All-electric and hybrid cars are cleaner and more efficient than cars that depend solely on gas. But how much cleaner and more efficient? The answer depends on the sources of your electricity in a given state. How much pollution is coughed out of the plant that generates that juice going into your car? This amount can vary among states, depending on how their power is generated. The EPA lists estimates for states at https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html if you wish to investigate your own location. Of course if you generate your own power with wind or solar, or subscribe to a power source that generates zero CO2, the numbers will drop much lower for any all-electric or plug-in and make them even more efficient.
In California, for example, average cars are now responsible for emitting the following amounts:
2.261 pounds of CO2 for all-electric
4.725 pounds for plug-in hybrid
6.258 pounds for hybrid
11.435 pounds for gasoline.
In Louisiana, emissions are copsiderably higher for electrics and plug-ins:
4.105 pounds CO2 for all-electric
5.889 pounds C)2 for plug-in hybrid
Also note that all these numbers are averages, so you would have to look at specific cars and the miles you plan to drive your vehicle to get the most accurate number.
COMING NEXT: We will present the economics. Does it really pay to buy a new electric car, or to keep your old gas-guzzler running and save the money you would have invested in an all-electric or a plug-in hybrid.
Electric Beats Gas for Carbon
Some readers wonder about the carbon footprint of manufacturing electric cars. If it is factored in, how much more efficient are they?
The basic answer is that electrics are considerably more efficient than gasoline-powered cars despite the carbon footprint in their manufacture, though their efficiency also depends on their source of electric power. As noted in my last article, there is a great deal of variation in local and state power sources. California, for example, emits only about half as much carbon to generate its electricity as does Louisiana.
Drawing on a detailed study from Yale University, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27247-y that appeared in Nature Communications in December 2021, the following conclusions can be reached: The average amount of carbon emissions from the manufacture and driving of electric cars ranges from about 3600 to 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per vehicle. Gas-powered cars averaging 30 miles per gallon have emissions of about 8555 pounds per year. The manufacture of gasoline adds to this total, though the amount varies greatly depending on the source of the gas. Lower efficiency gas-powered cars obviously don’t do as well, while more efficient gas cars become more competitive with electric vehicles. As electric power sources become cleaner, the electric car emissions total will also drop, while gas-powered cars will maintain the same levels of efficiency depending on their mileage. Presently, about 26% of automobile emission stems from manufacturing the cars.