Electric Vehicles Have Little Impact on U.S. Emissions

In a modeling study, researchers at North Carolina State University found that, even if electric drive vehicles (EDVs) made up 42 percent of U.S. passenger vehicles by 2050, there would be little or no reduction in the emission of key air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen oxide.

One reason for this: some of the benefits of EDVs—a catch-all term that includes hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles—are wiped out by higher emissions from power plants. In addition, passenger vehicles make up only 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, limiting the potential impact of EDVs in the first place.

Babaee, S. and J.F. DeCarolis. 2014. Environmental Science & Technology doi:10.1021/es4045677.