So, it turns out that making electric cars, is worse for the planet than driving one according to the Russian President Vladimir Putin – and he may be right.
“That’s why a motor fuel such as natural gas, in our view, is ultimately much more environmentally friendly than electric cars,” he said during a Moscow energy forum on Wednesday.
Here, Putin is definitely referring to CNG cars which is an alternative to petrol fuelled cars. Just for the sake of clarity, we will call these petroleum cars. CNG may be a less proven technology, but businessman like T. Boone Pickens and Putin can agree that it might be the car of the future, of course for environmental reasons.
When electric vehicles are concerned, Putin does make a point..
“[Putin] is right that each electric vehicle is charged with the energy mix that is [available] at a certain time,” said Liana Cipcigan, a researcher at the Institute of Energy at Cardiff University, in an interview for inverse.
Although, there might not be an exhaust pipe on the electric cars, they must generate emissions from somewhere.
Cipcigan pointed to this 2013 graph from ShrinkThatFootprint that shows how driving an electric vehicle in various countries has a different effect on the environment:
The graph that shows how different countries generate electricity.
Although the data is old, it points that in Russia, it’s better and more environmentally friendly to do so than let’s say in the US, UK or Germany. If you flip the chart, you can use it to do the math and the calculate the fuel economy for an electric car:
The above chart shows that sometimes, an electric car produces about the same emissions as a petroleum car. In places like the United States, it’s like driving a good hybrid car. But in many countries, driving an electric car is better than driving a hybrid.
One place where electric wins hands-down, though, is Russia.
What about natural gas? While most cars gets around 32 miles per gallon on average, a CNG vehicle can reach 43 miles per gallon on average. That’s better, but it’s still not as great as the 57 equivalent miles per gallon you’ll get from driving an electric car round Russia.
Of course, it’s hard to take these figures and apply it to a single electric vehicle. These figures will vary on a number of factors, including location inside a country. While around 10 percent of United States energy comes from renewables, in the state of California that figure rises to 29 percent, with a further 12 percent coming from large hydroelectric stations. In the United Kingdom, Ecotricity offers an electric vehicle charging network of around 300 stations guaranteed to offer zero-emissions charging.
Depends on the car itself though. The US EPA gives each car a miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) number just to determine the efficiency.
To give credit to Elon Musk though, he is aware of the factor. The Tesla Model 3 – which was the company’s entry level vehicle, claims that it can go 126 MPGe if you combine highway and city driving which does beat the 2016 Nissan Leaf and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.
If you want to transform the world, and make it run on renewable energy, it won’t matter too much if people drive in petroleum cars.