Electric cars get an extremely high volume of naysayers. Originally, electric cars were seen as slow, short-range, small and impractical. As each of these complaints have fallen by the wayside, those same naysayers have scrambled to find some reason that electric cars should be put to pasture.
More recently they have settled on a constant theme that electric vehicles simply are not green. Stating that because electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, electric cars are actually far worse for the environment. However, a quick glance at the facts provides a far more interesting conclusion. Electric cars are not only cleaner than traditional gas powered vehicles but they are only getting cleaner.
The average electric car is now as clean as a traditional gas powered vehicle that gets 80 miles per gallon (Spoiler Alert: No gas powered car gets 80 mpg), and produces far less emissions than any gasoline-only car, according to a recent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data, and they are only getting cleaner.
It's true that depending on where you get your electricity electric cars might not be as green in certain areas. Looking a little closer it is easy to see a few things, one, electric cars are getting cleaner in part from efficiency gains, but more importantly they are getting greener thanks to a nationwide electricity mix increasingly infused with renewable energy.
More and more of the country is now relying on clean energy as a prominent fuel source. Overall, coal accounts for 19 %of the total US energy mix and is rapidly declining. At the same time renewables have accelerated growth and are now larger than coal making up 20% of the total energy mix. Showing that the more time passes, the greener and cleaner electric cars and our electric grid get.
In 2009 the coastal states, which have the cleanest-running electric cars thanks to higher renewable energy mix, got an MPGe range of around 60 to 80 miles. States in the middle of the country however, still used dirtier forms of energy that made electric cars get an MPGe of around 30 and 50 miles per gallon. By 2018 those numbers have nearly doubled where the average electric car nationwide was as clean as a car that gets 88 miles per gallon. The standout being New York which averaged over 200 MPGe.
A few years ago hydro plants were the dominant source of renewable energy combined with wind and solar power made up just over 10% of the national grid. However, due to the cost/kWh of wind and solar falling dramatically in the past few years wind generated energy is expected to hit 10% on its own in the coming years.
At the same time the dirtiest form of electricity generation, coal, has dramatically declined. Once making up almost 50% of all electricity generated at its peak in 2005, has now shed 30% from its one time peak. While that decline is in large part to the emergence of natural gas, renewable sources have seen a dramatic uptick in adoption, nearly doubling in that same time frame. Most interestingly, over the past 5 years renewables are the fastest growing energy segment achieving a 34% growth rate, more than doubling that of natural gas.
While the average electric vehicle is fairing well, the new generation of more efficient electric cars like Tesla Models 3 and Y or Volkswagen’s ID4, make the outlook even more positive. Using those vehicles, 99% of people live in areas where electric cars have a lower environmental impact than a gas powered vehicle that gets 50 miles per gallon and it'll only get better.
With the combination of a cleaner grid and more efficient vehicles, electric cars are unquestionably the correct path for a greener future.