Outlawing Diesel Trucks Makes No 'Green' Sense

No year in California would be complete without banning more stuff or pretending the world could run on pixie dust and unicorn farts, and 2022 was no exception. Among the latest targets California’s green czars have identified for elimination are diesel trucks, including the kinds that transport goods across long distances. These heavy-duty vehicles are known in the trucking industry as Class 7 trucks (gross vehicle weight between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds) and Class 8 trucks (gross vehicle weight greater than 33,000 pounds). Cal Matters has the details:

The California Air Resources Board held its first public hearing on rules that would ban manufacturers from selling any new fossil-fueled medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks by 2040. The new rules would also require large trucking companies to convert their fleets to electric models, buying more over time until all are zero-emission by 2042. The move is part of the state’s wider strategy to end its reliance on fossil fuels and cut planet-warming emissions.

The article notes that the weight of electric truck batteries could necessitate relinquishing thousands of pounds of cargo weight, requiring more trucks and drivers on the road. It also explains that California is ill-prepared for the transition to electric trucks because of the lack of charging infrastructure and generating capacity. Still, a number of manufacturers have already introduced Class 8 electric vehicles to the market, including Freightliner, Volvo, Kenworth, Nikola, Tesla, and Lion Electric. Undoubtedly, more will follow suit.

This ought to do it.

A serious question that should precede such a major decision is, does it make sense to deploy electrically powered trucks on a large scale over diesels, especially for long-haul use? Assuming the consequent increase in electric power demands are met and recharging infrastructure is built – hardly a small feat – there are still a number of other factors to consider, such as recharge time, range (on a full charge), economics (including battery replacement and cargo displacement due to battery size and weight), energy efficiency, and environmental impact. Proponents of electric vehicles concede that impact is sensitive to the way in which electricity is generated.

Big diesel trucks can carry 300-gallon fuel tanks and have an average range of over 2,100 miles. Refilling a diesel tank takes relatively little time compared to battery charging, which is prohibitively slow with standard electric charging. A fundamental problem with battery charging is the state of charge approaches full charge inverse exponentially. That means the battery achieves a partial charge quickly, but charging decreases proportionally to the state of charge, and a full charge can take many hours.

As a result, high-power fast direct current charging (DCFC) has been developed to mitigate the delay, but it is expensive and still not widely available. Recharge time is dependent on the truck range and charger power, but as an example, Kenworth states its T680E battery has a range of 150 miles and takes about 3 hours to recharge using DCFC. Bigger batteries with longer range and greater weight are available, but the charge time increases as well. Class 8 electric trucks currently fall short of the long-haul performance of diesels, both in range and delivery schedule.

The cost of achieving greater range in big trucks is heavy – literally. Here are typical range, power, and weight combinations:

A diesel day-cab may weigh about 15,600 pounds, while a comparable electric day-cab with approximately 200 miles of range weighs about 22,000 pounds. A cab with 350-mile range weighs about 29,000 pounds without a trailer. In other words, a Class 8 electric cab with a fraction of the range and significantly longer refueling/recharge time is almost twice as heavy as a comparable diesel cab.

1922: horsepower vs. electric. Which worked better?

Since the premise for electric vehicles rests on reducing CO2 emissions, the next question to answer is, how well do they perform in that regard? A good first step is to measure the fuel efficiency of the two competing end-to-end models, i.e., from the fuel to the vehicle powerplant. Diesel efficiency is easier to assess, since the fuel is in the tank, and there are no real losses from tank to engine.

That leaves measurement of the efficiency of the diesel engine itself. According to a 2014 article, the typical diesel is able convert 52 percent of fuel energy into motion, but a recent breakthrough at the University of Wisconsin demonstrated a combination diesel-gasoline engine that runs cooler, pollutes less, and increases efficiency to 59.5 percent. The Department of Energy has set a goal of 55 percent brake thermal efficiency for big diesels, and Cummins has reported that it has achieved that goal. (The term “brake” refers to the motor’s/engine’s net power output, after internal losses such as friction, and “brake-specific” means relative to the engine’s net power.)

Now let us compare that to the electric vehicle model, whose total fuel efficiency, ηTotal , can be computed in the following way:

ηTotal = ηGeneration ηTrans-Distrib ηCharge ηDischarge ηMotor

Charging and discharging efficiencies are dependent on temperature, state-of-charge, and current draw, but each can be approximated as 90 percent. Transmission and distribution efficiency is about 94 percent, and motor efficiency is around 95 percent. The combined result gives us a total fuel efficiency of electric truck motors from the power plant fuel source to the vehicle motor’s output as

ηTotal  = 0.72∙ηGeneration.

Natural gas combined cycle generators are the most efficient electric generators. General Electric has achieved an astounding 63.9 percent efficiency with its natural gas combined cycle plants. Coal and ordinary gas-fired generators are much less efficient, with numbers between 36 percent and 40 percent. As a result,

0.72∙0.36 ≤ ηTotal  ≤ 0.72∙0.64,
0.26 ≤ ηTotal  ≤ 0.46,

which means the end-to-end fuel efficiency of electric vehicles is between 26 percent and 46 percent with carbon-based power generation. This is significantly less than state-of-the-art diesel engine fuel efficiencies in the 52 percent+ range.

An alternative comparison would be to calculate brake-specific CO2 mass per unit energy for electric truck motors and compare it to the accepted corresponding values for diesel engines. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2021, carbon-based electrical generation produced about 1.338 pounds of CO2 per kWh, which is equivalent to 607 g CO2/kWh (relative to power at the generator output). Converting kWh at the generator to kWh at the motor output is equivalent to dividing 607 g CO2/kWh (generator) by 0.72, giving us a carbon-generated brake-specific 843 g CO2/kWh. Including carbon-free generation methods – currently about 38 percent of total generation – the average brake specific CO2 of electric trucks is diluted down to about 523 g CO2/kWh.

1926: still working on it...

According to 2017 standards cited here and here, heavy diesel trucks must achieve an average brake-specific CO2 of 617 g CO2/kWh, which suggests that, the current average brake-specific g CO2/kWh for electric trucks is only 15 percent less than it is for diesels. It should be recognized, however, that brake specific CO2 is only a part of the analysis. The complete life-cycle fleet-CO2 output is a more accurate picture.

That's because enormous amounts of CO2 are generated in the production of electric vehicle batteries, and the increased battery weight, as noted above, means electric trucks carry significantly more overhead weight. Consequently, cargo pounds per kWh expended is reduced, and more trucks are required to transport the same amount of goods. Considering these additional factors, the advantage of electric trucks over their diesel counterparts is essentially nonexistent. U.S electric power generation would have to get significantly more carbon-free for electric trucking to live up to its billing as “green.”

To make matters even worse, the safe design of lithium ion batteries relies on cobalt as a key component, and the electric vehicle industry is experiencing public relations heartburn because of the awful labor practices and environmental problems of cobalt mining in Africa. Considering the additional upfront costs of the trucks themselves, their relatively short range, and the expansion in power generation and charging infrastructure that would be needed to support electric trucking on a large-scale, the present case for major investment in heavy-duty electric trucks by the long-haul trucking industry is hollow. Whether or not California ultimately bans diesel trucks, the other 49 states would be wise not to follow its lead.

Note: The efficiency analysis to compute ηTotal was kindly provided by engineering Professor Sage Kokjohn of the University of Wisconsin.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Spacing

Oh sure…“Bag the big client,” they said, “Jenny… think of all the good you can do!” and “Run with the big dogs,” they told me, but no one tells you what goes up must come down!

Whatever I imagined, this has been a colossal flop! Here I was planning how to best spend millions of dollars of goodwill only to find we are guilty of the biggest carbon footprint in the history of ever. I mean, this falls somewhere between the atom bomb and the Hindenburg! And all in pursuit of hedonism.

I for one don’t have a problem with hedonism but my client has put himself out there as some sort of social and eco-justice warrior—the arbiter of all that is good and moral, and well… right about now, the hypocrisy is suffocating. And the press didn’t miss a beat.

Space oddity.

First there was “meet the dong rocket” and a lot of dick jokes, which then expanded into “he’s obviously compensating for something.” And yes, in the publicity leading up to the launch we stressed that the rocket’s design, while not original, was safe and less expensive than some sleeker designs.

But late into the evening my phone just would not stop, ding—ding—ding until I just had to shut it off. When I finally turned it on again there were four messages from the space cowboy himself. “Do you see what they are writing about me?” he snarled. But my phone was still blowing up which made a response impossible. 

By the time my breakfast arrived 186,000 people had called for him to stay in space and another petition put it a bit more strongly saying “Do not allow him to return to earth.” Can you even imagine? Embarking on a journey and while you’re away the world asks that you not return? This was bad. And I didn’t know how to fix it. Not since I’d been sacked by the self-help author’s husband had I been this short of breath. There was no time for yoga, and no one to pinch a Xanax from either.

I didn’t want to call Daddy because I could hear him snickering from across the Atlantic. "Ego more like it," he said when finally I did call.

"So it’s not as bad as the Hindenburg?"

"Not at all," he assured me. That was accidental. This is more in the vein of… oh I don’t know… the Kuwaiti oil fires. Because Saddam knew the war was over and he squandered the resources just because he could: "Ego."

'Really, Daddy, Can it really be as bad as all that?"


"No, of course not, baby girl. There’s no risk of tarcrete hardening and killing all the livestock. You just have a pious client who lords his virtue over others, while treating the planet like he’s China."

Daddy was right and I knew it. I stared at the lamp by my bedside while blood rushed to my temples. I was defeated. "Cheer up!" he advised. "It seems you're the only one of his employees he pays well." And with that, he rang off.

The morning opinions were an absolute indictment of the man, and he was guilty as charged. The collusion between big tech and big media, de-platforming Parler, censoring books, killing small business, destroying the environment, crony capitalism… and yet his revenues were up 44 percent.

The plain truth was lockdowns had gifted him a cool $108 billion in revenues. Some clever PR was not going to sugarcoat this. It was time to get my game face on and do my job.

In the car on the way over to the launch site, I googled to see if Richard Branson had borne such wrath but who was I kidding? There was no comparison, and Branson could charm the pants off of Marcus Aurelius. Still reading the Twitter feed on my phone, I applied some lip gloss with my finger and wiped the excess on the carpet between the seat and the car door. Darn, we’re already here. I got out—big smile, and greeted my client by saying, "Seems a good day for it." I didn’t know if it was or not but it seemed the thing to say.

I also don’t know what I was expecting from today, but there was a very casual air about the whole thing. Or maybe everyone was just playing at looking cool. I tweeted, I stood where I was told, I tweeted some more, and the moment was upon us. No astronauts' wives in coordinated shoes and bags, just those of us who had a job to do, or some other connection to the launch and then—whoosh! I didn’t breathe. No one did. I think we were half expecting a big explosion, but I’m glad to report that did not happen.

Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.

I followed as best as I could on my phone and wondered if there was something else I should be doing. All I could think about was the tremendous amount of energy being expelled and wondered what the carbon offset could possibly be. I needn’t have worried as a congressional representative had just tweeted about implementing a space tax to do just that—thus giving way to exposure of his not paying his fair share of taxes, or wages, or infrastructure. It was the same argument lobbed against every sitting oligarch since the beginning of time. But in this case, I couldn’t help but feel it was deserved.

We had talked about his press conference and landing speech—heck I’d written three versions for him, and a pre-taped segment in the event of his death. But he forgot all of that and his swagger rose to the surface. He was so proud of himself, and yes, he bloody well should have been… but admitting he’d managed this on the backs of those he underpaid and overworked, was not the note to play.

I received a ‘?’ text from Daddy, and Judith followed with: "Was that your idea? Not everyone can deliver jokes you know. I should know, I’m one of those people."

Loads of negative rants came pouring in on my phone and disingenuous claims that they would never want to go to space… that the money could be used for so many better pursuits, like hunger and world peace. Well, yes, but baloney I thought. It’s the moon—or nearly. Of course you would go. It was same class division that had been going on since the beginning of time.

Just then Daddy texted, "Í’m very proud of you."

"For crossing over to the dark side?" I texted back.

"No. For doing your job," he wrote. "It's all progress… the money he amassed, the energy I create, the engineers who spend both… it’s all progress. And only a fool would argue that doing absolutely nothing is the path forward."

He was right. And if the last two months had taught me anything, it was that man did not get to the top of the food chain to eat bugs.

One Reduced Methane Emissions Burger, Please!

One solution to the "climate crisis," courtesy of a climatologically woke company that wants to disgust its customers and put itself out of business:

In case you think this is a joke, read on:

Burger King announced Tuesday that it has made a shift in its operations to ensure its cows fart and burp less to fight climate change.

The company — the second-largest fast-food hamburger chain in the world — said it added 100 grams of lemongrass leaves to its cows’ prescribed diet during the animals’ last four months of life to help them release less of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, according to a news release.

The new diet is said to reduce up to 33% of methane emissions per day, on average, in the months before they are turned into the company’s famous Whopper burger.

Think about that the next time you're in the mood for a Whopper and fries:

According to NASAcows release more of the gas when they burp rather than when they fart. A methane-filled belch is the product of the conversion of sugars into simpler molecules for absorption into the bloodstream. A smaller percentage comes from the cow’s large intestine when released via fart, NASA said.

The “reduced methane emissions beef Whopper sandwich” is available in select locations in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, as of July 14.

NASA? What have cow farts got to do with outer space? Here's the real science, and from a "green" source to boot:

Ruminants, and particularly cattle, are habitually cast as climate villains, responsible for large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. According to a much quoted United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figure, livestock are responsible for 14.5 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions.1 Eighty percent of these emissions come from ruminants, half being methane, and a quarter nitrous oxide.

As a result, there are innumerable scientific papers comparing the environmental impact of dairy and beef unfavorably with pork and poultry, with vegetarian diets, with milk substitutes, with test-tube meat and so on. Virtually all of these papers and the FAO’s figure of 14.5 percent are flawed because they employ a formula for equating the climate impact of methane emissions with that of carbon dioxide—through the unit known as “CO2 equivalent”—which is highly misleading.

Read the whole thing. In the meantime, this Burger King campaign sounds like BS to us.