Is Driving a Tesla Better for the Environment? It Depends… by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist
Are Teslas and other electric vehicles perfect for the environment?
The answer is “no”, since nothing can be perfect. Electric vehicles are still a source of GHG emissions as a result of the manufacturing and raw material extraction processes. Further, and more importantly, lifetime emissions for electric vehicles also depend on the sources of fuel used to power the local grid.
So Is Driving a Tesla Better for the Environment?
Today’s infographic, which looks at the well-to-wheels impact of electric and gas vehicles, was created in association with Delbrook Capital, a financial services company that has launched the CO2 Master Solutions Fund.
Together we explore the latest data on the lifetime emissions of gasoline and electric vehicles, and how they compare depending on the state you live in:
Is driving a Tesla better for the environment than using a comparably sized gas-powered vehicle? In the majority of places, the answer is “yes”.
However, the true environmental impact depends greatly on the specific power sources that the local grid uses to generate electricity.
The Power Mix
According to a study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average new gasoline vehicle generates the equivalent of 29 MPG of emissions over its lifetime. The study found that the average electric vehicle has emission equivalents in a range between 35 MPG to 135 MPG depending on the local power grid of the state it is driven in.
Electric cars driven in the Pacific Northwest states, as an example, have the emissions of an equivalent 94 MPG gas-powered car. This is miles better than a new Honda Fit (36 MPG) or even hybrids such as the Prius (50 MPG) or Honda Accord hybrid (47 MPG). This is because 52% of all power in the region comes from hydro.
In Colorado, about 70% of all electricity is coal-fired. This means that the electric car has the equivalent emissions of a gas-powered Honda Fit with 35 MPG. In Florida, natural gas has replaced coal usage, and now accounts for two-thirds of all electricity generated. Powering an EV on Florida’s grid for an estimated 51 MPG equivalent is better than driving a hybrid such as a Prius (50 MPG) or a Honda Accord Hybrid (47 MPG).
The Future of Emissions
Today, the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that 66% of Americans definitely would generate less emissions by driving electric vehicles based on the compositions of their local power grids.
In the very near future, plugging in will be better in 100% of places in America. Here’s why:
- Battery technology will continue to get better. More efficiency means lighter and better cars.
- Coal is falling. It’s gone from 44% of all U.S. power generation in 2009 to 33% in 2015. It’s forecasted to fall to 22% by 2020.
- Many states also have committed to specific targets for green energy as a portion of their energy mix. More renewables for the grid means less emissions.
For investors, these changes will create many opportunities for investors.
As the electric car era is ushered in, some experts are predicting that entire power grids will need to be re-wired to accommodate. Automobile dealer networks will be profoundly affected.
Car part manufacturers will also have to adapt. How many pieces are in a typical gas-powered vehicle? According to energy expert Gianni Kovacevic there are about 100.
In an electric vehicle, which only needs about 20 components, many of these parts such as pistons and spark plugs will become antiquated.