Electric Road Trip

What's the carbon footprint of EVs in states? Meet our calculator

We are excited to unveil a new feature of the Electric Road Trip: a state-by-state comparison of climate impact.

This chart tackles two big questions. What are the emissions of a gas-powered car versus an electric car? And how do the emissions of an electric car change from state to state?

The Electric Road Trip is in a unique position to answer these questions. We are traveling and charging across 17 states in an electric car in the months of September and October. As we travel, we track how many kilowatt-hours of electricity we gather from charging sessions in each state. Creating electricity itself creates emissions — emissions that change drastically state by state.

Meanwhile, we're also comparing these numbers to the emissions for an average car with an internal combustion engine. (Here's a closer look at our gas versus electric and state versus state methodology.)

Look at the chart. It covers the first seven states of our trip, from Texas to Kentucky. There's a few main things to notice. One is that the blue bar (a gas car's emissions) are always higher than the green bar (our electric car's emissions). No matter how "dirty" a state's electricity supply is, the carbon emissions are always lower with electricity than gas.

You'll notice that the bars for different states are often very different in height. That's a reflection of how many miles we covered. We drove a lot more miles in Texas than, say, in North Carolina.

The final thing to notice is that the difference in height — the delta — between the green and blue bars changes from state to state. If the blue bar towers over the green bar, then that state has a cleaner electric grid, generating power from lower-carbon sources, like wind, nuclear, hydro or solar. If the two bars are closer together, that state burns more natural gas or especially coal, which delivers more carbon pollution to the atmosphere.

We will be updating this chart with new states as they roll beneath our wheels.

Last year, the gasoline and diesel fuel that American motorists, truckers and fleet operators burned in their vehicles released just over 1,000 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most if not all of that will have to be cut in order to keep the increase in the planet's average temperature below the targets of the Paris climate agreement.

Our Electric Road Trip is saving pounds of CO2, which is nice. But, as with America's vehicle fleet, it is not nearly enough to prevent warming of the atmosphere.

The Electric Road Trip will keep updating you of this long journey over the weeks ahead.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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