Image: Bradley Brownell

Electric cars increasingly seem to be the answer for lowering America’s transportation emissions numbers. Not only do they already produce zero emissions in the process of driving, but even pollute far less than gasoline cars when you take into account the emissions generated in the production of the electricity needed to charge them, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The latest data from 2018 regarding emissions from electricity generation in the US have just been released, and it proves that only 6% of Americans live in a region where EV power generation emissions are worse than a 50 mpg car.


Here is a look at where the numbers came from:

To compare the climate-changing emissions from electric vehicles to gasoline-powered cars, we analyzed all the emissions from fueling and driving both types of vehicles. For a gasoline car, that means looking at emissions from extracting crude oil from the ground, moving the oil to a refinery, making gasoline and transporting gasoline to filling stations, in addition to combustion emissions from the tailpipe.

Even in the most pollutant-heavy grid region spanning eastern Wisconsin and much of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the average EV would only emit as much as a 39 mpg gasoline car. The worst case scenario for EVs is still far better than the average of 31 mpg for new gasoline cars and 21 mpg for new gasoline trucks.

94 percent of Americans live in a region where driving an EV produces fewer emissions than driving a new Toyota Camry Hybrid or Honda Insight.


As our nation continues to transition toward renewable sources of energy and zero-emissions power generation grids, electric cars will continue to improve their emissions ratings. The 2018 estimate numbers have already improved by 10% over the previous data from 2016. And the initial analysis from 2009 looked considerably worse than that! Not only are electric cars getting more efficient, but so is our power grid.


The study uses a 2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, which uses only 0.24 kWh of electricity per mile traveled as its “most efficient EV” standard for the chart below. If you drive one of these and you live in Upstate New York, your emissions are the equivalent of a gasoline car getting 306 mpgs, which obviously does not exist. This is because the NYUP region produces over 65% of its power from nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind.


Of course, the study also confirms that even a larger EV, like Audi’s e-tron or the upcoming Hummer EV by GMC, is more efficient than its gasoline counterpart. According to the study, “For more than 90 percent of the population, driving the electric version of this vehicle will produce less than half the global warming emissions of the gasoline model.” 

Of course, even if it’s electric, you shouldn’t buy a large SUV because that would be selfish.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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