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Amazon’s Move to Electric Trucks Is a Very Big Deal

Amazon’s Move to Electric Trucks Is a Very Big Deal

I see a lot of announcements from companies touting their goals for reducing emissions. Too often, these plans are light on details and leave most of the heavy lifting until well after their current leaders have retired.

This week, we start with a plan that has the makings of a standard-setter because it thinks big and will be taking meaningful steps soon.

I’m Dan Gearino, your guide to the clean energy economy. Send me news tips and questions to dan.gearino@insideclimatenews.org, and thanks for reading!

— Dan

Amazon’s Move to Electric Trucks Is a Very Big Deal

Sometimes a company issues a clean energy plan that is gigantic in ambition and seems to have the elements to deliver on its promises—pretty close to the opposite of greenwashing.

We saw this last week when Amazon announced that it will aim for net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The company is the first signatory of a new initiative it co-founded called the Climate Pledge, in which other companies are encouraged to make the same commitment.

The part of Amazon’s plan that jumps out at me is the conversion of its delivery truck fleet to all-electric models. The company will begin using electric trucks in 2021. It plans to have 10,000 electric trucks on the road by 2022 and have converted its entire fleet—projected to be 100,000 vehicles—by 2030.

The trucks will be manufactured by Rivian, a Michigan-based startup in which Amazon is a major investor. Rivian has yet to produce a vehicle for public sale; its all-electric pickup is set to debut in 2020.

This is an opportunity to deal with a stubborn source of emissions. Transportation accounts for 35 percent of carbon emissions in this country, and trucking is 25 percent of the emissions from transportation.

Amazon, one of the half dozen or so largest companies in the world by market value, is so big that its decisions can transform entire industries.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue,” said Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, who was under intense pressure from employees to urgently take action on climate change. “We’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference.”

By buying 100,000 electric trucks, Amazon would single-handedly create economies of scale that will make it less expensive for other logistics companies to convert their fleets. To run all of those trucks, Amazon will need charging infrastructure, a demand that will accelerate the development of charging systems.

“If this starts the ball rolling for FedEx and UPS and the Postal Service and other logistics companies and delivery companies using electricity, it changes everything,” said Costa Samaras, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has written extensively about energy and climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon’s plan is about more than electric trucks. It calls for the company to use 100 percent renewable energy and cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The cut in emissions is a benchmark toward meeting the net-zero target by 2040. To keep its pledge, Amazon says it will have to offset its emissions. The company doesn’t go into detail, other than to say that the offsets will be “quantifiable, real, permanent and socially beneficial.” An Amazon spokesman had no comment on the offsets beyond what was in the company’s news release.

All of this has another major benefit: It puts pressure on other super-sized businesses to be more aggressive in reducing emissions, Samaras said.

One example I’ll note is Wal-Mart, which operates its own large vehicle fleet and competes with Amazon. The company has a plan, called Project Gigaton, to remove 1 billion metric tons of carbon by 2030 by making changes in its operations and demanding changes by its suppliers.

Amazon and Wal-Mart have deservedly attracted many detractors for their labor practices and their effects on competing retailers. And yet, if these two companies get into a sustainability arms race, that is bound to have wide-ranging benefits.

(Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

 

Source: Clean Economy Weekly

By: Dan

LINK: email from Clean Economy Weekly <newsletters@insideclimatenews.org>

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