9 Valuable Reasons Electric Cars Reduce Your C02 Footprint

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Electric Cars are Part of Our Sustainable Future

Electric cars are a crucial part of the future of American’s sustainable transportation future given their potential to dramatically reduce carbon emissions especially when connected to an electricity grid increasingly powered by renewable energy.

Measuring Your Carbon Foot Print 

In 2000, after global warming heated up the issue stove, a spokesman for a Texas electricity marketer told The Seattle Times, “It’s essential to reduce our environmental footprint, and at this point in our world’s history, reduce our carbon footprint.  Footprints on the sands of time – The New York Times  https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/opinion/17iht-edsafire.1.10112685.html.  It’s quick and easy to measure your carbon footprint, in other words your contribution to global warming.  Multiple resources are available online to determine your carbon emissions.  I only use Carbon Footprint calculators, CFPCs,  from from accredited sources, my favorite is CoolClimate Network’s CoolClimate Calculator at http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator.  

Your Contribution

The entire Carbon Footprinting process takes just a couple of minutes, you answer a series of relatively painless questions based one your lifestyle and the CFPC estimates your emissions of annual CO2e from household energy (electricity, natural gas and other fuels), transportation (motor vehicles, air travel, other), food, goods, services and total emissions for U.S. zip codes, cities, counties and states. The dataset also includes benchmark estimates of kWh electricity, therms of natural gas, gallons of fuel oil and vehicle miles traveled. 

An Unpleasant Surprise

An individual’s, nation’s, or organization’s carbon footprint can be assessed by undertaking a Green House Gas, GHG, emissions measurement or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting or carbon foot printing.  With the confidence of having solar panels on my roof I was sure I had a smaller than average carbon footprint, I was wrong.   There are few things worse than discovering that you’ve been carrying a misconception in your mind, depending on how deeply you’ve believed.  Feeling like I had stepped on my doctor’s scale expecting good news and discovering I gained 50 lbs; my carbon footprint, as determined by these various online calculators and other reference tools, is about 50 tons of CO2 emitted per year.  

Electric Cars impact to C02
Household C02 with Gas Car
1st World Problems

My household results are above: to my shock and disappointment I discovered that our carbon footprint is huge, I calculated 72 tons of CO2 emitted per year! This 72 ton carbon footprint is triple that of the average 1st world American, ~15 times the 3rd world average and ~30 times the average limit needed globally per capita to keep globally warming within a 2 °C or lower by 2050.  A 1st world lifestyle, including thirsty lawns, crowded driveways, suburban homes and an American appetite for meat leads to a super sized carbon footprint. 

First World Footprint

What if I told you that if you live in the suburbs its most likely that the largest portion of your carbon footprint is your transportation, and the fuel you use in your car is the largest portion of the contribution from your transportation.  As a matter of fact, in my case, the ‘Car Fuel’ portion of my Carbon Footprint is  2 to 3 times larger than any other portion of my Carbon Footprint.  The carbon footprint calculator suggests that the best way to reduce my carbon footprint is to purchase an electric vehicle with eating a low carbon diet coming in a distant second. 

This conclusion may not seem obvious but there are many reasons why its true.  Here are 11 of the best reasons purchasing an electric vehicle will reduce your Carbon Footprint, (and your costs).

Electric Car C02 Reductions
1.  Lower emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). 

An Electric Car emits less C02 than its internal combustion engine counterpart during operation, it has zero tail pipe emissions.   In fact an average gas car emits 280 percent more carbon per mile than an electric vehicle, this is true even if coal is used to power the Electric Vehicle.

2.  Maintenance costs are significantly less than a gas-powered car. 

Electric Vehicles have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engine car, there’s no pistons, spark plugs, oil changes, transmissions, exhaust systems etc.  Lacking these high maintenance components means that the costs of running an Electric Car is limited to mostly tires and brakes.  Also, brakes tend to last longer since most Electric Cars use regenerative braking.  Regenerative braking uses electric engine braking power to stop the vehicle instead of the using friction brakes.

3.  Electric Car Home charging uses domestic power. 

Plugging your Electric Car in at home avoids the using overseas oil and creation of the resulting petrodollars.  Your electricity, even if its sourced from burning fossil fuels is generated domestically.  Also as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are improving the sustainability of the grid.  Adding a solar array to your home or business combined with an Electric Car can dramatically shrink your carbon footprint and improve your cash flow.   An electric car charged with renewable energy emits no carbon per mile.

4.  Your Electric Utility will help you pay for charging. 

Electric Utilities must maintain electric grid stability while managing their costs.  Utilities do this by keeping their biggest power plants online 24×7.  Lower Time of Use electricity rates, (TOU), encourage their customers to use electricity ‘off peak’.  Electric Car owners can program their cars to take advantage of these TOU rates in order to save money.  Also, some utilities offer significant programs and incentive plans for Electric Car owners.

Related post:

Electric Cars impact to C02
Electric Car Impact to C02 Reductions
Electric Cars impact to C02
Household C02 Reductions with an Electric Car
5. Gasoline costs 8 to 11 times more than electricity to travel the same distance. 

Gas cars are 8 to 11 times more expensive because a gas engine is an inefficient way to power a car.   Electric Cars motors deliver nearly 100% of the power of the motor directly to the drive shaft.  Gas powered engines must convert chemical/thermal power to mechanical power.  During this conversion the combustion engine losses almost 70% of its energy.  These losses include radiant and conductive heat, transmissions, exhaust and even noise and vibration. None of these losses occur in an electric engine, and the Electric Car is lighter without the extra components.  An electric engine is 90 to 95% efficient compared to a 33% efficient gas engine.  

6.  On average it takes only 3.5 years for an New Electric Car to have less lifetime emissions than an average New Gas Car. 

Electric Car manufacturing creates about twice the carbon emissions as a gas car.  Carbon emissions related to battery production makes the difference.  However carbon emissions from annual gas car operation quickly exceeds totals for the electric car.  On average this takes only 3.5 years.  

7.  C02 from Gas Car Production + Annual C02 from Gas Car Operation*Years = C02 from Electric Car Production +Annual C02 from Electric Car Operation*Years.

This is where Years = Time for Electric Car to Offset C02 Emissions.  It also depends on the mix of power in your area or if you have renewable energy.*  Offset Years = [C02 from Electric Car Production – C02 from Gas Car Production] / [Annual C02 from Gas Car Operation – Annual C02 from Electric Car Operation].  Offset Years = [C02 Prod Diff]/[C02 Annual Operation Diff] = [27.5-10]/[6-1] = 3.5 years 

8.  If you sell your old car and buy a new 30 kwh battery Electric Car, from an emission standpoint the Electric Car will be greener in less than 5 years.

So if you take 2 people both driving the same old gas car and one of them sells today and buys an Electric Car and the other one continues to drive the older Gas Car the new car will be the greener option in this scenario.

9.  Vehicle2Grid Integration – Bi-directional charging could help stabilize the grid by using connected Electric Car batteries.   

Electric cars are coming with larger and larger batteries.  The average private owner on uses only about 5% of their battery on a daily basis.  This makes the , meaning that the average battery on wheels is underutilized for the vast majority of its useful life.  For example, if EV drivers can charge during the day when there is a glut of solar generation, rather than during periods of high electricity demand, then grid operators can avoid using expensive peaker plants to meet the demand. At the same time, the EV driver can take advantage of utility Time of Use (TOU) rates, having a significant differential between on- and off-peak periods incentivizing charging when electricity costs are relatively low and allowing EVs to be charged considerably cheaper per mile than the equivalent amount of gasoline.

Conclusion

Let’s discuss our personal responsibility for global warming. If you’re reading this you’re most likely one of the 70% of Americans that believe human beings are responsible for global warming.  That also means you believe you have your own personal contribution, your metaphorical climate change dragon of your own creation that you need to overcome.  Isn’t it time to choose the option to take the 1st steps on a  personal journey to take responsibility for our contribution since it’s very simple to measure your carbon footprint.

Sources: 

Footprints on the sands of time – The New York Times  https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/opinion/17iht-edsafire.1.10112685.html

CoolClimate Network’s CoolClimate Calculator at http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator

*Are Electric Cars Worse For The Environment? Myth Busted https://youtu.be/6RhtiPefVzM

** https://cleantechnica.com/2019/04/07/vehicle-grid-integration-unlocks-thetrue-potential-of-electric-vehicles-and-renewables/

https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/11/Cleaner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf

About the author – Warren Evans

As a Business Owner, Technology Program Manager and Nuclear Engineer I’m proud to be an environmental supporter and advocate of all forms of renewable energy and the game changing technologies and economics surrounding this global transition. I enjoy managing complex technologies and making them accessible to people who need practical solutions. 

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