Tag: "carbon footprint"

12/17/14

  04:39:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 564 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Climate Change, Ranting

Misinterpreted Study Leads to Negative News for Electric Vehicles

Run on Sun gets a new Volt!There’s a good chance if you’re reading this blog you either have hopes of someday owning an electric vehicle (EV) or you are one of the proud individuals already enjoying cruising silently by gas stations…such as Run on Sun’s Jim Jenal in our new Volt pictured on the right! In either case your ears likely perk up at any breaking news regarding EVs.

Over the last few days I’ve noticed alarming headlines coming from multiple sources. While the key word in headlines such as “Study Finds Electric Cars May Not Be Very Green at All” is “may“, many of the articles state definitively that electric cars are not as green as gasoline cars. I decided to investigate.

On December 15th a new study by the University of Minnesota was released to the press. The study calculated the air quality impacts of manufacturing and refueling vehicles with various forms of power. Below is the study’s abstract verbatim:

We evaluate the air quality-related human health impacts of 10…options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology.

…We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Did you catch that last part? Electric vehicles, charged by low-emitting electricity (anything but coal) are preferable environmentally alongside human health impacts…to gasoline vehicles. A far cry from the grossly misinterpreted ‘electric cars aren’t green’. Which is simply not what the study says.

The straightforward lessons from the study include three main points:

  1. Electric cars powered directly from the grid have the awesome bonus that they get cleaner as the grid does. Whereas gasoline vehicles have the same or worse carbon footprint for the lifetime of the car.
  2. If your car is charged on the coal-heaviest grids, it causes almost twice as many deaths from air pollution compared to gasoline vehicles. However, I’d like to note that electric car adoption is negligible in the states with the dirtiest grids. In addition, with EPA regulations on existing power plants, much of the coal generation (currently less than 40% of US electricity generation) will be retired in favor of cleaner energy in the next 20 years.
  3. But if you recharge on a natural gas-based grid the EV produces only half the pollution-related health problems as the gas guzzler. Recharge on renewable energy – whether from a grid or derived from home solar panels – and EVs produce just one quarter of the health problems!

In summary, don’t get an electric vehicle if you’re planning on charging it off of a coal-powered grid. Do get an electric vehicle if your grid is sufficiently green… or better yet, use a solar power system designed specifically with charging your EV in mind – see Run on Sun’s website for info! And remember that facts are frequently misinterpreted by the press. When in doubt, read the actual study, not just the headlines.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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