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Study Shows Electric Pickup Trucks Promote Steep GHG Reduction

Sometimes, the obvious must be repeated over and over again. People still try to present electric vehicles as more pollutant than ICE cars despite all the evidence against that. Sometimes, repeating the obvious can be pretty convenient, as a study from the University of Michigan funded by Ford revealed.
Ford F-150 Lightning 13 photos
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The study's main conclusion is that electric pickup trucks offer the most gains in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions compared to their ICE competitors. In other words, selling them instead of pickup trucks with combustion engines would bring the most benefit in the shift to electric mobility.

The convenient part relates to Ford being so close to delivering the first units of the F-150 Lightning: the electric pickup truck will be in customers' hands by spring. Knowing that these trucks will be more beneficial to the environment than other light-duty vehicles such as sedans and SUVs could definitely push sales numbers if Ford needed that. And it doesn’t.

If all 150,000 reservations made until now turn into real purchases, Ford will only manage to sell new F-150 Lightning units by 2024. It is not unlikely that those willing to buy one will have to wait for its second generation. The new electric pickup truck will be presented in 2024 and will already use Ford’s new TE1 platform.

Back to the study, it compared the emissions of combustion-engined sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks to those of its electric competitors from manufacturing until they become junkyard material. The University of Michigan discovered that electric sedans save 45 metric tons of carbon dioxide in their entire lifecycles. When the comparison is between SUVs, the electric one will save 56 metric tons of CO2.

Electric pickup trucks save 74 metric tons of carbon dioxide in their cradle-to-grave cycle despite emitting more CO2 during their manufacturing process. According to the study, they can offset that plus in only 1.3 years of use. Electric sedans take 1.2 to 1.3 years and SUVs powered by a battery are the ones with more trouble to solve that: 1.4 to 1.6 years. These periods were calculated considering “the average U.S. grid and vehicle miles traveled.”

The authors of the study clarify that electric pickup trucks save more carbon dioxide because they are usually heavier vehicles with bigger engines. When these engines are replaced, you burn a lot less fossil fuel. They also state that charging during the day, far from peak hours, makes EV owners reduce the carbon footprint in these vehicles even faster.

The study lost a good opportunity to mention all the pollutant gases that electric pickup trucks help to eliminate, such as NOx (nitrogen oxides), ozone, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, and many others. As important as GHGs are, climate change should not be the only concern involving electric mobility.

On the other hand, it also did not ask if electric pickup trucks are as capable as pickup trucks with combustion engines in getting the job done when towing or carrying cargo. Those are good topics for future research, even if not a scientific one.

Editor's note: The gallery presents images of the F-150 Lightning.

press release

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