Monday, August 12, 2013

Hybrids beat electric cars as greenest option in 39 US states

Driving an electric car will have a positive effect on the environment; but only if you live in the right place, according to a new analysis by US independent climate science group, Climate Central.
In a new state by state study, Climate Central suggest that motorists living many US states would find that driving a conventional hybrid rather than a plug-in version would be greener, thanks to the carbon intensity of the local grid.
Just 11 states were found to deliver a low carbon-intensive grid which allowed fully electric cars, like the Nissan LEAF to prove the greenest option. Meanwhile in 39 states, a highly efficient conventional hybrid, like the Toyota Prius was found to be more environmentally friendly than a fully electric option, thanks to coal and gas dependent electricity grids, making them more green than even the least-polluting, all-electric vehicle, the Honda Fit (Jazz) EV, over the first 50,000 miles the car is driven.
For luxury sedans, in 46 states the gas-powered Lexus ES hybrid is better for the climate than the electric Tesla Model S, over the first 100,000 miles the car is driven.
Another factor which reduced the eco-credentials of electric vehicles, is the carbon debt they acquire during their production. Emissions from producing the battery and other electric components create a 4,500 kg to 18,000 kg carbon debt for the electric vehicle over its fossil-fuelled counterpart; a debt that can take tens or even hundreds of thousands of miles of driving and recharging from clean sources to overcome.
However the picture is improving for electrified vehicles; between 2010 and 2012, increased use of renewable fuel sources in the States has led to an 8 per cent reduction in carbon emissions per kilowatt-hour generated nationally. Combined with the arrival of evermore efficient electric cars, the number of states where driving an electrified vehicle makes sense has more than doubled in two years; from 13 in 2010 to 32 by 2012.
Carbon intensive grid
States including Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, Michigan and Ohio, which are still heavily dependent on coal to generate electricity and have little renewable sources, are the worst for electric cars. Meanwhile states such as Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Idaho,Vermont, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California, and South Dakota, where the electricity grid is lower emission primarily due to the use of hydropower, nuclear as well as small amounts of wind and solar, are the best places to be an electric car owner.
In these states, the mpg equivalents of the best electric vehicle are dazzling, ranging from more than 2,600 mpg in Vermont, to 380 mpg in Washington, 280 mpg in Idaho, and 200 mpg in Oregon.
In many states the rapid substitution to natural gas from coal and the adoption of substantial amounts of wind power have measurably decarbonised the grid between 2010 and 2012.These changes have shifted the balance of carbon emissions in favour of recharging electrics compared to burning petrol in high-mileage hybrids like the Prius, if car manufacturing emissions are excluded.
The study paints an interesting map of the best place to drive an electric car, one that is likely to repeated in other countries. In the UK today, around 13 per cent of our electricity comes from renewable sources.