The Electric Car Market is About to Get Crazy (and Confusing)

The early days of any new technology tend to be — to put it technically — insane. Airlines in the 1960s, PCs in the 1980s, iPhone apps in the 2000s. Their origin stories all are similar: there’s a crush of new product, a marketing dash for FOMO-motivated customers and piles of money to burn as companies buy into the new game.

The US electric car market right now is no exception. And that's where Bloomberg Green’s Electric Car Ratings come in.

In an effort to make sense of this mad market — to catalogue in close-to-real-time every one of the EVs on offer at the moment — we’ve produced a rating of electric cars. The dashboard covers every new fully battery-powered vehicle available for sale in the US, calling out metrics from price and range to charging speed and number of seats.

Electric cars are drastically cleaner than conventional gasoline vehicles, particularly as renewable power starts to comprise more of the grid. However, there’s a growing awareness that none of this 5,000-pound hardware comes without a carbon cost; there’s no such thing as a “zero-emission vehicle,” as they have been branded by policymakers and early champions. Steel body panels don’t grow on trees. Lithium doesn’t just flow out of the ground and into battery plants. And electricity — even the stuff coming from solar panels — isn’t captured without a great deal of capital and carbon expense.

That’s why our EV ratings also measure how “green” each of these machines is with a formula based on the economy of the vehicle, how far it travels relative to how many pounds it weighs, and the size of its battery. The economy part of the equation is weighted at 70% of the score, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of an EV’s emissions that come from driving. The remainder of an EV’s carbon footprint comes from its manufacturing, especially the construction of the battery. Thus, in our model, battery size serves as a proxy for all manufacturing impacts and is weighted at 30%. How we arrived at these decisions and some additional context is spelled out at length in our methodology.