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Can Driving an Electric Vehicle in Alberta Lower Greenhouse Gases?

Alberta has a fossil fuel dominant electricity grid but overall, Alberta’s electricity comes from a variety of multiple sources including solar, natural gas, wind, and hydroelectric. Even with a grid largely powered largely by fossil fuels, electric vehicles (EVs) do produce less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than gas-powered cars. There is no argument to be had there.

A recent Simon Fraser University study found charging an EV on Alberta’s power grid reduces fleet average GHG emissions intensity by an outstanding 41%. This is not an insignificant number and those concerned for the environment should keep it in mind. As the Alberta grid continues to add more renewable energy combined with low-carbon generation, the GHG emission reductions from driving an EV will only increase over time.

Additionally, the lifecycle GHG emissions of EVs, including manufacturing, driving use, and disposal, are also pointedly lower than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

BloombergNEF recently stated that “EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, but still have associated emissions from manufacturing and usage.” When looking at all emission causes, Bloomberg estimated that driving an EV a total of 27,000 kms, or the equivalent of about 1.5 years, will offset the manufacturing emissions alone.

The burning of fossil fuels produces chemicals and GHG emissions. These pollutants adversely contribute to air pollution and climate change. The only GHG emissions connected with EVs are from the generation of electricity. As we mentioned, some of Alberta’s electricity does come from coal. However, Alberta is quickly repositioning its electrical grid away from fossil fuels and moving towards a greener approach. Here is some food for thought: every day a gasoline car is driven, it gets slightly less efficient and in turn, pollutes a little more. EVs just get better for the environment as the supporting grid improves. How can you complain about that or doubt whether you are making the right choice for the environment by buying an EV?

EV batteries are comprised of Lithium-ion, which is exactly the same type of battery used in smartphones, laptops and pretty much almost all rechargeable household electronics. Fortunately, Lithium-ion batteries are 90% recyclable. There are a number of organizations who are looking into repurposing used EV batteries as second-life energy storage units.

When you compare the complete life cycle of an EV to a traditional gas vehicle, from the manufacturing process, through operation, to end of life, EVs produce only about half the GHG emissions as a comparable gas vehicle.

For more information on the EV life cycle, visit the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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