Much like his bite-first, bark-later German shepherds, President Biden has chomped down firmly on the leg of internal combustion without seemingly giving much thought to his unprecedented attack. Most reporters aren’t giving it much thought either.
First up is obvious EV bias. When Biden announced plans to switch the federal fleet to all-electric over concerns of emissions, most reporters sat dutifully at their keyboards and ate it up like a box of Scooby Snacks. The president will expand EV chargers by 1100%, yes, yes, yes. He really cares about zero emissions, yes, yes, yes.
A few publications—ours included—pointed out late last year how the president didn’t mention hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as part of his zero emissions embrace. Is Shaggy handling his research? It’s concerning to say the least since 65% of the federal fleet is comprised of trucks and the biggest truck engine manufacturer in the world, Cummins, said they’re placing their bets on hydrogen as the zero-emission truck powerplant of the future.
The president has since come around to throwing the hydrogen folks a bone now and then including plans for decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects. But there’s a huge gulf between a demo project and pledging to increase hydrogen stations by 1100%. Currently there’s only 46 hydrogen stations in the U.S.—all of them confined to California according to the U.S. Department of Energy. EV chargers? Glad you asked. DOE lists 41,709 across the U.S. Look for that number to grow to roughly a half-million if Biden has his way.
So if there ever was a zero-emission technology in need of help, it’s obviously hydrogen. But Biden is betting on electric and it’s easy to see why. Seen any fuel cell cars in your town lately? Seen any hydrogen cars raking in headlines and topping the news? Clearly, all-electric cars are getting bigger and bigger sales and much more news.
Nonetheless, H2 enthusiasts are banking on Uncle Joe taking them from the card table in the den to the dining room.
It may take a while just as the president himself continues to hold onto his beloved, emissions-spewing 1967 Chevy Corvette. A presidential campaign video from last August shows him revving it up and taking off with some undeniable tire squeal. But hey, at least the car is green—Goodwood Green to be exact.
It’s been known for years that Biden has a Vette. He’s done other videos about it including with comedian and auto enthusiast Jay Leno. He did a burn-out in that one. I don’t care if he has a Vette. Maybe he’s got a thing for old diesel trucks too. The problem is that he keeps getting a pass for condemning internal combustion and pushing for the national adoption of electric vehicles while revving up his Vette and spewing emissions. Which team is he really playing for? If you follow the money, it’s all-electric while the Vette serves as a PR stunt to rake in gullible supporters. And it also looks to be his guilty pleasure. Obama had his cigarettes. Biden has his Vette.
But there is a solution. Biden could have his classic Corvette converted to all-electric. Zero Labs in Southern California does an impressive job of swapping out engines in classic cars and trucks with battery-powered motors. When it’s done, Biden’s Vette will not only be emissions free, it’ll probably be faster too.
So I’ll keep watching for the press to grill him on his hypocritical embrace of his gas guzzling Vette and also keep watching for questions on EV battery repurposing, recycling and ultimately disposal. With lithium-ion batteries, are we simply trading one form of pollution for another toxic and flammable one? What about battery sourcing? What steps will be taken to ensure that battery elements, namely cobalt, are not mined using child labor as has been the case in Africa?
And what about power outages? While EVs have made impressive leaps in the 21st century, too many power plants are still very vulnerable to severe, natural events like earthquakes, hurricanes and the recent ice storms in Texas.
EVs are promising with much less maintenance requirements and fuel savings but they’re currently not cut-out for demanding workloads that we see in Class 2 – 8. And really, who knows how the first Class 1 electric pickup will really perform compared to internal combustion. I imagine that some applications will be fine so long as the work demand isn’t too great.
Really, given the impressive leaps made into near-zero emissions internal combustion, why can’t conventional engines still be used in areas where air pollution isn’t such a big concern? Hyliion’s zone-sensitive hybrid powertrain in its Hypertruck can switch from all-electric in areas where air quality is a concern to a carbon-negative, renewable natural gas engine for areas that aren’t.
And cleaner engine options are growing with Achates in San Diego which has achieved near-zero emissions with their two-stroke, opposed piston diesel.
Diversity in powertrains and energy sources is key. There’s just too many promising developments with internal combustion to do a dump and run. Speaking of dumps, I understand that Biden didn’t dump the clutch while working the stick shift in his Vette. Too bad the same can’t be said for his transportation plan.