It's a hard-wired human response to be wary of new or changing things. In past millennia, it may have kept us alive longer.

And when you're talking about a household's second-most-expensive purchase, it's not surprising that most car buyers are cautious, letting others be pioneers first.

But for almost five years now, electric-car advocates and owners have faced a drumbeat of negative press and selective reporting that at least a few feel is deliberately intended to make plug-in vehicles unappealing to potential buyers.

DON'T MISS: The Politics Of Electric Cars: Attacking Innovation For Partisan Gain (Jan 2012)

In a thought-provoking piece entitled, Are Consumers Being Manipulated By Anti-Electric Car Propaganda?, author Jeff Cobb dives into a topic that's much discussed among owners and advocates--but rarely addressed in public.

The vast majority of the studies undertaken over the last 15 years indicate that electric cars have a lower carbon footprint per mile than do gasoline and diesel cars under most circumstances.

Even when recharged on the very dirtiest and most coal-intensive U.S. electricity grids, their wells-to-wheels carbon emissions equate to gasoline cars at 30 miles per gallon or more.

Electric-car wells-to-wheels emission equivalencies in MPG, Sep 2014 [Union of Concerned Scientists]

Electric-car wells-to-wheels emission equivalencies in MPG, Sep 2014 [Union of Concerned Scientists]

And when fueled on cleaner grids, the equivalency goes up to 90-plus miles per gallon. No car with a combustion engine can touch that number.

The carbon burden of manufacturing the batteries, electric motors, and power electronics of a plug-in car appear to be higher than that for the powertrain of a combustion-engined car, but that's more than offset by the much lower carbon involved in propelling the vehicle on electricity.

And yet articles and segments continue to appear suggesting that electric cars are an environmental negative--quickly spread via social media.

Or, in one case, an article is headlined "Your All-Electric Car May Not Be So Green" while in fact the article proved that electric cars are indeed far greener than gasoline cars.

ALSO SEE: New Study Doesn't Say 'Electric Cars Aren't Green' (Headlines To The Contrary)

What's a conscientious electric-car owner to make of all this?

Our view is that, sadly, such flawed reporting and superficial coverage is to be expected.

Scientific analysis is now often viewed in our society as an esoteric, incomprehensible, and cerebral discipline. It requires work, and thought.

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

For politicians, overworked reporters, and those with an ideological axe to grind, a punchy, attention-grabbing headline is far easier.

Over time, however, we tend to believe that the truth will out.

Fifteen years ago, the first hybrid-car drivers were often asked what it was like to plug in a car, whether their vehicles emitted dangerous radiation, and why they would drive something whose batteries would obviously fail after a year or two.

MORE: Electric Cars' Secret Advantage: They're Just Nicer To Drive (Apr 2012)

It's the never-ending task of the pioneer to have to explain why, and what, and how, and to counter silly, ignorant, and occasionally malicious story lines.

Luckily, a very large proportion of electric-car drivers at this phase of adoption are eager, ready, and willing to do just that.

2000 Honda Insight

2000 Honda Insight

To see the broader picture, we fall back on a quotation that's often attributed to Gandhi: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

Our reader Mark Renburke notes that it's likely misattributed, and suggests that the actual quote came from a trade-union advocate in an earlier era.

In a 1918 address to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Baltimore, Nicholas Klein said: "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America."

Either way, the point is that early adopters and electric-car pioneers should expect to have to do their share of explaining, refuting, and alleviating fears.

Just ask any early hybrid owner.


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