Thinking Sustainably While Traveling in Alberta

By Cylinea Corporation; Posted Nov 24, 2017

A factor that few people consider when planning a trip is the environmental impact of different methods of travel. As an exercise, I thought I would see what information I could find on the fuel efficiency and emission volume of different transportation methods when going between Calgary and Edmonton.


Nearly every time I speak with someone about electric vehicles, they ask the same question: "Doesn't most of our power come from coal anyway?". The meme below illustrates the thought that must be popping into their heads when we discuss the topic.


What some people think of when they see EVs


At first, I wondered if the cartoon might have a point. A lot of Alberta's energy does come from coal. But is it really true that driving an EV powered by coal is the same (from an emissions perspective) as driving a gas-powered car?


In order to simplify the question, I looked at the impact of driving in Alberta, specifically, driving personally between Calgary and Edmonton. Obviously, fuel expenditure and emissions will change depending on car model; for simplicity, I’ve chosen to look at an average, as given here.


Note: The source of the emissions data above is from Finland. The numbers given are likely a conservative estimate when compared to the average traveler within Alberta. For instance, the US Energy Information Administration gives an average for fuel consumption for cars in the US as 10 L/100km, as compared to the average given from the Finland source.


Plane v. Car v. Tesla


The average emissions for personal vehicles are given as 152 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per km (g CO2e / km). This assumes a single passenger, and takes into account the effects of all emissions constituents, summarized as an equivalent emission of CO2. If we look at the average occupancy of a vehicle, 1.7 persons, this falls to 89 g CO2e / km.


Let's compare to the other traditional method of travel: plane. Calgary to Edmonton flights generally use jet-engine aircraft. Looking at the statistics for such planes for ranges similar to the Edmonton-Calgary flight, we find that the same trip, by plane, releases on average 260 g CO2e / km for each passenger. This is an increase of double or more when compared to driving!


An Alberta Coal Generating Station - Generates approximately 10% of Alberta's total power needs.

Finally, let’s look at a new option, traveling by Tesla with InOrbis Intercity’s Calgary-Edmonton transportation service. A Tesla Model S has a range of about 550 km with a 100 kWh full charge. This means that the Model S uses 0.18 kWh of power per km, or approximately 55 kWh over a one-way Calgary-Edmonton trip.


Now the environmental impact of traveling by EV is going to depend greatly on the source of electricity used to charge the Tesla. Let’s assume we charge the car off the Alberta grid; approximately 40% of power in Alberta is generated using coal, 40% using natural gas, and the other 20% using various other energy sources. If we take the emissions impact of each source into account, we find that the Tesla has equivalent emissions to roughly 45 g CO2e / km. This is for the whole car; if we have multiple passengers, the emissions per passenger will decrease accordingly.


These surprising results are summarized in the interactive chart below:




If you still don't believe me or you just want to review my math-skills, you can find a link to all of my calculations and detailed results right here.


The facts are in. You're way better off traveling in an EV, even if the grid is entirely coal powered! And if you ride with InOrbis, 100% of your CO2 production will be offset through investments in renewable energy development.


So what are you waiting for? Start traveling in luxury while helping to reduce emissions. Travel the smarter way, ride with InOrbis today!




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