Live @ Sunrise: Electric Vehicles Plugged into the Power Grid
The United Auto Workers union has less than 48 hours before their contract with the big three auto companies in Michigan runs out. At the bargaining table, auto companies have argued that profits need to be invested in expanding electric vehicle processes.
The push for electric has expanded in recent years. Several states have declared intentions to be 'gas free' by 2035 on the roads. The federal government offers electric vehicle (EV) tax credits and investing in charging infrastructure.
Excitement for evolving technology is always matched with doubts though. One question that surfaces looks at how actually environmentally friendly EVs are. Electric Vehicles are charged on the power grid, but doesn't the power grid itself run on fossil fuels?
The Energy Information Administration says fossil fuels generate 60% of U.S. electricity. Nuclear generates 18%, and renewable energy sources make up the other 22%.
One advocacy group says that as is, electric vehicles are still cleaner.
"If we take power from our grid today anywhere in the US and use that to power an electric vehicle, the total life cycle emissions are going to be less than using the equivalent for a gasoline vehicle," said Rob Altenburg, senior director of energy and climate at Citizen's for Pennsylvania's Future. "No industrial operation has no impact on the environment, but electric vehicles have a lower impact across the board than gasoline vehicles."
That lower impact does factor for the carbon emissions from manufacturing EV batteries. One MIT study published in 2019 compares the carbon emissions of the average gas car to electric vehicles, with gas cars averaging 350 co2 grams a mile while electric vehicles average 200 co2 grams a mile.
The margin will increase if future power grid investments increase renewable energy sources to generate power.
Altenburg also shared that most of the year the power grid has unused potential, past those extra hot and extra cold days. He says using the grid to charge EVs is using infrastructure that already exists.