“Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions,” might say one electric vehicle proponent, while others might say, “but the carbon dioxide from the power plant is the same as filling up a conventional vehicle.”
Electric vehicle proponents, such as ourselves here on The Green Optimistic, are not blind when it comes to electric vehicle lifecycle emissions. Indeed, there is no tailpipe, but there is most certainly a carbon footprint associated with recharging, as well as during manufacture of the lithium-ion battery pack, but how do they compare to conventional vehicles?
Study after study has pitted electric vehicles against conventional vehicles, whether it be the difference in total cost to own [TCO], or how much carbon dioxide is associated with either vehicle type. Practically all studies agree that, all things considered, electric vehicles typically have a much smaller carbon footprint than a comparable conventional vehicle.
Of course, sometimes you can compare two things that really ought not to be compared, such as pitting the lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions of a full-size pure electric vehicle, such as the Tesla Model S 85kWh, against a sub-compact conventional vehicle, such as the Nissan Versa. One might consider the Tesla Model S 85kWh an environmental abomination, according to one analyst.
Comparing apples to apples, perhaps it would be better to compare the Tesla Model S with something like the Mercedes Benz E350. Put into perspective, one can see that the Model S, even with its monstrous [in comparison to the Nissan Leaf] 85kWh lithium-ion battery pack, ends up beating, by far, the lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions of the E350, something on the order of 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide lighter. Even the former analyst’s numbers reflect at least 10 tonnes’ difference, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare the Tesla Model S to a Nissan Versa. After all, who would even consider them side by side?
Image © Mark Hibben