Globally, It’s Cleaner To Drive An EV (Versus Gas) In All But 19 Countries

DEC 1 2017 BY MARK KANE 39

According to a Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study, indirect greenhouse-gas emissions by all-electric cars (considering electricity generation) widely varies depending on the country it is put into service.

Tesla Model X charging

In general, battery-electric vehicles are cleaner in terms of GHG emissions in 122 out of 141 countries, for which data were available. In 19 countries, coal-based power plants worsen the emissions.

Here is few results for BEVs:

  • Albania (which generates 100% of its electricity from hydroelectric power) would have an average 5,100.0 MPGghg (0.05 L/100 km)
  • Botswana and Gibraltar (which generate 100% of their electricity from coal and oil), each with 29.0 MPGghg (8.1 L/100 km)
  • US is 55.4 MPGghg (4.2 L/100 km) — close to the 54.5 mpge target for the US EPA’s current GHG regulations for 2025
  • China is at 40.0 MPGghg (5.9 L/100 km)
  • average for the world is 51.5 MPGghg (4.6 L/100 km)

Data for the study comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists (BEV miles-per-gallon-equivalent values based on well-to-wheels emissions of various electricity fuel sources) and the International Energy Agency (country-specific electricity production by fuel source).

“For each individual country, the calculations derived an equivalent fuel-economy value at which both BEVs and gasoline-powered vehicles produce the same amount of greenhouse-gas emissions. In other words, the calculations derived, for each country, a fuel-economy value that a gasoline-powered vehicle would have to exceed to produce lower emissions than a typical BEV, and vice versa.”

source: Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) via Green Car Congress, Quartz

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39 Comments on "Globally, It’s Cleaner To Drive An EV (Versus Gas) In All But 19 Countries"

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Does that include the emissions from manufacturing both cars?

Either way it doesn’t tell the whole story…Problem is we have the produced vehicle and the fuel it uses yet there are two major missing components in regards to their carbon footprint…The emitted emissions it to R&D the vehicle and future maintenance…

Wait, you seriously want to account for the sunk cost of developing the vehicle as part of the per-vehicle footprint? It’s NRE, not marginal cost, and it seems rather unlikely to be a major factor, and is full of potential pitfalls, e.g. over how large a projected future fleet do you amortize the cost? Surely you don’t impute 100% of the cost to the first vehicle to roll off the line, only to revise it to 50% when the second vehicle rolls off, and so on. Or, how far back do you reach to determine which R&D must be charged to a given vehicle? Does the energy spent heating Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison’s laboratories go into the total? Which is to say, I’m not convinced.

Future maintenance seems worth accounting for since it does represent a per-vehicle marginal cost, and indeed I thought the UCS study did include it, though I’m not going to go read all 60+ pages of it right now.

Really? This trope? You must be new here, because we’ve already long put it to bed that the usage cycle pollutes far more than the production cycle. For an ICE car, it’s about six or seven times as much. This leaves so much room for EVs to compete in, that it’s just no contest, and production barely matters.

I on the other hand, get all my electricity from non-polluting sources. As a result of this, the use cycle produces a tiny sliver of the pollution as the production cycle. And when that happens, it totally nukes the possibility that an ICE could ever hope to compete in this space.

The entire “batteries are even more horrible for the environment than gas cars!” was probably produced by some shill at Shell. Gas-heads happily eat that up, because that means they can take the moral high ground and not feel guilty about being horrible polluters. It’s just, well, a lie.

Still this article should have taken this into account, to the casual observer to omit this seems misleading.

Is the Co2 produced in the production of the gasoline included?

Unfortunately it pretty much never is.
Its tragicomical that even “scientists” forget that petrol/diesel doesn’t magically appear at the pump. It has to be extracted, transported, refined, transported again… that adds a significant amount of pollution.
I read a report that just the evaporation from the global fleet of oil tankers expells as much co2 as all of the cars in the EU.

Another case of climate change hysteria hijacking the real pollution farted out by gas cars. I dare any gas car to only emit CO2 and nothing but CO2 (no HC, NOx, SOx, O3, soot, etc. etc. etc). That ain’t happening, EVER!


Come on Spark, don’t be that guy.

As quaint as they are, I don’t come here for the 6000 year old flat Earth theories.

Global climate change is a clear and present danger that must be taken seriously.

Since you sound like an older gentleman, it won’t affect you much which makes the moral case even clearer.

Climate change due to man made GHG emissions is real, no question about it. But the gloom and doom is irrational hysteria.

So far, CO2 (primary driver of climate change) has pulled humanity out of depths of poverty in place of huge prosperity never experienced in history. The price we pay is real pollution, which far too often is neglected as is the case with this article. Pollution problem is not CO2 anywhere on the planet, yet that’s what’s discussed in overwhelming majority.

Not sure how old you are, but I bet we are similar in age, within 100 years apart.

It’s true that CO² isn’t pollution and doesn’t poisoned our health in a direct way.
There is more dangerous emission resulting from fossil fuel, that is a fact obliterated by most.
It should be the main driver to compare the clean claim of choosing between ICE or BEV, so in that sense I understand a bit more your posture about the climate change hysteria.
Still, thing don’t have to be a poison to kill you.
Water is essential to life, but thousand dies drowned in it.
Too much on anything is too much to live with.

But at the end, it’s good that you admit it, climate change are real and man forced.

And I wish many more would care about pollution that has more immediate damaging effect on our life.

Unfortunately SparkEV that might not be the case. Recent study seems to reduce the CO2 estimate for previously (geologic periods) hot periods. If this turns out to be correct, well that would force us to nearly double the climate sensitivity to CO2.

Science continue to show that CO2 levels were over 5 times what they are now when the dinosaurs roamed the planet. Yet, life survived just fine. Of course, it’s not the level of CO2, but the rate of change, but that doesn’t mean humanity will not cope.

Also of fact, despite huge increase in man-made CO2 (which is most of what’s there now), humanity has been improving in quality of life. All the talk of “gloom and doom” is just nonsense until we see major dive in majority of humanity’s quality of life.

I normally enjoy the majority of your comments, but your stance on CO2 is pure ignorance. We can go back and forth on sources of information if you want to, but when an enormous majority of real scientists agree on something based on the facts we have today, I tend to agree with them.

I have to give one source for the sake of being thorough: A 2009 study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” published in Environmental Science & Technology by Mark Z. Jacobson, found that domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations – discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago – cause local temperature increases that in turn increase the amounts of local air pollutants, raising concentrations of health-damaging ground-level ozone as well as particulate matter in urban air.

“CO2 (primary driver of climate change) has pulled humanity out of depths of poverty”.

This is balderdash of course. *Cheap energy* may be said to have done that. CO2 is a heretofore necessary evil that came with said cheap energy, but was not itself a contributor to current prosperity, such as it is. “We need more CO2”, per se, said nobody ever.

Thanks for this precision of which most scientist and a bunch of us here, agree.

Yes cheap energy was prodigious for our development and still is, but we must be aware of the stupendous quantity we use and it’s consequence when there is dangerous downside to it, like fossil has most.

Why don’t you invent a time machine, go back in time, and give the humanity cheaper energy source that does not emit CO2? Hell, let’s make it easier and forget the time machine and do it now.

Whatever you want to claim, CO2 and modern prosperity are directly linked until something better (aka, cheaper) comes along. We’re dancing there, but until a major breakthrough is made (eg. controlled Fusion for cheap), CO2 means prosperity.

Meanwhile, all the hoopla about “dangers of CO2” is masking the real pollution problem. Yes, we are cleaner than 1950’s but the problem isn’t solved when I can see / smell fumes every time I go out.

The dangers of CO2 isn’t masking anything… it’s the major player in regards to climate change, but of course there are other GHG that are causing issues. Each an every item needs to be tackled, and they are, but don’t discount the problem that IS CO2. It’s here and it needs to be dealt with now.

There is quite a bit of emissions to go from oil to gasoline and most of these analysis skip that fact while the electric emissions are based on delivered KWh.

If the world car fleet were all Prius, then those 19 countries would have less emissions than BEVs, but that is not the case.
So there are some poor assumptions made in the analysis of the data.

I’ve been to Botswana – and the Kalahari desert.. Solar energy comes to mind. There was not a cloud in the sky for two weeks.
Sun, red sand, serious heat and just minor vegetation.

Why do they use coal?
Solar would be perfect, paired with a battery.

Some had a tiny solar panel on the roof, and a single LED lamp inside – so the children could study.

Don’t forget, ironically, heat is the enemy to most of our current solar technology. Perhaps it was because those areas are too hot? Solar tech is very up front capital intensive, so it’s more likely that they can’t afford the up front cost.

What’s the list of 19 countries? Does it include South Africa? That would be pretty ironic, given it’s Musk’s birth country.

Of course it does, South Africa is using mostly coal for electricity generation.

Would be nice if the article (or any of the sources) had the actual list of the 19 countries….

It’s the pink ones, yes?

How good is your geography? 🙂

Hmm.. Nicaragua should be in the blue with ~50% renewables and ~50% oil.

Probably Honduras too…

Check the sourcing of the $ for this institute…

Then discount findings as appropriate.

I don’t understand. What findings did you want to discount? Note that the InsideEVs headline was written by InsideEVs, and if you go look at the UMTRI abstract they don’t offer the judgement that there are *any* countries where it’s cleaner to drive a gas car. At a glance, the CO2 equivalents they give seem plausible enough and are consistent with what the Union of Concerned Scientists publishes. The actual abstract says “In other words, the calculations derived, for each country, a fuel-economy value that a gasoline-powered vehicle would have to exceed to produce lower emissions than a typical BEV, and vice versa.” Which, yeah. Basically, it’s as @G2 says above — “there are some poor assumptions made in the analysis of the data”, but as far as I can tell by reading the abstract, those poor assumptions were made by Mark Kane when analyzing the data presented by UMTRI, which is fine on its own. (It’s a pain that the paper itself isn’t online, only the abstract. Looks like maybe UMTRI embargoes the full text for around a year before putting it online? If you look at their publications list, that’s how it appears, anyway. I’ve emailed UMTRI… Read more »

Update: UMTRI sez the full text of the report is free to consortium members (Exxon, Mahindra, etc). $2,500 to non-members, I said no thank you.

By the way, in my experience this is a common practice of such institutes and not evidence of anything nefarious. The person who wrote back to me didn’t explicitly confirm they make the full text free in a year or so, but that does seem to be what they’ve done historically.

So, if I read this correctly, here in the US, a person that buys one of the better standard hybrids, not necessarily the PHEV, is just as “green” as me with my Bolt. Interesting. I’m sure these figures would vary widely from state to state though.

Good thing I didn’t decide to buy my Bolt to be green. I bought it because I’m sick of doing oil changes, buying gasoline and that overall, IMO a BEV is just a better car.


There’s a very good and widely-cited Union of Concerned Scientists paper that breaks it all down in excruciating detail state by state, and they even have a nifty online calculator that’ll give you a CO2 figure customized by ZIP code and make+model+year.

Interesting link. Thanks!
109 mpg in my case so no gas car can match that.

Yeah, I guess in my zip code, a gas car would have to get 113 mpg to be equal.

You are in CA so …NO! Move to VA and then it will be a YES. The problem is there are very big differences between the individual states so you can’t look at US as a whole. CA gets half the ev sales anyway…

Looks like VA was a bad example…my car is the equivalent of a 86mpg gas car….still better than any gas car.

I went for Louisvil, KY and still got 56mpg. Cases where ev are worse than very high mpg hybrids are marginal at best.

Yeah, I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan [*] where like the rest of the upper Midwest we suffer from a high proportion of coal in our power mix, and even I clock in at the equivalent of 44 mpg, which is better than a 2x improvement over what I was driving before and besides, in real life there was no way I was going to move from an A6 to a Prius or a Fit.

Also, I subscribe to an alternate power provider that sells me wind power so my number should arguably be much better than shown. (I’m sure it’s all smoke and mirrors with RECs, but still.)

[*] Hence the handle. I realized after the fact that “in AA” probably is more commonly read as “in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Oops, too late.

Everyday the grids of the world become cleaner. ICE cars are maxed out. Fossil fuels are a finite commodity. Alternative energy is the future as it is cleaner. Right now I am charging my Tesla from my solar panels at the convenience at home. I do have a smelly, dirty gas station down the street that you can smell a half a block away. What happened to those dual tube gas nossels that would keep vapors at bay?