2014 Chevrolet Spark (Photo credit: GM)

Electric cars are getting more efficient, making them cleaner than the most efficient hybrids in most parts of the country, according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“Electric vehicles are doing more and more to fulfill their technological promise,” said Don Anair, research director for UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “If we want to reduce transportation pollution and oil use, a big part of the answer is to be like Bob Dylan and go electric.”

Anair said that 60% of Americans now live in regions where electric vehicles (EVs) produce fewer heat-trapping global warming emissions per mile than the most efficient hybrids. In 2012, that number was just 45%. 

Anair’s update to UCS’s 2012 report "State of Charge," finds that automakers are producing more efficient EVs. The average battery electric vehicle sold over the past year, for instance, uses 0.325 kilowatt hours of electricity per mile, a 5 percent improvement since 2011.

The improvement in efficiency means that the average EV continues to achieve lower global warming emissions than the average new conventional gasoline vehicle no matter where a U.S. driver lives, and is the best choice for reducing global warming emissions for the majority of American drivers.

“The amount of electricity you use to power a toaster oven for about 20 minutes can move a 3,000 pound electric car more than a mile,” Anair explained. “Automakers are making continued progress squeezing more range and performance out of their EVs.”

Regional differences

PhotoThe analysis finds that electric vehicle performance improved in nearly every region. Texas and Florida both jumped from a 48 miles-per-gallon equivalent to 51 mpg while Arizona and New Mexico also made gains, going from a 49-mpg equivalent to 53 mpg. Those states, along with their coastal neighbors, are now home to EVs that can beat any hybrid on the market when it comes to reducing emissions, according to UCS’s analysis.

Additionally, the Midwest grid, which covers several states in whole and some in part, went from a 39-mpg to 43 mpg equivalent, meaning EVs there are as clean as some of the best hybrids on the market.

In California, EVs achieve the equivalent of 95 mpg. By contrast, EVs in Colorado produce the same amount of emissions as a 34 mpg car, the weakest regional performance in the analysis, but still better than the average new gasoline-powered compact, which is rated at 28 mpg. Residents of New York State enjoy the best EV performance, achieving the equivalent of 112 mpg.

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