You’ve seen them on the news and on the road (whether you realized it or not). Electric cars are gradually gaining a stronger foothold in the American market for new light-duty vehicles and they’re not going away anytime soon. You’ve probably heard about the benefits to the environment from driving an electric vehicle (EV), but you might be skeptical as to how much you’re really helping fight climate change. Since much of our electricity is produced by fossil fuels like coal, are you really producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions by driving electric?
The answer is a little complicated and changes depending on where you live in the country. However, the short answer is yes, you produce less greenhouse gas emissions when you drive an electric car in just about everywhere you could live in the United States. Just how much are you reducing your ecological footprint? That’s where we have to split hairs. The Alternative Fuel Data Center, run by the Department of Energy, created a useful tool to determine how many pounds of CO2 equivalent you produce in a year driving a typical gas-powered light-duty vehicle versus a fully electric vehicle in your state, based on a few assumptions. One of those assumptions is that the car you’re driving currently gets about 25 miles to the gallon. If your car is way more efficient than that and you live in a state that produces the overwhelming majority of its electricity from coal, such as West Virginia and Wyoming, then driving electric won’t do much to reduce the amount of emissions associated with your driving, although it could help local air quality as electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions. Nevertheless, in nearly every state, driving an electric car produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a standard gas-powered vehicle.
Want to see for yourself? Take a look. You’ll probably be surprised to see which states are doing the best at incorporating clean energy into their electricity production energy mix (oh my gosh, Idaho). That being said, if you’re interested in doing your part to prevent climate change, it’s worth it to at least go take a look at what electric vehicles are out there. You don’t have to give up driving, just go electric!