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

3/9/2011 1:01:38 PM

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. 

 



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Post a comment below.

 

Carolinu
5/30/2011 1:30:00 AM
Green as in economical and environment friendly. Americans have been reacting to the gas price hike by changing their car buying habits. Small automobiles that sip from the tank in the lightest manner possible have proven to be the best sellers, as buyers have been avoiding less useful and more costly green choices. The proof is here: Compact cars far more popular than electric cars, cardealexpert.com/news-information .Considering the economic condition in saving expenses.

Roger Dobronyi
3/12/2011 7:44:25 AM
I don't know of any vehicles that can run on water power, wind power, solar power, and coal, and natural gas besides an electric car. Talk about a flex fuel vehicle! If lead acid batteries are used they are 98% recyclable. The electric motors are good for 330,000 miles befre they need their bearings replaced and the good for another 330,000 miles. There are conversion kits on the market right now to convert your present vehicle to electric! If we build an extensive rail system and use electric cars for around town and to get to a train station for long trips, then we would be able to use oil for important things like farming, plastic medical supplies, etc. If a person installs a photovoltaic system or wind turbine they would be saving even more. We need to build wind power and solar power now with the same committment as we had during WWII!

Theo Speaight
3/11/2011 1:05:56 PM
Eventually all the electricity could be from lower polluting sources, which just leaves the problems of rare earth supply, battery energy density, and growth - driver population, living standards, greed... totally unsustainable growth.

Detlef Pelz
3/11/2011 10:40:31 AM
Is it a barometer of our care for our planet, our home, that electric and hybrid cars are affordable only by the better off of the world?



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