move people around, especially in crowded cities."

"Shifting to EVs is not enough. The deeper problem is our car dependence" (CBC)
"The climate crisis offers us an unprecedented opportunity to re-imagine how we move and how we build our communities, but the push for electric vehicles is about making the smallest possible change — one that likely won't deliver the scale of emissions reductions we need. Meeting the scale of that challenge requires taking on the dominance of cars in our communities.

EVs take us down the wrong road.

Rob Miller: "All the transit options in the world aren’t going to stop people from driving to pick up their kids from school and whisking them off to soccer practice."

In my day, we walked or biked to school. Kids from outside the community took the bus. Soccer practice was at school.
Now long lines of SUVs line the streets around schools twice a day: to drop kids off and pick them up. Madness.
Chauffeuring your kids everywhere they go is a cultural practice. Learned behaviors can be unlearned.

Unsustainable paradigms (car culture), designs (millions of cars clogging the streets in sprawled cities) and behaviors (driving everywhere we go) are the result of market failure. Drivers, developers, and suburbanites externalize the costs of car culture and sprawl. We download these costs to the environment, the public purse, and future generations.

Obscene energy expenditure. Lost productivity, sedentary lifestyle (and health problems), millions of deaths and injuries, roadkill, and social isolation.
Urban sprawl, disintegration of community, loss of green space, endless freeways and traffic jams, inefficient public transit, lost productivity, strip mall blight, mega-mall culture, parking lot proliferation, accidents, and property damage.
Insanely long commutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sprawl multiplies congestion, energy consumption and waste, time and productivity loss, emissions, and footprint.

EVs may contribute even more to particulate pollution:
"Health impact of tyre particles causing 'increasing concern', say scientists" (The Guardian, Feb 28th 2023)

We cannot afford unsustainable paradigms, designs, behaviors, goods and services. Their true costs are prohibitive.
The solution is to solve the market failure. Internalize the costs. Price unsustainable paradigms, behaviors, goods and services out of existence.

This is all true, but fixing it would result in fewer cars, not in no cars. We will still want those fewer cars to be electric, not gasoline or diesel based.

Which does not change the prescription: smart urban design for people, not cars and massive investment in public transit (urban, regional, and national), cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure.
No subsidies for private extravagance at the expense of the public interest. Society should not subsidize poor choices. No one is forced to live and work on opposite sides of the city. No one is forced to live in the exurbs or countryside — and commute 20, 50, or 100 km every day to work in the city. That's a choice, and it's not sustainable.

Some people will still require personal vehicles for work and to transport tools and equipment. But no urbanite commuting to an office or workplace should be forced to drive. No one should be forced to drive for lack of safe, efficient, economical public transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure options. No one should be either forced or encouraged to choose unsustainable options for lack of public investment in sustainable options.

The supply of tax dollars is not infinite. Scarce public dollars spent on private cars are dollars not spent on public transit. Handing out EV subsidies to wealthy people who don't need them while ignoring the transportation needs of people who cannot afford cars or choose not to drive is profoundly unjust.

Climate action does not require us to sacrifice social equity. On the contrary, we must seek solutions that satisfy both.

Geoffrey - you're starting to sound like Derrick Jensen.

Clearly, people in Copenhagen don't feel the need to pick up the kids by car and whisk them off to soccer practice (see the spectacular, but if only perfection is good enough, it's going to be an awfully small revolution.

Also, while I agree that subsidizing wealthy people to buy EVs doesn't make much sense, framing tax dollars as zero sum - EV subsidies or public transit - is unhelpful.

I love (most of) Derrick Jensen's writing, but when it became absolutist and started claiming that even bicycles were an unsustainable technology, he lost me. He may be right, and you may be right, but if so, it's very unlikely that we'll be able to get where we need to be from here.


Mining, fast tracked and less regulated, is not going to be an ecological or climate change savior. It never has been and it never will be; the industry, already not held to account, has caused untold damage in Canada and around the world.

This article simply ignores the entirely predictable severe damage to place, to ecosystems, to biodiversity which is already in crisis, to poisoned rivers, to poisoned and depleted groundwater, to air quality, to the effect of residue on ice pack and glaciers, to marine ecosystems as a result of ore shipping, or even to GHGs associated with mining, shipping and manufacturing.

This article seems very superficial, glib even, a booster's opinion, not a serious consideration of the many probable adverse effects of a mass transition to EVs nor whether the proposed transition will - when fully considered - actually limit climate change.

Compare the amount of extraction needed for batteries vs. for oil. We're talking 0.1% as much. Mining in general needs serious reform, but saying EVs in particular (and especially as opposed to ICE cars) are problematic because they involve mining is not a serious position. And ironically it's pretty clear that, while environmentalists would surely have raised the issue of mining no matter what (and that's fine up to a point), the issue gained most of its momentum from fossil fuel money.

The two EV's I currently own are a 3500+ lb Chevy Volt, and a <70 lb e-bike of the same vintage. Not only does the Volt weigh 50x more and cost 10x more, but it requires at least 30x more energy to go the same distance as the bike and requires a parking footprint at least 20x larger, preferably in a garage with a 220-240V charger available. Large EV's require even more public infrastructure than the roads and parking lots we have currently, not only for the chargers but for the much higher road construction and maintenance required for these big, heavy vehicles. Riding an e-bike, though, is easy and fun, but unsafe to ride in close proximity to cars or on icy surfaces. My $3k e-bike has a removable (and a spare) battery which I can charge for pennies in a few hours using any household plug. It was my freedom and mental health during the pandemic when no other exercise was available. But since the Stromer is too heavy for standard bike racks (or for me to lift) and too easy to steal even where bike racks are available, every trip begins and ends in my garage and I use the car in winter or when anything needs to be transported. I found Nathan VanderKlippe's article to be quite accurate; it absolutely addresses legitimate concerns many Northerners might have about EV's. IMHO, dismissing it as a disinformation attack is unfair. On the other hand, I've met plenty of urban environmentalists such as the commentators below, who insist that personal transportation is completely unsustainable and we either must use public transportation, walk or use a (non-electric) pedal bike. I'm hostilely dismissed as a wealthy elitist as soon as I mention that my cycling is on an e-bike, even though lightweight micro-mobility EV's can use less resources on a passenger-km-lifetime basis than public transit, not to mention open up independent transportation options for teens, seniors, disabled or any else who does not find public transportation to be convenient, safe or accessible. Good policy--or journalism--that addresses as many concerns as possible needs to move beyond polarizing, one-size-fits-all prescriptions.

There are a lot of benefits to ebikes, scooters and various oddities of personal transport that one sees these days. I don't have one and I'm aware, to a degree, of a bit of 'purity' snobbishness towards ebike riders. It doesn't make much sense to me.

We've been driving a fully electric car since 2014. First a 2014 Nissan Leaf then we switched to a Tesla model 3 in 2019. Our winters in New Brunswick are pretty cold but other than using a bit more electricity that's not been a problem. No question that our investment in EVs has reduced our carbon footprint, lots of studies attest to that. Even better, once the battery finishes its 12-15 year year in an EV it can continue to be used for stationary (grid) storage and eventually recycled into new batteries. Reuse and recycling are key in moving to a sustainable economy, just ask Kate Raworth or read her "Doughnut Economics" book.

In addition to electrifying transportation we also need to reform our cities to reduce the resources needed to live comfortably in them. That includes top notch support for public transit and active transportation. In the meantime, no bus, no LRT, no subway and no bike lane come anywhere close to my door so I'm very happy with the climate action and the comfort my EV represents.

I'm appreciating all the comments.

It's apparent that any discussion regarding energy and environment needs a huge reference list attached because there are do many things to account for, so many "yeah buts".

Something that is often missed, when speaking of the energy transition, is any allusion to the quantity of energy used. We tend to focus on "bad" fossils and "good" renewables but rarely discuss our energy appetites, however they are satisfied. We treat it as an afterthought -- that is, until a tornado or derecho blows through and knocks us off the grid for several days/weeks -- and simply assume the energy will be there, in the required quantity, when needed. Oh, and it must be cheap.

I'm not referring, specifically, to efficiency (i.e. more work done for a given amount of energy). I'm referring to an actual reduction in energy use. We need to implement policies that will result in a drop in energy use. For example:

- building code improvements resulting in huge drops in embedded energy/carbon in building materials and operational energy requirements;
- zoning changes to densify urban spaces to reduce infrastructure (squirrel highways (wires), pathways, pipes) costs, facilitate effective public transport and, ideally, price sprawl out of business.
- ensure that, at least in identified urban zones, sidewalks are cleared, year-round to ensure mobility devices (wheelchairs, scooters, etc.) can get around.

Just a sample.

If you haven't come across it, Guy Dauncey's Tyee article is excellent on this.

It's always upsetting to see someone accept that streets being "choked with cars" are an inescapable state of being rather than a result of policy and planning decisions that can be changed. There are cities that are not choked with cars, and this comes not just from providing transit options but from prioritizing other road users and restricting access to cars. Replacing ICE trips with EVs at 1:1 won't have nearly the same impact as eliminating some of those trips altogether.

What a nice breath of oxygen to read an opinion that is positive about EV.
Thanks Rob Miller

«…communication strategy is to sow seeds of doubt and repeat it until the misinformation becomes accepted as fact. »

The so-called expert on EV and phony social justice warriors certainly have an unfair share of air time or writing space in the media.

Nothing but pleasure to drive my EV for the last 5 years, and my electric farm tractor, now I can smell the clovers.