Electric pickup trucks have the most impact on greenhouse gases

By Jenny LescohierMarch 09, 2022

Replacing an internal-combustion-engine pickup with a battery-electric pickup saves 74 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent over the lifetime of the vehicle

A recent study by Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan show greenhouse gas reductions for electric pickup trucks are greater than for light-duty vehicles. 

According to the study, replacing an internal-combustion-engine sedan with a battery-electric sedan saves 45 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, replacing an internal-combustion-engine SUV with a battery-electric SUV saves 56 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and replacing an internal-combustion-engine pickup with a battery-electric pickup saves 74 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent over the lifetime of the vehicles.

Overall, the study reveals that light-duty, battery-electric vehicles have approximately 64% lower cradle-to-grave life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than internal-combustion-engine vehicles on average across the United States.

Researchers also found that battery-electric vehicles have larger greenhouse gas emissions in their manufacturing than internal-combustion-engine vehicles, due to battery production, but this impact is offset by savings in their operation.

For battery-electric vehicles and internal-combustion-engine vehicles, the breakeven time is 1.2 to 1.3 years for sedans, 1.4 to 1.6 years for SUVs, and 1.3 years for pickup trucks, based on the average U.S. grid and vehicle miles traveled.

Major automotive manufacturers are ramping up the production of electric trucks as a key strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their fleets. Light-duty vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks, are currently responsible for 58% of U.S. transportation sector emissions.

Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning is expected to go on sale this spring.

“This is an important study to inform and encourage climate action. Our research clearly shows substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions that can be achieved from transitioning to electrified powertrains across all vehicle classes,” said study senior author Greg Keoleian, a professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability and director of the U-M Center for Sustainable Systems.

“This study can help us to understand the potential impact of electrification from an emissions-reduction perspective, particularly as we introduce new electric vehicles, and how we can continue to accelerate our progress towards carbon neutrality. We’re proud to partner with U-M in this critical work,” said Cynthia Williams, global director of sustainability, homologation and compliance at Ford.

The study, “The role of pickup truck electrification in the decarbonization of light-duty vehicles,” was published online March 1 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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