The amount of CO2 emissions avoided by using an electric car depends strongly on the carbon footprint of the electricity source. A new report by the 2 Degrees Institute that measures the climate change benefits of driving an electric vehicle in North America reveals that Canada is home to 7 of the top 10 best locations in North America for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by driving an EV. Quebec's power grid, powered by almost 100% hydro electricity, claims the top spot by emitting only 3 grams of CO2e for each kWh of energy produced. Canada is not only home to the cleanest energy grids, but also the worst one as well. Alberta, with over two thirds of its energy grid coming from coal, is in last spot for making EVs beneficial for reducing emissions. For each kWh of energy produced in Alberta, one kilogram of CO2e is emitted.
To offer a comparison of the lifecycle emissions of owning and operating an electric or gas powered vehicle, the Institute calculated emissions from electricity generation using data from the federal government's National Inventory Report and the US EPA's EGRID Database. Manufacturing emissions for each type of vehicle was obtained using data from the GREET® model (Argonne National Laboratory), and emissions from vehicle maintenance was obtained from the Electric Power Research Institute and Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
While it is true that because of the need for a large battery, manufacturing an electric vehicle produces more global warming emissions, everywhere in North America these extra emissions are offset by driving the first 11,000 to 37,000km depending on the local energy grid. After that, an electric vehicle will produce much lower emissions than a comparable gas vehicle.
"What surprised us is that, even if Alberta's power generation system remains as high-carbon as it is now for the life of the car, driving an EV in that province will still reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 25%." - Prof. James Pawley, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For most Canadians, driving an EV will generate the same emissions as driving a comparable gas vehicle that gets 1.4L/100km or 166 mpg. Another way to look at this is that 6 electric cars would produce the same emissions as one gas powered car that averages 9.4L/100km (25mpg).
Although drivers in some parts of North America don't have the luxury of such a green energy grid as others, driving an electric car will still result in lower emissions than those of a gas car, and, regardless of where they live, those charging their EV using the power from solar panels on their home roof can reduce their driving emissions by 85%.
Ryan Logtenberg, Director