Electric Vehicles a Good Environmental Choice Everywhere in US, Study Finds

mitsubishi electric car© Lloyd Alter

And They Should Get Better As the Grid Gets Cleaned Up

This is the important conclusion of a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists and it deserves to be put right on top: "No matter where one lives in the United States, electric vehicles (EVs) are a good choice for reducing global warming emissions and saving money on fueling up." That's compared to gasoline-powered cars, of course.

We always knew that the environmental performance of electric vehicles was going to vary by region depending on what the local mix of electric sources is (ie. not the same where there's plenty of wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, etc.. than where there's only old coal plants). Of course, another big environmental goal is to clean up the power grid, so as time goes on and EVs become more mainstream, they should also become cleaner. But the regional variation still matters, and some people have long wondered if in some regions EVs made sense at all.

The UCS report, “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States,” is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the emissions EVs create from charging on an electric grid and how the cost of that charging compares to filling up a gasoline-powered vehicle.

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Broken down by category and divided by electric grid regions, the analysis concludes that in every part of the country, EVs outperform most gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to global warming emissions. The analysis breaks the country into regions that are ‘good,’ ‘better,’ or ‘best’ for an EV.

In fact, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans live in ‘best’ regions where an EV has lower global warming emissions than a 50 mile per gallon (mpg) gasoline-powered vehicle, topping even the best gasoline hybrids on the market. In places like California and most of New York, EV’s environmental performance could be as high as an 80 mpg gasoline-powered vehicle.

“This report shows drivers should feel confident that owning an electric vehicle is a good choice for reducing global warming pollution, cutting fuel costs, and slashing oil consumption,” said Don Anair, the report’s author and senior engineer for UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “Those in the market for a new car may have been uncertain how the global warming emissions and fuel costs of EVs stack up to gasoline-powered vehicles. Now, drivers can for the first time see just how much driving an electric vehicle in their hometown will lower global warming emissions and save them money on fuel costs.”

Money Money

The report also found that wherever EV owners charge their vehicles, they will also save money: "Based on electricity rates in 50 cities across the United States, the analysis found drivers can save $750 to $1,200 dollars a year compared to operating an average new compact gasoline vehicle (27 mpg) fueled with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon. Higher gas prices would mean even greater EV fuel cost savings. For each 50 cent increase in gas prices, an EV driver can expect save an extra $200 a year."

As I say, it's always better to walk, bike, or take transit. But if you are going to drive, an electric car is the best choice right now.

Check out the whole thing at the UCS.

See also: Q&A With Carlos Ghosn on the Future of Electric Cars

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