EPA Limits Role Electric Cars Will Play in Automakers' Emissions Averages

The Environmental Protection Agency may have finally placed its new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rulings into effect last week, but it also addressed how electric vehicles will impact an automaker's average emissions figure.

Since they produce no emissions and consume no fuel during operation, electric vehicles have the potential of dramatically skewing CAFE and emission averages. To prevent companies from building swarms of EVs and neglecting to improve their other vehicles, the EPA ruled that through 2016, only 200,000 EVs could be incorporated into averages as "zero-emission" vehicles.

Following that, the agency is moving to assign some CO2 impact figure to all electric vehicles. Although they don't create pollution on the road, the agency argues that producing the electricity needed to charge the cars typically does.

"These vehicles, despite their name, do produce emissions," Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told USA Today. "They just don't do it at the tailpipe."

Albeit true, automakers -- especially those planning on shifting sizable percentages of model mixes to electric vehicles -- aren't too happy with the decision. Some argue it punishes automakers for utility companies' emissions, and may give automakers less incentive to produce clean vehicles. Regardless, expect a lengthy debate to ensue.

Source: USA Today

If the EPA is going to ascribe upstream pollution to EVs, then to be fair, they will need to consider the prodigious upstream pollution from the extraction, shipping, refinement and distribution of petrol.The plug-in vehicles will mostly start on the west coast where the grid mix is much cleaner than the country as a whole. Will the EPA take this low carbon mix into account, or will they use the national average? Many early adopters of EVs will use renewable energy to power their cars. How will this be accounted for?

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