Wednesday, June 7, 2023
HomeTechnologyCars are still cars - even if they're electric

Cars are still cars – even if they're electric

When Biden came to GM, he was not driving the Bolt, the company’s electric subcompact car, but the new Hummer EV, a vehicle that exemplifies all the mistakes in vehicle design trajectories over the past decades. After a lap, he declared, “That Hummer is a really good car.” A few days later, GM announced that Biden’s publicity stunt had increased reservations for the larger vehicle, so we’re likely to see more on the road. many such vehicles.

This is not the future we need. Transportation accounts for 27% of U.S. emissions, more than any other industry, and while fuel efficiency and EV ownership have improved in recent years, the rise of SUVs has practically offset their benefits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that between 2010 and 2018, growing global demand for SUVs was the second largest contributor to increased emissions. It’s easy to say that all we need to do is electrify all these SUVs, but it’s not that simple.

Electric vehicles are often referred to as “zero-emission” vehicles because they produce no tailpipe emissions. But that doesn’t mean they are clean. Their large batteries require the extraction of massive resources from mines around the world, with serious consequences for the environment and humans, including water supply poisoning, increased rates of cancer and lung disease, and even the use of child labor . If we are to embrace the transition to sell to us – a transition that relies heavily on electric vehicles – demand for the key mineral will soar in 2040, with an estimated 4,200% growth in lithium, according to the International Energy Agency alone. Batteries in increasingly large electric trucks and SUVs must be much larger than those needed to power small cars or even electric bicycles, which is not a concern for U.S. policymakers or industry players. (Their profits would be much lower.)

The Jeep Cherokee in 1984 was the first model to be branded an SUV, and sales of these vehicles rose in the 1990s as the company released more models. The s are really starting to take off for role models. They benefit from a loophole that allows “light trucks” (which include the category of “sport utility vehicles”) to meet more lax fuel economy standards than conventional cars. Automakers want the public to buy them for good reason: SUVs and trucks are more profitable than sedans. And the more popular they are, the more drivers need to be rewarded: with so many large vehicles around, they won’t feel safe unless they upgrade as well.

While fuel efficiency and EV ownership have improved in recent years, the rise of SUVs has all but offset their benefits .

SUV sales finally surpassed sedans in 2015, leading some North American automakers to cut vehicle supply. It is estimated that by 2025, SUVs and trucks will account for 78% of new car sales. But filling the roads with such large vehicles has had consequences.

Hummers may be the ultimate expression of automotive excess, but automakers have been continually expanding the size and height of their vehicles, redesigning them each time. For example, USA Today found that the Chevrolet Tahoe has grown 17.7 inches in length since 1999, while the midsize Toyota RAV4, America’s best-selling SUV, has grown 14 inches. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports calculated that the average passenger car has gained 24 percent in weight since 2000, and its hood has grown by 11 inches. Last year, 42,915 people died on U.S. roads — a number not seen since 2005 — and 7,342 of them were pedestrians. Evidence suggests that an increase in larger vehicles is partly driving this trend.

In 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was two to three times more likely to know about pedestrians. “Dead” when hit by an SUV or pickup truck (not a sedan) because of their high, blunt front ends. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also determined that drivers of SUVs and pickup trucks are more likely to hit pedestrians because they have more limited visibility of the road, and UC Berkeley academics found that being hit by a heavier vehicle brings a higher risk of being hit by a vehicle. possibility of death. This is a particular problem for electric vehicles, especially electric SUVs and trucks, because the large batteries they require tend to make them heavier than conventional vehicles.

A frequent message from governments, car companies and even many environmentalists is that a New technologies — in this case, replacing internal combustion engines with batteries — will address the climate impact of transportation systems. There is no doubt that electric vehicles tend to produce fewer emissions over their entire life cycle than the internal combustion engine cars that most people drive today, but when we are faced with such a unique opportunity to rethink the foundations of our transportation system, should we stop? here?

The trend towards larger vehicles has adverse consequences for both road safety and the environment. Continuing the transition to electric vehicles means that electric vehicles will require larger batteries, so more minerals must be mined to power them. But there are other options to address some of these issues.

With the accelerated shift to electric vehicles and rising commodity prices, there are good reasons to promote lower cost, smaller batteries, better small cars for most people’s mobility, and for pedestrians lesser threat. In addition, governments can take steps not only to encourage EV adoption, but also to expand alternatives such as public transportation and bicycle infrastructure in cities across the country, making it easier for more people to choose not to drive for years to come.

This is a conversation that will not be started by industry players or by a president who promises to electrify the “Great American Road Trip.” But it is what we desperately need.

Paris Marx is the author of Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Misunderstood About the Future of Transportation .



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