General Motors announced with great fanfare last week that its new Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon. Not to be outdone, Nissan quickly announced that its new electric car, the Leaf, will get 367 mpg. If you believe that, we have a couple of auto companies in Detroit to sell you.
The car companies are using the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft methodology to figure out their fantastical mileage numbers. The hitch is that mpg estimates measure the efficiency of engines that run on petroleum. In an era of electric cars — when vehicles supposedly won’t be propelled by gasoline-powered internal-combustion engines — these estimates are nonsensical.
The extremely high mpg ratings do not mean that an engine would be consuming less energy but rather that the car would be electric, with some occasional use of gasoline. The propaganda makes it sound as if the total emissions generated by electric cars would be very small. However, how “green” a car really is depends on how the electricity is generated. That dirty little detail can vary tremendously depending on whether the energy source for the electricity is, say, coal, natural gas, nuclear power or something else.
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