The last two years have seen an amazing growth in the popularity of electric cars, with the launch of Nissan’s LEAF and the Chevy Volt. One of the moot points related to EVs is how sustainable they are. To be sure, if EVs are fed with alternative energy, they will be greener. But what if the electricity powering an electric car comes from coal?
An electric car enthusiast took the time to prove that even in those cases, the amount of emissions produced is smaller than that of a gas-powered car. According to Green Car Reports, Mark D. Larsen took into consideration several variables to arrive at his conclusion. These included the efficiency of the charging station, the grid efficiency of the power transmission from the power station to his home, and the carbon dioxide output of a dirty coal power plant. He concluded that his 2012 Nissan Leaf emitted 42,665 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 miles travelled.
In contrast, a gas-powered vehicle would emit 50,332 grams of carbon dioxide for the same distance covered, Larsen says. He took into account the 6 kilowatt-hours of electricity used to refine one gallon of gasoline, the carbon dioxide ‘dirty coal’ footprint of that electricity and the actual carbon dioxide emissions from the car’s engine.
What do we take from this? Even in the worst case scenario – when electricity comes from coal – an electric vehicle is 15 percent cleaner than its gasoline counterpart. Coal accounts for 45 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. In the remaining 55 percent, electric cars would fare a lot better in terms of emissions.