Many critics of electric vehicles point out the fossil fuels generating the electricity used to charge them. However, they rarely mention that, as power generation grows more sustainable through renewable energy, so will charging and driving EVs – and sustainable power is accelerating faster in some areas than others.
Above: A Tesla Model Y (Image: Casey Murphy / EVANNEX).
Driving an EV in the US is getting greener as power generation becomes more and more renewable, as detailed in a recent report from The Wall Street Journal. Still, the cleanliness of power generation varies significantly from country to country and even from one community to the next in the US.
While Tesla and other EV sales are increasing rapidly worldwide, the electricity used to charge the vehicles must come from emissions-heavy processes like coal or renewables like wind, water, and solar power. For example, the WSJ points out that most of China’s electricity comes from CO2-heavy coal and oil, with the country having produced about 530 grams of CO2/kWh into Earth’s atmosphere last year.
The US produced just about 368 grams of CO2/kWh, meaning it generated fewer emissions from electricity generation than China or other countries such as Japan and Germany. While 60 percent of US electricity was produced last year by fossil fuels, about 18 percent came from nuclear power, and 22 percent was from pure renewable energy sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The figures represent continued progress into sustainable energy for the US. The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy organization, has been tracking EV cleanliness since 2012. Co-author of the union’s latest analysis, David Reichmuth, details how EVs become even cleaner with falling power sector emissions -- a trend that has continually progressed in the US over the past decade.
“It’s really underappreciated that part of this transition is that the emissions of the electric vehicles on the road changes as the grid gets cleaner,” Reichmuth said.
In any case, studies from the European Environment Agency and the International Energy Agency show that EVs are a greener solution than gas vehicles, no matter where they’re driven or how clean power generation is in the area.
Worldwide CO2 emissions from power generation have dropped by about 11 percent since 2007, as think tank Ember Climate depicted in its 2023 Global Electricity Review. These and other datasets show that EVs will continue to become a lower-emission product as various countries shift toward renewables for power generation.
Source: The Wall Street Journal