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  • Writer's pictureGraham Harris

Yes, even in Alberta, an electric car makes good environmental sense.

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

An electric car charging on-street in Okotoks
Charging Firefly GHG's EV in the Town of Okotoks

Everyone knows that Alberta has a “dirty” electricity grid. So, in our province, an electric car can’t actually make good environmental sense unless you also invest in solar panels as well, right? Actually, no. Even though Alberta has the most GHG emissions intense electricity grid in Canada (due to our continued reliance on coal for a substantial portion of our power generation), an electric car still makes good environmental sense.

Let me walk you through this using a personal example. I have just realized a long-held ambition and bought an electric car: a used 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV. With a battery range of around 120-130km, its perfect for my lifestyle as almost all of my journeys are around the city. In exchange, I sold a 2014 Toyota RAV4 AWD. Let’s run the numbers and see what impact this switch has made.

To do this, we need to know the fuel economy of the vehicles, the emissions intensity of the fuels used, and compare them across a standard distance.

We’ll take our fuel economy information from the US EPA’s helpful website. Looking it up, it’s easy to see the Toyota has a fuel economy of 11.3 L/100km. By comparison, the Spark has a fuel economy of 17.4 kWh/100km.

Now, looking up our GHG emissions intensity from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s most recent National Inventory Report we can work out that the GHG emissions released from a litre of gasoline are around 2,317 grams of CO2e; the GHG emissions from a kWh of grid electricity consumed in Alberta are 800 g.

Now, this means that for every 10,000km travelled, the Toyota released 2.62 tonnes CO2e; the Spark, by comparison, only 1.39 tonnes CO2e – almost half as much.

But this is not really a fair comparison of how electric vehicles in Alberta perform – after all, the Spark is a much smaller vehicle than the RAV4. So, let’s compare apples to apples and run the numbers again comparing the 2015 Spark EV against a 2015 Spark Gasoline. Again consulting the US EPA, we can see that the gasoline version of the Spark has a fuel economy of 8.56 L/100km. For every 10,000km travelled, it thus releases 1.98 tonnes CO2e. So, the electric version is still reducing GHG emissions by 30%!

This is not to mention the other environmental benefits from using an EV (principally, that it does not have an impact on local air quality as it releases no tailpipe emissions, but also that they’re quieter!)

Of course, the change could be smaller or larger depending on what vehicles you are comparing. But this does show that an electric vehicle can make a substantial contribution to lowering your personal or fleet carbon footprint, even in Alberta, and even without the additional investment in solar panels.

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2 comentarios

Graham Harris
Graham Harris
25 ene 2020

Thanks for your comment, James. The Spark EV gives me a kWh/100km every journey, and also tracks my average. The kWh/100km in the summer was indeed much lower than the EPA numbers - with many journeys below 10 kWh/100km. By contrast, when it hit -20 degrees C and I was having to run my heater the kWh was much, much higher! Right now, it's saying my average over the last 3-4 months (winter) is around 17 kWh/100 km, so I believe my real-world, year-long average will be substantially less than the EPA estimates.

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James Bererton
James Bererton
24 ene 2020

EPA is not a great source for real world fuel economy. After having owned the Spark EV for sometime now, have you performed any real world mileage calculations to determine how many kWh/100km? I read some sites which report only 11.8 kWh/100km on average over 20,000 km. That would make a big difference in your calculations above. Other skeptics point to the entrained carbon in the lithium ion batteries, while that does take a few years to offset, in the end the EV is still far less environmental impact. The local air quality when living and breathing the air in a densely populated (by fossil fuel vehicles) city can hardly be understated more.

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