Plug-Ins, CO2 & Global Warming

Global warming is now being recognized as a major threat to the earth and it appears to be happening faster than many experts expected. See, for example, “Earth at the Tipping Point,” Time Magazine, April 3, 2006. In simple terms, global warming happens because more carbon dioxide (CO2) is entering the earth’s atmosphere than is being absorbed from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is produced by burning fuels such as oil, gas, coal or wood. The carbon in the fuel combines with the oxygen in the air during combustion and produces CO2 as a byproduct. In the case of burning gasoline in a motor vehicle, approximately 20 pounds of CO2 are emitted to the atmosphere for every gallon of gasoline consumed. Therefore a more fuel-efficient vehicle will emit less CO2.

The following chart, adapted from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, shows the major sources of CO2 emissions as of 1990.

Sources: Distribution to sectors for CO2, CH4 and N2O is from EDGAR,
2000. All other GHGs are assumed to be from industrial processes.

To successfully reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and thereby reverse the trend of global warming, mankind must sharply reduce CO2 emissions and sharply increase CO2 absorption at the same time. One of the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions is to improve the fuel-efficiency of motor vehicles.

AFS Trinity’s Extreme Hybrid™ technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles will help reduce global warming by making motor vehicles much more fuel-efficient. For example, a compact sedan with an Extreme Hybrid™ plug-in hybrid drive train will emit 11.3 kilograms of CO2 over 100 miles while a conventional 2004 sedan would emit 45 kilograms of CO2 over the same distance.

Although some of the electricity that will be used to recharge Plug-ins will come from power plants that emit CO2, particularly in the Midwestern and Northeastern States, strategies exist to reduce and sequester CO2 at centralized power plants, but no such measures exist or have been proposed to deal with the CO2 currently emitted from the tailpipes of millions of cars and trucks.

Worldwide, transportation accounts for approximately 14 percent of total CO2 emissions. Since the U.S. consumes approximately 10 million barrels of oil per day for motor vehicle transportation (cars, trucks, buses), the math indicates that we produce approximately 3.9 billion pounds of CO2 per day from motor vehicles alone. In some regions, such as the West Coast of the U.S., transportation accounts for as much as 59 percent of CO2 emissions because there are more hydro and nuclear power plants in this region of the U.S. that, unlike coal-fired power plants, do not produce CO2. At the same time, as Washington, Oregon and California contain approximately 45 million people and 40 million vehicles, this region is currently a major source of CO2 emitted from vehicles.

Even though Extreme Hybrids, when operated in EV mode, are zero emission vehicles, isn't it true that coal power plants (which are often used to produce electricity) can produce just as much or more pollution and CO2 as gas-only cars?

No. Even if XH™ cars were powered exclusively by the dirtiest coal available they would still have much lower emissions than conventional cars. Moreover, there are many places where electricity is generated by hydro power, nuclear power and increasingly, by renewable energy sources such as wind turbines. The trend is for electricity to be generated more and more by renewables. Visit these sites for specific information about how plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles and the power plants that charge them produce significanty less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than conventional vehicles.
Also see the article by Joseph Romm, "The Car of the Future is Here.

More information about CO2 and global warming is available at the following links:

Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton Environmental Institute

Global Roundtable on Climate Change

Natural Resources Defense Council

Pew Center for Global Climate Change

The Alliance for Climate Protection