NC State Study Says Electric Cars Don't Reduce Emissions


NC State

The state that tried to make accurate predictions about sea-level rise illegal is at it again, making more bone-headed statements through its academic mouthpiece, NC State University. The latest round of crazy-talk comes courtesy of a study that claims electric drive vehicles (a catch-all term used to cover EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids) don’t reduce emissions compared to their oil-burning counterparts- even if EDVs made up 42 percent of passenger vehicles in the US, there would be little or no reduction in the emission of key air pollutants because: power plants.

“There are a number of reasons for this,” says Dr. Joseph DeCarolis, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State. “In part, it’s because some of the benefits of EDVs are wiped out by higher emissions from power plants. Another factor is that passenger vehicles make up a relatively small share of total emissions, limiting the potential impact of EDVs in the first place.”

NC State is not only located in one of the most politically-conservative states in the US, but is one of the most conservative schools in that state, to boot. Without making an overt ad hominem attack on the university and the academics on its staff, I think it’s fair to call the results of any of the college’s environmental studies dubious, at best.

In other news, people who aren’t stupid- like the guys in charge of the US Military and the people at the American Lung Association and the doctors at the World Health Organization– are pushing new policies that not only improve America’s air quality, but save Americans money. Policies like the Renewable Fuels Standard, which North Carolina’s dips*** politicians are actively working against.

What do you guys think? Is the NC State study a ridiculous shill-piece sponsored by the GOP that ignores the life-saving success of solar and wind power in places like Texas, or do they have a point? If you think they have a point, let us know what flavor your window is in the comments, below.


Source: NC State, via PhysOrg.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • B. Jerew

    you made me choke when the image loaded. HA!

  • LOL. 😀 When I saw: ‘NC’ in the title I knew i’d have to be wary about the study’s motives.

    • Missed you at Detroit, amigo.

      • Yes. I wanted to meet you, but couldn’t find you.

        I met Chris DeMorro, though. I couldn’t find him without calling him and asking where he was, though. That was such a large building. 😀

        • I was probably in a rotten mood, anyway. DeMorro was starving me out.

  • UKGary

    Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with the NC state assertion that electric vehicles have little effect on overall emissions, I have to say that the issue is more complicated than many people realise.

    A major factor not mentioned in the discussion is the cradle to grave emissions of the vehicle – hybrids for example often use Aluminium bodies, two drive systems, and rechargeable batteries so may have high embodied emissions.

    The climate impacts of acquiring the materials used and integrating them into a car are likely to be higher than for conventional cars in many cases – which then results in a need for the vehicle to travel a considerable distance before total net emissions match the conventional car.

    On some estimates, lifetime cradle to grave emissions for early Prius models were thought by some to possibly exceed non-hybrid competitors. Hopefully, more recent models have lower embodied emissions so more quickly pay back higher initial emissions during manufacture.

    One thing not in question is the impact of electric vehicles on urban air quality – in which regard they are clearly beneficial regardless of their embodied emissions or source of the electricity used to power them.

    • 100% it’s more complicated than people realize, but most people also assume (or, should, at least) that there is a possibility for improving with EVs. We can source electricity from tidal generators, wind turbines, solar, etc.- all of which are renewable, low (or zero) emission generators. The NC assumption that we’re just moving the fossil fuel out of the car and into the power plant is a basic, fundamental error in both reasoning and observation … and I would expect nothing less (more?) from the school as a GOP mouthpiece.

    • B. Jerew

      according to a study by renault, electric vehicles are cleaner, even when you involve lifecycle emissions…

  • Edsel Ford

    But its a “New” study, it must be true.

  • Senlac

    Gee, can you hook a IDC auto to a solar array on your roof. Nope! The problem is the grid is still basically carbon energy like coal and gas. So the goal is to make the grid greener, and as it gets greener, EV’s make more sense. Not to forget even at the current energy mix EV’s are more efficient since their battery to wheels verse tank to wheels has a higher efficiency. EV’s are 80-85% efficient where IDC are less than 20%, loosing 2/3 of the energy content in heat alone. These guys who do these studies have their heads in the sand, like most Climate Change deniers.

    • As I said above, the difference is that EV’s *CAN* be better, and whether or not they currently are is irrelevant. To restate: we *CAN* source electricity from tidal generators, wind turbines, solar, etc.- all of which are renewable, low (or zero) emission generators. The NC assumption that we’re just moving the fossil fuel out of the car and into the power plant is a basic, fundamental error in both reasoning and observation

      • Senlac

        🙂 would the tail waging the dog analogy work here. Indeed the NC guys clearly to not get the plan.

      • Agreed. The main reason I am for electric vehicles is that electricity can be generated from clean sources, as well as any other source as a backup. If there is a fuel shortage, EVs can use any other fuel in the mean time, anything that can burn.

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  • topkill

    And once again, NC proves it has one of the leading supplies of assclowns in America 🙂

    • That’s PROFESSOR Assclown to you, buddy! LOL!!

  • beernotwar

    It stands to reason that EV’s are only as clean as the sources of energy they use to recharge. In my home state of Washington we use primarily hydro power and I’ve got solar panels on my house to boot. My EV is a lot cleaner than my previous diesel-burner. In a place where coal is the only fuel used for generating power it’s probably not much different. Except that it’s easier to manage emissions from a single point source than from a million tailpipes. And the power plant is probably not in a busy downtown area where EV’s can make a difference in air quality over ICE’s.

    And as UKGary points out, EV’s will get cleaner as our grids do. Renewable-energy power plants are coming on line in many places and every indication is they will continue to do so. As that occurs people using EV’s will do more and more to eliminate carbon and other emissions. We need a revolution in transportation and EV’s are one step in the right direction.

  • lad76

    Of course it you use a coal plant to gen up the electrons for a grid, it creates more pollution; but, that’s true of anything that uses electricity from that particular plant. All LEDs that use only power from dirty coal plants are the chief polluters of the light bulb world, etc.

    So, this study uses a dirty power plant as the only source and doesn’t consider clean energy sources on average. This study is by it’s nature a LIE. How much did special interest pay you for the study? Well!, you just sold out the credibility of your University as well as yourself. In the future, I for one will believe any studies from NC State are biased and flawed.

  • joel14481

    My 2013 Prius has a rechargeable “tractor” battery that recharges while I drive. It doesn’t have to be plugged in ad operates independently of any power grid.