Why do people think electric cars are more environmentally friendly? Do they not realize that the power to charge the battery comes mainly from power plants that are just as bad for the environment as vehicle emissions, or worse?

Originally Answered. Why do people believe electric cars are better for the environment? Is it not obvious that the power that charges the battery comes mainly from power plants, which are as harmful or worse for the environment as the vehicle’s emotions?

This is a common misconception, but it’s false.

This answer is going to show you that I am very careful with the use of “electricity” as well as “energy”.

The USA produced 63% of its electricity from fossil fuels in 2018.

To drill, pump, refine, and deliver one gallon of gasoline, it takes approximately 5 kilowatthours of energy (typically not electricity).

The Nissan Leaf (an all electric car) is more efficient than the Nissan Tida (a gasoline car that’s very similar to the Leaf). It gets 37 mpg while the all-electric consumes 36kWh per 100 km.

The gas-powered car doesn’t use 1 gallon to drive 37 miles. It uses 1 gallon plus 5 kwh “other energy” to make the same gallon. We’re told that most of that “other energy” is actually coming from burning some of the oil that’s used to make the gasoline…but what that really means is that to drive 37 miles takes 1 gallon of gas PLUS 5 kWh of other fossil fuels – which adds about another quarter gallon of fossil-fuel-equivalent.

You see, your 37mpg car actually gets 29mpg when you add the fuel cost.

In other words, for a 100-mile trip, you will need approximately 3.4 gallons or 36kWh of electric power.

Because 65% of electricity required to drive an electric vehicle is generated from fossil fuels, 35% of it isn’t, then 17kWh comes from fossil fuel sources, while the other 9 come from wind, solar and nuclear.

Okay, so how much fossil fuel is required to produce 17kWh of electricity?

It would be a bit more expensive if it came from an energy station that burns natural gas or oil. That would require about 1.1 gallons or the same amount liquified gas. Which results in approximately the same amount CO2.

Hence:

  • One gallons of fossil fuel produces 17kWh of electricity plus 9kWh of renewable electricity. This is enough to drive a Nissan Leaf for 100 miles.
  • It takes 3 gallons (which requires an additional 0.4gallons to refine) to fuel a Nissan Tida and drive it for 100 miles.

CONCLUSION:

Even when you consider the fact that 65% of electricity in the USA is made from fossil fuels, an electric car still produces a third of the CO2 emissions as compared to a car with a gasoline engine.

BUT:

This trend indicates that renewables account for an increasing percentage of electricity production, while coal and oil are decreasing. The status quo for nuclear is not changing, while “petroleum or other” is rapidly disappearing.

It’s now natural gas or wind+solar. While natural gas prices are rising slowly, solar and wind prices are falling rapidly.

Even though electric cars produce only a third of the carbon dioxide pollution as gasoline cars, this number will increase over time.

If you truly care, consider installing rooftop solar panels on your home to charge your car with 100% renewable energy.

Closing of the case

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