While electric cars don’t produce emissions themselves, numerous other factors contribute to their CO2 footprint. The manufacturing process has come under scrutiny for the amount of CO2 involved, and mining precious materials for lithium-ion batteries isn’t exactly Earth-friendly.
When it comes to driving an electric vehicle, say on a 1,000-mile road trip, is an EV actually cleaner? Bloomberg looked at how much CO2 is released in various forms of transportation and how they’re powered in a new report, and electric cars are cleaner no matter what.
The theoretical trip from New York to Daytona Beach, Florida, covering 1,000 miles, would consume 40 gallons of gasoline in a large sedan like the Chevrolet Impala. The internal-combustion engine will produce 350 kilograms of CO2 along the way. A Tesla Model S will need 286 pound coal to power its zero-emissions battery-electric powertrain, by comparison.
A coal power plant would still, however, produce less CO2 than the gasoline-fed Chevy. According to calculations, the fossil fuel would release 310 kilograms of CO2 to juice a Tesla Model S’ battery along the way. Other sources of energy are much cleaner, though. Although burning coal emits more harmful pollutants than gasoline, regenerative braking and an electric car’s efficiency recoups the added emissions.
A natural-gas power plant would produce 170 kilograms of CO2, while renewable energy sources (obviously) don’t produce any CO2. The best approach is to find charging stations powered by wind or solar energy. Though, that’s still difficult to come by.
Solar and wind power plants are still often subsidized with fossil fuel plants today as more facilities still require adequate storage to harness energy.