Union of Concerned Scientists Finds That EVs Are Much Cleaner Than Gas Cars in the U.S.

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【Summary】As the electric grid continues to move towards more fuel-efficient fuel sources, the gap between electric cars and gasoline-powered machines is widening.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Mar 24, 2018 10:00 AM PT
Union of Concerned Scientists Finds That EVs Are Much Cleaner Than Gas Cars in the U.S.

More and more automakers are moving towards electric powertrains, as brands, even small ones like Pagani that have made a name for themselves in the exotic world of hypercars, have announced plans to develop electric cars. The reasoning behind moving towards battery-powered machines is pretty simple — automakers simply can't meet new emissions and fuel regulations that are being put into place globally. 

While some may see this as a bad change for the automotive industry or aren't interested in electric cars, as prices continue to be much higher than alternatives, it looks like EVs are widening the gap against gasoline-powered cars when it comes to how green they really are. 

Gap Between EVs And Gas-Powered Cars Widen

As Wired reports, the Union of Concerned Scientists have crunched the numbers and found that electric cars are getting greener. Automakers have managed to make electric cars cleaner than they ever have been before. 

"For the US overall, an electric vehicle is much cleaner than a gasoline vehicle, even when you take into account the emissions from natural gas, coal, or however else you're generating the electricity," Dave Reichmuth, a senior engineer in the nonprofit's clean vehicles program, told the outlet. And as electric companies continue to move towards cleaner fuel sources, the gap between the two power sources is widening. 

To gather its data, the USC looks at the emissions that are given off by the vehicles in addition to considering the vehicles' fuel sources. So when it comes to gasoline-powered machines, the nonprofit organization looked at the emissions from extracting crude oil from the ground and much more. For EVs, it looked into power plant emissions and the emissions from the production of coal, alternative fuels, and natural gas. 

The data the USC gathered is pretty clear — on average, operating an EV is the equivalent of driving a car that can get 80 mpg. That figure is up from 73 mpg in the organization's findings from its 2017 update. 

The USC put all of its data into a somewhat easy to understand map. According to the organization, operating an electric car in California is the same as operating a gasoline-powered machine that gets 109 mpg. That figure, obviously plummets when you get to the midwest, as driving an electric car in Wisconsin is the same as operating a gasoline vehicle with a fuel-economy rating of 38 mpg. 

Still, having an average of 80 mpg across the entire country is a staggering figure, as the average fuel economy for a gas-powered machine is at 28 mpg. 

Union of Concerned Scientists Graph.jpg

EVs Continue To Get Greener

The new data also shows that EVs are getting more efficient and cleaner over time. Looking over USC's data from 2009, operating an EV in California was like driving a gas vehicle with a fuel economy rating of 78 mpg. In less than a decade, that figure is up by 31 mpg. And it's not just California that's seeing an increase. Texas went from 48 mpg to 60. 

The major factor that has helped EVs is the nation's shift away from coal, reports Wired. Back in 2009, coal accounted for approximately half of the United States' electricity. Fast forward to today, and coal only accounts for one third of the country's electricity production. Ten percent of the nation's electricity comes from renewables now. 

"Even used EVs that are out there are getting cleaner over time, and that doesn't happen with a gas car," said Reichmuth. 

The study found that the most efficient cars on the market are the Hyundai Ioniq EV, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Prius Prime — for the Toyota, it only accounts for when the vehicle is in electric mode. 

While the news is good for EVs, it's important to note that the data is all about averages. Obviously, having a large SUV that runs on electricity isn't nearly as good as having an efficient compact vehicle. Still EVs are taking massive jumps in efficiency, while gas-powered machines are talking smaller hops. 

via: Wired, Union of Concerned Scientists 

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