Posted: 09 Aug 2015 12:15 AM PDT
On the environmental benefits of electric cars:
Figure 1. County-level environmental benefit
There are a few exceptions in the east, e.g. places like Atlanta in which the large population implies severe damages from gasoline cars so that electric cars have a small positive environmental benefit in spite of the dirty grid. Aggregating to the level of the state, the environmental benefits imply an electric vehicle purchase subsidy ranging from $3,000 in California to -$4,500 in North Dakota. On average, the implied subsidy from operating an electric vehicle is -$750. Although this analysis does not incorporate life-cycle benefits, the large differences in benefits across places suggest that whether or not an electric vehicle generates environmental benefits is critically dependent on local conditions.
Figure 2a shows the increase in particulate matter pollution associated with driving a fleet of gasoline vehicles in Fulton County Georgia. Most of the pollution is concentrated on the few counties in the immediate proximity. Figure 2b shows the increase in particulate matter pollution associated with driving a fleet of electric vehicles that are charged in Fulton County. The resulting pollution is distributed throughout the entire east coast and in fact most of it occurs outside the state of Georgia. A similar story occurs throughout the country. We determine that over 90% of damages from non-greenhouse gas emissions from driving an electric car in one state are exported to other states. In contrast, the figure is only 18% for gasoline vehicles. In the majority of states, driving an electric car makes that state's air cleaner, but leads to increases in pollution in other states to such a degree that the overall environmental benefit from vehicle operation is negative.
Figure 2a. Increase in PM2.5 from driving gasoline cars in Fulton County
Figure 2b. Increase in PM2.5 from charging electric cars in SERC region
So should electric vehicles be subsidized for environmental reasons? The results in Michalek et al. (2011) and in our recent work suggest that it is difficult to justify a large uniform subsidy based on environmental benefits alone. In some states the subsidy should indeed be large and positive, but in others it should be large and negative. Of course, this conclusion may need to be revisited in the future as the electricity grid becomes cleaner.
Michalek, J, M Chester, P Jaramillo, C Samaras, C Shiau, and L Lave (2011), "Valuation of plug-in vehicle life-cycle air emissions and oil displacement benefits", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108: 16554-16558.
Li, S, L Tong, J Xing, and Y Zhou (2015), "The market for electric vehicles: Indirect network effects and policy impacts", working paper, Cornell University.
Holland, S, E Mansur, N Muller, and A Yates (2015) "Environmental benefits of electric vehicles?", NBER working paper w21291.
1 See Table S-25. The life-cycle environmental costs of an electric vehicle (BEV240) are $4,668. The lifecycle environmental costs of a gasoline vehicle (CV, excluding the oil premium of $1,284) are $3,517.
Posted: 09 Aug 2015 12:06 AM PDT
|You are subscribed to email updates from Economist's View |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States|