It's easy to understand that, if you power your vehicle with electricity, you don't need to use as much gasoline. But, how much do you actually save, in terms of fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions if you plug in instead of gas up?

A new report, released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, called "State of Charge: Electric Vehicles' Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States," gives us a set of answers. In short, UCS looked at emissions and costs for both EVs and gas-powered vehicles and did a well-to-wheel (drilling, refining, burning for gas and mining coal, making electricity for EVs) "apples to apples" comparison and found that drivers across the U.S. would come out ahead with a plug-in car, some more than others.

The map above shows the three general categories that the UCS put different U.S. electricity grids into: good (dark blue), better (blue) and best (light blue). You can get the detailed explanation in the report yourself from this website or just grab the full PDF, but you can see in the map that the places where EVs and charging infrastructure are being rolled match up fairly well with UCS' "best" areas. But we also see that places like Nevada and Maine, among others, have an electric grid that is ready for EV expansion. UCS used the latest EPA data available, which was from 2007, so any states that have improved their electricity production methods since then.

Don Anair, the senior engineer of the UCS' Clean Vehicles Program, authored the report and said during a conference call announcing the report that, "For people who might have had doubts about the climate benefits of these vehicles, this report shows that they're positive, no matter where you live."

Running costs, too, are lower with EVs, even though Anair did acknowledge the higher up-front cost to buy a plug-in car. To truly maximize the money savings, EV owners in some cities, would need to change their rate plans away from the standard model into a plan that is designed for EVs, like a "nighttime charging" plan. The reports says:

Wherever EV owners "charge up," they can save $750 to $1,200 a year compared with operating an average new compact gasoline vehicle (27 mpg) fueled with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon. At that gasoline price, driving the average gasoline vehicle costs more than $18,000 to refuel over the vehicle's lifetime, but the owner of an EV can expect to pay thousands of dollars less to power his or her vehicle.

There's a chart showing the savings down below.





Show full PR text
Electric Vehicles a Smart Choice Nationwide, But Emissions Vary Greatly By Region
First-Of-Its-Kind Analysis Shows How Drivers Cut Fuel Costs and Global Warming Emissions with EVs

BERKELEY, Calif. (April 16, 2012) – No matter where one lives in the United States, electric vehicles (EVs) are a good choice for reducing global warming emissions and saving money on fueling up, according to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). While emissions levels associated with the electricity an EV consumes vary widely by region, drivers can expect to reduce emissions compared to average gasoline-powered vehicles.

The UCS report, "State of Charge: Electric Vehicles' Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States," is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the emissions EVs create from charging on an electric grid and how the cost of that charging compares to filling up a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Broken down by category and divided by electric grid regions, the analysis concludes that in every part of the country, EVs outperform most gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to global warming emissions. The analysis breaks the country into regions that are 'good,' 'better,' or 'best' for an EV.

In fact, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans live in 'best' regions where an EV has lower global warming emissions than a 50 mile per gallon (mpg) gasoline-powered vehicle, topping even the best gasoline hybrids on the market. In places like California and most of New York, EV's environmental performance could be as high as an 80 mpg gasoline-powered vehicle.

"This report shows drivers should feel confident that owning an electric vehicle is a good choice for reducing global warming pollution, cutting fuel costs, and slashing oil consumption," said Don Anair, the report's author and senior engineer for UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "Those in the market for a new car may have been uncertain how the global warming emissions and fuel costs of EVs stack up to gasoline-powered vehicles. Now, drivers can for the first time see just how much driving an electric vehicle in their hometown will lower global warming emissions and save them money on fuel costs."

Even in regions where coal dominates the electricity grid, EVs are still "good" when it comes to global warming emissions. In parts of the Rocky Mountains region, driving an EV produces global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline vehicle with a fuel economy rating of 33 mpg, similar to the best non-hybrid compact gasoline vehicles available today – all while cutting our nation's oil consumption.

While the environmental benefits of driving an EV vary depending on where the driver charges the EV, electric grids across the country are getting cleaner. In fact, 29 states and the District of Columbia are implementing renewable electricity standards while a greater number of older and dirtier coal plants are retired.

"The good news is that as the nation's electric grids get cleaner, consumers who buy an EV today can expect to see their car's emissions go down over the lifetime of the vehicle," said Anair.

Wherever EV owners charge their vehicles, they will also save money. Based on electricity rates in 50 cities across the United States, the analysis found drivers can save $750 to $1,200 dollars a year compared to operating an average new compact gasoline vehicle (27 mpg) fueled with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon. Higher gas prices would mean even greater EV fuel cost savings. For each 50 cent increase in gas prices, an EV driver can expect save an extra $200 a year.

In some cases, especially in California, switching to a Time-Of-Use (TOU) electricity rate from a standard residential rate plan is necessary to save the most money, amounting to hundreds of dollars per year. TOU electricity rates allow consumers to access cheaper electricity when vehicles are being charged overnight. Consumers will need to educate themselves about the different kinds of rate plans their local utility has to offer when plugging in their vehicle at home.

With more than 10 new electric vehicle models expected from automakers in 2012, and even more models on the drawing board, consumers will have more alternatives that can help reduce oil consumption and improve America's energy security.

But to fully realize the benefits of EVs will require changing not just the kind of vehicles people drive, but also the power that drives them. Electric drive vehicles can be zero emission today, when powered by renewables like solar and wind. But it will take continued steps to ramp down coal and ramp up renewables so that every region can enjoy clean energy and the best benefits EVs have to offer.

"As consumers get more electric vehicle choices over the coming years, it will be increasingly important to change how we generate our electricity," said Anair. "These vehicles can play a central role in a clean transportation future, and as we move to a cleaner electric grid, we will see that future move closer to reality."

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 104 Comments
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 3 Years Ago
      Its a really nice set of diagrams and data (although future gasoline costs are ridiculously low). Couple of points. Regarding the emissions data - they don't take into account the much higher CO2 emissions of the Canadian tar sands mined oil (this accounts for 20% of all US oil imports nowadays through 2 pipelines - Keystone 1 and Alberta Clipper - approved by and setup since Obama took office), the difference in CO2 emissions is supposed to be quite large (a Prius gets a Hummer's CO2 emissions). Most of this oil is delivered to the Middle of country via the two pipelines and this all occurred since 2007 when the data this report uses was created. The result is that emissions would be significantly better with a plug-in than the diagram shows for those areas. The other point regarding emissions is that in nearly the whole country's power system has large amounts of excess capacity generated at night without being used (this is because many types of power plants, coal is one type, can't just be turned off at night when demand falls by huge amounts) - in these areas someone who buys a plug-in and charges at night (say after 11pm) would be getting an almost complete drop of their potential gasoline emissions because those power plant emissions are going to happen whether they charge or not. With the small amount of plug-in vehicles on the grid, for much of the country, this situation will be around for years. The result is that emissions for plug-in vehicles in these areas for the next 5-10 years would be much better than the diagram shows in the report. Otherwise its nice report to get a feel for things, notwithstanding the out of date data its based on.
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        True! "The GREET1_2011 model of the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) was used for upstream emissions estimates (ANL 2011); 2007 plant data were used to estimate emissions from generation by fuel source, with an assumed average grid loss factor of 6 percent (EPA 2010a); plant construction data were from ANL life-cycle analyses (ANL 2010)" -page 7 of pdf Also, this study uses 2010's data for the average National electric grid mix (page 5)... so they are assuming about 4% or 5% more coal in the national mix than what is being generated today. 45% coal for the year of 2010, when 2011 was 41% and 2012 is looking to be 40% or lower.
      Dave
      • 3 Years Ago
      Apparently, they're including government incentives because the difference in price between a Leaf and a Prius (about $13,000 according to Edmunds.com) is a lot more than the $4,600 difference in fuel costs shown in the graph above. On top of that, the battery in the Leaf is unlikely to be of much use at the 140,000 mile lifespan they appear to be using while the Prius very well may have 50,000 miles of life left in it.
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dave
        Can you back that up about the Leaf battery? As Nissan is making plans to sell these exact same batteries.
          paulwesterberg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          GM says that 76% of U.S. drivers commute 40 miles or less daily. So a 50 mile range would still be useful to a lot of people.
          Dave
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          From http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/faq/list/technology#/leaf-electric-car/faq/list/technology "Q: How long will the battery last? Can it be recycled? A: Like all lithium ion batteries, the Nissan LEAF™ battery will experience gradual capacity loss over time. We expect the battery to last over 10 years, however, there may be a gradual loss of capacity of 30% or more depending on your driving patterns, and the effect on your battery. The battery can be used afterward for storage applications."
      Tweaker
      • 3 Years Ago
      "UCS looked at emissions and costs for both EVs and gas-powered vehicles and did a well-to-wheel (drilling, refining, burning for gas and mining coal, making electricity for EVs) "apples to apples" comparison and found that drivers across the U.S. would come out ahead with a plug-in car, some more than others. Can somebody point out where in this study they account for the production of gasoline? Or coal? I read the entire PDF and while they say an apples-apples study needs to account for gasoline production and coal mining, nowhere do they say they actually did it, nor does the data include any such reference. What did I miss?
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Tweaker
        Page 57 of the pdf "References" "Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). 2011. The greenhouse gases, regulated emissions, and energy use in transportation model, version GREET1_2011. Argonne, IL. Online at greet.es.anl.gov." Then go to "greet.es.anl.gov" And you will see the depth they account for as much as possible.
      Smurf
      • 3 Years Ago
      Funny. This map is not that far off from a map of Red States, Blue States, and Battleground States....
        Dave D
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smurf
        Damn good observation. Now the question: Which is cause and which is effect? Or have they become a set of positive feedback loops making them pull further and further apart?
          Greg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          IMO, neither. First, the connection to voting maps is tenuous, and second, it has more to do with population. Areas with more population growth require more infrastructure to be built, so it will be newer, and newer means more nat gas while older infrastructure means more coal. Similarly, high population density means less distance travelled (less energy & pollution generated) whereas longer travel distances means more (and thus a lower score).
      Dave
      • 3 Years Ago
      70% of 73 miles yields a range of ~51 miles which is a bad joke.
      • 3 Years Ago
      You'd think with all the wind resources in the midwest, that they'd rate better in this study. I'm somewhat surprised...
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        The Koch Brothers of WI put considerable money into the Republican party to block wind development.
          Dave D
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          PR, All I can say is that if there is a hell, I hope the Koch brothers and all their friends rot in it for eternity.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Koch Bro's and ALEC also openly lobbied to 100% kill the federal Wind Power tax credits that expire at the end of this year, all while extending 100% of the oil industry tax credits. They succeeded. It is likely to completely kill the entire wind power industry. "47 US Senators Support Oil Subsidies, but Vote to Kill Wind Energy Jobs March 30, 2012 Yesterday, 47 United States Senators voted to kill 37,000 American jobs, while giving $24 billion in tax breaks to big oil companies. It’s clear where these Senators’ loyalties lie: They would rather give handouts to the dirty energy of the past rather than invest in the clean energy of the future. In a largely party-line 51-47 vote (four Democrats side with Big Oil, and two Republicans side with clean energy), the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to move forward on the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). This bill would do two things: End several egregious subsidies to big oil companies, while extending industry-supporting incentives for clean energy. Among those incentives is the critical Production Tax Credit, which encourages investment in wind energy. As we’ve reported before, raising taxes on the emerging wind power industry by failing to extend this credit will kill 37,000 jobs. Indeed, we’ve already seen layoffs as manufacturing companies prepare for the worst." http://cleantechnica.com/2012/03/30/47-us-senators-support-oil-subsidies-but-vote-to-kill-wind-energy-jobs/
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Yeah, that was some of the most shocking legislation. The supposed anti-regulation party created a bunch of red-tape to tie up windmills. Really? REALLY? Are windmills really a threat to you? C"mon.
          paulwesterberg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          They managed to block wind turbine siting rules here in Wisconsin, effectively halting all wind farm development for the last year. Our republican governor, Scott Walker created an uncertain regulatory environment hostile to business investment... which is something that republicans say they are against. He also wanted to sell state owned power plants to the Koch Brothers, but he hasn't been able to implement that plan just yet.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        They have wind resources but they are not using them as much as they should. Iowa has done a pretty good job. They have the cheap coal from Wyoming available, so they largely just burn that.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          ^--- yup They'd rather keep blowing up mountains even if it doesn't make financial sense in some areas. Real odd, IMHO.
          Greg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          2 Wheeled Menace, coal is literally dirt cheap in those areas compared to constructing wind farms. New tech requires investment money. Using what's already in place doesn't. It's a lot like continuing to drive an old beater or buying a new Prius. The Prius will get far better mpg and save a lot of gas, but the beater is paid for, and you can buy an awful lot of gas for $20k+.
      • 3 Years Ago
      You will only need to charge your electric vehicle from the grid for a very short period of time because solar charging stations from cheap solar panels are coming very fast and advanced battery technology is coming even faster. The cost of electric cars are going to drop like a lead balloon within the next five years. Nissan has already started dropping the price on the 2013 Leaf. If you have solar panels on your roof and a charging station in your garage, within less than five years, the money you save on gas will pay for the panels and you charging your car will be free and in some states what energy you do not use goes back into the grid - lowering or causing your electric bill to disappear altogether. No matter how you look at it, all electric vehicles are your best investment.
        mapoftazifosho
        • 3 Years Ago
        Time out! I just read that the 2013 Leaf will have a price increase. Cite your source please!
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          LOL.. cite *your* source, mapo; there was an article just a day or two ago here that alluded that the price will go down when the Leaf finally starts getting produced here in the 'states.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          mapoftazifosho --- what is your source? It's been widely reported that Nissan expects that the cost of a Leaf will be much less when built in the US plant compared with importing them from Japan. My source is ABG.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      One thing to keep in mind that the numbers on pollution are just averages. People may have options to greatly beat these averages for how dirty their own personal electricity is. Whether it is installing Wind, or Solar, or a Bloom Box, or geothermal, there are may options that may be available for individuals to make their own personal electricity much greener than the average. For example, customers of xcel energy can buy into the WindSource program in many of the western states that appear dark blue on this map and get their electricity either partially or exclusively from wind. So if you find yourself in a state with bad average numbers, don't feel defeated or doomed. You can look for options that can buck the trend in your state.
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      In bizarro world the right wing nutties use the fact that EVs are not as environmentally friendly as everyone says, to try and kill the technology. When what they really hate is that they use less oil or no oil. Yes, the right wingers want you to buy oil so that the middle east will remain the center of the universe and we can fight more wars with the terrorists funded by our gas dollars. Of course, in reality, EVs are environmentally friendly and have the potential to be even more so. Everyone knows that some coal plants are dirty, but very shortly we will be closing down a number of old coal plants and replacing them with natural gas fired turbines.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      Two points: Fuel costs are given at $3.50 gallon average over the life of the car, which they give at 15 years. The fuel cost is not even accurate right now, and if the past is any guide will increase over the 15 years. I can't imagine any sensible estimate which would put the average fuel price in 7.5 years time at less than $4.50, so fuel savings are clearly underestimated by at least 30%. The second flawed assumption is that electric cars will last the same time as ICE cars. Why would you want to scrap a BEV after 15 years? You will need to replace the battery pack, sure, but many of the expensive to replace bits on an ICE do not exist on a BEV. Until it is in a crash there would seem no reason to scrap a BEV. The average life of a BEV is likely to be at least 20 years. That is another 30% or so saving. Overall the cost savings would seem to be in the region of 1.28*1.33 = 1.7 times as great as indicated here, minus the cost of the batteries and their replacement.
        Anne
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        "Why would you want to scrap a BEV after 15 years?" Well, duh. Because then I can buy a new one. ;)
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I've just checked the rise in US petrol prices 2005-11: http://blackfrankluntz.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/u-s-gas-prices-from-2005-to-2011-three-year-cycles-of-raising-prices/ That is a rise of around 10% pa, from $2.11 in 2005 to $3.62 in 2011 and if this trend continues you would be paying around $7/gallon for petrol by the mid point in the life of your car at year 7.
        marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @ DaveMart "Why would you want to scrap a BEV after 15 years? The average life of a BEV is likely to be at least 20 years. That is another 30% or so saving." Thank goodness there are only a few consumers like you! Fortunately for the automotive industry, (and every other industry) consumers are more attracted to 'new' models and designs than durability. Fashion and image are far more important motivations in automobile marketing, than longevity. This is a good thing as it creates a high quality, used market, for the less affluent, and an enormous boost in employment and wealth creation.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          No one is arguing that the same person who buys new will usually own a car for 20 years any more than they usually own a car for 15 years now. At the other end of the market a car continues to hold value for just as long as the cost of repair make it better to scrap it. Until the bottom falls out of them that does not occur in an electric vehicle. Aside from going electric, the mean age of cars on the road has increased steadily; 'The median and mean age of automobiles has steadily increased since 1969. In 2007 the overall median age for automobiles was 9.4 years, a significant increase over 1990 when the median age of vehicles in operation in the US was 6.5 years and 1969 when the mean age for automobiles was 5.1 years.' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_vehicles_in_the_United_States So even aside from going electric cars are likely to last longer, and Japanese part manufacturers for one are planning on that basis for reduced demand. The only reasons I picked 20 years were for conservatism's sake as I prefer when making any estimate and because until automated driving becomes prevalent crash damage will continue to restrict the average life of cars.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          S/be the cost of repair makes it better THAN to scrap it.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @Anne: ;-) Actually though you may have a point. I see automation making big inroads in cars in the next 20 years, which will greatly reduce the biggest remaining reason why an electric car would be scrapped, car crashes. There are going to be lots of folk desperate to replace their ICE old bangers with electric though, so the second hand market should remain strong. I expect a full written report on your Zoe when you get it! :-)
      • 3 Years Ago
      The islands of Hawaii plan to go massively renewable (mostly solar, wind and on the big island, geothermal) in the next decade, so thinking forward, Hawaii is actually a "best".
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        Page 23 in the full study that includes the future plans for each state for what percent of their electricity will come from renewables by certain dates. It would be very interesting to re-do this map taking into account what it will look like once these future targets are met. Hawaii is definitely towards the top, with a target of 40% by 2030. But Alaska has Hawaii beat with the higher target of 50% renewables five years earlier. And some of the other states with 30% or higher targets by 2020, or 2015 may end up far ahead of Hawaii by 2030 if they keep going with more and more renewables at the same rate.
      SNP
      • 3 Years Ago
      LMAO paul, why dont we cut it even closer. They could save more money if they shaved off 20% of the battery so we can statistically make it back home exactly on empty. What would happen to all the suckers after even 5 yrs who bought that leaf and was off by a mile? 5 miles? 10 miles? Or those who just needed a vehicle to share with the family and just needed some more miles a day. It's kinda like paying for an expensive meal and still being hungry.
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