The Wall Street Journal says electric vehicles are better – but underestimates how much
April 7, 2021 - A recent Wall Street Journal article answers definitively YES to the question of whether electric vehicles are really better for the environment. But even this strong endorsement of electric vehicles underestimates just how good these cars, trucks and buses will be for our climate and air.
The article reports findings from researchers at the University of Toronto. The researchers compared vehicle emissions for a 2021 Toyota RAV4 and a Tesla Model 3. The study is clear that operations are cleaner for electric vehicles. With each mile driven, the electric vehicles’ environmental performance outpaced gasoline-powered cars, quickly wiping out the slightly higher production emissions for electric vehicles.
Even with a relatively dirty fossil-fuel-based electricity generation mix and metal-intensive battery materials, this study – which looked only at a snapshot of technology as it is today – found that electric vehicles break even with gasoline-powered cars at about 20,000 miles of lifetime usage. And that break-even point is getting lower quickly, as electric vehicle technology accelerates faster than a Polestar with a tailwind.
The Wall Street Journal article finds that gasoline vehicle emissions are 77% higher than an electric vehicle powered by a national average generation mix at the 100,000 mile usage mark. It doesn’t explain, though, that the average car in the United States will be driven about 11,100 miles per year for 9.5 years – totaling more than 105,000 miles. It also doesn’t explain that light, medium and heavy duty trucks are driven much more than cars, meaning even more emissions benefits. The article also compares greenhouse gas pollution, ignoring the significant health and environmental benefits of eliminating cancer-causing exhaust from our children’s school grounds and crowded urban areas.