Posted on November 17, 2015 by Matt Pressman
Since it's inception in 1969 at MIT, the Union of Concerned Scientists has combined the knowledge and influence of the scientific community with the passion of concerned citizens to build a healthy planet and a safer world.
This past week was no exception. The group released their landmark report*, "Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave: How Electric Cars Beat Gasoline Cars in Lifetime Global Warming Emissions" in which it chose the Tesla Model S (along with the Nissan Leaf) as its choice of vehicles for modeling manufacturing emissions. After years of mixed messages on whether electric vehicles are really better for the environment, this report provides one of the most comprehensive answers to date (sneak peek: yes, they’re cleaner by 50 percent).
Tesla was important in proving the naysayers wrong. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: "Even within the electric vehicle community, not all BEVs [battery electric vehicles] are created equal. While all BEVs do use similar components, their designs and capabilities vary. The top-selling BEV models in 2014, the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S, reflect this diversity... These two electric vehicles provided the basis for our estimates of global warming emissions from BEV manufacturing."
So what did the Union of Concerned Scientists uncover? Here are some key findings...
From cradle to grave, battery-electric vehicles are cleaner. On average, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) representative of those sold today produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, even when the higher emissions associated with BEV manufacturing are taken into consideration. Based on modeling of the two most popular BEVs available today [Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf] and the regions where they are currently being sold, excess manufacturing emissions are offset within 6 to 16 months of driving.
EVs are now driving cleaner than ever before. Driving an average EV results in lower global warming emissions than driving a gasoline car that gets 50 miles per gallon (MPG) in regions covering two-thirds of the U.S. population, up from 45 percent in our 2012 report. Based on where EVs are being sold in the United States today, the average EV driving on electricity produces global warming emissions equal to a gasoline vehicle with a 68 MPG fuel economy rating.
EVs will become even cleaner as more electricity is generated by renewable sources of energy. In a grid composed of 80 percent renewable electricity, manufacturing a BEV will result in an over 25 percent reduction in emissions from manufacturing and an 84 percent reduction in emissions from driving—for an overall reduction of more than 60 percent (compared with a BEV manufactured and driven today).
To summarize the results, the Union of Concerned Scientists produced the video below...