The Truth Behind Electric Vehicle Emissions

Electric vehicles [EV] have a great selling point, that they have no tailpipe emissions, but you’re no fool. “Electricity has to come from somewhere, it just gets generated at the power plant,” you respond. The truth is, you’re absolutely correct, to a certain point. Yes, most EVs will have carbon-dioxide [CO2] emissions of some type, and it all depends on where you plug in.

Better Fuel Economy Equals Lower Emissions

The only way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce the amount of fuel burned. Other pollutants can be reduced by process or chemical means, but CO2 emissions remain constant at 19.64 pounds [lbs] of CO2 per gallon. One way to reduce CO2 emissions is to change up for a more fuel efficient vehicle, so if a 20 miles-per-gallon [mpg] vehicle generates 98 lbs CO2 per 100 miles, then a 40 mpg vehicle will only generate 49 lbs. That’s only the start.

Electrified vehicles, such as Hybrid Electric Vehicles [HEV] and Plug-in-Hybrid Electric Vehicles [PHEV], make use of some interesting characteristics of electric motors to maximize fuel efficiency. An electric motor has most of its torque at zero rpm, so they are ideal for getting a vehicle moving from a stop. Electric motors also can function as an electrical generator, conserving energy by converting the forward momentum of the vehicle into electricity while decelerating. HEV technology has been proven on millions of miles of road, and EVs take the next step.

Removing the petroleum-fueled engine is the next logical step in energy-efficient automobile evolution. Significant advances in battery technology were necessary to make this next step possible. In the last few years, rechargeable battery packs were developed that promised more power, more range, and quicker recharge times. Without these advances, EVs would still be the stuff of dreams, all promise, and no delivery. The fact of the matter is, EVs are here to stay, and they’re beautiful, efficient, and powerful.

Is Your Power Source Renewable?

When removing the engine from an EV, though, we all know that electricity has to come from somewhere, and that source might be renewable or non-renewable. Specifically, hydrocarbon sources, including coal, gas, oil, and natural gas, are the main CO2 generators, and as a result, particularly dirty. Cleaner sources are available, such as solar, wind, and hydro, and EVs charged off of these have no emissions at all.

What an EV owner needs to determine his CO2 emissions isn’t very easy to find, but there are a few tools that can help determine how clean his part of the grid is. In at least 33 states, though, an EV driver will generate less CO2 than his gasoline-burning neighbor. In at least five states, CO2 emissions could nearly be eliminated! Want to get perfectly clean? Consider installing solar panels on your own home, and then you’ll know exactly where your EV power comes from.

Certified as a master-level automotive technician, B. Jerew covers alternative fuel and hybrid vehicle topics across the web.  This particular article has been provided on behalf of, a leading provider of financing services for Virginians of all credit tiers and income levels.

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