Electric Vehicles: Cleanest Automobiles Available Today and Even Cleaner Tomorrow

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 50

Nissan LEAF Emissions in Beverly Hills, CA

Nissan LEAF Emissions in Beverly Hills, CA

Them green naysayers have been proven wrong now on so many occasions that it’s getting to the point where their side of the story no longer holds any merit.

Here, we prove them wrong again.

We’re basically at the point of being done arguing, so we’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

The various graphics presented here are taken straight from the EPA’s “Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator.”

It’s not as if the EPA slung this calculator together overnight.  This is the result of years of research conducted by the EPA and other outside agencies.  The results tell the story: EVs are clean.

The question of whether or not electric vehicles are cleaner than hybrids and the average new automobile is laid to rest as the EPA says that, even when using today’s average American electricity mix of natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar, an electric vehicle, on average, emits half the amount of harmful CO2 per mile as the average new automobile.

There’s no need to take our word for it.  Simply head over to the EPA’s calculator linked above and type in your zip code…Let us know the results in Comments below.

Note: As America’s electricity mix continues to get cleaner, EVs get cleaner, too.

LEAF Emissions in Pittsburgh, PA

LEAF Emissions in Pittsburgh, PA

LEAF Emissions in Detroit

LEAF Emissions in Detroit

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50 responses to "Electric Vehicles: Cleanest Automobiles Available Today and Even Cleaner Tomorrow"

  1. KenZ says:

    Well that was depressing. We’re about a week away from getting a volt, here in green california, but that gives us numbers of 180, just shy of a leaf run on coal. I mean, OK, it’s better than the nat’l average, but…. almost twice that of the leaf. I know, I know, baby steps…

    1. Eric Loveday says:

      That would only apply to Volt’s driven exactly according to EPA testing methodology. If you keep it mostly electric, it’s much cleaner. Most Volt drivers we encounter barely ever dip into the gas.

    2. Spec says:

      190 is not a Leaf on coal, it is a Leaf average. Coal is only around 40% of the grid on average.

      A Leaf on coal would be higher but probably less than the average gas car.

      1. I think that the average electricity from coal is about 38% for the USA – and it is dropping all the time.

        My town has just put in a 1MW solar PV array, that will produce enough electricity to power about 1 in 40 households in the town. It is on our old landfill, so this is a win-win: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/NeilBlanchard/media/Maynard%20MA%20Solar%20PV%20Array/DSC_1645_zps1c35d43b.jpg.html?sort=6&o=0

        So, we are ~2.5% higher electricity from renewable sources than towns without solar PV arrays. As individual homes add solar PV systems, this number will climb higher.

        Other towns in MA are getting 5MW systems, or 25MW systems; also in addition to the residential systems. So, you reduce your electric bill by putting in a solar PV system – and you drive for *even* less money and virtually carbon free!

        http://smg.photobucket.com/user/NeilBlanchard/media/Maynard%20MA%20Solar%20PV%20Array/Ways%20to%20Get%20Off%20of%20Oil/DSCF0780_zps8aac78d7.jpg.html?sort=3&o=3

        Neil

        1. Mint says:

          “average” electricity is a stupid way of doing these calculations, anyway.

          Coal doesn’t ramp up and down with demand. If you add 1000 EVs to a city and they charge at night, their electricity is produced by otherwise idle natural gas plants.

          1. Tom A. says:

            Electricity flows across the nation in regional grids – averages for each grid are the only way to reasonably assess emissions.

            Actually, those 1,000 EVs are charging with those coal plants. Since coal does not ramp up and down easily, the US generates staggering amounts of excess, and often wasted, electricity.

            Studies from gov’t., universities and both political bents are all clear on the fact that the US can add approximately 1 million EVs without requiring a single new power plant from current generation capacities.

            That is how inefficient our system is, and how much we waste due to inadequate grid operations.

            1. Tom A. says:

              At night, I mean. There’s little or no excess capacity during the day, obviously…

    3. Brian says:

      If you own a home, CA has great incentives to install solar panels. Even if you don’t, you can almost always choose to buy green power.

      1. Spec says:

        California does NOT have great incentives to install solar panels. They used to but the program is pretty much out of money now. In some parts of California there is still some money but it is relatively small. But it still makes sense due to the Fed Tax Credit alone.

        http://www.csi-trigger.com/

        1. Brian says:

          I stand corrected. I admit that I haven’t been following CA’s programs lately. I knew they used to. I also know that my system installed pretty much anywhere in CA would produce nearly twice what it does on my roof, helping even more with the payback.

          1. Spec says:

            I’m currently completing my 2nd PV installation. I’m not getting any state incentive but it is still well worth doing. My previous installation was half the size and cost twice as much! This one is a decent size and will provide all the electricity I need for both my house and EV. And if I drive more, I can easily add more panels since it is a microinverter based system. DIY Solar PV is an amazing bargain.

      2. Electric! says:

        ya they use to have great incentives all of them ended now

  2. Ted Fredrick says:

    I live in North LA and have Solar panels. Zero emissions. I am not even an avid enviromentalist but I like the fact that I am making the world a better place for my grandchildren

    1. Ted Fredrick says:

      Bu the Way I drive a Focus electric

      1. Jay Cole says:

        “I drive a Dodge Stratus!”
        …sorry, couldn’t resist

        (for those who had a ‘bedtime’ in the 90s, here is the link)

  3. My recent diatribe against such petrolganda: http://bit.ly/162taDV

    1. Open-Mind says:

      On the flip side, some would say we have a fake climate crisis manufactured from lots of scientifically bad temperature data:

      http://www.surfacestations.org/

      There’s your hockey-stick graph. Would that be “carboganda”? 😉

      (I just love these political threads)

      1. Spec says:

        Yes . . . some would say that. But they are wrong. Even the Koch brothers funded study done by a skeptic ultimately found that the temperature increase was real.

        Science is not politics . . . except to conservatives because they don’t seem to understand it

        1. Open-Mind says:

          Science becomes politics when it’s funded by millionaire politicians like Al Gore who have an agenda that’s driven by power and wealth. I’m skeptical of all such studies, not just those funded by the right.

          Meanwhile, this unfunded grass-roots surface-station study (that I provided a link to) scientifically documents how most of the 1200 U.S. surface stations are reading several degrees hot compared to a century ago.

          Conservatives understand science just fine, but we prefer actual evidence over condescending quips.

          It seems so ironic that liberals are openly angry that none of Gore’s dooms-day predictions have come true. With no warming the last 15 years, you folks should be giddy … you successfully stopped Gore’s dooms-day. Congratulations! 😉

          1. Tom A. says:

            Excuse me, but your name is inaccurate.

            1. Open-Mind says:

              How so? I analyze data from both sides, then I reach a conclusion. That seems open-minded to me.

              Meanwhile, nobody has addressed the substance of the study I mentioned:

              http://surfacestations.org/

              The left treats global warming like a religion, and any evidence to the contrary is just blasphemy to be ignored. That’s just as absurd as those on the right who show contempt for an EV they have never driven or even seen.

              Have a nice day.

              1. Tom A. says:

                First, I don’t see evidence on that page supporting your position. Second, you focus on short-term data. That factors into, but is only part, of the bigger picture.

                Global warming only needs an average (average, not everywhere at every square inch of the planet during every minute of every day) of 2 degrees Celsius to send the climate way out of whack from where we stand today. That means famine due to loss of crops, rising sea levels displacing over a billion people…half of the world’s population lives within 97 miles of the ocean.

                1. Open-Mind says:

                  They’ve photographically documented most (about a thousand) surface-temp stations that are sitting next to transformers, air-conditioners, parking lots, and other artificial heat sources that didn’t exist 100 years ago. And most of them have been refinished with paint (instead of their original white-wash) that absorbs more radiation as heat. As a result, they are all reading up to 4 deg-C above normal.

                  That’s evidence, but I can’t force you “warmers” to read it. Do you like the term “warmers”? I just invented it, since I know the left is fond of one-word labels: gasser, denier, bagger, birther, etc.

                  Also, I noticed you’re trying to change the topic from A.G.W.. to “environmentalism”. So by extension, I must hate the environment, right? Clever ploy … you warmers are tricky. 😉

                2. Tom A. says:

                  Global warming is, by definition, an environmental issue. It affects the environment, and many of the same causes are those that cause smog, etc. What game are you trying to play?

                3. Tom A. says:

                  In fact, global warming is the epitome of environmentalism, the penultimate environmental issue. It is the culmination of all the environmental problems we continue to inflict upon ourselves.

                4. io says:

                  @open-mind (“open” the same way as Fox news is “balanced” I guess):
                  http://realitydrop.org/#myths/42

                  Say your family doctor tells you you or a loved one has some serious health problem which requires treatment.
                  Skeptical, you ask for a 2nd opinion, a 3rd one, then a 4th… unfortunately all doctors say the same thing, come to the same conclusion.

                  Undeterred, you keep going. 30 doctors later, you still haven’t found one which hasn’t confirmed the initial finding.
                  Then, there it is, the 33th one tells you “it’s not happening”, “it’s no big deal” or “nothing we can do anyway”. You decide to trust this one conclusion over the one backed by the other 32 specialists, then cling to whatever snippet of information might confirm that belief, disregarding any other.

                  This isn’t being skeptical. This is being downright delusional.

          2. Ted Fredrick says:

            That is just like evolutionists that get upset when a species goes exstinct. They should be celebrating

          3. Tom A. says:

            Liberals in general, and certainly most of us scientists and engineering types, are concerned with the truth. Greed is generally not in our vocabulary. We are human, so some will be greedy bastards, but they are a small minority in my experience.

            There is no green conspiracy or environmental-industrial complex. Global warming is currently in full swing, and we humans are the root cause of it. Period. It is based on decades of research by 100s of thousands of university, non-profit and gov’t scientists spanning the globe, across all cultural, ethnic and political boundaries.

            That is not a “conspiracy.” That is called a “consensus.”

            You see, most conservatives/republicans blindly put their faith in the Market, from which they derive all moral values. Wall St. dogma requires that the cheapest option is, by definition, the best option. Profit is the true product. Greed is not only desirable, but it is also encouraged unfettered.

            Fools.

            The only way the Market could possibly be the final arbiter of policy decisions would be if the price of the product or service was able to take into account every critical “externality” related to that product or service.

            However, this is not a reasonable expectation. In fact, it is fundamentally impossible. Many of these critical externalities, like pollution and the resulting health problems, are too widespread and economically disconnected to provide a clear cost component to include in, say, the price of a gallon of gasoline or the price of a ton of coal.

            Market lemmings, like all people, project their perceptions, attitudes and behaviors onto everyone else. Unlike the environmental movement, there IS a conspiracy against a shift to renewable energy sources and against minimizing pollution, because the conservative/republican political and business leaders are making mind-boggling amounts of money off of the status-quo.

            And, since profit is the only true product, and the lowest cost is the best solution, then the status-quo must be the best thing to do. If people get sick or die because of the pollution their profits generate, well, that’s OK, because it’s the Market’s Will. In the Market We Trust, after all.

            Obviously, there is a conspiracy against the environmental movement because the conservative/republican behavior and propaganda 1) flies in the face of the scientific facts, and 2) fails to recognize how much money businesses, gov’t and individuals can, and do, save by going green.

            Selfish, ignorant attitudes like these Market lemmings and their puppet masters are non-adaptive and prone to extinction. Unfortunately, we’re all being sucked into the downward spiral of this stupidity and short-sighted arrogance.

            1. Tom A. says:

              In fact, you provided me with an excellent example – you accuse liberals of treating environmentalism as a religion – no, it is a fact.

              Market worship is a religion, flying in the face of facts and rational policy determination.

              1. Tom A. says:

                Environmentalism is not a belief system. It is a factual basis for sound policies.

                Unfettered Markets require belief, because the faith in the system doesn’t stack up to the truth.

                1. Rick Danger says:

                  +1, +1, +1
                  Very Well Said!

                2. Open-Mind says:

                  So Tom, what about this study?

                  http://www.surfacestations.org/

                  Since temperature-averages are the foundation of your entire argument, you should at least be willing to address it. The above study proves those temp averages were based on a century of bad data collected using a faulty scientific method.

                  So far, your only rebuttal to their study has been two false statements:
                  1) That no evidence was provided in their study.
                  2) Their study only had short term relevance.

                  I’m guessing you’ll ignore it again or type another long diatribe smoke screen.

      2. scott moore says:

        Did you know that %36 of statistics are just made up on the spot?

  4. Brian says:

    My leaf scored 120 using my standard local utility. However, I have solar panels on my roof, and whatever they don’t produce I am purchasing from local wind farms. Both of which are a reasonable option for almost anyone in the country. Even with the 1.5cent/kWh premium of wind power, the Leaf is cheaper to fuel than my 2010 Honda Insight…

    1. Aaron says:

      My i-MiEV scored a 190 where I live. We use around 1/3rd coal, 1/3rd natural gas, and 1/3rd “other” sources to generate electricity, if my memory serves me correctly. Not great, but better than average for the i-MiEV (200).

    2. io says:

      Same here, 120 g/mile, whereas it should be zero. As someone else pointed out, the EPA calculator may be well-designed but it is based on pretty old data.

      California power has been steadily getting greener, and hopefully most states follow a similar evolution; compare just 2010 to 2011: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sb1305/labels/

      In an even more decisive move, the utility serving my area has now switched to 100% carbon-neutral electricity for everyone with no rate increase (it remains the 2nd cheapest in the state).
      http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/UTLcarbonfree

      So much for those claiming it can’t be done, it’s too expensive, blah blah.

      With (US-made) solar on my roof further improving those figures, the parts of the car that now both cost and emit the most per mile are… the tires! 🙂
      Love it.

  5. Broc says:

    This calculator is a sad, sad joke!

    “The calculations above assume that 29% of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle’s operation is powered by electricity and the rest is powered from gasoline”

    So regardless of if you have an 11 mile, 20 mile, or 40 mile plug in range it calculates it the same.

    1. Broc says:

      Uh.. I’m wrong it does change the %, to a certain extent based on range (though not as much as I would think it should). Also, I don’t think they are taking into account all factors pointed out in Mark Larsen’s link. So, while its not quite as sad a joke as I thought it still has some flaws that will no doubt be used in the wrong way.

  6. pjwood says:

    NICE JOB GUYS! Soooo much better than that Climate Center (er, whatever) junk.

    The EPA:
    -Assumes a conventional 19.6lbs per gallon of gas (8,887 grams)
    -Assumes a low 25% multiplier, for well-to-wheels, stated in results (even lower than those other guys)
    -Used its eGRID2010 Version 1.1 electricity data, which is from 2009, when coal use was about 10% higher than it was in 2010.
    -California is having the most dramatic reduction, as all their utilities need to demonstrate 20% renewable utilization, for 2013, the first year end compliance under AB32, yada, yada.

    All the above, and they didn’t cherry pick a 52mpg car that wins in maybe 4, or 5, states. Compared to regular cars, it’s no contest, no matter where you live. EV’s are cleaner. Amen.

  7. Nelson says:

    Hey I just thought of something. How much heat (BTU’s) does the average ICE car expel into the atmosphere every hour while running at an average RPM? Multiply that by the number of ICE vehicles added to the world wide fleet every year makes me wonder. I bet if each vehicle came with an (hourly BTU emitted) measure and we collected yearly ICE running data an interesting correlation to the rise in average yearly temperature would emerge.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

  8. Assaf says:

    I don’t think the EPA calculator includes the battery production overhead, which was IMHO the joker in the deck of the climate central report.

    For example, their #s for the 2012 Leaf and the Tesla S are identical – which is impossible if production overhead is included.

    Anyway, Climate Central took the highest possible estimates for battery production overhead – so the EPA numbers are closer to the reality.

  9. Ocean Railroader says:

    They also talk about Green House gases but they never talk about oil or gas saved or not used and money saved. Personally I want to buy a EV so I can go gas and oil free and use a more common source of power. I really don’t care one way or another about green house gases. As for solar panels one of my dreams would be to have a EV and a house covered in solar panels so that I could be independent from gas stations or the bulk of the power grid and their gimmick rules with pricing.

    As for global warming some other place will make up green house gas production by ten times even if we try to cut ours 10%

    1. Tom A. says:

      That’s not an excuse for inaction. I’m not saying you are making it so, but a surprising number of people do, usually people against adaptation.

  10. Nelson says:

    If a country goes 100% clean energy can they sue other countries who pollute the air?
    What gives a country the right to pollute the air?

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

  11. scott moore says:

    As others said, I’m not an EV enthusiast because I believe in global warming. I grew up in LA with fairly unbreathable air, and everyone then seemed to believe there was nothing to be done about it. Really we have done a lot about it, and you have to have lived in LA in the 1960s and 1970s to appreciate how much better it has got. A lot of it was due to cleanups in regular ICE engines and fuel, which by the way are a lot quieter now as well.

    Now we can get air pollution down to zero, or near zero. We don’t need gasoline really. Even power plants don’t really need oil, since there is an abundance of natural gas. I don’t believe that are all that smart about how the planet works that we can say we are permanently changing the climate. But by this same token, not burning fuel that converts to noxious gas and then breathing that seems to me to be basic intelligence.

    Looked at this way, things are going in the right direction now. We can use more and more NG for power generation, convert more and more cars to run off electricity to use that NG indirectly, make an infrastructure that is ready for whatever comes next (the enhanced electrical grid and charger network), and ship more and more domestic oil off to other countries until they wise up and follow the same course.

    The beauty of it is all of this is going to be led by economics. Its cheaper now to use an electric car and its only going to get better. Its cheaper to use solar now and that is only going to get better. The oil and gas prices are higher in other countries, so we can make as much as we want and then sell it overseas. When the whole world gets too intelligent to “burn and breathe” oil, it will still be in great demand as a chemical feedstock (plastics).

    I guess the only real difference between the global warming nuts and me is that I am happy with the way things are.

    1. io says:

      Unfortunately, after accounting for leaks, NG ends up being just as bad as coal for our climate, as methane is a potent GHG. http://realitydrop.org/#myths/107

      Unlike you, I’m not happy with the way things are, and that’s why I decided to put money where my mouth was, and do… just the same as you: go EV + solar.

      Very different reasons, same conclusion — hey, whatever works.

      PS: gas is more expensive in Europe and elsewhere because it’s taxed more. The market for oil is global, it costs about the same everywhere.
      Next, if as you say (and I agree), burning and breathing less oil is a measure of intelligence, I should point out that the US is already, or still, behind almost every other country.

  12. Dave K. says:

    Even the EPA study is biased in favor of gas, the upstream emmissions of oil extraction, refining and transportation are never fully counted. these include a lot of electricity and NG, the oil industry is a huge consumer both of power and the premium fuel to generate it. This upstream burden is rising for gasoline and falling for electricity, so cleaner, and getting cleanerer! If you want to reduce your personal contribution just buy green power, I pay $9/month for enough to cover my cars consumption. There is no green gasoline.