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Charging An Electric Vehicle Is Far Cleaner Than Driving On Gasoline
Apr 09, 2018

Charging an electric vehicle is far cleaner than driving on gasoline

Source:Forbes.com     

EVs at L.A. police department


Contrary to what many critics claim, research shows that driving an EV produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cars powered only by gasoline, writes Silvio Marcacci of think tank Energy Innovation in San Francisco. And much less pollution.  This will only get better as the electricity mix becomes cleaner.

 

Driving an electric vehicle (EV) has obvious climate benefits: zero tailpipe emissions. But because EVs are charged by power grids that burn fossil fuels, they aren’t necessarily zero-carbon. An EVcarbon footprint depends on whether its power comes from renewables or fossil, and quantifying exactly how clean EVs are compared to gasoline-powered vehicles has been tough – until now.

 

New data shows that in every corner of the United States, driving an EV produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cars powered only by gasoline, regardless of the local power mix. Today, an average EV on the road in the U.S. has the same greenhouse-gas emissions as a car getting 80 miles per gallon (MPG). That’s up from 73 MPG in 2017, and far greater than the average gas-powered car available for sale in the U.S., which hit a record 24.7 MPG in 2016.

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Union of Concerned Scientists

Average miles per gallon equivalent of electric vehicles, 2018

Average EV emissions have continued to decline over time thanks to accelerating coal plant closures and the decarbonization of America’s power sector (down 28% since 2007), so while burning gasoline won’t get much cleaner, driving on electricity can get cleaner every year – saving billions in health expenses and climate impacts along the way.

Average U.S. EV emissions equal 80 MPG in a gas-powered car

The EV emissions analysis comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and is based on transportation fuels emissions estimates from Argonne National Laboratory and power plant emissions data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

UCS finds driving on electricity is far cleaner than gasoline – charging up an EV equals 50 MPG for 75% of U.S. drivers, and it’s much higher in regions where clean power composes a significant portion of the power mix: 102 MPG in New England, 109 MPG in California, and a whopping 191 MPG in New York State. UCS also provides comparative emissions data down to the zip code via their online calculator – for instance in my Oakland, California zip code the average new car powered only by gasoline gets 29 MPG compared to 114 MPG for an EV.

 

Transportation sector emissions supplanted power plant emissions as America’s top source of emissions for the first time in 2016, while electricity emissions continued a decade-long decline

This difference between gas-powered cars and EVs is important to U.S. climate change concerns. A typical gas-powered car emits around a pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled, and the U.S. reached an all-time high of 3.17 trillion annual vehicle miles traveled in 2016. As a result, transportation sector emissions supplanted power plant emissions as America’s top source of emissions for the first time in 2016, while electricity emissions continued a decade-long decline.

Tailpipe emissions also carry a hefty human health price tag: The American Lung Association says gasoline-powered transportation costs $37 billion in hidden impacts like asthma attacks, premature deaths, lost work days, and hospital visits across just 10 states.  Since Americans won’t stop driving cars any time soon, the cars on our roads must be as clean as possible – to get serious about cutting emissions, we must rapidly electrify transportation.

EV sales increasing in time to tap cleaner U.S. electricity

EV sales are rising in the U.S. just in time to capitalize on the influx of cheap and clean generation coming online across the country. EV prices are falling rapidly, and many analysts project they will soon overtake gas-powered engines as the primary source of new car salesin America.

200,000 EVs were sold across the U.S. in 2017, up from 158,000 in 2016, and sales grew an average of 32% annually between 2012 and 2016. More than 760,000 EVs are currently on the road, and while EV sales are slightly more than 1% of total U.S. light-duty vehicle sales today, they could compose 65% of all new U.S. light-duty vehicle sales by 2050.

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Charging can also become a way to reduce the cost of renewables.  Unlike necessities like lighting, device charging, or air conditioning, electric vehicle charging is one of the most elastic sources of electricity demand – as long as charging is available, fast, and convenient.

America’s rapid power sector decarbonization means EV drivers can go further, cleaner than ever before

Momentary fluctuations from wind and solar due to gusts of wind or cloud cover can be easily offset through managed EV fleet charging, and EVs can soak up excess renewable energy at cheap charging rates when solar or wind electricity is plentiful.

Vehicle electrification is a critical aspect of transportation sector decarbonization, and America’s rapid power sector decarbonization means EV drivers can go further, cleaner than ever before.