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Study: Washington state the second-cleanest place to drive electric cars

A nonprofit group focused on climate change issued a research report Thursday that sheds light on some common misgivings about electric cars. First, would the environmental damage of generating the electricity make a plug-in car dirtier than a car that uses gasoline? And second, would the carbon emitted in making the battery cancel the carbon savings from driving a plug-in car?

It turns out that in Washington state, all-electric cars make sense, because they achieve the equivalent of 383 miles per gallon of fossil fuel, the report by Climate Central says. That’s because 76 percent of electricity in the state is generated by hydroelectric dams, while only 3 percent is derived from coal. The advantage here is second only to Vermont, which uses predominantly nuclear power, supplemented by hydro and other renewable energy sources. Idaho, Oregon, and California are similar to Washington.

Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Wyoming, and New Mexico rank as the dirtiest states for power generation. In such states, a gasoline-only car that gets just 34 to 37 miles a gallon would be cleaner than an all-electric car. South Dakota ranks fifth for its clean hydropower, while oil-rich North Dakota has one of the dirtiest electric grids, ranked 42nd.

“An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it,” the report begins.

Below is an interactive map showing the most climate-friendly cars in each state.
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