11 votes

Elon Musk should come clean: Tesla’s emissions are rising

20 comments

  1. [17]
    dubteedub
    Link
    I think this article raises some good questions regarding Tesla's environmental footprint given their recent announcements to expand operations in China and build a new manufacturing facility...

    I think this article raises some good questions regarding Tesla's environmental footprint given their recent announcements to expand operations in China and build a new manufacturing facility India. While Tesla is often viewed as an environmental darling given their focus on electric vehicles, when looking at the lifecycle of these vehicles, particularly when built in countries with dirty grids and recharged in areas with dirty grids, that is not so much the case. I agree with the author here that more transparency from Telsa on their emissions is necessary, especially as so much of their brand is based on the impression of being green.

    11 votes
    1. [14]
      Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      Quick side note: electric cars on dirty grids is almost always better than internal combustion cars. It is far easier to regulate emissions on a handful of power plants than for every car on the...

      Quick side note: electric cars on dirty grids is almost always better than internal combustion cars. It is far easier to regulate emissions on a handful of power plants than for every car on the road. How many people replace their catalytic converters when they wear out unless the government forces them to? Also, as the grid transitions to renewables, local electric cars get a smaller carbon footprint. Local gas cars still blow just as much smoke.

      That being said, you are correct. Transparency is always good.

      9 votes
      1. [12]
        dubteedub
        Link Parent
        While that is true, according to Argonne National Laboratories Well-to-Wheels Emissions Calculator for Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the average ICE vehicle emits just over 500 grams of CO2...

        While that is true, according to Argonne National Laboratories Well-to-Wheels Emissions Calculator for Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the average ICE vehicle emits just over 500 grams of CO2 per mile. If you have a BEV getting its electricity from coal, the vehicle would emit just over 400 grams of CO2 per mile. That is a pretty de minimis reduction in CO2 emissions.

        This article also points out that if you are building these cars in areas with super dirty grids like India or China, then the lifecycle emissions of the cars would be even worse.

        I am not arguing at all about the benefits of BEVs using renewable electricity and we are certainly making a ton of progress here in the U.S. on that front. However, churning these cars out in BRIC countries and selling them for operation in other high-polluting energy grid countries is not helping the environment.

        That is also not even getting into the rare metal mining trade.

        8 votes
        1. Autoxidation
          Link Parent
          I find this argument to be a red herring. For starters, a 20% reduction is nothing to scoff at, and it's better than the status quo of continuing to push ICE vehicles. Additionally, one of the big...
          • Exemplary

          I find this argument to be a red herring. For starters, a 20% reduction is nothing to scoff at, and it's better than the status quo of continuing to push ICE vehicles. Additionally, one of the big benefits of EVs is their emissions aren't static. As fossil fuel powerplants close in the future, an EV will benefit from those changes, and it will allow time for EVs to trickle into the used market to those that couldn't afford them new.

          China's and India's grids aren't as dirty as you imply. India had almost 25% electrical generation by non-carbon sources (hydro, wind, solar, nuclear) in 2019. The USA generated about 37% of its electricity from the same sources in 2019. China generated 30% of its electricity from the same sources in 2019.

          12 votes
        2. [8]
          Greg
          Link Parent
          Obviously CO2 is the critical global issue, and any analysis on real world impact there is helpful, but smog and particulates matter on a local level too. When you've got 10M+ people living on top...

          Obviously CO2 is the critical global issue, and any analysis on real world impact there is helpful, but smog and particulates matter on a local level too. When you've got 10M+ people living on top of each other there's a significant public health win just from cleaning up the air they're breathing.

          3 votes
          1. [7]
            dubteedub
            Link Parent
            The same Argonne WTW calculator shows that BEVs using coal electricity emit more Particulate Matter (10 and 2.5) and more SOx than internal combustion engine vehicles. There are moderate...

            The same Argonne WTW calculator shows that BEVs using coal electricity emit more Particulate Matter (10 and 2.5) and more SOx than internal combustion engine vehicles. There are moderate reductions in NOx emissions when using coal electricity compared to gasoline.

            Imgur album of screenshots - https://imgur.com/a/FNWRXd7

            3 votes
            1. [6]
              Greg
              Link Parent
              Huh, interesting - I'll admit that I just took your word on the CO2 numbers, so I didn't realise the link had particulate data as well. I was thinking of it specifically as a local issue: my...

              Huh, interesting - I'll admit that I just took your word on the CO2 numbers, so I didn't realise the link had particulate data as well.

              I was thinking of it specifically as a local issue: my understanding is that there's a meaningful fall off in exposure even between roadside and non-roadside residences, and a further fall off as you move out of the city, so (unlike CO2) pumping out a similar quantity of pollution 20 miles away from the people does actually improve matters. Wasn't expecting higher sulphur and slightly worse PM 2.5/10 numbers, though, and I won't claim to understand how that skews things compared to distance.

              Time to pin more hopes on the economics of cheap solar edging out legacy coal, I guess!

              2 votes
              1. [5]
                Loire
                Link Parent
                The issue isn't really a matter of cheapness. Solar and wind are already effectively cheaper than coal. The issue is baseload power. Coal burns 24/7 and can be easilyish (within the capacity of...

                Time to pin more hopes on the economics of cheap solar edging out legacy coal, I guess!

                The issue isn't really a matter of cheapness. Solar and wind are already effectively cheaper than coal. The issue is baseload power. Coal burns 24/7 and can be easilyish (within the capacity of the plant) scaled up or down to meet fluctuating needs. Neither solar or wind can be used in the same capacity without a economically improbable battery usage or the construction of industrial scale power storage techniques like pumped hydro, which simply aren't realistic in some regions.

                Ultimately we need to get off our fear of nuclear, or, my personal preference, massive development of geothermal.

                6 votes
                1. [2]
                  dubteedub
                  Link Parent
                  I would throw in hydrogen there as well, particularly for seasonal energy storage needs as we get more intermittent renewables on our grid. Answer to Energy Storage Problem Could Be Hydrogen -...

                  I would throw in hydrogen there as well, particularly for seasonal energy storage needs as we get more intermittent renewables on our grid.

                  Hydrogen has the greatest potential among technologies for seasonal energy storage in the future, according to an analysis conducted by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

                  Seasonal energy storage can facilitate the deployment of high and ultra-high shares of wind and solar energy sources, according to Omar Guerra, a research engineer at NREL and lead author of a new paper, “The value of seasonal energy storage technologies for the integration of wind and solar power.”

                  2 votes
                  1. spctrvl
                    Link Parent
                    Methane might be a better option for power to gas, it's better for shipping and storage and would let us reuse a lot of existing gas infrastructure. Plus, with methane containing carbon, excess...

                    Methane might be a better option for power to gas, it's better for shipping and storage and would let us reuse a lot of existing gas infrastructure. Plus, with methane containing carbon, excess capacity could be used for sequestration.

                    1 vote
                2. [2]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  It doesn’t seem like coal has any advantage over natural gas at this point? (That is, properly winterized.) I agree that newer geothermal techniques look very promising. However, It seems hard to...

                  It doesn’t seem like coal has any advantage over natural gas at this point? (That is, properly winterized.)

                  I agree that newer geothermal techniques look very promising. However, It seems hard to tell which energy technologies will win? A lot of storage technologies have been proposed and even tried, but whether they succeed or not is going to depend on technical details affecting costs that they tend not to talk about and aren’t visible to us. I guess it’s good that there’s competition.

                  2 votes
                  1. Loire
                    Link Parent
                    Oh for sure, natural gas is the clear winner in fossil fuels. I just didn't bring it up because this is a "clean energy" thread and natural gas plants built now may or may not pay for themselves...

                    It doesn’t seem like coal has any advantage over natural gas at this point? (That is, properly winterized.)

                    Oh for sure, natural gas is the clear winner in fossil fuels. I just didn't bring it up because this is a "clean energy" thread and natural gas plants built now may or may not pay for themselves in the short timeframe they have to exist (it takes 20-25 years for a fossil fuel plant to work its way into pure profit ignoring subsidies).

                    However, It seems hard to tell which energy technologies will win?

                    The best thing for our grid is a for a multitude of technologies to win. Not every part of the world can make geothermal work, even with the advances in technology that allow colder rock to output viable energy. Some geological regions are just too cold. In some regions solar panels just aren't viable. Even in areas where all forms of energy are viable it's a good thing to have a mix. The same goes for storage. You're not going to make pumped hydro scale in prairies/grasslands for example.

                    We need multiple technologies to succeed, become profitable and to scale to make our transition to a purely renewable future viable.

                    4 votes
        3. [2]
          Weldawadyathink
          Link Parent
          Thanks for the source. I know I had seen similar stuff but I didn’t feel like finding it again. Yeah, no kidding. This is probably the worst problem with electric cars (and all electric devices)...

          Thanks for the source. I know I had seen similar stuff but I didn’t feel like finding it again.

          That is also not even getting into the rare metal mining trade.

          Yeah, no kidding. This is probably the worst problem with electric cars (and all electric devices) right now. I wish Tesla would do something about it. With a company their size throwing their weight around, something might even change.

          2 votes
          1. spctrvl
            Link Parent
            They did drop cobalt from their new battery chemistry. Not the only problematic battery component, but probably the worst.

            They did drop cobalt from their new battery chemistry. Not the only problematic battery component, but probably the worst.

            2 votes
      2. bloup
        Link Parent
        This is true, but I think more importantly is the basic idea that an ICE basically is a dirty power plant, but even worse, it's a dirty power plant that can't even take advantage of economies of...

        electric cars on dirty grids is almost always better than internal combustion cars. It is far easier to regulate emissions on a handful of power plants than for every car on the road.

        This is true, but I think more importantly is the basic idea that an ICE basically is a dirty power plant, but even worse, it's a dirty power plant that can't even take advantage of economies of scale to make power.

        7 votes
    2. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Maybe, but I’m not sure how many Tesla buyers are primarily environmentalists at this point? It seems like more of a luxury good.

      Maybe, but I’m not sure how many Tesla buyers are primarily environmentalists at this point? It seems like more of a luxury good.

      3 votes
      1. Autoxidation
        Link Parent
        Some of us are. It's nice to have an otherwise attractive EV option too, that isn't as pricey as a Porsche.

        Some of us are. It's nice to have an otherwise attractive EV option too, that isn't as pricey as a Porsche.

        4 votes
  2. [3]
    lonjil
    Link
    I actually think plug in hybrids would be better for the environment in the near term. Right now one of the biggest limiters on pure battery electric vehicles is batteries. We just don't have...

    I actually think plug in hybrids would be better for the environment in the near term. Right now one of the biggest limiters on pure battery electric vehicles is batteries. We just don't have enough of them, and they're expensive. Theory here is that if most people who want long range cars only need that range rarely, a car with half or even a third of the battery capacity could be enough for most journeys, with the occasional longer trip using gas. You could then sell 2 to 3 times as many cars with that benefit, and they might be cheaper too.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Autoxidation
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I hate to break it to you, but people want PHEVs even less than BEVs. PHEV sales numbers are dropping while BEV sales are increasing, while BEV sales have eclipsed PHEVs for some years now.

      I hate to break it to you, but people want PHEVs even less than BEVs. PHEV sales numbers are dropping while BEV sales are increasing, while BEV sales have eclipsed PHEVs for some years now.

      2 votes
      1. lonjil
        Link Parent
        I know that. But in terms of reducing CO2 as much as possible with the limited battery production we have now, PHEVs seem like an overall better choice.

        I know that. But in terms of reducing CO2 as much as possible with the limited battery production we have now, PHEVs seem like an overall better choice.

        2 votes