There is so much excitement and innovation on electric vehicles and other power tools we use. Personally, the last car I bought was a Chevy Volt, and last year I purchased an electric lawnmower that is powered by re-chargeable battery. I would love to have a Tesla as my next car when my current SUV needs to be replaced. However, does this shift really help the climate?
The first factor to understand is whether your electricity comes from renewable source or is generated from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, 23% of the electricity in the US is still generated by burning coal. While this is is changing, if you you want to ensure your investment in an electric car has the biggest impact, you should contact your local utility and select a 100% renewable option. For me this is offered through Newton PowerChoice. Cities are leading the nation in driving climate change forward. there are lot’s opportunities to make an impact in your community. Sierra Club has launched a “Ready for 100” campaign focused on cities moving to 100% renewable energy. There is also a lot of pressure from consumers on utilities. Is this offered by your utility? Their business models need to shift and the most innovative are aggressively moving towards renewable sources such as wind and solar.
The energy required to manufacture the battery is also a major impact. For electric vehicles (and other re-chargeable items), this increases there carbon footprint relative to combustible engines. CarbonBrief has a fantastic analysis of the factors and trade-offs on how electrical vehicles. The carbon footprint of the manufacturing process varies based on location with Asia having the highest impact. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, has electricity that is, on average, around 30% lower in carbon intensity than the US average. Tesla recently began construction of the world’s largest solar roof on top of its Gigafactory, which, when coupled with battery storage, should provide nearly all of the electricity used by the facility.
However, with all this, generally a new electric vehicle that replaces an existing conventional car, would still start to cut emissions after less than four years of use compared to continuing to run the older vehicle. With the accelerating shift to renewable electricity this will only improve.