As gas prices rise, the popularity of electric vehicles is rising worldwide. Is Upstate New York a Green Region for EVs?
Yes, New York and New England are two of the best places to live in the United States if you’re considering recharging a battery-powered car.
Eric Hittinger, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said, “Upstate New York has the cleanest electric grid in the country.”
Hydropower and nuclear power are the main sources of electricity in the state, Hittinger said, along with some natural gas, wind and solar.
“About 90 percent of our electricity comes from carbon-free sources,” he added.
Upstaters can drive an EV and feel pretty good that the electricity is as clean as possible, but what about the myriad of batteries that have to be manufactured to run EVs?
The production of batteries is a complex process, requiring raw materials from all over the world to manufacture them.
The lithium for the batteries is mined in Australia, Chile, China and many other countries. Cobalt helps prevent the batteries from catching fire. The Democratic Republic of Congo produces nearly 70% of the world’s mined cobalt, and about 80% of that cobalt is shipped to China to make lithium-ion batteries. For example, China controls the existing battery supply chain.
How can EVs have zero emissions when so much fuel is needed to mine the minerals and produce the batteries?
The Argonne National Laboratory at the US Department of Energy in Illinois developed a model that calculates the lifetime emissions of vehicles. Reuters analyzed Argonne’s data and found that the production of EVs generate more CO2 before the first wheel turns.
However, the total CO2 footprint of gas-powered cars is greater than that of electric cars after driving 15,000 kilometres. So after about a year, the EV will compensate for the greenhouse gases released into the environment during production. But if your EV is charged with electricity from a coal-fired grid, it will take about five years to offset the greenhouse gases emitted during both production and charging.
Hittinger explained emissions as follows: “Electric vehicles – mostly because of batteries – have a larger carbon footprint from day one. However, everything we buy and use has a carbon footprint.”
Food, toys, electronic devices, cars, there is some kind of ecological footprint to grow or produce all those products. EVs consume a lot of energy during production, but over time an electric vehicle has a much lower carbon footprint.
“If the emissions from using a vehicle are close to zero, like in Upstate New York, you reduce your overall carbon footprint significantly, even if the production of an EV is slightly higher to begin with.” Hittinger added.
Beyond lithium: are alternative battery chemistry in the offing?
Nissan Motor recently announced that it is partnering with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to make a solid state battery which can be fully charged in 15 minutes, instead of a few hours.
Hittinger said: “There are many other battery chemistries that could be used, but the batteries would be heavy and less performing. In the long run, there are some other chemistries, but that’s more twenty years down the line.”
Should your next car run on batteries?
The decision to buy an EV is a very personal one. Cost can be a limiting factor for some, and it can still be difficult to go on a long-haul ride in an EV.
“Except Tesla, because it has a pretty good fast charging network — there are Tesla chargers all over the US — and a Tesla owner can charge their car in about thirty minutes at a rest stop,” Hittinger said.
EVs are in such high demand right now, consumers are on months-long waiting lists†
Electrek.co reports that many Tesla models in the US will be sold out until 2023, even after Tesla’s price hikes.
“There is currently artificial price inflation for EVs because demand is so high.” said Hitter.
There is an alternative. Hybrids are in less demand than full EVs. They are also cheaper and you can still save money on gas depending on where you drive.