Driving An EV In North Dakota Isn’t Great For The Environment — But Only For Now

2011-nissan-leaf-plugged-into-an-evgo-quick-charging-station-texas_100346303_mThere are a number of misconceptions about electric vehicles. Like the battery is toxic and the mining for battery materials is destructive, so the cars aren’t great for the environemt (not true — they have a comparatively minimal environmental footprint and the batteries can be recycled or repurposed).

Or these cars are just for bigshots and celebrities like Brad Pitt (not true — lots of cheap lease deals out there, and the Nissan LEAF is under $20,000 in California after incentives).

Or electricity is a dirty fuel, too, so you’re not really helping the environment by switching to it from gas.

Okay, that last one is actually partially true. In states that are heavily dependent on burning coal for electricity, you’re better off driving a hybrid, if all you care about is air pollution. But those are just about eight states in the upper plains, like North Dakota and Iowa. And it’s still good to drive an EV there, just not great. Meanwhile, everywhere else it’s an environmental slam-dunk.

But even better news: given the improved efficiency of the vehicles, with longer range and better technology, coupled with coal power being swapped out for natural gas plants and more renewables, the environmental equation for electric vehicles is getting better and better.

As Green Car Reports noted late last year, a recent Union of Concerned Scientists study has upgraded the numbers to show significant improvements across the country. In states like California, EVs get the equivalent of almost 100 miles per gallon, while in “bad” states with coal, the numbers are 35 to 39 miles per gallon and getting better.

So in a few years, as prices come down, more of us will be able to do that cross-country all-electric drive for cheap — and without environmental guilt.


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