|No contest: EVs are cleaner than ever compared with gasoline counterparts|
Electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than their gasoline-fueled counterparts.
But they run on electricity generated in power plants, which produce their own emissions. That's made it more difficult to discern the actual climate benefits EVs deliver over cars equipped with internal combustion engines.
A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists brings greater clarity to that question. At a time when the Biden administration is touting electric vehicles as a means to blunting climate change, the report finds that across the country, electric vehicles are more environmentally beneficial than ever.
With power-plant emissions considered, driving an EV is equal to or better than driving an ICE car getting 50 miles per gallon, and that's the case across 97 percent of the U.S., according to the report.
From an emissions standpoint, the average electric vehicle is equivalent to a 93-mpg conventional vehicle, the report says, while the average new gasoline car reaches 31 miles per gallon, and new trucks 23 mpg.
"Passenger cars and trucks are a significant source of global warming emissions in the U.S.," writes David Reichmuth, senior engineer in the Clean Transportation Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization. "Switching from gasoline to electricity is a vital solution for reducing emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change."
Researchers analyzed data from the EPA on regional power-plant emissions from 2019 and combined it with assessments of fueling and driving emissions from gasoline-powered cars.
Regional differences in power plants can account for a wide variety in emissions. As shown on the map above, compiled by UCS, the average electric vehicle driven in upstate New York would generate emissions equivalent to a 255-mpg conventional car. On the lowest side of the spectrum in the contiguous U.S., EVs driven in a pocket that encompasses portions of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri would generate the emissions equivalent of a 41-mpg gasoline vehicle.
Power is getting cleaner: emissions related to electric vehicles have dropped 15 percent from UCS estimates made three years ago.
Overall, at a time when electric vehicles are proliferating throughout the auto industry, the report underscores the environmental benefits they're capable of delivering.
- Pete Bigelow