Energy Logic   Leave a comment

Here’s a logic problem for you presented to me by an economist.

Most of us think electric cars are greener than gasoline-powered cars. They don’t have a tailpipe, so they’re ”clean”.

Are they?

Roughly half of all the electricity generated in the United States is produced from coal. Research shows that all-electric cars that charge their batteries off coal-fired generator cause electric power plants to emit 6.5 ounces of carbon per mile – about half the emissions of gasoline-powered car.

Whew!!! See, we knew they were a greener choice! Er ….

Not exactly!

Considerable emissions are produced in the manufacture of an electric car – the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle. Given the huge initial emissions from its manufacture, if a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its operational lifetime, it will actually put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. In fact, a typical electric car must be driven 50,000 miles before carbon output savings begins to offset the added emissions from the car’s manufacture. Because electric cars have limited driving ranges, accomplishing that feat is a lengthy process. I average about 10,000 miles a year on my cars, which means I would need to own an electric car for at least six years before I would begin to offset the carbon, but  I don’t know any with an all-electric car in Fairbanks who puts that many miles on it because they can’t even drive to Delta Junction and back on a single overnight recharge. This is because all-electric cars usually only have a range of about 100 miles per recharge. I’d guess it would take at least eight years to truly off-set the carbon emissions from the manufacturer. Do all electric cars really last that long before the main battery needs replacement?

Sometimes it pays to question our assumptions!

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