Are Electric Cars Bad for the Environment?

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Drive behind an electric car and you’ll notice there are no tailpipes. That’s obvious, because electric vehicles don’t create any emissions and have no need for an exhaust system.

Since electric cars don’t create any pollution, they are a great choice for people who want to contribute to a greener Earth by reducing their carbon footprint.

There’s a caveat, though, to electric cars. They don’t create any emissions while driving, but they consume a large amount of electricity that is often produced in ways far more harmful to the planet than the emissions of a regular car.

How do you know if your EV is good for the planet? Read on.

Back in 2013, an argument was made that the Tesla Model S was dirtier than most large SUVs.

That article said,

While the Tesla Model S and other EVs generate “zero tailpipe emissions,” a substantial amount of emissions are generated by the electric power plants that produce electricity to fuel EVs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated that in 2009, on average, each kWh of electricity generated in the United States resulted in the direct emission of 1.22 lbs of CO2.

Just how much an EV pollutes, though, has been hard to measure. Electricity is produced in many locations throughout the U.S. and in many different ways. Some of it comes from coal power, some from water power, some from nuclear power, and some from wind power. The levels of greenhouse gasses attributed to electric cars partly depend on where the electricity they use comes from.

A new calculator at fueleconomy.gov can help people determine the true hit to the environment their EVs create. The website says,

For those vehicles that only run on electricity, the tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions are zero.  Of course, these vehicles do cause emissions at the electric power plant, with amounts varying greatly based on the source of electricity (such as coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, or wind).  Consumers can use our greenhouse gas calculator to estimate GHG missions associated with the production and distribution of the electricity used to charge an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in their region of the country.

In my area, a 2013 Tesla Model S with a 60 kW battery pack will generate 160 grams per mile, compared with a national average for that car of 230 g/mile and an overall new car average of 440 g/mile. A 2013 Nissan Leaf in my area generates just 130 g/mile. A Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid, on the other hand, generates a national average of 480 g/mile.

This is a great tool for environmentally friendly car shoppers, and an eye-opening reminder that EVs still come at a cost to our planet.

Now that electric cars are gaining mainstream popularity, would you choose one over a gas-powered car?

-tgriffith

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing that data – The Tesla is definitely a lot of peoples first dream car! :) The future is on its way

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