Why Electric Cars Are Cleaner

Critics say electric cars just have “longer tailpipes,” but in fact these vehicles produce less overall pollution than most other cars.

electric cars

The new, all-electric Nissan Leaf is expected to go on sale nationwide by the end of 2011. 


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As of 2011, the electric car is no longer a hypothetical car of the future. Thanks to unveilings from major automakers, corporate investment, dedicated government backing and steady improvements to the technology itself, electric cars are ready to claim a spot as a car of the present. It’s been quite a ride. After first appearing in the early 1900s and then flirting with a return in the 1990s, electric cars (sometimes called EVs, for electric vehicles) fell back to niche status. But recent history has seen nearly the entire auto industry recharge about electric cars. Some notable buzz:

  • General Motors is back in the game with production of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid capable of traveling 25 to 50 miles on electricity alone. The Volt has already won several notable awards, including the Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year and the 2011 Green Car of the Year from Green Car Journal.
  • Toyota is working on a small electric car, the FT-EV II, and has bought a significant stake in electric car specialist Tesla Motors, maker of the electric Roadster sports car. Tesla and Toyota are developing an electric version of Toyota’s RAV4, a small SUV.
  • Nissan sold out the preorder waiting list for its all-electric Leaf sedan (pictured at right) in 2010, and the car is expected to go on sale nationwide for about $25,000 (after tax credits) by the end of 2011.
  • Honda plans to sell its Fit EV, which will have a 70-mile driving range, in 2012.
  • Mitsubishi plans to bring its electric compact car, the i-MiEV, to U.S. showrooms by the end of 2011.
  • Fisker Automotive, maker of the luxury Karma sedan, received a $529 million federal loan to help develop its plug-in hybrid vehicles.

This resurgence is a testament to recent advances in electric car technology. While pure electric cars will continue to face challenges — such as expensive batteries, a limited driving range compared with conventional cars (although the 70 to 100 miles per charge offered by most electric cars is sufficient for many drivers), somewhat lengthy charging times, and a limited number of public recharging stations — they bring numerous benefits to the table.

Because electric cars consume no gasoline at all, they are a great option for drivers concerned with energy security and our nation’s oil dependence. They offer the convenience of being able to “refuel” a vehicle at home, and they’re more efficient and less expensive to operate compared with gas-only cars (see “How Much Does It Cost to Power an Electric Car?” near the end of this article). They also reduce noise pollution in most driving circumstances. Finally, of course, they’re perhaps best known for being zero-emission vehicles, and their lack of tailpipe emissions is a great step toward an improved environment.

Hold it right there, say some critics. Aren’t electric cars simply moving emissions from the vehicle’s tailpipe to a power plant smokestack? (This is the “long tailpipe” critique.) Aren’t there still greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants associated with creating the electricity these vehicles use? And if that’s the case, are electric cars really all they’re cracked up to be?

“These are valid questions deserving of a thorough assessment,” says Bill Moore, editor in chief of EV World, a transportation technology and news website. While lamenting misinformation that perpetuates in the blogosphere and elsewhere, Moore values criticism that encourages progress. “We don’t want [electric cars] to become a burden on society, so we need to hear those criticisms, we need to weigh them, and we need to move forward to improve the technology,” he says.

Electric car emissions depend on multiple factors — particularly how your electricity is generated, which, for most, depends on where you live. Smog-forming pollution at the power plant from the use of an electric car can have higher emissions rates than typical gas-only or hybrid cars (such as the Toyota Prius), a fact owed largely to the effectiveness of catalytic converters in today’s gas cars. It’s important to note, though, that from a health standpoint, one major advantage of “moving” pollution from the tailpipe to the power plant is that it gets pollutants farther away from pedestrians and other drivers, lowering the pollutants’ adverse health impacts on the concentrated population.

However, some pollutants, such as those related to climate change, affect the environment regardless of where they are released. In terms of climate change emissions, electric cars are generally much cleaner than conventional gas vehicles. In areas of the country that have the cleanest power generation (more wind, solar and hydropower), electric cars emit far less greenhouse gases, not only compared with conventional vehicles, but also compared with efficient hybrid-electric vehicles. In areas of the country with the dirtiest power generation (coal), an efficient hybrid may be your best environmental bet, though if you’re gentle on the pedal, an electric car may yield comparable results. On a national average basis, an efficient electric car emits about half the amount of carbon dioxide as a conventional car, and roughly the same amount as an efficient hybrid. To fully understand these comparisons, we first need to understand the how, what and where of vehicle emissions.

For more information, see our map of electric car CO2 emissions by region and our chart comparing electric cars with hybrids and conventional vehicles. 

Vehicle Emissions, Explained

The vast majority of cars and trucks on today’s roads operate on internal combustion engines, which convert energy stored in a liquid fuel (usually gasoline) into mechanical motion by rapidly igniting an air-fuel mixture in the engine’s cylinders. This combustion process emits engine exhaust that contains a number of pollutants, including (but not limited to) carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. But automotive engineers have found ways to reduce these pollutants, both by adding emissions-control devices (such as catalytic converters) to the exhaust plumbing, and by precisely rendering the cylinders’ combustion process though computer control. The upshot is that, especially over the past decade, conventional vehicles have gotten much cleaner in terms of smog-forming pollution.

The bad news is that another pollutant created by combusting fuel — carbon dioxide, or CO2 — cannot be minimized through the use of emissions-control devices. Simply put, the more fuel your vehicle burns, the more CO2 it emits. This is particularly troublesome because CO2 is the primary human-caused greenhouse gas, contributing heavily to global warming. While a comparison of conventional vehicles and electric cars could be conducted for each of the major pollutants, the critical environmental issue today is the impact our vehicles have on global warming, which is why our calculations focus on CO2 emissions.

A vehicle’s emissions can be categorized into three types: in-use, upstream and vehicle-manufacturing emissions. In-use emissions — those produced when someone is actually driving the vehicle — constitute the majority of a typical car’s lifetime emissions. Upstream emissions are those that result from producing and transporting the fuel a car uses to its point of use (in the case of gasoline, that means extracting crude oil, refining it and transporting it to gas stations). The third category is manufacturing-related emissions, which, according to the latest research, only account for about 10 to 20 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime greenhouse gas output. (Given the modest impact of manufacturing emissions, calculations made in this article include only in-use and upstream emissions.)

Remarkably, burning 1 gallon of gasoline pushes more than 19 pounds of CO2 out of your vehicle’s tailpipe. One gallon of gasoline weighs only about 6 pounds, but the combustion process pulls in oxygen atoms from the surrounding air when creating carbon dioxide. But that’s not all. In addition to those 19 pounds of CO2, nearly another 5 pounds of CO2 are produced “upstream” during the creation and transportation of that gallon of gas from the wellhead to the refinery to the corner station, all before being put in the car’s tank. All told, our cars are responsible for emitting nearly 25 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gas they burn.

Unlike vehicles with internal combustion engines, electric cars have zero in-use emissions. They do, however, have upstream emissions: those resulting from producing the vehicle’s fuel — in this case, the vehicle’s electricity.

Comparing Electrons

When it comes to electricity, the resource used to generate it plays a major role in determining how environmentally friendly its electrons are. The cleanest type of electricity is that generated from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydropower. Such sources create electricity without producing greenhouse gases or smog-forming pollutants at a power plant. Electric cars powered by electricity created from renewable sources are, for all intents and purposes, true zero-emission vehicles.

Electricity generated by natural gas plants falls in the middle of the pack. It’s cleaner than coal power, but not nearly as climate-friendly as power generated from renewable sources.

The worst electricity, from both a global warming and a smog-forming emissions standpoint, comes from coal-fired power plants. They emit the highest levels of carbon dioxide and, depending on the quality of the emissions-control devices on the plants, can emit high levels of smog-forming and toxic emissions as well, including particulate matter (soot).

Nuclear plants, while not a threat from a global warming or smog-forming pollution standpoint, pose the dangerous threats of nuclear disasters and nuclear proliferation. Safe, long-term storage of nuclear waste is also a serious concern. Because of these issues, nuclear energy isn’t considered by many (including myself) to be an eco-friendly option at this time.

Today, coal-fired power plants generate the majority of electricity in the United States (48 percent), followed by natural gas (22 percent), nuclear (19 percent) and renewables (9 percent). The efficiency of the power plant also affects the eco-friendliness of the electricity it generates. Some plants, such as combined heat and power facilities, make better use of waste energy, which reduces the amount of fuel necessary (and thus pollution emitted) to produce a given amount of energy. The cleanliness of power plant emissions is also tied to what pollution-control technology the plant utilizes. Plants can use scrubbers, for example, to control sulfur emissions. Short of still-unvalidated carbon capture and storage processes, however, there is no method for controlling CO2 emissions from power plants.

Different U.S. regions utilize vastly different electricity sources. The Northeast, Northwest and Pacific Coast generate electricity using large amounts of renewable hydroelectric power, while the Midwest uses a significant amount of coal. (See a map of regional energy sources.)

What does all of this mean for the typical electricity consumer? In short, it means the cleanliness of your electricity determines how eco-friendly it would be to operate an electric car. For example, if you live in California, which has some of the cleanest electricity in the nation, an electric car driven 12,000 miles (a typical year’s worth of driving) would emit about 1.6 tons of CO2. By contrast, a hybrid such as the Toyota Prius would emit about 2.9 tons, and a 25-mpg gas car would emit about 5.9 tons per year. If you live in the Midwest, where coal is king, your electric car’s annual emissions would be about 4.1 tons of CO2 — more than that of an efficient hybrid, but still far less than that from a gas-only vehicle. (See a chart comparing CO2 emissions.)

So, how do the numbers shake out for the rest of the country? The U.S. Department of Energy tracks power plant emissions in more than a dozen different regions and subregions across the nation. This regional emissions information is a good starting point for estimating the environmental impact of electric cars in different regions of the country. Making subsequent calculations to account for regional transmission and distribution losses, vehicle charging equipment losses, and estimated impacts of energy extraction, transportation and processing, it’s possible to estimate average electric car emissions around the country. See our regional emissions map to find out how much CO2 an electric car would emit in your area.

Another factor to consider is that, while power plants have multiple-decade lifetimes, emissions from the grid are not static. In time, electric cars have the potential to get even cleaner if concerted efforts are made to clean up our energy portfolio with cleaner fossil fuels (natural gas) and, far better yet, even more renewable energy. Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy projects how grid emissions are likely to change in the future. It predicts an electric car driven in California in 2035 will have 39 percent less annual CO2 emissions than an electric car driven today, and an electric car driven in the East Central region (the region labeled “8,259” on the map will have 9 percent less annual CO2 emissions. While constructive on a general level, this information should be viewed cautiously because of the many assumptions that go into such predictions.

A Bright Future for Electric Cars

Electric cars are clearly cleaner than most other vehicles on the road today, but how large of a role can they play in cutting down our transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions? That depends in part on how many are sold. Unfortunately, predicting the size of the future electric car market is difficult at best. “If you did a Google search on this, you’d see a million hits with a million different answers,” says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America and a key player behind the Nissan Leaf.

Citing internal market research, a government committed to advanced vehicle technologies, and greater public awareness of the ills of oil dependence, Perry is optimistic, predicting electric cars could account for 10 percent of new vehicles sold by 2020. Analysts at the other end of the spectrum suggest numbers as low as 0.5 percent in that time frame. Forecasting aside, one thing’s for certain: Building a successful electric car market will require technological advances, thoughtful infrastructure development, and supportive federal, state and municipal policies.

“There are a bunch of things colliding here,” Moore says, and it’s “very, very hard” to know how the market will unfold. But he’s confident that electric vehicle technology will succeed in time. If that happens, he’s correct that it’s important to answer difficult questions about the technology sooner rather than later. With that in mind, we revisit our initial question: Do electric cars truly deserve their environmentally friendly reputation, even if accounting for power plant emissions? On a national average basis, the answer today is a firm yes. Today’s electric cars are indeed responsible for some pollution, but nevertheless are a cleaner option than most other cars currently on the market. And if we increase our use of renewable energy, the future for electric cars will only get brighter.

How Much Does It Cost to Power an Electric Car?

Care to cut down on your annual fuel costs? You may want to consider going electric. About 3 cents per mile driven is all it costs to “fuel” a typical electric car today, assuming an electricity rate of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). By contrast, at a pump price of $2.75 per gallon, a 25-mpg conventional car costs more than three times that amount. Why? A big reason is the inherent efficiency of electric motors.

According to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, about 75 percent of the chemical energy stored in an electric car’s battery can be translated to mechanical energy that rotates the wheels of the vehicle. By contrast, only about 20 percent of the energy stored in a conventional vehicle’s tank of gas actually moves the vehicle down the road. The rest is simply lost — primarily to heat created during the combustion process, but also to other factors, such as friction and air-pumping losses in the engine.

The efficiency advantage of electric motors means excellent on-road “fuel” economy. Today’s electric cars are rated at about 3 miles per kWh of electricity consumed. On a gasoline-equivalent basis, that’s roughly 100 mpg, and a number of drivers report even better results when driving with efficiency in mind. All told, while expensive batteries add to the upfront cost of an electric vehicle, lower fuel and maintenance expenses allow electric car drivers to recoup much of those costs over the life of the vehicle.

Determining Electric Car Efficiency

Multiple factors affect the ultimate efficiency of an electric car, including how you drive, where you drive and even the ambient temperature where you live.

The Environmental Protection Agency measures electric car “fuel economy” by accounting not only for energy used to move the vehicle down the road, but also for the energy needed to use the vehicle’s charging equipment (and the efficiency of that equipment). Based on this, the Nissan Leaf’s overall energy consumption rate is 340 Wh/mi. By comparison, the Chevy Volt (assuming it ran exclusively in “EV mode”) would consume 360 Wh/mi — slightly more energy per mile traveled than the Leaf.

The Leaf’s energy consumption rate serves as a representative value in this article for electric cars because at this time it best represents the mainstream electric car market. That said, the disclaimer “your mileage may vary” still applies to all vehicles. In fact, evidence indicates it applies even more so with electric-drive technology. Recent test drives of the Leaf report a sizable range of energy consumption rates, including some that are notably better (i.e., lower) than 340 Wh/mi.

So, what does all of this mean? If electric car drivers experience efficiencies on-par with that of the Leaf, then under a national average electricity grid mix, the representative electric car will be roughly as carbon-friendly as a 50-mpg hybrid (see chart). However, if an electric car is driven efficiently and consumes less energy than 340 Wh/mi, it would perform commensurately better. If driven aggressively and inefficiently, it would perform slightly worse. Either way, every scenario for electric cars would improve if more renewable energy were used in the grid.

In order to compare vehicle types in this article, aggregate data and a reasonable but specific set of assumptions were used. While attempts were made to ensure accuracy of the findings, alternate assumptions could change the results in either direction. Assuming different vehicle efficiencies, for example, would yield different results. Similarly, assuming electric cars are charged at a specific time of day or night when a given fuel is more likely to be used in power generation could also change the results. On an average basis, however, the numbers in our regional electric car emissions map and our chart comparing electric cars in different regions with a hybrid and a conventional vehicle reasonably represent electric car emissions.

Contributing editor James Kliesch is an expert in advanced and clean vehicle technologies, with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. He is a senior engineer at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. 

10/13/2014 1:00:59 PM

This article is just another reason why I quit paying for the magazine. Out dated, erroneous information, and pure propaganda. I would sit here and list all the defects, but the other comments have most of it covered. Besides, I am not here to write a fair and honest article, I am here hoping to improve my understanding. And I am still hoping... FYI: You could pay me to write a article on EVs. Then you might not get so many negative comments.

10/13/2014 7:13:20 AM

Electric vehicles are a joke just as well anything that is battery powered. In time you have to replace those expensive batteries.

10/10/2014 3:52:04 PM

article from 2011 how about something more current

10/10/2014 11:29:12 AM

Half the electric energy in the U.S. is generated from coal. Half the electric energy produced is lost in transmission as heat emanated from transmission lines. So if people think they are saving anything in the environment by buying electric cars, they are just fooling themselves. Another danger of Large Lithium batteries is their tendency to burn and explode unless carefully monitored with sophisticated electronics. The Malasian flight that disappeared had large Lithium batteries for power plus part of it's cargo was large Lithium batteries. Energy storage brings danger regardless of what bottle contains it but in the end Hydrogen is the best fuel and cheap ways to produce it are coming soon. Why doesn't anyone mention the kerosene burned by jet airplanes which distribute their fumes and pollution at 30,000 feet or more. Tons a minute are expelled into the upper atmosphere by the minute. High speed light rail powered by clean energy would reduce both airplane and ground pollution sources.

7/9/2014 5:26:31 AM

Now electric car use is more than the other cars, most of the people like to use the cars because of low emission, zero maintenance and better performance. In a electric car, battery is a important thing, as per the charge, it can run, a well maintain car always give a better drive and performance. http://jeffsmbz.com/

6/4/2014 5:51:04 AM

At the beginning, the electric cars we have was completely changed if we consider the electric vehicle that we have today. They had some errors like production of more carbon dioxide gas as compared to the normal vehicles whereas they were supposed to produce less. Now, we have the brand new electric vehicles having brand new features. Whatever features the vehicle have no maintenance zero output is the formula in automobile field. So, whenever we think our vehicle needs servicing or repair without any delay we have to do that so that our vehicle will run properly. http://www.carminesimport.com/bmw-repair-service/

t brandt
12/21/2012 11:06:34 PM

To John Z: You're right. It's 200 moles per gal for gas, so 800 mles for the trip. The electric car would produce 1000 moles for the 100 mile trip if it were all generated from coal. ...to Linda: WHO, as is so often the case when they try to mix politics with science, has it wrong. There are carcinogens in deisel exhaust, but that doesn't mean they actually cause any cancer. Nobody breathes enough fumes often enough for that. They used some pretty shoddy statistical tricks to prove their point....Don't forget that too much oxygen can kill you too.

dave weaver sr.
12/21/2012 3:51:37 PM

Most older cars are driven by people like me. Wecant buy new cars. we buy used cars that as you say are bad for the air so. Untell the price of EV S comes down most of us WILL DRIVE DURTY CARS.

linda bailey
6/22/2012 3:13:20 PM

WHO Says Diesel Fumes Cause Cancer Is anyone surprised? In mid-June the World Health Organization (WHO) finally made it official – diesel fumes cause lung cancer. Previously, the WHO had classified diesel fumes as “possibly carcinogenic”, but recently changed that classification to “definitely carcinogenic to humans”. This now confirms that diesel fumes are as dangerous to humans as arsenic and asbestos. The re-classification by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research On Cancer (IARC) was based on research conducted on 12,315 workers at the National Cancer Institute in Baltimore, Maryland and the National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health in Morgantown, West Virginia. Just another reason for electric vehicle owners and operators to smile … To read more, visit http://www.electricvehiclesresearch.com/articles/diesel-fumes-shale-oil-coal-gas-cause-cancer-time-to-re-think-evs-00004495.asp?sessionid=1.

john kichton
4/14/2012 1:01:45 AM

ALL hybrids are using lithium ion batteries, and lithium when exposed to air is highly combustable...period. So, you drive your little no-emissions car, fueling it with the same powerplants we've had for years, or solar ( it will take about a week to charge) and the next thing you'll hear a few years from now is the cost of recycling those lithium batteries. It's just a bandiad on a wart...and STUPID people buy them, with a 5 year life at 30k, and think they're helping. Wake up...it's another non-sensicle answer...duh!

skip nasty
2/24/2012 5:04:11 AM

CNG car conversion is the best way to save money in this economy. Clean, abundant, and practical in most cities. My kit paid for itself in less than a year. Learn more at www.skycng.com. They don't push sales on you, just good basic info on CNG. Clean fuels!

john z
8/2/2011 8:55:49 PM

To T. Brant and Chris, I was checking T. Brant's comparison of a gaser getting 25mpg to an electric. The gaser emissions are off by a factor of 4. EPA emission info indicates 1 gallon of gas yields 8.8kg (19.4 ibs) of CO2. The 4 gallons used by the gaser would then produce 35.20kg of CO2 or 800 moles. The electric with T. Brant's calculations would yield 500. Chris all things considered you are where we all need to get. Running our cars on sunshine. Gain energy independence from terrorist countries and stop the financial drain on the country. Also save oil for the true needs, i.e. farm equipment, ships, semis, other heavy equipment. I can't wait to go electric then go net zero with our next home.

7/25/2011 1:05:06 PM

I didn't read where the coal mining/transportation energy/CO2 is calculated in the electrical generation side. Is this a part of the calculation? The oil drilling/pumping/transportation is included on the oil side.

jan steinman
7/24/2011 6:05:01 PM

What no one seems to be willing to face is that we will all be driving a lot less in the future. While touting the cheapness of today's electricity and minimizing the "long tailpipe" effect, the author conveniently misses the point that if all the internal combustion vehicles instantly switch to electric, we'll accelerate the use of coal until "peak coal" faces us within a decade or so. Face it: we're in a situation ecologists call "least limits." If petroleum is the limit, and we find a substitute, the next limit will rear its ugly head. In the case of electric vehicles, it might be copper, or it might be lithium. There are simply too many pigs feeding at the same trough -- you can change the food in the trough all you want, but there will never be enough. Humans will soon have to cope with decreasing expectations. Get used to it and beat the rush. Get rid of your car -- gas or electric -- and get on with your low-energy life, before nature imposes that limit on you.

3/10/2011 12:33:45 AM

If I'm not mistaken, it was Corey Proffitt who was asked about bringing the car to the auto show in the United States, and said there were "no plans" to do so, and he also said VW had no immediate plans to put the car into production mode. Perhaps a nicely worded email to him (and to VP Jill Bratina) would convince them that the world is ready for this kind of "Bulli". I got their contact info straight from the VW Media site, so I don't think it's confidential: Contacts Jill Bratina Vice President, Brand and Corporate Communications 2200 Ferdinand Porsche Drive Herndon, Virginia 20171 Phone: 703-364-7250 Email: jill.bratina@vw.com Corey Proffitt Product Communications Specialist Phone: 703-364-7672 Fax: 703-364-7071 Email: corey.proffitt@vw.com

3/10/2011 12:16:45 AM

I wish Volkswagen would give serious consideration to putting the new VW Bulli into production; and if they don't want to do it themselves, allow another automaker to purchase the technical data so existing electric vehicles can be updated. According to the recent auto show in Europe, the VW Bulli was supposed to have seating for 6, travel up to 186.4 miles per charge, could travel at speeds up to 87 mph, and be rechargeable (up to about 80%) in 1-2 hours. That's better than anything currently on the market. Unfortunately, the creator of this vehicle said there were no plans to put it into mass production; he further said there were no plans to bring the prototype to the auto show in the United States, although I think a strong letter-writing/email campaign might change his mind.

j russell bailey
3/4/2011 7:53:30 PM

Continued: Lastly, I'd like to point out that so long as Social Progressives, which include Eco-Fanatics like Kliesch, keep telling the same old half-truths which are stretched into outright lies (which include the WILLFUL omission of necessary information in order to come to an HONEST and INFORMED conclusion and thus, solutions), NOTHING positive or constructive can be done or achieved!! When one builds on a Foundation of Prevarication as Kliesch and the Union of Concerned Scientists have done, along with the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and others (in filing lawsuit after lawsuit STOPPING the building of Solar Farms, Wind Farms, and the ever/all important Eco-Generated Power Transmission Lines) such as ELF, and Friends of the Earth, NONE of us will be able to come together to build a much better world for our families, our neighbors, our towns and cities, and to help those in other nations do the same thing! I would urge all those truly interested in coming together in an atmosphere of HONESTY, FULL TRANSPARENCY, and for POSITIVE CHANGE, to learn as much VERIFIABLE information as possible about these technologies and to take the time to promote them and also to CONFRONT people like Kliesch who (in my opinion) continue to UNDERMINE the efforts of honest folks wanting to make a truly positive and world changing impact for the betterment of all people. Cheers

j russell bailey
3/4/2011 7:15:38 PM

Continued: Further, our clean coal REDUCES the environmental impact but Kliesch can't seem to even make himself note that positive aspect of power plants burning Wyoming Low-Sulphur Coal!! 4. Nuclear power plants shouldn't be built because of 'nuclear proliferation'? What, is Kliesch STILL back in the 1960's and early 70's when his fellow Doomsday Fanatics were writing about the coming ICE AGE and that hundreds of MILLIONS of corpses would clog metropolitan streets because food production was supposed to cease because ALL the Oil would be GONE by the Year 2000? 4a. Earth to Kliesch, Pakistan is an Islamist Nuclear State, North Korean is a Nutcase Nuclear State, Iran, Brazil, Syria, and others are ALL on the cusp of becoming Nuclear States, thanks to the irresponsible choices made by the People's Republic of China (political peers of Kliesch I would argue) and Russia!!!! 4a1. Kliesch, the Nuclear Power Plant Feline is ALREADY out of the bag and done headed DOWN the Road...... 5. Storage of spent nuclear fuel IS a problem, but not one that is insurmountable given New Technology (Kliesch loves that phrase so long as it supports-even partially, HIS pet projects) pertaining to rehabilitating spent nuclear rods! 5a. Reusing spent nuclear rods as fuel for other purposes is now within our grasp...a LOT closer than the pie in the sky fantasy energy fuel stories Kliesch and gang keep promoting! Conclusion in next.

j russell bailey
3/4/2011 7:01:16 PM

I utterly astounded at the sleight of word used by the author James Kliesch to foist the propaganda in which both he and his organization, the "Union of Concerned Scientists" upon unsuspecting and gullible readers of M.E.N. Kliesch provides half-truths at best, re-defines words and phrases like 'tax increases' into 'thoughtful infrastructure policies', and expects people to just ignore such prevarications on his part! Cases in Point: 1. Cars which travel only 25-50 miles like the GM Volt are USELESS in most 'go to work' driving scenarios, given traffic, detours, road construction, etc. 2. Kliesch pulls a fast one related to his re-definition of 'actual cost'; blithely (and willfully lying I would argue) refusing to incorporate the Real World Eco-Costs and Financial Costs of buying and operating an EV: towit; 2a. The Eco-Cost of manufacturing the batteries in EV's. 2b. The Eco-Cost of replacing and recycling those batteries. 2C. When 2a and 2b are factored into the equation, EV cars become decidedly UN-Eco-Friendly. 2D. Financial costs of replacing batteries in a Toyota Prius can be as 'cheap' as $3600 and as much as around $7500 depending on batteries purchased and installation costs. 3. Kliesch acts as if all coal burning were the same, when he KNOWS that such is NOT the case!! Low sulphur coal such as we mine and sell here in Wyoming is VERY clean compared to any other regular coal sources, YET Kliesch can't find enough honesty within himself to say it.

george galletti
3/4/2011 11:17:27 AM

Any article that takes climate change seriously is not worth reading. Alternative energy, (energy independence, both nationally and personally), cost, burning less fossile fuels, pollution reduction, safety are all serious topics but once the climate change BS is intermingled everthing becomes suspect.

r s_5
3/4/2011 11:03:00 AM

How long do batteries last before replacement is required? Cost of replacement? Answer: 3-5 years max on most current designs. Cost $25K + Value of used electric vehicle, that you paid $40k for, at 3 years? $0 or less. Environmental impact of manufacturing batteries? Hybrid electric/gas car means you build a gas car to lug the weight of the batteries around. Then you add the environmental impact of manufacturing batteries from materials mined in Canada, China and manufactured in Japan. How does 3 times the environmental impact of just the gas powered car alone sound ot manufacture the hybrid? What's the environmental impact of continuing to drive your 24 +/- mpg used car another 2 or 3 years, before selling or even scrapping it? How about the environmental and personal financial impact of buying and driving a used 24+ mpg car? Do the math on operating and fuel costs. Then consider the environmental impact. Buy and drive safe, used cars. Most are designed to run 200k+ miles these days without major repairs. Drive intelligently (not hypermileage- extreme, just conservatively and well planned) You'll do more for the planet and your own finances than any current electric or hybrid offering. Maybe MEN will research and write a full story on the subject. Thanks

susan ragsdale-cronin
2/25/2011 3:22:54 PM

What I think would be great on so many levels is if Nissan collabotates with solar and wind co to make a package deal to power the car off the coal, natural gas grid. It seems like this new technology should lead to a new green economy if people can see the possibilities.

2/19/2011 9:15:39 PM

I would be interested to know the comparison between the electric car and a biofuel-powered diesel engine and a traditionally fueled diesel engine.

2/2/2011 12:35:42 PM

The greater % of energy for recharging that is supplied by the sun rather than fossil fuels creates an increasing health benefit for all of mankind as well as decreasing health care costs.

1/28/2011 3:26:11 PM

Hi T. Brant The Nissan Leaf is 100% electric so it is not weighed down with an ICE, transmission, exhaust system etc. The Leaf LR4 range is 100 miles with its 24KWh Li-Ion battery, after 700 miles of driving I can confirm that this is accurate. Yes PV output varies dramatically with location. In San Diego the CEC rating for my 2.1KW DC system (annual isolation, panel derating, inverter efficiency) is 3267KWh/year. That is 136 charges/year equating to 13.6K miles/year. I have not measured the AC consumed by the charger yet. But if the charger and battery efficiency were to be 0.8 then I can still drive 10,800 miles/year. Regards Chris

t brandt
1/24/2011 5:59:58 PM

oops. Better check my ciphering: For the Volt: 36 kW-hr to go 100 miles, so to go 500 miles, you need 5 x 36 = 180 kW-hr of electricity. A 2kW PV system generates 2kW-hr per hr of good sunlight, so you need 90 hrs to generate the power for that 500 mi trip. [@6hr/d, it would take 15 days to do it.] In places like Phoenix, you get 6 good hrs/day; other areas it's more like 5 hrs/day available (if it's not cloudy) to generate juice. In 6 hrs you generate 10 kW-hrs, enough to travel only about 33 miles. That 33 mi/d figures out to be 12045 mi/yr, but you can go no more than 33 mi/d without an additional source of electricity.

t brandt
1/24/2011 9:11:17 AM

to chris: -didn't have time last nite to do the figures, but if your Nissan gets similar output as the Volt, your 500 miles took about 18kW-hr of juice. That took your 2kW PV array about 9 hrs of good sunlight [ie- about 2 days] to produce enough to recharge your car for another 500 miles. -if you drive 10k mi/yr, @25mpg and $3/gal, that's about $1200/yr for gas. Your PV array likely has a life of 20 yrs. 1200 x 20 = $24,000 in fuel savings vs the $16,000 average capital cost of a 2kW system. Add to that finance charges &/or lost investment revenue from shelling out all the capital up front and it's a break-even proposition at best.

t brandt
1/23/2011 5:38:56 PM

Better check your ciphering: according to GM, its Volt uses 36 kW-hr of juice to drive 100 miles. A conventional engine geting 25mpg uses 4 gal to drive that far. That corresponds to turning about 200 moles of Carbon into 200 moles of co2. Coal has an average energy density of around 6 kW-hr/kg, but coalfire plants are only about 30% efficient, so one needs to burn about 1000 moles of carbon to move that Volt 100 miles. Given that half our electricity comes from fossil fuel,on average the Volt would produce about 500 moles of co2 compared to 200 from gasoline. We have brown-outs & black-outs even now when everybody is running their air conditioners. How are we going to produce enough electricity to supply our automotives needs too? What about all those toxic metals used in the batteries? And it might be nice to "fill up" at home, but it'll take 5 hrs instead of 5 minutes to do it. Electric vehicles may find a niche in our energy & transportation plans, but they're not going to be an adequate replacement for the internal combustion engine. We're spoiled. Oil depletion will necessitate a change in our lifestyles at the very least.

1/20/2011 10:51:36 PM

Great article, clearly we need to get away from coal asap. My wife and I have clocked 550 miles so far in our Nissan Leaf and we absolutely love it. The electricity comes from the 2.1KW PV system we added last summer, that should carry us over 10Kmiles/year. Chris

laurence northcote
1/19/2011 5:55:33 PM

Hi, From where comes the electricity? More water dependence? More Nuclear plant dependence? I do not believe that the electrical car is our future for a greener earth. There are other solutions, but maybe governments are not ready yet... Laurence