If you’re looking to buy an electric car, you’re probably familiar with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fuel Economy website, which lists the gas mileage of every car on sale today along with the miles per gallon equivalent rating for every plug-in car. 

Unfortunately, the EPA’s MPGe rating isn’t the best way to work out how green your electric car is, but there is another tool you can use from the EPA that can help you figure it out. 

Hidden away as part of the “Energy And Environment” tab of the EPA’s vehicle comparison tool is a section that can calculate how much upstream greenhouse gasses your chosen electric car will be responsible for if it is charged with electricity from your local utility company. 

Available in grams per mile, U.S. tons per year, or metric tons per year, the calculator gives you an at-a-glance indication of real-world emissions. 

Admittedly, the tool can only give average figures based on the average power mix from your local utility, but we think it’s worth a look. 

Here’s how you use it. 

  • Head to the Beyond Tailpipe Emissions page

You’ll find the Beyond Tailpipe Emissions page hidden away in a little corner of the EPA’s FuelEconomy.gov website. 

While you can find it from the main page, the easiest way to get there is to follow this handy link.

  • Enter in your zip code

In order to estimate the total tailpipe and upstream emissions of your chosen plug-in car, the website needs to know where you live. Enter your zip code into the box provided, and then select your car’s year and model. 

  • Review the results

Once you click ‘calculate’, the site then uses U.S. Department of Energy data on energy generation in your local area to calculate the true carbon impact of your car. 

In the U.S., the current average non plug-in vehicle emits around 500 grams of CO2 per mile, while the national average for your chosen vehicle will also be displayed. 

In our first example zip code, based in Washington, DC, a 2012 Nissan leaf is responsible for around 190 grams of CO2 per mile. 

EPA Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Tool

EPA Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Tool

But head west towards West Virginia, where a lot of electricity is generated from coal-fired plants, and the same car is responsible for emitting 270 grams of CO2 per mile driven. 

How clean is your car?

Remember, that the EPA’s tool can’t account for any solar panels or wind turbines you use to charge your car, and assumes that you’ll be charging it solely from power obtained from the local grid. 

Our quick illustration shows that the CO2 emissions an electric car is responsible for vary dramatically based on your location, but how green is your area and your plug-in car?

Let us know in the Comments below.


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