Way back in the 70’s, after the oil exporting companies cut off the world’s supply of oil, people coined the term “gas guzzler” to describe vehicles that used way too much gas. Today there is a similar phenomenon – huge electric cars that consume far more raw materials and electrons than is wise in a world that desperately needs to switch to electric vehicles but does not have enough nickel, cobalt and other important natural resources to meet the demand.
Think of it this way. What if GM in the midst of the gas crisis of 1973 rolled out a 6-passenger, 4-door pickup truck with an 8′ long bed and full-time four-wheel drive that got 8 miles to the gallon? That would be pretty stupid, wouldn’t it? So why isn’t it stupid 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 tall, but can only tow 7,500 pounds?
The world (at least through the eyes of Americans) is gaga over the Hummer EV, an electric truck with 1,000 horsepower and more torque than the QE II. But as Quartz points out that its EPA rating is a miserably low 47 MPGe — about a third of a Tesla Model Y.
Electric cars and efficiency
The case for electric cars is actually quite simple. An electric motor is 95% (or more) efficient, meaning that the vast majority of the electricity fed to it will be used to move an EV forward. In contrast, most gasoline engines are between 25% and 30% efficient, meaning more than two-thirds of the energy in a gallon of gasoline is wasted. With the world facing significant warming, thanks in large part to the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels, does it make sense to waste most of that energy?
Likewise, 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 think the answer is yes. Here’s how it comes to that conclusion.
The original Hummer H1 emitted 889 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The Hummer EV only emits 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. Arguably the Model Y at 126 grams per mile is a better choice, but it can’t tow 7500lb or carry 1200lb of rocks.
Quartz sums it up pretty well when it says that, based on the global average of emissions per kWh of electricity, a 4.5-tonne Hummer EV is worse for the environment than many smaller, more efficient petrol-burning cars. The global average for producing one kilowatt-hour of electricity is 475 grams of carbon dioxide, but the figure varies greatly 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 electric cars will create 40% less CO2 emissions in the EU than in the US.
The bottom line is that humanity must learn to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Electric cars that boast they are better for the environment than equivalent petrol powered vehicles should not be approved because they are 20% better when they could be 300% better. A little good is not good enough, and GM should be ashamed of itself for forcing this 4.5-ton surplus on Americans when the need for affordable electric cars is so great.
The Hummer EV shows that General Motors is as tone-deaf today as it was in 2003 when it introduced the V-16 Cadillac prototype at a time when gas prices were just as high. Americans do not require such gigantic vehicles. Manufacturers screw them over to the buyers because they make huge profits on these beasts and spend billions of dollars a year to convince us that 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, frankly, is an affront to common sense and proof that GM has no idea what’s going on in the world outside the cloister of its C Suite. [Your opinion may vary. See dealer for details.]
Ford, GM and Chrysler/Stellantis have all stopped producing economy cars. All they make today are muscle cars, SUVs or pickup trucks. It is no accident. Manufacturers tricked the Obama administration into creating the footprint rule, which allows larger vehicles to pollute more than smaller vehicles. These 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 promoting them?
Electric pickup trucks that are only slightly less bulky than the Hummer EV are coming soon from all three American automakers. These electric cars are better for the environment than their gas-powered cousins, but they’ll still be electron monsters. Americans seem to think they have a God-given right to drive gigantic vehicles. Perhaps it is buried somewhere in the Constitution or implied in the phrase “certain unalienable rights” that is part of the Declaration of Independence. Or could it be in the Second Amendment, right next to the right to bear arms?
It really is time we got over ourselves. As it is, we are fingering the climate crisis and accelerating the destruction of the environment. The latest IPCC 6 report makes it crystal clear that we must act now to address an overheated planet. We have about 7 years to turn things around but we still party like it’s 1999 and buy the biggest vehicles Detroit has to offer in some misguided mania to act out our national macho/cowboy persona, consequences be damned.
Imagine if you will, a new paradigm where valuable resources are allocated to making EVs with 60kWh batteries that ordinary people can actually afford rather than monsters with 212.7kWh battery packs like the Hummer EV. Can we really afford to continue to be so careless? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, and we likely won’t be happy when we find out what Mother Nature has to say about our wasteful ways.
Complete our 2022 CleanTechnica reader survey for a chance to win an electric bike.
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech novelty? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica member, supporter, technician or ambassador – or patron on Patreon.
Don’t want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica via email. Or follow us on Google News!
Do you have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise or recommend a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.