Tesla may be the catalyst driving electric cars. But just about every car maker in the world is developing either an all-electric car or a hybrid vehicle that runs on both electricity and petroleum. That’s good news for the environment, especially as such vehicles approach price parity with traditional ones.
As electric cars continue to improve, so do the efficiencies — or the ability to input a unit of energy and to realize more output. In fact, traditional cars running on an internal combustion engine have a 30 percent efficiency rate. The rest is lost to heat, sound and energy. Just refining a gallon of gasoline takes 7 kilowatts-hours per gallon, says Thor Hinckley, an electric vehicle and renewable energy expert with CLEAResult, a consulting specializing in energy efficiency.
But vehicles that run on electricity have an 80 percent efficiency rate, or they convert 80 percent of those Btus to energy, he explains. The efficiencies are greater because of the superiority of the electric motor over that of the internal combustion engine — not because one unit of energy is better than another.
“With an efficiency difference that great, anything will be cleaner than burning gasoline,” says Hinckley. Obviously, burning a Btu of wind, solar or hydro is cleaner than burning the same unit of coal. But even if coal is used to generate the electricity to drive the car, he says that emissions are 20-30 percent less than a comparable vehicle running on petroleum. That’s huge.
Read more: Forbes