Carbon Footprints for Electric Vehicles Differ


In a recent report by the Union of Concern Scientists, to be released on Monday, there is a significant difference between the amount of greenhouse gases resulting from the charging of the electric vehicles battery arrays.

These greenhouse gases are primarily carbon dioxide and these contribute to the climate change. These gases trap heat, leading to an increase in the global temperatures affecting the weather, as well as other environmental factors.

The report is entitled “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States”. The study used the electrical power requirements of a Nissan Leaf as the basis for comparison. The Leaf sets a logical baseline and what differs is the source of electricity as well as the greenhouse gases produced in the production of that electricity.

The study found that in Los Angeles, Ca., there is a low level of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, about the same levels as an internal combustion engine car running on gasoline having 79 miles to the gallon. On the other hand, the same vehicle in Denver would result in the production of greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere, similar to vehicles such as the gasoline fueled Mazda 3 currently rated at 33 miles per gallon by the Environmental Protection Agency. This makes a major difference, as the California Nissan Leaf is hailed for its efficiency while the Denver Nissan Leaf’s carbon footprint is enlarged because of the electrical utilities that powers to charge the batteries.

Simply put, the effect of electric vehicles on the amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment spanning a wide range of sources, with variations as to the power producers that charges them.

The report takes into consideration the full cycle of energy production, called the well to wheels analysis. It identifies the areas where the electric utility relies on a variety of sources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, or other renewable sources in order to power generators. The potential for electric cars and plug-in hybrids in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is great, but where power sources use the burning of a high percentage of coal, then despite the latest technology, may not be any different than the latest internal combustion engine models.

When current gasoline prices hover around U.S.$4 per gallon and with the increased production of electric vehicles, such as the Ford Focus and the Honda Fit, together with plug in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius PHV and the Ford Fusion Energi, either already available or soon to become available, the study provides a better picture of the current energy landscape. The information that can be derived from the study can help car purchasers make better decisions for the future.