Tesla's electric cars aren't as green as you might think


petros
+2
#1
Elon Musk is unveiling the Tesla Model 3 today. If you're planning to buy one, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself. Not only will you have a sweet ride, but you’ll be doing something good for the environment! No gasoline-powered sports cars to get you through your midlife crisis, thank you very much. You care about global warming.

But how green is a Tesla, really? Devonshire Research Group, an investment firm that specializes in valuing tech companies, dug into the data and concluded that Tesla's environmental benefits may be more hyped than warranted. Devonshire isn’t saying that Tesla is pulling a Volkswagen, or that its cars are spewing greenhouse gases from invisible tailpipes. It’s arguing that Teslas (and, by extension, all electric vehicles) create pollution and carbon emissions in other ways. Each stage of an EV's life has environmental impacts, and while they aren't as obvious as a tailpipe pumping out fumes, that doesn't make them any less damaging.

Let's start with the basics. Your electric car doesn’t need gas, but it still might get its energy from burning carbon. It depends on how your local grid generates electricity. “If you use coal-fired power plants to produce the electricity, then all-electrics don’t even look that much better than a traditional vehicle in terms of greenhouse gases,” says Virginia McConnell, an economist at the environmental research firm Resources for the Future. But if your local grid incorporates a fair amount of renewable solar and wind energy, like California, your electric vehicle is pretty clean.

Of course, gasoline doesn't exist in a vacuum, either: Refining, processing, and transporting gas add emissions that car owners must factor into their overall carbon footprint, the so-called "well-to-wheel" tally. It takes as much energy to produce a gallon of gasoline as a Model S consumes in 20 miles of driving, according to Department of Energy data. When you add all those extra expenditures up, "an electric car like the Model S has almost four times lower CO2 per mile than an equivalent gas-powered car,” says a Tesla spokesperson. So while the emissions argument is tantalizing for gas guzzlers, the average numbers still come out in favor of electric vehicles.

Beyond Emissions
The math gets trickier, though, when you include other forms of environmental damage. Electric cars need to be light, which means they include a lot of high-performing metals. The lithium in the batteries, for example, is super light and conductive—that’s how you get a lot of energy without adding a lot of weight. Other, rare metals are sprinkled throughout the car, mostly in the magnets that are in everything from the headlights to the on-board electronics.

But those rare metals come from somewhere—often, from environmentally destructive mines. It’s not just Tesla, of course. All electric vehicles rely on parts with similar environmental issues. Even solar panels depend on rare metals that have to be dug out of the earth and processed in less-than-green ways, says David Abraham, author of the book The Elements of Power. (Disclosure: I helped edit some chapters of the book.)

Rare metals only exist in tiny quantities and inconvenient places—so you have to move a lot of earth to get just a little bit. In the Jiangxi rare earth mine in China, Abraham writes, workers dig eight-foot holes and pour ammonium sulfate into them to dissolve the sandy clay. Then they haul out bags of muck and pass it through several acid baths; what’s left is baked in a kiln, leaving behind the rare earths required by everything from our phones to our Teslas.

At this mine, those rare earths amounted to 0.2 percent of what gets pulled out of the ground. The other 99.8 percent—now contaminated with toxic chemicals—is dumped back into the environment. That damage is difficult to quantify, just like the impact of oil drilling.

And, as in every stage of the process, mining has hidden emissions. Jiangxi has it relatively easy because it’s digging up clay, but many mines rely on rock-crushing equipment with astronomical energy bills, as well as coal-fired furnaces for the final baking stages. Those spew a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the process of refining a material destined for your zero-emissions car. In fact, manufacturing an electric vehicle generates more carbon emissions than building a conventional car, mostly because of its battery, the Union of Concerned Scientists has found.

“We’re shifting pollution, and in the process we’re hoping that it doesn’t have the environmental impact,” says Abraham. He believes that when you add all the environmental impacts, they still come out in favor of electric vehicles. (The Union of Concerned Scientists agrees; it found that even when you add in emissions from battery manufacturing, EVs generate half the emissions of a conventional car over the course of its life.) Still, consumers and investors should understand what it takes to make the materials that enable their green choices. “I don’t think there’s been much discussion of that,” Abraham says. “We can’t look at mining as an over-there thing and at Tesla as an over-here thing. They’re intricately linked.”

Overall, “the greenhouse-gas-emissions footprint of electric vehicles can be pretty high on the front end, as they’re being built,” says McConnell. “And so you need to get a lot of benefits on the other side, when you use it.” And after you're done using it.

Life After Death

Now let’s fast-forward 15 years, to when your Tesla Model 3 is on its last legs. Where is the battery going to go? The good news is: not to a landfill. “It has not been accepted for a battery that comes out of a car to go to a landfill for decades,” says electric car advocate Chelsea Sexton. Instead, “battery recyclers are piloting technologies to recover a lot of materials from those batteries,” says Shanika Amarakoon, a researcher at the firm Abt Associates who partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to write a report on the impacts of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars.

A Tesla battery is big—the pack in the Model S tops half a ton, far bigger than anything most e-recycling outfits take—so coming up with an efficient and cost-effective recycling process will take some work, and only a few companies specialize in recycling lithium batteries right now. “The challenge that we have with recycling these rare metals is enormous,” Abraham says, “because the products that we have now use metals in such a small quantity that it’s not economic to recycle.”

But that could change when there are million of electric vehicles on US roads and millions of old batteries to recycle. “The more batteries that are out there, in various devices, the more interest there is in figuring out how to recycle them or to recapture rare earth metals [from them],” Sexton says. Plus, used electric car batteries can still be useful for energy storage, whether in a single building or as part of grids that incorporate more solar and wind. That can help offset the environmental costs of making the batteries in the first place.

According to Tesla's spokesperson, the company already recycles all battery packs returned to it and plans to do more. As the battery market grows—driven by investments like Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory—its greater numbers will drive up recycling efficiencies and reduce impact on the environment.

OK, so an electric vehicle contributes a fair bit of pollution and greenhouse gases to the world. But you know what else does? A gasoline-powered car. Even though they don’t have batteries, conventional automobiles can contain plenty of the same problematic rare metals that electric cars do. (Remember those magnets?) You can’t judge Tesla, or any other electric car, in a vacuum. You must compare it to the status quo. And that status quo has many of the same problems—plus the carbon emissions and air pollution generated by traditional gas guzzlers.

“We need to invest in the science of understanding the impacts of the products that we’re making,” Abraham says. Still, that doesn’t mean we should stop making those products—or that you shouldn’t buy one. “The hope is that if you’re getting people to buy a lot of electric vehicles, you’re going to push on the technology too,” McConnell says. “You don’t get that unless you have some market interest in it.” The Tesla Model 3 you’re dreaming of isn’t perfect. But it may still push our society and economy in the right direction.
 
gopher
+1
#2
definitely better than one of those Model 3 or whatever they are:







renewable energy source, cost efficient, loyal, has more cargo & passenger space
 
Bar Sinister
+1
#3
We have all heard this anti-electric car propaganda before. It doesn't hold up when you compare it to the environmental damage caused by the oil industry; particular the extraction of oil from the tar sands and shale oil. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to matter as electric vehicles continue to gain traction. The internal combustion engine is in the last few decades of its life - get used to it.
 
petros
+1 / -1
#4
Really? A different type of pollution is a better type of pollution?
 
captain morgan
+2
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Elon Musk is unveiling the Tesla Model 3 today. If you're planning to buy one, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself. Not only will you have a sweet ride, but you’ll be doing something good for the environment!

If you're planning on buying one, expect delivery in maybe 10 years... His company still can't deliver on teh preorders from a couple of years back

Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

We have all heard this anti-electric car propaganda before. It doesn't hold up when you compare it to the environmental damage caused by the oil industry; particular the extraction of oil from the tar sands and shale oil.

Yeah, good point 'cause we all know that the rare earths, metals, plastics and elements needed EVs self-extract themselves from the Earth and leap into the cars already put together for assembly.

.. Glad you brought up that critical difference there bud
 
petros
+1
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

definitely better than one of those Model 3 or whatever they are:







renewable energy source, cost efficient, loyal, has more cargo & passenger space

This is the 1909 Baker electric car. It has a range of 110 miles on a charge with a top speed of 25mph.



Why wasn't it a smashing success?
 
gopher
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

We have all heard this anti-electric car propaganda before. It doesn't hold up when you compare it to the environmental damage caused by the oil industry; particular the extraction of oil from the tar sands and shale oil. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to matter as electric vehicles continue to gain traction. The internal combustion engine is in the last few decades of its life - get used to it.



the electricity industry likely gets less corporate welfare in the form of subsidization in comparison to the oil welfare industry

of course, it doesn't deserve any and should never get so much as one cent
 
petros
#8
....
 
captain morgan
+2
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

the electricity industry likely gets less corporate welfare in the form of subsidization in comparison to the oil welfare industry

of course, it doesn't deserve any and should never get so much as one cent

Solyndra

'Nuff said
 
gopher
#10
Quote:

Why wasn't it a smashing success?



I think because Ford built a better model which sold far more units.
 
petros
+1
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

the electricity industry likely gets less corporate welfare in the form of subsidization in comparison to the oil welfare industry

of course, it doesn't deserve any and should never get so much as one cent

Tesla is the most subsidized Corporation in US history.

It beats the Transcontinental railroad.
 
Murphy
+1
#12
I haven't heard the anti-stories.

The real environmental damage is emptying the universe of electrons. Once they've been hybridized, they cease to orbit. They cease to move. Atoms destabilize and everything comes apart.

These damn cars will be coming apart and nothing short of Monika Riaz can stop it.
 
gopher
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morgan View Post

Solyndra

'Nuff said



from wiki:


The three largest fossil fuel subsidies were: Foreign tax credit ($15.3 billion) Credit for production of non-conventional fuels ($14.1 billion) Oil and Gas exploration and development expense ($7.1 billion)



all FAR more than Solyndra while the far right remains silent about that form of welfare

Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Tesla is the most subsidized Corporation in US history.

It beats the Transcontinental railroad.



It needlessly got $5 billion in welfare, no argument about that. But this amount pails in comparison to the subsidies and welfare given to the military industrial complex. Strange, though, how the anti-government far right has always applauded when it should have condemned this welfare. But that, of course, would entail the demonstration of principle which is something they lack.
 
petros
#14
Renewable get $1.2B more? What do you have to show for it?
 
Murphy
+1
#15
Yet some of you remain silent about the donkeys that pulled the trolley cars up those hills in San Francisco.

Who mourns for them?
Last edited by Murphy; Apr 6th, 2018 at 11:26 PM..
 
petros
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

I think because Ford built a better model which sold far more units.

Still doesn't explain why they weren't prefered over an internal combustion engine.

Quote: Originally Posted by Murphy View Post

And you remain silent about the donkeys who pulled the trolley cars in San Francisco up those hills.

Gasoline was seen as the cleaner option over several hundred tonnes of equine shit per day in cities like NY and Chicago.
 
gopher
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Still doesn't explain why they weren't prefered over an internal combustion engine.



we went over that a long while ago on this forum - electric cars in those days did not have the long range fuel powered cars did --- or at least that's what they tell us as to why Ford changed to fuel powered autos

Quote:

equine shit


correction: fertilizer
 
Murphy
#18
He has a natural hate for petroleum and petroleum byproducts.
 
Bar Sinister
+2
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Really? A different type of pollution is a better type of pollution?

Do you have any evidence that the mining of rare earths will be even remotely as filthy as the oil industry? I'm betting you don't. But I eagerly await a link to prove me wrong.
 
petros
+1
#20
Yeah, try fresh horse shit on your garden and watch how fast it'll die.

Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

Do you have any evidence that the mining of rare earths will be even remotely as filthy as the oil industry? I'm betting you don't. But I eagerly await a link to prove me wrong.

Yeah I do. Read the article.

What did I win?
 
gopher
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by Murphy View Post

Yet some of you remain silent about the donkeys that pulled the trolley cars up those hills in San Francisco.

Who mourns for them?


Wasn't that before the Civil War?

In any case, they should have torn down the mountains - that would have made things more convenient for everyone
 
mentalfloss
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

Do you have any evidence that the mining of rare earths will be even remotely as filthy as the oil industry? I'm betting you don't. But I eagerly await a link to prove me wrong.

Poor petros.
 
gopher
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalfloss View Post

Poor petros.



re filthy oil industry:


Oil Spills in Nigeria Could Kill 16,000 Babies a Year


far right pro lifers should be enraged by this news & there are many online links to prove there were more such leakages in Nigeria
 
petros
#24
Poor me? Because I read what I post?

From the OP:

Rare metals only exist in tiny quantities and inconvenient places—so you have to move a lot of earth to get just a little bit. In the Jiangxi rare earth mine in China, Abraham writes, workers dig eight-foot holes and pour ammonium sulfate into them to dissolve the sandy clay. Then they haul out bags of muck and pass it through several acid baths; what’s left is baked in a kiln, leaving behind the rare earths required by everything from our phones to our Teslas.

At this mine, those rare earths amounted to 0.2 percent of what gets pulled out of the ground. The other 99.8 percent—now contaminated with toxic chemicals—is dumped back into the environment. That damage is difficult to quantify, just like the impact of oil drilling.
 
Murphy
+1
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

Wasn't that before the Civil War?

In any case, they should have torn down the mountains - that would have made things more convenient for everyone

No, 1889. It was easier to fill the valleys than move mountains. The idea of improvements and levelling was nixed by Grover Cleveland. He wanted grapes.
 
Bar Sinister
+1
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morgan View Post

If you're planning on buying one, expect delivery in maybe 10 years... His company still can't deliver on teh preorders from a couple of years back



Yeah, good point 'cause we all know that the rare earths, metals, plastics and elements needed EVs self-extract themselves from the Earth and leap into the cars already put together for assembly.

.. Glad you brought up that critical difference there bud

Maybe you could buy one of these. In a few years you might not have a choice.
All-Electric Vehicles For Sale In USA (2017 & 2018 Model Years)


https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/07...-for-sale-usa/

And then there is this good news. Got any more straws to clutch?

Electric Cars May Rule the World’s Roads by 2040



https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...-engines-2040/
 
petros
#27
Wow "may"... In those 22 years how many more internal combustion engines will hit the streets?

Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

Maybe you could buy one of these. In a few years you might not have a choice.
All-Electric Vehicles For Sale In USA (2017 & 2018 Model Years)


https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/07...-for-sale-usa/

And then there is this good news. Got any more straws to clutch?

Electric Cars May Rule the World’s Roads by 2040



https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...-engines-2040/

So...what do you owe me for your wager you lost?
 
Bar Sinister
+1
#28
More good news for electric cars. Batteries a problem? Don't like the fact that lithium batteries require rare earths? Then the future is probably one of these.

A Massachusetts Company Claims to Be Close to a Solid-State Battery

https://futurism.com/massachusetts-s...ttery-company/
 
mentalfloss
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

Maybe you could buy one of these. In a few years you might not have a choice.
All-Electric Vehicles For Sale In USA (2017 & 2018 Model Years)


https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/07...-for-sale-usa/

And then there is this good news. Got any more straws to clutch?

Electric Cars May Rule the World’s Roads by 2040



https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...-engines-2040/


The guy thinks oil subsidies are a hoax.

That's the level of stupid you're dealing with here.

Quote: Originally Posted by Bar Sinister View Post

More good news for electric cars. Batteries a problem? Don't like the fact that lithium batteries require rare earths? Then the future is probably one of these.

A Massachusetts Company Claims to Be Close to a Solid-State Battery

https://futurism.com/massachusetts-s...ttery-company/

Keep knocking him out.
 
petros
+1
#30
Tax credits. Same ones green energy gets.
 

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