Online Program

Carbon dioxide emissions indirectly generated from United States plug-in electric vehicles

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ashley Mapou, MS, PhD (c), Environmental & Occupational Health and CSCBRE, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ
Derek G. Shendell, DEnv, MPH, Environmental & Occupational Health and CSCBRE, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ
Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are marketed as zero-emission alternatives reducing air pollutant emissions like greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Coal and natural gas are the largest contributors to the electric power sector, making up about 45% and 24% of power generation, respectively; they are the main sources of electricity for consumers charging their eco-friendly vehicles like PEVs from the local grid. Combustion equations for coal, methane and gasoline were used to analyze the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by PEVs and cars (with average fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) as of 2010) to estimate if PEVs generate less CO2. Based on recent federal regulations, new vehicles powered by gasoline will have to average 35.5 mpg by 2016; therefore, if the average vehicle is driven 12,000 miles per year, the current fleet will emit 10,680 pounds of CO2 per vehicle and new vehicles will emit 6,600 pounds of CO2 annually. Considering the number of kilowatt hours to power a PEV, consumers plugging into a grid powered by a coal plant to charge PEVs will generate about 14,235 pounds of CO2 annually while grids powered by natural gas will emit approximately 4,400 pounds of CO2 annually. Given coal currently makes up a larger percent of electric power sources compared to natural gas, PEVs may be responsible for a larger amount of CO2 emitted. Future regulations should consider the type of power plants generating electricity for PEV charging to quantify the total CO2 emissions generated by these vehicles correctly.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify and describe indirect carbon dioxide emissions generated by plug-in electric vehicles. Compare gasoline powered motor vehicle emissions and power plant emissions associated with charging an electric vehicle. Identify a gap in regulations and data pertaining to zero-emission vehicles and increased power plant emissions of greenhouse gases implicated in climate change.

Keyword(s): Climate Change, Air Pollutants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I obtained a Master of Science degree in the field of Environmental Technology and took many courses focusing on emissions from sources like power plants and motor vehicles. I am now pursuing a doctoral degree and have taken additional coursework to increase my knowledge of climate change topics and air pollution.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.