The Union of Concerned Scientists just updated their analysis of the emissions of electric vehicles compared to gasoline cars. The advantage EVs offer has only increased since our update last year. So today, the average EV purchased in the U.S. is an 80 mpg gasoline car.
At least 75 percent of Americans live where an EV is cleaner. Much cleaner than a 50 mpg gasoline car would be. And today’s new, more efficient EV models improve on that even further. Therefore, these trends are likely to continue. Especially as coal declines in the electric grid and renewables grow..
New data from the US EPA on power plant greenhouse gas emissions are in. And electric vehicles (EV) in the US are even cleaner than they were before. The climate change emissions created by driving on electricity depend on where you live. However and on average, an EV driving on electricity in the U.S. today is equal to a conventional gasoline car that gets 80 MPG. That’s up from 73 MPG in our 2017 update.
Cleaner electricity means cleaner EVs
Based on data on power plant emissions released in February 2018, driving on electricity is cleaner than gasoline for most drivers in the US. Seventy-five percent of people now live in places where driving on electricity is cleaner than a 50 MPG gasoline car. And based on where people have already bought EVs, electric vehicles now have greenhouse gas emissions equal to an 80 MPG car, lower than any gasoline-only car available.
To compare the climate-changing emissions from electric vehicles to gasoline-powered cars, we analyzed all the emissions from fueling and driving both types of vehicles. For a gasoline car, that means looking at emissions from extracting crude oil from the ground, getting the oil to a refinery and making gasoline, and transporting gasoline to filling stations, as well as combustion emissions from the tailpipe.
An important difference between EVs and conventional cars is that existing EVs can get cleaner—and, over time, they are getting cleaner. It’s difficult to make burning gasoline cleaner, and electricity is trending cleaner over time as we shift away from coal and add more renewables. This means that EVs that sold years ago can run much cleaner than when they purchased. Our first analysis of EV emissions used data from 2009, while this update incorporates 2016 data. By switching between these two maps, you can see the improvement made in many regions of the US.
More efficient EVs now available too
The maps shown above based the efficiency of the average EV. However, there are now options on the market that are even more efficient. Using one of these more efficient EVs (Hyundai Ioniq BEV, Prius Prime, and Tesla Model 3) means lower emissions. With these cleaner EVs, 99 percent of the country is in a region where electricity emissions would be lower than a 50 MPG gasoline vehicle.
How do other EVs compare? Use our EV emissions tool to estimate the emissions from a specific EV in your area.
A trend that’s likely to continue
Electric vehicles produce fewer emissions now because the electric grid is getting cleaner. Over the last ten years, power from coal has fallen from nearly 50 percent to 30 percent. Over the same time, utility-scale renewable power like solar and wind power have grown to make up 10 percent of electricity generation.
This analysis relies on data from power plants for 2016, the most current data that includes details on the geographic location of emissions. However, based on the overall data on from 2017, it looks like emissions will continue to fall. That’s with both coal and natural gas declining. All the while renewable power continues to increase.
In conclusion, falling emissions from electric power over the last decade is most important. However it also highlights the need for work to clean up electricity generation. Especially transportation now. Therefore we are moving in the right direction. Finally with renewable power and growing numbers of EV models. Yet it takes time to replace existing power plants and gas cars. Therefore it’s vital that we accelerate EVs. Finally, even if all power is not yet from renewable or low-carbon sources.
The Green Living Guy, Seth Leitman is a green living expert, celebrity and Editor of the McGraw-Hill, TAB Green Guru Guides. Seth is also an Author, Radio Host, Reporter, Writer and a Environmental Consultant on green living. The Green Living Guy writes about green living, green lighting, the green guru guides and more. Seth's books range from:
# Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Bob Brant and Seth Leitman (2nd and 3rd editions)
# Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman
# Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel
# Green Lighting by Seth Leitman, Brian Clark Howard and Bill Brinsky
# Solar Power For Your Home by David Findley
# Renewable Energies For Your Home by Russel Gehrke
# Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audits by David Findley
# Build Your Own Small Wind Power System by Brian Clark Howard and Kevin Shea
# and more green living books to follow.
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