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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: E-cars Cleaner, Cheaper? (for the Week of Feb. 24, 2008)

February 24, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: What about the electricity you need to charge an electric car? Doesn't that make pollution and cost money, too?

A. Yes. Good question. It does. It does both those things. But it seems to do a lot less of both compared to running a gasoline car.

A group called the Union of Concerned Scientists says this: "Even if BEVs [battery-electric vehicles] are recharged with electricity from power plants that use fossil fuels, they are up to 99 percent cleaner than conventional [gasoline-powered] vehicles and can cut global warming emissions [gases such as carbon dioxide] by as much as 70 percent."

And the U.S. Department of Energy says that at an electricity rate of 13 cents per kilowatt hour, an electric car costs 3-5 cents a mile to run, while a gasoline car — at 25 miles per gallon and $3 per gallon — costs up to four times as much, or 12 cents a mile.

How I pine for a Twigzap GT! Red!!!



P.S. There's more to compare, of course: The cost of each car type, the cost of maintenance, etc.

Notes: E-cars need new batteries every four to 10 years or so. Gasoline cars need oil changes, filter changes, etc., in that time. For now, buying an e-car costs more, or a lot more, than a typical gasoline car, but if and as more are made and the technology gets better, the price should drop. Sources included the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center,; and the Union of Concerned Scientists, Read last week's e-lectrifying e-car e-ntry at

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776. Online at

Kurt Knebusch