COMPARING EMISSIONS FROM ELECTRIC VEHICLES (EVS) TO CONVENTIONAL VEHICLES
Posted by John Hipchen on February 25, 2015
As a manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations, we at Telefonix believe that our commercial EVSE units, specifically designed for longer duration / workplace charging, play an integral role in the adoption and proliferation of plug-In electric vehicles. Although the study of emissions and climate change is not our expertise, we strive to do our best to understand environmental science and stay educated on the subject.
News hit the media at the end of 2014 stating that coal-generated electricity actually made EV’s more detrimental to human health relative to gasoline-burning vehicles. One article from AP referenced a University of Minnesota study and claimed, “If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity…” The article went on to say, “The study finds all-electric vehicles cause 86 percent more deaths from air pollution than do cars powered by regular gasoline.”
We did not necessarily agree with this assessment and have always believed when getting into this business that we were part of the advancement in clean energy transportation. As a result, we decided to look closer at emissions from EV’s and compare them to gasoline burning vehicles. According to the press, coal-generated power was responsible for the excessive EV emissions. Therefore, we focused our attention on CO2 emissions from both power generation and vehicles. We were curious what the difference is for emissions from coal-generated power vs. emissions from the average of all power plants (the “U.S. Fleet Average”). We learned during this effort that a comparison of EVs to conventional gasoline vehicles can be easily skewed by the type and size of vehicles used in the comparison. To ensure a valid comparison of similar vehicles, we compared a Ford Focus Electric to a conventional gasoline 2.0L Ford Focus.
Our conclusions did not match those on the news wires. When using 100% coal-generated power, we concluded that total CO2 emissions from the Ford Focus Electric will be 31% less than the conventional 2.0L Focus. When we used power plant U.S. Fleet Average emissions, the numbers jumped in favor of electric vehicles by a factor of more than 2.
Here is a point-by-point summary of what we found when we compared a 2015 Ford Focus Electric to a 2015 2.0L Ford Focus:
Looking ahead, we see (1) decreasing usage of coal, (2) increased use of power generation from sources such as natural gas, nuclear and renewables and (3) increased efficiency of electric vehicles. In other words, as the grid gets cleaner and EVs become more efficient, the emissions argument slants even further in support of EVs. In a New York Times article last year (“Coal Fades, So Electrics Get Cleaner” on September 21, 2014), Ford Motor spokesman, Aaron Miller said, “Using our database of zip codes and energy generation, we find that roughly 34 percent of all charging is done by renewable or carbon-free sources.” This picture is considerably different than just 2 years ago and the trend continues to move toward more carbon-free sources of energy.
We see electric vehicles fitting nicely into a clean and more sustainable future. To that end, we remain committed to furthering the adoption of electric vehicles and the necessary EV charging infrastructure as well as providing EV charging to our own employees at Telefonix.