Analysis Shows How EVs Cut Fuel Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Today the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report regarding electric vehicle operating costs and regional power grid emissions intended to enable consumers to more accurately analyze cost-benefit and pollution.

The comprehensive report focused on such vehicles as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i and others, and graded regions by how much greenhouse gas on average is emitted.

The main findings are in line with what EV advocates already know: greenhouse gas emissions are effectively reduced by switching to electric propulsion power. Further, the study estimated average fuel savings per year between $750-1,200.

“This report shows drivers should feel confident that owning an electric vehicle is a good choice for reducing global warming pollution, cutting fuel costs, and slashing oil consumption,” said Don Anair, the report’s author and senior engineer for UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “Those in the market for a new car may have been uncertain how the global warming emissions and fuel costs of EVs stack up to gasoline-powered vehicles. Now, drivers can for the first time see just how much driving an electric vehicle in their hometown will lower global warming emissions and save them money on fuel costs.”

If you surf the Web for other write-ups on the study, you will also see some reports cuing in on the finding that the most efficient gasoline-powered vehicles may be environmentally cleaner than EVs recharging in regions relying on some coal-powered plants. That is, the study found effective emissions needed to recharge vehicles relying on some powerplants makes them little cleaner than some of the cleanest gas cars – but still cleaner than most.

But in any case, the study’s over-riding emphasis did not go in that negative direction, even if it does give potential material for such sound bite journalism, and fodder for critics of EVs.

One assumption the study made was that EV drivers for now are primarily recharging at home, often in the overnight hours. The executive summary noted that for 45 percent of the population, “EVs produce lower global warming emissions than even the most efficient gasoline hybrids.”

And for 37 percent of the population, EVs are on par with the most efficient hybrids such as the Civic Hybrid and Prius.

The Union of Concerned Scientists focused its study on greenhouse gas emissions which it says are responsible for climate change.

It said the expectancy is overall, EVs should become effectively cleaner to operate in years to come as more renewable power sources come online.

Also, it encouraged consumers to shop for the best available power plan for them, be it one focusing on green energy supplementation, or merely a less expensive alternative rate plan.

In California, for instance, consumers can elect a time of use plan that could save an estimated $500-1000 per year, the study says.

It is equally true that any electricity generated in the United States is energy that need not be imported, which is cannot be said of petroleum dependent vehicles.

Reasons why the Union of Concerned Scientists is thus very much in favor of EVs include reduction of greenhouse gases, net operational savings, as mentioned, but no doubt energy security is also in the reasoning process.

The perceived downside for consumers is most EVs come at a price premium, which we’ve seen all sorts of estimates on with regard to how many years it will take to make a payback.

The short answer is it is a qualified decision. The study’s authors recommend knowing exact cost of electricity, getting the most cost-effective plan possible and taking advantage of any available government subsidies.

If investing in your own renewable energy – such as solar or wind – is an option, this also is recommended to reduce carbon footprint, and save money.

To learn more, visit the organization’s Web site.

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  • Max Reid

    Great News. Battery cost has fallen to $689 / kwh in 2012-Q1 from $800 / kwh in 2011-Q1 and this is expected to fall further.

    It should be because of improved technology and mass production just like what happened to Solar Photovoltaic panels whose priced have gone down nearly 80% in the last 3 years.

  • Van

    Everyone knows we need the second generation Lithium battery to come on line. EV’s need 42 KWh of capacity or more, and PHV’s need 10 KWh of capacity or more providing an EV range of at least 150 miles and 35 miles respectively.

    We do not need analysis based on reducing CO2 emission, but on reducing air pollution or dependence on foreign oil. We need to make compelling arguments based on reality, not on leftist propaganda. The reason (other than inadequate supply) for sluggish EV sales is they have inadequate range, i.e. 70 miles.

  • Randy Hamlet

    EVs would not pollute. They would not need to power plants. You charge them off peak when the electricity is wasted and run the car off of that. EVs can actually lower energy costs per kW and do it without causing a single extra gram of emissions to enter the atmosphere

  • Van

    Hi Randy, but I think your premise is flawed. Electric utility companies, whether privately or government run, build sufficient capacity to meet peak demand say in the afternoon of each day. Now at other times, the capacity is not fully utilized, i.e. the fuel flow is throttled back and less electricity is generated. So what is “wasted” is the capital cost of the under utilized generation capacity.

    But, in my opinion, you are spot on, when you say, because EV’s are charged at night, more of that under utilized capacity is used, thus wasting less of the capital costs, lowering the per/kwh true cost of electricity.

    OTOH, there is no free lunch, if the electricity generated at night is produced by burning coal or oil or natural gas, the pollutants contained in the products of combustion are expelled into the air we breath.

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