Electric Vehicles have existed for a long time, but have been relegated to short range golf carts or simply oddities that no one ever put much stock in. Recently, though, battery and charging technology has improved enough to make mass-production of electric vehicles with extended ranges feasible. This is partly thanks to the battery technology perfected in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Take out the gasoline engine from a hybrid electric vehicle, and what’s left is an electric vehicle.
It is very easy to measure the amount of carbon-dioxide that a gasoline-powered vehicle produces, about 19.6 pounds per gallon. Calculate how many miles you drive and your vehicle’s fuel economy rating, and one could calculate that a 35mpg compact car will produce 4.2 tons of carbon-dioxide in 15,000 miles.
Unfortunately, when considering the carbon-dioxide emissions involved with recharging an electric vehicle, it becomes a little more complicated. Once one takes gasoline out of the equation, carbon-dioxide could, at first blush, be eliminated, but one has to remember that nothing comes for free, especially not the energy stored in the electric vehicle battery packs. The reason for this is because there are many different sources of electricity on the power grid today.
Some parts of today’s power grid in the United States are supported by a mix of clean sources such as wind turbines, hydro electric turbines, and nuclear power plants (which have their own problems, aside from carbon-dioxide). Other parts of the power grid are supported by more polluting power sources such as coal and gas fired plants, and natural gas fired plants. The ideal solution would be to recharge an electric vehicle in an area supported only by clean plants, and only then could you truly eliminate carbon-dioxide emissions.
There is no ideal solution, however, because the power grid is interconnected across many power stations, and even across many states, so an absolutely clean grid is nearly impossible to achieve. Depending on where you recharge your electric vehicle, one might actually be able to calculate an increase in carbon-dioxide emissions. It is worth noting, however that in over 30 States, one can calculate at least some reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions. In a few States, carbon-dioxide emissions are nearly eliminated.
Maintaining 275 million vehicles on the road today, and keeping them at their most efficient, is not an easy feat. True, there are State inspection programs, but in many places even this has been left to the individual, who may not have the time or money to keep them running properly, increasing the generation of carbon-dioxide emissions.
Leaving the emissions controls in the hands of the power plants is a good idea. Their mandate is to increase efficiency because it affects their profits. Their other responsibility is to the federal and state governments that impose emissions standards, not only on carbon-dioxide, but on other gases, compounds, and particulates. As technologies are developed to improve their efficiency and reduce or even eliminate carbon-dioxide emissions, then the power grid will, as a whole, become cleaner, enabling the electric vehicle to be the truly clean vehicle that it can be.