Question: Why is it environmentally better to drive a electric car than a gas powered car, as the electricity to charge the car comes from fossil fuel burning power plants?


It's not always cut and dry. But there are huge economies of scale when generating power in a central power plant. Domestic coal v. imported petroleum. Point-source pollution v. putting power plant well away from population. Some pollution is easier to mitigate in a boiler/power plant than in an internal combustion engine. Some of the electricity could come from wind, nuclear, hydro, etc.

But it's a fair question, as things that seem environmentally friendly on the end usage often involve environmentally degrading things upstream. A quick ramp up in electric vehicles would require a quick ramp up in electric power plants. Hugely expensive and time consuming. If it is done wrong, then the climatic impact could still be a net negative, though pollution in urban areas would be reduced. Clean air is nothing to scoff at.

So it's not a simple answer or a single answer, really. Don't know whether it's a good answer.

James Neff, Physics, College of Charleston