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Study Finds EVs In Minnesota, Midwest Contribute Less to Emissions Than Gas Cars

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Whenever electric vehicles’ viability is discussed, one argument seems to continue to pop up—that electric vehicles are somehow no cleaner than gas vehicles because they derive their energy from power plants, which often are fueled by burning fossil fuels. This has led to the common slur against electric vehicles that they are “coal cars.” This has been backed up by one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, titled ‘Environmental Benefits From Driving Electric Cars?’ that concluded that coal plant emissions in the Midwest and East of the United States mean emissions from electric cars are no better than gas cars.

However, a new life-cycle analysis by the Great Plains Institute focused on Minnesota has found that electric vehicles emit 61% fewer greenhouse gases than gas-powered automobiles, with EVs contributing 29 tons of greenhouse gas emissions versus a gas car’s 75 tons over the course of their prospective lifetimes (based on 160,000 miles of travel). That EV emissions number drops to near zero when EV owners participate in renewable energy programs.

Further, researchers from the GPI criticized the NBER study, saying that the study had several drawbacks, including the fact that it didn’t take into account emissions from extracting, transporting, and refining gasoline fuels. In addition, GPI’s Dane McFarlane said that the NBER’s economic model didn’t take into account growing renewable energy in states like Minnesota, grouping areas by geographical area rather than by how they are served electricity. So, bottom line, when you compare gas vehicle emissions to electric vehicle emissions, the EVs emit far fewer greenhouse gases.

Of course, that study is centered in Minnesota, where the largest utility is Xcel Energy, which is a national leader in renewable energy. So what if they study were to look at a different energy provider, such as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid in the Midwest? Well, GPI looked there, too, and found that, while electric greenhouse gas emissions rose to 268 grams per mile, that was still a 42% improvement over gas cars.

Beyond dispelling the idea of the “coal car,” though, this study had one main goal—to persuade utilities and lawmakers that, while still not the majority, the electric car market is on the rise, and so should act accordingly.

News Source: Midwest Energy News