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Greenwashed: Electric Pickup Trucks Are Dirtier Than You Think

James Gilboy and Peter Holderith wrote . . . . . . . . .

You can’t throw a steel ball these days without smashing the windows of a splashy new electric truck. The Ford F-150 Lightning, the Rivian R1T, the GMC Hummer EV, the upcoming Chevy Silverado EV and Ram 1500 EV, and yes, the Tesla Cybertruck—all aimed at making electrification really matter for the American mainstream. Pickups are the country’s best-selling vehicles, and as the least fuel-efficient, it only makes sense that the surest route to mass adoption of EVs and lowering emissions lies in pairing batteries with crew cabs. And the early returns are promising—the Lightning, for example, is for most practical purposes (except maybe towing) simply a normal F-150 minus a tailpipe. The sooner we get more electric trucks on the road, the better, the thinking goes.

But just because electric trucks don’t leave an invisible wake of carbon dioxide doesn’t mean they’re as guilt-free as they seem. These are large, heavy vehicles with massive batteries, and there’s still an environmental price to pay even if the costs have been pushed upstream and out of sight. Most electricity generation in the U.S. still produces CO2, though renewables are more in the mix depending on where you are. More important is that manufacturing electric trucks produces far more emissions than their internal-combustion counterparts. The crush of new models this year made us wonder: Where’s the break-even point between gas and electric pickups? How far would you need to drive both a 6.2L V8 Ram TRX and a silent Hummer EV before their lifetime emissions catch up and the Hummer becomes the truly greener option?

We crunched the numbers, and found out the answer is farther than you’d think. Will today’s electric trucks be better for the planet over time than their fossil-fueled equivalents? Absolutely. Do they cut carbon emissions enough in the short or long term to justify driving one over something smaller, even a gas car? Absolutely not.

The Efficiency Problem

Why electric trucks aren’t so green starts with a simple matter of physics: a 3,000-pound car needs a fraction of the energy to travel a mile that a 9,000-pound vehicle does. Throw in the preferred form factor of American pickups—big, heavy-duty, and squarer than the jaw of the person driving it—and an electric truck needs a much larger battery than an electric car to cover the same promised 300+ miles of range expected of today’s EVs. (That baseline expectation alone is problematic for battery production emissions, but we’ll leave that for another time.)

A bigger battery in turn adds weight, whose penalty must be offset with an even bigger battery, and so on until you end up with something like the GMC Hummer EV weighing 9,000 pounds. Its 2,900-pound, 212.7-kWh lithium-ion battery can propel it 329 miles. It’s about a third as efficient as a shapely Lucid Air, which can travel over 500 miles using a battery half that size.

The problem is better illustrated by MPGe, or miles-per-gallon equivalent, the metric intended to calculate the distance an electric (or electrified) vehicle can travel by expending the same amount of energy in a gallon of gas. It’s fairly useless in the real world, but it is good for comparing the overall efficiency of EVs. The GMC Hummer EV has an MPGe rating of 47. That’s exceptionally poor for an electric—but even trucks like the 70-MPGe Rivian R1T are well behind things like the 97-MPGe Ford Mustang Mach-E or the 125 MPGe Tesla Model Y.

Lower efficiency means charging more often. Charging more often means more energy consumption. You can see where this is going.

Carbon Cost of Entry

Transitioning from gas-guzzler to watt-waster doesn’t exactly feel like progress, but at least it’s a step in the right direction, right? Yes—except there’s one not-so-small snag. In large part because of the batteries, manufacturing electric vehicles releases significantly more emissions than building ICE cars, big electric trucks even more so. Not only do electric trucks pay off their carbon debts slower than pretty much any other car, they have more CO2 to answer for in the first place.

How much more isn’t something most automakers could—never mind would—tell you. Most car companies have not publicized life-cycle carbon assessments for their products that would clarify the environmental impact of their EVs’ manufacture, disposal, and to a smaller degree, use. I contacted current and future electric truck producers Ford, General Motors, Ram, and Rivian for such assessments, and only received responses from GM and Rivian, neither of which had conducted such a study.

So far, the one exception to the rule is Polestar, the Sino-Swedish offshoot of Volvo focused on EVs. It has released a life-cycle carbon assessment of its first EV, the Polestar 2, which offers intriguing insights into the true impact of car manufacturing. For a variety of reasons, Polestar’s study can’t paint an accurate picture of the auto industry as a whole, but its numbers are the only ones available. What’s more, they still let us make an educated guess as to the CO2 generated by producing trucks like the Hummer EV—and as a result, how long it takes one to break even with an equivalent ICE truck.

First, the numbers themselves. Creating a Polestar 2 with the long-range battery and twin-motor, all-wheel-drive powertrain is associated with 17 metric tons of CO2 from refining raw materials, seven from the batteries, 2.1 from the chassis’ manufacture, and half a ton for disposal, totaling 26.6 metric tons. That’s almost 10 tons more than the 16.7 released by producing a hybrid Volvo XC40, which Polestar identified as an equivalent ICE model. Put both on the road, and it’d take about 68,000 miles for the XC40’s total life cycle emissions to finally surpass the Polestar’s based on the global average energy mix, which generates 475 grams of CO2 per kWh per the International Energy Agency. That’s over four years of driving for the average American.

Back to the GMC Hummer EV, which I don’t mean to pick on but seriously, that 9,000-pound curb weight is such a convenient target. It won’t be spot-on because of differences in manufacturing processes, but we can use Polestar’s numbers to safely ballpark how much CO2 is released in the process of making each Hummer EV. For the Polestar 2 LR AWD, everything that’s not the battery results in one metric ton of CO2 for every 198 pounds of chassis, and 92 kilograms of CO2 per kWh of battery. (That’s not bad as lithium-ion batteries go, they range from 39 to 196 kg/kWh according to a study by Transport & Environment.)

Take out the battery and the Hummer EV weighs 6,140 pounds. Using the chassis guidance above, we can estimate its associated raw materials, motors, and body result in 31 metric tons of CO2. Its 212.7-kWh battery is good for another 19.6 metric tons. Not counting end-of-life recycling (a relatively small piece of the puzzle anyway), it’s likely producing one Hummer EV releases 50.6 metric tons of CO2. That’s nearly twice that of the Polestar, and more than triple the 15.2 metric tons of CO2 emissions Americans averaged in 2018 according to the World Bank.

Applying the Data, or: You Can’t Fight Physics

Of course, a Hummer EV is supposed to mark an improvement over a similar fossil-fueled truck, such as the Ram TRX, with which it shares its overkill attitude and emphasis on acceleration and off-road performance. The Ram’s horrible gas mileage (about 12 mpg combined) is a good match for the Hummer’s resource-intensity and inefficiency, too. Using that Polestar-Volvo data, we can estimate a TRX’s production to be associated with 26.5 metric tons of CO2, while FuelEconomy.gov rates it at 889 grams of CO2 (and upstream greenhouse gas emissions) per mile driven. Based on the U.S. energy production average 386 g CO2/kWh, the Hummer EV’s 1.6 miles per kWh means it’s responsible for 241 grams of CO2/mi, or just over a quarter of what the TRX emits.

It takes just under 37,200 miles to achieve parity with a TRX, at 59.6 metric tons of CO2 emitted over the total life cycle, and finally, it’s all gravy for GM from there.

The graph at the top compare life-cycle CO2 and GHG emissions in kilograms on the y axis and miles driven on the x axis. Both trucks start well above zero, because manufacturing is energy-intensive and thus generates a significant environmental impact. Though the Hummer EV has a big head start on emissions, the Ram’s steeper ascent as it burns gas means it catches up to the Hummer at 37,191 miles. Improving on a TRX’s environmental impact isn’t exactly something to brag about, though, and it’s hard to call an accomplishment when the Rivian R1T breaks even with the TRX sooner, just before the 17,000-mile mark with 41.6 metric tons of CO2 on the board. Unwind this same math elsewhere and it shows the Ford F-150 Lightning doesn’t turn the table on the hybrid F-150 Powerboost until around the 61,000-mile mark, at 46.5 metric tons of CO2. On one hand, it demonstrates electric trucks inevitably do become the greener option compared to ICE trucks over time. On the other, what happens to the calculation if the Lightning needs a new resource-intensive battery at 150,000 miles and the gas version keeps running just fine?

An electric truck is still a truck, and its shape makes it permanently less efficient than an electric car. But the graph below takes it one step further and throws in the lifecycle emissions for some gas-powered economy cars for good measure. And lo: those too pollute less than electric trucks.

Down there at the bottom are a selection of economy cars with differing drivetrains, including the regular Honda Civic, the hybrid Toyota Prius, and electric Nissan Leaf, with the hybrid Ford Maverick thrown in for the hell of it. Interestingly, while the Civic and Maverick track each other over the first couple hundred thousand miles (reaffirming my belief that the Maverick is a Corolla-killer in disguise), and hover around the Hummer’s CO2-per-mile, their comparatively tiny size and manufacturing impacts mean their lines never converge. And it’d take over 140,000 miles for them to catch up to the tamer Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning.

There are two main takeaways from all this. One, simply being an EV is not enough to be sustainable. Electric trucks do represent a long-term improvement over pure combustion and even hybrid trucks if they can stay on the road, but their resource-intensive manufacturing and sheer size make them less green than smaller gas-powered cars. And two, while we’ve been able to use what little data we have to better understand the effects of electrification, the lack of information from most OEMs we contacted demonstrates the auto industry has a transparency problem we’d do well to start taking seriously. Carmakers won’t share the true environmental impacts of their EVs unless it hurts them not to. If we’re going to get serious about sustainability, that has to be our starting point. That, and not pretending an electric Hummer can ever be a stand-in for a Civic.


Source : The Drive

Chart: World Production of EV Will be Constrained by Supplies of Lithium and Nickel


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Source : The Information

Chart: The E.U. is Streets Ahead of the U.S. in Electric Vehicle Uptake

Source : Statista

There’s a Cheap Solution to the Electric Vehicle Charging Conundrum

Ryan Cornell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Imagine a world where every Blockbuster Video has been converted into a shiny new Netflix Store. These wonders of technology allow customers to walk into a store and stream unlimited amounts of content, all for a fixed monthly rate.

It sounds ridiculous, right? There is no value in streaming from a fixed location. The beauty of streaming is that you can do it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Right now, the conversation about how to charge electric cars is sounding an awful lot like a Netflix Store. The popular narrative goes: Electric cars are great, but a lack of charging infrastructure is holding them back. All our charging problems will be solved if we can manage to replace those antiquated gas stations with gleaming high-powered charging stations.

What if that is all wrong? It’s easy to lock ourselves into the mindset of what’s familiar and plot the future based on the blueprint of our past—a mindset that will lead us toward inadequate solutions, like hypothetical Netflix stores. What we actually need is an approach that takes advantage of an EV’s strengths: most notably, its ability to charge anywhere and anytime. And it doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive as you might think.

It is commonly assumed that electric vehicles need specialized charging equipment. In a recent survey, 78 percent of people believed that they did not have charging access at their home. In fact, most people already do. There are three “types” of charging, and one of them can take place in nearly every house, without any modifications or new equipment.

The fastest charging occurs with Level 3 charging stations. These are the “gas stations” of the EV world. Level 3 chargers can recoup 100 miles of range in a matter of minutes. They are also, of course, the most expensive to install, at a minimum of $30,000 per charger. (For comparison, one gas pump costs around $20,000.) While you would never see one of these high-powered chargers in someone’s home, you might find a Level 2 charger. This type of charger, which costs a few hundred dollars to install, connects to a 240V “dryer outlet” and can gain 100 miles of range in just a few hours. This might not be ideal for a road trip, but it works great for a quick charge at home or a restaurant, or while you are out shopping. Lastly, we have the somewhat boring, often overlooked Level 1 charger. This type of charger, which is included free with most electric vehicles, plugs into a standard outlet and would take nearly 20 hours to regain those 100 miles of range. This might sound horrifically slow, but most drivers average fewer than 40 miles of driving per day, an amount that can easily be reclaimed with a Level 1 charger while you are working, hanging out at home, or sleeping.

Right now, it makes local news in many places when even a couple of chargers are installed or planned. But installation is likely to accelerate, especially when it comes to Level 3 chargers. Multiple car companies are actively planning to build out charging networks, and the federal government plans to spend $7.5 billion from the infrastructure bill on chargers. Unfortunately, most of these plans are focusing on emulating our current gas station–centric model, instead of focusing on an EV’s strengths.

Let’s go back to the Netflix Store analogy. The key point is that new technology—in this case ubiquitous high-speed internet—facilitates an experience that is altogether different from the one that preceded it. You can stream at home, at the doctor’s office, or at work. Electric vehicles are no different. The solution to the electric vehicle charging problem should fit current technology, not the technology of the prior century. Why should policymakers aim to copy gas stations when we can do so much better?

Now, I’m not against building more Level 3 chargers on America’s roadways; the more chargers, the merrier. But companies are already building them. It is quite easy to hop in a Tesla tomorrow and drive almost anywhere in the country. The car will have you stop at a Supercharger location every few hours, and the experience will be surprisingly similar to driving a gas car. (If you are driving with kids, the car will be ready to hit the road again before you are.) Other companies are following along, as each manufacturer has a vested interest in being able to advertise that their cars have this capability. Plus, Tesla is potentially opening its network to other companies soon. It’s only a matter of time before every new electric car can travel easily across the country.

What we really need is to get charging capability to the people who can’t currently charge on a daily basis—mostly, people who don’t live in houses. If you already live in a house, whether you rent or own, it is extremely likely that you currently have the ability to charge while you sleep; all you need is a safe and accessible power outlet. You can even choose to add a Level 2 charger, which will dramatically increase your charging speed. But in most cases, the standard outlet will add more than enough range each night. Many people will never take their car on a road trip, but everyone needs to drive around town.

So EV policy should focus on the population that can’t charge every night in a garage. Essentially, we need to make sure that people can charge almost anywhere: home, work, shopping. This type of charging doesn’t have to be fast, but it should be ubiquitous. “You can’t charge here?” should be the new “They really don’t have Wi-Fi?” EVs have the ability to charge anywhere, which means chargers should exist everywhere.

Where do we start? The initial focus should be on workplace parking lots and apartment complexes. Cars sit in these parking lots for long periods of time, which means slow and cheap Level 1 chargers are ideal. We should saturate these parking lots with power outlets that employees and residents can plug into.

Workplaces and apartment complexes are also ideal because the outlets can be used as an incentive. And the cost to the institution is minimal: It would cost an employer or property management company less than $8 per employee each week for electricity (assuming a 40-hour workweek at the average electricity cost and charge rate). It’s not zero, but it is quite small in contrast to other workplace incentives or building amenities.

This is also a space where government spending could make a profound impact. Some workplaces may be reluctant to add outlets to their parking lots, but federal or state subsidies could be just the push they need. And the comparatively cheap price of these outlets will allow the subsidies to go a long way.

Obviously, not every building has a parking lot. But this is an opportunity for cities to provide street-side charging systems in areas that lack parking lots and garages. Those who live in the area can street-park their car for the night, swipe a card to pay for the charging (like a standard parking meter), and let their car charge until the next morning. And, once again, there is no need to charge at an exceedingly high rate. There may be some regulatory hurdles to get through, but these are all solvable problems.

A truly ubiquitous charging infrastructure would involve chargers at restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, parks, and other areas where people congregate. These are the spots where people want to spend a couple hours, which lends itself to the middle-of-the-road Level 2 chargers. Charging while you watch a movie or play at the park is a much more enjoyable experience than driving to a charging-specific location (like a gas-powered car) and staying with the car while it charges.

In essence, we need to put the right chargers in the right places, and most chargers don’t need to be all that fast. We keep hearing that EVs will take off when charging one is as fast as filling up at a gas station. But we shouldn’t want that. Charging at gas stations is slow; 10 minutes to fill up gas wastes more time than charging for 10 hours while you sleep. We shouldn’t want to reduce the amount of time we spend charging; we should want to eliminate active charging entirely. And it might be the slowest chargers of all—your boring old power outlet—that allow us to do it.


Source : Slate

Infographic: The Number of EV Models Will Double by 2024

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Source : Visual Capitalist

Infographic: Breaking Down the Cost of an EV Battery Cell

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Source : Visual Capitalist

iPhone Maker Foxconn Seals EV Partnership with Indonesia

Foxconn aims to provide components or services to 10% of the world’s EVs by 2025 to 2027.

Taiwan-based Foxconn said it has partnered with Indonesia’s Investment Ministry and several companies to support the development of electric cars in the Southeast Asian country, adding to a string of such deals by the iPhone assembler.

Foxconn, Apple’s main iPhone maker, has expanded its activities in electric vehicles (EVs) in recent years, announcing deals with U.S. startup Fisker Inc and Thailand’s energy group PTT PCL.

Foxconn said it has signed a memorandum of understanding for a wide scope of investment on EVs including battery manufacturing with the Indonesian Ministry of Investment as well as Indonesia Battery Corporation, energy firm PT Indika Energy and Taiwanese electric scooter vendor Gogoro.

The cooperation, which aims to build a “new energy ecosystem” in Indonesia, also includes the development of EV supporting industries such as energy storage systems, battery exchange stations and recycling, Foxconn said in a statement.

Under the partnership, an open “MIH platform” that provides both hardware and software services will be available to companies in Indonesia, the statement said, without giving details of the size of the investment or production plans.

Foxconn aims to provide components or services to 10% of the world’s EVs by 2025 to 2027, Chairman Liu Young-way has said, vowing to lower manufacturing and other costs for carmaking with its assembly know-how as the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.


Source : Reuters

Chart: Asian Batteries Power Global EV Fleet

Source : Statista

Chart: Electric Cars But No Chargers?

Source : Statista

Infographic: The Race for Electric Vehicle Dominance

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Source : Visual Capitalist