Just How Clean Are Electric Cars?

There is a short and a long answer to this continually-asked question, writes Katherine Tweed.

Published: 25-Feb-2012

At nearly every electric vehicle or smart grid conference, someone in the audience asks the question about just how clean electric vehicles are given that they are probably fueled by coal power plants.

There is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is that if you are just asking about CO2, the electric vehicle, even from the dirtiest of U.S. coal plants, is still cleaner than a traditional internal-combustion vehicle.

However, toss hybrid vehicles, e-bikes, buses, renewable energy and particulates into the picture and it is not as clear-cut. A new study that examined electric vehicles, including e-bikes, in China found that EVs were not necessarily cleaner in terms of particulate emissions and their health effects, but rather the source of pollution was just offset from the urban centers to the areas where the power plants are located.


Teams celebrate finish of around-the-world race in zero emission vehicles.

Race completed 80 days of travel time, covering 28,000 km through 16 countries.

German-developed seven-pin EV plug differs from Japan-developed and US Adapted J1772 connectors.

Companies and countries need to agree on common standards so consumers can move more easily move between countries.

London Mayor Boris Johnson with Citroen C-Zero.

London Mayor Boris Johnson calls for city to be electric car capital.


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