If you want to drive an electric car and save the planet, you need to move to Albania. A new study released this week revealed the country is the best place to drive an electric car, as it generates all of its electricity from hydroelectric power. That means when a driver charges up their car, they know it’s coming from a renewable source, rather than fossil fuels.

“That is the one thing all of the top countries had in common — a very high percentage of their electricity comes from hydroelectric power,” Brandon Schoettle tells Inverse. He’s the co-author of the paper and project manager at the University of Michigan’s transportation research institute.

The study is a sharp reminder that with Tesla and similar brands, switching to an electric vehicle is not a magic bullet when it comes to helping the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has obsessed over the electric car for 25 years, but he pairs his passion with projects like solar panels as part of a push to get the world onto clean energy. Russian president Vladimir Putin told reporters last month that because the ultimate energy source for many electric cars is oil or coal, he believed Tesla’s vehicles are not as good for the environment as cars that run on natural gas.

A Tesla vehicle charging up.
A Tesla vehicle charging up.

The recently released paper, “Fuel Sources for Electricity in the Individual Countries of the World and the Consequent Emissions from Driving Electric Vehicles,” was written in collaboration with Michael Sivak, a research professor at the institute. The pair set out to look beyond the eco-friendly marketing and find out where electric vehicles source their energy from.

The findings were stark. While an average gas-powered car gets around 32 miles to the gallon, driving an electric car in Albania is the equivalent of getting a staggering 5,100 miles per gallon of gas. Electric vehicles in the United States get around 55.4 miles per gallon, while the global average is 51.5 miles per gallon. In most cases, you’re still doing your bit to save the planet with an electric car, but it varies wildly depending on location.

“At the very least, this study is a bit of a reminder that the cleanliness of [electric vehicles] is only as clean as the indirect emissions from the fuel source(s) used to make the electricity,” Schoettle says. “But it is also a reminder that the average new vehicle in the U.S. that gets around 25 mpg is still much less clean than even the dirtiest electricity fuel sources — like in Gibraltar or Botswana, both with 29 mpg-equivalent from using 100 percent coal and/or oil to make their electricity.”

Red spots indicate open points, grey spots indicate planned points.
Red spots indicate open points, grey spots indicate planned points.

If you’re specifically looking to take a Tesla for a fuel-efficient spin around Tirana, though, you may want to hold off. Tesla has not built any supercharging stations in Albania, and has no current plans to do so. The charging points provide 120 kilowatts of power to charge a 90kWh Model S to 80 percent capacity in around 30 minutes., You’ll have to cross over to Greece or Macedonia, where the company plans to build charge points in the future.


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