Nissan Exec Calls Electric Leaf Pollution "Bull"

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Smog in New York City

Smog in New York City

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We all know that electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions, but the claim that electric cars move the pollution from the tailpipe to the power station chimney has long been a cornerstone of arguments against the electric car. 

But in an unusually candid moment at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan Executive Vice-President Andy Palmer spoke out against such claims. 

According to Palmer, the idea that electric cars pollute as much or more than gasoline cars is nothing more than bovine by-product.

“I think it’s complete bull$#!%,” Palmer explained. “First of all, if you talk about tank-to-tank, the amount of CO2 consumed from creating the electricity to getting it to the car -- is it zero emissions? The answer is no, you consume carbon energy in creating the energy, and that’s true.”

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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Tackling the topic head on, Palmer admitted that while a Nissan Leaf powered entirely from electricity generated at a coal-fired power station would emit less carbon emissions than a traditional gasoline car and more than a hybrid car, there wasn’t a single country in the world where 100 percent of electrical energy was generated from coal. 

In other words, a 100-percent coal-powered Nissan Leaf was impossible given the energy generation mixes in the world today.

“If you look across the world as a whole, by far the lease emitting means when we talk about creation-to-use, electric cars are the lowest of the CO2 burners,” he explained. 

Although Palmer was keen to point out that electric cars pollute less than most other cars on the road today, he admitted that there was some way to go before most grid-charged electric cars were completely zero emissions. 

“Now, what we try to do is we try to talk to governments to say ‘how about cleaning up the generation of electricity, how about using more clean, more sustainable energy rather than going with coal burning’. The more they clean up electricity, the more compelling the story is behind the electric car.”

“I think it’s far to say that in every case, an electric car emits less CO2 than an internal combustion engine,” he finished. 

Given the number of early adopting electric car fans who drive their plug-in cars solely on renewable energy generated from domestic solar panels or wind turbines, we’d have to agree. 


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Comments (10)
  1. It is bull$#!% the fact that power plants are dirty isn't a problem for electric cars it's a problem on it's own right now anyway. People should be happy about plugging-in their cars, it's one of the few things you'll plug-in that is actually important. Maybe electronics stores should shut off their massive TV displays when no one in the store is looking to buy one. Plugging-in an EV is not a waste of electricity like so many things we power, I have neighbors who only live in their house near mine for four months a year yet they run their air conditioning year round and their pool and exterior lighting. All the thing you have plugged-in right now are burning coal. (unless you have hydro, solar, or wind power)

  2. Nikki, you did it again. Your headline is the opposite of your article. Why does your editor allow you get away with that? If the Leaf is a pollution bull then your electric cooking stove is a super pollution bull and so is everything in your house that plugs in to an outlet. That would make an ICE or hybrid, like the Volt, a super super pollution bull. By the time there is a million electric cars on the road, people will be using solar panels to charge the car and that will make it 0 polluting. Considering everything, the Leaf is a far cry from being a pollution bull since the current grid is all we have.

  3. That is really irritating, Nikki, that you would write a headline like that and misquote the Nissan executive. A person would almost think that you are showing your political feathers.

  4. James, the article is about a Nissan Exec calling the acusation that electric cars pollute, bullsh**. He called EV pollution bull**it. Did you read the article or just post these comments based only on the title???

  5. "Bull" was not set off by quote marks yesterday and the headline read like the executive meant that the Leaf emitted a huge amount of pollution every time you plug it in and the article said the opposite. Now the headline is properly punctuated and more understandable. The first sentence in your first comment reads like you understood it the same way I did.

  6. No no no, in my first comment I said "It is bull$#!% the fact that power plants are dirty isn't a problem for electric cars it's a problem on it's own right now anyway." So what I'm saying is EVs are zero emissions and trying to accuse them of polluting is bull$#!%. The fact that power plants are creating pollution is not a fault or a problem for electric cars to deal with, it is the power companies that have to figure out how to fix their emissions.

  7. I've got another good one just in time for the holidays. Do you ever look at your Christmas tree and realize that it is not zero emissions? And think of all those lights that you put all over your front lawn? Some people go overboard and put out tons of lit decorations and make little jokes about how high their energy bill is going to be. My point, we hardly pay attention to what we plug-in so those who try to make a case that EVs pollute are those who fear change and have decided to go on an old-fashioned midevil witch hunt.

  8. Talk about "flex fuel":
    My Leaf runs on the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and electrical current from old nuclear deterrant. (Repurposed US and Russian bomb cores).
    Okay, there is some hydro carbon fuel in the mix, but more electric cars means less oil imported and that is a good thing.
    In Seattle we had more hydro last year than we could use or sell. Charging at night uses the grid efficiantly. There are just too many good reasons not to do this.
    We are at 3K on our Leaf and enjoy it very much.

  9. Here in the Pacific Northwest, 30% of the power is from coal but at night its 100% hydro. if you really want to save emissions from coal plants, figure out a way to reduce the peak load demand or shift the abundant and unused off peak capacity to peak time. load balancing will reduce emissions much more than anything else we have going

  10. The sad thing here is that we all continue to miss the real point; fossil fuel production is far dirtier than electricity production. With gassers you get double duty; dirty car emissions + dirty oil refinement. While EVs are 0 + electricity production.

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