Back in the summer, I took issue with some studies claiming that in some parts of the country, electric cars produce more emissions than their gasoline counterparts. Not only were these studies out of date, I argued, because they used grid data from 2010 (despite radical changes in our electricity mix since then), but they also looked at driving emissions only—not offering a cradle-to-grave analysis of cars' true emissions. Given the incredible amount of electricity it takes to refine gasoline, any analysis that doesn't include well-to-wheels emissions seems, at best, incomplete.
Now the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is back with an update to their State of Charge report on electric car emissions, which in 2012 found that 45% of Americans live in regions where electric cars were greener than every single gasoline car out there. This years' report goes even further, stating that with recent improvements to electric vehicle manufacturing and a greener grid, that figure is up to two-thirds—and that in every region of the country, electric cars are greener than the average gasmobile.
UCS scientists and engineers also calculated that, on average, electric cars produce 50% of the emissions of their gasoline counterparts during the course of their manufacturing, use and disposal—and as demonstrated by the progress since the 2012 report, this figure should only get better as the grid improves. It's also worth noting that many electric car owners and operators are investing in solar too, further driving down emissions per mile, and that some projects are exploring using old electric car batteries to help green the grid—meaning that when you get rid of your battery-powered vehicle, you could be helping to integrate more wind and solar into the grid so that your next car will be even greener still.
Perusing the UCS map above, it looks like my car is getting the equivalent of 63mpg right now, which is a distinct improvement on my previous clunker. I am thinking of titling my next Life with a used Nissan Leaf post as "the smug and self-satisfied installment."
Then again, maybe not.