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Research Says Electric Vehicles Don’t Reduce Emissions?

Electric Vehicles Don't Reduce Emissions
Electric Vehicles Don’t Reduce Emissions

Fuzzy math is hard at work in North Carolina State University, specifically the engineering department, which released the results of a study that basically says that electric vehicles don’t reduce emissions.

It’s widely accepted that electric vehicles, in themselves, generate no emissions. Still, the energy they expend must come from somewhere. The electricity that charges electric vehicle batteries must come from a power plant, and that is where the emissions are generated. Of course, if you had enough solar panels attached to your house, you could be 100% emissions-free. This only makes sense, but how much emissions are really associated with power plants in relation to charging electric vehicles?

According to research done by North Carolina State University, your electric vehicle generates pretty much the same emissions that your previous conventional vehicle did, and countless others still do, since we haven’t switched over to a fully-electric-vehicle society yet. Additionally, Dr. Joseph DeCarolis states that “the benefits of EDVs [covering hybrid and pure electric vehicles] are wiped out by higher emissions from power plants.” DeCarolis goes on to say that “passenger vehicles make up a relatively small share of total emissions, limiting the potential impact of EDVs in the first place.”

DeCarolis is right, sort of, because some power plants are, indeed, very dirty. Other power plants generate zero emissions. Really, the answer to electric vehicle emissions has everything to do with where you charge.

According to my calculations, taking data from electric vehicle manufacturers and the United States Department of Energy and Department of Transportation, in 33 States, you can reduce your emissions by switching to an electric vehicle. For example, driving a Nissan Leaf in any State is better than driving the Infiniti EX35 AWD, but may generate more emissions than a Scion iQ in a few dirty States, such as West Virginia or North Dakota. Interestingly, driving the Nissan Leaf in North Carolina, where the report was *cough* researched, generates about 25% fewer emissions than the Scion iQ, and almost 62% fewer emissions than the Infiniti EX35 AWD.

According to the Infinite Monkey Theorem, given enough time, an infinite number of monkeys were left to bang on an infinite number of typewriters, sooner or later they would accidentally reproduce the complete works of William Shakespeare. I’d estimate this research paper took one monkey about five minutes, give or take.

Image Public Domain via WikiMedia

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  1. That report totally assumes the power required to recharge the batteries comes from a coal (or diesel) powered generator station. If you live in an area where the majority of power comes from renewables – such as hydroelectric then you are way ahead of the carbon game over someone from say North Carolina.


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