12 votes

Rental companies buy up used cars as chip crisis gets worse

30 comments

  1. [15]
    Adys
    Link
    Starting to think this chip shortage is probably a good thing for the environment given how much it affects car production…

    Starting to think this chip shortage is probably a good thing for the environment given how much it affects car production…

    8 votes
    1. [14]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I don’t know but it seems like it would depend on what kinds of cars are being driven longer?

      I don’t know but it seems like it would depend on what kinds of cars are being driven longer?

      2 votes
      1. [12]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        I always struggle finding research on when it's environmentally best to swap out an old car. What I'm left remembering (which could be totally wrong or outdated by now) is that it's almost always...

        I always struggle finding research on when it's environmentally best to swap out an old car.

        What I'm left remembering (which could be totally wrong or outdated by now) is that it's almost always most environmental to drive a car until it cannot drive any more. The energy costs of making and transporting a new car to its first use are so high. There's also something to be said for raw material use and waste.

        As I understand it, that goes for swapping out petrol or diesel cars with electric ones too. Drive it until it won't drive anymore.


        In that sense, chip shortage is probably great for the environment. Reducing consumption, especially of electronics (that all have a large environmental impact from production) probably makes a significant difference.

        Just like graphic card shortage due to extremely environmentally unfriendly cryptomining ironically has a good environmental impact on consumer consumption of graphic cards

        6 votes
        1. spctrvl
          Link Parent
          Does it? The same number of cards are being produced, but instead of being run with variable loads for a couple hours a day, they're being run at maximum power 24/7 on the cheapest, and often...

          Just like graphic card shortage due to extremely environmentally unfriendly cryptomining ironically has a good environmental impact on consumer consumption of graphic cards

          Does it? The same number of cards are being produced, but instead of being run with variable loads for a couple hours a day, they're being run at maximum power 24/7 on the cheapest, and often dirtiest energy available.

          16 votes
        2. [5]
          whbboyd
          Link Parent
          This is somewhere between wrong and highly misleading, and it's one of the most annoyingly pervasive pieces of anti-environmental astroturfing to come out of the oil industry in recent memory....

          What I'm left remembering (which could be totally wrong or outdated by now) is that it's almost always most environmental to drive a car until it cannot drive any more. The energy costs of making and transporting a new car to its first use are so high.

          This is somewhere between wrong and highly misleading, and it's one of the most annoyingly pervasive pieces of anti-environmental astroturfing to come out of the oil industry in recent memory. Operating a car is exceedingly energy-intensive. You will have spent as much energy operating an ICE as was used to manufacture it somewhere around the 30k-40k-mile mark.

          So: the most environmental thing to do, by a wide margin, is to not own a car, but if you must (as is the case in most of the US), the most environmental time to replace it is, if you can get a replacement that's significantly more fuel efficient, ASAP; otherwise, as late as possible.


          There have been many, many full lifecycle analyses of cars (many comparing ICE and battery electric) in recent years, pretty much all of which have the same general conclusion. Here's a random one I grabbed.

          11 votes
          1. nacho
            Link Parent
            I don't deny that the lifetime emissions from electric vehicles are vastly better than for petrol cars. I have a car. It's already been produced, transported and needs to be decommissioned. My...

            I don't deny that the lifetime emissions from electric vehicles are vastly better than for petrol cars.

            I have a car. It's already been produced, transported and needs to be decommissioned. My choice is whether to continue driving this car, or swapping it out with an electric vehicle.

            On the margin, is it now better for me to continue driving this car, or to swap it out?


            My actual average fuel consumption from driving is 4.53 liters per 100 km over the last 50,000 kilometers I've driven. A liter of petrol emits 2,3 kilograms of carbon dioxide (I'm unsure whether that's CO2 equivalents or just the actual CO2. Sources give the same number without specifying).

            My actual direct CO2 emissions as I drive my existing car are 104,2 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

            You'll notice Vancouver's example (guessing there's lots and lots of idling, city driving etc. here) gets a fuel efficiency of only 253 grams of CO2 per kilometer and spend a whopping 10,9 liters of petrol to drive 100 kilometers.

            The predicted emissions from getting a new Mitsubishi i-MiEV from the paper you link estimating emissions to 203.0g CO2-eq/km given a vehicle lifetime of 150,000 kilometers.

            So Vancouver should obviously switch on the margin to save emissions. I expect that electric vehicles are way more environmentally friendly compared to gas vehicles in city-driving settings.

            The larger the vehicle you're driving, the more positive the environmental impact of driving electric (obviously).


            Things are more complicated with my more fuel efficient car and slow, long distance driving on bad roads.

            But first, Vancouver's example gets even worse. Their emissions are actually higher than they estimate for driving with gas! Depending on gas sourcing and different sources, I should be adding on the order of 30-50% extra emissions from production and transportation of a liter of gas.

            So my 104,2 grams of CO2 per kilometer should probably be closer to 150 grams.

            Mitsubishi i-MiEV from the paper you link estimating emissions to 203.0g CO2-eq/km.

            Do other factors bring me up to that level?


            On the margin, the answer doesn't seem obvious in all cases. Swapping out your small, fuel efficient car may not be the best decision environmentally.

            I was wrong with this being the case for all cars. I don't know whether things have changed with the development of better and better electric cars, or whether it's always been true.

            4 votes
          2. [3]
            AugustusFerdinand
            Link Parent
            I've looked over several of the LCA studies of electrics vs ICE and they always manage to ignore a few things (including the one you linked). They base emissions estimates on the automobile...

            I've looked over several of the LCA studies of electrics vs ICE and they always manage to ignore a few things (including the one you linked).

            1. They base emissions estimates on the automobile manufacturer's location, not where the raw materials are made. Japan has a single lithium mine and even it is brand new (read: not yet used for production). Almost all of the lithium comes from South America or Australia, which is almost exclusively shipped to China for production, which just surpassed the greenhouse emissions for all developed nations combined.. The same goes for pretty much every other raw material in the production of cars in Japan, almost all of it is gathered elsewhere, processed in China, and then sent to Japan for manufacture. So basing the emissions of raw materials of a Japanese electric car on the Japanese power grid is disengenous at best.

            2. While lifecycles are getting stretched as the technology matures, the current expected lifecycle of the battery packs in EVs is the 100,000-150,000km mark. At that point the battery packs are expected to be replaced, but having worked in public sector that's not what governments do, they just replace the entire vehicle. So while the 150,000km mark shows the EV well ahead (by the flawed manufacturing emissions metric listed in point 1), the 250,000km chart is outright incorrect as the EV side would need to at least double just to show the actual lifecycle.

            3. The studies, this one included, never take into account the amount of work the EV can actually do. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (god, that's a pain to type) has a range of 59 miles. Even if we assume the daily workload of the Focus only uses half a tank of fuel, that's 182 miles at the city MPG rate, which would require three of the EV's to complete as it takes 7 hours at 220v to charge it. The Mitsubishi EV battery used for this LCA is pathetically small and makes comparison even more one sided. Anecdotal, but a friend of mine does code enforcement for my city and while Dallas is much larger than Vancouver, his actual territory is about the size of Vancouver and he uses nearly all of the CNG his Civic can carry each day which has an effective range of 180 miles, which is a basis for how far these fleet vehicles are actually expected to be used when equivalent.

            4. And finally, LCA studies that accurately take all aspects into account show that an EV's break even point vs ICE equivalents just happens to be right when the battery/car needs to be replaced at the 100-150k km mark, when you ignore the extremes (unusably small batteries on the low end and dirtiest possible production method on the high end). So as of this time the EV vs ICE debate is a wash.

            Not owning a car is simply not an option for many. If you really want to do the environmentally friendly thing, and it being something that is an option for everyone, simply don't have children. If you take into account the reductions of every other category in that study and do the exact opposite of them in the worst possible way, it's still less carbon emissions than the lowest possible impact of having a child.

            4 votes
            1. Autoxidation
              Link Parent
              I disagree with several points made. 1 really depends on the study. Many use GREET, which does take into account countries where components are produced and adjusts the model accordingly. 2 is...

              I disagree with several points made. 1 really depends on the study. Many use GREET, which does take into account countries where components are produced and adjusts the model accordingly.

              2 is patently false, especially if we're talking about the EV company, Tesla. The Model 3 has a battery pack designed to last between 300,000 and 500,000 miles (480k-800k km). . There are plenty of older BEVs, like Nissan Leafs, that exceed 100k miles.

              On 3, many EVs are coming out with 200+ ranges, which could easily accomplish this task. Additionally, faster chargers exist and are growing. It takes me less than 20 minutes to charge from 20% to 80% on my Model 3 at a supercharger, for example.

              1. I very much disagree with this. There are many, many other studies out there looking at this that disagree with that conclusion, which even stipulates that the 2 vehicles analyzed stand to gain considerably when using renewable sources for production. In the US, Tesla produces their own batteries and sources their own supply chain, so probably has the best grasp on what the actual impact is. They post this yearly in their environmental impact report. They estimate about 55 gCO2e/mi for the Model 3 production in 2019 (or 17 tons for the then 310 mile range AWD), which they expect to be further reduced by adding additional renewable energy sources for the factories. This is comparable to the production of same size ICE vehicle.
              3 votes
            2. Akir
              Link Parent
              Regarding EV battery life, I have some anecdata that might color your data a bit differently. I own a 2012 Nissan Leaf, and the odometer currently reads over 102,000 miles, so it's well above the...

              Regarding EV battery life, I have some anecdata that might color your data a bit differently. I own a 2012 Nissan Leaf, and the odometer currently reads over 102,000 miles, so it's well above the replacement date you provided. It's lost two 'bars' of capacity (out of 12), but strangely it doesn't seem to have lost any noticeable range.

              Regarding the possibility of changing the battery packs out of these vehicles, I've done some research and have been extremely disappointed in my findings. Nissan has a program where they will take old Leaf battery packs and 'refresh' them, which is supposed to rejuvenate the pack so that you can keep your car running for about half of the cost of a battery replacement. But the problem is that this program is only available in Japan, not in the rest of the world.

              While I haven't actually contacted a dealer about the cost of replacing the battery in my car, internet research tells me that the price I would pay can vary drastically depending on a number of variables, not all of which are actually known. There's an arguably official Nissan price of $5-6000 USD, but I've also seen stories of people being asked $15,000. For reference, I purchased this car used for roughly $10,000. On the other hand, I've heard that there's a very small list of independent shops who are willing to work on Nissan's batteries themselves and I have heard tales of bills as low as $1000.

              That being said, there are other reasons why one would want to replace the entire car. I'm a bit lucky that I landed on the 'luxury' trim of this car because it afforded me a backup camera - a safety feature that is now legally mandated in the US. But because of it's age, many features no longer work properly - the on-board GPS is so outdated it's almost useless in cities, and the remote operation features do not work because it relied on 2G cellular networks which have since been dismantled - and it lacks the more advanced safety options as well as basic options that are becoming standard on low-end cars like CarPlay and Android Auto. So consumers are still being pushed towards buying new cars rather than simply fixing the wear on the car they already own. Though if we are talking about fleets, these kinds of things usually doesn't matter in the least.

              2 votes
        3. [3]
          ImmobileVoyager
          Link Parent
          You may be interested in this book : How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee − 2010 IRC, half of the lifecycle carbon footprint of a petroleum-propelled...

          You may be interested in this book :

          How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee − 2010

          IRC, half of the lifecycle carbon footprint of a petroleum-propelled automobile comes from manufacturing. Then the complete environmental footprint is stamped mostly before the car leaves the dealership. I don't know how the manufacturing of electronics accounts in this environmental footprint, but there exists this contradiction that electronics allow for more efficient engines. Theses gains in efficiency have been consistently re-invested, since the 1980s, not in the reduction of emissions nor in fuel economy but in ever more powerfull engines propelling ever heavier vehicles.

          The current and transient slowdown in the global supply of microchips will most likely not make a dent in the global emissions of greenhouse gases for 2021, which will most likely be higher than in 2020, that is 31.5 Gt. (17,100 cubic kilometers)

          Finally, electricity has to come from somewhere. 80 % of the world's electricity is curently generated from the combustion of fossils.

          Bottom line : low-carbon transportation is mostly no transportation.

          (…more…)

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            whbboyd
            Link Parent
            Your recollection is wrong or coming from highly biased sources. It's closer to a quarter to a third. (You are of course absolutely correct that no plausible technology will ever render cars...

            IRC, half of the lifecycle carbon footprint of a petroleum-propelled automobile comes from manufacturing.

            Your recollection is wrong or coming from highly biased sources. It's closer to a quarter to a third.

            (You are of course absolutely correct that no plausible technology will ever render cars environmentally sustainable.)

            3 votes
            1. ImmobileVoyager
              Link Parent
              Besides being wrong or biased, it could also depend on use-case and hypotheses, such as the actual number of kilometers actually traveled over the lifecycle. Carbon accounting and analytics still...

              Besides being wrong or biased, it could also depend on use-case and hypotheses, such as the actual number of kilometers actually traveled over the lifecycle.

              Carbon accounting and analytics still are a young science : methodology and practises are far from a general consensus. Just consider the number of publications focusing on territorial emissions.

              As for being unbiased, this Life Cycle Analysis of Electric Vehicles is tailor-made for municipal purposes, but thanks, I'll read it.

              1 vote
        4. Autoxidation
          Link Parent
          I'll have to dig up the study later, but the answer is really it depends. Recycling of vehicles is actually pretty great. There's a study out there from the early 2000s that showed that driving a...

          I'll have to dig up the study later, but the answer is really it depends. Recycling of vehicles is actually pretty great. There's a study out there from the early 2000s that showed that driving a 1995 Corolla was worse for the environment than buying a newer, more efficient vehicle like a hybrid or BEV.

          At least from an emissions/CO2 standpoint, almost all of the carbon emitted by an ICE vehicle is throughout its use, while both a hybrid and BEV see most, if not all of their carbon emissions at the point of production. Again, this can vary hugely on driving styles, vehicles in question, and the carbon footprint of the electricity generated to power the vehicle. If we're looking at averages, it only takes a couple of years of regular use for a BEV/hybrid to have a lower carbon footprint compared to an ICE vehicle.

          5 votes
        5. skybrian
          Link Parent
          You're hedging a lot but I'm going to stick with being even less certain than that. It's just too complicated and we aren't going to figure it out without a lot of research. Even assuming running...

          You're hedging a lot but I'm going to stick with being even less certain than that. It's just too complicated and we aren't going to figure it out without a lot of research.

          Even assuming running cars longer is likely to be better for the environment, cars tend to have more than one owner. The impact of selling a car is unclear since you would need to decide whether the person who ends up with a car is likely to keep it well-maintained longer than you, and this is usually unknown.

          There are similar issues with buying a car. counterfactuals are really hard and the results of our personal actions are often unclear.

          3 votes
      2. Adys
        Link Parent
        My thinking is these pros and cons: Pros: Reduction in production Higher incentives to repair instead of replacing, both for businesses and consumers Likely to increase cost of cars for a while =>...

        My thinking is these pros and cons:

        Pros:

        • Reduction in production
        • Higher incentives to repair instead of replacing, both for businesses and consumers
        • Likely to increase cost of cars for a while => Higher incentives to switch to other vehicle types

        Cons:

        • Older cars are less efficient on average
        • EVs suffer more than non-EVs

        IMO the pros vastly outweigh the cons. EVs, while better than gasoline cars, are still generally worse than non-car transports, especially on an individual basis. Also, even if something affects all cars, EVs stand at about ~2% of sales right now, and it's not increasing that fast. Even if it were to double this year to 4%, you would still be affecting 25 non-EV for each affected EV.

        4 votes
  2. [13]
    mrbig
    Link
    They could also make cars without fancy chips... here in the third world they're the vast majority and It's just fine.

    They could also make cars without fancy chips... here in the third world they're the vast majority and It's just fine.

    4 votes
    1. [11]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      They are, when it's possible. But many of the chips are for critical functionality, like changing gears on 6-speed automatics, or the fuel controller. You can, of course, build a manual with the...

      They are, when it's possible. But many of the chips are for critical functionality, like changing gears on 6-speed automatics, or the fuel controller.

      You can, of course, build a manual with the old standard of fuel economy, but a) production lines can't change that quickly and very few manufacturers for the US market still make any manual cars and none make ones without fuel controllers and b) tbh basically no one in the US is going to buy one, they'd rather spend more on a used automatic.

      6 votes
      1. [9]
        Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        Bring back manual cars :( I hate automatics but I hate having to special order a car even more.

        Bring back manual cars :( I hate automatics but I hate having to special order a car even more.

        5 votes
        1. [7]
          mrbig
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Manual transmission is awesome if you're in an empty countryside road. If you live in a big city with intense traffic and constant traffic jams, it wears you down pretty fast.

          Manual transmission is awesome if you're in an empty countryside road. If you live in a big city with intense traffic and constant traffic jams, it wears you down pretty fast.

          3 votes
          1. [6]
            Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            Drove manual in mega-hilled San Fransisco and still preferred it to automatic ;) Mostly because I have a hard time focusing and having more things to do and need to keep in mind while driving...

            Drove manual in mega-hilled San Fransisco and still preferred it to automatic ;) Mostly because I have a hard time focusing and having more things to do and need to keep in mind while driving helps make sure I don't zone out.

            3 votes
            1. [5]
              mrbig
              Link Parent
              Here in Brazil automatic transmission is a luxury item. We all drive stick. My city is also hilly and the traffic is insane. I think I'd like to drive automatic, never got the chance.

              Here in Brazil automatic transmission is a luxury item. We all drive stick. My city is also hilly and the traffic is insane. I think I'd like to drive automatic, never got the chance.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                stu2b50
                Link Parent
                To give a contrary (and I suppose, dominant in the US) opinion, I like automatics. Like you said, they're much nicer in my experience in stop-and-start traffic. There, the last thing I want is to...

                To give a contrary (and I suppose, dominant in the US) opinion, I like automatics. Like you said, they're much nicer in my experience in stop-and-start traffic. There, the last thing I want is to be forced to focus on driving, I want to put on a podcast and think as little about driving as possible.

                Modern automatics are quite good now, as well. Even CVTs aren't that much of a drag to drive, and the fuel economy can't be beat by human hands. A gear changing automatic will give you that kick on the highway, and sport trims usually have paddle shifters to give drivers something to fidget with too.

                3 votes
                1. vord
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  I'm sorry for the incoming tirade. Not even directed at you because almost none applies for stop and go, but... I really want to point out that this attitude is a major problem for many people....

                  There, the last thing I want is to be forced to focus on driving, I want to put on a podcast and think as little about driving as possible.

                  I'm sorry for the incoming tirade. Not even directed at you because almost none applies for stop and go, but...

                  I really want to point out that this attitude is a major problem for many people. Driving is a difficult thing to do well and it takes years to train yourself to do all the little things to make you and everyone else safer.

                  • Turn signals. Every time. No less than 3 seconds before turning or merging.
                  • Looking ahead as far as you can. If you see a light turn red half-mile up, let off the gas and coast there. Doubly so on the highway, don't look just at the brake lights for the car in front of you, but for the next dozen. Ease up the gas if you see any at all, and start a gentle brake if 3 cars or less in front of you.
                  • Unless at a standstill, always keep 3 second gap.
                  • Check your sides and rear no less than every 30 seconds. You should have 100% awareness about what cars are behind you.
                  • Always turn your head to check when merging or turning. Mirrors are not as reliable.

                  As far as manuals in stop and go...just sit there and wait until you can coast in first for at least a block. Much traffic would be reduced if people stopped trying to ram up against another person's bumper in stop and go.

                  6 votes
        2. hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          Miata Is Always The Answer I've been driving a 1995 manual Miata in Houston for years now. Prefer it to driving any automatic tbh 🤷 A newer Miata with fancy gear shift assists would be even easier...

          Miata Is Always The Answer

          I've been driving a 1995 manual Miata in Houston for years now. Prefer it to driving any automatic tbh 🤷

          A newer Miata with fancy gear shift assists would be even easier to drive

          3 votes
      2. Litmus2336
        Link Parent
        Yeah, its really a problem of degrees. I'm pretty sure all cars today use fuel injection and computerized start, both which require chips. And ditching them would not be good for the environment.

        Yeah, its really a problem of degrees. I'm pretty sure all cars today use fuel injection and computerized start, both which require chips. And ditching them would not be good for the environment.

        3 votes
    2. Octofox
      Link Parent
      The fancy chips are not in low supply. Its mostly the older process chips and not the cutting edge sub 20nm stuff.

      The fancy chips are not in low supply. Its mostly the older process chips and not the cutting edge sub 20nm stuff.

  3. ras
    Link
    On a personally hilarious note, I've been waiting for a while now to buy a new car. While my current car gets me from A to B just fine, I'm finally in a financial situation where I can afford to...

    On a personally hilarious note, I've been waiting for a while now to buy a new car. While my current car gets me from A to B just fine, I'm finally in a financial situation where I can afford to buy pretty much any reasonable car. I started researching cars in January of 2020 but just couldn't quite commit to one. Now it looks like I'm just going to keep waiting for a while longer.

    2 votes
  4. skybrian
    Link
    From the article: [...] [...]

    From the article:

    In the past, [Hertz and Enterprise] have bought some used cars to shore up an occasional unforeseen burst in demand, but rarely for the mainstays of their fleets.

    [...]

    The demand is sending used-car costs soaring. The Manheim Index, which measures prices at wholesale auctions, shows they’re 52% higher than they were a year ago.

    “We expect to see records in the Manheim Index through June before demand softens enough to align with supply trends,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Cox Automotive, which owns Manheim, the nation’s largest used-car auction. “We expect retail prices to continue to rise into the summer, as retail trends tend to follow wholesale trends with a six-week lag.”

    [...]

    Ford Motor Co.’s production was down 17% in the first quarter and could be off by as much as 50% in the second quarter, the company said on its earnings call. Other companies have a similarly foreboding message.