Driving the Future -- Electric Vehicles

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According to some, converting to an electric vehicle just transfers the pollution from the tailpipe to the smokestack. Well, even if that were true, it's easier to control at single or "point" source than millions of cars; but as Phil Karn's analysis shows, the total emissions for EVs are profoundly lower than total emissions for Internal Combustion ("ICE") cars. That's not counting the other costs connected with using gas: exploration, refining, transportation, wars and political subsidies to control oil supplies, drilling, distribution, and other innumerable features of the Oil Economy we take for granted like big oil tanks and tankers, oil spills, oil pipelines, fiery car crashes, gasoline and lead poisoning, etc., etc.
Realize that Karn's analysis does not compare the "well-to-wheel" emission for gasoline vs. that of the electric used to power EV because it assumes the gallon of gasoline just appeared, out of nowhere, with no upstream cost, and only the obvious, visible pollution is listed, but compared with electric power assumed produced from coal or natural gas.

But the gallon of gasoline does
not just appear from nowhere; and even a small solar rooftop system can provide enough electric credits to drive a normal distance each month, free of cost as well as using essentially no oil.

If you are going to talk about the
"REAL POLLUTION" of gas, then include the REAL upstream costs. That gallon of gasoline has got a lot of baggage upstream of its burning in the car, and it also has a lot of downstream pollution that an EV minimizes and that gets ignored after the car moves.

Phil Karn pointed out that you can easily compare the numbers for California's electric, which is largely produced from Natural Gas (LA Dept. of Water and Power burns coal in Utah) with the pollution from burning gasoline. Strict comparison shows that from natural gas to an EV moving, compared with the gallon of gas just burning,
the EV is 97% cleaner in terms of noxious pollutants.

But even asssuming the electric is not produced from rooftop solar or natural gas, let's assume it comes 100% from COAL, it
s STILL much cleaner than gasoline produced from petroleum!

For example, to get that gallon of gasoline, did you know that oil extraction and refining is the biggest industrial user of electric (and natural gas) in California? A large proportion of the oil barrel, large enough to power an EV a long way, is overshadowed by the electric it takes to make the gasoline. Big refineries lighted up, with burners, heavy duty oil pumps, electric; and water injection/pumping/separator plants, such as the one on Signal Hill that processes 90% water, take enormous amounts of cheap electric power.
If electric is so dirty, then why not count the "dirt" into the cost of gasoline?

Then there is the skewing of our foreign policy to ensure oil supplies which we assume "necessary". But it's a cost, of perhaps $40B per year...and it goes largely to prop up oil dictators, who often flare gas (in general, natural gas and petroleum come from different wells; where it's the same well, the gas is a nuisance) and spill oil, blowing diesel smoke all over and running battleships and aircraft, not to mention shooting off depleted uranium shells and other ordinance. Then there's the war budget, $400B/year and rising.

Think of the oil spills. Those are part of the cost of gasoline. According to the medievals, when you "will the end, you will the means", and the terrible deaths of Sea Otters, birds and fish are part of the ghastly "well to wheel" cost of gasoline that gets ignored. In one famous case, Chevron argued before the Coastal Commission that drilling spoils off Santa Barbara were "too contaminated and toxic" to be allowed to barge them to a landfill, and thus, they received permission to dump those toxic spoils into the Ocean!

Most refineries and oil debarking facilities, not to mention oil rigs, dump waste and drilling spoils into the Rivers and Oceans. One Wilmington Refinery got tagged for $3M fine, which is nothing to them, for fouling Dominguez Channel. Then there's BP, which dumped
2000 lbs. of sulfur per day into the Los Angeles air basin, at an estimated cost to Taxpayers of $300M per year, one of a dozen refineries upwind of L.A. Tally these costs in the "well to wheel", too, as well as the loss of former wetlands, now besmirched with oil-soaked refinery detritis, and also include the cost of water shortage, because EACH of these refineries use hundreds of millions (yes, 100Ms) gallons of potable water EACH day. They get a special rate.

Now lets see, we're not yet to oil and gas fires, refinery fumes which are discretely let out after midnight, when downwind residents and their children are asleep, and wonder why they can't breathe the next morning, diesel smoke, tanker trucks, and of course smog gear, auto exhaust, CO and CO2 and NOx, etc.

Then, there are the untallied DOWNSTREAM costs, which EVs have only in a small degree: Gas cars have more brake lining and tire particles (toxic ingredients of "urban runoff"); and gas cars spew ethylene glycose, oil droplets, gasoline droplets that make the roads slick, cause accidents and wash into River and Ocean.

Then the health care costs, MTBE, etc., etc.

The following adapted from Karn's page:

EV Emission Analysis

I discovered a wealth of energy and pollution info on various California state agency web sites, particularly CARB and CEC. So I computed my own figures for per-mile power plant emissions for EVs.

Gasoline/Diesel Emissions

From www.energy.ca.gov/fuels/gasoline/gasolinesales.html I see that the total taxable motor fuels (gasoline & diesel) sold in CA in 1996 was 15,791,759,000 gallons.

And from www.energy.ca.gov/reports/stats/table49.html I see that the CA average fuel economy in 1993 (latest year available) was 17.7 miles/gallon.

17.7 mpg * 15,791,759,000 gallons = 279.5e9 miles driven per year. That's 765.8 million miles/day, a figure I wasn't able to find directly. From www.arb.ca.gov/ceidars/emssumcat.query?F_DIV=0&F_YR=1995&F_AREA=CA we see that the total pollutants from all that gasoline burned and on-road miles driven are (1995 figures)
Pollutant Tons/day grams/mile
Total organic gases 1800 2.1323
Reactive organic gases 1600 1.895
Carbon monoxide 15000 17.77
Nitrogen oxides 2100 2.488
Sulfur oxides 56 0.06634
Particulates 80 0.09477
Particulates < 10 micron 67 0.07937

 ("1 ton" = 2000 pounds, not 1000 kg)

Electric Generation Emissions

Now let's look at the situation for electricity. From http://www.energy.ca.gov/electricity/electricitygen.html I get an in-state annual electricity generation from all sources of 202,022 GW-hr, which works out to 553.44 GW-hr/day or an average of 23.06GW, which seems about right. From the emissions inventory page mentioned earlier, we can see that in 1995 in-state electric generation produced
Pollutant Tons/day grams/kW-hr
Total organic gases 28 0.0459
Reactive organic gases 6 0.009835
Carbon monoxide 36 0.059
Nitrogen oxides 69 0.1131
Sulfur oxides 8 0.0131
Total particulates 6 0.00983
Particulates < 10 microns 5 0.00819

 So if we use that electricity to charge EVs getting 4 miles/kW-hr, the electric generation emissions attributable to each EV mile driven would be
Pollutant grams/mile % of internal combustion
Total organic gases 0.011475 0.5%
Reactive organic gases 0.002459 0.13%
Carbon monoxide 0.01475 0.083%
Nitrogen oxides 0.028275 1.136%
Sulfur oxides 0.003275 4.9%
Total particulates 0.0024575 2.59%
Particulates < 10 microns 0.0020475 2.578%

Obviously it depends on the specific pollutant, but this all is pretty consistent with the 97% reduction figure I've heard for some time (power plant emissions per EV mile being 97% less than the per-mile emissions for an average gasoline or diesel vehicle). And those emissions are at the power plants, not in downtown LA or SD or wherever the cars are.


  • I wasn't able to find all my statistics from the same year.
  • The electric generation figures are probably gross totals, so they don't include transmission losses (I think I've seen 20%).
  • I assume the current electric generation mix would apply to large numbers of EVs. This may or may not be true, depending on how much capacity is available from which kinds of plants when the EVs are charged. If  all of the miles driven in California could be electrically powered at 4 miles/kW-hr, that would work out to an average electrical load of about 8GW, which is about 35% of the average in-state electric generation of 23.06GW.
  • Most of the petroleum fuels go to cars and trucks, but the total taxed fuel sales figures might include other users (aviation, trains); depending on how polluting these users are, and how much they use, it could affect the figures either way.
  • My EV "mileage" of 4 miles/kW-hr, referenced to the AC socket, is for the EV1, and may be optimistic for larger EVs -- though given the number of cars you see on the freeway with exactly one occupant, it's clear that a lot of people could commute in the EV1. 

    Despite these caveats, it's pretty clear that EVs have the advantage when it comes to air pollution.

    Phil Karn, January 1999

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dobie is tite

01/26/2007 6:38

I see one comment about CNG! I notice the "analysis" doesn't compare CNG to electric -- only gas diesel. I've owned a CNG-only vehicle now for 6 months, with a compressor on my house. Very little manipulation is needed to process natural gas for use, unlike liquid petroleum products. Electricity is "lossy" at every step of the transmission process. There are not enough controls on the producers (Enron? Wasn't that fun!?) so consumers get mauled by profiteers for only household use. Imaging how bad it would be if you were dependent on it to get to work?
I haven't visited a gas(oline) station now in 6 months. I don't miss it!
01/07/2007 9:29

These are but a few sites to find EV's and be sure to check out the photo album.
happy holidays

12/23/2006 12:35

We will always need oil for the petro-chemical industry. Where do you think plastics and other composites come from? However, electric vehicles are definitely the way to go as they are so easy on the consumer and the enviroment. I've been searching for over 2 years for sites and information on electric vehicles and so much hybrid crap gets in the way that you can't find out a lot when you are starting out. Hybrids are a FEEBLE attempt by the car industry to go green, and that thinking by the consumer should be avoided. They just want to string you along on maintenance and fuel costs like they have over the last 100 years, meanwhile having no accountability for the enviromental damage they cause.

12/20/2006 11:29

I don't know dirt about electric car specs. So many websites on this topic. Like drinking from firehose. how about electriccarsfordummies.com
11/29/2006 16:33

Let's all get together and get the electric transportation on the road.
Visit: www.pennymile.com Help us so we can help you.

08/28/2006 16:05

Check out www.nevco-ev.com the makers of the Gizmo. My wife and I have had ours for almost 4 years and we love it. sadly they are currently out of production but with enough demand could be started again. BTW for a 25-50 cent charge we can travel 35-50 miles with a top speed of 40-45 mph. The only drawback, you have to allow extra time to talk to all of the curious about "what the heck is that?" Actually not a drawback at all!
Springbrooke SLC Ut.
08/03/2006 18:05

i just asked for u to email me , but forgot email , addy ,. ragtop1170 at yahoo.com
08/02/2006 0:12

please email me on where i can have my 2001 pt cruiser switched to electric next year. i dont want a new car. i think what we all need is to change the cars we have . to heck with giving the big guys any more money. just little mechanic shops switching the cars to electric. it's time for a revolution. sincerly , Rodney Lee Blanton
08/02/2006 0:11

Let There Be EV's

I went to see " who killed the Electric Car " at the Playhouse in Pasadena. That was a very good, yet sad movie. in the past few weeks, I have asked dozens of people the same question. If electric cars were available here in California, and you could plug them in at home to charge them. and that charge would get you to all your city destinations, would you buy one. Every single person I ask says the same thing. Yes, I would buy one. many of them then ask the question, where do I get one. I tell them to go see the movie. I hope someone in a position of serious influence is willing to make a change in favor of the EV world, for the better.
07/24/2006 19:22

I would like very much to buy an electric vehicle. I live in Pasadena, California. And guess what, every time I go to a car dealership, and spend some time talking to the people that work there. I ask them, why is it that I cannot buy an electric vehicle from you. why is a simple electric vehicle not available for purchase. they all say the same thing. Big Oil is not going to let that happen. I think we should have the choice of buying an electric vehicle. Looks like I may have to build one.
07/24/2006 19:10

I would like to know of some sites that offer EV;s for sale, either manufacturers or used vehicles.
07/23/2006 6:12

Is there a way to use a variation of the car from spain called the CAT Car which is on the site "www.theaircar.com" It seems that the normal conversion packages could be modified to do this.
06/09/2006 19:34

Interesting site.
I think once to start talking about the running cost of a petrol car in real pollution terms and compare it to an electric vehicle, there are too many points that you are missing. For example, you haven't included the pollution in the manufacturing of the vehicles. This 'cost' can pay for itself over the life of the vehicle - but remember that EVs are still responsible for a lot of pollution in the manufacturing stage.

You make it sound like petrol or diesel has no place our societies. That is simply not true. Electric vehicles could not supply all our daily consumables that we all depend on. I love electric vehicles, but I think it will be more convincing for everyone it you acknowledge the limitations
06/01/2006 22:07

I like EV!
05/31/2006 2:30

This is very success to far and I alawys have a dream to creat a self-generating engine that dont need to run by a battery but run by itself with muilti-accelators, like a normal fuel car. Beleive me this will happen and it will safe the world from pollution and oil wars.
05/04/2006 11:39

why can't they come up with a battery to start and a huge alternator to keep the electric car going without have to keep pluging in to recharge battery ?
05/03/2006 10:43

A good way to get to using all electric vehicles would be to establish an EV (Electric Vehicle) lane on the freeways and other major roads. This EV lane would have power lines above it, so the vehicle could use electricity off the grid (just like the trolleys or light rails). We can design electric cars easily & cheaply that will go 30 to 50 miles between charges, use the electric grid power to extend the amount of possible driving.

Start in the cities - where most people drive - since it would be MUCH cheaper to drive in the EV lanes, many people will purchase the ALL-ELECTRIC cars for their commute car. Use a pre-paid card to get billed for the appropiate electric bill (and road taxes), and people will purchase the electric vehicle when the EV lanes go where people need to go. After all who wouldn't LOVE to back to $50 of transportation energy usuage a month instead of the current $200.

We have all the technology we need RIGHT NOW!!! We just need some company or goverment to put it all together.
04/29/2006 23:54

I don't think hybrid type gas electric cars will do the job when it comes to alternative solutions. The current hyrbrids add to the "addiction" of oil. When you have automakers creating hybrids, you're basically going to end up paying for gas because the hybrids need it. Let's be realistic, we know damn well that electric cars can do the job in freeing us from oil. Engineers know this. They're not stupid. They weren't born yesterday. Billions of dollars goes into R & D and we only get a gas battery car? C'mon, something is wrong with this picture. Remember those radio-controlled cars we used to play with? Well they hold the key to the problem of how to extend battery life in an electric car. THINK BIG.
04/26/2006 2:25

hommie g
04/19/2006 7:30

this is so-o much better that posting a bullitin on myspace yo
04/19/2006 7:30

u wish, ho
04/19/2006 7:29

o trust me tabi does like a kid named matthew slut
04/19/2006 7:28

tabi wishes she liked a kid named matthew
04/19/2006 7:28

tabi likes a kid named matthew
04/19/2006 7:27

Like I've said before, Californians need to also count the large amounts of pollution crossing the ocean coming from china. I mean wind does blow you know, and that means air pollution too!
04/16/2006 20:16

correction below ----http: trillions.topcities.com----
is wrong instead try--http: trillions.topcities.com----
04/14/2006 15:22

E-Mail:jackmarchand at hotmail.com
April 14, 2006--6:08 pm Those EVs suggested below (half an hour ago)
will in the future be designed also to interface and enter my "dual mode maglev" concept originated way back in the sixties and now being revived by professors in Washington among others and claiming it their idea.That concept is also in my Topcities Web Page mentioned below.
04/14/2006 15:17

Electric cars are coming with one size(and voltage)standard exchange battery selected by DOTs of all countries and all EV auto makers complying to it will be the direction we're going in a couple of years. General Electric and many others will own the stations and the batteries. In one minute the batteries, front and rear' will be removed and replaced with recharged ones. A scanner reads the mileage you ran with the previous spent battery set and charges you 3 cents per mile before you leave. With your EV vehicle with an electric motor in each wheel no more maintenance is required other than replacing a coil in the wheel if one ever burns out you still drive home and you can replace it yourself in your own garage in minutes.
A "Solectria" EV went from boston to N.Y.C. 235 miles on one charge and used four dollars worth of energy. I.E. one and a half cent per mile. With two batteries you can double that range before relacing them in one minute at the next electric swap station. That refueling is just as simple as getting gas today. For more info visit this web site----http: trillions.topcities.com----it also contains other possibilities for our future needs---truly--jackmarchand at hotmail.com

04/14/2006 14:11

teahers are nincompoops
02/16/2006 15:42

02/14/2006 16:26

farting is fun
02/14/2006 16:25

say sit while holding your tungue
02/14/2006 16:24

Yankees stink Red Sox rule
02/14/2006 16:22

Great web site
We really need to get electric cars in the main stream. The technology is here, but the big auto makers need to hear this. Electic-only cars would be a great asset to most families for most around town type of trips. Edmonton Alberta Canada
02/08/2006 10:57

01/31/2006 16:06

a clown pooped I mean sat on the road.
01/31/2006 16:05

butter in a haystack

01/31/2006 15:49


01/31/2006 15:49

stupid site
01/31/2006 15:47

01/31/2006 15:46

01/31/2006 15:43

01/30/2006 18:22

I have an argument that I haven't yet seen expressed, so I'll use your page to do so. I was previously sceptical about electric cars as an answer, both because I thought the only transfered the problem elsewhere, and because I won't think the only problem of our car dominated world is emissions, and I am sympathetic with the with the ideas of those who are in favor of a car free world. But the big big advantage I see with electric cars even if they are not the ultimate answer is that they could pave the road toward much lower use of cars by being much more compatible with pedestrian and cycle traffic. Our present high dependence on cars breeds on itself, when it isn't pleasant or even healthy to be a pedestrian in it. Where I presently live there is no way to get to the center of town without breathing car fumes and listening to car noise the whole way. This often tempts me to take the car when I really should take the bik. My take is that if all those cars were electric, it would be a lot more pleasant to bike or walk, so a lot more people would do it, and we would have a fighting chance on reducing or dependence even on electric cars. My ultimate vision is that perhaps we could cut it down to joint ownership of one or two electric cars per several households to use on the occasions when human powered or public transport doesn't make it. Ideally I would like to use only bike and train for my transport, but living in an where it rains every other day has taught me a bit more realism. My point is that we should see electric cars as not a total answer or an excuse to continue the car dominated world that we have, but for their advantage in being compatible with pedestrians, and thereby ultimately allowing us to break the chain and ultimately put themselves mostly out of business.
07/30/2005 13:39

AC Propulsions T-Zero and SCION conversion electric vehicles are super clean. Using lithium batteries with ranges of 100,200 or 300 miles per charge. If you charge from a solar grid tied home like me your very clean even for the electricity.
Jim Stack jstack6 at juno.com
05/14/2005 13:22

Nice site
06/24/2003 8:34

This is a good informational page. You should update it to include statistics from the year 2000. What are you predictions for the amount of people that will have electric cars in the future?
06/24/2003 8:33

In response to the question of how many people drive electric cars, thousands do and many more would if more EV's were available to meet the demand. There is a waiting list in California to lease or buy Toyota Rav 4's. I drive an electric car and the smooth, quiet ride is addictive. My regular gas car sits in my garage with the tires slowly sinking and the battery usually dead because I cannot force myself to drive the gas-guzzling, boring thing. The electric car has a great acceleration curve, easily travels freeway speeds (80 miles an hour) and only costs about $30 a month in electricity. Also, no moving parts, no maintenance.
01/16/2003 23:01

Tell me about the facts about the exhaust of the cars and how it affects the atmosphere. Tell about what the good parts are about the car and how it barely pollutes.
10/22/2002 5:56

Argentina rules. Mando un saludo gigantesco de parte de Danny para mi vida, Maria Sol Martinez. Very nice site.
08/28/2002 9:50

nice site.
08/28/2002 9:49

Great info but some graphs wouldn't go astray
08/07/2002 18:54

get some damn pics....
05/28/2002 9:07

Really informative and useful site for my studies, thank you
05/17/2002 12:38

Has anybody noticed that the people who post messages in disfavor of environmentalist "wacco"-ism sound generally uneducated and can't spell?
04/08/2002 21:28

My concern is low level CO exposure. I have a site at http: www.copoisoning.com the air pollution problem is so big that nothing ever gets done. People cannot comprehend it. So I decided to focus on just one part, low level CO exposure. My site is not complete yet... But I am working on it.
03/19/2002 14:09

02/26/2002 5:44

I'd Just like to say thanks

01/14/2002 16:59

Thank you very much for this information. It will be crucial in a hypothetical alternative vehicle design project.

Environmentalists should not be looked at as some kind of "wackos." How is having foresight about the future and respect for everything instead of only oneself a negative characteristic? In my opinion, being a greedy capitalist with materialistic motives is not a good thing. Just because the majority of people are does not mean environmentalists are "wackos."
11/18/2001 14:39

opulent fools. wipe your a** with a leaf

04/09/2001 11:00

emissions from refineries are concentrated in low-income areas, and contribute to the illnesses in central city. Regulators mostly live in rich areas, don't seem to care about those choking in refinery smog so that they can drive their big, fat SUV and mercedes
02/28/2001 5:29

my name is ryan thomas and how many people really drive electric cars?
email colaboy49@hotmail.com
02/10/2001 18:59

Its probably a nobel task to talk about the pollution problems with gas cars, but any talk of this quickly goes to the realm of environmentalest wacco. Why don't we just talk about the concept of the electric vehicle and its new technology and not go down the other path. By doing this, the end will be what all this discussion is about, but all the negatives don't have to be brought up. Also, instead of just talking about it why doesn't someone start producing an EV that does the things that everyone needs in a vehicle. Of course if we leave it up to the big car manufacturers that are making money with their current products why would we ever expect that things will change unless their forced to by the government. I would rather someone start producing the product and let the market detrmine if it will work instead of the govenrment forcing them too. If the products sell, you know they will follow. The same thing happened with the higher gas mileage cars i.e. they made them and they sold. We're now reverting back some with the big SUVs, but that's because that what is selling.
01/19/2001 12:09

It's a fact, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION into ECONOMICS won't go...and wealth is what most people care about.

17.01.2001 environmental student
01/17/2001 7:42

We are constructing a dedicated CNG commutor vehicle to take advantage of our CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) home filling stations---It incorportes a variable range hydraulic drive system and should get 60+ miles per therm. about .50 per therm (therm = 100,000 btu) (gallon of gasoline = 140,000+ btu) If anyone would like to Know more about a clean vehicle system that is developed and tested and ready for mass production please contact me.


John Green
Email greenj@efn.org
12/30/2000 15:08

This also doesn't include the emissions from the refineries, but those are probably quite low on a per-mile basis.
04/11/2000 9:47

This does not even include the cost of oil spills, monitoring for them, and the cost of losing the land to refineries, many of them along the coast.
03/04/2000 0:45

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