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Union of Concerned Scientists: Electric vehicles reduce pollution

Apparently, location, location, location is the latest twist on electric vehicles and the environment: Whether an electric car such as the Nissan Leaf protects the atmosphere from greenhouse gases depends on where it’s charged, according to a new study. Such a car is no better than a standard gasoline-powered subcompact such as a Hyundai Elantra in cities such as Denver and Wichita, but far exceeds even the best hybrids in Southern California.

That’s the findings of a study of electricity generation, greenhouse gas emissions and electric vehicles by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The variations in how beneficial an electric vehicle is for reducing pollution that causes global warming result from regional differences in how electricity is generated.

The scientific organization, which is a vocal proponent for federal requirements mandating increased fuel efficiency in vehicles, said in regions covering 45% of the nation’s population, “electricity is generated with a larger share of cleaner energy resources — such as renewables and natural gas — meaning that EVs produce lower global warming emissions than even the most efficient gasoline hybrids.”

But in regions where coal still makes up a large percentage of the electricity grid mix, the most efficient gasoline-powered hybrid vehicles will yield lower global warming emissions than an electric vehicle.

However, electric vehicles tend to reduce oil consumption in nearly all regions, the group said.

The Union of Concerned Scientists also said that electric vehicle drivers can save $750 to $1,200 a year compared with operating an average new compact gasoline vehicle with a fuel economy rating of 27 miles per gallon that is fueled with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon.

The savings depend on how much a local utility charges for electricity and that varies widely between regions. Regardless of location, that range of savings requires charging on the lowest-cost electricity plan and that may require a switch from their current rate plan to the most advantageous one – often limiting time of use to night hours — offered by their utility. The group noted that that was especially important in California.
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