EVs Can Pollute More than Internal-Combustion Cars: Study

EVs Can Pollute More than Internal-Combustion Cars: Study

Are electric cars better for the environment than their internal-combustion counterparts? Common knowledge says yes, but according to one report the answer could be quite different.

It’s no secret that EVs need juice and lots of it. Whether those electrons are harvested by renewable means or a coal-fired power plant makes a world of difference, and curiously so does geography.

A study released by a group of economists takes fine-grained date that measures all manner of U.S. vehicle emissions and traces them to tailpipes and the electric grid. For maximum granularity they went county by county across the entire country, mapping how electricity is generated and the emissions produced.

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What did they find? Well, in some areas EVs cause so much pollution they should be taxed instead of subsidized. These places, like the East Coast and Midwest rely heavily on “dirty” coal-fired plants to generate power. Overall, emissions from these facilities are more damaging to the environment than burning gasoline.

However, in other regions, like out west, electricity is produced much more cleanly and therefore EVs outperform than their internal-combustion counterparts. In short, electric cars can be better than fossil fuel-powered vehicles provided the electricity they use was generated cleanly, if not then they can be significantly worse.

[Source: City Lab]

Discuss this story on our Hybrid-Cars Forum.

  • Taha

    Even the dirty electricity is cleaner than the internal combustion engine. The efficiency out of a power plant is much higher than that out of a small regular engine. Moreover, many electric car owners use different and green sources for supplying their vehicle energy i.e. using solar panel.

  • disqus_n6uKkgGyzJ

    Also, it seems like this hardly takes into account the pollution caused by drilling, refining, and, shipping the oil/gasoline. I’d be curious how the numbers play out when that information is summed together and compared to a coal-fired plant (including additional pollution by the plants such as shipment/mining of coal).

    There’s seem to be several big variables that were skimmed over when comparing electric vs gasoline vehicles.

    Any ideas on who funded this study?