Photo: AP/Mikhail Klimentyev

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s Best Friend Except Not Really, is apparently an expert on Well-To-Wheel analyses. At the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow today, he gave a nice long-winded explanation on why electric cars—which he actually likes—are dirtier than gas cars.

Russian Energy Week, a forum put on in Moscow and St. Petersberg to discuss “prospects for the development of such core sectors of the economy as the oil, gas, coal, and petrochemical industries” hosted Vladimir Putin today at the country’s capital. Among topics Russia’s leader got to discuss was electric cars, which Putin says he likes despite them being worse for the environment than gas vehicles (RT interpreted this as meaning “natural gas” vehicles).

When asked by the host if Putin could ever imagine himself buying an EV, Putin said (note: this quote has been translated from Russian):

Yes I certainly can imagine that...I had an opportunity to drive an electric car... Russian manufacturers who are dreaming to produce electric cars showed me....I was given a chance to sit behind the wheel, and I must admit that I do like such cars, particularly modern cars, which are very fast, very spritely, and for the city environment, that constitutes a very good type of transportation, because, well, you have a lot of people living... You need to avoid the exhaust.

Then the leader of a country whose number one export is crude petroleum went on, saying: “But, I believe, in the end of the day, right now, a much more environmentally friendly kind of a fuel and transportation is gas driven cars.”


When the interviewer asked “Could we imagine you one day driving one of Elon Musk’s Teslas?” Putin, who seemed to be referring to Russia in general and not himself personally, responded:

Why not? We are open to such products and we are buying everything that we see useful, and we sell everything that we find beneficial to sell...What do you think are we going to just drive a horse-driven cart? No, we are no longer doing that. Or just tanks? No no, not at all...

Prior to these questions, Putin went into a lengthy explanation about why EVs are much worse for the environment than gas cars. He said—because coal is the primary source of energy throughout the world, and because “the technology of using both coal and oil are improving”—gas cars are better for the environment than electric ones. Have a listen:

While he admits the benefits of EVs from a urban health standpoint, and that renewable energy is something to strive towards, he doesn’t think renewable sources will be dominant for another 30 years, and the energy mix will remain the same in the near term. Because of that, Putin says, “The kind of fuel as the gas motor fuel, we believe, at the end of the day, to be much more environmentally safe than the electric automobile.”


The EPA says natural gas is “one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels,” and that cars powered by such a fuel produce 20 to 45 percent fewer smog pollutants and 5 percent to 9 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, so Putin may have a point, even if he’s got quite a lot of incentive to keep gas-powered cars on the road.