The race to cram heavier and bulkier batteries into bigger and bigger electric vehicles gained momentum today when one major automaker CEO finally threw up his hands and asked why.
“I don’t know what’s going on in this industry right now,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said during his company’s capital markets event on Monday. He referenced upcoming electric vehicles with 450-500 miles of range, including a “three-row crossover” that was announced today, likely the new electric Cadillac Escalade.
Higher range will require bigger batteries, he said, adding, “These batteries are huge.”
“These batteries are huge.”
Farley is correct. US automakers are counting on supersized batteries to power their equally supersized EVs — namely, the all-electric trucks that will soon flood the US market. Car companies (probably rightly) assumed that the best way to sell America’s truck-loving population on plug-in power was to electrify a bunch of pickups. And bigger trucks need bigger batteries to justify the bigger range, addressing a concern any truck buyers might have about switching to the electric side.
The Rivian R1T truck and R1S SUV run on batteries as large as 135kWh. The 212kWh battery on the Hummer EV is heavier than the Honda Civic. Chevy announced a higher total range estimate of 450 miles on a single charge for its upcoming Silverado EV. That’s thanks to a 200kWh Ultium battery firing off its electrons under the floorboards of this 8,000-pound behemoth. The Ram 1500 REV includes a 229kWh battery option for a targeted range of 500 miles.
It is not sustainable. Bigger batteries, longer range, heavier trucks…these are not the hallmarks of the sea change the auto industry is trying to sell us. Its proof in support of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We’re swapping bad stuff, like tailpipe emissions, for other bad stuff, like everything involved in mining, refining, and manufacturing EV batteries.
Bigger batteries, longer range, heavier trucks…these are not the hallmarks of the sea change the auto industry is trying to sell us
There are also a number of environmental concerns surrounding these beefcake batteries. EVs are generally heavier than their internal combustion engine counterparts. But many people forget that heavy vehicles are inherently more polluting than light vehicles, even if they emit no tailpipe emissions. All vehicles generate non-exhaust emissions from a variety of sources including rubber tyres, road dust and brakes. This is especially true for electric vehicles, thanks to the added weight from their batteries.
Heavy vehicles are also deadly. When a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by a vehicle the size and weight of a Ram 1500 REV or Hummer EV, they are more likely to die than if killed by a Toyota Corolla. These trucks have a lot to do with their larger dimensions – the boxier front ends and taller hoods are more likely to hit someone in the head or upper torso than a sedan, which is more likely to hit a person in their legs. Is.
Photo by Vajran Pavik / The Verge
But weight also has a lot to do with it. Last I checked, mass multiplied by velocity equals speed. Basic Physics. The heavier the vehicle, the more likely you are to be killed if it collides with it.
To be sure, Farley’s beef with battery size isn’t really about safety or the environment, but rather about cost. Heavier batteries are more expensive to manufacture and reduce profit margins, of which automakers are very protective. Which is why I can give him only partial credit for spotting America’s battery obesity epidemic.
“If you have those kinds of batteries, you’re not going to make money,” Farley said during the TODAY program. “So we’ve got to start talking about battery size for range, efficiency.”
And Ford is also guilty of contributing to the growth of the EV battery arms race with the F-150 Lightning Extended Range Edition with its 1,800-pound, 131kWh battery — about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. He is huge.
I’m glad Farley has come to a conclusion about the volatility of EV battery sizes. Especially if it results in smaller, more efficient batteries in the company’s upcoming EVs (TBD). Did he reach this realization exactly as I wanted? no way. But I’m not going to complain about the journey he’s been on. There is still time left.