As reported in Autobloggreen, the EPA has announced it will allow the first 200,000 units of a given manufacturer's EVs sold as zero emission for the purpose of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE). After that milestone is reached, the EPA will start assigning pollution credits based on the pollution from generating the electricity that powers the car. Regardless of how many units sold, after 2016, all EVs will be assessed some level of pollution. The reason this is important is because the carmakers have to hit a CAFE standard of 34 mpg by 2016. If they count the pollution from the generation of the electricity, then more of their gas cars will have to be smaller. A good thing for society, but not necessarily what the dealers want.
This idea has merit, but only if implemented fairly.
How do you compute the amount of pollution generated from coal and natural gas? Do you take the national average for a kilowatt hour of energy? I've read it's just over one pound of CO2 per kWh. Or do you allow for regional variation? California is among the best in terms of per capita efficiency and a low CO2 grid, and we'll be the first state to mass adopt EVs. Oregon and Washington have an even cleaner grid and will match CA in per capita EV ownership. Seems only fair to allow for our cleaner grid in the calculations.
Not knowing how the EPA will come down on this question, I'd like to make an observation and suggestion.
According to the Brussels based Global Wind Energy Council, 37.5 gigawatts of wind energy were installed last year, bringing the total world capacity to 157.9 gW. The U. S. share of that was about 10 gW last year. This is enough to generate approximately 30 billion kWh each year. The average EV will use about 4,000 kWh per year.
That new wind alone is enough to power over 7 million EVs!
The wind and solar industries are going to be installing more gigawatts of capacity each year for the foreseeable future, so I don't see how the auto industry will ever build enough plug-in cars to catch up to the new renewable energy capacity.
And add to this 6.4 gW of solar energy from PV (worldwide). That's another 2.5 million EVs. And it's even more valuable energy since it's generated during peak demand.
Therefore, we can make the argument that the renewable energy being installed each year will far outpace new demand from plug-in cars, probably for decades to come.
Lastly, and this is very important, if the EPA deigns it necessary to count the upstream pollution from generating the electricity, then by all rights it should count the upstream pollution from extracting, shipping, refining, and transporting the oil that competes with electricity. To cap it off, be sure to include the electricity used to pump it into the tank at the gas station. All of this energy use creates vast waste and massive pollution and absolutely should be accounted for.
It's called a level playing field, and it's the American way!