How Much Better Are Electric Cars for the Environment?

Jeremy Michalek, a professor with Carnegie Mellon University, who directs the Vehicle Electrification Group, told Newsweek that electric vehicles in the United States tend to have lower carbon footprints on average than gasoline or diesel cars, although there are exceptions.

One 2016 study authored by Michalek and colleagues contains maps showing that in general, “plug-in vehicles tend to reduce carbon emissions for city drivers in the Southwest, Texas and Florida, especially when compared to a typical gasoline car, whereas plug-in vehicles tend to increase carbon emissions for highway drivers in rural counties of the Great Planes, the Midwest and the South, especially when compared to gasoline hybrids, which are very efficient,” he said.

“These maps are from the past, however. EVs have an advantage going into the future. As the power grid gets cleaner, as we expect it to, EVs will get cleaner as well. The most important factor for electric vehicle life cycle emissions is coal retirement. The more coal that retires, the cleaner EVs look.”