Cleaner Than Ever: Latest Numbers Show Electric Vehicle Advantage Is Growing

Published May 31, 2017

OAKLAND, CA (May 31, 2017)—Everywhere in the US, driving electric is cleaner than driving a typical gasoline-powered car. That’s truer now than ever before, and the advantage electric vehicles have over comparable gasoline cars is only continuing to increase.

New analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that in 70 percent of the country, driving electric produces fewer emissions than driving a traditional gasoline car that gets 50 miles to the gallon. On average, today’s electric vehicles are as clean as gasoline cars that get 73 miles to the gallon. That’s thanks in large part to significant improvements in power generation, with more regions cutting their use of coal and increasing investment in renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

“Driving electric is one of the best choices a consumer can make to reduce emissions in their own lives,” said David Reichmuth, senior vehicles engineer at UCS. “As the electric vehicle market has emerged over the last five years, electric  vehicles are better than a 50 mpg gasoline car for 70 percent of Americans, up from 50 percent. It’s been remarkable to see the improvements.”

Over their whole life cycle—from manufacturing to driving to disposal—electric vehicles produce half the emissions of a comparable gasoline vehicle. By far the largest share of emissions comes from driving, which is where electric vehicles have a big and growing advantage.

The new analysis is based on updated numbers on power generation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which show reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power generation in most of the country over the past five years.

“The future of driving is electric,” said Reichmuth. “We need to keep working to make sure these cars are accessible to more drivers, that we have the infrastructure to charge them, and that we continue to replace old dirty sources of power with new renewable technology.”

UCS has also updated an interactive online tool that drivers can use to learn how much cleaner different models of electric vehicles are where they live, as well as a map showing how electric vehicle emissions compare across the country