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Fact check of Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko’s on electric car and traditional batteries – The Business Journals

by Nov 1, 2022Blog0 comments

Arizona Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko opposes Democrats’ climate change plans. Recently, she had harsh words for the push to expand the use of electrical vehicles.
“The average cost of replacing an electric vehicle battery is over $10,000, while the average cost of replacing the battery of a gas-powered car is $100-$200,” Lesko tweeted Aug. 30. “Democrats’ green energy only agenda will bankrupt the American people.”
Do the different price tags for batteries reflect the overall relative cost of electric and gas-powered cars? Automotive experts say they don’t.
“It’s apples-to-oranges to compare the batteries for EVs and conventional cars,” said Hanna Breetz, an assistant professor with ASU’s school of sustainability “They’re different technologies, doing different things in the vehicles. So the numbers aren’t wrong, but you could push back saying that it’s a specious comparison.”
A traditional battery simply starts the car engine, while the battery for an electric vehicle stores all the power needed for moving the vehicle.
Replacing gas-powered cars and light trucks with electric versions is central to the government’s climate plans. The U.S. Transportation Department has set a goal of having 50% of newly sold vehicles be electric zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.
Because of the complex nature of hybrid vehicles — cars that use a blend of gas and electric power systems — this fact-check focuses solely on the batteries in traditional gas-powered vehicles and those in fully electric vehicles.
Andy Garberson, head of marketing for the consulting group Recurrent Auto, said that electric vehicle battery prices can vary widely, depending on the car model. Generally, the cost falls between $2,000-$20,000. Lesko’s numbers are in the middle of that range. Her prices for traditional batteries are also reasonably accurate.
Beyond that, Lesko’s comparison is misleading, said Jeffrey Wishart, an automotive systems concentration professor at Arizona State University.
“The high-voltage propulsion battery in EVs should not be compared with the 12-volt starting/lighting/ignition batteries of all cars,” Whishart said “The fair comparison would be to compare the cost of the high volt battery and electric motor with the cost of the internal combustion engine and gasoline tank.”
Standard 12-volt batteries are cheaper because they are simpler and produced in high volume, which reduces production costs. Mark Schrimer, director of corporate communications of Cox Automotive, an automotive data and online systems vendor, said 12-volt batteries are interchangeable across car makes and models, while the batteries for electric vehicles are custom made. In a traditional car, a 12-volt battery plays a limited role.
The battery packs in full electric vehicles “are very high-tech items, made of advanced materials; they are custom made for each vehicle and not interchangeable,” Schrimer said.
Lesko also overlooks that manufacturers generally provide multi-year warranties for EV battery replacement, which often last up to 100,000 miles or 10 years. California requires 10-year/150,000 mile warranties on all electric and hybrid vehicles.
Michael Kuby, a geographical studies and urban planning professor at ASU said that ultimately, the price comparison “depends on the total cost of ownership.”
The lifetime cost of owning electric vehicles is a moving target. Technology improvements and the economics of producing them in larger volumes both work to push costs down.
Consumer Reports found that even with higher upfront costs for electric vehicles, lower operating and maintenance costs make them a better deal for buyers. They estimate that EV owners save between $6,000 and $10,000 over a car’s lifetime.
A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that EV owners save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs over 15 years.
Lesko said that “the average cost of replacing an electric vehicle battery is over $10,000, while the average cost of replacing the battery of a gas-powered car is $100 to $200.”
Her numbers are in the ballpark, but beyond that, her comparison breaks down. The two types of car batteries play fundamentally different roles in the operation of a car. A traditional battery only starts the engine. An electric vehicle battery stores all the power needed for moving the vehicle.
In addition, early studies found that over a car’s lifetime, consumers save money with electric vehicles because of lower fuel and maintenance costs.
The tweet includes numbers that are fairly accurate, but it omits important context that would change a reader’s understanding of the price difference.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Editor’s note: Cronkite News has published this story in partnership with Politifact.
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