Rivian, the California-based electric vehicle (EV) startup, has faced criticism for claiming carbon credits for the chargers powering its EVs, including those in the homes of its customers. The move has raised questions about who has the right to claim the climate impact of using clean technologies like EVs. Should it be the manufacturing company or the buyer? The company’s application to Verra, the world’s largest carbon credits certifier and issuer, is still under review. Rivian has said that its charging infrastructure can cut CO2 emissions by 200,000 tonnes yearly throughout the project’s 7-year period. Each tonne of reduced emission produces one carbon credit.
Rivian has received outstanding reviews from both customers and automotive critics alike for its high-end electric pickups (R1T) and SUVs (R1S). The company applied to Verra last year to earn carbon credits for the carbon emission reductions through the use of its chargers. The EV startup stated that it “retains all environmental attributes” (or carbon credits) from the use of its EV chargers. These credits are tradable in carbon markets and bought by entities looking to offset their own carbon footprint. Rivian’s project proposal with Verra specifically includes Adventure Networks Waypoint chargers (bought by 3rd-party site hosts) and residential or home chargers located in the US. The company clearly stated in the documents that they have the “sole and exclusive” rights to the carbon credits generated by their charging network. That means they have absolute discretion to transfer, sell, or hold those credits as they see fit.
However, Rivian’s claim has been met with criticism, particularly on “additionality” concerns. Not all carbon credits are made equal. The best and credible carbon credits must meet a set of criteria, and one of them is additionality. A carbon credit becomes additional if it delivers climate impact that wouldn’t happen without the revenue from selling the credit. But if the carbon reductions are going to happen anyway, even without the revenue from the credits, then they’re not additional. Rivian’s critics argue that the factors that are driving the growth of EVs and their charging infrastructure, such as policy support and the current rising trends for EVs, mean that the company does not deserve to earn carbon credits for its charging network.
Moreover, some are skeptical of Rivian’s claim to cover residential chargers in their Verra carbon credit proposal. In that case, the company is assuming that the EV chargers won’t be installed without the funds from carbon credits. Not to mention the fact that it’s the customers who pay for the chargers themselves and they can decide to either charge at their homes or not, regardless of the credit revenue. So for critics, it seems not right that Rivian takes ownership of the credits that customers can independently produce. As one skeptic puts it, customers buy the EV, pay for the charger, and pay for the power to charge it. But then others take the credits?
Andrew Peterman, Rivian’s director of renewable energy, noted that this program is crucial in transitioning to clean transportation, saying that: “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.” Commenting on these questions, Peterman said that the additional revenues from selling carbon credits will help speed up the deployment of clean renewable EV charging solutions. He further added that the extra funds also help promote more access to and more affordable home charging solutions. And that’s even more important in states or locations where there are limited utility incentives. Peterman also stressed that Rivian is not using carbon offset credits to meet its own climate goals.
According to 3Degrees, the climate firm that made Rivian’s proposal to Verra, the additional revenue will enable the carmaker to pass on cost reductions to EV owners through lower costs of EV chargers. The climate solution provider also said that “successful project validation and verification is not guaranteed” so the critics come too early. Verra emphasized that for a project to be approved, it has to meet safeguards to be additional, including: below 5% of the maximum adoption potential for EV charging system’s penetration level, and expansion of EV chargers is not mandated by government regulations. With that, Rivian’s proposal does not cover EV chargers in states where existing government crediting programs are in place. So the EV maker didn’t include Oregon and California, for instance.
From the point of view of a Rivian SUV owner, the issuance of carbon credits seems to be questionable if it doesn’t incentivize people to use EVs and install home chargers. However, the company believes that the additional revenue from selling carbon credits will help speed up the deployment of clean renewable EV charging solutions. The extra funds will also help promote more access to and more affordable home charging solutions, which is particularly important in states or locations where there are limited utility incentives.
In conclusion, Rivian’s claim to carbon credits for its charging network has been met with criticism, particularly on “additionality” concerns. The company’s application to Verra is still under review, and successful project validation and verification is not guaranteed. While the additional revenue from selling carbon credits will help speed up the deployment of clean renewable EV charging solutions, some critics argue that it is not right for Rivian to take ownership of the credits that customers can independently produce. Ultimately, the question of who has the right to claim the climate impact of using clean technologies like EVs remains unanswered.