CO2 Emissions due to Electric Vehicles

We cannot argue with the fact that Tesla has been in the headlines lately for several reasons. First, they announced that the company would be profitable this year and was on track paying back government loans earlier than planned. Second, they got the 2013 MotorTrend Car of the Year award.

Tesla Model S

Opponents argue that electric vehicles, since they are powered by the public grid which is largely fueled by coal, emit twice the amount of CO2 that gasoline vehicles spew over their lifetime.

It turns out that this claim is incorrect, yet I admit that it is definitely not a simple calculation, and depending on the outcome one likes, one could come up with different results.

An electric vehicle in 2008, charged from the public grid, emitted indirectly 115 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven whereas a conventional U.S. gas-powered car emitted 250 grams of CO2 per kilometer, mostly out the tailpipe.

As the U.S. power grid is converted away from coal to wind, solar and other alternative and renewable power sources, this ratio got better with every year that has gone by since 2008 and it will continue to do so in the future.

In addition, Tesla is installing supercharging stations on major highways, where their cars can be re-charged halfway in 30 minutes – for free – giving a range of another 150 miles. The stations are completely solar-powered. Zero emissions when going to the superchargers.

30 minutes is a long time on a road trip, but the strategy of locating the stations near restaurants, shopping centers and other attractions allows customers to plug in their cars, go to lunch, get coffee and come back for another 2 hours of driving.

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