Electric Car Upstream Emissions
Electric cars may not produce harmful emissions, but the generation of the electricity they run on might (e.g. coal). According to a recent article in E Magazine, even factoring in the dirtiest electricity sources, electric cars still come out cleaner than traditional gas powered vehicles:
… Naysayers like to argue that EVs will simply transfer the pollution “from the tailpipe to the smokestack.” Not so. The truth is that even today, charging an EV from a 100% coal-fired grid is up to 30% cleaner in terms of global warming emissions than running an average gasoline car. But the grid is almost never 100% coal, even in the Midwest, and new rules will continually reduce the emissions from that stack, says the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). If plants are fired by natural gas (and an increasingly large number are) then the result is 40-50% better. A nuclear grid is 90-95% better. And if the electricity is from wind or solar, it’s 100% better. “We really project the grid to get less carbon-intense over time,” says Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation at EPRI.
See: Charging Ahead: The Electric Car Revolution Is Coming—But Not Fast Enough, by Jim Montavalli in Sept/Oct 2010 Issue of E Magazine.