EVs Have One-Sixth the Climate Impact of Internal Combustion, But Only in Canada. (Pity.)
Canada’s relatively green electricity grid makes it ideally suited to slash greenhouse gas emissions by rapidly adopting electric vehicles, a B.C. research group contends.
After reviewing jurisdictions across North America, the Sechelt-based 2 Degrees Institute determined that “thanks to the contribution of hydropower to Canada’s grid, it has seven of the top 10 locations in North America for the introduction of EVs,” JWN Energy writes.
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Roughly a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions currently come from transportation—a sector that includes aviation and marine transport as well as heavy trucking and light cars and trucks.
While electric vehicles don’t directly run on fossil fuels, their climate footprint reflects the source of the electricity they do run on. The United States derives 32% of its power from coal and another 29% from natural gas. Canada gets more than 60% from hydro, and some provinces like Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia produce “virtually all” from that source.
As a result, “only California and some New England states come close to approaching the low-carbon footprint of B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island,” JWN reports. Six EVs will be able to drive the roads in those provinces with no more climate impact than one gasoline-powered car.
Even in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where fossil-fired generation is expected to operate longer, electric vehicle use still results in lower overall emissions, the researchers determined, because big, centralized, power plants are more efficient than the “miniature, inefficient, fossil fuel power plants” under the hood of every gas or diesel vehicle.
The falling price of electric vehicles, bolstered by national policies in China and elsewhere, is widely expected to trigger a tipping point in their popularity in the next decade. The federal government and several provinces have instituted incentives to expand electric vehicle charging networks.
The climate benefits of EV’s don’t come immediately, since the emissions incurred to build them and equip them with batteries “aren’t realized until a vehicle has been driven for the first 11,000 to 37,000 kilometres, depending on the nature of the local grid,” JWN notes.
But thereafter, said Ryan Logtenberg, one of the authors of the 2 Degrees study, “an electric vehicle will produce much lower emissions than a comparable gas vehicle.”
At least in Canada.