The Current

Switching to an electric car isn't always good for the environment

Powering an electric car may be just be an electrical socket away but electricity as fuel may actually be more laden with green house gases than filling up the tank at a gas station. It depends on how that electricity is made and in some provinces research shows electricity is dirtier than oil.
If you're thinking of trading up from gas guzzler to electric, you may just be trading the source of your greenhouse emissions... from tail pipe, to electric plant. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson )

Electric cars ... It wasn't that long ago that they were a science-fiction fantasy. Now, they're a consumer's fantasy ride. Models like the Tesla and the Chevy Volt, are objects of desire. They're trendy and cool. And to drive one is understood to be doing something good for the environment.

In fact, six provinces now offer incentives to help make the switch....and go electric. Last week, British Columbia sweetened its incentive encouraging drivers of older model gas-powered cars to trade up to something electric. B.C. is one of several provinces offering incentives to get more electric cars on the road and cut down on emissions.

'If you scrap your old car we'll give you $3000 incentive to buy a new electric vehicle.'- Dennis Rogoza, CEO of the "BC Scrap It" program

Yet new research suggests that even if every driver in Canada made the switch, from gas to electric, the total emissions might not actually go down. It all has to do with where the power that fuels those electric cars comes from. Depending on where in the country you live, going electric might not be as green as you think.

The study comes from Chris Kennedy, a professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. 

Canada's Renewable Energy Sources 

Acting Out on Climate Change: Solutions for Canadian Scholars - Study by Sustainable Canada Dialogues

The key to making green technology initiatives more effective is to produce our electricity from cleaner sources. A new study released last week shows Canada is capable of shifting all of its electricity production to renewable sources by 2035.

To find out what it will take to get there we were joined by the author of the study. Catherine Potvin is the Canada Research Chair on Climate Change Mitigation at McGill University in Montreal. 

Would you consider buying an electric car? Will you reconsider your use of electricity?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc, post on our Facebook page, or as always you can email us.

This segment was produced by The Current's Naheed Mustafa and Sujata Berry. 


Climate Action: Carbon pricing is an essential first step - Alternatives Journal 

♦ Going green? Eco-alternatives could do more harm than good – it depends where you live - University of Toronto

♦ Cleaner Power Needed to Make Electric Cars Greener - Climate Central

♦ Complete shift to renewable energy within Canada's reach, academics say - The Globe & Mail