Climate Central Issues Roadmap to Most Climate Friendly Vehicles in All 50 US States


“An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars.”

Graphic From Cimate Central

Graphic From Climate Central

That there is the opening line from a recent study-based report released by Climate Central.

The report continues by stating this:

“But that is just part of the story. Another critical factor is the carbon emissions generated when a car is manufactured. Emissions from producing the battery and other electrical components create a 10,000 to 40,000-pound carbon debt for electric cars that can only be overcome after tens, or even hundreds of thousands of miles of driving and recharging from clean energy sources.”

“This comprehensive state-by-state analysis of the climate impacts of the electric car, plug-in hybrid electrics, and high-mileage, gas-powered hybrid cars takes both of these factors into account – the source of energy for the power grid and carbon emissions from vehicle manufacturing.”

The interactive infographic above provides most of the details of the study and Table 6 (image to your right) gives more info.  Aside from those, here are some additional findings, as pointed out by Climate Central:

  • “In 39 states, a high-efficiency, conventional gas-powered hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, is better for the climate (produces fewer total “lifecycle” carbon emissions) than the least-polluting, all-electric vehicle, the Honda Fit, over the first 50,000 miles the car is driven.”
  • “In 26 states, a plug-in hybrid is the most climate-friendly option (narrowly outperforming all-electrics in 11 states, assuming 50:50 split between between driving on gas and electric for the plug-in hybrids), and in the other 24 states, a gas-powered car is the best. All-electrics and plug-in hybrids are best in states that have green electrical grids with substantial amounts of hydro, nuclear and wind power that produce essentially no carbon emissions. Conventional hybrids are best in states where electricity comes primarily from coal and natural gas.”
  • “For luxury sedans, in 46 states the gas-powered Lexus ES hybrid is better for the climate than the electric Tesla Model S, over the first 100,000 miles the car is driven.”

Source: Climate Central

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50 Comments on "Climate Central Issues Roadmap to Most Climate Friendly Vehicles in All 50 US States"

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This dramatically points out the problem. To make a sensible electric vehicle, start with a 100 mpg vehicle. The problem is not the batteries, it is our idea of a car.

Suprise Cat

50000 miles is not the lifetime of a car. Create an artificial situation to prove your premade opinion.


Yes. Unless you live in town, you won’t be able to run even 50,000 miles on the original battery pack with current EV’s. If we want any hope of maintaining the suburban lifestyle, we need to build seriously efficient EV’s, and charge them on house top PV.


False. Did you not read the article about the guy with over 76,000 miles on his LEAF’s original pack, with very little lost capacity?


One data point, which is offset by the cars that failed in the Southwest heat.

“If we assume that the LEAF has lost 15% of its capacity, the average rate of degradation should be about 2% / 10,000 miles”

My neighbor leased her’s for three years. She does 15K miles a year. At the end of her lease, and 9% range loss, she will not make it to work and back. Out here in the hinterlands there are no fast chargers, let alone 240 volt charges in public.

Tony Williams
The LEAF is a really bad example for ALL electric cars, since it is the singular EV without any temperature control of the battery. Plus, they use a chemistry that isn’t very smart to use without temperature control: Charles Whalen stated the following before a single LEAF hit the highway: “Cost is one factor in the decision to use LiMn2O4 [LEAF and Volt/Ampera battery] over LiFePO4. Iron-phosphate is relatively cheap, but manganese is even cheaper.” “Furthermore, LiMn2O4 is a safer chemistry than LiFePO4. When they go into thermal runaway, LiMn2O4 reaches a peak combustion rate of 2.5C/min, while LiFePO4 reaches a peak combustion rate of 3.4C/min. Contrast those to the combustion rates of the batteries that Tesla uses — in the Roadster, LiCoO2 reaches a peak combustion rate of 360C/min, and in the Model S, LiNi.8Co.15Al.05O2 reaches a peak combustion rate of 280C/min.” “After extensive evaluation of A123’s LiFePO4 batteries, there were a number of reasons why GM decided not to use them, and to use LG Chem’s LiMn2O4 instead.” “First, A123 is violating the Goodenough/UT/Phostech/SudChemie patents on LiFePO4 batteries. All reputable battery manufacturers (including Johnson Controls-Saft and many others) comply with the Goodenough/UT/Phostech/SudChemie patent licensing. No large, established OEM… Read more »

Yes. The Leaf was a huge disappointment to me. I was one of the first to put down my $99. By the time we could test drive one, here in the middle of the country, I knew I would be waiting a while longer. The Spark is much more promising. Imagine the Spark drivetrain in an EV1!

Josh Bryant

It is interesting reading this statement 3-4 years later. I would like to hear updates from the original commenter. Especially on this one, “That approach works OK for small-scale production of a few hundred cars a year like Tesla is doing, but it’s not practical for large-scale production of tens of thousands of EVs a year.”


Anyone know of a 2013 or 2014 BEV with less than an 8 year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery? I don’t… so where the heck does this 50,000 mile number come from? A study by the American Chemical Society indicates that EV batteries should be good for 15 to 20 years. Good thing, since the average car on the road is about 11 years old, and the average miles/year driven is about 15,000 miles.

Expanding this study to include 150k miles and perhaps 200k miles would be more realistic.

Thomss J. Thias

FALSE- All PZEV & ZEVs sold in California must carry 10 Years, 150,000 Battery, E-Drive Warranty!

If your son is 11 years old now by the time battery warranty is over your son will be in grad school or you may be a Grand Father!


Thomas J. Thias

Twitter- @AmazingChevVolt


My son is in grad school, and doesn’t own a car. his generation will be learning to do without one.

Tony Williams

And battery EVs are required to have 8 year, 100,000 mile warranties (and not required to have a capacity warranty).


@Thomss – The California warranty of 10 years and 150,000 miles ONLY applies to hybrid vehicles, no EVs. EVs all have 8 year 100,000 mile warranties, even in California.

Rick Danger

Once again, another totally BS study.
Hey Climate Central, I’m going to say this one more time s l o w l y:

Charging EVs at night is using FREE ELECTRICITY. It’s made *anyway*, the pollution is created *anyway*, and if EVs don’t charge on it, most of it is WASTED. EVs emit zero pollution at the “tailpipe”, unlike any of the hybrids you mention. EVs therefore are running on free energy (in terms of not having to create more of it for the cars to run on) and they create no pollution doing it. Any questions?

If you can somehow believe that any car that burns fossil fuels that have to be created is cleaner than that, then you obviously have *no* credibility whatsoever.

As for the argument that it somehow takes more energy and causes more pollution to make batteries and electric motors than it does to make the hundreds of parts that go into an ICE, AND to assemble them all, AND to find, extract, refine, and transport the poisonous fossil fuels that they need to run on, AND to include the pollution they make burning those fuels…

You gotta be kidding me. You got to be F-ing kidding me.


Yeah, I keep seeing more of these “studies”. I’m not sure who’s sponsoring them, but it’s obvious they are anti-EV. They never account for all the electricity used to create a gallon of gas, ship it around the country, keep it at a powered station, and pump it to your tank. They also never mention the amount of electricity used to melt metal to cast an engine block, all the equipment used to machine it, then they have to be shipped (many times from out of the country). That is just the block, you have headers, pistons, etc. And if creating batteries creates so much C02, why do the smaller batteries in hybrids not count? Do they ever release all of their raw data or calculations.. nope (because it’s all smoke & mirrors)


This study accounts for the energy used in most of the things that you just stated that it doesn’t: Upstream gasoline energy, energy for the engine/frame manufacturing, and the lower energy required for smaller non-plugin hybrid batteries.

If you had glanced even briefly at the report, you would’ve seen that.


I looked at it. It’s the same as all the others. They just site other studies but never give the data. The WHOLE cusp of their argument is that it takes a lot of energy to make a battery. Seems like if this is what their entire argument is based on, they should provide more detailed information on it. But then we would see behind the curtain.


I just emailed the 3 authors, politely, and asked them the 2 main questions (the true footprint of EVs if they charge during fossil-plants’ wasted off-peak hours, and whether the true wells-to-wheels overhead of gasoline is accounted for).

They don’t seem to be shills to me, and the organization seems credible – so I will wait for their answer. I urge everyone reading this comment to do the same.,,

Thomss J. Thias

US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn), US Senate floor, spring, 2011.
‘Amount of unused electricity at night equals the output of 65- 70 nuclear powerplants…’


Thomas J. Thias

Twitter- @AmazingChevVolt

Tom A.

If true, that’s incredible. Politically, it is critical that it is coming from a gop. His fellow gops will have a harder time ignoring him than they do common sense (I mean, liberals, *cough*).

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he represents TN, the state that has the Nissan Leaf factory and battery plant that makes all Leafs sold in North America.

Brian Henderson
This is nonsense, an electric vehicle produce no emissions and is just as clean running no matter what road they travel. A real study would analyse the electricity used by electric vehicles (EVs) by studing what type of electricity EVs “use” to charge; not what type of electricity comes out of power plants. What the Climate Central (CC) group has done is look at “electricity production” in each state. EVs are not distributed equally among all states and neither is the amount and type of power produced. There are a many mismatches with the CC report. 1) Electricity “produced” in a state is not all “used” in that state. The electric utilities share a grid region with some states producing more/less than their needs. eg: Washington state produces a great surplus of hydro used by CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, SD, UT, & WY depending on loads & seasons. Ignored is the import of cleaner power from Canada. BC, MB, ON, & QB have vast hydro plants with a surplus much of the year. eg: ND while producing mostly coal-based power, actually uses a much cleaner mix of electricity. Other bordering states share similar advantage, particularly in the Greatlakes &… Read more »

All those climate studies are missing one major point that power generation shall be cleaned as well in any case. And that is slowly but hapaning. But hybrids are most efficient ICE version and will never will be cleaner in contrast to EV and power generation. Now electric veahicles consume small fraction of total power consumed but when they start cosuming something real it could facilitated shift of power generation to less poluting. In Fance and Norway power generation is carbon free therefore electric cars during life cycle generating free fold lesser carbon than most efficient ICE.


Where fossil is used there is no CO2 reduction method, really. It’s backing into the .4, to .7lb CO2, per mile values where Climate Central, and it looks like Insideevs, become unwitting propaganists for oil.

Using the EPA kwh/100mi stats, and common rules for natural gas and coal CO2, per kWh, you don’t get to their inflated numbers.

They assume CO2 doubles with extraction of electric fuel, and claim a gallon of gas emits 27lb when it’s between that and 35, depending on crude.


I was wondering. Don’t you Americans have the choice of a 100% green energy plan? In Belgium every electricity has at least one formula that promises 100% energy from renewable sources. And we have websites investigating how green those plans are. So if you don’t have your own PV panels, you can still power your EV with 100% green energy.


In Michigan I cay pay more $ for a “greener” plan, but not 100% renewable. Our state is at 4% renewable and our State law requires it to be 10% by 2015 (i think that is the year). We’ll see if it happens.

Tom A.

In Virginia, I opted for a rider on my electric utility bill that is supposed to provide me with 100% green electricity, through purchases of mostly wind and biomass sources from bordering states. It is an additional charge of 1.5% of my monthly consumption (an additional $15 for every 1kWh I use).

I do not know whether my power company (Dominion Virginia Power) actually buys the “green electricity” that the are supposed to.

I also don’t like the idea of biomass. Sure, if it’s combustible and would just end up in a landfill, then we might as well burn it, but still…that’s where several coal plants in Virginia are “disappearing” to – they are being converted to burn “biomass.” I’m not impressed.

I am looking into solar for the roof of my house.

I have a hybrid that is paid for, has low mileage and serves me well (2010 Mercury Mariner hybrid) that averages 34.9 mpg overall.

My next car will be a Tesla.:)


My European size diesel (non-hybrid) uses about 56mpg. My next car will probably be a Zoe or i3


Sad to see this report dignified here:(

Thomss J. Thias

Great comments! Here is the site link to these findings –

Comments open!


Thomas J. Thias

Thomas J. Thias

Here is a tight hard hitting rebuttal of the claims of Climate Central by EV Advocate, Utah State’s Professor Emeritus, Mark D. Larson-


Thomas J. Thias

Twitter- AmazingChevVolt

Rick Danger

Thomas, thank you for this article.

@pjwood: not only sad to see this report dignified here, but even more sad not to include the rebuttal that Thomas provided.

Eric, two thumbs down on this one!


Thanks Thomas for the link to that rebuttal.

Of course, actual studies previously conducted on the same topic of the environmental impact of EV vs ICE or hybrids, come to the conclusions one would expect — that is, not the ones of the propaganda piece sadly repeated in the piece above.
Links to the two I find most relevant:
(with nice maps of the US too — just not the same colors) (study and critical analysis at bottom of page)


FYI everyone: the comment above is NOT what I originally posted. It was edited to look much more favorable to the author of this article.
Furthermore, another of my comment today (where I call out the same author for using a Facebook comment as news source) was simply “disappeared”.

Hey Eric / moderators, you are welcome to disagree with my opinion just as I sometime disagree with yours, but then why don’t you just give your point of view and let others decide for themselves?

If you feel that my or anyone else’s comments are SO bad they deserve being edited, then at the very least I think it would be proper to signal the fact; e.g. “edited by Xxx on date/time, removed dissenting opinion about Yyy”. Something.

Silently deleting or changing what someone else wrote and making it look like (s)he remains the author of the modified version completely undermines the concept of allowing comments in the first place: now this whole section is potentially suspicious.

[Well… Now let’s see how long this message lasts, and/or if I need to switch email and/or proxy for my next posts…]

Jay Cole

Hey io,

I’m not sure about what happened with this comment here, but I did delete one of your posts today. (and I’ve deleted less than 10 in the past year)

Simply put, you cursed out one of the staff members here because he used something from the Chevy Volt Facebook group over another ‘more credible’ to you news source. If you want to be critical thats fine, just try to be a little more civil in the way you disagree with someone.

I have no issue at all with you, or you strongly disagreeing with any posts/comments here…but your right, in the future on any posts that are moderated/deleted they will be noted in that post that content has been deleted and why it was. I think that is the right thing to do and appreciate that suggestion.

Tom A.

Wow – that is much more intelligent, accurate and useful than the FUD in the original post.

I didn’t know about the grid regions, per se, but I did know that electric power does not obey geopolitical boundaries.


You know these guys might be on to something. Maybe it would be better if everything ran on gas instead of electricity. Nissan painted us a nice picture of what that would be like.

Here’s what Robert Llewellyn had to say about this study (the original, not the regurgitation by Climate Central) ———– I’m trying not to be dismissive of yet ‘another report’ which ‘proves electric cars are more polluting than diesel’ because it raises a very important points. We need to know the facts about electric cars, their true total impact. Here I will point out something, we still don’t know the true impact of the internal combustion cars and the fuel they use. This information is obfuscated by historical habit, for 100 years no one wanted to know. For example, how much electricity from coal burning power plants goes into refining oil? Try and find out how much per gallon? I’ve asked when filming at a massive oil refinery that had it’s own set of pylons coming from a nearby coal burner. No one wants to tell you. (estimates range from between 4 -7 kWh per gallon) We know we need to change the way we generate electricity, with or without electric vehicles this is vitally important. We know what comes out of the tailpipe of an ICE car, toxic and carcinogenic gasses which cause untold levels of harm to human beings.… Read more »
Scott Moore

Its a good point, the oil fanboy press rarely gives the TRUE cost of gasoline, including emissions from refineries, their use of power, power used to extract the oil from the ground, etc.

As an example, when cars took off, they put a lot of work (and energy) into “cracking” more of the oil going through the refinery into gasoline vs. diesel, because “the consumer wanted gas, not diesel”.


Thanks for the links to the other studies. It would appear batteries are less polluting than the Climate Central study would imply.

However, nobody has made a convincing case for using 660 pounds of batteries to move a 150-200 pound commuter. Especially when you are talking about hundreds of millions of them.

I understand the desire to keep doing what we have always done. But it didn’t make sense for 5% of the world’s population for the last 100 years. It certainly doesn’t make sense for a much higher percentage of a growing population going forward.

Tom A.

Yeah, that’s a sociological and cultural issue that has little to do with the fact that vehicles are a very inefficient means of travel.

The graph from Elon Musk’s hyperloop draft very clearly illustrates the energy costs per mile per person by various means of transportation.


I was responsible for the comments on the Climate Central website which resulted in them revealing that they used an absurdly ridiculous model of driving and charging patterns. This model lead to their ludicrous rank ordering of plug-in hybrids. I guess it makes perfect sense why they had neglected to mention that, erm, rather crucial detail in the first place.

Given how stupid their methodology turned out to be, I’d take these guys report with a giant grain of salt.


Whatever happened to Elon’s response to these BS “studies”?


If the Hyperloop alpha spec is anything to go by, he’ll be taking time carefully to (have some minions (help?)) construct a document that’s not riddled with holes in the science.

Tom A.

I would hope so.

Thomss J. Thias

He, he… The rebuttals to Eric’s, “Hey I’ll just pass this along”, without a stalworth fact check is beinv buffeted by not only sincere commentors here but is now going viral.
Energy Now just tossed this tight study by Grist a bit ago-


Thomas J. Thias

Thomas J. Thias

Warren, I believe that the comments made by US Senator Lamar Alexander, (R-Tn), will shead light on your confusion in a major way-

Via- Torque News

“[…]we could electrify 43% of our cars and trucks without building one new powerplant[…]”

Thomas J. Thias

Scott Moore

“and electric car is only as clean as…”

It isn’t true no matter what the power source is. Electric cars give a way out of fossil fuels. If they move the problem to the power plants, then that will put more pressure on them to change. Gas powered cars, even efficient ones, just perpetuate the problem. Its like saying that a gun is better than a hammer to a man trapped in a room because you are better off shooting yourself, since breaking through a wall is too much work.

Ted Fredrick

It is easy to see how much energy is used. Just follow the money. It cost me $2.00 to get to work in my FFE and $12 worth of gas in my BMW 325. Money=Energy. If this were not true we could figure out how to get a perpetual motion machine out of this study.

Ted Fredrick

Trying to clarify my above post considering efficient market dynamics anything that cost more uses more energy. My solar cells use mre energy for the first 4 years and then I get a return on my money. If I only used the solar for 4 years they would be less efficient that the fossil generated electricity and thus cause more polution. But since I am keeping them for 20 years they are way more efficient and cuase less polution.


I can not see where this publication has been peer reviewed. Unfortunately, without a peer review, readers such as myself (who are not expert scientists) can not trust the validity of this report. It is a shame.