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Is Tesla really a green company?

Discussion in 'Tesla Motors' started by FakeStewartAlsop, Apr 3, 2016.

  1. FakeStewartAlsop

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    OK, so I watched the Elon Musk Model 3 presentation. He spoke, initially, of the horrors of climate change. So, I'm wondering how much does Tesla care about climate change? So I hunted through a recent Model S manual looking for keywords: CO2, greenhouse, carbon, emissions and climate. Among those words, 'emissions' occurred in only one section, and 'climate' appeared only with respect to 'climate control'. Frankly I doubt one car can control the climate ;-).

    Now, I don't have access to a Model S, so my knowledge on this subject is limited. Yet even several months of lurking at the TMC site gives no indication there is any instantaneous car-generated feedback on this subject.

    So given the above, I find it strange, that there is no apparent user interface in the Tesla (maybe the phone app?) that gives the driver ANY CLUE about how much less carbon is in the atmosphere, thanks to the recent EV trip driven. Nevertheless, there are all sorts of details about wHr/mi and rated range in the instrument panel(s). Now, I understand that the CO2 savings will largely depend on three things: 1) the best ICE substitute for the Model S (your baseline); 2) the electric fleet of generators in your area; and 3) how much of a lead-foot, you, the driver has. Still, given that #1 can be a pre-set user-preference; #2 could be updated based on GPS and statistics; and #3 is just driving history, why doesn't the green-friendly Tesla give some clues about what the day-to-day differences are, in the car's ample display screen.

    Just to show you how little the apparent CO2 impact is, in my neighborhood (Dallas), I compared economy flights from DFW airport to ORD (Chicago). Carbon Footprint Ltd - Carbon Footprint Calculator reports such a flight is costing 190 kg of CO2. In contrast, the CO2 grid-impact is about 250 gm/mi to charge a Model S. Given driving DFW->ORD is 931 miles, then we have a 232 kg in CO2 release by the Model S. So that is 22% difference favoring flying (assumes single occupant driver). 61% better CO2 economy if two people ride the Model S. Driving an ICE would be about a 50% greater CO2 release than the Model S. So why does the average driver have to be married to a math major to get these rough approximations? Ignoring any quibbles over whether my math is right or not, what would it take for Tesla to surface this information to the driver?
     
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  2. kort677

    kort677 Active Member

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    fud?
     
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  3. cdub

    cdub Future Model 3 owner

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    You sir need to do some reading up on Elon Musk (Telsa and Space X CEO)... his whole goal is to "save the planet" by moving away from fossil fuels... and "preserve the human species" by colonizing Mars.
     
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  4. Fallenone

    Fallenone Active Member

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    You concerns are legit. If the grid EVs rely on are dirty (dominated by fossil fuel), the CO2 advantage of EV compared to ICE is not very apparent. Based on various assumptions and driving behaviors, it might even be worse in certain areas where ICE have been very refined, and the grid is very dirty. This is because the manufacture phase of the batteries is also very energy intense and needs a lot of electricity. You have to add this for the two to be compared.

    However, no data has been collected on the improvement by recycling and reuse the materials of used battery packs. This has the potential to greatly improve the environmental performance of EVs. Plus, as the grid gets cleaner, EV gets substantially better.
     
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  5. FakeStewartAlsop

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    FallenOne, thanks for your comments. I believe Tesla, over the years, will work to minimize the CO2 impact of the supply chain and assembly process (maybe throw in some battery recycling too). My concern, is that although MPG and eMPG are a good start to giving some hints to the efficiency of the car's emissions, there is a gap in showing CO2 controls. I think that if I'm (and by extension, Tesla) to truly show some green cred to my riding buddies, I want something in the display to suggest how good the Model S, my driving style, and the local grid are working together to make the world a better place. I know the car is nice. Its acceleration is a simple number on the spec sheets. What is not evident, and almost concealed, is how well it performs to help hold the world temperatures in check.
     
  6. Fallenone

    Fallenone Active Member

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    I would recommend you write a letter explaining your idea to them. I think they have taken consumers' suggestions before (not all of them, of course).
     
  7. FakeStewartAlsop

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    FallenOne, I think this is an issue that is bigger than just the EV v. ICE debate. As I sit on my patio admiring a cool sunny day, I ask myself, "FakeStewart, if you were to pick one project to do this year, a) install 5kW solar array on your roof; or b) buy a Model S, which would you do?", then knowing what I know (or would be evident from a Model S test drive), I would achieve better climate forcing by building solar, and postponing the Model S purchase.

    Alternatively, in some 2022 version of the grid+ModelS, I might be able to make the opposite call -- namely, buy the car first, and update my house with Solar a year later. Basically, it helps me to know, given my choices, what IS the current/local CO2 impact. These two projects are inextricably intertwined. I'd rather postpone doing the 'good' when I should be performing the 'great'.
     
  8. Fallenone

    Fallenone Active Member

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    That's great environmental thinking! If you are interested, I recommend you to explore a field of Life Cycle Assessment. It helps people compare different options in terms of environmental consequences to achieve the same function people want so that we can make educated decisions.
     
  9. FakeStewartAlsop

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    I'll start looking at sites -- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - Error page -- . My angle on this is from the point of view of a software developer. The data is out there. When it comes to the grid, there are finite boundaries to each of the major grids in the U.S. The driver behavior is easy to collect and average. It would be trivial for Tesla to show, in a meaningful way, the grams of CO2 saved -- perhaps even compare it to the CO2 present in an average mature tree (in a graphic). The display could show CO2 this trip, CO2, this month and CO2 since the purchase of the car. For extra credit, the display could tell me what percent of the recent hurricane season is my fault (or diminished because of my swapped energy source). I just don't want to be stuck answering the question, "Hey FakeStewart, how much less CO2 did you put in last year?"... and me going "Uh... I don't know."
     
  10. liuping

    liuping Active Member

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    I recommend adding solar panels to your home. Then answering that question become quite easy: essentially 0.

    The other question (actually the first question from most people) is how much does it the electricity cost to drive a Model S. for Me the answer is simple $.1 per kWh (assuming the panels only last 20 years, their warrantee period, which is very conservative) or about 4 cents a mile.
     
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  11. FakeStewartAlsop

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    Liuping, that is an excellent answer! I may be on the road to just that result -- except that in Texas, the cost will probably be 20-30% more since we don't get as much sunshine in Dallas as I expect you do in San Diego. Anyway, some hunting on the net yielded me this site, which advocates for some kind of real-time CO2 meter present on car dashboards (obviously, it wouldn't apply to the car you offset with solar): Buying Carbon Credits is Easier than Ever! - Ecosystem Marketplace
     
  12. harry

    harry Member

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    We have, in the monitoring system for our PV arrays, an item which shows the number of tons of CO2 avoided by our power generation. From our perspective it is a silly and useless number. Would I like to see the same thing in our EVs? Not a chance.

    No rational person could believe that individually we can make a measurable impact on world wide carbon emissions. As we all know, the only way things like this can happen is if huge numbers of people take action, across a spectrum of areas.

    The false dichotomy of PV versus Model S is just a strawman. If you can afford a Model S you can certainly afford 5Kw of solar. Actually, for the price of a Model S we installed over 30Kw of PV, producing just under 50Mwh of power each year.

    Further, if you only do the one thing that seems to have the biggest payoff then collectively we won't get very far. We all have to everything we can, in as many areas as we can, and making our tiny individual contributions to the de-gassification of transportation seems worthwhile on its own.
     
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  13. Laserbrain

    Laserbrain Member

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    #13 Laserbrain, Apr 3, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
    @FakeStewartAlsop: don't forget in your calculation that the production of gasoline or kerosine uses large amounts of energy, too.

    The ICE lobby worked hard to make the people beleive that each night elves riding on unicorns make gasoline magically appear in the tanks of the gas stations. And the highly energy intensive process of getting the oil out of the ground, oil refinery and transport is getting completely ignored.

    So is Tesla a green company? Yes.

    Is it the uber-greenest company ever? "At Tesla we don't build slow cars" (results in unnecessary high energy consumption). Free supercharging (results in unnecessary trips and wasted energy). Probably not.

    But Tesla is still greener than any other ICE car company.
     
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  14. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    No. But if it succeeds in its mission it will help allow the world to be green.
     
  15. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    I'm going to be the stick-in-the-mud on this one and aver that this predilection I have been noticing more and more about Showing Your {Carbon Footprint/CO2 Not Emitted} is a marketing attempt at a feel-good kind of mental masturbation that I would be far happier were Tesla Motors never to stoop to.
    Airlines are using it to justify carrying you rather than...what? Driving? Sailing? Swimming across the Atlantic? Railroads likewise are using it to show you just how green they are. Specious.

    As always, it can be useful to take an assertion like this to the extreme in order to assess whether or not it is valid. Here, for example, you can substitute: "Is my driving my Model S/X/3 going to be more or less injurious to the earth than if I bicycle? Walk? Have a vasectomy/ovarectomy? Take a long walk on a short bridge?"

    Oops. All those options are superior, and as such the entire premise of the calculus disintegrates. Tesla is better off not trying to play that game.
     
  16. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    Have you read about the plans for the Gigafactory? When it reaches full production, it will produce the equivalent of the entire world's production of Li-Ion batteries (2014 levels), and will be carbon neutral through the use of solar cells and wind turbines.

    Yes, the company is pretty green. Probably as green as it can really afford to be at this point. (It could be greener--as could most every company--but doing that would probably be detrimental to budgets, time schedules, or both. And it's way more important for the company to succeed).

    But it really doesn't matter, because it's their products (cars and energy storage) that really have the significant impact on the world's carbon emissions.
     
  17. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    I realize that in the penultimate post I wasn't clear as to the specific action I was criticizing. It was the OP's initial comment about not seeing in each Model S data as to how much CO2 was being offset per each distance traveled, and so forth. Too late to edit my earlier comments.
     
  18. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    A 5 kW PV array should be a whole lot cheaper than a MS so the question is not all that helpful, but it's pretty easy to see that investment in PV has a much better green return in terms of CO2 than a more expensive (but cleaner) car.

    Think of it this way:
    A kW of PV costs about $2000 and produces some 1.75 MWh of clean energy a year for about 25 years, thus about 44 MWh or about 22 kWh per dollar. Each kWh displaces somewhere between 1 - 2 lbs of CO2, depending on which fossil fuel is avoided. Take the middle ground and figure 33 lbs of CO2 avoided per dollar.

    Give the EV the high ground, and say that it is carbon free and removes a regular car from the road that gets somewhere in the range of 25 - 50 MPG. Over 100k miles between 2000 and 4000 gallons are not spent by you (though perhaps by someone else!) and since a gallon of fuel has a WTW carbon footprint of 20/0.82 = 24 lbs, the EV has saved at most 96,000, or as little as 48,000 lbs of CO2

    Almost there: Back to 33 lbs of CO2 saved per one dollar by PV: Somewhere in the range of
    48,000/33 = $1500 - $3000 of PV to match the EV in terms of CO2 savings.

    ----
    If I could only do one, I would choose PV
    I will not buy an EV without PV
     
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  19. woof

    woof Model S #P683 Blue 85 kWh

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    "Offset of CO2" is such BS. Compared to what? It's a pissing match based on garbage numbers. Has no meaning in the real world. When I was in the ActiveE program, they had a web portal with this greenwashing stuff, trying to get members to compete with the "greenest" numbers. Totally bogus, no basis in reality. Tesla is much more engineering focused and uses real measured units such as kWh/mi. No leaves or growing trees on the dash--just hard engineering data.
     

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