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It’s Settled: Electric Cars Are Cleaner Than Their Gas-Powered Cousins

Sometimes a technological advance takes off all on its own: the iPhone, for example. And sometimes government and consumer groups have to beg companies to sell the innovative products they’ve shown they can make. The best example of that second case is the electric vehicle.

Sure, most companies now offer or will soon offer all or primarily electric vehicles: Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Toyota, Audi, BMW and, of course, Tesla. But EVs still make up a tiny fraction of cars on the road in the United States more than 15 years after GM first sold its infamous electric cars in California in 1996.

One major issue that has dogged the electric vehicle is the complexity of any answer to the simple question, Are EVs better for the environment than gasoline-powered cars? Many instinctively believe the answer is no, because the cars get their power from the electrical grid — which is, in turn, driven chiefly by coal and natural gas.

While that instinct may have been valid in decades past, it no longer is. American utilities have replaced much of the coal they once used with natural gas. The difference, while modest, is enough to tip the balance in favor of electric cars. And of course there’s growing use of renewable energy sources.

bmw-i3Electric vehicles are already the environmentally superior choice, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit that supports scientifically sound cleaner energy policies.

“We looked at this question around emissions generated to charge electric vehicles versus emissions from gas vehicles, and what we found is that today no matter where you are in the country an EV produces less greenhouse gas emissions than the average compact gasoline car,” Don Anair, research and deputy director of UCS’s clean vehicles program, told Singularity Hub.


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