Environment Virginia was nice enough to invite me to contribute to their press event yesterday where they unveiled their report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution.” Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia’s Campaign Director, coordinated the event with contribution also from Michael Phillips, Program Coordinator for Virginia Clean Cities. The event was held at Solar Services in Virginia Beach in front of the two EV chargers Solar installed back in 2010.
As one would expect, Environment Virginia tackles advocacy of electric vehicle (EV) adoption from the perspective of climate change and air quality improvements. The report cites a potential reduction in CO2 emissions of 18.2 million metric tons (the equivalent of 2 billion gallons of gasoline savings) per year by 2025. This assumes all 50 states adopt similar Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programs already undertaken by 10 states in order to achieve a total of 13 million vehicles on the road by then. It also assumes that stronger state and federal policies will enable 25% of all US electricity generation at that time to come from renewable sources in order to exceed the US Energy Information Administration’s current modest forecast of 15%. This underscores an interesting vision about EVs. If we can convert the 250 million discrete points of emissions (vehicles) to ZEVs, we would centralize and reduce the number of emission points to about 7 thousand (power plants); a more manageable number to clean up.
The report also delves into the health issues related to vehicle emissions estimating that car exhaust causes 53,000 premature deaths per year. Statistics for a reduction in asthma cases and days missed from school and work should EVs be adopted in a big way are also presented. Around the US, 20% of people live within 1,600 feet of high-traffic roads and are exposed to vehicle air pollution causing more deaths than power plant pollution.
One interesting topic within the report is the estimated life-cycle emissions from today’s oil sources. Oil extracted from tar sands releases more pollutants than conventional oil. A case study by the National Resources Defence Council for the Northeast states estimates that if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, well to wheel emissions from light-duty vehicles in that region could increase by 16% in 2025 compared to gasoline from conventional sources. The report includes a section dedicated to the methodology used in Environment Virginia’s calculations as well as footnotes on their many references.
Driving Cleaner is a well put together report addressing the benefits of EVs from the environmental perspective. Though it does not mention the many other performance and ownership benefits of EVs, it does provide statistical meat to the green theme. It’s a shame that it takes the growing threat of climate change to compel us into vehicles that, based on all their positive attributes, we should be riding in anyway.