New EV vs Old Driver: Which is Better for the Environment? – Advice Eating

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Earth Day was April 22, and its usual message – take care of our planet – has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars takes a look at the technologies we typically cover, from cars to chip manufacturing, and finds out how we can increase their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

For many people, buying an electric vehicle is an investment in the ground –If I drive around the city I will do this while reducing my carbon footprint.

“Gone are the days of burning toxic gasoline. A new age of electrons and instantaneous torque is upon us,” you might say as you stand next to your new vehicle and blue recycling bin.

But like traditional vehicles, not all electric vehicles are equal in terms of their impact on the world. A quick look at the specs and sheer size of the new GMC Hummer EV is all you need to understand where some automakers are willing to take the powertrain — and it’s not for efficiency.

Not all EPA tests are created equal

If you’re trying to determine which electric vehicles are the most efficient, the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy ratings are a good place to start. The EPA ranks electric vehicles based on the amount of energy they use for a 100-mile trip, and the lower the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed, the more efficient the vehicle. For example, according to the EPA, the 2022 Tesla Model 3 RWD uses 25 kWh per 100 miles traveled, while the 2022 Audi e-tron S (with 21- or 22-inch wheels) uses less efficient 52 kWh per 100 miles traveled. (Note that larger wheels usually decrease a vehicle’s range.)

For the 2022 model year, these are the five most efficient vehicles currently for sale based on the EPA’s measurement of energy consumption per 100 miles:

  1. 2022 Tesla Model 3 RWD: 25kWh
  2. 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring: 26kWh
  3. 2022 Chevy Bolt: 28kWh
  4. 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric: 28 kWh
  5. 2022 Tesla Model S: 28kWh

The top 10 were the Model Y, Bolt EUV, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and finally the Kia Niro, all of which had an energy consumption of 30 kWh per 100 miles or less.

Those are impressive numbers, but there’s something else to consider — the adjustment factor used to determine EPA range data. To get these numbers, all electric vehicles are strapped to dynamometers (like a car treadmill) and run until their battery dies. It’s not quite a real test as the vehicles don’t have to deal with changing elevations, wind, asphalt differences and all the various other problems they would encounter on real roads.

To complicate things a bit, some automakers take the EPA’s 30 percent adjustment factor. For example, if a vehicle goes 500 miles on the dynamometer, the automaker takes a 30 percent hit, reducing that range by 150 miles, giving you a 350-mile range on the EPA cycle. It’s the method used by Hyundai, Kia and GM.

Tesla and Lucid are doing something different. They perform additional runs on the dynamometer and are allowed to use these results to determine better adjustment factors. These numbers will help increase your area numbers.

While the EVs listed above are certainly efficient, they are not all tested in the same way and that can lead to discrepancies.

Effects on the factory

As automakers transition to battery-electric vehicles, they are also promoting their current or potentially carbon-neutral factories. A cleaner factory results in a cleaner vehicle rolling off the assembly line. A commendable plan, but for many manufacturers a promise that has not yet been fully implemented.

Tesla appears to be struggling most in this area at its Fremont, California, plant, where it produces all of the vehicles it sells in the United States. In February 2022, the automaker settled with the EPA for violations of the 2016-2019 Clean Air Act. In 2019, the company was fined by the EPA for hazardous waste violations, and in May 2021 the Bay Area fined Air Quality Management District fined the company $1 million for violations, including exceeding permitted emissions.

The Lucid Air will be built at the company’s new Arizona facility. The 500-acre property in Casa Grande, Arizona, began operations in fall 2021, but the company has not yet announced any carbon neutral or energy-saving initiatives at the facility.

The Kia EV6 will be built in Hwaseong, Korea, and Kia announced that it has improved its chemical management and is switching to alternative products for the production of vehicles at the plant.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and Kona Electric are both built at Ulsan Plant 1 in South Korea. The company announced that by 2045 all locations would be carbon neutral and run on 100 percent renewable electricity. There’s still a long way to go.

Finally, the Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV are both built at the Orion plant in Michigan, which uses landfill gas to power the facility.

But other manufacturers do it better. While the Porsche Taycan doesn’t make the top 10 list, the company’s factory in Zuffenhausen is carbon neutral and all electricity comes from renewable sources. This is how it is possible for an automaker to meet its factory efficiency goals; for some it may just take longer.

Porsche had a complicated task of upgrading Zuffenhausen to start production of the Taycan, but it succeeded, and the car's production is carbon neutral.
Enlarge / Porsche had a complicated task of upgrading Zuffenhausen to start production of the Taycan, but it succeeded, and the car’s production is carbon neutral.

Porsche

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