#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.


Published on June 20th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Debunking The “Electric Cars Aren’t Greener” Myth

June 20th, 2013 by  

Update: Some very useful additional factors have been noted by commenters below. Have a look!

One of the most common myths I see repeated in the comments here on CleanTechnica — perhaps the most common — is the myth that electric cars aren’t greener. That’s pure BS. As numerous studies have shown, electric cars are very much greener than gasmobiles. In this Shrink That Footprint repost below, another report on that topic comes to essentially the same conclusion. A key point to make is that one key to an EV’s emissions is whether or not the owner has solar or charges off peak. One study has found that 39% of EV owners in California have solar power! But, in any case, let’s get on to Shrink That Footprint’s study.

By Lindsay Wilson

It’s time to bust this thing wide open.

‘Electric cars aren’t green’ is a great bit of counter-intuitive headline bait, but it’s bad maths.  This is how the argument goes, again and again…

Electric cars have higher manufacturing emissions than normal cars. Electric cars also use electricity that has its own footprint. And put together these two factors are a ‘dirty little secret‘ that negate any climate benefit of electric cars!

No. Let’s clear this thing up once and for all.

It’s all about the juice

One of the most irritating things about articles discussing electric car emissions is the way it’s always very black and white.  In one corner you have the ‘zero emissions’ brigade and in the other the ‘worse than combustion engine’ crew.

But as ever, real life comes in shades of grey.

The reality is that even after you account for the bigger manufacturing footprint of an electric car it is all about the fuel mix of the power you use, the ‘juice’ if you will.

Using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.

In our recent study ‘Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe‘ we calculated grid powered electric car emissions in twenty countries. But we actually had data for quite a few more countries we didn’t include.

So let’s break out the data and put this thing to rest.

Mapping electric car emissions

The following map compares the carbon footprint of electric driving using average grid electricity in 40 or so countries. The actual carbon intensity of electricity you use may differ from the national average for a number of reasons, but it’s a great starting point.

The results are shown in terms of grams of equivalent carbon dioxide per vehicle kilometer (g CO2e/km). Each estimate includes emissions from vehicle manufacturing, power station combustion, upstream fuel production and grid losses.

The specs are based on a full electric vehicle, similar to a Nissan Leaf, using the 2009 average fuel mix in each country. For each country vehicle manufacturing emissions are assumed to be 70g CO2e/km, based on a number of studies detailed in the report.

Click image to expand

Click image to expand

Of the 40 countries covered in this map emissions vary from 70g CO2e/km in hydro loving Paraguay, up to a 370g CO2e/km in heavy coal using India. The US average is 202g CO2e/km, in China it’s 258g and in Canada 115g.

In Paraguay virtually all the emissions are from vehicle manufacturing, as the power is incredibly low carbon. Whereas in India the breakdown is 70g for vehicle manufacturing, 200g from power plants, 30g for fuel production and a whopping 70g for grid losses.

The colors in the legend split the countries into five different groups based on carbon intensity. As you can see, even after vehicle manufacturing is included the carbon intensity of driving an electric car varies 5 fold based on the juice.

For a bit of reference, the average American gasoline vehicle is up at about 300g CO2e/km, while a new hybrid might manage 180g CO2e/km after you include vehicle manufacturing, fuel combustion and fuel production.

Compared to combustion vehicles

Because grams per kilometer is such a funny metric it is nice to convert these results to something more familiar. Working backwards from the data we can estimate what type of conventional vehicle (if any) would produce similar emissions.

For want of a better phrase lets call this the ‘Emissions equivalent petrol car’.

Click image to expand

Click image to expand

Now the figures are much easier to get a grip on.

In coal heavy India, China, Australia and South Africa electric cars using grid power are just like typical gasoline vehicles, in the 25-30 MPGUS range. In the UK, Germany, Japan and Italy they are as good as the best petrol hybrids, in the 45-50 MPGUS range. But in low carbon supply places like France, Brazil, Switzerland and Norway they are in a different league, averaging well beyond 100 MPGUS for equivalent emissions.

It is important to remember that the electricity you get might not match your national average for any number of reasons. The night time intensity might vary, you might have solar panels or live in a country like the US, where the grid is actually a bunch of separate grids. For example in Colorado a grid powered electric car is equivalent to about 30 MPGUS, whereas in California it’s up around 70 MPGUS.

For all the comparisons in this map the vehicle manufacturing of a gasoline car is just 40g CO2e/km compared to 70g CO2e/km for the electric vehicle. This is because we have accounted for both a greater manufacturing footprint and lower lifetime mileage in an electric car.

If you are interested in the detail check out the full report. It includes a breakdown of all figures, sensitivities to manufacturing, vehicle performance and comparisons to diesel vehicles.

Electric cars are as green as their juice

Critics of electric cars love to talk about manufacturing emissions and putting horses before carts. But they never seem to offer any better solutions. If they were waxing lyrical about urban densification, electrified public transport and the joys of bicycles their critiques would ring true, but that’s not what you hear.

Electric cars are relatively new at a commercial scale and are dealing with issues of cost, range and charging speed. Each of which will be helped by improving batteries. Despite this they offer enormous hope for reducing carbon emissions, improving local air quality and limiting noise pollution.

Electric cars are far from perfect, and there are plenty of valid ways to critique them. But let’s not pretend that a gasoline vehicle can compete with an electric car in terms of carbon emissions. It’s just not a contest.

Give an electric car the right juice and it crushes combustion engines.

Download the report here: Shades of Green 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Just as with hydro power or any energy source, the entire energy overhead must be accounted for. For gasoline, it begins with *looking* for the oil. And it includes the construction and operation of the test drill rigs, including all the materials for the casing, etc. Fracking also has huge overhead, including the re-injection of the waste water.

    Tankers are huge consumers of so-called bunker fuel.

    Extraction consumes a huge amount of electricity – in California, extraction is the second largest use of electricity, if I am not mistaken. Heavy sour crudes that require heating to even be able to be extracted use an immense amount of natural gas (with it’s own fracking overhead!) and water, which also uses a non-trivial amount of electricity to pump out of the ground. In a few cases, they even use solar heat systems to heat the water used to soften up the oil – so it can be pumped up out of the ground.

    As has been mentioned, tar sands bitumen is even worse – after “washing” out the sand, the gunk is way too thick to pump, so it has to be diluted with a solvent – which itself has to be produced, with another set of overhead energy inputs. Even after it is diluted, moving the tar sands bitumen through thousands of miles of pipeline (that has to be constructed, which takes a lot of energy!) is a nontrivial thing.

    All this *before* we even talk about refining the fossil fuel into a quality fuel. To refine heavy sour crudes takes a lot more effort and special refining facilities. To handle the tar sands bitumen which is quite acidic, the refinery has had to add something like a $10B addition – and all that stuff has a large energy overhead.

    Manufacturing MTBE is probably not easy – and it probably uses a fair bit of energy – and all that energy has it’s own overhead carbon footprint.

    After it is refined, the fuel still has to be stored and moved around, and the last leg to the gas station is by truck – all the diesel and natural gas and electricity and water used along the long path from finding the oil to pumping it into your tank – is staggeringly energy intensive.

    Also, as mentioned already, the materials and “consumable” items used in regular maintenance of ICE cars must be included in the true total of carbon produced by burning gasoline in cars.


    On another point in the article – do we actually know that it takes more energy to build an EV vs an ICE car? Aluminum in the engine block and the rest of the ICE drivetrain come with an immense electricity overhead. Smelting bauxite into aluminum is anything but easy.

    What part(s) of the EV is so energy intensive that it overshadows what goes into an ICE?


    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s a nice write-up Neil. Makes one aware of how much carbon is being pumped into the atmosphere in addition to the amount coming out of tailpipes.

      Energy in an EV vs. ICEV. It’s hard to imagine that there’s anything like the energy input for ICEVs in EVs. When one thinks of the hundreds of parts, many of which have to be cast and then machined, there’s got to be a lot of energy involved.

      Some EV batteries have to be “baked” for a while, I believe. But with pass through ovens and decent insulation that shouldn’t be a major energy suck.

      I would imagine the materials in EV motors would be highly recyclable which would save a lot of energy. (Metal casing and copper windings.)

  • Consider some electric car purchases are made by individuals who will never drive those cars enough to cross threshold from energy of production/use to the point which it is reduced below that of energy of production/use of an ICE car. That sad, those individuals contribute by making it more economical for all future electric/hybrid cars that will cross the energy threshold.

  • benji888

    you gave in to their tactics! …anyone that wants to discuss this in real terms needs to give me real numbers about gas combustion vehicles, cost and environment. No one will tell me about crude oil drilling, crude oil spills & their cleanup, conversion to gasoline, the transport and distribution of gasoline. These all factor in to the cost and environmental impact of driving a gas combustion vehicle. How about health effects? Especially for those that drive for a living full-time? You can smell the air from a gas-combustion engine, you know it is more harmful then they want you to know. It may be better than it was 20, even 10 years ago, but it is NOT clean air!

    For many, owning an all-electric vehicle means plugging it in at home at night, no more. This cost & environmental impact can vary depending upon their power source, (which could be solar or wind, and WILL be in the future). They all want to go “behind” electrics, but, if they went behind gas combustion, they would lose by a long shot. If you want to go behind an EV, FIRST go behind a gas combustion car and tell me EVs are not the most green vehicle there is. Period.

    • benji888

      WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!, I forgot, all-electric vehicles also do not have a lot of things gas-combustion cars do, so let’s add to the list of what we need to know behind gas combustion cars: motor oil production and usage (that’s a big add-on), (no oil in an electric car), & oil filters, air filters, drive belts, timing belts, (batteries have cooling systems so I’ll skip the engine cooling system), power steering (I assume EVs have electric as opposed to hydraulic), …what did I miss? …seriously, this is what people do not realize, all-electric cars are much, much lower on maintenance. …plus, gas combustion engines have gone as far as they can, they can’t get better MPG out of them except to make transmissions with more gears and smaller engines. (Most cars you buy today do no better MPG than in the 80s. I said most, not all).

  • electricnick

    These anti-EV people are at their wits’ end. They’re running out of ammunition and are grabbing at straws. One the one hand you have those with a vested interest in petroleum activities and keeping the status quo. On the other end of the same fence, you have those who are petrified of changes.

    Maybe we should remind those scared of changes that the gasoline engine raised a ruckus when it was introduced by people who swore only by the steam engine. The same steam engine technology was hailed at the anti-Christ by carriage manufacturers and the horse industry. So it goes… And one day, anti-matter systems will displace the electric motor and will be met with equally ferocity. None the less, technology marches onward and dinosaures eventually disappear 🙂

  • Victor Provenzano

    With respect to tropical hydro, there are all the CO2 emissions that derive from mining, transport & making of finished materials, as well as dam
    construction, operations. etc. On the other hand, there are all the
    ongoing methane emissions that derive from the initial flooding of the
    reservoir area & the rotting of the submerged soil matter, plants,
    & animals. When one accounts for all of this, the net carbon emissions of tropical hydro may be more than twice as high as those of coal. http://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Hydropower-GHG-Emissions-Feb.-14-2012.pdf

    • Bob_Wallace

      Victor –

      You need to calculate/determine the lifetime carbon footprint of these dams, not their carbon footprint during the first few years of their lives while the submerged vegetation rots away.

      Dams and coal plants may produce electricity for over 50 years. Each year the coal plant gets a fresh supply of fuel whereas the dam gets only one supply during its entire existence.

      • UKGary

        The carbon footprint of dams is highly variable from almost nil in cold climate high head situations with a small dam per kW – like many in Norway to very high with low head dams covering huge areas of tropical rainforest.such as some in the Amazon region.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Lifetime carbon footprint.

          Learn what it means.

          • UKGary

            I don’t think your remarks are justified Bob.

            If you build a tiny dam in Norway in order to direct water to a high head generator (with a drop of several hundred metres), the amount of concrete and other hardware required is very low for the lifetime amount of power which can be harnessed from this dam, and very little vegetation if any will decompose in the dam.

            By contrast, if you build a much larger low head dam in the Amazon rainforest in order to generate the same amount of power, you will use far more concrete and other materials, and probably have to cut through the forest for access roads opening up the forest to exploitation. Such a dam will have far higher embodied emissions from the structure and processes associated with its construction, and as you will also flood a huge area of forest, there is a strong likelihood that large quantities of CO2 and methane will be released over many years from decomposing vegetation in the dam with some degree of decomposition continuing on an indefinite basis as more vegetation enters the dam carried by the river. True, the amounts will be highest in the first few years, however the problem never completely disappears and even if you do share the first few years of emissions over the life of the dam, such a dam will still have higher impacts than a small high head dam in a cold country. .

          • Bob_Wallace

            Of course a dam that covers vegetation will off-gas more methane than a dam that covers little/no methane.

            That is not the issue.

            The issue is that some people seem to think that more GHGs will be emitted from a tropical dam than a coal plant over a half a century or more.

  • Victor Provenzano

    You might want to revise your article & take this into account in the future: Tropical hydro in Brazil & elsewhere is not low carbon. Its net carbon emissions are between one and two times as high as those of coal because of the amount of methane that is released by the underwater trees, plants & organic matter at the bottom of the dam’s reservoir. In contrast, hydropower in northern climates, such as in Norway, has relatively low carbon emissions, but not tropical hydro

  • anderlan

    If I use power at night to charge my car and like most grids mine has extra capacity at night (WASTED fuel), then, even if the power plant is burning coal, driving my car has no emissions. (This is why power is cheaper at lowest demand in the middle of the night; most utilities will let even residential customers take advantage of that, meaning that the governments recent cost of electric driving calculator is HIGHBALLING the costs.) The emissions that would have been put out by driving a gas car have been replaced with NOTHING, NO ADDED EMISSIONS.

    Why aren’t people mentioning this? These savings could and likely will eventually be quantified by interested parties, and they will be formidable.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I doubt that there is fuel being wasted at night. There’s no way to dump electricity off the grid. If power is being generated it’s going somewhere.

      The waste that happens sometimes is wind curtailment. If demand is low and there is enough non-load following thermal (coal or nuclear) to supply, the demand the thermal plants may sell at a close to or below zero price in order to get wind farms to drop out.

      There might be a very small amount of fuel wastage occurring as NG plants ramp up in order to follow demand. This could be avoided if there were EVs available to smooth things out. But the amount is probably tiny, basing that on a study of wind on the UK grid.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        Yep. Check out the UK today here:

      • anderlan

        There are other ways of wasting power than dumping it to the grid. It’s a thermal generator. It’s actually designed to dump heat!

        You can have a large generator idling as slow as it can, and it might be burning a quarter of peak demand fuel, but outputting only 15% of its peak power because that’s all the demand. You can’t just turn it off. You’ve only got a handful. There’s only so much granularity, and the machine is designed to be more efficient at perhaps a different speed.

        If this is not the case, then why is power cheaper at night, every night (not just windy nights), since before wind came on the scene???? The invisible hand, as weak as it is in a state-sponsored institutional monopoly, shows itself.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Let’s say that where you live, late at night the coal plant is only burning enough coal to maintain heat and pressure to keep the turbine spinning because they don’t want to cause wear and tear on the plant that will result from letting the heat and pressure drop and they want to be ready to supply electricity when demand increases. When this is happening and you plug in your electric car you cause a tiny but real voltage drop in the grid. This drop is detected and causes the power station to draw some power from the spinning turbine to maintain the voltage. Putting a load on the turbine like this would slow it down, so In order to keep the turbine spinning 50 times a second more steam is used to keep it rotating. This use of more steam causes a drop in steam pressure which is detected and results in more coal being burned to keep the pressure up. So even in a situation where a coal plant is just idling and producing emissions without producing electricity, plugging in an electric car will result in more coal being burned and so more emissions than what would otherwise occur if the coal plant had simply been left idling.

    • Actually, that was my point in writing “or charges off peak.” But I’m not sure how much that = ‘no extra emissions’ vs how much that does actually equally some extra emissions. Would really need to see a study on this.

  • And of course, looking at things at the national level doesn’t really get down to state and even more local differences, a point, of course, that’s lost on the anti-EV crowd that fires blasts about “coal” powered EVs, even when, in places like Washington State, Idaho, etc., little to no electricity is generated by coal.

  • RAMGarden

    Don’t forget the simple answer for this is that if you take the same grid power the oil refinery used to refine oil into a gallon of gas and put that same power directly into the battery of an electric car, thanks to the great efficiency of an electric motor it will actually go the same if not a tad further than a normal gas car would go on that gallon of gas. Plus the gas car has to burn the gas to move effectively burning fossil fuels TWICE and producing all that much more toxic / bad exhaust. This should be the single most important point to make when talking about this subject. And as the grid gets cleaner with new wind, solar, hydro, wave, tidal, and geothermal power so will the electric cars.

    • Thanks. That one does tend to slip my mind.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “if you take the same grid power the oil refinery used to refine oil into a gallon of gas and put that same power directly into the battery of an electric car, thanks to the great efficiency of an electric motor it will actually go the same if not a tad further than a normal gas car would go on that gallon of gas”

      Do you have a good source for that?

      I took the CA state data for 2010 and calculated the energy used from all sources to refine a gallon of gas.


      What I found was it takes 3.14 kWh of energy (includes electricity, oil, natural gas, etc.) to refine a gallon of gas. Grid purchased electricity used is 0.161kWh per gallon.

      I could be wrong. If you’ve got a source that shows that, please share.

      You can review my calculations if you like…


      • Bob, aren’t you roughly agreeing with RAMGarden? That 3.14kWh of energy, one gallon, will get a US gasoline car about 20 miles. It’s about 1/6th of a Renault ZOE EV battery (20kWh) which has a range of about 100 miles, so it goes about 17 miles on the energy that was used to refine the gallon of gasoline.

        Never mind that I don’t see the energy being considered to get the oil out of the ground to refinery, nor from the refinery to the car.

        I think the argument is valid: compared to an ICE an EV has zero carbon emissions in use even if powered from a heavy coal grid, if the same grid was used to deliver gasoline to the ICE.

        Trevor L

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, because most of the 3.14 kWh of Energy is in the form of oil, natural gas and coal.

          A lot of the energy in fossil fuels is lost converting them to electricity. For example, a gasoline powered car wastes about 80% of the energy in its fuel tank. Only about 20% is converted to kinetic energy – moves the car.

          The very best coal plants turn about half the energy in coal to electricity.

          RAM is claiming a lot of grid electricity is used for refining. The numbers I’ve looked at simply don’t support that.

          ” Grid purchased electricity used is 0.161kWh per gallon.” That amount of electricity would power an EV a half a mile.

          And much of the pumping/hauling energy is also in the fossil fuel form. Major energy lost to waste heat if we used it for electricity.

          There are studies which find than an EV running on 100% coal-generated electricity has a slightly higher CO2 emission “responsibility” than a ICEV.

          But since none of our grids are 100% coal fed we can put that concern behind us.

          What we are likely to see going forward is that the electricity charging our EVs/PHEVs will be the cheapest of all grid electricity. Most charging will occur at night when the wind:fossil fuel ratio is generally highest.

        • Markwbrooks

          Again, not even close , your 3.14 is only for the refining, which is only a 1/4 of the energy needed to create a gallon of gasoline. The real world Extraction cost of heavy oil, transportation etc makes up the real energy cost in a gallon of gas.
          The carbon costs for gasoline are also no where near as low as listed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look, Mark, I’ve had a bad day fighting nasty trolls. I’m not in a good mood and I’ve got a short fuse.

            That said, I posted the calculations that I made for refining. Refining. Refining. Nothing but refining.

            Got it? 3.14 kWh of energy is used to refine a gallon of gas.

            Very little of that 3.14 kWh of energy is electricity from the grid.

            Most of the energy is fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas).

            Were we to take the non-grid electricity energy and turn it into electricity it would not make a bunch of electricity.

            We would end up with far less than 3.14 kWh of electricity because thermal generation of electricity is inefficient.

            Now, you’re bringing in extracting and shipping. That is a different issue. Understand?

            Most of the energy used to extract and transport oil/gasoline is in the form of fossil fuel. Understand?

            If we used the energy used to extract and transport oil/gasoline we would lose a lot of that energy in conversion from fossil fuel to electricity. Understand?

            One cannot take the Energy used in creating (extracting, transporting and refining) a gallon of gas, convert it into a kWh measurement, and then claim we could run X miles in an EV based on those kWh. It is not in a form we can stick into batteries.

            Energy and electricity are not the same thing.

          • Markwbrooks

            I can tell you are having a bad day Bob as you clearly didn’t read my post or the link I sent. Try again, I am talking about ELECTRICITY out of a plug, not energy used to create it.

            If you would like to talk energy, Lets keep it simple, per barrel of oil sands crude, you need 1100 cu ft of natural gas to steam it out of the ground, mix with 12 gallons of diluent to create a barrel of Dilbit from the bitumen, then another 900 cu ft of natural gas to turn it into synthetic crude… then you can stick it in your refinery. The refinery processing cost is minor so don’t fixate on it.

            instead try burning that natural gas in your local utility compansy electrical generator, Got it?

            And just so other readers are clear, It takes 13kwh to charge the battery of the Chevy volt on a bad day, not 3. That 13kwh will take you about 35 miles.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here is what I have been responding to –

            “… if you take the same grid power the oil refinery used to refine oil into a gallon of gas and put that same power directly into the battery of an electric car, thanks to the great efficiency of an electric motor it will actually go the same if not a tad further than a normal gas car would go on that gallon of gas”

          • Markwbrooks

            To clear this up, try this:
            “The Chevy Volt can go as far on the Energy used to create a gallon of Oil sands based gasoline, as it can on the Gasoline”
            I am using the example of the Alberta Oil sands as I am Canadian and have all the energy inputs for it. As the Volt can travel in both Pure EV mode, and Pure gasoline mode, it is the perfect example.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That may be true, Mark. But do you realize that we were talking only about refining?

          • Markwbrooks

            Actually RAMs original post was about taking the energy used to create a gallon of gasoline and applying it directly to charging an EV, I am simply pointing out what that really means….
            And BTW, refiners often don’t use any grid energy at all, rather they simple burn some of the crude input usually in a very efficient manner. In Alberta Natural gas is the preference, in ontario, the Esso refiners use a lot of grid power as it is dirt cheap. It all depends on the location and type of crude being refined.
            An added twist is that the output is anywhere from 19 to 23 gallons car gas per barrel, the rest is other products.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “if you take the same grid power the oil refinery used to refine oil into a gallon of gas”

            Not energy used to create a gallon of gas, but grid power (electricity).

            Not the entire process of getting from under the ground and into gas tanks, but refining.

            Words have meaning.

      • Anthony

        I seen the problem dilemma here, conscience, electric power car to the grid to charge.

        Why connect car to the grid in the first place, it still dependent on fossil fuel for charging, carbon dioxide emissions and transferred to the stack of the power station. What the difference pumping petrol into the tank for its source of energy.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Here’s your problem, Anthony. You don’t know how we power our grids.

          You seem to think that our electricity comes from 100% fossil fuel inputs. That’s not the case. Why don’t you research how we generate electricity?

          • Anthony

            Don’t get up set Bob, I was clearly pointing out to you that there’s other alternatives out there, you have no concern for the environment by plugging electric car into a power point transfers emissions back to the stack of the power station, I cannot agree with this, because the car will be charging up at night on fossil fuel generation. Is no such thing is an American city that is 100% renewable run on energy. For the time being, you still have to depend on the Alaskan pipeline and Texas oil, petroleum- profane gas.

            In regards to where you get your energy on the grid quite understand where you get it from coal fired power stations, gas fired power station, nuclear, not from renewable, as black gold Americans economy’s best friend, keep the lights on a night and keeps to tyres on that keeps them moving rolling the economy along without it, you’ll be on barefooted and naked.

      • Markwbrooks

        3.14kwh is not even close… if the oil is extracted from the Oil sands, try 13 Kwh, most of it spend during the extraction and creation of synthetic crude before it even gets to the refinery.

        Here is a good source:


        I also notice that carbon footprint for gasoline cars is hopelessly optimistic year 2000 stuff. This is before refinery’s started using heavy oil in a big way, which is now used for 20%+ of us gasoline production ( heavy oil from Canadian oil sands and elsewhere).

        • Bob_Wallace

          Refine. It’s a word that has a meaning. Concentrate.

  • jonesey

    And this analysis counts only carbon emissions. If you count localized emissions of carbon monoxide, soot, unburned hydrocarbons, and other nasty stuff into the air, electric cars win by a long shot. Every time I’m riding my bike or walking and a big diesel truck goes by, I can’t wait for an electric vehicle future.

    And that’s *also* not counting the oil spills, the endless military expenditures and lives lost in wars for oil, asthma, and other real effects that will be substantially reduced in an EV future.

    It can’t come too soon for me.

    • Great extra points. The other emissions really don’t get enough attn these days.

    • Aaron Russell

      I’m a Marine Corps poolee and I get a headache every time I run home next to a 4 lane road. Cant wait for our EV transition to be complete!

  • JamesWimberley

    Cars last a long time. The conventional life expectancy is 10 years, but modern cars are better made than they used to be, and EV purchasers are probably more careful than average, so let’s take 10 years as a very conservative lower bound. The lifetime carbon emissions of an EV depend on the lifetime carbon intensity of electricity: on average, the carbon intensity of the generating fleet five to seven years from now. It will certainly be lower than now, you can argue about how much.

    The other trend to consider in the same horizon is the smart grid, which will allow preferential recharging when low-carbon generators are online. Again, you have to work with an estimate of how far this will have gone by 2018 or so, half-way through the first term of President Hillary. (If it’s half-way through the first term of President Ryan, don’t bother, just stock up on tinned food and ammo.)

    • ThomasGerke

      10 years is not that long ime in my opinion. Buildings & their components last 20-50 years. A refrigerator an average of 14 years. …

      If EVs become a true mass market by 2020, half of the vehicle fleet could be electric by 2030…that’s quite a rapid change IMO.

      Refining all those gallons of gasoline is responsible for 260 mio. tons of carbon emissions in the US…. Rise of EVs => less refining….

      • Bob_Wallace

        In 2011 the average age of US cars was 10.8 years. Cars have a rougher lifetime than refrigerators. They spend a lot of time out in the elements, don’t necessarily get the service they need, get bumped around by other cars and trees and stuff, they have people and dogs getting in and out of them all the time.

        In 1995 the average age was 8.8 years so life expectancy is rising.

        If EV batteries get cheap I suspect we’ll see a lot of EV staying on the road longer than ICEVs do. Perhaps you will put 100,000 miles on your new EV and be jonesing for a new, shiny ride.

        Someone will take your used EV, give it a spiffy new paint job and perhaps redo the interior, slap in a new battery pack and sell someone on a tighter budget a very nice looking EV with 100,000 solid miles left in it.

        We might even see an industry spring up that reconditions vehicle seats and interiors. They’d have a stock of ‘ready to go’ seats on hand. Pull the old ones out. Put down new carpet and hang a new headliner, bolt in the reconditioned seats, and turn around a car in short hours.

        • The definite key in terms of used EVs is the battery pack. I wouldn’t buy a used EV that’s 4 to 5 years old with 70,000 miles plus — and I’m a die-hard EV advocate. Put a new battery pack in for me, and no problem, I’ll snap a used EV up — if the price is right.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You might not. But what about someone who needs a second car for modest commutes? Even when that EV hits 100,000 there should be more than 40 miles of range left.

            That would get someone to their 10 mile or less job and bring them home. And let them do some shopping/whatever on the way.

            What about retired folks who use their car to go shopping and run errands around town but always take public transportation for out of town trips?

            I can think of times in my life when a 40 mile range EV would have served me well.

        • JamesWimberley

          An average vehicle age of 10.8 years implies a life expectancy of 20 years or so, if car buying were smooth, which it emphatically isn’t thanks to the recession. I update my lowest-bound estimate for a new EV to 15 years, which means that the average carbon intensity of electricity to consider is that in 2020, seven years ahead.

    • Worth noting is that EVs are much simpler vehicles. Many of us are expecting that they will have a longer lifespan than gasmobiles.

      • Ross

        No worrying about the engine being ruined by a timing belt failure.

    • One way to think of it (that someone else pointed out to me) is that the latest improvements in emissions in ICE cars take 10 years to roll out across the fleet. A similar improvment in the grid helps emissions instantly across all EVs charging from that grid..

Back to Top ↑