Study: Cars can’t match electrics on ef­fi­ciency

Gas-run ve­hi­cles would need to av­er­age 55.4 mpg

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY - From Staff Re­ports

DE­TROIT – If you pre­fer gaso­line power over a fully elec­tric ve­hi­cle, you’ll have to buy a car that’s a lot more fuel miserly than the one you’re prob­a­bly driv­ing now if you want to try to match ef­fi­ciency.

A new study by the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Trans­porta­tion Re­search In­sti­tute finds that gas-pow­ered ve­hi­cles need to av­er­age 55.4 miles per gal­lon in the U.S. in or­der to pro­duce fewer green­house gas emis­sions than a bat­tery­elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

That’s be­cause even most elec­tric cars aren’t oil or coal free. Their bat­ter­ies are charged by elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated at power plants, which of­ten are fired by oil or coal.

The dis­par­ity be­tween elec­tric ve­hi­cles and con­ven­tional gas-pow­ered cars de­pends on what is used to make the elec­tric­ity that charges a bat­tery. In coun­tries where coal or oil is king, gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity for a full charge cre­ates more car­bon diox­ide emis­sions than in places where hy­dro­elec­tric power, for ex­am­ple, is the main source.

Gas-pow­ered cars sold in the U.S. have a long way to go to match electrics. The mileage lead­ers among sub­com­pact cars in the U.S. are the Ford Fi­esta SFE and Toy­ota Yaris iA at 35 mpg in com­bined city and high­way driv­ing, the U.S. En­ergy De­part­ment and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency say.

Hy­brids, those ve­hi­cles with gas and elec­tric power plants that work to­gether, do bet­ter.

In weigh­ing the im­pact, Michi­gan re­searchers Michael Si­vak and Bran­don Schoet­tle also con­sid­ered the im­pact of ex­tract­ing and trans­port­ing the raw ma­te­ri­als for ei­ther elec­tric­ity or gaso­line pro­duc­tion.

The study looked at only fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles, which are known as bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles — not plug-in elec­tric hy­brids — vs. gas-pow­ered cars.

Si­vak and Schoet­tle re­viewed data for 143 coun­tries, find­ing wide dis­par­i­ties in those values. Al­ba­nia, which pro­duces all of its elec­tric­ity from hy­dro­elec­tric power, was at the high end of what a gas ve­hi­cle’s mpg would need to be to beat a fully elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

At the other ex­treme were Gi­bral­tar and Botswana, where elec­tric­ity is pro­duced from ei­ther coal or oil. The study re­lied on data from the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists and the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency.

The study did not con­sider the im­pact of man­u­fac­tur­ing the ve­hi­cles but did note that the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists has found that build­ing a mid­size fully elec­tric ve­hi­cle re­sults in 15% higher emis­sions than build­ing a mid-size gaso­line-pow­ered ve­hi­cle. Larger bat­tery packs push that gap to 68% higher for full-size ve­hi­cles.

FORD MO­TOR COM­PANY

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