7 Valuable Reasons Electric Cars Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Electric Cars are Part of Our Sustainable Future

Electric cars are a crucial part of America’s sustainable transportation future, given their potential to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, especially when connected to an electricity grid increasingly powered by renewable energy.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how electric vehicles are part of a sustainable future and why the carbon footprint of electric cars is lower than gasoline-powered vehicles. 

Measuring Your Electric Car Carbon Footprint

In 2000, after global warming began to get more notice, a spokesman for a Texas electricity marketer told The Seattle Times, “It’s essential to reduce our environmental footprint, and at this point in our world’s history, reduce our carbon footprint.”

It’s quick and easy to calculate your carbon footprint–in other words, your contribution to global warming.  

Multiple resources are available online to help you understand your carbon footprint and see how your travel emissions factor into its total output.  

We prefer to use Carbon Footprint calculators, CFPCs,  from accredited sources like the CoolClimate Network’s CoolClimate Calculator at Berkeley. Calculating how much your electric car carbon footprint differs from a gasoline-powered vehicle will help you better visualize your impact on the planet.

Your Contribution

The entire Carbon Footprinting process takes just a couple of minutes; you answer a series of relatively painless questions based on your lifestyle. From there, the CFPC estimates your emissions of annual CO2 usage from household energy (electricity, natural gas and other fuels), transportation (motor vehicles, air travel, other), food, goods, services, and total emissions for U.S. zip codes, cities, counties, and states. The dataset also includes benchmark estimates of kWh electricity, terms of natural gas, gallons of fuel oil, and vehicle miles traveled. 

An Unpleasant Surprise

Many people may think it’s easy to reduce their carbon footprint or that they live a relatively green lifestyle. However, you’ll often be surprised by the results once you actually use a calculator. 

For example, I was confident that having solar panels on my roof would give me a smaller-than-average footprint; I was wrong.   

There are few things worse than discovering that you’ve been carrying a misconception in your mind, depending on how deeply you believed it.  I felt like I had stepped on my doctor’s scale expecting good news and discovered I had gained 50 lbs; the 50 lbs really being the extra 50 tons of CO2 emitted yearly. 

First World Problems

What if I told you that if you live in the suburbs, it’s most likely that the largest portion of your carbon footprint is your transportation and the fuel you use in your car is the largest portion of the contribution from your transportation?  

In my case, the ‘Car Fuel’ portion of my Carbon Footprint was 2 to 3 times larger than any other portion of my Carbon Footprint. Therefore, the carbon footprint calculator’s first suggestion was to purchase an electric vehicle. 

This conclusion may not seem obvious, but there are many reasons why it’s helped reduce my footprint along the way. So here are seven ways that you can lower your carbon footprint with an electric vehicle and how it can improve your life. 

10 Tips for Sustainable Travel

1. EV carbon footprints are lower

An Electric Car emits less C02 than its internal combustion engine counterpart during operation and it has zero tailpipe emissions.  In fact, an average gas car emits 280 percent more carbon per mile than an electric vehicle.

While there are some truths that an EV comes with higher upfront emissions, these emissions are greatly offset over time by the reduction in gas required by these vehicles.

2. EVs have fewer maintenance costs

Electric Vehicles have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engine cars. There are no pistons, spark plugs, oil changes, transmissions, exhaust systems, etc.  

Lacking these high-maintenance components means that the costs of running an Electric Car is limited to mostly tires and brakes, lowering the carbon footprint usually incurred with gas or diesel-powered engine requirements.  Also, brakes tend to last longer since most Electric Cars use regenerative braking. Regenerative braking uses electric engine braking power to stop the vehicle instead of using friction brakes.

3. Electric cars rely on domestic energy

Plugging your Electric Car in at home avoids using overseas oil and the creation of the resulting petrodollars.  

Your electricity, even if it’s sourced from burning fossil fuels, is generated domestically. Also, as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are improving the sustainability of the grid,  adding a solar array to your home or business combined with an Electric Car can dramatically shrink your carbon footprint and improve your cash flow.   

Overall, an electric car charged with renewable energy emits no carbon per mile, or a “zero carbon footprint.”

4. Your electric utility charges less off-peak

Electric Utilities must maintain electric grid stability while managing their costs. Utilities do this by keeping their biggest power plants online 24×7.  

Lower Time of Use electricity rates, (TOU), encourage their customers to use electricity ‘off-peak.’  Therefore, electric car owners can program their cars to take advantage of these TOU rates to save money.  Also, some utilities offer significant programs and incentive plans for Electric Car owners.

5. Fuel costs significantly less per mile

Gas cars are 8 to 11 times more expensive because a gas engine is an inefficient way to power a car.   

Electric Cars motors deliver nearly 100% of the power of the motor directly to the drive shaft.  On the other hand, gas-powered engines must convert chemical/thermal power to mechanical power.  During this conversion, the combustion engine loses almost 70% of its energy.

These losses also include radiant and conductive heat, transmissions, exhaust, and even noise and vibration. None of these losses occur in an electric engine, and the Electric Car is lighter without the extra components.  

In sum, an electric engine is 90 to 95% efficient compared to a 33% efficient gas engine, meaning the EV carbon footprint is far more efficient.  

6. Carbon emissions from electric cars will be less than gas-powered vehicles in 3.5 years.

Electric Car manufacturing creates about twice the carbon emissions as a gas car.  However, carbon emissions from annual gas car operations quickly exceed the totals for an electric car.  

On average, this takes only 3.5 years and is only improving with time!  

To calculate this, we use a simple formula: C02 from Gas Car Production + Annual C02 from Gas Car Operation*Years = C02 from Electric Car Production +Annual C02 from Electric Car Operation*Years.

This is where Years = Time for Electric Car to Offset C02 Emissions.  It also depends on the mix of power in your area or if you have renewable energy.*  Offset Years = [C02 from Electric Car Production – C02 from Gas Car Production] / [Annual C02 from Gas Car Operation – Annual C02 from Electric Car Operation].  Offset Years = [C02 Prod Diff]/[C02 Annual Operation Diff] = [27.5-10]/[6-1] = 3.5 years

Additionally, if you sell your old car and buy a new 30 kWh battery Electric Car, the Electric Car will be greener in less than 5 years–in terms of emissions.

Suppose you take two people, both driving the same old gas car, and one of them sells today and buys an Electric Car. In this case, the one with a newer car will produce fewer emissions over time.

7. Vehicle 2 Grid Integration

Bi-directional charging could help stabilize the grid by using connected Electric Car batteries.   

Electric cars are coming with larger and larger batteries. However, the average private owner uses only about 5% of their battery on a daily basis.  This means that the average battery on wheels is underutilized for the vast majority of its useful life.  However, new technology is emerging to support Bi-Directional Vehicle to Grid Integration, the key V2G capability is that the vehicle can also discharge its battery’s electrical power back to the grid.  V2G combines the concepts of the 3 EV Charging Scenarios below to improve grid stability and efficiency, this saves money for the EV Owner and creates a potential for modest revenue!

Here are some ways EVs can impact the efficiency and stability of the electric grid and how V2G, Vehicle to Grid Integration can allow EV owners to improve both of these grid factors.

EV Charging Scenarios:


Peak Demand

When EV Owners charge their batteries during periods of peak electricity demand, (late afternoon/early evening), this increases Peak Electricity consumption forcing Grid Operators into using expensive peaker plants to compensate, this scenario could hurt grid stability and efficiency.

Peak Solar

If EV owners choose to charge their batteries at times of intense sunlight and peak solar electricity generation then grid operators can use that EV demand to avoid potentially ‘dumping’ excess power generated by solar at that time of day off the grid, this scenario helps operators maintain grid stability and increase grid efficiency.

Time of Use

EV owners can take advantage of Utility Time of Use (TOU) rates, having a significant differential between on- and off-peak periods, incentivizing charging when electricity costs are relatively low and allowing EVs to be charged considerably cheaper per mile than the equivalent amount of gasoline. This scenario helps operators maintain grid stability and increase grid efficiency while saving EV Owners money.


Vehicle to Grid

In the V2G scenario the EV Owner charges their battery during PEAK SOLAR periods or during cheaper TIME OF USE periods when demand is low. During periods of PEAK DEMAND Owners could allow their EV batteries to act as virtual mini peaker plants, this means they discharge to the grid to offset some of the electricity purchased from expensive peaker plants and potentially putting some money in the EV Owner’s pockets.

EVs Are Key to a Cleaner Future

Let’s discuss our personal responsibility for global warming. 

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely one of the 70% of Americans that believe human beings are responsible for global warming. That also means you believe you have your own personal contribution–your metaphorical climate change dragon of your own creation–that you need to overcome.  

Isn’t it time to take responsibility for our contribution since it’s very simple to measure your carbon footprint?

Shifting to consuming an EV’s carbon footprint means you don’t need to make drastic lifestyle changes to make a difference anymore. Instead, new technology has enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint while living in luxury. 

The only question now is whether you are willing to take the leap. 

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