Yes, even in Alberta, an electric car makes good environmental sense.
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
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.