NASA's electric car pilot program is 10x better than expected at reducing CO2 emissions

NASA Kennedy Space Center
Public Domain NASA

NASA is running a pilot program at its famous Kennedy Space Center to track real-world data on how much CO2 reduction can be gained by having employees drive plug-in vehicles and charge them at work. 10 employees get free charging in return for filling out spreadsheet each day documenting how many miles they drove, along with road and traffic conditions.

NASA Chevrolet VoltNASA/Public Domain

NASA had some estimates of what the benefits would be, but they apparently greatly underestimated the difference that going electric would make:

"The numbers are 10 times better than we thought we’d ever see," said Frank Kline with Kennedy's Sustainability office. "No one's ever done a pilot where you get actual numbers. It’s always been estimates only. The average car puts out about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile. We're reducing that by 3/5ths by letting you plug in at the Kennedy Space Center."

10 times!

That's not quite in the usual ballpark of a 5% margin of error... But it's the best kind of error, when things are much better than we thought. Hopefully more real-world data - from NASA and others - will help confirm this and maybe help people revise their theoretical models on the impact of plug-ins.

"The numbers are really insane," Kline said. "The program’s first three months only cost $148, and we eliminated over 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over a whole year, we’ll save over 60,000 pounds and that’s just with 10 drivers."

NASA lunar RoverNASA/Public Domain

Above: A different kind of electric vehicle driven by a NASA employee!

"What we're trying to capture is fully electric plug-ins," Kline said. "The hybrid is not that different from gasoline-powered cars. It's better, but if you go electric, that's really where you see the bang for the buck. Fully electric is where we want to be."


See also: BMW showcases 94-MPG BMW i8 plug-in hybrid and i3 EV in Sochi olympics ads (video)

NASA's electric car pilot program is 10x better than expected at reducing CO2 emissions
Too much of what we think we know about the benefits of going electric is based on theoretical models. It's time that more real-world tests were done to show what the real benefits are.

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