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The Green Myth About Electric Cars

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The statement that electric cars are not green may make great headline bait, however it is poor math.  The following is how the argument goes, over and over again.

There are higher manufacturing emissions on electric cars than there are regular cars.  In addition, electricity is used by electric cars, which has a footprint of its own.  When these two factors are put together they form a ‘dirty little secret’ where any climate benefit that electric cars enjoy are negated.  Look at this recent piece from Wired.

So once and for all, let’s clear all of this up.

The juice is what it is all about. 

One of the more irritating things about the articles that discuss electric car emissions is due to how it is always portrayed in a very black and white manner.

There is the ‘zero emissions’ team in one corner and the ‘worse than combustion’ gang in the other.

However, real life, as always, is shades of grey.

Even after the larger manufacturing footprint that an electric car has is taken into account, it is still centres around the fuel mix of whatever power is used.  In other words, ‘the juice.’

Nothing is done to help cut emissions when electric cars use coal powered electricity.  When natural gas electricity is used, it is a top hybrid that uses low carbon power.  This results in less than 50 percent of total emissions from the finest combustion vehicle, including manufacturing.

In a recent study entitled ‘Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe,‘ electric car emissions that were grid powered were calculated in twenty countries.  However, there was data for a number of other countries that weren’t included.

So let’s break down the data so that this thing can be put to rest.

Electric Car Emissions Mapped

The map compares carbon footprints for electric driving that uses average grid electricity in approximately 40 countries.  The electricity’s actual carbon intensity that you might use is different than what the national average is for several different reasons.  However, it does make an excellent starting point.

The results are given in grams of the equivalent carbon dioxide per kilometre of a vehicle (g CO2e/km).  Every estimate includes grid losses, upstream fuel production, power station combustion and emissions from automobile manufacturing.

The specifications are based on a complete electric vehicle, which is similar to the Nissan Leaf.  It used each country’s average fuel mix for 2009.  For every country, it has assumed that vehicle manufacturing emissions were 70g CO2e/km, which was based on several studies that the report detailed.

EV Emissions Per Country

Out of the 40 countries that this map covers, emissions vary.  In India, which has heavy coal use, it is 370 g CO2e/km, while in water loving Paraguay is is 70g CO2/km.  Canada’s average is 115g CO2e/km, China’s is 258g Co2e/km and in the US it is 202g CO2e/km.

“In Paraguay nearly all emissions come from manufacturing vehicles, since power is very low carbon.  In India is breaks down as 70g on grid losses, 30g on fuel production, 200g on power plants and 70g on vehicle manufacturing” according to Ian Beevis of Traders Insurance.

The colors from the legend split up the countries into five separate groups, which is based on their carbon intensity.  As can be seen, even once vehicle manufacturing has been included, carbon intensity from driving electric cars differs 5 fold depending on the juice.

For reference purposes, the average gasoline vehicle in the U.S. is at around 300g CO2e/km.  Once fuel production, fuel combustion and vehicle manufacturing is included, a new hybrid may manage 180 g CO2e/km.

Compared with combustion vehicles

Since grams per kilometer is a strange metric it’s very nice converting them into results that are more familiar.  When we work backwards from this data we are able to estimate what kind of regular vehicle (if any) might produce similar emissions.

Let’s refer to this as ‘Emissions equivalent petrol car,’ for lack of a better phrase.

EV emissions equivalent

It is much easier now to get a good grip on the figures.

In coal heavy South Africa, Australia, China and India, electric cars utilizing grid power are similar to typical gasoline vehicles, and are within the 25-30 MPGUS range.  In Italy, Japan, Germany and the UK, they are as good as the finest petrol hybrids, and within the 45-50 MPGUS range. However, in low carbon supply countries like Norway, Switzerland, Brazil and France, they are in an entirely different league, and average well over 100 MPGUS equivalent emissions.

It’s very important to keep in mind that the electricity that you receive may not match what the national average is and there could be several different reasons for this.  The night time intensity may vary, you may have solar panels or you might live in a country such as the United States, where in actuality the grid is really a group of separate grids.  In Colorado, for example, an electric car that is grid powered is equivalent to around 30 MPGUS, while in California it is around 70 MPG.

In the map, for all of the comparisons, the vehicle manufacturing is only 40g CO2e/m for a gasoline car.  For electric vehicles, on the other hand, it is 70g CO2e/m.  That is due to the fact that we have accounted for an electric car’s lower lifetime mileage and greater manufacturing footprint.

Check the full report out if you would like to know more about the details.  Included are comparisons with diesel vehicles, vehicle performance, sensitivities to manufacturing and breakdown of all figures.

Electric vehicles are as green as the juice is

Electric car critics love putting the horse before the cart and talking about manufacturing emissions.  However, they don’t ever appear to offer better solutions ever.  If they happened to be going on about joys of bicycles, electrified public transport or urban densification, than perhaps their critiques might ring true.  However, that isn’t what you hear.

In terms of commercial scale, electric cars are fairly new, and must deal with issues such as charging speed, range and cost.  Improving batteries can help all of them.  Despite that, great hope is offered when it comes to limiting noise pollution, making improvements to local air quality and reducing carbon emissions.

Electric cars are definitely not perfect.  There are numerous ways that they can be critiqued in a valid manner.  However, when it comes to carbon emissions, a gasoline vehicle will be unable to compete with electric cars.  There is no contest.

If an electric car is given the right juice, it will crush combustion engines.

Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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Environment

How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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