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Model S v. ICE and which is less environmental

Discussion in 'Model S' started by kevincwelch, Aug 10, 2014.

  1. kevincwelch

    kevincwelch Active Member

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    Can someone point me to the threads (or other websites) that discuss this issue (either side of the debate) ? Thanks.
     
  2. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    #2 ChadS, Aug 10, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
    I've seen a lot of lifecycle studies; anything peer-reviewed always shows EVs on top, unless you compare EVs in a 100% coal state to very efficient hybrids like the Prius. Then the Prius may win by a small amount environmentally (if you ignore the driving experience, convenience, cargo space, local economic benefits, national security, etc). And that of course is assuming that the EV owner does nothing to source cleaner electricity. And that the local electricity mix never gets better.

    Another way of stating this: while not every EV beats every gas car on an environmental basis right now, most do - the average EV only does about 50% of the damage of the average gas car already, and that gap is expected to widen significantly in the future - and impatient owners can widen it themselves right now. Arguing that EVs "are no better" is flatly untrue.

    I think one of the most clear and thorough lifecycle studies was by the Union of Concerned Scientists. That's the primary one that, say, the Sierra Club leans on (see footnotes HERE, for example). Note, however, that their 2012 report used 2009 rather than 2011 electricity generation data simply because it was available in an easier-to-handle format. So their report understated the benefits of EVs even when it was new given that the grid got cleaner from 2009 to 2012 - and the grid is even cleaner now. The DOE has some really good stuff too.

    I have seen 4 papers (not studies; not reviewed) that purported to show that EVs are worse. The only author name I remember is Ozzie Lehner. Their mistakes are not hard to find if you read all the details and check sources. Some of the mistakes I remember: going upstream for electricity but not for gas; assuming gas cars last 200k miles but EVs only last 50k miles and then the entire car is trashed with no recycling; assuming the electric motor is 5x the size it really is, including worst-case data for materials mined for power-dense hybrid batteries that are not used in energy-dense EV batteries, using worst-case foreign electricity emissions data that is not applicable here, comparing a Tesla-size EV to the smallest ICE cars...there was more but I forget. Despite only having seen 4 papers like this, there have been HUNDREDS of blogs and editorials citing them. They get way more cites than the legitimate studies. No wonder people are confused about whether the cars are really cleaner or not.

    In general, I find that when I give out links to sources, the recipient either does not have the background to understand them, or doesn't bother to go over them in detail. So I usually just end up saying that the big orgs that really care about this issue and that have spent a lot of time evaluating the evidence - the DOE, Sierra Club, UCS, etc - are all firmly behind the environmental benefits of EVs. And of course, the whole thing is kind of moot because few people base their car-buying decision on which one is better for the environment. It's largely just a complex (hence easy to throw out confusing tidbits) topic that the anti-EV crowd like to argue about, because they incorrectly assume the only people that support EVs are environmentalists. Proving to them that EVs are cleaner (if they really read through everything you give them and are willing to admit they are wrong rather than changing the subject) is still not going to get them to buy one. In a similar fashion, EV supporters often assume that EV haters are all from the right-wing. This is not true; there are many left-wingers that hate EVs because they fear the public will adopt EVs instead of bicycles, mass transit, government-repressed water-powered cars, or whatever their preferred solution is. (Ozzie Lehner, for example. The same goes for one of the other bogus paper authors, though I've forgotten the name. Later: I think it was Bjorn Lomborg).

    Here are a couple more lifecycle URLs I had sitting around, though I haven't looked at them in quite a while: HERE and HERE. And here are a couple of critiques of some of the bad papers (that way you get a link to the anti-EV papers and to some explanation of the mistakes they made): HERE and HERE.
     
  3. wk057

    wk057 Senior Tinkerer

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    I'm not an environmentalist at all, not even close. But see signature. :p

    The Model S is an awesome car. That aside, I do like the idea of being in control of the fuel for my transportation. If I don't want to pay the electric company to charge my car, I can go solar or wind or something else. Just happens to be that those would be environmentally friendly avenues... but that doesn't really factor in to my thought process on the matter much...
     
  4. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    I have read a number of papers and as ChadS said there is a lot of FUD and misinformation out there. I performed my own analysis at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/94320747/GAS_VS_Electric.xlsx and basically an EV has half the environmental impact as an ICE even if your electricity is about 70% coal like ours is. But that is comparing similar cars like a Malibu versus a Leaf. If you compare a Model S to a Prius then the Prius will win if the electricity is even 1/3 coal.

    This analysis does not compare manufacturing emissions as those numbers are not really available. I have a hard time seeing a significant difference but I simply can't find good manufacturing numbers.


    But what I find really cool is nearly 60% of Tesla owners have made the jump to solar. Driving on Sunshine - Page 12 If you do that no gas or hybrid car can compete. An EV powered by solar is an unbeatable combination except for walking and bicycling.
     
  5. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    Agree 100%
     
  6. kevincwelch

    kevincwelch Active Member

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    Thanks for the link.

    That's 60% of Tesla owners on TMC who participated in the poll. Big difference.
     
  7. timpoo

    timpoo Member

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    Regardless of the comparison now, it's the future that's most important.

    The great thing about the Model S is that its fuel is dynamic. As our electricity mix changes from largely fossil fuels, to more renewable sources, the Model S becomes even more environmentally friendly.

    But with ICE cars, it doesn't matter if the entire grid was generated from renewable sources, you'd still need fossil fuels.

    Sorry I know it's not a comparison study - just thought I'd put that thought out there!
     
  8. Chipper

    Chipper Active Member

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    I would find your research suspect if you used the same logic at determining how many Model S owners have made the jump to solar. Kevin Welch is right...most likely a BIG difference.
     
  9. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    In my analysis I cite all sources and the solar does not come into play. As for the 60% of Tesla owners with solar please present ANY data to the contrary.

    I have personally 8 Model S owners and 4 have solar systems and one has quotes out. Most of these are not on TMC. I agree the poll is not ideal but am open to any other options.
     
  10. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    The posts in that thread cannot accurately represent a random sample of all Tesla owners because...it's not a random sample. You cannot draw a valid conclusion from the responses in that thread. It is a biased sample, biased towards those who have solar and want to post about it.

    The true number of Tesla solar users is probably a few percentage points above the actual percentage of solar users in the entire population. But we really don't know because no one has conducted a random sample survey of all Tesla owners.

    I personally know five Tesla owners here in California and none of them have solar.
     
  11. jhs_7645

    jhs_7645 VIN: #3305

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    Agreed, a poll about using solar power here is like a poll on a hunting forum:

    “Have you bagged a deer?”
    - YES (and it was a huge one)
    - NO (.. I’m just not that good of a hunter)
     
  12. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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  13. Chipper

    Chipper Active Member

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    We have had this conversation previously and I won't enter into it again...bet every time you post your factoid I am going to point out that you have insufficient data to make that claim. You do yourself no favors by pointing out that you personally have 8 Model S owners (???) 4 of whom have solar. The best you could say based on these data is, "In my personal circle of research..."
     
  14. karmamule

    karmamule Member

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    If you want to investigate your personal situation in terms of how an EV using power on your local grid will compare to the average new (ICE) car then this site let's you do that:

    Beyond Tailpipe Emissions: Results

    timpoo's point is an important one: EVs emissions are only indirect when power is produced so benefit from grid improvements, whereas an ICE car *is* the source of emission so will never improve over the life of the vehicle.
     
  15. callmesam

    callmesam Member

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    32% of EV owners also install solar power.
    -----

    The Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Owner Survey is a long-term collaborative research project managed by Center for Sustainable Energy's (CSE), in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and researchers at UT Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.


    Together, the project team is analyzing data from Clean Vehicle Project (CVRP) participants in order to understand trends in the PEV market, including the drivers of adoption, vehicle use, as well as vehicle charging infrastructure use and satisfaction.


    The latest survey of California’s plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) drivers shows differences in primary purchase motivations from owners of one model to the next. The survey also shows increased satisfaction with public charging options and wider availability of workplace charging.


    Previous rounds of the CSE survey consisted largely of all-electric Nissan Leaf drivers. This is the first time drivers of multiple vehicle types have participated: 57% Leaf, 17% Chevrolet Volt and 22% Toyota Prius Plug-in.


    The current survey covers drivers who have owned their vehicle for at least six months as of March 1, 2013.


    February 2014 Survey Report | CSE (CCSE)
     
  16. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    We have two (full) sets of PV operations, on our houses 3,600 miles apart. Does that skew the data? :tongue:
     
  17. kevincwelch

    kevincwelch Active Member

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    #17 kevincwelch, Aug 11, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
    It's interesting to read. Someone I was chatting with claimed he wasn't investing in Tesla because he wasn't able to predict their future and cited a bunch of his reasons, one of them being that the Model S was actually worse for the environment than a similar sized ICE. My reaction was "That can't be true," but I honestly didn't know either way despite my suspicion that his claim was unfounded.
     
  18. AmpedRealtor

    AmpedRealtor Active Member

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    If someone tries to tell you that your Model S pollutes more than an ICE vehicle, ask them which one they'd prefer to be locked up with inside of a sealed garage while running. That usually gets them every time.
     
  19. ACDriveMotor

    ACDriveMotor Member

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    Worked in the power generation business and I can't believe this could be a serious discussion. Pro ICE folks should start with some basic due diligence research.
     
  20. Andvib

    Andvib Member

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