We all know that electric cars charged from renewable sources of energy are much cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, but what about electric cars charged from electricity produced by a dirty coal-fired power plant? 

For some time, those against the uptake of electric cars have claimed driving an electric car powered by electricity from a coal-fired power plant is as bad -- if not worse -- than driving a gasoline car on an environmental level. 

Not so, says soon-to-be Nissan Leaf owner Mark D Larsen,  who has taken some time out to demonstrate with some simple math why the 2012 Nissan Leaf doesn’t pollute as badly as a comparable gasoline car

“I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the old, worn-out ‘long tailpipe’ argument against electric vehicles, i.e., that they are more harmful than gasoline cars on the environment because they get their electricity from dirty coal-fired power plants,” writes Larsen on his website.  “It seems like every time an article, blog, forum, tweet, video or news release mentions an electric car lately, petrolpuppets immediately jump on it and post derisive comments with that same broken-record accusation.”

Nissan Leaf CO2 Output When Charged With Coal

Nissan Leaf CO2 Output When Charged With Coal

To silence the claims once and for all, Larsen decided to build a webpage which sets out the energy requirements -- and carbon dioxide output -- required to drive 100 miles in both a 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Nissan Versa. 

Taking into consideration the efficiency of the charging station, the grid efficiency of the power transmission from the power station to his home, and the carbon dioxide output of a dirty coal power plant, Larsen calculates that his 2012 Nissan Leaf would be responsible for creating 42,665 grams of carbon dioxide for every 100 miles travelled. 

Larsen then takes a 2012 Nissan Versa and carries out the same calculation.

Taking into account the 6 kilowatt-hours of electricity used to refine one gallon of gasoline, the carbon dioxide ‘dirty coal’ footprint of that electricity and the actual carbon dioxide emissions from the car’s engine, Larsen calculated that the 2012 Nissan Versa produces 50,332 grams of carbon dioxide for every 100 miles travelled.

2012 Nissan Versa CO2 Output

2012 Nissan Versa CO2 Output

His conclusion? 

Even if a 2012 Nissan Leaf is charged exclusively from electricity generated by coal-fired power stations, it produces 15 percent less carbon dioxide than a 2012 Nissan Versa. 

But while he used 100 percent coal-fired electricity for his calculations, Larsen argues that for U.S. consumers, only 45 percent of electricity nationwide comes from coal-fired power stations. 

In other words, electric cars are even cleaner. 

Unlike some electric car emissions calculations we’ve seen, Larsens’ are particularly simple, and verifiable using the links provided on his website. 

What do you think of the calculations? Has anything been left out? Let us know in the Comments below. 


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