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Electric Vehicle Emissions and “Creative” Headlines

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Electric vehicle emissions, illustrated.
Electric vehicle emissions, illustrated.

When researchers at the University of Minnesota did a study on electric vehicle emissions, I’m fairly certain that they had no idea that it would turn into, well, this

The problem is not the report, which can be best summed up by this video:

On the other hand, there is a disturbing number of articles and stories that have been written, pointing out electric vehicle emissions “worst case scenario,” painting it as nationwide reality. My favorite has to be a story run by Fox Business (of course it was Fox!), during “The Willis Report.” While interviewing one of the researchers, the screen says something a lot different than the researcher. “All-Electric Cars May Be Worsening Global Warming,” says the ticker, while the researcher says “electric vehicles may be getting their energy from renewable sources.”

To be fair, the power mix in the United States is still fairly fossil-fuel heavy, which means the average electric vehicle certainly has an emissions footprint. How big that footprint is, however, depends totally on where it gets charged, pretty much the same thing that everyone has been saying. So, what’s the real impact? On average, because the US power mix is only around 45% renewables, electric vehicle emissions are better than their hybrid and conventional counterparts. For example, if you had to decide between driving a Toyota Matrix and a Nissan Leaf in the state of Ohio, the Leaf would generate about 23% less carbon dioxide than the Matrix. Move to Vermont, and the Leaf generates 99.8% less carbon dioxide than the Matrix.

Just for comparison’s sake, if you were thinking of something bigger, there is NO state in which the Infinity EX35 generates fewer emissions than a Tesla Model S.

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