Union Of Concerned Scientists Release Video On Electric Car & Global Warming Emissions

NOV 24 2015 BY MARK KANE 72

Electric Cars & Global Warming Emissions

Electric Cars & Global Warming Emissions

According to the Union Of Concerned Scientists, global warming emissions from electric cars (mid-sized EV with about 84 miles EPA range – think Nissan LEAF) are 50+% lower than gasoline cars over their lifetime (from manufacturing, through driving and on to disposal).

With a growing ratio of renewable energy sources, emissions from electric cars will be even lower in the future.

Electric Cars & Global Warming Emissions
“Everyone knows electric cars are cleaner than gasoline vehicles—but just how much cleaner? This video explores the global warming emissions of EVs on a lifecycle basis, from the manufacturing of their batteries to their ultimate disposal or reuse.”

The video just highlights the topics, more details can be found here, as well as in the full report here.

We confine ourselves this time to two major graphs with EV’s GWP calculations for different electricity suppliers and comparison to ICE:

Electric Vehicle Global Warming Pollution Ratings and Gasoline Vehicle Emissions Equivalents by Electricity Grid Region

Electric Vehicle Global Warming Pollution Ratings and Gasoline Vehicle Emissions Equivalents by Electricity Grid Region

Life Cycle Global Warming Emissions from the Manufacturing and Operation of Gasoline and Battery-Electric Vehicles

Life Cycle Global Warming Emissions from the Manufacturing and Operation of Gasoline and Battery-Electric Vehicles

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72 Comments on "Union Of Concerned Scientists Release Video On Electric Car & Global Warming Emissions"

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Simple and to the point. Great presentation. The numbers only get better as more EVs offset their power with renewable sources.

Funny, Right Wing ALREADY cherry-picking this to “prove” electric cars are bad for the environment. You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s interesting to note that Calfornia’s grid got dirtier in the past year. California, shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant in the summer of 2013. I would have expected California’s grid to take the hit and become dirtier in 2014, not 2015.

The nation’s mid-section has the country’s dirtiest grids, and didn’t improve much if at all in the past year. But the clean Pacific Northwest grid and squeaky clean upstate New York grid showed showed huge improvements, 75 MPG to 94 MPG and 112 MPG to 135 MPG, respectively.

Alaska looks pretty good as well. Geothermal?

Nope. Natural gas is #1; hydroelectric, at #2, is a bit over half of that.

#3 is oil-fired; there are a lot of small isolated communities which depend on diesel generators. That makes Alaska an outlier, since on average only about 1-2% of grid power is oil-fired.


Thanks for posting those.

ERCOT (Texas) added 5 GW of transmission lines for new wind power, most of which came online late 2013, early 2015. It isn’t moving the needle a ton, but headed in the right direction.

Wind is over 10% of ERCOT now, which is the largest grid in the US by consumption.

Ok, did some homework, I’ll post the comparison data, 2012 vs 2015 (YTD).

Wind electricity production is up 31.7% through October, compared to 2012.

Here is a link to the Google Doc:


It’s important to keep the ratings in perspective, it’s true that the midwest is the dirtiest and the Northwest and Northeast are much cleaner, but they did not greatly improve. Moving from 112 mpg to 135 mpg is actually pretty insignificant. If we consider everything in the emissions equivalent of a gallon of gas, an electric vehicle which drives 10,000 miles per year will go from burning the equivalent of 89 gallons of gas to 74 gallons of gas. So the Grid cleaned up the equivalent of 15 gallons of gas for 10,000 miles of driving. That increase of 23 mpg only reduces fuel consumption by 15 gallons. Meanwhile let’s look at GA, where up until recently was the #1 market for the Nissan Leaf. They moved from 47 mpg to 51mpg in grid cleanliness. At 47 mpg a BEV consumed 213 gallons of gas equivalent at 10,000 miles per year and was reduced to 196 gallons of gas equivalent with the improvements made. So though the grid shows a 4 mpg equivalent increase compared to NYs 23 mpg increase, it saves more emissions at 17 gallons saved to NY’s 15 gallons. Not to mention these are compounded by the… Read more »

There’s a lot underneath simplified state assumptions. You mention GA, where overnight baseload has a lot of nuclear.

People who live in de-regulated markets can do more than solar, by checking their competitive suppliers for wind-only, for instance. See the green states, in the following map. TN Valley Auth, and other non-dereg states, are increasingly offering green power alternatives, often for <2-3 cents more/kwh.


Thanks for providing the earlier links. I was curious about the differences as well, and that was very helpful.

Actually, the charts for all three years reference power plant emissions from EPA data dating to 2012 (read the fine print, even on the latest chart).

So I wonder what makes the MPG change from year to year in sub-grid to sub-grid?

Gah, nevermind.

2012 database had 2009 power plant data.
2015 database had 2012 power plant data.

So the differences are, in fact, from the grid cleaning up (or getting dirtier – less wind? – depending on location).


Hmm, I guess I should retract my last comment then. If the data is from 2012, the latest grid expansion on ERCOT would not be factored in yet.

You are correct. The small print below the map says: “Regional global warming emissions are based on 2012 power plant data in the EPA’s eGRID 2015 database (the most recent version).” To eliminate confusion as to what year’s data is used, the EPA recently changed the naming convention for eGRID for future, current, and past eGRID database files to “reflect the data year rather than the release year.” Whoever wrote the small print below the map, didn’t follow the new naming convention. It should be called eGRID2012 with no mention of the 2015 release year. “Has the eGRID naming convention changed?” “Yes, with the release of eGRID2012 (October 8, 2015), the naming convention has changed so that the year noted in the title reflects the data year rather than the release year. For example, the eGRID file released in 2012 with 2009 data was previously named eGRID2012, using the new naming convention it’s now called eGRID2009.” “eGRID2012 (and associated materials) reference previous eGRID editions using the new naming convention and the files available for download from the website use the new naming convention; however, the content within the previous editions of eGRID, such as the technical support documents, has not… Read more »

Let’s not forget, that if you add 2 EV’s to your house you’ve got a big incentive to put up Solar. This report doesn’t cover that. EV’s then will generally be cleaner than reported.

It’s also worth noting that a Hyundai Tuscan hydrogen FCEV emits 60% less CO2 well-to wheels than an ICE gasoline Hyundai Tuscon, based on the current mix of hydrogen sold at filling stations in California: 46% renewable hydrogen content. That is the equivalent CO2 emissions of a 63 MPG gasoline car. Even if the hydrogen sold in California was 100% made from steam-reformed natural gas, the Tuscon hydrogen FCEV would have 34% less WTW CO2 emissions than an ICE gasoline Tuscon, and have the equivalent CO2 emissions of a 38 MPG gasoline car.


Which still sucks compared to a BEV.

You still have to deal with corrosion, embrittlement, the leaky nature of hydrogen slipping out of valves, the high cost of hydrogen fuel, unknown drive train reliability of the fuel stack (damage from impurities, etc.) over time, the reliability and throughput limitations of current hydrogen stations, distance to find a hydrogen station, the potential explosive nature of highly compressed 10,000 psi tanks passengers sit on top of, etc.

Why bother with all of that?

And do your efficiency numbers ALSO account for the additional energy required to compress and pump hydrogen into those special carbon-fiber wrapped tanks????

“And do your efficiency numbers ALSO account for the additional energy required to compress and pump hydrogen into those special carbon-fiber wrapped tanks????”

Yes they do. Perhaps you should Google what “well-to-wheels” means.

“Which still sucks compared to a BEV.”

Before you cast judgment, perhaps you should look at the well-to-wheels CO2 analysis done by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, which is updated annually.



Anything but EVs Sven ?

I like all ZEVs. I don’t discriminate.

Oh look, projection. Yet another whopper from Oil Stains Sven.


Whopper? I’m more of a Big Mac kind of guy.

You really should…

There is a new methane cracking technique that leaves only hydrogen and pure powder carbon. The carbon can be used in several industrial processes.
This means a point of use methane to hydrogen device would emit NO fossil carbon.

No, it wouldn’t. You’re ignoring multiple sources of “back end” energy losses. Even point-of-use generation requires compression and dispensing of the hydrogen for use in a “fool cell” car.

Realistically, even with point-of-use generation, you’d have to generate the hydrogen slowly, compress it, and store it for later use, so you’d still get a lot of the same losses from storage which causes commercial hydrogen production / storage / distribution / dispensing to be so very inefficient and very expensive.

We will see, come back in 5 years and tell us how fuel cells were such a failure and you were right all along.

Fuel cells are a failure and we were right all along.


Compression losses aren’t enough to make hydrogen uneconomic. However, I really like charging my car at home, and that’s right out. You still have the infrastructure problems, too.

I’m also not so happy with having to keep a natural gas infrastructure fed. Fracking is the current main method, and that’s controversial. When that runs out you are probably looking at coal bed gasification, which is much worse.

Coal bed gasification invariably contaminates ground water. If frozen methane hydrates in permafrost and deep sea ocean floors can be tapped, it would be better option. I wonder if the economics would work to replace retired natural gas power plants with fuel cell power plants to generate electricity from hydrogen made with the new methane cracking technique, thereby eliminating the power plant’s CO2 emissions and sequestering the black carbon. Ironically, the electricity used to charge EVs would be generated by hydrogen.

For me, at least, generating electricity is a much better use of hydrogen.

You are ignoring that electric grid is not a source for renewable energy and will not be any time soon without long term seasonal energy storage. Making grid to provide as much energy as you want at any time no matter what is expensive. Hydrogen or synthetic methane is the only realistic way to store energy long term and enable renewable energy for grid. Once we have hydrogen anyway, fuel cells make more sense.

What you seem to be missing is that the grid can be sourced in a distributed manner. Those of us with EVs are way more likely to go solar, incrementally adding distributed renewable capacity to the grid, and incidentally making the grid more resilient, by decreasing its dependency on major producers like power plants.

I saw that article, and if true it is indeed a monumental breakthrough. “Researchers . . . have achieved the proof-of-principle for a innovative technique to extract hydrogen (H2) from methane (CH4) without the formation of CO2 as a byproduct.” “At this stage, cost estimates are uncertain, since methane cracking is not yet a fully mature technology. However, preliminary calculations show that it could achieve costs of €1.9 to €3.3 [$2.02 to $3.51] per kilogram of hydrogen at German natural gas prices—without taking the market value of the solid black carbon byproduct of the process into consideration.” “The main by-product of methane cracking—solid black carbon—is also an increasingly important industrial commodity. It is already widely employed in the production of steel, carbon fibers and many carbon-based structural materials. The black carbon derived from the novel cracking process is of high quality and is a particularly pure powder. Its value as a marketable product therefore enhances the economic viability of methane cracking. Alternatively, black carbon can be stored away, using procedures that are much simpler, safer and cheaper than the storing of carbon dioxide.” So this process will cost even less per kilogram when using low cost American natural gas prices,… Read more »

Yet another whopper from Oil Stains Sven. Black carbon is available anywhere, and dirt cheap.

There is an old adage, if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.

That’s what the Oil Industry would prefer– just shut up and keep buying / burning hydrocarbon-derived fuels from them. Uh huh.

sven posted more pro-fool-cell B.S.:

“It’s also worth noting that a Hyundai Tuscan hydrogen FCEV emits 60% less CO2 well-to wheels than an ICE gasoline Hyundai Tuscon…”

So tell us, sven, which of the following is true?

1. You actually believe that pro-Big-Oil B.S.

2. You are being paid to post that, although you know better

3. You’re just trolling

Reality check: Even with a “best case” assumption for a FCEV, the “fool cell” car emits 49% of an “average” gasmobile’s GHGs… and that is using an outdated assumption of an average 23 MPG gasmobile.

In real-world driving, of course, the average driver won’t get that “best case” scenario.

Here’s another fact that hydrogen fuel promoters like sven will find “inconvenient”. Quoting from a Clean Technia article:

“The EPA tested 2014 134hp Toyota Prius Gasoline Hybrid offers a 60% GHG WTW emissions reduction verses the Average Fuel Cell Vehicle tested by the definitive DOE NREL long term study.”


Pushmi-Pullyu said: “1. You actually believe that pro-Big-Oil B.S.” That 60% figure and the link that I posted are from the Union Of Concerned Scientists, where they compare the well-to-wheels emissions from an ICE Hyundai Tuscon and a hydrogen Hyundai Tuscon. That’s as much of an apples to apples comparison as you can get. Didn’t you in this very thread praise (in bold text) the Union Of Concerned Scientists in the following comment: “A big THANK YOU to the Union of Concerned Scientists!” “This is something well worth bookmarking.” Then you praised the “actual analysis” of the Union Of Concerned Scientists in the following comment: “Let’s see… a guess by SparkEV vs. an actual analysis by UCS.” “I’m gonna go with UCS here.” Yet, when the Union Of Concerned Scientists do the analysis and say that well-to-wheels a hydrogen Hyundai Tuscon emits 60% less CO2 than an ICE Hyundai Tuscon, you say that it is “pro-Big-Oil B.S.”!!! It sounds to me like you’re extremely biased against hydrogen and an uber FUDster. Your hydrogen FUD is set to Ludicrous Mode! Let’s see . . . a post by an Ars Technica blogger who has no science background and a guess by… Read more »

On second thought, FUDmi-FUDyu would be an even better screen name for you.

I don’t think having same manufacturing weight for gas cars and EV/hybrids is correct. Gas cars would last longer and have less pollution from that standpoint.

How long do BEV and hybrids last compared to gas cars? For me, after the battery died after 11 years, it’s pretty much junk yard due to high battery cost. Meanwhile, gas cars can drive many more miles (mean=12 years, median=11 years) with small incremental cost.

For example, would you spend $4000 to fix current crop of EV that gets 80 miles range after 11 years or will you pay that as down payment on new EV that gets 200 miles range?

But even if one doubles the EV mfr (all EV junked at 11 years), EV would come out ahead, not just as dramatic as 51% (30%?)

SparkEV said:

“Gas cars would last longer and have less pollution from that standpoint.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists said:

“This video explores the global warming emissions of EVs on a lifecycle basis, from the manufacturing of their batteries to their ultimate disposal or reuse.”

Let’s see… a guess by SparkEV vs. an actual analysis by UCS.

I’m gonna go with UCS here.

Blind faith is not science. I question “Scientists” all the time, and I encourage everyone to do the same. Otherwise, we’d all be drinking flavor-aid, and you know where that leads.

No SparkEV, you should not blindly question scientists. Anyone can cause doubt, just ask Sarah Palin, who confuses scientific theory with hypothesis. I think you should read all the material and know it well before inferring they are incorrect (there is a lot !)

You should ALWAYS question science. That’s the very definition of science, not some edict handed down by the high priest like PuPu and some others here want to belive. Unlike blind faith, there is no such thing as blind question. Yes, scientists “lie” and make mistakes, too; they are human.

I would ask the scientists what their basis is for making EV and gas car manufacturing enviro costs the same while cheaper and better EV will be available in 11 years (battery life), you should, too.

I suspect they only included the case for EV (ie, first 11 years), not not take into account life cycle for all cars.

Or maybe they only take into account first manufacturing cost, and not subsequent (ie, older cars).

Either way, it doesn’t make any sense to make current crop of EV mfr the same as gas cars.

Thats not what I said. But I am confused as to what you are actually arguing about.

Yes, except in the hybrids NO BATTERY has Died.

And the EV’s the chemistry has already changed to address dendrite formation last year. There are better batteries out there now, this is Not an Issue.

Very good and will get better with more renewable energy and this video doesn’t even touch on the improvement of human health that will also save big $$.

Hum, Upstate Ny has the ‘cleanest’ electricity according to them.

Well, I make double the solar power per annum that I can use, but I still miss the fact they’re closing down the coal fired plant in my town.

Since there is little industry here anymore, the region’s Nuclear plants just about cover the usage. Besides a bunch of little methane-powered ones (that we never needed).

A big THANK YOU to the Union of Concerned Scientists!

This is something well worth bookmarking.


This is good information, but it actually is much too conservative.

It assumes that EV owners only get their electricity from the grid. That is a false assumption. Individual owners can (and do) get better results than just their grid averages. All they have to do is source their own green electricity. Here are examples of ways people are already today beating the grid averages for powering their own EV’s:

1) Tesla owner who does some charging at Superchargers that have solar panels.

2) EV owners who have their own Solar panels.

3) Consumers who purchase electricity from specific sources for delivery via the grid, like WindSource, GreenStart, etc.

4) EV owners who install their own wind power.

5) Members of Solar or Wind Collectives who source their energy through a collective.

So even people who live in the worst grids can still beat the numbers.

Yup. According to reports I’ve seen, 30% of EV drivers offset some or all of their grid electricity with solar power. Too bad that nobody takes that into consideration when they do a well-to-wheel analysis.

I would not be surprised if utilities are taking credit for the solar installations that their customers have installed

Depends. Some utilities purchase RECs from solar owners, some don’t… because some solar owners sell, some don’t (and some can’t). On the opposite end, some have installed guerilla solar, with no one else the wiser.

“Too bad that nobody takes that into consideration when they do a well-to-wheel analysis.”

Certainly not sven, who thinks that Kansans would _never_ utilize their own clear skies.


That’s Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas City, Kansas.

Most all of the graphs sven provides do include a category for renewable usage of BEVs and FCEVs. They don’t however, as commented here deal with implementation.

We don’t have clear numbers, but it does appear that nearly 1-in-3 EV drivers offset with solar. Solar is on as large if not larger revolution than EVs, so there is no reason not to believe this will continue.

Solar power can be controlled by the individual. Until the same applies for hydrogen, I just don’t see Exxon and BP giving up reforming with the product they own in abundance, natural gas.

The argument really comes down to infrastructure. Do you want a future where you the individual are in charge of 70%+ of your fuel, or do we want to spend billions of subsidies on matching the current gas infrastructure and STILL be dependent on outside entities for our energy?

“I just don’t see Exxon and BP giving up reforming with the product they own in abundance, natural gas.”

I’m sure they would be happy to use their natural gas to produce electricity to generate h2 through electrolysis. It will require us to buy 4 times as much of their natural gas compared to just charging a car directly with the electricity.

I’m not sure what the ratio is vs. NG reformation, but I’ll bet electrolysis uses more NG than reformation too.

Nobody or very few of these owners use off-grid systems to charge, it is not possible in practice. They just charge from grid and install grid-tie net-metering systems to make them feel good and think it “offsets” something.

Objectively you should just use US/Canada grid emission average and don’t play silly “my power plant is cleaner than yours” games, all grid is interconnected by AC or DC lines and electric energy flows back and forth on demand.

Since electricity is relatively expensive to ship (much more expensive for large distances than Natural Gas, for instance), electricity is usually generated very near its end use, hence all the power plants in or near Chicago, NYC, etc). Even the grids are somewhat localized – Texas having its own, for instance. I don’t know why people pick on Sven so much, he’s just saying that Hydrogen is not necessarily the catastrophe everyone else is seeing, and, last year Hydrogen production hit a record, and the world didn’t come to an end. H2 is usually used as an interim product to finally be made into something else, and is not used ‘as is’, with the exception of some fork lifts, the Mirai, and the Clarity. But these cars will be such ‘small potatoes’ in the final mix of cars that I can’t see much concern about it. Now, I and several other EV owners here, generate plenty of power using my installed solar panels, and this is more of a favor to the utility, since the central airconditioners near my house end up being powered by ME, and the sunnier it is the more I am powering them. When I DO… Read more »

err….”shut down the water heater UNTIL 11-7″

Virtually none of the ~80 mile range EVs sold to date will be on the road for 135,000 miles/ten years. By five years/67,500 miles, the range will be too low for most people to put up with.

On the other hand, given the low resale value, they may end up replacing NEVs for retirees. Not an oil company shill, just stating the obvious.

I had the same thought, but hopefully battery replacement/upgrades are an option for those vehicles.

BMW, at least, claims they will be offering battery upgrades. Of course, putting in a new battery after five years ups your GHG significantly. It would be better if there was a market for short range vehicles.


This video was claiming 1 metric ton for an “80 mile battery”. Adding one or two more batteries into the calculation does not change the results much.

> Virtually none of the ~80 mile range EVs sold to date will be on the road for 135,000 miles/ten years. By five years/67,500 miles, the range will be too low for most people to put up with.

That is true, but won’t be true of the next generation coming out in 2-3 years.

Yup. Assuming 5% range lose a year, after ten years a 200 mile car is still good for 100 miles…more than most start with now.

Even 5% would be a worst case scenario, like a Leaf in Arizona or similar. There is a good chance for a 200 mile car to still have around 150 miles of range after 10 years, if the battery isn’t treated badly.

I say this because a 200 mile battery pack would go through HALF the number of battery cycles as a 100 mile battery pack over the same number of miles over 10 years.

Larger batteries will last longer driving the same number of miles compared to a smaller battery (when all other variables are controlled).