How Green is your “Green” Car?

My last article I dove into the true economic effect of driving your car daily. It comes out to be around $1000 per year, catch up here. I also mentioned that a Tesla, the top of the line car for going green, may not actually be that great for the environment. And it’s not only the Tesla, it goes for all Electric Vehicles (EV’s) and plug-in Hybrids. What it really comes down to is where does your electricity come from? If its coal then you may be out of luck. The amount of pollution that coal power plants produce to supply you that power adds up to a much higher amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere than if you were to just drive a regular car. If you want to check out where your power comes from visit this EPA website here.

The US power supply is made up by almost 30% coal power plants and pollutes the worst out of any other power production method. Coal is also the largest source of C02, around 1.7 billion tons of it. A total cost of $324 billion based on a Syracuse study. So, what’s the point of driving an EV if it’s worse than a regular car? Well, the personal value you save on gas alone comes out to be around $1,500 dollars a year, on top of much lower maintenance costs and government subsidies. Also just because you live in the US doesn’t mean that 30 percent of your power comes from coal. On top of all this, burning coal emits worse chemicals into the air than CO2. These chemicals prove very harmful to your health which add even more to the economic costs of pollution. This can either be considered as a loss of work due to illness or just in the pure medical cost of the health damage. In many cases, driving an EV or hybrid is much better for the world than a regular combustion car. With other growing sources of power such as nuclear, wind, or solar, our power supply becomes more and more ecologically friendly.

But you may not be out of the woods yet. Even if you live somewhere like Washington State where hydroelectric power is king, your car may not be as green as you think. It’s those batteries. Chances are that if you follow EV’s progress over the years you’ve heard that manufacturing the batteries have a huge environmental impact. Producing batteries is costly, from mining the materials to manufacturing with high-end machines. Some say it costs as much to manufacture as a whole combustion car to only adding 15% to the ecological and economic costs.

One last reason what EV’s may not be as green as everyone thinks. Batteries drain over time no matter what. So, if you only drive your EV on the weekend you may find you’re charging your car more often than its estimated range. Which means you’re using more power and thus more greenhouse gasses.

So what about racing, motorsport, and performance vehicles? Almost all motorsports are completely dominated by internal combustions cars because in most cases they are faster, handle better, and weigh in much lower. The most recent Tesla P100D has proven that wrong, becoming the fastest production car in the world, beating out the previous record holder, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. But in true motorsport, you don’t see many whole electronic vehicles outside of Formula E. The heart of racing is built around the perfect mix of speed, handling, and mechanical expertise. Obviously, motorsport cars don’t get any sort of restriction about how much they pollute as they take such a small percentage of cars on the “road” and are driven so little. One hope for the future is the fact that EV’s put down 100% of all the torque that can be produced from the motor. This makes them fantastic drag racing cars, as long as they can do this without spinning the tires.

Even if all the vehicles on the road were swapped for EV’s tomorrow, not much would change. It would seem no more than a drop in the climate change bucket. We should focus on our power grid and where that power comes from. If current trends continue, cars will get better and less will be internal combustion. But if all that power that charges these cars is produced from such a damaging source, it will result in no change.


Sources:

Oremus, Will. "How Green Is a Tesla, Really?" Slate Magazine. N.p., 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 31 May 2017.

"U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis." What Is U.S. Electricity Generation by Energy Source? - FAQ - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). N.p., 18 Apr. 2017. Web. 31 May 2017

"Coal Power: Air Pollution." Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2017.

Shea, Shannon. "Saving Money with Electric Vehicles." Energy.gov. N.p., 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 May 2017.

"Tesla Veteran on Electric Motors vs Internal-combustion Engines." Ecomento. N.p., 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 May 2017.

Death by Breath (Part 1)

The Economics of Traffic