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Big electric trucks won't save the planet, says the NYT



When The New York Times decides that an issue is an issue, be prepared to read about it at length.

Rarely will a week passes these days when the esteemed news organization doesn’t examine the realities, myths and alleged benefits and drawbacks of electric vehicles, and even The Atlantic joins in sometimes. That revolution, marked by changes in manufacturing, consumer habits and social “consciousness,” may in fact be upon us. Or it may not.

Nonetheless, the newspaper appears committed to presenting to the public these pros and cons. In this recently published article titled, “Just How Good for the Planet Is That Big Electric Pickup Truck?”—wow, that’s a mouthful — the Times focuses on the “bigness” of the current and pending crop of EVs, and how that impacts or will impact the environment and road safety.

This is not what news organizations these days are fond of calling “breaking news.” In October, we pointed to an essay in The Atlantic that covered pretty much the same ground, and focused on the Hummer as one particular villain,

In the paper and online on Feb. 18, the Times' Elana Shao observes how “swapping a gas pickup truck for a similar electric one can produce significant emissions savings.”

She goes on: “Take the Ford F-150 pickup truck compared with the electric F-150 Lightning. The electric versions are responsible for up to 50 percent less greenhouse gas emissions per mile.”

But she right away flips the argument, noting the heavier electric pickup trucks “often require bigger batteries and more electricity to charge, so they end up being responsible for more emissions than other smaller EVs. Taking into consideration the life cycle emissions per mile, they end up just as polluting as some smaller gas-burning cars.”

Certainly, it’s been drummed into our heads that electric cars don’t run on air and water but on electricity that costs money, and that the public will be dealing with “the shift toward electric SUVs, pickup trucks and crossover vehicles, with some analysts estimating that SUVs, pickup trucks and vans could make up 78 percent of vehicle sales by 2025." No-brainer alert: Big vehicles cost more to charge.

And then there’s the safety question, which was cogently addressed in the Atlantic story. Here Shao reiterates data documenting the increased risks of injuries and deaths caused by larger, heavier vehicles.

Traffic deaths have increased in recent years, while fatalities in other comparably developed countries have been falling. There are a number of factors to blame, including dangerous road design and high speed limits, but experts and advocates point to the supersizing of America’s vehicles, too.

Shao ends the piece not by offering many solutions but by pretty much stating the obvious: “American consumers love their big SUVs and pickup trucks.” There’s more to read here.

 

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