Yet another study: EVs emit less carbon than legacy vehicles, including electricity generation

Kia Soul EV Nissan LEAF

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.”

So there.

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.”


Source: Electric Power Research Institute

  • Michael B

    Even if it weren’t true, they’d *have the potential to*. Plus, there’d still be a lot of good reasons to go electric (which should be the ones that matter to these skeptics, who don’t really give a bleep about emissions in the first place).

    Quick, quiet, convenient, *domestic energy*, almost no maintenance, no smog fees, smooth ride… to name a few.

    • Wade

      You’ve hit the nail on the head @Timm_E:disqus. It troubles me that those skeptical and/or ignorant pundits have been as successful as they have in undermining the benefits of Plug-In Vehicles.

      • Michael B

        I forgot that they are probably an order of magnitude *safer* as well, although I do not have a reference for that. And… (see reply to Electric Bill, below).

    • Electric Bill

      There is so much arguing about EV benefits or lack thereof, but there is one EV factor that no Tea Party or Libertarian radical can dispute: as long as we buy OPEC oil, some of it will undoubtedly come from the same kinds of psychotic despots as Osama bin Laden, a multibillionaire who made his money selling us his oil– and look what he did with that money: 9/11 and years of other terrorist attacks that would never have happened if we had had the discipline and determination twenty years ago to switch to EVs, keeping those trillions of dollars here at home to use on saner things such as health care, education, roads and bridges and paying off the huge national debt which Reagan put us on the road to.

      If we had made a lockstep national effort to switch to EVs even ten years ago without the self-serving meddling of the likes of the Koch Brothers, we would not even be concerned with Iran’s nuclear program– there would have been no way for them even to consider such insanity, since nuclear weapons require multi-billions of dollars, which they would not have been able to amass without oil sales.

      Ending our dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue no Republican can ignore.

      • Michael B

        And even if all of the oil states were friendly and democratic, the money would still be *leaving our country*, adding to our trade deficit, employment “deficit” and/or national debt, all things which the right (and all politicians, really) rail about non-stop. There’s really no good reason that electrification of all transportation shouldn’t be a bipartisan national priority, other than the fact that somehow they became associated with the “green left”. Probably by a concerted FUD effort by the usual (cough/Koch) suspects.

        • Wade

          The oil industry/lobby isn’t taking to kindly Plug In cars.

      • Wade

        This argument gets murky though. You want trouble with crooks, give them your money every week. You want even more trouble with crooks, quit giving them your money.

  • Tapeguy Tech

    I’m a tree hugging, Leaf driving, solar PV system owning,
    Redneck Southern Republican. Can anyone say oxymoron? I generally hush folks
    with my MPG, even with gas a $2 a gallon for $2 of electricity I can drive 92
    miles. Even if gas goes to $1 I would still be on par with my wife’s Prius.

    • Michael B

      Kudos to you, TT. And I’d argue that you are acting more in line with your principles than all your brethren who think electric vehicles are some sort of greenie/commie plot! Except for hugging trees, now that’s going a bit far. 😉

      • Cape Coral RE Broker

        Yes, this is why the back of my Nissan Leaf says: 100% American Electric. I am proud to keep my fuel dollars here in America. The people working at the Electric company will spend there paychecks here and support other businesses. Every electric vehicle owner is serving his fellow American by supporting American jobs. My hat is off to all of you fellow EV owners. Keep driving clean…

  • francisco moreno

    I want cheap Medium Speed Vehicles to be legal in all 50 states.
    MSV go up to 45 MPH and are for local city driving to do short trips around town.
    China companies are selling hundreds of thousands MSV to there people because there cheap and get the job done. Why won’t our government allow this type of EV on the market? The only inexpensive EVs most people can buy and use legally are Low Speed Vehicles that can only go 25 MPH, is it any surprise that there not a big seller. EVs are great for what they can do well right now and that’s low speed short trips. Look it up “china electric vehicles” and see whats not being allowed on our market.

    • Gary

      Somewhere along the line one of these cars will hit a short stretch at 50+ MPH where they will become rolling roadblocks. Many people already think that EV’s are glorified golf carts. I would rather move forward that backwards.

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