In Canadian provinces that rely heavily on coal generation, electric cars generate more greenhouse gases over their lifetimes than gasoline vehicles, University of Toronto civil engineering professor Chris Kennedy told CBC’s The Current earlier this week.
“If you’re living in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Nova Scotia, an electric car does not make you green?” asked host Anna Maria Tremonti. “You’re better off filling up at the pump?”
“You’re better off filling up at the pump,” Kennedy replied. “Or if you really want to go for something greener, you should be buying a conventional hybrid car.”
In a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, Kennedy estimated carbon emissions per gigawatt-hour of electricity at close to zero for hydroelectric, nuclear, and renewable electricity, 500 to 600 tonnes for natural gas, and 1,000 tonnes for coal.
“For a given country or province, if average emissions were under 600 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatts-hour, then switching from conventional to electric cars, buses, and trucks would lead to a reduction in carbon emissions,” CBC reports. But “the take-home message is actually for governments in some Canadian provinces and other countries: That they need to get their average emissions below the 600-tonne threshold so they can benefit from technology like electric cars.”