Chart of the Day: Lifecycle CO2 Emissions for Electric, Small, and Midsize Cars

Electric cars like the Tesla Model S are an amazing technological leap forward, but by themselves don’t change the automobility picture. Here’s a chart from a recent Financial Times story [subscription only!] about a “lifecycle” carbon footprint study, which looks at CO2 from production and recycling of cars in addition to their emissions while they are used.

The chart, via Ritholz blog:

As you can see, smaller cars are still “greener” than a big Tesla, at least by this measure. Here’s a quote from the story:

The MIT data substantiate a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology last year: “Larger electric vehicles can have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than smaller conventional vehicles.”

(I do wonder about a car like the Nissan Leaf, though, and where it might fit in this picture?)

The big takeaway, though, is that to really reduce transportation CO2 you have to reduce driving. Electric cars are a nice marginal change, but they are not gamechangers. Cars are always going to be a problem for solving climate change, even if they don’t have a gas tank.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.