New Electric Options for Drivers Looking to Cut Carbon Emissions

July 30, 2019 | 4:10 pm
Photo: Dave Reichmuth
David Reichmuth
Senior Engineer, Clean Transportation Program

Electric vehicles can significantly reduce the emissions from driving by substituting increasingly cleaner electricity for gasoline. At UCS we’ve been tracking how the difference between gasoline and electric car emissions have been changing and where in the US has the lowest electric vehicle emissions.  In 2018, UCS updated our estimates of the carbon emissions of electric vehicles with latest electricity data and now we’ve updated our vehicle emissions calculator with the latest models to reflect the carbon emissions savings from these new vehicles.

UCS’s electric vehicle emissions calculator shows the carbon emissions from different models across the country.

More options for super-efficient electric vehicles

The emissions of the Tesla Model 3 “Standard Range Plus” edition now match the Hyundai Ionic Electric for the lowest per mile carbon emissions for any passenger car in the US. On the cleanest grid in the US (in upstate New York), driving the Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus is equal to a (hypothetical) gasoline car that gets 257 MPG, even including the emissions coming from electricity generation. Put another way, a fleet of 10 of these efficient electric vehicles would have the same emissions of one average new gasoline vehicle.

And the Model 3 isn’t alone: the new Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro Electric join the existing BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq, and Volkswagen eGolf as vehicles that have 60 MPG emissions equivalent or better for two-thirds of the US population.

New plug-in SUV options: significantly lower emissions than the gasoline alternatives

In addition to smaller vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 and Kia Niro, we’ve also added new plug-in SUVs to our calculator. These larger vehicles do require more electricity to use than the average electric vehicle, but still have considerable carbon emissions savings compared to the equivalent gasoline vehicle. For example, the new Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid SUV driven in California has emissions equal to a 47 MPG gasoline car, while the gasoline version gets 29 MPG. And the all-electric Audi e-tron SUV has emissions equal to an 80 MPG gasoline car when driven in California, less than a third of the emissions of a similar Audi gasoline SUV (Audi Q5 or Q8).

Plug-in vehicles like these SUVs are critical to increasing the number of electric cars on the road (and decreasing emissions), because many new car shoppers are looking for SUVs and crossover vehicles. And having more manufacturers like Subaru and Audi means that shoppers not only have more size options, but greater consumer choice while being able to pick electric.

About the author

More from David

David Reichmuth's work focuses on analyzing new vehicle technologies and advocating for policies that support the increased electrification of transportation. Dr. Reichmuth has testified at hearings before the US House of Representatives, the California State Legislature, and the California Air Resources Board, and he is an expert on California’s Zero Emission Vehicles regulation.