A recent report suggests that electrical vehicles (EVs) are not always the cleanest option among automobiles when you take into account the source of the electricity used for recharging. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists report on emissions and electric vehicles, in some instances, electric vehicles may sometimes be responsible for more emissions than some very efficient conventional vehicles.
Obviously, the electricity used to charge the vehicle must come from somewhere, and the fuel mix used to produce electricity varies regionally across the US. In areas where the oldest coal-fired plants are a large part of the electrical grid, powering an electric vehicle may be responsible for emissions equal to as much as 340 grams/mile. But, only about 18% of the US population lives in these areas. For the great majority of the country, the mix used to produce electricity is cleaner, meaning that EVs are that much cleaner, too.
Although the UCS report does help make the important point that an electric vehicle is not somehow the perfect solution, it nevertheless should not be taken the other way and presumed to suggest that electric vehicles are some sort of scam being perpetrated on the public. Even in regions with the dirtiest grid, an electric vehicle is still about 20% better than the average new compact car in terms of global warming emissions measured in grams per mile.
EVs also have the potential to get better. If old coal plants are taken offline, and new, cleaner power plants or more non-polluting, renewable energy sources are added to the mix, then the emissions of the EV go down. Vehicles with conventional engines don't have the ability to do anything like that at all.
written by Ron, April 19, 2012
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