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American EVs reduced gasoline consumption by just 0.54% in 2021 (arstechnica.com)
54 points by mfiguiere 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments

> According to Argonne National Lab, between 2010 and the end of 2021, the US had bought more than 2.1 million plug-in vehicles, including 1.3 million battery EVs. That sounds like a very impressive number, but bear in mind that's out of a total national vehicle pool of nearly 276 million cars and trucks

That seems pretty straight forward. It's not that EVs aren't helping reduce carbon emissions, it's that they still make up a tiny fraction of the overall travel miles in the US.

Seriously. 0.3% percent of new cars in 10 years are electric or partially electric and drove gas usage down by 0.5%? Seems like a victory.

That "news" article could have easily spun it the other way and said EVs have double the influence on gas usage.

IMO tech pessimism sells these days in a way that optimism doesn't, so places like Ars and The Verge lean into it.

Not just tech. Pessimism sells better than optimism regardless of subject matter

Could be hybrids accounting for the rest

But is that really relevant in the end? Is CO2 decreasing?

Yes, by 5.4 million metric tons:

> For 2021 specifically, plug-in vehicles saved about 690 million gallons of gasoline—about two days of consumption—and reduced CO2 emissions by 5.4 million metric tons, consuming 6.1 TWh in the process.

It really doesn't matter if the total CO2 decreases, just that it trends downward. If no downward trend started to trend downward, we wouldn't have any downward trends, would we?

yes by ~0.1% +/- 0.1% (of US output)

Unless over that period increased mileage in gas cars accounted for a bigger reduction, which is the far more likely explanation gives the tiny amount of EVs.

And have you seen how big the other cars are now?

This is great progress in the sense that the semi sized trucks are somehow not eating all of these gains.

(And the next step is to get EVs up into those semi sized trucks and tax the carbon versions to compensate for their environmental damage)

> the next step is to get EVs up into those semi sized trucks and tax the carbon versions to compensate for their environmental damage

Sounds good, but much better would be to get people out of their cars, ICE or otherwise.

In the US, that would require an entire upending of how our country built housing and commercial space. That won't happen without a major shift. People will not want to give up their freedom of mobility.

That much is obvious. Sadly, what's less obvious to many is that we're in for a major shift, one way or another.

Totally agree with you on that.

this will never happen in the USA. they will strike if you try to make them soak up those costs; telling the average american literally everything is on hold because big rigs are all protesting and the voters will come looking for you at your home (if you're a politician). Any such measure is only doable in a country like China where the government has absolute power and even there when pushed too far regular people will starting burning shit to the ground.

I'm getting sick of news sites feeling like they have to add their own color commentary to articles.

The title: "American EVs reduced gasoline consumption by just 0.54% in 2021"

What the title should have been: "American EVs reduced gasoline consumption by 0.54% in 2021"

Stop telling me how to think about things like this, especially when you're so bad at it.

And especially when it's misrepresenting the facts.

They often add a less than flattering picture of the target.

EVs have also been targeting a very specific segment of the market, which is not the most gas guzzling segment. Once EVs really move into the big SUV, pickup truck, delivery vehicle, and 18-wheeler segments, the gasoline consumption reduction will be much more significant compared to the % of vehicles on the road that are electric.

Many newer EVs in the US are big SUVs (Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq) and Amazon is rolling out its new fleet of Rivian delivery trucks. Agreed, once more SUVs and gas guzzler equivalents have EV options it'll make a bigger impact. When my partner and I were choosing an EV, we had a hard time choosing a non-Tesla non-SUV model. (We weren't opposed to the Tesla for Musk reasons, simply that it was a capital cost we weren't willing to spend for the amount of driving we do.)

LA recently bought its first electric firefighting apparatus! [1] is a marketing video talking about it.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AafguE0KZk

Those are not large SUVs. Rivian R1S and the E Hummer are probably closest to a large SUV in the market now

I consider, and have read online, that the E Hummer and R1S are pickup trucks.

The Rivian R1S is an SUV. The Rivian R1T is a pickup truck. They have two different consumer models now.

R1T is the truck. R1S uses the same platform but is a full size suv.

The R1T is closer to a jeep or SUV than a full sized pickup truck. The bed is extremely small, and it has lots of optional creature comforts for camping, etc.

That's fine and all, but I'd expect it to mostly displace range rovers and high-trimline full-sized trucks with spotless paint in the beds.

> big SUVs (Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq)

Have you seen either of those vehicles? I've driven the Ioniq 5, and have one preordered.

It's absolutely tiny, as far as SUV's go. Really it's a crossover, not quite an SUV and not quite a hatchback. It's a delightful vehicle and I can't wait to get mine, mind you.

And the EV6 is smaller.

Both the Ioniq 5 and the EV6 are > 180 inches long. The EV6 has a sleek configuration with lower capacity, so it feels smaller when you are sitting in it, but it’s not the best if you care about cramming your car into small parking spaces like you’d do with a Honda Fit.

I ran into the same issue looking for a new car. :( I wanted something the size of a sedan (originally looking at a Civic or a Jetta) but the market for sedan sized EVs is small. The only model under 50k for 2021 was the Tesla Model 3. It's getting a little better - but the market is still not big.

The Bolt is smaller and cheaper than the Model 3, if you measure size using dimensions like length and width. If you specifically desire a car with a sedan-shaped body, there is a gap in the market, because all the cheap electric cars are hatchbacks.

I didn't get a Model 3 both for budgetary and Tesla reasons. Ended up getting an ICE which works out as my new apartment has no charging at it. Looking at the raw dimensions of the car I did get (Jetta GLI), the main difference is height versus an SUV/crossover. I suppose I do just like sedan shaped cars over others - my mother's Golf is a few inches shorter, but the volume it takes up makes it seem like a boat.

City buses are where EV is needed the most IMO.

The stop and go constantly, barely on the freeway, and this is the kind of driving where EV shines.

And they bletch tons of diesel exhaust on city streets. (Unlike trucks which are mostly in remote areas.)

They also all return to a depot, so there's a good place for them to recharge. The only issue I can see is if there's enough time for them to sit and recharge. But I think it should work out with some good scheduling, since obviously there's much less service at night.

> 18-wheeler segments

That's not going to work so well. Don't they sleep in their trucks on the side of the road? 18 wheeler cabs are almost always on the move, there's not really a lot of time for them to sit and recharge. I expect 18 wheelers to be one of the last segments to go electric.

They will only go electric when every truck stop has rows of fast chargers (so they can sleep and charge), and there's as many chargers as gas stations. This will take a long time.

Or you could have a Troleybus:


Does not need any rails and can navigate much steeper gradients & does not produce any local exhaust emissions.

They together with trams form the backbone of publich transport here in Brno, Czech Republic. Some city quarters are on top of a very steep gradient that buses have an issue to climb yet troley buses don't have a problem due to not really having to lug around a power source, just the powerful electric motor.

Most of the new troley buses now also have small bateries, which make it possible to navigate short stretches (couple km) where there are no troleys. This is super useful for both temporary redirections (where a street hosting a troleybus is being recontructed, it can go around without building new troleys) as well as for branching out to multiple destinations from the regular terminus when necessary.

The couple kilometers of range are really not a problem as the troleybus changes when traveling under a regular troley wire and thus does not need any dedicated charging stations or charging stops.

I really do wonder why more cities, especially in the west don't use more troley buses. My only theory being that they are somehow seen as outdated and not even considered when building new instrastructure.

Buses are pretty bad in absolute terms, but they’re much cleaner on per-person basis (even taking into account they have low occupancy at times.)

Anyway, still it’d be nice to electrify them all, at least for air quality and noise.

> but they’re much cleaner on per-person basis

That's not true. They might have lower CO2, but they are NOT cleaner. Diesel is uniquely bad in terms of air quality. Gasoline cars are very very clean.

Here's a study: https://www.driving.co.uk/news/public-transport-worse-than-d...

Long haul truckers don’t usually just pull off somewhere random and sleep. They sleep in places made for them to park generally. Truck stops aren’t necessarily set up for it in the parking but if the charging is fast enough to get them through without jamming up the works, then it is no problem. But it isn’t impossible to refactor the parking places to accommodate them either.

Plenty of long haul are also team drivers so they switch when they hit their legal limit for consecutive driving hours. So the downtime for charging is a bigger issue in that arrangement.

But there is still a non-trivial number of drivers who are home every night and only drive in a limited area. Range is still a sticking point, but if it is long enough then those trucks are ideal for an EV since they have regularly scheduled downtime.

Short haul trucks are going to be relatively easy to target for electric. That last mile from a distribution center or local delivery is going to be a quick one to solve.

One of the limiting factors for electrifying bus fleets (apart from the additional cost of the buses themselves) is getting enough power to the depots from the grid. Each bus can take 100kW easily for a few hours, so a depot with 50 buses requires a 5MW connection, which is a lot if there isn't spare capacity on the grid near it.

A short term problem for sure but it is causing enormous problems in London (grid is really streched even for new residential towers, so adding a multiMW connection for depots is not trivial whatsoever).

> > 18-wheeler segments

> That's not going to work so well. Don't they sleep in their trucks on the side of the road? 18 wheeler cabs are almost always on the move, there's not really a lot of time for them to sit and recharge. I expect 18 wheelers to be one of the last segments to go electric.

Many of the trucks are out and back within a day, and need to travel only a few hundred miles. These trucks can potentially charge overnight and be ready the next day.

Fully electric buses are pretty common in the UK now and a lot of the rest are hybrid, at least in cities. It makes a huge difference to the air quality when you're on a narrow street that has a bus every couple of minutes like in parts of Manchester and London. I imagine as the fleet turns over they'll get ever more common, although I imagine the lifetime of a bus is pretty long so it won't be overnight.

Mounting large enough batteries for bus EVs is a challenge. Batteries are already a challenge on consumer EVs, but buses are an order of magnitude larger, and generally energy required to propel a vehicle forward is more than linear in the weight of a vehicle. Right now most implementations are in trolley buses that use batteries to compensate for portions of the line that don't have power. I imagine this will change soon but currently most buses that are not powered by gas are using hydrogen fuel cells due to energy requirements.

Really? A local bus company here in the UK now has an all-electric fleet: https://thebiglemon.com/


Work here, we're building them everyday!

BYD already has a massive fleet of BEV busses in China.

I feel that the other segments of the population don’t realize the non-environmental benefits of EVs like not wasting your time at a gas station (including the drive), or wasting time at a mechanic or doing maintenance yourself. From my experience, maintenance is an oil change every 2 years. The caveat is that every 10 years you need to change the battery for which the service is not yet very standard.

I would also imagine that in the event of a disaster that we can restore electricity much faster than being able to deliver gasoline to all gas stations

When people tolerate wasting time in heavy traffic (which they do, since they choose to participate next day as well), wasted time in gas station is probably nothing for them.

Given the popularity of remote work and hybrid work schedules, this isn’t true.

I'm mostly a pedestrian and cyclist and I'd love the quieter streets. EVs make a streetscape so much quieter, it's fantastic. Also echo what the sibling comment says about exhaust and brake dust.

The sooner we can crack down on motorbike noise the better the world will be for people sanity. In the meantime, noise canceling headphones like airpods do wonders for making the streets quiet.

Streets where cars are going under 25 mph, absolutely! It's a huge win in urban areas where speed limits are set appropriately and drivers are respectful of those limits. But much faster than that, EVs are as loud as ICE cars (as they come from the factory). At that point, all you really hear is rolling resistance and drag.

Don't forget about cleaner air from regenerative breaking vs normal break pads.

Sadly, EVs tend to burn through tires. (They're still a massive win for air quality though.)

Yes, due to their weight and that sweet instant torque.

As much as a quarter of the microplastics in our oceans are due to tire wear. So while it's hopeful that EVs represent the future of automobiles, far better would be a society that deprioritizes driving personal vehicles altogether.

This gizmo looks like it would help:


They could also use software to nerf the instant torque. I'd probably leave my car in "tire save" mode most of the time. I leave it in eco mode, but even with that, it's on track to eat a premium set of tires every 15-20k miles(!).

That device is cool. Thanks, I had not seen it.

Yeah, I think as public consciousness progresses, "tire save" mode will be an option, and hopefully the default. Also lighter vehicles, where ICE cars (and cars masquerading as trucks) have a long way to go, as well.

Wow didn't know that!


Although regenerative breaking would be really cool. A self-healing car? Sign me up!

US Postal Service delivery trucks, which to a first approximation do exclusively stop-and-go driving block-to-block day-after-day, get only ~10 miles per gallon. FedEx / UPS / DHL / Amazon aren't much better.

The biggest impact won't happen until the most inefficient cars being used the most heavily get replaced; the big SUVs and showy pickups replacing three year old ICEs version leases and being driven 4,000 miles per year aren't going to do a whole lot.

This is much more than I would have guessed!

Considering how recent ~any level of EV mass manufacturing is v.s. the total stock and new purchases of ICE cars, a material dent seems rather impressive?

Why we always gotta be so cynical ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

On a log-plot, that's a whole lot more than we had a decade ago. Approaching 1% and doubling every few years seems like a wonderful trend.

Now factor in the environmental factors of making the batteries and disposing of them, and account for fossil fuels used to generate power.

Also factor in the environmental and safety issues with having huge batteries on wheels, where defects and accidents turn into conflagrations.

> Now factor in the environmental factors of making the batteries and disposing of them, and account for fossil fuels used to generate power.

This has been debunked to death. EVs already have a smaller environmental footprint and become more efficient as the grid gets greener.

> Also factor in the environmental and safety issues with having huge batteries on wheels, where defects and accidents turn into conflagrations.

It could be worse, imagine if vehicles were travelling around with gallons of extremely flammable liquid stored in thin tanks. I mean, ICEs never catch fire, right?

> This has been debunked to death. EVs already have a smaller environmental footprint and become more efficient as the grid gets greener.

Oh nice. "Debunked." Does that "debunking" just ignore moving a lot of the environmental factors to the global south where the raw materials are mined and processed?

> It could be worse, imagine if vehicles were travelling around with gallons of extremely flammable liquid stored in thin tanks. I mean, ICEs never catch fire, right?

To ignite, gasoline and diesel needs to be at the right 2:1 air-fuel ratio and at the right compression. Even holding a match right next to it, it takes effort to get a pool of it to ignite.

This is more than can what be said about EV batteries. Chevy EVs are banned from parking at my local airport because of their tendency to self-ignite spontaneously. The average Tesla fire, a common occurrence, takes hours upon hours to put out.

On average, EVs have better crash safety than internal combustion engine cars.

As for embodied carbon from manufacturing, and emissions from power plant production, here's a scatterplot of the available cars:


Even in coal country, the EVs have much lower total (manufacturing + fuel) carbon emissions by a large margin.

Also factor in the health and psychological benefits of walking or riding a bike.

The only journeys I can consider using a car for is ones that walking and biking are not practical for, and that public transit is too unreliable/slow for.

In countries with abysmal pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, such as the U.S., and often hostile motorists, your list should sadly include journeys that are unsafe without the added protection of a two ton metal cage in the shape of a car or truck. ;)

This is optimistic news, but I'm curious if worldwide gasoline consumption increased or decreased. Unfortunately Mother Nature does not recognize countries, so if the reductions by some countries are offset by increases in other countries, the overall emissions may be the same or worse.

Anyone who has seen a lithium mining site in person will be a LOT less enthused about EV vehicles in general. And if you actually live near a lithium mining site... lets just say EV vehicles will be the worst thing that's ever happened to you.

Doesn’t this logic also work for oil wells? At least lithium can be recycled. I know the infrastructure doesn’t currently exist, but that’s not to say that it won’t with economies of scale.

I'd rather be beside a Lithium mine than an oil refinery.

easy to say

We need more than EV's, we need better (more frequent, safe, more efficient) public transit, and to be able to afford to live closer to where we work

The second it's cheaper for semi trucks to be electric they will be, and that time is maybe a year off it not here now.

And when electric cars are the same price as gas cars, that's predominately what everyone will buy. A lot of you are flip phone T3-texters in 2008 while a lot of us were buying the iPhone and G1.

For a technology that went mainstream, figuratively speaking, about ten minutes ago, this seems like a big deal.

Americans would probably do a far better job at reducing gasoline consumption by driving reasonably sized cars.

And/or driving less, if not driving at all.

Reasonable to whom? I used to be a small car enthusiast and scoffed at these large SUV people.

Now I have two kids and a large (but not largest) SUV. You get one cuz you need one.

No one needs one. Trivially proven by the fact people had two kids before SUVs existed. And all the people who currently have 2 kids without an SUV.

You chose to prioritize your comfort over other peoples safety.

Many small cars cannot even reasonably fit the car seats required for infants and toddlers. I have a 4 door Hyundai hatchback and my daughter’s car seat only fits with the driver seat so far up it is unsafe for me or the passenger.

My ford edge on the other hand is much safer and can actually fit the legally required seats for my kids. So I need one. Don’t care what you think.

Some seats work better in small cars than others. Walmart, Target and some others will let you try out seats to make sure they fit in your car.

You don't actually need one, I don't know your situation but this is the objective truth for most people. I've raised 4 kids with a 2-door hatchback. I couldn't buy any seat off the shelf, but they've all met the legal standards and performed well.

Worth noting that the Ford Edge is also still relatively medium-sized compared to some other American trucks/SUVs. There are stock pickup trucks that I'd literally need a step ladder to see inside of the engine compartment.

Not necessarily reflective of how people use them. Obviously a lot of people have one bigger than they need, just like people have trucks who don’t actually do things they need a truck for more than once a year, if that.

But the soccer mom stereotype is also real and more families are both busy working parents so it isn’t uncommon for one or a few people to fill all three rows with kids for transport to their sports activities.

Yup. Two kids fit in the back seat of a sedan perfectly fine.

That’s definitely true, but I was a little surprised when a car seat didn’t fit in the back of my midsize sedan without pushing the front seat all the way up. So we (2 tall people) sit drivers seat and other rear seat now.

Most of the planet isn't American and does fine without one. Infrastructure in the US is designed in a specific way to prop up the auto industry and the increasing size of cars continues to do so.

It will take a long time to undo, but there are billions of people living in communities that don't require any car, let alone some 3-4 ton monstrosity (~80% of the world owns no car at all).

Previous to the race to drive the biggest car on the road, even in the US cars were not as large. The common refrain is that safety features inflated the size, which is partially true, but wildly overstated considering there are plenty of smaller cars available today.

There's nothing special about the US that makes cars a requirement by nature.

I have one sibling and we did fine in a Chevy Corvette.

That's a lot in just one year

That's not a little bit.

which means we've reduced fossil fuel consumption much less since most electricity is not "renewable"

Anything optional + opt-in doesn't get used.

Mandate EVs, and suddenly the industry will respond.

The status quo finances oppressive regimes, the Holocene extinction event, and climatic omnicide.

Mandating EVs has already happened in the EU and California.

If car companies want to be relevant in 10 years, manufacturing EVs isn't optional. Others will be happy to take their customers by selling EVs.

Anyone who mandates EVs will be tarred and feathered.

Not to mention EVs are completely unsuitable for places like rural Alaska. They don't even put ethanol in our gas up here (don't tell Joe).

No one will be forced to buy or lease an EV. If you don't want one, you can walk.

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