Why We Drive Electric: No Tail-Pipe Emissions

By Paul Gipe

This is the second in a series on why we chose to lease a Nissan Leaf in the fall of 2014. There are several reasons to drive an Electric Vehicle (EV). Any one of them alone is enough to take the plunge.

We live in Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield is at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most if not the most polluted air basins in North America.

Yep, our air is even worse than LA and Houston.

The joke here is that we like to see the air that we breathe. . .

There are numerous sources for this pollution, but a major one is what regulators call “mobile sources,” aka cars and trucks.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) use electricity stored in traction batteries to drive the wheels. There is no Internal Combustion Engine that burns gasoline or diesel. There is no tail pipe in an EV and, thus, no tail-pipe emissions.

There are emissions from the generation of electricity used in EVs, the so-called Long Tail Pipe. They will be discussed in the next post.

What’s important in an air basin such as the southern San Joaquin Valley, EVs do not emit pollutants that contribute to the smog so prevalent here.

As Elon Musk likes to say about the Tesla, the entire car is an “emissions defeat device.” He’s referring to the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. Volkswagen couldn’t meet US emission standards for NOx from its diesel engines without software that “defeated” the emissions control equipment when the car was running normally.

NOx is one of the chief pollutants contributing to photochemical smog in the valley. Here’s how the Nissan Leaf stacks up against the NOx standard—and against the VW Jetta and some SUVs.


If you’re trying to control NOx from Light Duty Vehicles in the valley, there’s simply no better way than to convert the passenger vehicle fleet from fossil fuels to electricity.