Featured Article

EVs are going backward

Smaller and greener is the future


Illustration of an old car among a bunch of futuristic cars.
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

When you send a rocket into space, you run into a paradox: Around 90% of the weight of the rocket is the fuel that it needs to lift away from Earth. As the rocket accelerates, three things happen: The speed increases, the rocket gets farther away from Earth (and from the gravitational pull of the planet) and as the fuel burns off, the rocket weighs less and so can accelerate faster.

We face a similar problem in the world of EVs, with an obvious exception. Technically, car batteries get heavier as they are charged, but the difference is so small that you couldn’t measure it even with the most precise car scale. However, that doesn’t matter, because when you add more batteries to a car, it must always carry all those batteries. That’s a problem that’s growing bigger as cars themselves get bigger and heavier.

A 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit only had 90 horsepower, but its average fuel economy was 34 miles per gallon. The 2009 version of that car had almost twice the horsepower and all sorts of technology advantages, but its average fuel consumption is a paltry 24.6 miles per gallon. Sure, the engines got more efficient and it has a bunch of new comfort features. It’s safer, too, but it weighs almost 1,000 lbs more.

Weight, more than almost anything else, affects the fuel economy of a vehicle.

It turns out that batteries are quite heavy. The battery pack on a Tesla Model 3 weighs more than 450 kg (1,000 lbs). The Rivian truck’s battery weighs 800 kg (1,755 lbs). And if you buy an EV Hummer, the battery you’re dragging around weighs more than a 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit at 1,300 kg (2,800 lbs).

There’s a better way. American drivers aren’t going to like it, and GM killing off the Bolt line is a huge leap in the wrong direction.

If you’ve driven elsewhere in the world, you will probably have noticed that cars in other countries are quite different. Mostly, they’re smaller and have comparatively daintier engines, too. That’s because in countries where public transportation is easily available, cars become a bit of a luxury. Big, fast cars are even taxed as luxury items. And gas prices are absolutely bonkers compared to what we are used to in the U.S. So people who need cars typically opt for smaller vehicles that are cheaper to begin with and use less gas.

BMW’s early attempts at building an electric car played to this approach very well. The BMW i-3’s looks may be an acquired taste, but the car made a lot of clever technology choices to keep its weight down, even going as far as using a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. Unladen, the car weighs 1,200 kg (2,600 lbs) and it gives you 250 km (150 miles) of range. I owned one for a while and it was surprisingly fun to drive. The light weight combined with 170 electric ponies meant it wasn’t very fast, but it was quick enough.

The Honda E uses a similar approach. Though it’s much heavier than the BMW i-3, it’s small and weighs 1,600 kg (3,500 lbs) and gives you a range of 220 km (136 miles) or so. Fiat is flirting with small EVs — the Topolino is adorable AF but goes even farther in the other direction.

Turning a car electric doesn’t make it environmentally friendly. Driving an EV Hummer is insane: It has roughly the same range as Tesla Model 3 but instead lugs around a 212 kWh battery. That means it takes 2.5 times longer to charge and uses 2.5 times more electricity to drive the same distance. Electricity might give you the soft and fuzzies because there’s no CO2 billowing out of your tailpipe, but that electricity has to come from somewhere.

Only 20% of the electricity consumed in the U.S. comes from renewable energy sources, 11% comes from coal plants and most of the rest comes from oil. That’s pathetic, but it’s a problem that’s hard to solve, especially as electricity demands increase. You could argue that your electric car gets cleaner as the electrification tilts more toward renewable and clean energy sources, but that isn’t a good argument if you replace your gas-guzzling SUV with an EV Hummer.

Automotive efficiency is important, regardless of where your fuel is coming from. The U.S. has for too many years relied on cars, trucks and SUVs that are simply too big for their use cases. If you must drive, smaller, more efficient cars are the future of day-to-day driving. For occasional hauling, it’s possible to rent a truck or a van. All of this boils down to choices and changes in behavior.

It sucks that GM is retiring the Bolt and Bolt EUV cars. With a price tag under $25,000, the Bolts were some of the best-selling, reasonably sized and somewhat affordable electric cars in the U.S. We are moving in the wrong direction: Bigger and more expensive means that EV ownership is becoming less accessible not more so.

More TechCrunch

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

14 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data