2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
But it's sometimes easy to forget that vehicles aren't the only energy hogs we have in our everyday lives.
It's been a long time coming, but the appliance industry has finally agreed, privately, to much improved standards for energy use for home appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, and room air-conditioners. In some cases, energy-efficiency will advance by up to 50 percent.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, appliances such as refrigerators, washers, and driers account for about 17 percent of household energy consumption. Refrigerators are the single highest energy users in most households, with an average annual energy cost of close to $90—and larger fridges costing as much as $15 a month to keep going in more expensive energy markets. In comparison, driers use about $80 in energy per years and standalone freezers cost about $65 a year, while dishwashers gobble up about $45 per year (but save water and water-heating energy).
But the stunning figure comes when considering carbon dioxide emissions from these appliances, and how it relates to motoring. If adopted, the appliance agreement could cut 550 million metric tons of CO2 over 25 years. That's the equivalent (using the federal figure of about 5.2 metric tons of CO2, annually, per U.S. vehicle) of getting 100 million cars off the road for a full year.
According to the U.S. EPA, from its Green Vehicle Guide, a 2010 Toyota Prius emits about 2.97 tons of CO2 per year, while a 2010 Toyota Tundra 5.7-liter pickup emits about 10.53 tons per year. The EPA also says that the average household emits a total of about 7.3 tons of CO2 per year.
It's worth running the numbers, in a cursory sense, to see how an EV matches up. The 2011 Nissan Leaf might use roughly 0.3 kWh of electricity per mile traveled in real-world use (Nissan is quoting a 100-mile range on a 24 kWh battery), so potentially about 3,600 kWh per year for the 12,000-mile-per-year commuter—or less than $350 annually. Although the CO2 equivalent varies by region (depending on the fuel to generate the electricity for your area, along with other factors), nationally there's an average 1.329 pounds of CO2 produced per kWh.
Back to what we drive, it hints that if more than a few of us were to switch to EVs over the long run, we could make an even bigger difference.