“Ms. Oge is the chair of the International Council on Clean Transportation and was the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. Mr. Kodjak is the executive director of the I.C.C.T.
At a gathering on the White House lawn last August, President Biden spoke of a future in which electric cars and trucks will be the only vehicles on the road. “The question,” he said, “is whether we’ll lead or fall behind” in the global race to achieve that vision.
Mr. Biden has been vigorous in pushing for the end of the internal combustion engine for cars and light trucks. In August he signed an executive order that called on the federal government to do all it can to ensure that half of those vehicles sold in the United States are electric by 2030.
But when it comes to electrifying heavy trucks and buses, among the most polluting vehicles on the road, the country is in danger of falling behind the efforts of other nations. After the global climate summit in Glasgow last fall, 15 nations, including Canada and Britain, agreed to work together so that by 2040, all trucks and buses sold in those countries will be emission-free.
Missing from that group was the United States (and China and Germany, for that matter). Developing standards in the United States to make those vehicles electric is essential if the nation is to meet its global climate commitments. Heavy-duty trucks are responsible for nearly a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s transportation sector, itself the biggest contributor of those emissions in the economy. Clearly this segment of the transportation sector cannot be ignored.”
“With new major spending packages investing billions of dollars in electric vehicles in the U.S., some analysts have raised concerns over how green the electric vehicle industry actually is, focusing particularly on indirect emissions caused within the supply chains of the vehicle components and the fuels used to power electricity that charges the vehicles.
But a recent study from the Yale School of the Environment published in Nature Communications found that the total indirect emissions from electric vehicles pale in comparison to the indirect emissions from fossil fuel-powered vehicles. This is in addition to the direct emissions from combusting fossil fuels — either at the tailpipe for conventional vehicles or at the power plant smokestack for electricity generation — showing electric vehicles have a clear advantage emissions-wise over conventional vehicles.
“The surprising element was how much lower the emissions of electric vehicles were,” says postdoctoral associate Stephanie Weber. “The supply chain for combustion vehicles is just so dirty that electric vehicles can’t surpass them, even when you factor in indirect emissions.” ”
“The rash of flight cancellations over the winter break — is it a major blunder by the airlines or the forgivable consequence of the outbreak of Omicron? I looked into this over the past couple of days and my conclusion is that it’s a little of each.
First, the case against the airlines. They’re running with a precariously low ratio of employees to passengers, leaving themselves vulnerable to surprises like Omicron, the more contagious new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, which drastically thinned the ranks of flight crews.
This fall, some airline executives even bragged to Wall Street analysts about how they were able to do more with less — providing more flights per employee. “We estimate that we can fly a schedule 10 percent larger than 2019 with the same number of employees we needed in 2019,” Gerald Laderman, the chief financial officer of United Airlines Holdings, told analysts on the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 20.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Peter Coy, this was interesting. The comments are not pleased that you point out the airlines viewpoint, but it seems clear, few saw the success of omicron coming. I do often hate the way I feel mistreated when I fly, so I enjoyed the anger your piece stirred up. FYI, we watched a show on PBS called, Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops, narrated by Richard Gere, a series of five short films featuring 12 world-renowned climate scientists, that was made in January 2021. It explains very well the feedback loops that are approaching tipping points, and there are more than I knew about, and this is my beat. I recommend this 58 minute film to everyone. It looks bad for humans. We should probably think seriously about flying around a lot less on carbon based fuels.
“GORO, New Caledonia — From the reef-fringed coast of New Caledonia, the Coral Sea stretches into the South Pacific. Slender native pines, listing like whimsical Christmas trees, punctuate the shoreline. The landscape, one of the most biodiverse on the planet, is astonishingly beautiful until the crest of a hill where a different vista unfolds: a gouged red earth pierced by belching smokestacks and giant trucks rumbling across the lunar-like terrain.
This is Goro, the largest nickel mine on a tiny French territory suspended between Australia and Fiji that may hold up to a quarter of the world’s nickel reserves. It also poses a critical test for Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle maker, which wants to take control of its supply chain and ensure that the minerals used for its car batteries are mined in an environmentally and socially responsible fashion.
Tesla’s strategy, the largest effort by a Western electric vehicle maker to directly source minerals, could serve as a model for a green industry confronting an uncomfortable paradox. While consumers are attracted to electric vehicles for their clean reputation, the process of harvesting essential ingredients like nickel is dirty, destructive and often politically fraught.
Because of its nickel industry, New Caledonia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita. And mining, which began soon after New Caledonia was colonized in 1853, is intimately linked to the exploitation of its Indigenous Kanak people. The legacy of more than a century of stolen land and crushed traditions has left Goro’s nickel output at the mercy of frequent labor strikes and political protests.”
Much of that promise was centered on Autopilot, a system of features that could steer, brake and accelerate the company’s sleek electric vehicles on highways. Over and over, Mr. Musk declared that truly autonomous driving was nearly at hand — the day when a Tesla could drive itself — and that the capability would be whisked to drivers over the air in software updates.
Unlike technologists at almost every other company working on self-driving vehicles, Mr. Musk insisted that autonomy could be achieved solely with cameras tracking their surroundings. But many Tesla engineers questioned whether it was safe enough to rely on cameras without the benefit of other sensing devices — and whether Mr. Musk was promising drivers too much about Autopilot’s capabilities.”
Take away, don’t by a Tesla for it’s self driving technology.
“It celebrated the production of its first cars less than two months ago. Deliveries have just begun. But for a company with so few vehicles on the road, Lucid Motors is generating a lot of buzz.
Its debut sedan, the $169,000 Lucid Air Dream Edition, has been hailed for its workmanship and the ability to travel a record 520 miles on a single charge. MotorTrend magazine declared it the car of the year. And Lucid’s shares have more than doubled in the last month, putting the company’s worth at $85 billion — a valuation higher than Ford Motor’s.
The accolades are a tribute to Lucid’s chief executive, Peter Rawlinson, an auto industry veteran who engineered the Model S, the sedan that established Tesla as a serious carmaker. Now, he hopes that the Air will do the same for Lucid.
“The first product defines the brand,” he said recently in an interview at Lucid’s factory in the Arizona desert. “We’ll need to create a technological tour de force, and I think that’s what we’ve got in Lucid Air. We define our brand, we define our future.” “
Mr. LeVine is editor of The Electric, a publication focused on batteries and electric vehicles. His most recent book is “The Powerhouse: America, China and the Great Battery War.”
“Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, last month added his voice to a bullish chorus predicting $100-a-barrel oil — double the price at the start of the year. He may have been showing restraint: Some traders are betting on an unprecedented $200 a barrel by the end of 2022. The return of a frenzied oil market is conjuring up unwelcome memories of a global petroleum goliath with the power to influence Western geostrategy and roil societies everywhere.
Yet this is the old story. We now stand at the precipice of the age of batteries and electric vehicles, technologies likely to steamroll fossil-fuel companies and petro states. From a few thousand fully electric cars sold around the world in the late aughts, consumers are on track to buy four million of them this year.
So far, the United States appears to be little more than a spectator to this revolution. While its battery makers and automakers are poised to produce cutting-edge batteries and popular electric vehicles, they will rely almost entirely on a supply chain controlled by China. Over the past decade, China has built up most of the world’s capacity to process the metals that make lithium-ion batteries — the heart of the electric vehicle revolution — work. It is this capacity that puts China in the catbird seat in the race for the future while America falls farther and farther behind.”
“. . . Even more important, China supported companies that would process these materials into the electrodes that go into battery cells. This is the more crucial part of the battery supply chain: After the labor-intensive, often dirty extracting of the metals comes the refining of nickel, cobalt and manganese into sulfates, then into precursors used to produce the cathodes that go into battery cells.”
“. . . In a joint statement, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — the auto company formed this year after the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot — announced their “shared aspiration” to achieve sales of 40 to 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030.
But they need government support to translate aspirations into action, they wrote. “This represents a dramatic shift from the U.S. market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies,” the automakers said in the statement.
Specifically, the automakers said that they could not meet the target of 40 to 50 percent electric vehicle sales unless Congress spends billions of dollars on incentives for car buyers, a charging network, investments in research and development and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains.
Mr. Biden has asked Congress for $174 billion to pay for a network of 500,000 charging stations. The pending infrastructure bill, which could pass the Senate as soon as this week, includes just a fraction of that: $7.5 billion. A second bill, which could move through Congress this fall, could include more spending on electric vehicles, consumer tax incentives and research. But neither bill is guaranteed to pass in the closely divided Congress.” . . .
“OBER-RAMSTADT, Germany — On a highway south of Frankfurt recently, Thomas Schmieder maneuvered his Scania tractor-trailer and its load of house paint into the far right lane. Then he flicked a switch you won’t find on most truck dashboards.
Outside the cab a contraption started to unfold from the roof, looking like a clothes-drying rack with an upside-down sled welded to the top. As Mr. Schmieder continued driving, a video display showed the metal skids rising up and pushing gently against wires running overhead.
The cab became very quiet as the diesel engine cut out and electric motors took over. The truck was still a truck, but now it was powered like many trains or street cars.
There’s a debate over how to make the trucking industry free of emissions, and whether batteries or hydrogen fuel cells are the best way to fire up electric motors in big vehicles. Mr. Schmieder was part of a test of a third alternative: a system that feeds electricity to trucks as they drive, using wires strung above the roadway and a pantograph mounted on the cab.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This seems like a weirdly ugly idea, but in a terrific direction. I would, in my shameful ignorance, visualize electric trains and monorails that get their electricity from the track, if that is possible. Could it possibly be flood proof? But trucks would have containers just like on ships, that already exists, and put their container on the electric train system, and another truck would pick it up at the other end of the train line system. It could be slower than regular highway speeds, and allow for locals as well as expresses, like the wonderful Paris subway system, only it would be an above ground system, and take up at least half of the current highways that we have now, for individual cars and trucks. This system could move people as well as cargo, and would be all electric. Where would you get all that electricity in the next 50 to 100 years? Probably from the 20 or so new designs for nuclear energy, such as the one designed by the Bill Gates team. These new plants are smaller, and cannot explode or melt down. The Gates version, runs on spent nuclear fuel, so it besides theoretically being safe, will reduce our nuclear waste storage issue.
“Ready for an electric vehicle future?
The Volkswagen ID.4 may be the electric vehicle that carries you into it.
(MSRP $40k, range 250 miles)
The world is on the precipice of a revolution, but it’s not necessarily the one most people would think of. In his recent book, “The Global Rise of the Modern Plug-In Electric Vehicle,” John D. Graham, a professor at Indiana University, wrote that the current moment in electric vehicle (EV) adoption is at least as radical as the invention of the gasoline-powered engine. Consider how huge that is: as major a difference as going from a horse and buggy to a sedan.
The EV’s moment stems from a perfect mix of government support, consumer interest, regulation and price. In March of this year, the United States reached the benchmark of 100,000 public EV charging stations, and the Biden administration committed $15 billion to fund a network of an additional 500,000. There is more variety coming to the EV market than ever, including cars with zero direct emissions like Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.4, which is the first truly versatile electric crossover SUV. Taken together, our society is moving beyond simply talking about electric vehicles changing the world, and actually starting to make the switch.”
” . . . There are, of course, simpler reasons to get behind the wheel of an electric SUV: All-wheel drive is available on the ID.4 later in 2021; and the $39,9954 MSRP of the ID.4 Pro doesn’t even account for the potential federal tax credit of up to $7,5005. It also includes three years of unlimited public DC fast charging at no additional cost6 at Electrify America stations, the largest fast-charging network in the country. ” (range 250 miles, plus or minus about 10)