Today's Tidbit: Can You Really Trust EPA Ratings for Electric Vehicles?

Can You Really Trust EPA Ratings for Electric Vehicles?

One of the roles our government has taken on is to provide us with information to be used in making decisions.

For example, the EPA stickers on the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt state that these electric cars can travel 93 and 99 miles per equivalent gallon.

Unfortunately, the EPA neglects to include the 66% of energy lost in generating the necessary electricity, transmitting it, and charging the vehicles. After taking these losses into account, we find that electric cars are roughly 27% efficient in turning energy into usable power, not much better than the 24% efficiency of a Toyota Prius.

The EPA approved labels also state that these cars produce zero greenhouse gases.

Again, this "fact" neglects to include the CO2 emitted (much of it from coal-burning power plants) while generating the "clean" fuel upon which electric cars feed. Again, when all is said and done, an electric car produces about the same amount of C02 per mile as a Prius.

The EPA ratings also inform us that the annual fuel costs (to travel 15,000 miles on average) are $594 and $561 respectively. That's less than 4 cents per mile, which on the face of it is less than half of the 8.3 cents per mile that it costs to drive a Prius.

Unfortunately, the EPA neglects to include the cost of replacing the batteries in all-electric cars. This comes to an additional 75 cents per mile.

Our government also provides incentives for virtuous behavior. Presumably based on such information on how much cleaner all-electric vehicles are, our government offers a tax credit of $7,500 per plug-in vehicle purchased.


  • Muller, Energy For Future Presidents, 2012, pages 256-9

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