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Mapping electric vehicle impacts: greenhouse gas emissions, fuel costs, and energy justice in the United States

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
January 11, 2023

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will impact the climate, the environment, and society in highly significant ways. This study compares EVs to vehicles with internal combustion engines for three major areas: greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fuel costs, and transportation energy burden (i.e. percentage of income spent on vehicle fuels). Excluded in the analysis is the purchase cost of the vehicles themselves. The results reveal that over 90% of vehicle-owning U.S. households would see reductions in both GHGs and transportation energy burden by adopting an EV. For 60% of households these savings would be moderate to high (i.e. >2.3 metric tons of CO2e reduction per household annually and >0.6% of energy burden reduction). These reductions are especially pronounced in the American West (e.g. California, Washington) and parts of the Northeast (e.g. New York) primarily due to a varying combination of cleaner electricity grids, lower electricity prices (relative to gas prices), and smaller drive-cycle and temperature-related impacts on fuel efficiency. Moreover, adopting an EV would more than double the percentage of households that enjoy a low transportation energy burden (<2% of income spent on fuel annually). This equates to 80% of all vehicle-owning U.S. households. Nevertheless, over half of the lowest income households would still have a high EV energy burden (>4% income spent on fuel annually), and if at-home charging is unavailable, this rises to over 75 percent. Addressing this inequity hinges on three major interventions: 1) targeted policies to promote energy justice in lower-income communities, including subsidizing charging infrastructure; 2) strategies to reduce electricity costs; and 3) expanding access to low-carbon transport infrastructure (e.g. public transit, biking, and car sharing).

Research Areas
Mobility Systems

electric vehicles, decarbonization, life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, fuel costs, levelized cost of charging, transportation energy burden, energy justice

Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Vega-Perkins, Jesse, Joshua P. Newell, Gregory A. Keoleian. (2023). Mapping electric vehicle impacts: greenhouse gas emissions, fuel costs, and energy justice in the United States. Environmental Resarch Letters, 18, 014027. CSS23-02