Rivian hopes to earn carbon credits for its home electric vehicle chargers

Rivian markets its high-end electric trucks to climate-conscious consumers hoping to simultaneously explore the great outdoors and do right by the planet. Now, the California-based automaker has applied to earn carbon credits for the chargers that power its pickups and SUVs, including those installed in its customers’ homes—an effort that MIT Technology Review is revealing…
Rivian hopes to earn carbon credits for its home electric vehicle chargers

The company, based in Irvine, has earned stellar reviews from customers and automotive critics for the modern design, power, and luxury features of its high-end electric pickup truck and SUV, known as the R1T and R1S

The Verra application states that adding charging infrastructure “encourages increased EV charging and use,” which in turn displaces gasoline-fueled cars and trucks and cuts greenhouse-gas pollution. It estimates that the charging network in question will reduce emissions by 200,000 metric tons per year by the end of a seven-year project period. 

Verra is still reviewing the proposed project, and no carbon credits have yet been issued or sold. 

Andrew Peterman, Rivian’s director of renewable energy, defended the proposal, stating in a prepared response that the program could help accelerate the shift to a carbon-free transportation sector.

“Alternative revenue sources from programs like this not only make the scaled transition to clean electric transportation possible (and at the necessary speed) but enable companies like Rivian to do so while generating a greater positive impact for communities, conservation, and the climate,” he said.

He stressed that the company itself is not using carbon offsets to meet its own corporate climate objectives. Rivian didn’t respond to concerns raised about the inclusion of residential chargers, or to a question about whether it’s already begun inserting language claiming ownership of “environmental attributes” into customer contracts or other documents. 

Credible credits

One of the fundamental tests for carbon offset programs is known as additionality: a project is considered “additional” if it brings about climate benefits that would only have occurred because of the money earned from selling carbon credits. If the emissions reductions were going to happen anyway, the carbon credits weren’t the driver and thus can’t plausibly cancel out another party’s pollution. 

Several observers were skeptical that it passes this test for Rivian to install EV chargers or induce others to do so, given market trends, growing policy support, and some of the company’s own statements. 

Barbara Haya, director of UC Berkeley’s Carbon Trading Project, says the proposal effectively assumes that those chargers wouldn’t be installed without the added funds from carbon credits, even as more automakers produce EVs, more consumers buy them, and more government policies support the purchase of vehicles and construction of charging networks.