By Stephen Markley on July 27, 2009
There are a lot of benefits to electrifying automobile transportation, but one of the best to keep in mind when you’re getting into debates with your naysaying friends is that electric cars will greatly reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. And yes, they will do so even if the electricity they’re powered on comes from coal.
The website Dvice did a little basic math to demonstrate that even when their power comes from coal, electric cars have a 60% lower CO2 impact than cars that burn gasoline.
There are 250 million cars in this country, so, hypothetically, let’s say that overnight all those cars become EVs with 25 kWh batteries. For some perspective, the Chevy Volt will use a 16 kWh battery and the Tesla Roadster has a 53 kWh battery.
Each kWh takes a car two to three miles, so let’s be conservative and say the average driver would charge their car twice a week, or about 100 charge cycles per year. All told, Americans would use 600 billion kWh per year, which is only 15% of our current total production of 4 trillion kWh per year.
This is a modest increase when considering the enormity of running every single car on the electric grid, but it gets even better in terms of CO2 reduction. Each kWh produced by a coal-fired power plant creates two pounds of CO2, so our car-related CO2 footprint would be 1.2 trillion pounds.
Yes, that’s a lot, but burning just one gallon of gas puts out 20 pounds of CO2 from the tailpipe. In 2008, we burned 3.3 billion barrels of gas, for roughly 3 trillion pounds of CO2. Therefore, a switch to electric vehicles would create a 60% reduction in C02 emissions, even if we only burned coal to generate that power.