EVs: The Rise Of The Electron Monsters. Do We Really Need 9000-Pound Electric Vehicles? — Opinion

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Way back in the ’70s, after the oil exporting companies shut off the world’s supply of oil, people invented the phrase “gas guzzler” to describe vehicles that consumed way too much gasoline. Today, there is a similar phenomenon — ginormous EVs that consume far more raw materials and electrons than is wise in a world that desperately needs to transition to electric vehicles but doesn’t have enough nickel, cobalt, and other essential natural resources to meet the demand.

Think of it this way. What if in the middle of the gas crisis in 1973, GM rolled out a 6-passenger, 4-door pickup truck with an 8′ long bed and full time 4-wheel drive that got 8 miles to the gallon? That would be pretty silly, right? So why isn’t it silly for GM to build a 5-passenger EV that weighs 9,063 pounds (the battery alone weighs as much as a Honda Civic), is 18 feet long, 7.25 feet wide, and 6.6 feet high, but can only tow 7,500 pounds?

The world (at least through the eyes of Americans) is gaga at the prospect of the Hummer EV, an electric truck with 1,000 horsepower and more torque than the QE II. But as Quartz points out, its EPA rating is a miserably low 47 MPGe — about a third that of a Tesla Model Y.

EVs & Efficiency

The case for EVs is really quite simple. An electric motor is 95% (or more) efficient, which means the vast majority of electricity supplied to it gets put to use moving an EV forward. By contrast, most gasoline engines are between 25% and 30% efficient, which means more than two-thirds of the energy in a gallon of gasoline is wasted. With the world facing significant heating, thanks in large part to the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels, does it make any sense to waste most of that energy?

By the same token, a Hummer EV is a voracious consumer of electrons and scarce natural resources. Is there any logical justification for building such a power hungry beast? Quartz thinks the answer is yes. Here’s how it arrives at that conclusion.

The original Hummer H1 emitted 889 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The Hummer EV emits only 341 grams per mile. The standard gasoline-powered Ford F-150 emits 444 grams per mile, so the Hummer — beast that it may be — is still better for the environment than an F-150. One can argue that the Model Y at 126 grams per mile is a better choice, but it can’t tow 7500 lb or carry 1200 lb of rocks.

Quartz wraps it up pretty well when it says that, based on the global average of emissions per kWh of electricity, a 4.5 ton Hummer EV is worse for the environment than many smaller, more efficient cars that burn gasoline. The global average for producing a kilowatt-hour of electricity is 475 grams of carbon dioxide, but the figure varies widely from region to region. For example, the average is lower in the EU (231 grams) than in the US (about 386 grams). So the same EVs will create 40% fewer carbon emissions in the EU than in the US.

The Takeaway

EVs -- Model Y vs Hummer
Tesla Model Y (left) and a Hummer EV production-ready prototype (right) parked side-by-side outside Starbucks (Source: u/VicBurgundy / reddit, posted with written permission)

The bottom line is that humanity needs to learn how to dramatically lower carbon emissions. EVs that boast they are better for the environment than equivalent gasoline-powered vehicles shouldn’t get a pass because they are 20% better when they could be 300% better. A little bit of good isn’t good enough and GM should be ashamed to foist this 4.5-ton excrescence off on Americans when the need for affordable electric cars is so great.

The Hummer EV shows that General Motors is just as tone deaf today as it was in 2003 when it introduced the V-16 Cadillac prototype at a time when gas prices were similarly high. Americans don’t demand such gargantuan vehicles. Manufacturers fob them off on the buying public because they make enormous profits on these beasts and spend billions of dollars a year to convince us we need one of these behemoths to get to work on time or pick up a box of nails on the way home. The Hummer EV, quite frankly, is an affront to common sense and proof the GM has no idea of what is going on in the world outside the cloistered confines of its C Suite. [Your opinion may vary. See dealer for details.]

Ford, GM, and Chrysler/Stellantis have all stopped producing economical cars. All they make today are muscle cars, SUVs, or pickup trucks. That is no accident. The manufacturers conned the Obama administration into creating the footprint rule, which allows larger vehicles to pollute more than smaller vehicles. Those larger SUVs and trucks also happen to have higher profit margins. Do you think that could be why the industry spent $12.5 BILLION in 2020 to advertise them?

Electric pickups that are only slightly less bulky than the Hummer EV are coming soon from all 3 American auto manufacturers. These EVs are better for the environment than their gas-powered cousins, but they will still be electron monsters. Americans seem to think they have a God-given right to drive giant-sized vehicles. Perhaps it is buried somewhere in the Constitution or implied in the phrase “certain inalienable rights” that is part of the Declaration of Independence. Or could it be in the Second Amendment, right alongside the right to arm bears?

It’s really time we got over ourselves. As it is, we are thumbing our noses at the climate crisis and speeding up the destruction of the environment. The latest IPCC 6 report makes it crystal clear that we must act now to address an overheating planet. We have about 7 years to turn things around but we are still partying like it’s 1999 and buying the biggest vehicles Detroit offers in some misguided mania to act out our national macho/cowboy persona, the consequences be damned.

Imagine if you will, a new paradigm in which precious resources are allocated to making EVs with 60 kWh batteries that ordinary people can actually afford rather than monsters with 212.7 kWh battery packs like the Hummer EV. Can we really afford to continue being so profligate? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, and we aren’t likely to be happy when we find out what Mother Nature has to say about our wasteful ways.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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