Political divisions to protecting jobs in ICE vehicle manufacturing – Explore the narratives shaping the resistance to electric vehicles

A number of news reports lately talk about the growing pushback against EVs. A part of this is expected as a much larger share of EVs would mean a lower share for gasoline vehicles. However, there are other factors that are shaping the narrative as well, such as political divisions and protecting the jobs in ICE vehicle manufacturing.

Fig. 1: California’s governor Gavin Newsom seen against a backdrop of junked electric cars | Image: The Post Millenial

The pushback has been particularly pronounced in the US, such as in California. The Republican party there is expected to try and force the state — and other Democrat-led states — away from setting its own EV mandates. California has led the US states in setting the country’s strictest emissions and fuel efficiency standards. The pushback is therefore an attempt to challenge its ability to enact its own mandates at all.

This would have a knock-on effect elsewhere in the US as the country assesses its options to meet the Biden administration’s target of selling 50% EVs by 2030. Also, a new piece of news talks about EVs not being a practical choice for the harsh winters of Alaska, while another study complains about EVs not being a suitable choice for the hot summers of the US. EVs also typically cost more than a brand new, equivalent ICE vehicle, which is why the share of gasoline cars in Europe has been rising despite the proliferation of electric cars.

Meanwhile, major car makers — including Ford — have joined together to state that the 2030 target may not be feasible for the automakers because of supply chain issues. Their concern stems from the fact that the US imported 637,396 tonnes of li-ion batteries from China in 2022. This was a staggering 99% more than in 2021.

Utility has been a point of contention as well. Initially there were several reports of politicians in the US and Australia attempting to dissuade the public from buying EVs, and one of the most persistent arguments against EVs was that their battery-powered drivetrain wouldn’t be able to tow heavy loads. This is important as pickup trucks are a popular category of vehicle sold in both the countries.

However, not all of the pushback has merit.

EVs are suited to all temperatures

Electric cars account for over 80% of all new car sales in Norway in June 2023. Their share has grown from 0.1% of new vehicle sales in the country in 2009 to a world-leading 88% in 2022. The sales are certainly helped by Norway’s extensive list of support measures for the EV industry, but the customers also report satisfactory performances during the country’s winters. EVs are known to lose a significant amount of driving range in the cold as the battery performance dips and more of the charge is used to run the auxiliary functions, such as heating the car’s interiors. Yet, all this really does is increase the frequency of charging.

Fig. 2: EVs charging in the cold in Norway | Image: Electrek

Meanwhile, extremely high ambient temperatures also degrade an EV’s driving range. However, taking adequate steps to protect the EV from prolonged heat exposure helps to minimise any drops in performance.

EVs have consistently improving towing capacities

EVs and ICEVs have two characteristics that are important for moving heavy loads: their payload and their towing capacities. The former refers to the maximum weight a vehicle can carry before its suspension bottoms out, while the towing capacity is how much the vehicle can tow (or pull) behind itself. ICEVs with larger capacity engines (typically above 3.0 litres), such as the popular Ford F-150, have a towing capacity of around 14,000 lbs and a payload capacity of around 3,300 lbs.

For EVs, these two figures started out small. The Tesla Model 3, when first launched in 2016, could only carry 654 lbs as payload and tow 2,000 lbs. The Rivian R1T e-SUV, on the other hand, tops the range at 11,000 lbs and 1,760 lbs, while the yet to be released Tesla Cyber Truck is rated at 14,000 and 3,500 lbs, respectively.

Fig. 3: The Ford F-150 Lightning is an electric pickup truck that offers 10,000 lbs of towing capacity | Image: Ford

The difference in EVs versus ICEVs stems from the fact that the former’s onboard batteries add considerable weight. This limits their ability to pull or carry additional weight as most of the manufacturers prefer to extend their vehicles’ driving range in urban conditions. Yet, the new Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck is rated for a towing capacity of 10,000 lbs, it can haul 1,800 to 2,000 lbs pounds and offers a rated range of 230 - 320 miles on a single charge.

Most importantly, electric trucks and delivery vans are increasingly finding more customers. Amazon’s US delivery fleet is set to grow to 100,000 e-vans by 2030 and the other tech giants are bound to follow.

EVs are getting cheaper

The trend is helped by economies of scale, but also because the US and Europe are starting to invest in their own battery manufacturing capacities. The same is expected to reflect in India as the country is now a member of the Minerals Security Partnership, and has been invited by the EU to join the Critical Minerals Club for EV raw materials. For India, specifically, its EV market is expected to grow to around 1.9 million units by 2030, and the launch of new electric models by Maruti and Tata Motors should spur a further deflation in prices. Moreover, the growing availability of used electric cars will make them even more accessible.

EVs are therefore not as challenging as the opponents claim it to be. The idea is to build its charging ecosystem much faster, like Germany’s possible plan to install EV chargers at 80% of its petrol stations, so that the users are not stressed about drivability. This needs to be supplemented by education campaigns (ideally by the dealerships) to alleviate any undue concerns about the vehicles’ everyday utility.