The argument that electric vehicles are just as polluting as gas-powered vehicles because they consume electricity produced from coal plants has been looming over electric vehicles for a long time.
It has been debunked on a few occasions and while there are places where the grid is so dirty that it doesn’t make a big difference whether someone drives an electric car or a very efficient gas-powered car, most of the US electric grid is clean enough that it doesn’t come close to the efficiency of electric cars.
As the grid gets cleaner, thanks to solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energy sources, the electric car’s advantage is increasing every day and the latest data shows that it’s not even a contest anymore.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) updated their state-by-state study of the emission generation from electricity to account for the average electric car’s equivalent mpg on the electric grid.
We need to keep in mind that they are using updated EPA data from 2014 and that the grid got a lot cleaner since, but even the jump from 2009 to 2014 shows a massive improvement.
“That [older] report used 2009 power plant data (the most current available in 2012) and placed only 9 of 26 regions in the ‘best’ category. Now 19 regions are in the best category with only 2 in ‘good’ regions. For example, the Northern Midwest region that includes Minnesota and Iowa improved from 39 MPG equivalent to 54 MPG and Eastern Wisconsin also jumped from ‘good’ at 40 MPG to our ‘best’ rating with emissions equal to 52 MPG gasoline cars.”
The average electric car in the US now gets the equivalent efficiency of a non-existent 73 mpg gas-powered vehicle – and that’s before accounting for refining, transportation, etc., when it comes to petrol.
Here’s the state-by-state comparison improvements from 2009 to 2014:
In California alone, where almost half of the country’s electric vehicles are registered, it improved to 95 mpg thanks to the continuing massive deployment of solar power in the state.
The northeast is also shining in this new report thanks to hydroelectricity coming from the north. UCS puts upstate New York at an impressive 160 mpg.
The data is already impressive any way you can look at it, but it’s also only going to improve as more solar is being deployed and more coal power plants are being retired. While there are more things holding EVs back, like simple awareness and pricing, it’s one fewer problem to worry about – though it’s still something to keep in mind depending on where you live.