Electric vehicles have a weight problem

Ford’s new F-150 Lightning, the all-electric model of its hottest truck, is extra highly effective and sooner than the earlier gasoline variations of the automobile, and designed to tempt truck drivers to decarbonize. However the truck can also be a lot heavier, weighing in at 6,500 kilos, or 35% greater than the gas-powered F-150. That’s largely due to the big battery inside.

A brand new op-ed in Nature appears on the weight of electrical vehicles—and why it’s essential to make them lighter. “What caught my eye within the announcement of the F-150 Lightning was simply how heavy it was . . . after which, when trying extra carefully, simply broadly how a lot heavier EVs are than their gasoline counterparts,” says coauthor Blake Shaffer, an assistant professor within the division of economics and faculty of public coverage on the College of Calgary.

Batteries aren’t as vitality dense as gas, and as vehicles get heavier, they get extra harmful. (Even with out batteries, vehicles have been getting a lot heavier generally: Pickups are actually 32% heavier than they was once.) In a crash between a lighter-weight automobile and a heavier automobile, somebody within the lighter automobile is extra prone to die. Pedestrians are additionally extra in danger. Heavier vehicles additionally trigger extra air pollution from tiny particles that put on off tires, and so they require extra supplies and vitality to provide, including to the full environmental footprint.


Within the op-ed, the authors do a tough calculation to take a look at the societal prices of heavy EVs. “I spotted that this was truly a actually huge quantity,” Shaffer says. “It’s similar to the local weather advantages we’re in search of.” In international locations the place the grid isn’t as clear, the price of the additional lives misplaced due to heavy vehicles can rival the advantages of averted emissions. That’s to not say that electrical vehicles are dangerous, and the case will get stronger because the grid will get cleaner. However the researchers wished to level out that governments ought to be occupied with deal with automobile weight whilst they push for extra EVs.

They recommend that heavier vehicles ought to pay a greater registration payment to assist incentivize shoppers to purchase lighter vehicles. (Registration charges can even assist offset losses from gasoline taxes as fewer vehicles use gasoline.) The federal government can even assist pay for R&D to enhance know-how, so it may be deployed sooner. Some automakers are engaged on methods to include batteries into the body of a automobile to scale back weight, for instance. New supplies in different elements of the automobile may also help make it lighter and stronger, making up for the heavy battery. And cameras, sensors, and different tech already widespread in some vehicles can be utilized to assist keep away from crashes.

Batteries additionally hold enhancing and getting cheaper; thus far, automakers have used these enhancements to spice up the vary and energy of their vehicles. However in some unspecified time in the future, particularly because it turns into simpler to search out a charger wherever, it gained’t be crucial so as to add extra vary—most automobile journeys are quick, anyway—and batteries may shrink.

The authors additionally argue that electrical vehicles aren’t the one reply to shrink the carbon footprint of transportation. “Going from a gasoline automobile to an electrical automobile sort of preserves the present order,” says Shaffer. Highway networks keep in place, and other people proceed their behavior of driving. “The actually huge shift is to vary how we get round,” he says. “That’s the idea of driving much less—that’s about transit-oriented improvement, about extra inner-city density, the place strolling and biking may be extra handy and extra possible, and extra importantly, safer. . . . One of the best ways to scale back the damages from driving is to drive much less.”