Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

Electric vehicles have here, and they are critical to the decarbonization of transportation. The United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, California, and others intend to transition out the sale of fossil-fueled automobiles by 2030, with Norway going even sooner. Consumers are curious. Ford introduced an all-electric model of the best-selling pick-up truck, which is the F-150 Lightning, in May. By August, Ford had doubled its original production target because of the high demand. The business said on September 27 that it will invest billions of dollars in the United States to develop battery plants and electric-truck manufacturing. Other businesses are also increasing their output.

The news of significant investments in electric cars is excellent. The industry has evolved way, but there are still numerous obstacles to overcome. The adding weight of automobiles is one subject that, in our opinion, has received much too little attention. Pickup trucks as well as sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) currently account for 57 percent of all vehicle sales in the United States, up from 30% in 1990. Since 1990, the mass of a new car sold in the U.S. has increased by 12 percent (173 kilograms), 7 percent (136 kilograms), and 32 percent (573 kilograms, respectively. That’s the equivalent of lugging a grand piano and a musician around. Similar patterns can be found all around the world.

Electrifying autos add to the overall weight of the vehicle. Bulky batteries replace combustible, energy-dense petroleum. And the remainder of the vehicle will have to get heavier to give the required structural support. The electric F-150 is 700 kg heavier than its gasoline-powered counterpart. Smaller electric vehicles are also heavier than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

What is the significance of this? The first and most important consideration is safety. Passengers are 12 percent more likely to be killed in a crash with another car for each 500-kg variation between vehicles. If everyone drove automobiles of identical weight, this additional risk would not exist. However, till they do, the amount of people killed or injured in car accidents is certain to rise as heavy electric cars join current fleets of lighter vehicles. Pedestrians will be at risk as well. According to one study, over 1,000 pedestrian deaths could have been avoided if US residents who moved to SUVs during the last 20 years had kept with smaller automobiles.

Tire wear produces higher particulate pollution in heavier automobiles. To manufacture and propel them, they demand more materials and energy, increasing emissions and energy consumption. Is this excess weight a major issue? It is significant, as evidenced by an approximate comparison of death costs and climate benefits. Under most nations’ current energy systems, the cost of more lives lost due to a 700-kg rise in the weight of an electric truck is comparable to the climatic benefits of prevented greenhouse-gas emissions.

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