A study published by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found that on a per-mile basis electric cars were on average worse for the environment when compared to their gas-run counterparts.
The study concluded that on average per mile, electric cars were half a cent worse for the environment than gas-powered vehicles.
The environmental effects of the different vehicles depended largely on where they were driven. In urban areas, electric vehicles performed better, while the opposite occurred once the cars left the city. In Grand Forks, North Dakota, electric vehicles were 3 cents worse for the environment per mile, while in Los Angeles, they performed 3.3 cents better per mile.
The authors of the study believe that this is an important distinction, especially when taking into account the federal government pays a $7,500 subsidy for every electric car purchased.
“Because electric vehicles, on average, generate greater environmental externalities than gasoline vehicles, the current federal policy has greater deadweight loss than the no-subsidy policy,” wrote the authors in their study.
A purchase of an electric vehicle did lower air pollution in 38 states, though electric vehicles at the same time, “Over ninety percent of local environmental externalities from driving an electric vehicle in one state are exported to others.”
This is due to the fact that the electricity for these vehicles frequently comes from power plants that run on coal.
The authors wrote that, “Rather than simply accepting the assertion of environmental benefits from electric vehicle use, this paper conducts a rigorous comparison of the environmental consequences of gasoline and electric powered vehicles, specifically by quantifying the externalities (both greenhouse gases and local air pollution) generated by driving these vehicles.”
They believe that a per mile tax of vehicles would be a much more efficient approach to curbing carbon emissions, then the current government approach.