Why Electric Cars Are Cleaner Green Transportation MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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As of 2011, the car is no longer a hypothetical car of the future. to unveilings from major corporate investment, dedicated backing and steady improvements to the itself, electric cars are to claim a spot as a car of the present. been quite a ride.

first appearing in the early and then flirting with a in the 1990s, electric cars called EVs, for electric fell back to niche But recent history has seen the entire auto industry about electric cars. notable buzz:

General is back in the game with of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in capable of traveling 25 to 50 miles on alone. The Volt has already won notable awards, including the Trend 2011 Car of the Year and the Green Car of the Year  from Car Journal .

Toyota is working on a electric car, the FT-EV II, and has a significant stake in electric car Tesla Motors, maker of the Roadster sports car. and Toyota are developing an electric of Toyota’s RAV4, a small

Nissan sold out the preorder list for its all-electric Leaf (pictured at right) in 2010, and the car is to go on sale nationwide for about (after tax credits) by the end of 2011.

plans to sell its Fit EV, which have a 70-mile driving in 2012.

Mitsubishi plans to its electric compact car, the to U.S. showrooms by the end of 2011.

Automotive, maker of the luxury sedan, received a $529 federal loan to help its plug-in hybrid vehicles.

resurgence is a testament to recent in electric car technology. While electric cars will to face challenges — such as batteries, a limited driving compared with conventional (although the 70 to 100 miles per charge by most electric cars is for many drivers), somewhat charging times, and a limited of public recharging stations — bring numerous benefits to the

Because electric cars no gasoline at all, they are a option for drivers concerned energy security and our nation’s oil They offer the convenience of able to “refuel” a vehicle at and they’re more efficient and expensive to operate compared gas-only cars (see Much Does It Cost to an Electric Car?” near the end of article). They also noise pollution in most circumstances.

Finally, of course, perhaps best known for zero-emission vehicles, and their of tailpipe emissions is a great toward an improved environment.

it right there . say some Aren’t electric cars moving emissions from the tailpipe to a power plant (This is the “long tailpipe” Aren’t there still gas emissions and other pollutants with creating the electricity vehicles use? And if that’s the are electric cars really all cracked up to be?

“These are valid deserving of a thorough assessment,” Bill Moore, editor in of EV World. a transportation technology and website. While lamenting that perpetuates in the blogosphere and Moore values criticism encourages progress. “We don’t [electric cars] to become a on society, so we need to hear criticisms, we need to weigh and we need to move forward to the technology,” he says.

Electric car depend on multiple factors — how your electricity is generated, for most, depends on where you Smog-forming pollution at the power from the use of an electric car can have emissions rates than gas-only or hybrid cars as the Toyota Prius), a fact largely to the effectiveness of catalytic in today’s gas cars. It’s to note, though, that a health standpoint, one major of “moving” pollution from the to the power plant is that it pollutants farther away pedestrians and other drivers, the pollutants’ adverse health on the concentrated population.

However, pollutants, such as those to climate change, affect the regardless of where they are In terms of climate change electric cars are generally cleaner than conventional gas In areas of the country that the cleanest power generation wind, solar and hydropower), cars emit far less gases, not only compared conventional vehicles, but also with efficient hybrid-electric In areas of the country with the power generation (coal), an hybrid may be your best bet, though if you’re on the pedal, an electric car may yield results. On a national average an efficient electric car emits half the amount of carbon as a conventional car, and roughly the amount as an efficient hybrid.

To fully understand these we first need to understand the what and where of vehicle

Vehicle Emissions, Explained

The majority of cars and trucks on roads operate on internal engines, which convert stored in a liquid fuel gasoline) into mechanical by rapidly igniting an air-fuel in the engine’s cylinders. This process emits engine that contains a number of including (but not limited to) monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen and particulate matter. But automotive have found ways to these pollutants, both by emissions-control devices (such as converters) to the exhaust plumbing, and by rendering the cylinders’ combustion though computer control.

The is that, especially over the decade, conventional vehicles gotten much cleaner in of smog-forming pollution.

The bad news is another pollutant created by fuel — carbon dioxide, or CO2 — be minimized through the use of emissions-control Simply put, the more your vehicle burns, the CO2 it emits. This is troublesome because CO2 is the human-caused greenhouse gas, heavily to global warming.

a comparison of conventional vehicles and cars could be conducted for of the major pollutants, the critical issue today is the impact our have on global warming, is why our calculations focus on CO2 emissions.

A emissions can be categorized into types: in-use, upstream and emissions. In-use emissions — produced when someone is driving the vehicle — constitute the of a typical car’s lifetime Upstream emissions are those result from producing and the fuel a car uses to its point of use (in the of gasoline, that means crude oil, refining it and it to gas stations). The third category is emissions, which, according to the research, only account for 10 to 20 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime gas output. (Given the modest of manufacturing emissions, calculations in this article include in-use and upstream emissions.)

burning 1 gallon of gasoline more than 19 pounds of of your vehicle’s tailpipe. One of gasoline weighs only 6 pounds, but the combustion process in oxygen atoms from the air when creating carbon But that’s not all.

In addition to 19 pounds of CO2, nearly 5 pounds of CO2 are produced during the creation and transportation of gallon of gas from the wellhead to the to the corner station, all before put in the car’s tank. All told, our are responsible for emitting nearly 25 of CO2 for every gallon of gas burn.

Unlike vehicles with combustion engines, electric have zero in-use They do, however, have emissions: those resulting producing the vehicle’s fuel — in case, the vehicle’s electricity.


When it comes to the resource used to generate it a major role in determining how friendly its electrons are. The type of electricity is that from renewable energy . such as solar, wind and Such sources create without producing greenhouse or smog-forming pollutants at a power

Electric cars powered by created from renewable are, for all intents and purposes, zero-emission vehicles.

Electricity by natural gas plants falls in the of the pack. It’s cleaner coal power, but not nearly as as power generated from sources.

The worst electricity, both a global warming and a emissions standpoint, comes coal-fired power plants . emit the highest levels of dioxide and, depending on the of the emissions-control devices on the plants, can high levels of smog-forming and emissions as well, including matter (soot).

Nuclear . while not a threat from a warming or smog-forming pollution pose the dangerous threats of disasters and nuclear proliferation. long-term storage of nuclear is also a serious concern. of these issues, nuclear isn’t considered by many myself) to be an eco-friendly option at time.

Today, coal-fired plants generate the majority of in the United States (48 percent), by natural gas (22 percent), nuclear (19 and renewables (9 percent). The efficiency of the plant also affects the of the electricity it generates. Some such as combined heat and facilities, make better use of energy, which reduces the of fuel necessary (and pollution emitted) to produce a amount of energy.

The cleanliness of plant emissions is also to what pollution-control technology the utilizes. Plants can use scrubbers, for to control sulfur emissions. of still-unvalidated carbon capture and processes, however, there is no for controlling CO2 emissions from plants.

Different U.S. utilize vastly different sources. The Northeast, Northwest and Coast generate electricity large amounts of renewable power, while the Midwest a significant amount of coal. a map of regional energy sources .)

does all of this mean for the electricity consumer? In short, it the cleanliness of your electricity how eco-friendly it would be to operate an car. For example, if you live in which has some of the cleanest in the nation, an electric car driven miles (a typical year’s of driving) would emit 1.6 tons of CO2.

By contrast, a hybrid such as the Prius would emit 2.9 tons, and a 25-mpg gas car would about 5.9 tons per year. If you in the Midwest, where coal is your electric car’s emissions would be about 4.1 of CO2 — more than that of an hybrid, but still far less that from a gas-only (See a chart comparing CO2 .)

So, how do the numbers shake out for the rest of the The U.S. Department of Energy power plant emissions in than a dozen different and subregions across the nation. regional emissions information is a starting point for estimating the impact of electric cars in regions of the country. Making calculations to account for regional and distribution losses, vehicle equipment losses, and estimated of energy extraction, transportation and it’s possible to estimate electric car emissions around the

See our regional emissions map to find out how CO2 an electric car would in your area.

BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars

Another to consider is that, while plants have multiple-decade emissions from the grid are not In time, electric cars the potential to get even cleaner if efforts are made to clean up our portfolio with cleaner fuels (natural gas) far better yet, even renewable energy. Each the U.S.

Department of Energy how grid emissions are likely to in the future. It predicts an electric car in California in 2035 will 39 percent less annual than an electric car driven and an electric car driven in the East region (the region “8,259” on the map will have 9 less annual CO2 emissions. constructive on a general level, information should be viewed because of the many assumptions go into such predictions.

A Future for Electric Cars

cars are clearly cleaner most other vehicles on the today, but how large of a role can play in cutting down our sector’s greenhouse gas emissions? depends in part on how many are Unfortunately, predicting the size of the electric car market is difficult at “If you did a Google search on this, see a million hits with a different answers,” says Perry, director of product for Nissan North America and a key behind the Nissan Leaf.

internal market research, a committed to advanced vehicle and greater public awareness of the of oil dependence, Perry is optimistic, electric cars could for 10 percent of new vehicles sold by Analysts at the other end of the spectrum numbers as low as 0.5 percent in that frame. Forecasting aside, one for certain: Building a successful car market will require advances, thoughtful infrastructure and supportive federal, state and policies.

“There are a bunch of things here,” Moore says, and “very, very hard” to how the market will unfold. But confident that electric technology will succeed in If that happens, he’s that it’s important to difficult questions about the sooner rather than

With that in mind, we our initial question: Do electric truly deserve their friendly reputation, even if for power plant emissions? On a average basis, the answer is a firm yes. Today’s cars are indeed responsible for pollution, but nevertheless are a cleaner than most other currently on the market.

And if we increase our use of energy, the future for electric will only get brighter.

How Does It Cost to Power an Car?

Care to cut down on annual fuel costs? You may to consider going electric. 3 cents per mile driven is all it to “fuel” a typical electric car assuming an electricity rate of 10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). By contrast, at a price of $2.75 per gallon, a conventional car costs more three times that

Why? A big reason is the inherent of electric motors.

According to the of Energy and the Environmental Protection about 75 percent of the chemical stored in an electric car’s can be translated to mechanical energy rotates the wheels of the vehicle. By only about 20 percent of the stored in a conventional vehicle’s of gas actually moves the vehicle the road. The rest is simply — primarily to heat created the combustion process, but also to factors, such as friction and losses in the engine.

The efficiency of electric motors means on-road “fuel” economy. electric cars are rated at 3 miles per kWh of electricity consumed. On a basis, that’s roughly 100 and a number of drivers report better results when with efficiency in mind.

All while expensive batteries add to the cost of an electric vehicle, fuel and maintenance expenses electric car drivers to recoup of those costs over the of the vehicle.

Determining Electric Car

Multiple factors affect the efficiency of an electric car, how you drive, where you drive and the ambient temperature where you

The Environmental Protection Agency electric car “fuel economy” by not only for energy used to the vehicle down the road, but for the energy needed to use the vehicle’s equipment (and the efficiency of equipment). Based on this, the Leaf’s overall energy rate is 340 Wh/mi. By comparison, the Volt (assuming it ran exclusively in “EV would consume 360 Wh/mi — more energy per mile than the Leaf.

The Leaf’s energy consumption serves as a representative value in article for electric cars at this time it best the mainstream electric car market. said, the disclaimer “your may vary” still applies to all In fact, evidence indicates it even more so with technology.

Recent test of the Leaf report a sizable of energy consumption rates, some that are notably (i.e. lower) than 340

So, what does all of this If electric car drivers experience on-par with that of the then under a national electricity grid mix, the electric car will be roughly as as a 50-mpg hybrid (see ). However, if an electric car is driven and consumes less energy 340 Wh/mi, it would perform better. If driven aggressively and it would perform slightly

Either way, every for electric cars would if more renewable energy used in the grid.

In order to vehicle types in this aggregate data and a reasonable but set of assumptions were used. attempts were made to accuracy of the findings, alternate could change the results in direction. Assuming different efficiencies, for example, would different results. Similarly, electric cars are charged at a time of day or night when a fuel is more likely to be in power generation could change the results.

On an average however, the numbers in our regional car emissions map and our chart comparing cars in different regions with a and a conventional vehicle reasonably electric car emissions.

Contributing James Kliesch is an expert in and clean vehicle technologies, more than a dozen of experience in the field. He is a senior at the nonprofit Union of Concerned .

BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars
BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars

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