Transportation is the most polluting sector in the U.S., causing 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, according to the EPA. A majority of these emissions, about 60%, come from commercial trucks, fueling massive government legislation to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption.
At Flipturn, our mission is to accelerate electrification and reduce emissions by helping fleets get the most out of their EVs. We often are asked: how much can electrifying commercial EVs really help? Read on to learn about how EVs are better for both climate change and public health, as well as why common misconceptions around battery production and electricity generation are false.
The most complete way to understand the emissions reduction of an EV is by comparing its lifecycle emissions to that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, which is fueled by gas or diesel. Lifecycle emissions account for mining battery materials, manufacturing, operating the vehicle, fueling the vehicle, and disposal.
Studies like this one by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Argonne National Lab show that, in its lifetime, a mid-sized EV has at least 50% lower emissions than its ICE vehicle equivalent, far outweighing the higher emissions from producing the vehicle and its battery. This assumes it is charged with the average U.S. electricity mix and drives about 120,000 miles total over its lifetime.
For a commercial vehicle like an electric pickup truck, even though manufacturing emits more greenhouse gases than producing a comparable ICE truck, it will typically cross the emissions break-even point in only 1.6 to 1.9 years, after which the ICE truck will produce increasingly more greenhouse gas emissions.
Most electricity today is produced through non-renewable sources, such as coal or natural gas. As a result, a common misconception is that charging an EV is no cleaner than an ICE vehicle’s exhaust. However, analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that an electric Ford F-150 Lightning can emit 50% less carbon dioxide per mile compared to its gas truck equivalent when assuming the average U.S. electricity generation mix. In an area like Long Beach, CA, where wind and solar contribute relatively large amounts of energy to the grid, this number is even better at a 66% emissions reduction per mile. If you are curious to see comparisons for your area, use this tool from the Department of Energy
Beyond impacting climate change, commercial EVs have also been found to improve the health of adults and children by reducing harmful particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. These cause adverse health effects including asthma, cardiovascular disease, impaired lung development in children, childhood leukemia, and premature death.
Although heavy duty vehicles represented only 6% of the on-road fleet in the U.S. in 2020, they generated a whopping 55% of particle pollution and 59% of nitrogen oxides emissions. In 2022, the EPA estimated that this impacts around 72 million Americans, many of whom are people of color and lower income households.
In 2022, the American Lung Association found that meeting 2040 government targets to reach 100% medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission sales would have significant health benefits by 2050, including an estimated 66,800 fewer premature deaths, 1.75 million fewer asthma attacks, and $735 billion in public health benefits due to cleaner air.
When analyzing its full lifecycle, commercial EV adoption provides an outsized opportunity to not only help the environment, but also improve public health through reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and harmful pollutants. Analysis from Project Drawdown (with the IEA and ICCT) in 2020 forecasts that increasing EV truck adoption from 1.6% to a very conservative estimate of 8.6% by 2050 would reduce the equivalent of 9.15 gigatons of carbon dioxide. To put this impact into perspective, this is the same emissions we could reduce by eliminating the energy use from 38.4 million homes in America every year until 2050. As a result, we believe that accelerating electrification is one of the single biggest steps toward solving the climate problem.
Flipturn Connect gives you cross-system visibility into your fleet EV and charger operations so you have all the data and insights you need to understand your fleet’s environmental impact, reduce costs, and maximize ROI. With Connect, you can monitor and manage your EV fleet in one place and use key data to make the right decisions faster, manage charging, cut energy costs, maximize utilization, and get the most out of your EVs.