One of the most significant trends affecting molded plastics in the next five to ten years will be growing efforts to lightweight vehicles. The single biggest driver will be the push toward electrics to meet demanding new mileage mandates.
But do electric cars really have a beneficial impact from a carbon footprint perspective? Belching coal plants account for a significant share of America’s electric output.
A new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists seems to shed light on the issue.
Not surprisingly, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of an electric vehicle depends on the source of fuel used to generate electricity where the car is driven. In brief, the argument to switch to electric vehicles is weak in the mid-section of the United States where generation by coal dominates. This is a geographic area that goes from the Dakotas to (ironically) Michigan, and down through Oklahoma.
The environmental case for electric vehicle is strongest on the West Coast, where “clean” fuel sources dominate. The situation is also favorable on the East Coast from Maine through South Carolina. A gasoline-powered car would have to attain 74 miles per gallon to have the same greenhouse gas effect as a Nissan Leaf in New York City.
As the nation trends toward more use of natural gas and less use of coal, the argument for electric vehicles slowly gains.
Another factor working in favor of electric vehicles is improving battery technology. And another is the impetus to green light carbon composite automotive research projects, such as the collaboration just announced between Ford and Dow.