The least polluting car and how its mileage compares to other cars

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Sometimes we hear people gripe that electric cars still create carbon pollution because they’re charged on the grid, which uses coal-fired power and so these cars are still using energy and so they’re not really that green and not that big of a deal . . .

What?! When you hear this line of thinking, please refer to the chart below. Electric cars are way less polluting than conventional cars, trucks and SUVs.

Even when they’re charged on a conventional grid, they’re more efficient, and so their total carbon dioxide output, even counting the “upstream” pollution at the power plant, is still less than less efficient gasoline-powered cars, which are emitting pollution from their tailpipes.

Electric Vehicle Emissions -

The chart is based on EPA estimates of the annual carbon dioxide pollution put out by various models, based on the EVs being charged on a grid like the one in Texas (you have to pick a zip code to do these calculations because all states have a  different electricity power mix).

It clearly shows that EVs are far less polluting.

And in the case of the least-polluting car, the Leaf, the CO2 emissions are less than half of the EPA’s “average” car. The Leaf turns out to be the lowest-emitting car because it consumes the least amount of energy per output — 30 kWh/100 mi  — giving it a combined city/highway MPGe of 114 miles.

MPGe is an equivalency of Miles Per Gallon worked out by EPA so cars can be compared. It helps you see how efficient the Leaf is, at 114 MPGe, compared to say an SUV getting 24 MPG.

Tesla, the other wide ranging EV (with an awe-inspiring range of 265 miles), comes in at 38 kWh/100 miles with its Tesla Model S 85KWhr battery pack, giving it an MPGe of 89.

So the Leaf wins. It’s the least polluting EV.

Now, if you charged your Leaf, Volt or Tesla on a home charger powered by rooftop solar or on at a house powered completely by wind (this is possible now in some states), your carbon emissions, for driving, drop to zero. The only greenhouse emissions you could conceivably count against the car would be those generated when the vehicle was manufactured, and those emissions are unavoidable.


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