The Truth About Green-Fueled Cars

Philip Bump
May 2, 2013
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The Truth About Green-Fueled Cars

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A look at government data on alternate-fuel vehicles offers an interesting perspective on the popularity of the vehicles across the country. It does not, however, indicate that ExxonMobil and Shell need to stay awake at night in worry.

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We're not just talking electric cars.

The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration tracks a variety of alternate-fuel vehicles. Those include electric vehicles (EVC). But they also include a number of other fuel formats: compressed natural gas (CNG), high-percentage ethanol blends, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG; usually propane or butane). Each burns with much lower emissions than gasoline.

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According to the EIA's most recent data (which is for 2011), here's the breakdown of vehicles by type.

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But that doesn't reflect the amount of fuel that's consumed. Compressed natural gas vehicles used more fuel in 2011 than any other type.

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Bigger states don't always have the most alternate fuel vehicles.

As you'd expect, states with more people have more alternate fuel vehicles. California and Texas are the states with the most vehicles. But the third most vehicles are in Arizona. Florida isn't too far down the list. (In each of the following charts, darker colors indicate higher numbers.)

The states with the most alternate-fuel vehicles per person aren't ones you'd think.

When you adjust for population, the picture gets even more interesting. New Mexico and South Dakota have far more vehicles for every thousand people than any other state.

Other cleaner fuel-vehicles are doing well, too.

Data from the Diesel Technology Forum released last week indicates that sales of vehicles that use "clean diesel," a lower-emission version of the fossil fuel, are also increasing, up 24.3 percent between 2010 and 2012. As with other alternate-fuel vehicles, larger states tend to own more. (The Diesel Technology Forum Data only included the top ten states in each category.)

As before, once adjusted for population there is more density of ownership in smaller, more rural states.

There's one point of data, however, that won't surprise you. Alternate fuel use is still only a tiny fraction of what Americans use. The data below is, again, from the EIA.