15.11.2019

Electric cars are only as clean as the grids that power them. Here are 141 countries, ranked

Not all electrons are created equal. Electric cars need electricity to recharge. Batteries can draw their charge from clean hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, and solar panels, as well as coal, oil, and gas power plants. As a result, the indirect emissions from electric vehicles (EV) vary wildly from country to country.

To rank nations, researchers at the University of Michigan calculated emissions from EVs by analyzing the power grids in 141 countries (pdf) with data from the Union of Concerned Scientists and the International Energy Agency. To do this, they estimated the equivalent greenhouse gasses EVs emit per mile based on their national power grid. The more fossil fuels on the grid, the higher the emissions (MPGghg).

It turns out, driving electric cars is almost always cleaner than their conventional counterparts. Only 19 countries, including Niger, South Sudan, Eritrea, Botswana, and Gibraltar (where power plants tend to rely on coal and oil) fall below 33 MPGghg (the average global fuel economy in non-OECD counties. It’s just 34 MPG in OECD countries; pdf).

In places where hydroelectricy powers most of the grid, such as Albania, Paraguay, Nepal, and Ethiopia, EV drivers can achieve more than 4,000 MPGghg. But most countries fall near the EV global median emissions of 58 MPGghg, just above the United States.

Geography matters. High emitting countries tend to cluster in poor or isolated areas of Asia and the Middle East, which have yet to transition off fossil fuels. Low emitters are split between African and South American countries with abundant hydroelectricity, and Canada and northern Europe, which have invested heavily in solar, wind, and other renewable sources.


How much does this all really matter? Michael Sivak, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute responsible for the study, estimates that driving more fuel-efficient cars is among the largest sources of emission reductions for individuals. Among the five human sources of greenhouse gas emissions, only emissions from industry (29%) exceed the transport sector (27%). Sivak calculates raising the average fuel economy from today’s 25 mpg to 56 mpg would cut total U.S. emissions by 10%. The full list of countries’ EV emission rankings are below.

Countries MPG (EV emissions equivalent ) L/100 km (EV emissions equivalent )
Albania 5,100 0.05
Paraguay 5,084 0.05
Nepal 5,071 0.05
Ethiopia 4,463 0.05
Congo (Dem. Rep.) 4,004 0.06
Switzerland 1,905 0.1
Norway 1,821 0.1
Sweden 1,422 0.2
Tajikistan 1,390 0.2
Namibia 1,047 0.2
Costa Rica 1,044 0.2
Iceland 990 0.2
Zambia 815 0.3
France 525 0.4
Mozambique 378 0.6
Georgia 254 0.9
Uruguay 210 1.1
New Zealand 203 1.2
Kyrgyzstan 198 1.2
Luxembourg 171 1.4
Austria 171 1.4
Canada 170 1.4
Kenya 168 1.4
Armenia 156 1.5
Brazil 156 1.5
Slovak Republic 153 1.5
Finland 137 1.7
Cameroon 135 1.7
Myanmar 132 1.8
Columbia 125 1.9
Congo 123 1.9
Peru 113 2.1
Belgium 111 2.1
Togo 109 2.2
Venezuela 108 2.2
Korea-North 105 2.2
Croatia 102 2.3
Latvia 99 2.4
Ghana 97 2.4
Lithuania 94 2.5
Hungary 93 2.5
Slovenia 91 2.6
Gabon 86 2.7
Panama 82 2.9
Denmark 82 2.9
Sudan 81 2.9
Spain 81 2.9
Bolivia 80 3
Ukraine 75 3.1
Suriname 72 3.3
Nigeria 71 3.3
Russian Federation 71 3.3
Ecuador 69 3.4
Uzbekistan 69 3.4
United Kingdom 68 3.5
Argentina 68 3.5
Portugal 66 3.6
Tanzania 66 3.6
Cote d’Ivoire 65 3.6
Italy 65 3.6
Viet Nam 62 3.8
Angola 62 3.8
Moldova 61 3.9
Zimbabwe 60 3.9
Bulgaria 59 4
El Salvador 59 4
Turkey 59 4
Azerbaijan 58 4.1
Bahrain 58 4.1
Qatar 58 4.1
Turkmenistan 58 4.1
Trinidad and Tobago 58 4.1
Belarus 58 4.1
Pakistan 58 4.1
Algeria 57 4.1
Brunei Darussalam 57 4.1
Ireland 57 4.1
United Arab Emirates 57 4.1
Montenegro 57 4.1
Guatemala 57 4.1
Singapore 57 4.1
Tunisia 57 4.1
Oman 57 4.2
Mexico 56 4.2
Sri Lanka 56 4.2
United States 55 4.2
Chile 55 4.3
Cambodia 53 4.4
Iran 53 4.4
Germany 52 4.5
WORLD 52 4.6
Egypt 51 4.6
Korea-South 51 4.6
Nicaragua 51 4.6
Czech Republic 50 4.7
Macedonia 46 5.1
Greece 46 5.1
Honduras 46 5.1
Syria 46 5.1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 45 5.2
Philippines 45 5.3
Netherlands 44 5.3
Japan 44 5.3
Taipei-China 43 5.4
Malaysia 43 5.4
Serbia 41 5.8
Saudi Arabia 40 5.9
China 40 5.9
Israel 40 5.9
Libya 40 5.9
Morocco 39 6
Jordan 39 6.1
Australia 38 6.3
Dominican Republic 37 6.3
Indonesia 37 6.3
Yemen 36 6.5
India 36 6.6
Kuwait 36 6.6
Kazakhstan 35 6.6
Hong Kong 35 6.7
Iraq 35 6.8
Senegal 33 7.2
Poland 32 7.3
Cuba 32 7.5
Estonia 32 7.5
Haiti 32 7.5
South Africa 32 7.5
Cyprus 31 7.5
Jamaica 31 7.6
Malta 31 7.6
Mauritius 31 7.6
Benin 31 7.7
Curacao 30 7.8
Mongolia 30 7.9
Lebanon 30 7.9
Kosovo 30 7.9
Niger 29 8.1
South Sudan 29 8.1
Eritrea 29 8.1
Botswana 29 8.1
Gibraltar 29 8.1
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