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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

How Green Is an Electric Car? Depends on Where You Are

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: electric vehicles, transportation, climate change, automobile emissions, renewable energy, carbon dioxide, energy, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Electric car charging in London 

A common criticism of electric cars is that they’ve simply got “long tailpipes”—that is, they still pollute, albeit at the power plant where their power is generated rather than at the auto itself. But this critique ultimately doesn’t hold much air, our sister publication Mother Earth News has found after crunching the numbers on electric car emissions:

In terms of climate change emissions, electric cars are generally much cleaner than conventional gas vehicles. In areas of the country that have the cleanest power generation (more wind, solar and hydropower), electric cars emit far less greenhouse gases, not only compared with conventional vehicles, but also compared with efficient hybrid-electric vehicles. In areas of the country with the dirtiest power generation (coal), an efficient hybrid may be your best environmental bet, though if you’re gentle on the pedal, an electric car may yield comparable results. On a national average basis, an efficient electric car emits about half the amount of carbon dioxide as a conventional car, and roughly the same amount as an efficient hybrid.

Read the full article to learn about all the factors that determine auto efficiency and emissions, and see the accompanying U.S. map of electric car CO2 emissions by region to get a sense of how your area stacks up. 

The next time you hear the long-tailpipe argument, you’ll know enough to challenge this bit of common nonsense. 

Source: Mother Earth News 

Image by frankh, licensed under Creative Commons.