What's true when you're driving electric in Michigan?

EVs are becoming more popular in the mitten state, and that means there’s more opinions and ideas to sift through. Here’s a rundown to help you know what’s true and what’s false.


False: EVs aren’t that good for the environment- the emissions come from power plants instead

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While it’s true that Michigan’s electric grid is not as clean as, for example, California’s, the carbon and pollutant emissions from most gas-powered cars are still higher than those coming from EV use. The Union of Concerned scientists’ State of Charge report shows that driving an electric vehicle in Michigan has as much impact on the environment as driving a car that gets 38 mpg. This number will only increase as our power grid reduces its carbon emissions by over 30% as mandated under new regulations from the federal Clean Power Plan.

Studies also estimate that we could reach 100% renewable energy generation by 2050, mostly through a mix of wind and solar power, if we power past political and social opposition.

...in fact...  

True: Your electric vehicle can run emission free

Many EV owners have also already made investments in their own home solar systems, bringing their EV’s emissions closer to 100% better than a comparable gasoline vehicle. Community solar projects provide another way you can plug your electric vehicle into home-grown solar power (though indirectly).  Learn more at the Ecology Center’s website.  

False:  Don’t EV batteries take more energy to produce and cause more pollution than they save?

You have to look at this question in three ways. Cars take energy to make, to drive and to dispose of. EVs do emit more carbon during the manufacturing process because of their batteries, but that’s not the whole story. If you compare the lifetime emissions of an electric vehicle to that of a gas powered vehicle, the EV still wins. That’s primarily because the emissions you save while driving tend to make up for the difference- and then some. Once a car has reached its limit, EVs and traditional vehicles are pretty much the same, with EV batteries being highly recyclable. Old EV batteries are increasingly being re-purposed for use as stationary storage batteries for renewable energy, thus extending their life for another purpose.  

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ most recent State of Charge report takes an in-depth look at this question, if you’re interested. 

False: EV drivers don’t contribute to roads repairs, because they don’t have to pay gas taxes.

Road repairs are actually funded by a combination of gas taxes and registration fees, and EV’s do pay the latter. A Built by Michigan analysis found that due to their higher sticker price, electric vehicle owners actually contribute more in gross revenues to the state than their gas-powered counterparts. Their higher purchase price means they pay higher registration fees and sales taxes, offsetting most if not all lost gas tax revenues.  Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature has chosen to increase fees even more for electric-powered vehicles--an additional $100 for most pure EV’s, and $30 for plug-in hybrids (like the Chevy Volt). So in addition to helping clean our air, reduce greenhouse gases and create new jobs in the the state’s advanced auto and electric battery industries, EV owners will now also contribute more to fixing the state’s roads than other vehicle owners.  


True: Michigan has a growing electric vehicle economy

The next gen 2016 Chevy Volt and all-electric 2017 Chevy Bolt are being built in Michigan, as well as the current Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Focus Electric. The LG Chem advanced battery factory in Holland has produced over 1 million battery cells for cars like the Chevy Volt. Even Tesla has invested in Michigan’s manufacturing prowess. From the Livonia’s A123 Systems to research initiatives at many Michigan universities, it’s all set-up to happen here in the auto state. We just need strong state and local policies to keep pushing this key industry forward.

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Photo by Flickr user Ian Muttoo via Creative Commons license. Modifcations made by Built by Michigan include changing the hue of the original photo.