The Hummer EV plays a role in cutting carbon emissions

Even though energy-guzzlers like the Hummer EV are inefficient, they still have an important role to play in decarbonizing transportation. Americans love big cars: 20 of the 25 bestselling models in the US are SUVs or pickup trucks. But today’s electric cars are mainly sedans. A new crop of electric trucks and SUVs like Rivian’s R1T, Tesla’s Cybertruck, and the Hummer EV are more likely to attract a (disproportionately polluting) segment of the market that is less inclined to buy electric.

“If you think about the least efficient vehicles on the road, there’s a great advantage to electrifying those first,” said Alissa Kendall, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Davis. “If you can get people who would otherwise be driving gas-guzzlers to drive an electric [version], that’s fantastic.”

Switching from a Hummer H1 to a Hummer EV, for example, would cut a US driver’s emissions by 69%, or 612 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. That’s nearly four times the relative climate benefit of switching from a Toyota Corolla sedan to a Tesla Model Y sedan.

Over time, these indirect emissions should approach zero as utilities switch to renewable energy sources. The recently passed US infrastructure bill aims to make electricity carbon-free by 2035. The more wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy scale up, the cleaner EVs get. In the EU, which has a greener grid than the US, the electric Hummer would emit 10% less carbon per mile than the Toyota Corolla.

“It’s more important that you decarbonize the grid than you worry about the [efficiency of] the electric vehicles themselves,” said Kendall, who noted investing in public transit and smaller EVs is still a better investment in emission reduction than a $113,000 Hummer EV.

But as long as people are buying oversized trucks, switching to a Hummer EV can help curb carbon emissions relative to the status quo. Unless you’re already driving a Toyota Corolla.

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