Electric Vehicles Won't Reduce US Emissions: Study

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed an advanced simulation that projects future emissions in the United States and the results of this study are surprising.

The model they created factors in a number of different variables from fuel prices and battery costs to the adoption rate of electric vehicles in the coming decades. After running 108 separate scenarios, the team of scientists determined that even in best-case situations EVs would only reduce overall emissions by a small amount. Their findings have been compiled in a peer-reviewed paper and published in the academic journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Taking a holistic approach, their research model covers far more than just CO2 emissions; it includes things like sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, other nasty pollutants as well a variety of sources, so it’s not just tailpipe emissions. Things like power plants and factories were also included.

In a best-case scenario they estimate that by the year 2050 plug-in electrics and hybrids will only account for 42 percent of all U.S. passenger vehicles. Still, worldwide production of EVs like these is expected to grow by 67 percent this year to more than 403,000 cars, an estimate that factors in China’s extended tax credit on environmentally friendly vehicles as they battle the devastating health effects of smog that chokes many of their urban areas.

One major reason why electrified cars may not have much of an impact on overall air pollution in the U.S. is that passenger vehicles only account for about one-fifth of all greenhouse-gas emissions. The lion’s share of this nasty stuff accumulates from other sources, probably manufacturing and commercial transportation. Additionally the study noted that EVs could actually increase emissions if the powerplants generating the electricity aren’t clean.

It seems that transportation has been made a scapegoat for many of the world’s ills but to really cut greenhouse-gas emissions it’s going to take a united approach. Reduced vehicle emissions will have to go hand in hand with other cuts to make a meaningful impact.

[Source: National Geographic]

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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