EV skeptics have long speculated that EVs powered by grid electricity may be no cleaner in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than ICE vehicles. Well, according to studies by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the University of Minnesota, and Carnegie Mellon University, the opposite is true. On average, EVs produce less well-to-wheels emissions than legacy gas burners.
Another Carnegie Mellon study found that a BEV powered with natural gas-based electricity emits 40% less GHGs over its life cycle compared to a gasoline vehicle (it also found that fuel cell and compressed natural gas vehicles have life cycle emissions comparable to gasoline).
Now yet another study, Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio, which was produced by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has found pretty much the same thing.
Its conclusion is unequivocal: “Today, PEVs [plug-in electric vehicles] are lower-emitting than conventional vehicles, even when accounting for the emissions associated with producing electricity for them.”
The new paper points out that the pollution reductions delivered by PEVs will increase: “Looking ahead, the GHG and air quality benefits of PEVs will increase as the electric sector relies more on cleaner generation. In contrast, a transportation sector fueled primarily by petroleum could result in higher emissions. In contrast to gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles, a PEV gets cleaner as it ages, as the electricity sector grid gets cleaner.
The authors also note electrification’s role in reducing local air pollution: “Transportation electrification can lead to modest but widespread air quality benefits. The study’s models project that PEVs can help reduce ground-level ozone and particulate matter in both urban and rural areas across the country.”