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Are Tesla Vehicles Really That Much Better For The Environment?

May 19, 2017
1,272
506
Let’s look at updated analysis on the age-old question. Properly answering this question requires plenty of research since you have to look at the full energy equation and update the results regularly. You can’t just simply say that since Tesla cars don’t spew exhaust, therefore they must be much better for the environment. We also...
[WPURI="https://teslamotorsclub.com/blog/2019/10/11/video-tesla-emissions-vs-gas-cars/"]READ FULL ARTICLE[/WPURI]
 

ecoquant

Supporting Member
Oct 11, 2019
7
3
Westwood
So, this challenge to EVs is both obfuscation and seems ignorant of a life cycle sustainability analysis. Let's take the latter first.

The comparison is an EV, like a Tesla, with an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle. Independent of their fuel sources, both have upstream environmental impacts, from metals, plastics, and whatever else goes into their manufactures. There are differences, because of the different nature of the designs and engineering of the two kinds of vehicles. ICE's have a lot of machined metals, plastics and rubbers, oils and lubricants. EVs are basically big circuit boards, with most of the mass going into the batteries. Metals need to be mined, purified, refined, smelted, shaped, and transported. Electronic circuits are made on assembly lines with pretty controlled material contributions, and not a lot of transport. The ingredients of LiON batteries might, however.

In terms of fuel comparisons, sure, if the objective is zero CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, whether or not the lifecycle usage of an EV like a Tesla lowers emissions depends upon where the electricity gets drawn from. On the other hand, the fuels for ICEs are mined and extracted, refined, pumped, and finally burnt. There is no improving the latter.

But an EV operates in an environment which is changing and which, because of lower costs per unit energy from zero Carbon sources, will eventually move more and more to principally zero Carbon sources. (The idea of needing gas peakers to make up for variation is a product of low imagination on the part of utility owners and a refusal to do things substantially different than they do now. They'll lose, for all kinds of reasons. That discussion is beyond the scope of this comment.) ICE vehicles cannot and will never improve here.

So any argument that an EV does not help the environment only has substance if the region where it is used is pursuing a policy avoiding zero Carbon energy sources. That's not the EV's fault. In the long term, people generating electricity using fossil fuels will inevitably go out of business. A 30 year contract was let in Qatar which sold electrical energy for 17 cents per megawatt-hour, using principally solar, backed up by batteries. No fossil fuel generating source can come close to that cost, even if the subsidies on solar are not counted, and the subsidies for fossil fuels -- for which there are many -- are counted.

Solar's going to eat everyone's lunch.

And, then, effectively, running EVs like Tesla's will be almost too cheap to meter, apart from capital costs for build out.
 
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ecoquant

Supporting Member
Oct 11, 2019
7
3
Westwood
Oh, sorry, forgot the obfuscation part: Yeah, the repeated pointing out of this is propaganda, expecting people to be distracted from the actual details.
 

wasp

Member
Sep 17, 2019
18
6
switzerland
easilly demonstrated:
it is an excellent reason to order a Tesla : Save the planet ! Or at least make a step in the right direction.
Why? Here are a couple facts I gathered to compare ICE ( internal combustin Engine) cars versus EV ones:

But lets not forget the energy used to drive 150000Km, it does also emit CO2 :
how does the production of this energy ( extraction refining, transport.;.etc) contribute to the pollution ?
so?
i sold my diesel range rover and bought a model 3 ( yet to be received).
ya shall do the same.
 

Jackl1956

Active Member
May 11, 2013
1,890
13,574
Los Angeles
The seals, gaskets, and components of an internal combustion engine wear over time. Over time, an ICE pollutes more and more. This is evident in old smoky cars. Over time, ICEs become dirtier and dirtier.

Over time, more and more renewable sources are added to the grid—the grid becomes cleaner and cleaner. Over time, electric vehicles pollute less and less.

This isn’t rocket science.
 
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SION1771

Member
Sep 4, 2018
73
57
Chicagoland
We got solar panels installed a month ago and we're producing way more energy than our car consumes. After incentives / rebates, it was only a few thousand dollars so that refund I got for foregoing Supercharging is now paying for at-home charging.
 
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ralph142

Member
Mar 8, 2019
360
308
bellingham, wa
Also depends on how the 'juice' that comes out of a socket to charge a Tesla is generated. For instance, in the Netherlands it is still well 80 percent over by burning fossil fuels. Do the match, this means that Teslas are worse for the environment than a small car with ICE.

Which math shows that mining petroleum, transporting it, refining it, transporting again, then burning it in a vehicle is more efficient than burning it centrally and more efficiently to make kWh to charge a battery?
 
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EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,330
21,540
NorCal
Also depends on how the 'juice' that comes out of a socket to charge a Tesla is generated. For instance, in the Netherlands it is still well 80 percent over by burning fossil fuels. Do the match, this means that Teslas are worse for the environment than a small car with ICE.

That is not correct, EVs -- especially efficient EVs like the Model 3 -- are cleaner essentially everywhere than comparable ICE vehicles.

For example, a recent study found that in Germany, which has similar or higher carbon intensity from electricity production than the Netherlands, a Model 3 would produce less than half the GHG emissions of a comparable diesel (113 g/km v. 244 g/km). The Underestimated Potential of Battery Electric Vehicles to Reduce Emissions - ScienceDirect

in the US, the Union of Concerned Scientists similarly has found that efficient EVs like the Model 3 are cleaner than ICE essentially everywhere in the US. The map below shows the MPG an ICE would need to match efficient EV (and it uses 2016 data and the grid is cleaner now).
New Data Show Electric Vehicles Continue to Get Cleaner

In addition, Tesla expects current battery life to be 300-500K miles for a Model 3, which would further reduce lifetime emissions per mile by spreading the emissions due to battery production over a larger number of miles. Finally, many EV owners charge from electricity generated by home solar, and that is not included in these studies even though it reduces the average emissions from the EV fleet significantly since EV owners tend to own solar at rates much higher than average.

2016-map_best-EV_logo.jpg
 
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XLR82XS

D M C
Jul 26, 2019
3,141
1,794
SWFL | Vegas
We got solar panels installed a month ago and we're producing way more energy than our car consumes. After incentives / rebates, it was only a few thousand dollars so that refund I got for foregoing Supercharging is now paying for at-home charging.
How long will it take to recuperate that cost vs. plugging the car in and paying for juice? Is your solar dedicated only to charging the car?
 

brucet999

Active Member
Mar 12, 2015
2,692
1,497
Huntington Beach, CA
How long will it take to recuperate that cost vs. plugging the car in and paying for juice? Is your solar dedicated only to charging the car?
I looked at it not as recouping cost, but as an investment.
I installed 5.3kW of solar on my house in coastal SoCal. Electricity use decreased from about $80/mo to about $12/mo (mandatory fees only) and we got back $64 for over-production at end of year. So, $816 savings plus $64 = $880
Gross cost of 16 SunPower premium high efficiency black panels was $20,700 (18 cheaper LG blue panels with visible white lines would have cost about $2,000 less)
Net cost of PV installation after 30% federal tax credit = $14,490
Annual tax-free ROI = 880/10,143 = 6%
Equivalent yield required from pre-tax investment (California & fed combined tax rate 35%) = 9.34% Not many people get such a high yield from a totally safe investment. In fact, as electricity rates inevitably increase, so will the yield on the investment.

In my case, the yield is actually much greater than this because I was doing a remodel project at the time and so was able to include in the tax credit part of the re-roofing cost (necessary because of wood shakes) plus the cost of a new 225A main panel to replace a too-small 50-year-old 100A panel. My net cost after tax credits was about $11,000, giving an effective pre tax ROI of about 13%.
 

Lozza12

Member
Aug 14, 2016
189
171
New Zealand
Also depends on how the 'juice' that comes out of a socket to charge a Tesla is generated. For instance, in the Netherlands it is still well 80 percent over by burning fossil fuels. Do the match, this means that Teslas are worse for the environment than a small car with ICE.
You also assume a petrol engine in a car is the same or better efficiency than a FF power station. It isn’t.

Coal fired power stations can be up to 40% efficient, gas fired closer to 50% and your car is only around 25-30%. Power stations don’t have to drag around their fuel source with them or suffer aerodynamic resistance, unlike your petrol car.

From what I’ve read most of the “studies” that show EV battery production is the most toxic process ever invented by Man assume the worst case scenario in order to jack up the average CO2 emitted (and assume lots of children and small animals were harmed along the way)...and do you see any chimneys on GF1 in Nevada?
 
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voyager

Member
Apr 28, 2009
941
481
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nobody seems to read that carefully any more. I said more polluting than a small ICE car. Not diesel, not comparably sized. I know of the relative inefficiency of ICE between 15 and 25%, compared to a modern coal, gas or oil burning energy plant. Again, the small size (and lightweight) and subsequent mpg will make it less polluting than a (big) Tesla that gets its juice from a fossil-energy plant. And I haven't even considered the production process in this.
 

Lasairfion

Member
Jul 24, 2018
497
541
UK
Even if the EVs were as polluting at the power station as an ICE was on the road, just the simple fact that the pollution is elsewhere and not directly in my face makes it better. Just think how many cars are idling outside of a school as they pick up the kids; and we wonder why child asthma rates are through the roof.

I have a diesel car currently, and I have to switch it off when I go round the back to put something in the boot. The fumes are noxious. The sooner it's gone, the better.
 

ralph142

Member
Mar 8, 2019
360
308
bellingham, wa
Nobody seems to read that carefully any more. I said more polluting than a small ICE car. Not diesel, not comparably sized. I know of the relative inefficiency of ICE between 15 and 25%, compared to a modern coal, gas or oil burning energy plant. Again, the small size (and lightweight) and subsequent mpg will make it less polluting than a (big) Tesla that gets its juice from a fossil-energy plant. And I haven't even considered the production process in this.

evidence as opposed to assertion?
 
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Alfred

Supporting Member
May 28, 2009
300
259
Zurich
Considering just running the car, a modern and efficient EV, such as Teslas Model 3, will beat in terms of CO2 production even smaller gasoline burning cars in many places, depending of course on the source of your electricity. Including then also other pollutants will favour EVs even more.

If you start with electricity purely from coal, you will end up close to a modern diesel engined or hybrid smallish car. A significant difference nevertheless remains in cities as of course exhaust fumes blown directly in your face never get particularly healthy.

The sums are easy to do: Take the following numbers for starters: 150-200 Wh/Km for EV's and 7-10 liters/100Km of gasoline. A coal plant emits typically 700-1000 g of CO2/kWh produced (the lower value for newer plants).

Theoretical numbers, such as those for engine efficiencies measured on test beds, will not yield usable data. The questions relating to the impact of battery production are another topic, but also here up-to-date data cannot turn the balance. Most estimates include large uncertainties and assume relatively short battery lives. Expectations for the better current batteries are about 3-5 times better than such studies mostly assumed hitherto. This alone lets the practical relevance of these estimates fade sufficiently to make them nearly irrelevant.

You might also alternatively start reading into the matter as from here. EV and battery technology is evolving very rapidly and many such calculations suffer from diminuishing predictive value.
 
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nwdiver

Well-Known Member
Feb 17, 2013
8,114
10,579
United States
Also depends on how the 'juice' that comes out of a socket to charge a Tesla is generated. For instance, in the Netherlands it is still well 80 percent over by burning fossil fuels. Do the match, this means that Teslas are worse for the environment than a small car with ICE.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 8.51.57 PM.png
 

Lasairfion

Member
Jul 24, 2018
497
541
UK
How green are electric cars?

"Multiple studies have found that electric cars are more efficient, and therefore responsible for less greenhouse gas and other emissions than cars powered solely by internal combustion engines. An EU study based on expected performance in 2020 found that an electric car using electricity generated solely by an oil-fired power station would use only two-thirds of the energy of a petrol car travelling the same distance."

Charged EVs | ICCT analysis: EVs are cleaner than ICE vehicles

"Among other things, the ICCT analysis indicated that the typical EV produces 50 percent fewer GHG emissions than the average passenger car in Europe. What’s more, the ICCT analysis found electric cars in Europe were nearly 30 percent cleaner over their lifetime versus cars with combustion engines...

The analysis also showed that emissions produced during the manufacturing of an EV are paid off after just two years. That number drops to one and a half years if the car is charged primarily with renewable power. Also, about half of a battery’s emissions stem from the production of electricity used during the manufacturing process."

Electric Vehicles with Lowest CO2 Emissions

"For the same vehicle models with different powertrains, the carbon footprint of the battery-powered E variants is already better than those of the corresponding vehicles with internal combustion engines. In addition, the electric vehicles offer a higher CO2-saving potential in all phases of the product cycle.

Furthermore, it is of crucial importance for CO2 emissions whether the propulsion energy is generated from fossil or regenerative sources. This is the result of a certified life cycle assessment (LCA) of the Volkswagen Golf, which compares the CO2 emissions of the different vehicle versions with either an electric or an internal combustion engine."
 
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SION1771

Member
Sep 4, 2018
73
57
Chicagoland
Also depends on how the 'juice' that comes out of a socket to charge a Tesla is generated. For instance, in the Netherlands it is still well 80 percent over by burning fossil fuels. Do the match, this means that Teslas are worse for the environment than a small car with ICE.


The Netherlands will ban the use of coal in electricity generation by the end of 2029, so it's great they're getting their house in order now so the future will only be cleaner.
 

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