Former President Donald Trump went on a nonsensical rant about electric vehicles at a rally in Pennsylvania last week. Trump claimed an all-electric vehicle was getting “38 miles per gallon” and even suggested that “we need to get rid of the stuff.”
Trump is campaigning ahead of the midterm elections coming up in November, and he found himself in Pennsylvania last week holding a massive rally.
We generally try to steer clear of broader politics when it doesn’t actually affect policies, but in this case, Trump undoubtedly has an extremely strong influence on a large part of the population in the US, and he used this influence to spread misinformation about electric vehicles at the rally.
Trump first highlighted how the price of gasoline was much lower (though it was never $1.87 a gallon) when he was in office and how he wasn’t pushing for electric vehicles like the current administration:
While Trump says that he wasn’t pushing for electric vehicles during his term in office, he was perfectly willing to take credit when US automakers made large investments to build electric vehicles in the US.
Also, in 2020, Trump said, “I’m all for electric cars,” and even added, “I’ve given big incentives to electric cars,” taking credit for Obama-era EV incentives.
But it sounds like Trump is not “all for electric cars” anymore after mocking the Biden administration for “going all-electric.” His rant also included a lot of misinformation about EVs.
The US is currently a leader in EVs, and US EV manufacturing is a rapidly growing industry, so these sudden attacks on US manufacturing are puzzling from a person who claims to want to “save” America.
He started out by claiming that electric cars are “twice as expensive.”
That’s completely false, no matter how you look at the issue. The average new car sale price in the US in June was $48,000 versus $66,000 for the average new electric car sale price.
Therefore, yes, electric vehicles are more expensive on average than gas-powered new cars, but nowhere near twice as expensive, and also, that’s not accounting for the distribution per segment. Many automakers started their electrification effort from the top of the market going down, so on average there are more EV models available in higher-end segments. But if you compare an electric vehicle versus a fossil-fuel-powered vehicle in the same segment, they are very close in price even before accounting for the cost of operations, which is much lower for electric vehicles thanks to gas and maintenance savings.
After that comment, Trump launched into a strange anecdote from someone who he apparently knows that he claims bought an electric car and went on a road trip:
A friend of mine wanted to do something for the environment, he went out and bought an electric car. And he made a certain trip, I won’t say from where, Kentucky, and he is a good person, he wants to do what’s well, and now he understands, hey, not so good.
Trump’s rant was hard to follow, but he did make some clear claims that are easy to prove wrong.
For example, he claimed that his friend was getting “38 miles per gallon” in his electric car:
He bought an electric car and he made the trip often from Kentucky to Washington, and he made it. He would drive down, put the car away and drive back. He was getting like 38 miles per gallon.
First of all, the idea that a battery-powered electric car can get “miles per gallon” doesn’t make sense, but let’s assume that Trump was actually talking about MPGe or miles per gallon equivalent, which is a metric that the EPA uses to compare efficiency.
The electric car currently for sale in the US with the lowest MPGe is the Audi e-tron S with 63 MPGe – nowhere near the inefficiency that Trump was ranting about.
Trump then claimed that this friend called him to complain about how “his trips are taking forever” because he can only “drive for two hours before having to charge his car.”
This anecdote could potentially be true, but it’s most likely an exaggeration. Most electric cars have at least 200 miles of range, which gives you over two and half hours of driving at 75 mph and many electric cars have closer to 300 miles of range.
Then Trump made a strange comment about the time it takes to charge the vehicle:
It took me more time to charge in the damn car than I could spend in a drive-in. It took me two and half times.
This one is hard to debunk because it’s hard to understand what he means by “drive-in,” like a drive-in theater? And “two and half times” what?
Most automakers making electric vehicles today aim for charging that takes less than 30 minutes from 10% to 80% state-of-charge, which is the most common charging session on the road. However, it’s important to note that most charging happens at home overnight.
I just came back from a 4,000-mile road trip from Quebec to New Orleans, via the East Coast, and I never stopped to charge for more than 30 minutes. Most of the time, I needed to stop and eat anyway.
Unfortunately, it looks like Trump’s EV misinformation is going to fuel the strange stereotype that electric vehicles are for liberals when, in fact, it is simply a more efficient way to move people than fossil fuel-powered transportation.
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