Poor air quality is the result of the unique geography of the Salt Lake Valley coupled with pollution generated from transportation, industry, and buildings. "Mobile sources" of air pollution (like vehicles) are a major contributor to a certain type of pollution known as particulate pollution, or "PM 2.5", emitting 48% of Utah’s criteria air pollutants (the most harmful types of air pollution). By transitioning our traditional polluting vehicles to cleaner, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars, we can tackle a big part of Utah’s air quality problem. According to the Department of Energy
EVs convert up to 80% of the energy stored in their batteries to power the vehicle. Compare that to the 14 – 26% of the energy stored in gasoline being converted to power an internal combustion vehicle. According to a 2013 analysis conducted by SWEEP and Utah Clean Energy "all electric" vehicles produce 99% lower emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 95% less sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, 76% less nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions as compared to a new gasoline vehicle. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles reduces emissions significantly as well.In addition to air quality benefits are the greenhouse gas emissions reductions from EVs. A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists
finds that the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from EVs are at least 50% less than comparable gasoline vehicles. The emissions associated with manufacturing EVs are slightly higher than gasoline vehicles, but once in operation EVs contribute significantly less emissions. The reduction in emissions from operating an EV can make up for the emissions from manufacturing it in as little as one year. After its useful life the battery can be reused or recycled, further reducing the climate impacts of EVs when compared to gasoline vehicles. You can read the full report
here, and you can compare EV emission with gasoline vehicle emissions with this calculator from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
It is also important to point out the synergy of combining EVs with renewable energy, and in particular rooftop solar. When the electricity that charges your EV comes from solar energy you're essentially driving carbon free. In addition, they both shorten the payback period on the initial investment for both the vehicle and the solar installation. You can read more about the benefits of combining solar and EVs here
.In 2014 the U of U brought U Community Solar to members of the campus community. U Community Solar offered a streamlined process, access to expert advice, pre-screened solar installers, and a substantial discount on the upfront costs of solar. Nearly 400 households installed a total of 2 megawatts of solar through the program! U Community Solar will be returning to the campus community in 2016, and hopefully powering some new EVs purchased through U Drive Electric. You can read more about the second round of U Community Solar here