We all know by now that electric cars are great for the environment for their lack of emmissions, but a surprising new study has found that, at least on the East Coast, electric vehicles actually create more air pollution than regular gas-powered cars.
The study compared the air pollution created by gas and electric cars by looking at county-level statistics of total pollution. Researchers found very contrasting results between the West and East Coast.
While a raw comparison of an electric vehicle and gas-powered car will clearly show that the electric vehicle is more eco-friendly, the point of where that electric vehicle gets its electricity when it charges becomes an issue.
Stephen Holland, a co-author of the study, told CityLab that in terms of power generation, “It just turns out the West is a lot cleaner than the East.”
The graph below compares the amount of car pollution from gas cars (on the left) and electric cars (on the right) across the United States, where green is low pollution while red is high pollution.
In the Midwest and East Coast, power is still generated with coal power plants while electricity is generated in cleaner ways on the West Coast. The study further explains:
“Gasoline vehicle damages are large in Los Angeles (due to the large population and properties of the airshed) but electric vehicle damages are small (due to the clean Western power grid).”
So while an electric car’s pollution output really comes from where and how its charging electricity is generated, if someone on the East Coast powered their electric car with solar panels, they would be much cleaner than someone who drives a gas car.
Don’t worry Tesla fans, Elon Musk’s cars will always be better for the environment (assuming we find cleaner ways to generate electricity).