Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why all-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf don't have a great carbon footprint in the Midwest -- not yet, anyhow

Watching a Nissan Leaf Slurp Down Some Volts at Isthmus Green Day It was fun watching the Leaf, Nissan's entry in the all-electric car derby, slurping down some volts in the Monona Terrace exhibit hall Saturday. It was accompanied by a very enthusiastic evangelist who showed an iPhone app that displayed the rapidly growing number of recharging stations. He enthused about how it could recharge as we spoke, drawing no more current than the light bulb overhead. He talked about a short trip he took with a lot of downhill braking, and how the regenerative braking system left him with more power than when he started.

 I thought it would be rude to point out to him that, in this part of the country, the Leaf actually doesn't have a very good carbon foot print -- not nearly as good as hybrids and no better than a gas-powered Corolla. That's because so much of our electric power is generated by burning coal. The New York Times report at the link details how the Leaf's carbon footprint varies by region, based on how green the electric power is in the region. In much of the far west and parts of the east and southeast, all-electric is definitely the way to go. But not in the Midwest, for now. Of course, as old dirty power plants are replaced by cleaner energy sources, the carbon footprint of electric cars will improve here, as well.

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