There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether an electric car is right for you. Where you live in proximity to charging stations, budgets and a drive to lower your carbon footprint also play a huge role in your decision. However, there are many who still debate whether EVs are truly better for the environment at all.
We decided to break down the CO2 emissions from burning gasoline vs the fossil fuels burned in generating the electricity that is needed to power electric cars so we can see just how green electric cars really were.
Since we are located in Ontario, we’ll use the driving statistics available in Canada. It's difficult to estimate the exact amount of gasoline burned in car engines in Canada in one day as it would depend on several factors such as the number of cars on the road, the distance traveled, and the fuel efficiency of the vehicles. However, we can make some rough calculations based on available data.
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, in 2020 there were approximately 26 million registered vehicles in Canada. Assuming that each vehicle travels an average of 30 kilometers per day, and has an average fuel efficiency of 9.4 liters per 100 kilometers, then the total amount of gasoline consumed in one day in Canada would be:
26 million vehicles x 30 km per vehicle x 9.4 liters per 100 km = 7,548,000 liters per day
This is just an estimate and the actual amount could vary depending on a variety of factors such as traffic congestion, driving habits, and changes in fuel efficiency over time.
The amount of CO2 emitted from burning 7,548,000 liters of gasoline in a car engine depends on a variety of factors such as the engine efficiency, driving conditions, and vehicle type. However, we can make a rough estimate based on the average carbon content of gasoline and the average emissions rate for passenger vehicles.
The average carbon content of gasoline is approximately 2.3 kg CO2/liter, which means that burning 7,548,000 liters of gasoline would result in:
7,548,000 liters x 2.3 kg CO2/liter =17,364,400 kg or 17,940 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Keep in mind that this is a rough estimate and actual emissions can vary depending on several factors such as the specific chemical composition of the fuel, driving conditions, and vehicle type.
Now let’s look at the CO2 consumption if Canada switched to all electric cars based on this same information.
On average, an electric car in North America consumes between 0.2 and 0.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per kilometer, or between 20 and 30 kWh per 100 km. This assumes a mid-size electric vehicle with a range of 150-200 miles (240-320 km) on a single charge.
For example, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range has an EPA-rated range of 360 miles (579 km) and an energy consumption rating of 24 kWh per 100 miles (160.9 km). Keep in mind that the actual energy consumption of an electric car can vary depending on a variety of factors such as driving habits, speed, temperature, and road conditions.
Using the values given, we can calculate the total amount of energy required to power 26 million vehicles in Canada for a day:
To know the energy mix used to generate electricity in a particular region. For example,
The energy mix in North America varies depending on the country and region, but in general, the majority of energy in North America is produced from fossil fuels, primarily oil, coal, and natural gas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2020, the United States produced approximately 79% of its electricity from fossil fuels, with natural gas being the largest source at 40%, followed by coal at 19%, and nuclear at 20%. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power accounted for about 20% of electricity generation in the United States in 2020.
Canada's energy mix is similar to that of the United States, with fossil fuels accounting for about 65% of its total primary energy supply in 2020, according to the National Energy Board. In Canada, hydroelectric power is the largest source of renewable energy, accounting for about 60% of total electricity generation in 2020. Although we are doing this as a Canadian thought project, due the ability of information available, we will use the fossil fuel statistics from the US Energy Information Administration.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2020, the energy mix for electricity generation in the United States was approximately 20% coal, 40% natural gas, 20% nuclear, and 20% renewables (including hydropower, wind, solar, and other sources).
Assuming the U.S. energy mix in 2020 and using an average emission factor of 0.60 kg CO2/kWh for fossil fuel-based electricity, we can estimate the amount of fossil fuels required to produce 23,400,000 kWh of energy for EVs, resulting CO2 emissions:
Coal: 23,400,000 kWh x 0.20 (coal) x 0.60 kg CO2/kWh = 2,808,000 kg CO2
Natural Gas: 23,400,000 kWh x 0.40 (natural gas) x 0.60 kg CO2/kWh = 5,616,000 kg CO2
The total CO2 emissions from producing 23,400,000 kWh of energy from fossil fuels would be approximately 8,424,000 kg CO2.
Keep in mind that this is also a rough estimate and can vary depending on the specific energy mix and emission factors used for electricity generation.
Based on these calculations, it is safe to assume that the use of electric vehicles would reduce CO2 emissions by more than half.
While electric cars are often touted as being more environmentally friendly than their ICE counterparts, the truth is that the comparison is not as straightforward as it may seem. When taking into account the CO2 emissions produced during the production of electricity for electric cars, it becomes clear that the emissions savings from driving an electric car are not as dramatic as one might expect.
However, our calculations do show that electric cars still produce roughly half of the CO2 emissions as ICE cars when accounting for the energy production. This is a significant improvement, and highlights the importance of continuing to develop renewable energy sources to power our vehicles. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each type of vehicle and make an informed decision based on their own needs and values.
Now, what about the other arguments against EVs, such as low range, long charging times, and environmental damage from mining? We decided to take a look at some of the other myths surrounding EVs in this article.