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The ecological challenges of Tesla’s Gigafactory and the Model 3

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by amosbatto, Jul 28, 2017.

  1. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    I sat down and tried to calculate the ecological costs of the Gigafactory and the Model 3. I found a number of problems with assuming that long range EVs are always better for the environment. Please read my blog post about it:
    The ecological challenges of Tesla’s Gigafactory and the Model 3

    I'd like to hear your comments on the issues I raise in the article.
     
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  2. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

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    "The Model S will be a smaller and more aerodynamic car than the Leaf..."

    RT
     
  3. techmaven

    techmaven Active Member

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    #3 techmaven, Jul 28, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
    Wow, you definitely put in a lot of work there. A sensitivity analysis might be worth doing, as small changes in some of the input values might have profound effects. I do find a few things curious to re-examine at my first quick glance... drying rooms in Nevada may require a lot less energy, the specific energy of NCA cells that Tesla uses may have better starting values and you might have skipped a step where silicon was added to the anode for the 90 kWh packs and the Model 3 should have yet another step in improvements. Also, the cost of manufacturing everything but the battery for the Model 3 versus the entirety of the Prius seems suspect. Both the Volt and the Prius have electric and gas drive trains and lots of electronics. The overall rest of car estimate seems very much wrong. did you use the Mercedes LCA for the B-class electric to calibrate? Note that Tesla has stated that their cathode oven uses 80% less energy, presumably based on the value used from the Suminoe Plant in Osaka, which was already one of the lower energy intensive plants. A lot of the battery production studies have proven to use far too high starting values, where the Sanyo/Panasonic plants are much more energy efficient. Your efficiency number for the Model 3 might need adjustment.

    Good start though.
     
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  4. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    Tesla has already stated that the Gigafactory will be net zero carbon emissions from a combination of local PV and wind so regardless whether your energy analysis is correct, from my standpoint it is irrelevant. The mining for the battery materials is an upfront pollution cost but if Tesla's plan to recycle batteries works out then the cost for subsequent generations of batteries is or approaches negligible.

    Tesla Gigafactory | Tesla
     
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  5. Runt8

    Runt8 Member

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    This seems like another paper that exhaustively looks at sources of electricity used for charging EVs but assumes that gasoline magically appears in the tanks beneath the gas station. Why is the ecological cost of drilling for, transporting, and refining oil always ignored?
     
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  6. omarsultan

    omarsultan Active Member

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    A couple of things jump out:
    • You need context--how do long range BEVs compare to gasoline cars, to horses, to bicycles, Hydrogen fuel cells to flux capacitors
    • You need scope--you need to look at well to wheel (or the equivalent) for the above modes of transportation. If you want to get more granular, can work in direct and indirect costs from things like environmental impacts from things like oil spills, mining accident. Looking as a single point in a value chain is a flawed approach because, in reality, that single point does not exist in a vacuum. Gasoline does not magically appear in your fuel tank. Mining bauxite for a Tesla is no or less environmentally impactful than mining it for an Audi
    • Finally you treat your opinion as fact, which is seldom a good practice. Tesla has said said the GF will be run 100% on renewables, to which you respond "Tesla knows that it is highly unrealistic". So, do you have a source or a foundation for this statement? I have to tell you, I am going to tend to believe the guy that build solar panels and lands rockets on ships if he says something. Having gone on a GF tour, one of the things that strikes you is the efforts they have gone to minimize ecological footprint at every step of the manufacturing process. You take this approach again when discussing raw materials sourcing ("These claims should be treated with skepticism"). Why? I am a fan of healthy skepticism, but you need some foundation. Do you have have knowledge of Tesla's supply contracts? If not, why do you feel comfortable dismissing them out of hand?
    TBH, with no post history, its hard to gauge your motivation. If you are trying to have a legitimate discussion, I hope this feedback will help you have a more intellectually honest conversation and I also suggest you check out the existing exhaustive body of work on wheel-to-well analysis. If you are a short or a Koch drone, give it up, you are on the wrong side of history on this.
     
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  7. JeffK

    JeffK Well-Known Member

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    ok
     
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  8. gregincal

    gregincal Active Member

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    Yep, the article makes exactly this mistake. In addition to comparing production emissions of electricity to just car side emissions of ICE cars, ignoring production emissions of gasoline, it talks a lot about how we might need to source battery materials from ethically challenged places, as if no gasoline comes from ethically challenged places.
     
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  9. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    Yes, a sensitivity analysis is probably the best approach, because there are lots of guesses so you can see the impact of different variables. What I would like to see is a model where you could plug in variables and get an estimate of the manufacturing emissions for cars.

    Vehicle manufacturing has a large number of variables. For example, we know that electronics has a big impact on the environmental costs, but we need a detailed breakdown of how many square centimeters of flat panels, how many square centimeters of circuit boards, how many square millimeters of ICs, and how many kilos of wiring. The environmental impact of making a Tesla battery is much higher than a Leaf battery because the Tesla batteries have a separate circuit board for each battery module and the battery monitors the health of between 5000 and 8000 cells. I took a shot in the dark and said 15 kgs of electronics in the Model 3, but it would be nice if one of the first Model 3 owners would take apart her car and measure everything for me. :) I haven't seen any studies about the energy and GHG emissions of making sensors. I would guess that they are high, but I really don't know.

    Another important variable is how many kilos of copper and aluminum will be in the Model 3. EVs generally have more of these metals than ICE cars. We can guesstimate that the Model 3 will probably have 3 times more copper than a normal ICE car, but you really have to take apart the car to know for sure. The Model S has 600 lbs of aluminum, but the body of the Model 3 will reportedly be made of steel, which should reduce its manufacturing emissions.

    Do you have a link about the ovens being used in the Gigafactory? I just googled it and couldn't find anything. I have read that if you use electricity from gas to run an electric heater, that it is 30% efficient vs 85-90% efficient to burn the gas directly to generate heat. If you are using 100% renewables, then the efficiency doesn't matter much from an environmental perspective. I'm glad that Elon Musk is setting high goals for his company, but I'm skeptical that the Gigafactory will be able to run on 100% renewable energy any time in the near future, but Tesla might work about a deal with a hydroelectric dam from Washington/Oregon, but that means less renewable energy for California, so I'm not sure if it is really better. They really need to invest in their own geothermal plant in my opinion and huge arrays of solar and battery storage to deal with variability. Tesla is probably better equipped to do this than any other company on the planet, but it won't be cheap.
     
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  10. techmaven

    techmaven Active Member

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    #10 techmaven, Jul 28, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
    Apparently you haven't watched a tour of the Gigafactory from last summer:



    The part that presents the cathode deposit/oven is at 6:10... and at 8:40, the presenter says,

    Also, the Mercedes B-class electric is a straight forward conversion of a B-class to electric using a Tesla power train. It has the older NCA cells, the older drive unit, and 34 kWh battery pack (probably 36 kWh nominal, advertised at 28 kWh).

    LCA is here:
    https://www.daimler.com/images/sustainability/produkt/new-enviromentalcertificates/daimler-umweltzertifikat-mb-b-klasse-electric-drive.pdf

    Battery pack details are here:

    https://avt.inl.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/fsev/batteryBClass5630.pdf

    Note it is too easy to double count the battery materials and the rest of the drive unit materials. The total additional CO2 for swapping out the ICE B180 for the B-Class electric is 4.6 tons. That includes the battery pack, BMS, inverter, drive unit electronics, etc. It also includes shipping the cells from Osaka to California, assembly in CA, then shipping to Germany for final assembly.

    Also, the closest retail cell to what Tesla used in the original battery packs is the NCR18650BE cell, in retail, weighs 48.5 grams. Nominal capacity is 3180 mAh. That makes an "nominal" 85 kWh pack a 81 kWh pack, which is what the BMS reports. That's 11.4 watt-hours per cell, or a specific energy of 235 Wh/kg. The Tesla cells slightly modify the cell packaging, so likely it is slightly better than that. The silicon in the anode cells bumped specific energy by about 8%, which puts it around 253 Wh/kg. The Model 3 should get another step, so even an conservative addition of 7% puts it around 270 Wh/kg.

    You spend a large portion of your writing on the limits of global raw materials. However, you have to realize that the figures given for known reserves and the like are very suspect. That's because people haven't bothered to go find additional materials since there's plenty. It's like talking about peak oil... if we approach peak oil, then the businesses that look for oil will look harder. And prices as well as technology can make previously un-economical sources into economical sources. Lithium, cobalt and the likely have far more actual available resources, but producers haven't bothered to look beyond the known reserves yet.
     
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  11. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    Extraction, transport and refining are included in the Argonne Nat. Lab's estimates for the GHG emissions for gasoline. You will get no argument from me about the unsustainability of gasoline and diesel, but the question is whether EVs are any more sustainable or whether we need to be looking seriously at policies to reduce the total number of vehicles on the planet.

    Gasoline made from conventional crude emits ~92 g CO2-eq per MJ, compared to ~110 g for gasoline made from tar sands. See: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/acs.est.5b01255
    Roughly 5% of US gasoline comes from tar sands. If that percentage continues to rise, then it might become a serious factor in the calculation, but I am convinced that EVs will dominate the market in the future and that they will destroy the market for unconventional crude oil. If autonomous EVs make the the price of oil falls as Arbib and Seba (2017) predict to $25 per barrel, then unconventional oil will no longer be via
     
  12. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    "...will no longer be viable."
     
  13. FlyF4

    FlyF4 Member

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    BUT, gasoline DOES magically appear in my gas tank of the SUV for me..... When it gets low, the wife goes and fills it up !!! :D
     
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  14. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    Thanks for the link to the video. The Tesla employee leading the tour says that the casing for the cells will be made of steel, but most cells today use aluminum in the casing. Can anyone confirm that the casing will be made of steel?

    I'm planning on buying a NCR18650BE cell and weighing each component to get a better weight breakdown. Do you know of a way to get a 2170 cell from Tesla/Panasonic?
     
  15. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    I can't see any reason why Tesla would have negotiated to get $8 million in electricity rebates over 8 years if the company thought that the Gigafactory would be able to generate 100% of its own energy. I probably should explain my skepticism better in the article. I calculate that the Gigafactory will be using between 369 and 535 MW of energy. To get that much energy with a geothermal plant with an 80% capacity factor, you will need a plant between 461 and 669 MW. The biggest geothermal plant in Nevada is 64 MW. To get that much energy with a solar farm with a 20% capacity factor, you would need a solar farm between 1843 and 2676 MW. The largest solar farm in the US is only 579 MW and it covers 3200 acres. The Gigafactory only has 2600 acres. Wind is not viable at the site of the Gigafactory, but even if it were, you would need far more land to generate that much energy with wind.

    Maybe I'm overestimating the amount of energy the Gigafactory will need as Techmaven suggests. Even if I'm off by a factor of 3 or 4, I still don't see how the Gigafactory can generate that much energy or get it from local renewable sources. There isn't that much renewable energy in the region that isn't already in use. Even getting 100 MW from hydroelectric dams in WA or OR will be very difficult due to the stiff competition with California for clean energy.

    As for the question about my personal motivation for writing this article, I'm very worried that we are jumping on EVs as a panacea for transportation, when we should be fighting for public policies to reduce the number of private vehicles. I'm a climate activist who lives in La Paz, Bolivia, where we started an activist group named Reaccion Climatica in 2009 and I do research for our group in my free time. If we take climate science seriously, we need a 90% reduction in GHG emissions in every sector, including transportation and I don't see how we can do that if the world is building 95 million vehicles per year. Even if we are using renewable energy to do mining and refining and using renewable energy to run the vehicles, I still don't think we are going to get a 90% reduction in transportation emissions if there are 2 billion private vehicles on the planet in 2 decades time. I don't have any easy answers, but it is clear to me that "sustainable transport" is going to take a lot more than just switching from gasoline vehicles to battery electric vehicles. We also need to be thinking about the right public policies to move people away from private vehicles.
     
  16. alseTrick

    alseTrick Active Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  17. FlyF4

    FlyF4 Member

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    Hmmm, good attempt at an analysis, but your assumption is wrong that the two things are related (Tesla negotiated rates and planned energy generation to cover it 100%). They are not. Well, mostly not over time". If you lived here in Sparks or in Nevada and understood the way business politics and government incentives work, and the long range Tesla plan, then it would be more clear as to why Tesla negotiates such things. Your assumption is true for Apple with the data center and similar companies moving here, but only minimally true for Tesla. Your energy consumption estimates barely cover the first phase of implementation. Full implementation of the Gigaplants by 2022 is underestimated by a factor of more than 5 !

    I can't even start on the issues surrounding "fighting for public policies to reduce the number of vehicles on the road." If you haven't looked yet, you may want to research the massive issues in Beijing China with their policies to do this by having a lottery to get a license plate! Lots of negative effects, but few positive ones. Their real issue is the number of coal fired power plants they build.

    Bottom line is I like your thinking, but the assumptions and variables are wildly off.
     
  18. amosbatto

    amosbatto Member

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    This is analysis of the Nevada Gigafactory. As far as I know it is not planned to produce more than 105 GWh of cells and 150 GWh of battery packs per year. We need to do an analysis of each planned Gigafactory to check their feasibility in terms of onsite renewable energy, but at this point we don't know the details about the other Gigafactories. If Tesla is serious about being powered by RE, it needs to be buying land in the region to build solar farms, wind farms or geothermal plants, since it currently doesn't have enough land or it needs to be negotiating with third parties to build renewable energy plants.

    At this point, the burden of proof lies with Telsa, because it is making claims that don't sound reasonable. They are currently planning a 70 MW solar array on the roof of the Gigafactory, which at a 20% capacity factor means just 14 MW or 122.6 GWh per year.

    I estimated 100 -150 MJ per kWh of battery cells, but maybe the Tesla/Panasonic engineers have done something miraculous and have figured out how to use only 30 MJ of energy per kWh of battery cells and 5 MJ of energy per kWh of battery pack in the Gigafactory. Even then, the Gigafactory will need 1083 GWh per year or 124 MW to operate. It will be extremely difficult to generate that much energy onsite, even with geothermal and it takes a minimum of 3 years to build a geothermal plant.

    Many societies have fewer private vehicles per capita than the US without significant loss in quality of life. Many cities have reduced the traffic in their downtown streets. Look at the public policies in Copenhagen, Oslo, London, Portland, Vancouver, etc. I live in La Paz, Bolivia where private vehicles are prohibited from traveling on certain downtown streets during week days during high traffic hours. The policy has worked for the last decade.

    China is a very bad example of public policy because the national Chinese government has been encouraging more production of private autos at the same time that city governments were trying to cut the use of private autos. China has increased vehicle production 17% per year since 1999 and many Chinese cities including Beijing prohibited the use of bicycles on busy streets, so it is hardly a good test case for what is possible.

    Redesigning American cities for public transport with new zoning laws, greater urban density, urban infill, etc. will be a long-term effort, but so will switching to 100% renewable energy and switching to 100% electrified transport.
     
  19. S'toon

    S'toon Knows where his towel is

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    Have you read the Union of Concerned Scientists' analysis of environmental impact of EVs compared to ICEs?
     
  20. JeffK

    JeffK Well-Known Member

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    I don't know I think when you say
    it's pretty reasonable. Especially since that comment allows for an unlimited number of solar ground installations.
    Tesla Gigafactory 1 Investor Event | Tesla Motors
     
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