I think many of us might have already known the answer...but Climate Centra's state-by-state analysis gives us a clear picture on the degree of greenenss of your EV depends on the electricity grid in you state -- how the energy is generated...it's all interconnected.
@pinhead, true. There is no single clear, easy answer. And yet, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how far we have come, in some states that have electrical grids with substantial amounts of hydro, nuclear, and wind power, essentially producing no carbon emissions.
That is definitely changing the picture in some states.
Unfortunately this report does not factor in other important aspects such as the large pull that the gasoline lobbyist have on our government.
Even in states where electrics appear to have an advantage today, well tomorrow may bring a different story especially when revenues of gas companies may go down in the so called green states.
As an example here in Oregon the talk is on taxing electrics heavily due to the fact that the gas tax money is dwindling and money for road repairs that comes directly from gas taxes and such are no longer there.
One plan is to install sophisticated GPS trackers in EV's which would then record and report the mileage driven via some type of RF link and at the years end the state tax department would then send a tax bill with the dollar amount comparable to what a gas vehicle user would pay at the pump.
As a result even though we may have a distinct electric advantage today, tomorrow due to lobbyist for the gasoline industry and such I'm afraid that this advantage may dissapear very fast.
Never underestimate the grred of a multi billlion, or is it trillion, dollar industrys pull on maintaining profits in double digit numbers.
@Mike_m, They may be greedy, but they are not dumb. Many oil energy companies are investing heavily in battery technologies.
I can see the need to keep road tax revenue coming, but the gps monitoring idea sounds like its coming from the tinfoil hat crowd. A simpler solution: Report your annual mileage on your car use tax form. Scale by vehicle weight to calculate your contribution to road wear. Add air pollution tax to gasoline, oil and coal. That sounds better to me.
Green sounds compelling. We assimilate green to vegetable, trees and forest. I can understand "Green" is chosen to be one of the market terms in promoting hybrid and EV. IMO, the movement indeed protect the environment regionally. To be precise, it lows the carbon dioxide emission in your neighborhood. You may feel the air around you fresher if there are enough people driving in your community.
Unfortunately, the reality is we have to see a bigger picture when we are trying to tackle a global situation. Just as the article said, we could make a zero emission vehicle; yet, the manufacturing process emits higher amount of CO2. The report even suggests, in some models, the CO2 emission from operation may not offset that from manufacturing.
What's a better measure to the environment friendliess of any vehicle? Carbon footprint has been one of the most talkable measures. How do we quantify it? What can be done to inform consumers how much carbon footprint the vehicle is?
Chanj0, the easiest way to communicate with consumers about carbon footprint of a car is through the mileage of a car, but naturally, there are other factors, beyond tailpipe CO2, that need to be considered.
As a starter, here's something we can all work with:
Am I the only one who finds it ironic that Vermont tops the list only because Vermont leads the nation in utilization of nuclear power to generate electricity? Nuclear fission produces zero carbon emissions, so it is the greenest form of electricity generation, right? Try selling that one to the public!
I agree with you, Frank. Matter of fact, as I read the article initially, I could only marvel at how everyone seems to have "tunnel memory." Fukushima was not all that long ago, but when it comes to hyping up EVs, and creating conspiracy theories as to why they aren't more successful, suddenly all the other counterbalancing considerations are conveniently forgotten.
From what I gather, int he United States, 13 states have placed restrictions on the construction of new nuclear power facilities: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Minnesota, however, is the only state which has adopted an outright ban on the construction of new nuclear power facilities.
But again, getting back to Japan, the Japanese government is back on track pursuing the re-start of nuclear power again. Go figure.
I don't mean to sound fervently anti-nuclear, though. My only point was that JUST BECAUSE some technology might represent a theoretical "zero carbon footprint," it does not mean that there are no big or even huge costs involved. These other costs cannot be ignored either, in the heat of the moment.
Unfortunately, any advantages of one approach over the other are subtle enough to be difficult to discern. Add that the issue is highly politicized and it becomes even more difficult to tell.
The real issue, in my opinion, is that gasoline holds quite a lot of potential energy by weight and volume. It's got a very high energy density. It's very easy to extract a significant amount of that energy as well. Until there is some way of collecting, storing and using clean and inexpensive energy with roughly the same potential by weight and volume, the economics will be very difficult to justify.
The problem, of course, is that, while it's easy to extract the energy from gasoline, it's not possible to put it back. It's a one way trip into the atmosphere.
As a society, I think we need to be exploring all electric and hybrid vehicles as well as other types of vehicles, but I don't see a solid answer until we can solve the energy density challenge.
@Duane: good points you raise... regarding the energy density metric of gasoline against everything else, one thing you may also want to consider is the unitized cost, i.e., cents / energy density. I believe this is skewed in favour of gasoline but I expect the true 'green' energies to cross over as we make more progress.
@Junko: I think folks from EV manufacturing companies will most likely pay close attention to the methodology used in the report: Section 6 onward where computing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were explained.
I guess EVs are much greener when you charge them with your own solar generated energy such as solar panels. That could be an option to make it greenr. The only problem is that most EV cars or EV hybrid cars offered in the US do not offer the range many people drive.
If the question is whether an electric car could be called as "Green" car, I also think "No" if the car is not being powered using a renewable energy source such as solar. Solar could be the key for achieving "True Green" electric cars, if the car battery could be charged using solar cells installed in the house or even installed on the car; But this is not cost effective at present. Waiting for a revolution to happen in the solar space to make this solution attractive.
Why not starting with taking smaller steps...increase Fuel efficiency first...increase the efficiency everywhere including power generation, distribution....reduce wastage to the minimum...with more intelligent, smarter devices connected together,
btw...what happened to the "compressed air car" technology?
@GogoGeek - good point. I have never understood this. The big disadvantage of solar is that it is only available during the day. And what are a good percentage of vehicles doing during the day? Sitting in parking lots while their owners work. Ideal marriage - use solar to charge EVs during the day. EVs are the answer that Solar power has been waiting for.
David Ashton wrote: EVs are the answer that Solar power has been waiting for.
Also air conditioning, which is most needed when the sun is blazing away.
A good long-term solution IMO is solar-generated hydrogen for fuel cells. You can make the hydrogen while the sun shines and convert it back to electricity whenever you want. Renting a fuel cell for long trips might be a dandy way to extend EV range.
This article is more of what's needed- a holistic view that looks at tradeoffs. The non-technical public needs to be better informed as well.
Good example is the Nissan Leaf...it claims "Zero Emissions" on an emblem or as a great big decal down each side. All of us know that's blatantly false but I'm sure most owners truly believe they are not creating any emissions anywhere. (I'm surprised some attorney hasn't taken this up as a "hobby case"!)
I've wondered what pollution issues the manufacturing and disposal of photovoltaics create? Something to investigate when I have more time. Hopefully it's minor.
I am very intersted in helping the environment and doing my part to eliminate the myth of global warming. I would like to see the replacement of the batteries as part of the total CO2 cost in this equation. I'm led to believe that the batteries last longer than in gasoline powered cars, but need to be replaced at about 100K miles. This would increase the carbon foot print by quite a bit. The big thing I would look at as a consumer is the overall cost per mile. The difference in a hybrid vs a comparable gasoline vehicle is thousands of dollars. I can purchase a lot of gasoline for that even at today's prices. The last issue I would worry about is the life of the batteries in a warm climate. How long do the batteries last in Phoenix? I know that my car battery does not last as long in 100+ weather.
Daleste, you raise a good point. I would like to know more about battery lifetime, too.
I remember reading that some of the original Toyota Prius's were used as taxi's in Toronto and some had over 1,ooo,ooo miles on the original batteries! The hybrid batteries last so long largely because they were kept near the ideal % charge range of 50% capacity.
Pure electric cars which use their batteries more heavily would have a much shorter life. I believe the current Prius's have a 100,000 mile battery warrantee, so you know they will probably last at least that long.
Apart from the enviornmental impact of production of NiMIH of Li-Ion batteries, another major problem is the disposal or recycling of these batteries, which also adds to the carbon debt. I am wondering whether the report considered this aspect.
I'm glad to finally see a report that comprehends the carbon cost of manufacturing an EV, and the resulting carbon deficit that takes many miles of driving to recover. At the very least, it focuses attention on the fact that there is much more needed for making EVs greener than simply more renewable sources for electricity.
It seems perverse to consider how the electricity used for charging a battery is generated, but not how the electricity used to manufacture it is generated. If all the energy used to manufacture the battery were derived from renewables or nuclear, the carbon emmisions used to manufacture it would be zero.
It is reasonably straightforward to generate electricity without emitting carbon, using either renewables or nuclear. It is hard to design a car that deosn't emit carbon (nuclear-powered car anyone?). A battery is a way of storing energy derived from some other source and so an EV is a simply way of getting a car that has no emisions, provided the energy used to manfuacture it and charge the battery is derived from sources that have no emisions.
I think the 'Environmental Friendly" question is simply too complicated to answer. Maybe how clean the electricity is an issue, but one could argue the cost of making gasoline available (extraction, refinery, transport) is likely just as costly. How do you know it is a draw?
I think the layman should look at their driving habits and do a cost benefit analysis using round numbers.
Let's say I get 40 mpg on my motorcycle. At $4 a gallon, It costs me $0.10 a mile in fuel costs. 1,000 miles costs $100, 100,000 miles costs $10k but how many of us travel that much?
I'm looking at an electric motorcycle that costs me $10k that gives me a 100 mile range. In about 100,000 miles the investment pays for itself over the motorcycle I now have. And a $2k to $3k battery replacement is justified. And a quick calculation can ignore the actual cost of electricity because it's small by comparison.
Now let's assume I have a 100 mile commute, 50 miles each way. The bike is perfect since it has the range I need. In 1,000 workling days I will have the investment pay off. Sounds like a good idea.
But if I am one to do longer trips, I'll be limited by range or have to sit around to charge it up.
WHere the technology stands now, I think you need a pretty specific application (i.e. long and regular commutes) to make it useful. Under this model, you could then rent a gas powered car for those long trips you need to do.
While some states are restricting the tax amounts to low dollar figures, my fear is that once laws are enacted and passed that other politicians will step in and up the tax to be more comparable to what gas usesr pay, after all we all know how well politicians keep their promises.
It may be true that energy companies are looking at battery technology, I don't believe that they are going to pull all or even a majority of their investments from one field, oil, and put them into another, battery or solar, unless the government offsets any losses for them.
Again as I said with the deep pockets that the energy companies have for lobbying and such, the possibility that a EV user will end paying more and more taxes as time goes on is not Tin Foil hat concerns but something that needs to be addressed now.
In fact I know of several individuals, myself included, who just this summer has held off on EV purchases because of concerns after reading the above articles.
For me it was simple, Do I really need an EV or a hybrid that barely does 90 miles electric range when I have a 110 mile round trip to go from north of Portland to Salem and then I have to find an outlet to plug into and wait for the battery to charge for several hours and add to this the real concerns that maybe next year I will have to pay a road use tax or do I just keep my good old reliable toyota gas vehicle and pay my 40 dollar per 2 year registration fee and my present gas fees?
If this EV use tax idea doesn't worry you now then you need to take the blinders off and come back to reality because the reality is that our government bends over backwards for the old traditional energy companies, oil producers, and it is all about profits and satisfying the stock holders and nothing else and right now EV technology does not satisfy them.
The reality is that politicians may promise a 65 dollar use fee one year but the next year they may up it to 650 dollars or more.
If you can name one politician that has any integrity and has kept his word then maybe, maybe he could convince me to purchase an EV or hybrid but until that day comes and because of these concerns I'm leaving well enough alone.
@mike_m, i can see your concern. Charging EV owners to offset lost gas taxes is not only deincentivizing, but also, it is plain bad politics. The reality is that there aren't enough EVs out there to make a difference. So, it makes us wonder who are behind this move and why they are doing this.
Hold on though. It's probably true that, as of now, there aren't enough EVs to make a big diff with respect to taxes. But clearly EV owners are just as responsible for funding road construction and maintenance as are owners of any other vehicle that uses the roads. The gasoline tax works very well for this, as it responds not only how much you drive, but also to some extent on what kind of a pig you drive. The heavier the behemoth, the more it stresses roads.
Before getting mired in conspiracy theories, roads don't get built for free. Since the gas tax is a major source of this funding, EVs would have to pay according to some kind of similar mechanism.
I might have more sympathy with these objections if the savings in gasoline were caused by people driving a lot fewer miles than in the past, but that's not the case.
@PatK a Honda VC said at an event I attended a year or so ago hydrogen is still seen as a viable contender in the more distant future and they were doing research on it, though there are infrastructure issues.
Rick, there are no infrastructure issues at all, if the H2 is extracted from a hydrocarbon fuel on board the vehicle. I think that attempting to store the H2 on board, as a compressed gas, is a wasteful proposition.
The article doesn't mention the obvious, the most green car is just no car...just walk or bike...although one can argue that you needs to eat more due to extra physical activity and consume some extra calories resulting in extra emissiono of green gas (especially if you are eating meat, see methane release by cows)...I wonder whether has anyone done this type analysis, would love to see you it...Kris
As a long term hybrid driver (Honda Civic Hybrid with over 100,000 miles at 49.2 mpg), I believe that the EV and hybrid vehicles serve as testbeds for many technologies that can benefit us all. I'm still running on my original brakes (50% front and 90% rear still remain) because my braking energy is recovered in the battery rather than being worn off my brake pads. My engine turns off at stop lights whereas the SUVs behind me burn gas even when they're not moving. Early adopters may pay a little more to drive exotic vehicles, but the lessons learned should benefit us all as they are deployed across the next generation of vehicles.