There is indeed a problem with electric vehicles — only it’s not a problem with the vehicles themselves.

EVs can scarcely stay out of the news and off social media these days, and while that much exposure for a key climate solution is positive in one respect, in another, it is — more often than not — increasingly negative.

A recent study of more than 12,000 climate-related YouTube videos posted since 2018 found that old-fashioned climate denial — think “global warming is fake” — has been replaced by another breed of dissent. While straight-up denying the existence of climate change has declined by a third (harder to do when we’re all feeling it), videos discrediting climate solutions, like EVs, have more than tripled.

But it’s more than algorithm-driven misinformation underpinning the aforementioned EV problem. Too often, it’s also the news coverage EVs receive. This particular problem is not one of bad intentions or even bad incentives, but with the very mechanics of journalism — of what makes news and what does not.

For example, there’s a decent chance you read one headline or another about Teslas piling up at public chargers in Chicago during January’s wicked cold snap. While most EV drivers charge at home, sidestepping this issue entirely, the story is also missing some key context: a recent study in Norway, where a quarter of all vehicles on the road are electric, found that gas and diesel cars experience cold-related starting difficulties nearly twice as often as EVs.

Such coverage is reminiscent of the many stories and memes that make the rounds about EVs bursting into flames despite the fact that gas cars are about 30 to 60 times more likely to catch fire. It’s easy to forget you’re driving a tank of gasoline on wheels when you’ve been doing it for so long.

Indeed, the myths abound. EVs are supposedly too expensive, though in reality, most break even with similar gas cars within only a year or two before reaping considerable savings. Demand for EVs is allegedly waning and yet domestic and global sales for them rapidly grow, waitlists remain common, and the number of federal EV rebates doled out last year nearly tripled in Canada.

By now, the pattern here should be obvious. Whenever an EV has a problem — even a small, isolated, easily resolved one — that apparently is news. But when thousands of gas cars can’t start in the cold or catch fire on the side of the road — well, that’s just life.

The problem has become so pronounced that, earlier this month, the U.K.’s House of Lords urged the government to push back against EV misinformation in the British press. While Canadian media is relatively tamer, it is not without similar faults — or similar pushback.

While straight-up denying the existence of climate change has declined by a third, videos discrediting climate solutions, like #EVs, have more than tripled, write @trevormelanson and @joannakyriazis @cleanenergycan #cdnpoli #EnergyTransition

Take a recent CBC investigation into EV charging that completely ignored Tesla, whose charging network is the largest on the continent and known for its reliability, without acknowledgment. An explanation would have also mentioned that EVs of all stripes will soon have access to Tesla’s robust network as the company’s charging port is fast becoming the North American standard. A context flag was added by users of X (formerly Twitter) noting this glaring omission.

Climate change has long struggled with a news disadvantage. It was too abstract to make headlines until the natural disasters kept piling up and attribution science helped reporters connect the dots between extreme weather events and our changing climate.

But a new problem — like the problem on YouTube — has replaced the old one, now focused on the solutions to climate change.

The truth is a tricky business and these are complicated topics. But one fact is simple: Climate change isn’t solved without the wide adoption of EVs, and any suggestion otherwise is poorly informed. EVs aren’t the sole solution to global warming, but they are a necessary one in need of balanced news coverage.

If the purpose of journalism is to help people better understand their world so we can all make better decisions, the industry could stand to do better.

For more on this topic, Clean Energy Canada is hosting a free webinar, “The rise of EV misinformation, and how to tackle it,” on March 12, joined by speakers from the Globe and Mail and Electric Mobility Canada. Get the details and register here.

Trevor Melanson is the communications director of Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue. A former journalist, Trevor previously held editor roles at Canadian Business, Vancouver, and BCBusiness magazines.

Joanna Kyriazis is the director of public affairs and the transportation lead at Clean Energy Canada. She previously worked as a management consultant helping businesses identify and manage climate risks and opportunities and as a lawyer advising governments and industry on climate and energy law.

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"There is indeed a problem with electric vehicles — only it’s not a problem with the vehicles themselves."

The problem with electric cars is not that they are electric. The problem is that they are cars.
The problem with cars predates the climate crisis. Neoliberal think tanks like Clean Energy Canada ignore the car culture issue altogether.

Cars enable sprawl, and sprawl forces people to drive.
Cars have a huge environmental footprint. Cars are the most energy-intensive, extravagant, and wasteful way to move millions of people around and between our cities. Likewise, EV subsidies rank among the least efficient ways to reduce emissions.
Aggregated, $5000 EV subsidies per household can move many more people on transit. We can move far more people on transit for less cost. Fiscal efficiency matters. To the wealthy elitists at CEC, money is no object.

Switching from billions of ICE cars to billions of EVs is not a green solution. Another technological fix that isn't.
Cars and car culture are an environmental and human catastrophe even without a tailpipe. The energy extravagance of billions of people using private vehicles in sprawled cities is obscene. Billions of people commuting hundreds and thousands of kilometres per week is an environmental nightmare. Such a system will never be sustainable.
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, 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.

In perpetuating sprawl, EVs exacerbate the problem and obstruct real solutions. 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.
Large sprawled cities are inimical to efficient, sustainable transport. 20th century sprawl is a failed experiment.
No sense pursuing it further. More cars will just make it worse — regardless of what's under the hood.
We need to hit the brakes on sprawl and car culture ASAP.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.

EVs perpetuate a litany of environmental problems that only public transit and smart urban design can solve. Cities need to be built for people, not cars.
Car culture will never be sustainable. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

We have a choice: the public good — or private benefits for the few, while perpetuating the same ills that car culture has inflicted on society for decades.
We can either invest in the private automobile, car culture, and sprawl. Or we can invest in the public good: transit, cycling, and smart urban design.
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.
The supply of tax dollars is not infinite. Scarce public dollars spent on private cars are dollars not spent on public transit.

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.
Car culture leaves non-drivers -- the poor, the disabled, the old and the young, and the marginalized -- out in the cold. On the social equity index, both cars fail.

EVs are the yuppie response to climate change. Not for nothing that most of the first EV models were luxury cars beyond the reach of most citizens. Wealthy progressives want EV subsidies so they can salve their guilty conscience over their outsize footprint without having to make any real change in their unsustainable lifestyles.
"Shifting to EVs is not enough. The deeper problem is our car dependence" (CBC, 2022)

"Rush to electric vehicles may be an expensive mistake, say climate strategists" (CBC, 2022)
"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."

"But one fact is simple: Climate change isn’t solved without the wide adoption of EVs"

A dogma Clean Energy Canada makes no attempt to substantiate. Because it cannot.
Love EVs, this I know, for Clean Energy Canada tells me so.
Simple facts are for the simple-minded. Let CEC make its case, supported by actual facts, logic, reason, and evidence.

Clean Energy Canada endorses EVs and EV subsidies. Before the last election, CEC also endorsed the Liberal's plan to fail on climate. The climate policies it stakes out are neoliberal and elitist. Aimed at wealthy Vancouverites who vote Liberal.
Neoliberal climate solutions include subsidies to Big Oil and its shareholders for pipelines, CCS, and SMRs. Subsidies to wealthy car owners to upgrade to EVs. Subsidies for urban sprawl. Subsidies to wealthy homeowners to retrofit their homes. Carbon offsets for air travel. Whereas public transit, sustainable urban design, and affordable green housing rank far down on the agenda, if at all.
Clean Energy Canada's articles promoting EVs never even mention public transit. Why is public investment in sustainable transportation options not on the table for discussion?

Clean Energy Canada has no time for transit. The concept of social equity has never crossed their minds.
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 unjust.
I support public investment in public transit that incentivizes citizens to change. Free transit would be an excellent choice. Canada is also lacking in regional and national public transit options. That is where scarce tax dollars should flow.

You are correct that the solution goes beyond electric car, but criticizing electric car will only lead people to continue buying gas cars.
The eco vision will take the restructuring and rebuilding of cities and society, not something that can be done in 30 years.

FM: "criticizing electric car"
Again, my criticism targets cars, car culture, and sprawl in general, regardless of what is under the hood.
My first sentence: "The problem with electric cars is not that they are electric. The problem is that they are cars."

The shift towards transit needs to start today. Not decades down the road, when our cities are even more sprawled. No sense in delay.
The decisions we make now about urban design set the blueprint for generations to come. Cars enable sprawl, and sprawl forces people to drive. Both make efficient transit impossible. There is no road from more private cars and more sprawl to better public transit. Delay makes the challenge even harder. Kicking the can down the road puts solutions out of reach.

Urban redesign will take many decades, at minimum. Forever, if we continue to make the problem worse instead of better.
EVs/sprawl and efficient transit/social equity are incompatible. Exclusive options. Choose one or the other. Not both.
If you choose efficient transit, start investing in and building it now. Reserve your investment dollars and subsidies for transit, not the personal automobile that defeats efficient transit.

Doubling down on cars (EVs) makes already difficult problems intractable and puts solutions out of reach. Forever.
Generational dependency is hard to kick. Once people are used to driving everywhere they go, that behavior becomes next to impossible to change. Which makes it even more important to start the switch ASAP, before future generations are trained to be dependent on cars.
Once consumers with political power — middle- and upper class voters — 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.
We have a choice: the public good — or private benefits for the few, while perpetuating the same ills that car culture has inflicted on society for decades.

The transit revolution is already a huge challenge now. When will it become easier? If it is difficult to pry people out of their cars today, what would make it easier decades from now? Why not make the switch today? Nothing to gain by delay. If not now, when?
Decades down the road, why would car drivers living in super-sprawled cities switch to transit? What makes decades down the road a better opportunity for transit than now? Makes no sense.
Sprawl is difficult to undo. Which makes it even more important to halt sprawl ASAP.
There is no better time to start on urban design and public transit than now. Why wait? Why make the problem worse?

" fact is simple: Climate change isn’t solved without the wide adoption of EVs, and any suggestion otherwise is poorly informed."

Who knows if authors like this are urban environmentalists, advocates for a boom economy or both, but what i see here and far too often is a remarkably visceral and quite arrogant hostility to anyone who raises concerns about the unintended consequences of electrifying everything or that green/clean energy is actually either of those things.

This article seems to angrily conflate climate change deniers and those of us who do have quite rational concerns, at least suggesting we are on the same side, when many of us would actually be found on the opposite end of the thought spectrum, even more concerned about climate change, biodiversity, ecosystems, water and what effective solutions might really be.

A wild boom in mining is not going to solve climate change. It IS going to catastrophically compound the ecological, biodiversity and water crises in which we find ourselves, but there seems to be a bland willingness to simply accept this as collateral damage. For instance, among many problems including electrical source and infrastructure shortages, coal mines - despite the diverse and extreme damage they do - are being touted as environmental Saviors, as is mining for lithium or rare earth minerals.

For those of us who love the places we live, and grieve for ourselves and others who have or will have these mines imposed on them, the idea that mining is going to save the world in any way is so obviously wrong. But it will not only affect us, it will affect everyone.

What would make a difference is less and fewer of just about everything. But then, that doesn't make for a booming growth economy, does it?

One electric train can remove 300 cars off the road, diminish the demand for excessively large road networks, use a fraction of the per passenger energy than the energy per car, and help cities live in more compact areas and preserve food producing land and natural habitat.

Yet the train still requires metals, glass and plastics that emanate from mines and factories.

Generalizations help introduce issues but are not very helpful in producing actual solutions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are definitely part of the solution for reducing carbon emissions and pollution in general. EVs are not just cars. They include trucks, bikes, trains, buses, planes, ferries and eventually probably more. We need to electrify as much as possible plus do all of the things which reduce our impact on the environment: 15-minutes cities, renewable power generation, reliable/affordable (electric) mass-transit, emissions-free heating of buildings, no/low meat diets, green steel making, etc.

I can't make a 15-minute city but I was able to immediately stop burning things when I drive and heat my home.

Well put. The battery tech developed for EVs is now spreading into large scale use in electrical grids, which will likely surpass EVs in scale and and importance. Just to cite one example of the value of R&D.

It is typical for this discussion that EVs, which are a technical solution to a part of the problem of climate change, get attacked from two sides. The article analyzes the attacks and FUD coming from those invested in the status quo.
The other attack is from those who will not let the good stand in the way of the perfect. In many, never-changing words, they say that EVs would only retain or even exacerbate car culture and all the evils it entails. There is a good argument to be made that it is not a good idea to replace the existing ICE fleet one to one with EVs. I agree with that and am working as best as I can for better transport solutions: buses, electric trains, a nationalized railway network, better ferries, and so on.
However, I drive an EV and strongly agree with efforts to bring more of them to market. Smaller ones. Cheaper ones. Usable pickup trucks. I live in the country and pickup trucks are very useful there.
For the last six years, my partner and I have driven a Chevrolet Bolt. We put 170,000 km on it. To do that with the ICE equivalent, we would have burnt 15,000 litres of gas. That is 15 cubic metres of gas. 15 tonnes of gas. They would have produced 54 metric tonnes of CO2.
Imagine a city like Prince George, Vancouver, or Toronto where there are no ICE vehicles. The reduced noise and the absence of emissions would increase the quality of life by a large leap.
You could argue that we should not drive and not live the way we do. Change to our lifestyles will come. But to demand it as a solution now makes you lose any traction with people in this society.
I'd rather not be quite pure, but get something done.