A plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) is any motor vehicle that can be recharged from an external source of electricity, such as wall sockets, and the electricity stored in the rechargeable battery packs drives or contributes to drive the wheels. PEV is a superset of electric vehicles that includes all-electric or battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and electric vehicle conversions of hybrid electric vehicles and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.[1][2][3]

Plug-in cars have several benefits compared to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. They have lower operating and maintenance costs, and produce little or no local air pollution. They reduce dependence on petroleum and may reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the onboard source of power, depending on the fuel and technology used for electricity generation to charge the batteries. Plug-in hybrids capture most of these benefits when they are operating in all-electric mode. Despite their potential benefits, market penetration of plug-in electric vehicles has been slower than expected as adoption faces several hurdles and limitations. As of 2013, plug-in electric vehicles are significantly more expensive than conventional vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles due to the additional cost of their lithium-ion battery packs. Other factors discouraging the adoption of electric cars are the lack of public and private recharging infrastructure and, in the case of all-electric vehicles, drivers' fear of the batteries running out of energy before reaching their destination due to the limited range of existing electric cars. Plug-in hybrids eliminate the problem of range anxiety associated to all-electric vehicles, because the combustion engine works as a backup when the batteries are depleted, giving PHEVs driving range comparable to other vehicles with gasoline tanks.

Several national and local governments have established tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to promote the introduction and adoption in the mass market of plug-in electric vehicles depending on their battery size and all-electric range. The term "plug-in electric drive vehicle" is formally used in U.S. federal legislation to grant this type of consumer incentive. In China, plug-in electric vehicles are called new energy vehicles (NEVs), and only pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are subject to purchase incentives.

As of February 2015, there are about 50 models of highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars available for retail sales. The Nissan Leaf is the world's top selling highway-capable all-electric car ever, with global sales of over 158,000 units, followed by the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which together with its sibling the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera has combined sales of more than 88,000 units as of December 2014.[4]

As of December 2014, more than 712,000 highway-capable plug-in electric passenger cars and light utility vehicles have been sold worldwide, led by the United States with a stock of over 291,000 plug-in electric cars delivered since 2008, representing 41% of global sales. Japan ranks second with about 108,000 units sold since 2009 (15%), followed by China with more than 83,000 plug-in passenger cars sold since 2008 (12%).[5][6] As of December 2014, over 228,000 light-duty plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the European market since 2010, representing 32% of global sales.[7][8][9][10][11][12] European sales are led by the Netherlands with over 45,000 light-duty plug-in vehicles registered, followed by France with 43,600 all-electric cars and light utility vans sold since 2010, and Norway with over 43,400 plug-in electric vehicles registered.[5][13] In the heavy-duty segment, China is the world's leader, with about 36,500 all-electric buses sold through December 2014.[6] Template:Toc limit

Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissionsEdit

File:Prius RechargeIT 03 2008 at Google's campus.jpg

Electric cars, as well as plug-in hybrids operating in all-electric mode, emit no harmful tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power, such as particulates (soot), volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen. The clean air benefit is usually local because, depending on the source of the electricity used to recharge the batteries, air pollutant emissions are shifted to the location of the generation plants.[14] In a similar manner, plug-in electric vehicles operating in all-electric mode do not emit greenhouse gases from the onboard source of power, but from the point of view of a well-to-wheel assessment, the extent of the benefit also depends on the fuel and technology used for electricity generation. This fact has been referred to as the long tailpipe of plug-in electric vehicles. From the perspective of a full life cycle analysis, the electricity used to recharge the batteries must be generated from renewable or clean sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power for PEVs to have almost none or zero well-to-wheel emissions.[1][14] On the other hand, when PEVs are recharged from coal-fired plants, they usually produce slightly more greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles and higher than hybrid electric vehicles.[14][15] In the case of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles operating in hybrid mode with assistance of the internal combustion engine, tailpipe and greenhouse emissions are lower in comparison to conventional cars because of their higher fuel economy.[1]

The magnitude of the potential advantage depends on the mix of generation sources and therefore varies by country and by region. For example, France can obtain significant emission benefits from electric and plug-in hybrids because most of its electricity is generated by nuclear power plants; California, where most energy comes from natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear plants can also secure substantial emission benefits. The U.K. also has a significant potential to benefit from PEVs as natural gas plants dominate the generation mix. On the other hand, emission benefits in Germany, China, India, and the central regions of the United States are limited or non-existent because most electricity is generated from coal.[14][16] However these countries and regions might still obtain some air quality benefits by reducing local air pollution in urban areas. Cities with chronic air pollution problems, such as Los Angeles, México City, Santiago, Chile, São Paulo, Beijing, Bangkok and Katmandu may also gain local clean air benefits by shifting the harmful emission to electric generation plants located outside the cities. Nevertheless, the location of the plants is not relevant when considering greenhouse gas emission because their effect is global.[14]

Carbon footprint during productionEdit


A report published in June 2011, prepared by Ricardo in collaboration with experts from the UK's Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, found that hybrid electric cars, plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars generate more carbon emissions during their production than current conventional vehicles, but still have a lower overall carbon footprint over the full life cycle. The higher carbon footprint during production of electric drive vehicles is due mainly to the production of batteries. As an example, 43 percent of production emissions for a mid-size electric car are generated from the battery production, while for standard mid-sized gasolineinternal combustion engine vehicle, around 75% of the embedded carbon emissions during production comes from the steel used in the vehicle glider.[17] The following table summarizes key results of this study for four powertrain technologies:

Comparison of full life cycle assessment(well-to-wheels) of carbon emissions
and carbon footprint during production for four different powertrain technologies[17]
Type of vehicle
emissions in production
(tonnes CO2e) || style="background:#abcdef;"| Estimated
lifecycle emissions
(tonnes CO2e) || style="background:#abcdef;"|Percentage of

during production

Standard gasoline vehicle5.6 24 23%
Hybrid electric vehicle6.5 21 31%
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle 6.7 19 35%
Battery electric vehicle 8.819 46%
Notes: Estimates based upon a 2015 model vehicle assuming 150,000 km (93,000 mi) full life travel using 10% ethanol blend and 500g/kWh grid electricity.

The Ricardo study also found that the lifecycle carbon emissions for mid-sized gasoline and diesel vehicles are almost identical, and that the greater fuel efficiency of the diesel engine is offset by higher production emissions.[17]


In 2014 Volkswagen published the results of life-cycle assessment of its electric vehicles certified by TÜV NORD, and independent inspection agency. The study found that CO
emissions during the use phase of its all-electric VW e-Golf are 99% lower than those of the Golf 1.2 TSI when powers comes from exclusively hydroelectricity generated in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Accounting for the full lifecycle, the e-Golf reduces emissions by 61%, offsetting higher production emissions. When the actual EU-27 electricity mix is considered, the e-Golf emissions are still 26% lower than those of the conventional Golf 1.2 TSI. Similar results were found when comparing the e-Golf with the Golf 1.6 TDI. The analysis considered recycling of the three vehicles at the end of their lifetime.[18]

Well-to-wheel GHG emissions in the U.S.Edit

Environmental Protection Agency

The following table compares tailpipe and upstream CO2 emissions estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all series production model year 2014 plug-in electric vehicles available in the U.S. market. Total emissions include the emissions associated with the production and distribution of electricity used to charge the vehicle, and for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, it also includes emissions associated with tailpipe emissions produced from the internal combustion engine. These figures were published by the EPA in October 2014 in its annual report "Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2014." All emissions are estimated considering average real world city and highway operation based on the EPA 5-cycle label methodology, using a weighted 55% city and 45% highway driving. For the first time, the 2014 Trends report presents an analysis of the impact of alternative fuel vehicles, with emphasis in plug-in electric vehicles because as their market share is approaching 1%, the EPA concluded that PEVs began to have a measurable impact on the U.S. overall new vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emissions.[19][20]

For purposes of an accurate estimation of emissions, the analysis took into consideration the differences in operation between plug-in hybrids. Some, like the Chevrolet Volt, can operate in all-electric mode without using gasoline, and others operate in a blended mode like the Toyota Prius PHV, which uses both energy stored in the battery and energy from the gasoline tank to propel the vehicle, but that can deliver substantial all-electric driving in blended mode. In addition, since the all-electric range of plug-in hybrids depends on the size of the battery pack, the analysis introduced a utility factor as a projection of the share of miles that will be driven using electricity by an average driver, for both, electric only and blended EV modes. Since all-electric cars do not produce tailpipe emissions, the utility factor applies only to plug-in hybrids. The following table shows the overall fuel economy expressed in terms of miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (mpg-e) and the utility factor for the ten MY2014 plug-in hybrids available in the U.S. market, and EPA's best estimate of the CO2 tailpipe emissions produced by these PHEVs.[19]

In order to account for the upstream CO2 emissions associated with the production and distribution of electricity, and since electricity production in the United States varies significantly from region to region, the EPA considered three scenarios/ranges with the low end scenario corresponding to the California powerplant emissions factor, the middle of the range represented by the national average powerplant emissions factor, and the upper end of the range corresponding to the powerplant emissions factor for the Rocky Mountains. The EPA estimates that the electricity GHG emission factors for various regions of the country vary from 346 g CO2/kWh in California to 986 g CO2/kWh in the Rockies, with a national average of 648 g CO2/kWh.[19]

Comparison of tailpipe and upstream CO2 emissions(1) estimated by EPA
for the MY 2014 plug-in electric vehicles available in the U.S. market[19]
Vehicle Overall
(share EV
Tailpipe CO2
(g/mi) ||style="background:#cfc;" colspan="3"|Tailpipe + Total Upstream CO2
BMW i3124 1 0 93 175 266
Chevrolet Spark EV 119 1 0 97181 276
Honda Fit EV 118 1 0 99 185 281
Fiat 500e 116 1 0 101 189 288
Nissan Leaf 114 1 0 104 194 296
Mitsubishi i 112 1 0 104 195 296
Smart electric drive 107 1 0 109 204 311
Ford Focus Electric 105 1 0 111 208 316
Tesla Model S (60 kWh) 95 1 0 122 229 348
Tesla Model S (85 kWh)89 1 0 131 246 374
BMW i3 REx(3)880.83 40 134207 288
Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED 84 1 0 138 259 394
Toyota RAV4 EV 76 1 0 153 287 436
BYD e663 1 0 187 350 532
Chevrolet Volt620.66 81 180 249 326
Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid58 0.29133 195 221249
Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid57 0.33 130 196 225 257
Cadillac ELR540.65 91206 286 377
Ford C-Max Energi510.45 129 219 269 326
Ford Fusion Energi510.45 129 219 269 326
BMW i8370.37 198 303 351 404
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid31 0.39 206 328 389 457
McLaren P117 0.43463617 650 687
Average MY 2014 gasoline car24.2 0 367 400400400
Notes: (1) Based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. (2) The utility factor represents, on average, the percentage of miles that will be driven
using electricity (in electric only and blended modes) by an average driver. (3) The EPA classifies the i3 REx as a series plug-in hybrid[21][19]
Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a study in 2012 that assessed average greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. resulting from charging plug-in car batteries from the perspective of the full life-cycle (well-to-wheel analysis) and according to fuel and technology used to generate electric power by region. The study used the model year 2011 Nissan Leaf all-electric car to establish the analysis baseline, and electric-utility emissions are based on EPA's 2009 estimates. The UCS study expressed the results in terms of miles per gallon instead of the conventional unit of grams of greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year in order to make the results more friendly for consumers. The study found that in areas where electricity is generated from natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric or renewable sources, the potential of plug-in electric cars to reduce greenhouse emissions is significant. On the other hand, in regions where a high proportion of power is generated from coal, hybrid electric cars produce less CO2 equivalent emissions than plug-in electric cars, and the best fuel efficient gasoline-powered subcompact car produces slightly less emissions than a PEV. In the worst-case scenario, the study estimated that for a region where all energy is generated from coal, a plug-in electric car would emit greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a gasoline car rated at a combined city/highway driving fuel economy of 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp). In contrast, in a region that is completely reliant on natural gas, the PEV would be equivalent to a gasoline-powered car rated at 50 mpg-US (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg-imp).[22][23]

The study concluded that for 45% of the U.S. population, a plug-in electric car will generate lower CO2 equivalent emissions than a gasoline-powered car capable of combined 50 mpg-US (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg-imp), such as the Toyota Prius and the Prius c. The UCS also found that for 37% of the population, the electric car emissions will fall in the range of a gasoline-powered car rated at a combined fuel economy of 41 to 50 mpg-US (5.7 to 4.7 L/100 km; 49 to 60 mpg-imp), such as the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Lexus CT200h. Only 18% of the population lives in areas where the power-supply is more dependent on burning carbon, and the greenhouse gas emissions will be equivalent to a car rated at a combined fuel economy of 31 to 40 mpg-US (7.6 to 5.9 L/100 km; 37 to 48 mpg-imp), such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus.[23][24][25] The study found that there are no regions in the U.S. where plug-in electric cars will have higher greenhouse gas emissions than the average new compact gasoline engine automobile, and the area with the dirtiest power supply produces CO2 emissions equivalent to a gasoline-powered car rated at 33 mpg-US (7.1 L/100 km).[22]

In September 2014 the UCS published an updated analysis of its 2012 report. The 2014 analysis found that 60% of Americans, up from 45% in 2012, live in regions where an all-electric car produce fewer CO2 equivalent emissions per mile than the most efficient hybrid. The UCS study found several reasons for the improvement. First, electric utilities have adopted cleaner sources of electricity to their mix between the two analysis. The 2014 study used electric-utility emissions based on EPA's 2010 estimates, but since coal use nationwide is down by about 5% from 2010 to 2014, actual efficiency in 2014 is better than estimated in the UCS study. Second, electric vehicles have become more efficient, as the average 2013 all-electric vehicle used 0.33 kWh per mile, representing a 5% improvement over 2011 models. Also, some new models are cleaner than the average, such as the BMW i3, which is rated at 0.27 kWh by the EPA. An i3 charged with power from the Midwest grid would be as clean as a gasoline-powered car with about 50 mpg-US (4.7 L/100 km), up from 39 mpg-US (6.0 L/100 km) for the average electric car in the 2012 study. In states with a cleaner mix generation, the gains were larger. The average all-electric car in California went up to 95 mpg-US (2.5 L/100 km) equivalent from 78 mpg-US (3.0 L/100 km) in the 2012 study. States with dirtier generation that rely heavily on coal still lag, such as Colorado, where the average BEV only achieves the same emissions as a 34 mpg-US (6.9 L/100 km; 41 mpg-imp) gasoline-powered car. The author of the 2014 analysis noted that the benefits are not distributed evenly across the U.S. because electric car adoptions is concentrated in the states with cleaner power.[26][27]

National Bureau of Economic Research

One criticism to the UCS study is that the analysis was made using average emissions rates across regions instead of marginal generation at different times of the day. The former approach does not take into account the generation mix within interconnected electricity markets and shifting load profiles throughout the day.[28][29] An analysis by three economist affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), published in November 2014, developed a methodology to estimate marginal emissions of electricity demand that vary by location and time of day across the United States. The marginal analysis, applied to plug-in electric vehicles, found that the emissions of charging PEVs vary by region and hours of the day. In some regions, such as the Western U.S. and Texas, CO2 emissions per mile from driving PEVs are less than those from driving a hybrid car. However, in other regions, such as the Upper Midwest, charging during the recommended hours of midnight to 4 a.m. implies that PEVs generate more emissions per mile than the average car currently on the road. The results show a fundamental tension between electricity load management and environmental goals as the hours when electricity is the least expensive to produce tend to be the hours with the greatest emissions. This occurs because coal-fired units, which have higher emission rates, are most commonly used to meet base-level and off-peak electricity demand; while natural gas units, which have relatively low emissions rates, are often brought online to meet peak demand.[29]

Well-to-wheel GHG emissions in several countriesEdit

A study published in the UK in April 2013 assessed the carbon footprint of plug-in electric vehicles in 20 countries. As a baseline the analysis established that manufacturing emissions account for 70 g CO2/km for an electric car and 40 g CO2/km for a petrol car. The study found that in countries with coal-intensive generation, PEVs are no different from conventional petrol-powered vehicles. Among these countries are China, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and India. A pure electric car in India generates emissions comparable to a 20 mpg-US (12 L/100 km; 24 mpg-imp) petrol car.[30][31]

The country ranking was led by Paraguay, where all electricity is produced from hydropower, and Iceland, where electricity production relies on renewable power, mainly hydro and geothermal power. Resulting carbon emissions from an electric car in both countries are 70 g CO2/km, which is equivalent to a 220 mpg-US (1.1 L/100 km; 260 mpg-imp) petrol car, and correspond to manufacturing emissions. Next in the ranking are other countries with low carbon electricity generation, including Sweden (mostly hydro and nuclear power ), Brazil (mainly hydropower) and France (predominantly nuclear power). Countries ranking in the middle include Japan, Germany, the UK and the United States.[30][31][32]

The following table shows the emissions intensity estimated in the study for those countries where electric vehicle are available, and the corresponding emissions equivalent in miles per US gallon of a petrol-powered car:

Country comparison of full life cycle assessment
of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from charging plug-in electric cars and
emissions equivalent in terms of miles per US gallon of a petrol-powered car[30][32]
CountryPEV well-to-wheels
carbon dioxide equivalent
emissions per electric car
expressed in (CO2e/km)
PEV well-to-wheels
emissions equivalent
in terms of mpg US
of petrol-powered car
petrol car
Template:SWE81Low carbon 159 mpg-US (1.48 L/100 km)Hybrid
Template:FRA93123 mpg-US (1.91 L/100 km)
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All active users and unsigned in editors of this wiki are a valued and welcome part of our community. Having a space like this where you can begin to put faces (or other preferably individually chosen images) to names, etc, is just a way of building the sense of community and (hopefully) making the place seem a little friendlier. Think of it as a sort of gentle mutual introductions space - no obligation to use it whatsoever.||115 ||rowspan="2" style="background:#ccffcc;"|Fossil light ||87 mpg-US (2.7 L/100 km)||rowspan="2"|Beyond

Template:ESP146 61 mpg-US (3.9 L/100 km)
Template:JAP175Broad mix 48 mpg-US (4.9 L/100 km)New
Template:GER179 47 mpg-US (5.0 L/100 km)
||189||44 mpg-US (5.3 L/100 km)

||202||rowspan="2" style="background:#ffdead;"|Fossil heavy ||40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km)||rowspan="2"|Efficient
Template:MEX203 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km)
Template:CHN 258Coal-based30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km)Average
Template:AUS292 26 mpg-US (9.0 L/100 km)
Template:IND 37020 mpg-US (12 L/100 km)
Note: Electric car manufacturing emissions account for 70 g CO2/km
Source: Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe, Shrink That Footprint, February 2013.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Script error See definition on pp. 2.
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  15. Script error Click on the map to see the results for each region.
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  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Script error
  18. Script error See the infograph CO2 emissions over the full life-cycle (t CO2e).
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Script error See Table 7.2 - MY 2014 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Powertrain and Range; pp. 98; Table 7.3 for overall fuel economy (mpg-e), pp. 100; Table 7.4 for tailpipe CO2 emissions, pp. 102; and Table 7.5 for upstream CO2 Emission, pp. 105.
  20. Script error
  21. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named EPA2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 Script error pp. 16-20.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Script error
  24. Script error See map for regional results
  25. Script error
  26. Script error
  27. Script error
  28. Script error
  29. 29.0 29.1 Script error Published on line 2014-03-24. See pp. 251
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Script error
  31. 31.0 31.1 Script error
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Script error

External linksEdit


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