Electric cars not necessarily the best for the environment … yet

It seems that electric cars aren’t necessarily better than hybrids for the environment (via here):

Table 4 shows the full lifecycle emissions (including manufacturing emissions) for a Leaf in each state, as well as the Prius, for 100,000 miles of driving. There are only 13 states where the Leaf is more climate friendly than the Prius – less than half the number of states when the comparison included only driving emissions (Figure 1). Figure 7 illustrates the states where the Leaf is more climate friendly than the Prius after driving 100,000 miles, and also outlines states
where, when manufacturing emissions are included, the Leaf is no longer the most climate friendly car. In every state, however, the Leaf is still more climate friendly than the average new car purchased in the U.S. today; the average fuel economy of new cars bought last year was about 25 miles per gallon.

The thirteen states are: Vermont, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Virginia (and Vermont is by far the lowest in carbon emissions). The variation is due to how  the different states make electricity: West Virginia makes almost all (96%) while Vermont gets most of its from nuclear power and hydro.

The two things to remember about this comparison though is how fast it can change (this comparison only looks at emissions  while the above one also includes the carbon used to build the cars):

This reduction in carbon emissions from electric power generation more than doubled the number of states where driving and charging a high-efficiency all-electric vehicle is better for the climate than a gasoline-powered Toyota Prius hybrid (not counting any vehicle manufacturing emissions); from 13 in 2010, to 32 states in 2012. (The Prius is the most climate friendly conventional hybrid/gasoline powered vehicle on the market.)

and (they also note that conventional cars are getting more efficient, but still emit more carbon than most hybrids):

As shown in the previous sections, how climate friendly your car is depends on both where you live and how far you drive. But of course, the car itself also matters. The specific components of each car and how efficient it is influence its overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, according to the EPA, the first generation model of the Leaf (2012) required 34 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles, or 0.34 kWh per mile. The 2013 model Leaf is more efficient, consuming only\ 29 kWh of electricity over 100 miles, or 0.29 kWh per mile. This 15 percent improvement in the Leaf’s efficiency (with no change in the Prius’s efficiency) has helped make the Leaf more climate friendly than the Prius in several states last year.

So electric cars are almost as good as the best hybrids right now and are getting better faster. That’s the big takeaway–as we move to more renewable power, electric cars get better and better.

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