Electric vehicles may be zero-emission at the tailpipe, but the relative filth of the electric production they draw from has a big effect on just how green an electric car can be.
For instance, for an electric car in the United States, the equivalent is 55.4 miles per gallon — that is, any gasoline car with that mileage or higher is as good or better than an electric vehicle for greenhouse gas reduction, according to a new study. That’s because more than a third of electric generation comes from the most greenhouse-gas-creating source, coal.
In France, an electric car contributes greenhouse gases equivalent to a gasoline-powered car that gets 524.6 miles per gallon. That’s because nuclear power is France’s main electric energy source, and nuclear power is relatively clean, at least where greenhouse gases are concerned.
The rankings come from a study released Monday by Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.
The study didn’t look at individual U.S. states. Because California’s electric power is 25% renewable and so few coal plants operate in the state, the score would likely be much better than for the U.S. as a whole.
Countries that rely mainly on hydropower scored best. One is Albania, with a 5,100-mpg equivalent. Sweden, Norway and the Congo also scored well.