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Sierra Daily

Apr 16, 2012

Efficiency Starts at the Grid

Utility iStock_000016702791LargeDrive an electric vehicle in California, the Pacific Northwest, and much of New York, and you’re doing the environment a huge amount of good. In Rocky Mountain states, not so much.

The Union of Concerned Scientists studied the emissions that electric vehicles create from charging off the electric grid, and found, not surprisingly, that in regions where the local utilities rely on renewables and natural gas as their fuel sources, EVs slash global warming emissions compared to gasoline-powered vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids. In nearly half the country, the emissions generated by an electric car are lower than a car that gets 50 mpg, topping the best hybrids available. And “in places like California and most of New York, EV’s environmental performance could be as high as an 80 mpg gasoline-powered vehicle.” About 37 percent of Americans live in areas where the climate impact of driving an EV is equivalent to driving a 41-to-50 mpg gasoline vehicle—similar to most hybrids. But in heavily coal-energy-dependent areas like the Rocky Mountain region, an EV produces global warming emissions equivalent to a gas vehicle with a fuel economy rating of 33 mpg. That means that an EV driver in Denver impacts the environment about as much as that of a driver of a gasoline-powered Hyundai Elantra (33 mpg) or Ford Fiesta (34 mpg).

Every EV driver stands to save money on operating costs -- $750 to $1,200 per year compared to a conventional compact vehicle, according to UCS. And they all gain the not insubstantial satisfaction of consuming less oil.  (For information on the national-security implications of oil dependence, go here and here.) “No matter where one lives in the United States, electric vehicles are a good choice for reducing global warming emissions and saving money on fueling up,” the report concludes.

Photo by iStock/ZU 09

Blog photo   HS_ReedMcManus (1)Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked at the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term.  For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas Ever Thus.” 

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