If we’re going to go through all the trouble of tearing up every last ounce of lithium on the planet just so that we can send nine-gazillion ton electric pickup trucks hurtling down the road on autopilot, they had better be good for the environment. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 11, 2022.
I guess if we’re going to be building gigantic pickup trucks anyway, they might as well be electric. A new study suggests that EV pickups do a great deal of good in keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere, even compared to EV cars. From Bloomberg:
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 totaled 6.6 billion metric tons, with the transportation sector the worst polluter. Sedans, SUVs, and pickups accounted for 1.1 billion metric tons. According to a study from the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems commissioned by Ford, over its lifetime, a battery-powered vehicle will cut emissions by:
- 74 metric tons for a pickup
- 56 metric tons for an SUV
- 45 metric tons for a sedan
There is, I guess, a greater question of what happens if Americans do indeed all try out an electric pickup, find out it absolutely sucks at towing the half a time per year they bother, and hate these things? Ford seems aware of what’s at stake:
“This vehicle is a test for adoption of electric vehicles,” [Chief Executive Officer Jim] Farley said when the truck was unveiled last May. “We should all watch very carefully how this does.”
I’m not exactly sure what Ford’s contingency plan is if the Lightning flops. Give up? Blame us?
All of that saved CO2 doesn’t come from nowhere! If you want high-range, heavy-ass electric pickups, you’ll need gigantic lithium-ion batteries, and that’s not free, as the Financial Times reminds us all:
Battery manufacturers are confronting a severe lithium shortage, highlighting the need to challenge China’s dominance of raw material supply chains, an Australian lithium producer has warned.
Stuart Crow, chair of Lake Resources, said western companies and governments had failed to build adequate supply chains for lithium, making the sudden boom in electric vehicle manufacturing unsustainable.
“There simply isn’t going to be enough lithium on the face of the planet, regardless of who expands and who delivers, it just won’t be there,” he said. “The carmakers are starting to sense that maybe the battery makers aren’t going to be able to deliver.”
It is perhaps unsurprising that this news is coming out of Australia, the major lithium mining country.
On the subject of cleaner transportation, suddenly Europe seems interested in finding alternatives to natural gas now that the country that sends the rest of Europe natural gas is doing war crimes and ethnic cleansing. From Bloomberg:
Europe’s push to wean itself off Russian natural gas is sparking billions of dollars in new commitments toward building a market for low-carbon hydrogen.
A nearly 450% jump in European gas prices the past year made the green fuel of the future cost-competitive about a decade ahead of schedule, according to BloombergNEF. Now, investment funds are joining governments and utilities in ambitious plans to make hydrogen a viable substitute for fossil fuels in manufacturing, transportation and heating.
“It’s kind of a tipping point,” said Phil Caldwell, chief executive officer at Ceres Power Holdings Plc, a U.K.-based hydrogen technology company. “You’re going to see that capital coming in on a big scale now. There’s no turning back.”
Momentary fads in energy consumption can have real long-term impacts down the road, like the year everyone bought diesel cars in the ‘80s when they were worried Germany would ban leaded gasoline and they wouldn’t be able to freely drive across Europe on vacation.
Things do not seem great for GM in China right now, as Automotive News reports:
GM’s sales fell 21 percent to 613,000 in China in the first quarter compared with a year earlier. Sales of its top-selling Chevrolet brand declined nearly 20 percent in the same period.The lockdown, one of the biggest tests for China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, has forced automakers and suppliers to either try to adapt with extreme measures to keep factories running or to shut down and risk delayed shipments at a time when demand for vehicles is strong.[...]GM said in March its manufacturing facilities were operating normally in Shanghai and were not affected by the city’s lockdown measures.
GM is far from alone in having trouble selling cars in China. Hell, plenty of companies are struggling to build anything, as Reuters reports. First, there’s EV upstart Nio:
Nio Inc. said on Saturday it suspended production after China’s measures to contain the recent surge of COVID-19 cases disrupted operations at key suppliers.
“Since March, due to reasons to do with the epidemic, the company’s supplier partners in several places including Jilin, Shanghai and Jiangsu suspended production one after the other and have yet to recover,” the company said on its mobile app.
“Due to the impact of this Nio has had to halt car production.”
But also Tesla and VW, which are also Shanghai-centric:
Tesla has suspended production at its Shanghai plant since March 28, Reuters reported, after the city started a two-staged lockdown which was later expanded citywide.Volkswagen’s joint venture plant with FAW Group in Changchun, the provincial capital of Jilin, has been shut since mid-March, while its plant in Shanghai with SAIC Motor Corp. has been closed since April 1.
You know, how come nobody ever talks about all the other boring Apollo missions where things didn’t go wrong:
I have now locked my keys in my car two times in two weeks. How long will I keep my streak going? Maybe I can set some kind of record.