Will Electric Vehicles Boost Harmful Emissions?

Electric Vehicles recently hit a critical milestone of 100,000 sold in the U.S., a number expected to jump to 3 million by 2020. While it’s a fraction of the 15.6 million fossil-fuel cars Americans bought last year, environmentalists deem these numbers a very positive sign of things to come. But how and where will all of these electric vehicles plug in and charge? Won’t this add more strain to the energy grid, increase demand for coal and ultimately boost harmful emissions?

I had a chance to catch up with Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer, to learn more.

According to Graf, electric cars make the most sense if the energy they consume comes from renewable sources of energy like solar (SAP uses 60% renewables for all electricity globally). In the future, this concept means less reliable sources of renewable energy can actually use electric cars as an electricity buffer, and charge or feed from those car batteries, depending on the need for electricity in the grid. “It will allow us to increase renewables in our energy mix significantly, without increasing the risk of power outages,” said Graf.

Sounds great. But what if this doesn’t happen and most electric vehicles plug in via more traditional means?

“Even if electric cars are charged via a central power plant, they are causing less emissions per car as a conventional car,” said Graf. “If a car is powered by coal fired power plants exclusively, it is much easier to deploy means to reduce the emissions centrally via carbon storage and clean coal as compared to millions of cars on the road.”

Still skeptical? I was too until I watched the below news clip featuring SAP’s Graf. It showcases a real, working electric vehicle ecosystem and for me, removed serious doubts around cost, scalability (Wireless car charging?! Cool!) and the aforementioned emissions concerns.

Watch news clip: “Electric Cars at SAP: Turning Silicon Valley into a Modern Day Motor City.”

Do you get charged up thinking about electric vehicles? Sound off in the comments below.

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This post originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.