Sure, we all want to be nice to Mother Earth, but let's be real — if you live in Middle-of-Nowhere, Vt., you're going to need a car to get around. If you want the cleanest, greenest vehicle on four wheels, you'll want an electric car, right? In Vermont that's the case, but in other states ... maybe not!
In fact, there are only 11 states where an electric car is better for the environment than a high-efficiency gas hybrid, and Vermont is one of them, according to a new study by Climate Central. Here, the best electric car emits as much carbon as a gas-powered car that gets 2600 miles per gallon. Good luck finding one of those.
What's the difference? When your car is powered by the grid, it matters where the grid gets its juice — because what's the point of a plug-in car if it's plugging into mountaintop removal? Vermont is the only state in the nation that doesn't get any electricity at all from coal or natural gas sources — here it's all nuclear, hydropower and a little bit from "other renewables."
And due to their batteries, electric cars generate more carbon emissions than plain old gas-powered cars during the manufacturing process, meaning that electrics start life with a "carbon debt" that gets slowly paid off as it's driven — the more you drive, the more carbon friendly an electric becomes. Since Vermont is getting its electricity from low-carbon sources, plug-ins here pay off that debt earlier.
But even in Vermont, an electric vehicle isn't always the most climate-friendly option. The all-electric Honda Fit is your most carbon-friendly option after 100,000 miles in Vermont, but if you're only driving your car 50,000 miles, the Earth is better off if you drive a Toyota Prius Plug-In hybrid.
Moral of the story: Your electric car is pretty carbon friendly here in the Green Mountains. Just don't bring it to Kentucky.