Tesla's Musk Promises Deep Dive Into Electric-Car Emissions

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'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

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The environmental impact of plug-in electric cars is a hot topic right now, and a fiercely debated one at that.

A couple of weeks ago, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk pledged to dive into it himself.

Musk tweeted, "Am seeing many poorly argued attacks on 'true' CO2 impact of electric cars. Will rewrite attacks 4 max strength & try my best to rebut."

His studies, he followed up, "will address the whole system analysis from power gen to power use."

(The tweet and its follow-up since appear to have been deleted--or at least Twitter can't find them. Hmmmmmmm.)

The carbon impact of electric cars focuses on two areas: the carbon produced in generating the electricity that charges their batteries, and that produced during their manufacture.

The first area is largely settled.

Last year, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that even in states with the dirtiest electric grids, the carbon impact of driving electric cars is no worse than that the most fuel-efficient gasoline cars.

In states like California, with its much cleaner electric grid, an electric car is responsible for far less carbon than a 50-mpg Toyota Prius--the most fuel-efficient gasoline car sold in the U.S.

A 2007 study by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council came to similar conclusions.

So did an analysis of his own Tesla Model S by our author David Noland, who analyzed the myth that a Model S is worse than an SUV on overall emissions.

Lately, attention has shifted to the manufacturing impact of electric cars.

Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]

Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]

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Author Ozzie Zehner has a new book out suggesting that the environmental burden of mining the materials for and manufacturing lithium-ion cells, electric motors, and other electronics for electric cars exceeds those for gasoline cars to a degree that offsets their tailpipe emission savings.

In a recent cover story in IEEE Spectrum magazine, Unclean at Any Speed, Zehner summarized the case made in his book.

As Zehner notes, “the seemingly simple question ‘Are electric cars indeed green?’ quickly gets complicated.”

The magazine was soon swamped with more than 500 comments on the article, many of countering his assertions and placed the future evolution of electric-car manufacturing into a broader context.

This author was asked to provide that broader context for an op-ed, Electric Vehicles Need More Study, Less Emotion, in the most recent issue of Spectrum.

The magazine also published a further article, A Rebuttal: EVs Are Clean at Every Speed, by Mark Duvall of EPRI.

The essential conclusions? More study is needed, but plug-in electric cars show great promise for reducing the overall carbon burden of transportation.

If you're interested in the topic, we suggest reading all the links above to educate yourself on the complexities of the issue--and there are many.

But Musk's promise, if it's still active, may bring new public attention to the issues.

Tesla's CEO is not only respected as an entrepreneur now running three startup companies--not only Tesla but also SpaceX and Solar City--but as a scientist as well.

Should he dive into the topic, his conclusions will be widely disseminated and discussed by a far wider audience than the hundreds of thousands of electrical engineers who are IEEE members.

For that reason, we hope Musk makes good on his promise.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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Comments (67)
  1. I can not believe that certain politically motivated groups are saying a EV pollutes worse than an SUV. Even it coal were used to generate 100% electricity most studies show far less emissions since scrubbers systems are used on coal burning plants they are able to reduce particulates to extremely low levels. Now electricity can be made from anything that turns a generator such as hydroelectric and wind and geothermal and nuclear and none of these make any green house gases as well as from the sun itself with solar electric panels so Elon go and stomp out this misinformation being made by advocates of the petrol chemical industry. Also America needs sustainable energy and Home solar arrays could essentially make one energy neutral too.

  2. @Mark: As the article notes, the emissions from the electricity that charges electric-car batteries is only half the discussion. The other half is the emissions--and other adverse environmental impacts--from mining for and manufacturing the batteries, motors, and electronics used in electric cars that are NOT used in gasoline cars.

  3. I didn't see any mention of the other half of the adverse environmental impacts from the mining and manufacturing of internal combustion engine based vehicles which also require mining and emissions during manufacture. If we are going to dive deep then let's do it equally for both sides.

    And since we are there let's look at the environmental impacts of replacing the oil in gas engines and the much higher maintenance and repair of gas engines vs electric as well as the potential increased carbon recycling costs of having to scrap a gas car at the scrap yard while an electric engine has a projected life cycle decades longer. We may need to double gas car impact costs. Further, old, used EV batteries can be resold and used for power grids.

  4. @Smart: The studies by Zehner and others purport to weigh those burdens from electric cars against similar burdens from gasoline cars. Obviously you can't assess one without the other. That's what "wells-to-wheels" assessments of the relative impacts are all about.

  5. There was a journal article in the news last October, Hawkins et al. (http://phys.org/news/2012-10-green-toxic-norwegians-electric-vehicle.html), which concluded the biggest impact from EV manufacturing came from mining copper for motor windings. My conclusion was that we should clean up copper mining, or used more recycled copper. It also means that plug-in hybrids are what you should be comparing to EV's in terms of manufacturing, not ICE cars and EV's.

    I've always wondered what the oil company response to EV's would be, and I think their line of attack is beginning to take shape. The emissions advantages of EV's have pretty well been nailed down. Now, they're testing the manufacturing argument. It's important to get hard facts now.

  6. They don't consider the fact that ICE cars may have a much shorter lifespan than a Tesla before you have to build another ICE car but keep using the same Tesla, Do they? No they don't. They also don't consider the fact that once a Tesla battery is made it can have many more uses well after it's life in automotive is done. These would be represented as environmental impact credits back to the Tesla model and noone's model accounts for that as well. So a full wheels to wheels ACCURATE assessment is not being done currently.

  7. At a fundamental level this strikes me as BS. I don't see how creating lithium batteries is any more energy intensive than pulling oil out of the ground, moving it to where it can be turned into gasoline, taking it to the pump and your car, then finally burning it throughout the life of the car. As for electric motors versus an ICE, one is simple and the other is very complex with a vast amount of individualized parts.

    It is all picking and choosing what aspects of the well (or lithium mining) to wheel process you want to consider part of the process. One small omission and you reach an entirely different conclusion. Creating a battery is not significantly different than creating a piston rod or a crank shaft.

  8. Excellent points, you are a smart guy.

  9. This is what I like to say to the manufacturing half:
    Yes, oil is much better. Why? We only have to extract oil, have only a few oil spills a month, refine it, and there are no rare components that need mined. Minerals like platinum are much more common than lithium, right!?

  10. hey john

    any study has to start looking at what happens as we recycle batteries. Lead-acid batteries are 97% recycled. the same IMHO will occur in Lithium.

    similiar things in rare earth magnets.

  11. The problem is that rare earth magnets are now generally not recycled at all. I'm still a huge EV fan and proponent, but that's one hurdle that needs to be surpassed. I work for a motor supplier that uses lots of rare earth for magnets and it's something many companies are working on, but there's still not much progress. There will be and serious efforts at recycling rare earth started only after major price increases in 2010 or so, but this is a critical improvement that would help greatly.

  12. Lucky then hat Tesla doesn't use rare earth minerals in the car at all, huh?

  13. Another factor not included in the ICE vs EV debate is how much "heat" is given off by an ICE vehicle while it is running. During the summer, when one is waiting in traffic or rush hour, you can see the extensive heat emanating from the cars and adding more heat to a hot day - you can feel or know when a car jus used by just standing next to it. EV produces or adds no significant heat when being driven.

  14. I hate that, the cars are all so hot, so they all turn on the AC, and pump out MORE heat! So much of the gallon goes to heat, it is unacceptable. An EV doesn't use any electricity sitting there, except for the lights or accessories turned on.

  15. Tesla does with 3-4. KWh of vampire loss per day.

  16. Interesting. Your source?

  17. Our author David Noland says it's more like 4.5 kWh per day in this piece:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1086108_life-with-tesla-model-s-owners-report-after-5000-miles

  18. Let's also consider the impact that people live, jog and walk right next to ICE vehicles who are polluting the air we are breathing at that very moment in an extremely close vicinity.

    EV energy is from wind, solar, nuclear and coal which is extremely far away from the humans who are breathing the air. So ICE cars driving next to you kill you faster and increase health car costs much more so than EV environmental impacts so this very serious issue needs to be in the model as well.

    Do you want to walk and breath the air in a city full of polluting mufflers or a city of clean, non exhausting EV's? This one fact alone is a tremendous credit to the EV based model of human and environmental impacts and it also is NOT IN THE MODELS!

  19. @ Smart Guy
    "Do you want to walk and breathe the air in a city full of polluting mufflers or a city of clean, non exhausting EV's?

    this fact you mentioned here has been taken seriously by the Chinese govt. they have deadly levels of pollution in the larger cities that are causing many health problems, that's why they are taking measures to increase electric bus, car and truck production. most of the power plants in China are dirty coal fired plants, but even the Chinese understand that it is better to have fewer ICE vehicles on the road so that you don't have pollution coming out of both the power plant and the vehicle you drive everyday. it will take many years to ease the pollution in China, but they've been forced to get serious now.

  20. Talking global warming, this hardly comes up but it should. Little bit of heat from an EV runnig but nothing close to an ice.

  21. Mr Musk appears to be attempting to be an environmentally responsible Plug-in electric automobile manufacturer. Thanks

  22. Elon musk is a genius
    I'm cautiously optimistic he will cover a every single issue mentioned here by the bloggers at green car reports, leaving absolutely no reasonable argument for the people who want to defend ICE polluting, gas guzzling vehicles by trying to say that EV's pollute more. I look forward to what Musk has to say on this.

  23. If the car is charged from 100% it can't get much cleaner. Why, you ask? Because you are charging the car during off-peak hours, when the coal is still burned and WASTED because the power plants cant throttle nearly fast enough (it takes days). Because you charge during off peak hours, you are using 100% wasted energy. There isn't much cleaner than that! And as power plants shift to natural gas, very quickly, the how power grid will get cleaner!

  24. OK John, let,s see a comparison of what it takes to produce a LEAF vs a PRIUS vs a Corolla.

  25. Since they all use the same materials, what is the difference?

    Even the Corolla uses rare earth metals. The only different material is the 12lbs of Lithium in a 24kw battery pack and it's a very common material who's main cost is purifying it, runs $8/lb recently. We've identified about 1,000yrs + worth so hardly rare.

    So where is this big difference other than gasoline and all but a pint of oil?

  26. Elon Musk described the quantity of raw lithium used in a battery as a dash of salt on top of your food. I guess the bulk of the battery of just boring old metal, and plastic.

  27. Lithium is NOT rare earth metal.

    REM is strictly that row of element on the bottom of your chemistry element chart where the two rows of elements are, element 58-71.

    Lithium is NOT even considered as heavy metal. In fact, it is one of the "lightest metal" out there...

  28. Why have the fans of EVs allowed the carbon emission issue to become the sole focus of the EV vs. ICE debate?

    There other critical advantages of EVs:

    They make it possible to switch to domestically produced renewable energy fuels, otherwise known as energy independence and dispersed generation. This works for us both as a country, and as individuals (home and business pv arrays).

    No more Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon disasters.

    Shuts off the billion dollar day export of money to OPEC countries.

    Eliminates the need to protect (with military presence or action) the flow of oil from the middle east.

    ICEs produce other emissions that are harmful to our health

    Put all the issues on the table and the debate is over.

  29. @Gary: I'm not sure I agree with your supposition that "fans of EVs" are defining the terms of the debate. I'd argue that it's an appropriate discussion to have, though it's largely been reduced to not-very-productive shrieking about "EVs are awful" and "EVs are the best thing in the world."

    The issues you cite are among the many *different* motivations for purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle. See our discussion of this from awhile ago:

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1017946_green-car-people-who-buys-electric-and-plug-in-vehicles

  30. John,

    The fans of EVs are allowing the opponents of EVs to set the terms of the debate, by not re-defining the debate. That's my point.

    There is no bigger fan of EVs than Elon Musk, and now he is looking into the emissions issue. This is not the only. nor is it the most critical issue that EVs address positively.

    This is an issue that has any relevance only because of the so-called "dirty" grid. A grid that would be emitting the same amount of carbon whether there are EVs plugged in to it or not (at least for now).

    Grid emissions are a grid issue, not an EV issue. This needs to be repeated over and over and over, so that Americans get it. Then we can get on with investing in renewable energy sources.

    Let's debate the real issues.

  31. John, I wonder if all the individual comments in this thread could be put into something like a google doc cost benefit analysis. It could itself be publicly edited, moderated by your integritous, journalistic self. I'd trust such a wiki moderated by you and this site.

  32. Please add:

    They're just nicer to own and drive.

    Thanks :-)

  33. I hope that this attack on electric vehicles is refuted once and for all. My gut tells me that electric beats ICE but a definitive answer would be nice, but with the partisanship of the opponents so firmly entrenched will any analysis by one side be accepted by the other? As aa aside to this something has occurred to me that I have seen no information on - everyone taks about carbon footprint but no one is discussing the other forms of pollution that are caused by tailpipe emissions (carcinogens released into our air for example). Surely this facet of the ICE should be considered as well.

  34. Renault published a life cycle analysis comparing the environmental impact of its Renault Fluence car in gasoline, diesel, and EV versions.
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/07/renault-20130711.html

    The study found a lower carbon footprint for the EV, even in the UK where ~40% of electricity is generated by coal. Had the study premised a longer vehicle life than 150,000 km (93,205 miles), the advantage of the EV would have been even more.

    Many EV owners have rooftop solar, so they have an even lower carbon footprint than if they charged using electricity from their local utility.

  35. Very nice link. A non-biased assessment by Renault.
    I have a Tesla Model S and rooftop PV solar panels.

  36. Much as I would love Elon to do a study that disproves the anti-EV rhetoric, it won't happen. The anti-EV people will just dismiss the study as biased. And to be honest, it probably would be. If Elon commissions the study and the researchers know this then they will have a vested interest in pleasing the person who commissioned the study. This argument will continue, ad nauseum, into the future until finally EV's are the main vehicle on the road. Consumers will continue to buy whatever vehicle suits them and eventually EV's will be the most cost effective and convenient.

  37. @ grendal
    Yes, I agree. The debate will continue. However, Actions will speak louder than words, as more EV's become practical (more range) with the price eventually being equal and than even less than an ICE vehicle. EV's will dominate the market.

  38. Hi John and all,

    Since lithium batteries use mostly the same thing gas cars do, Alum, plastic, iron, copper, manganese and only .5lb of lithium carbonate/kwhr and even this isn't expensive, $8/lb and not an environmental problem mining it.

    So please tell me just what difference between gas an electric cars materials, impact wise? Facts are most EV's are lighter, thus less impact building them and far less energy in fuel needed to move them because EV's are 3-6x's as eff.

    Why is my EV's can go 70mph on the energy needed just to idle a car engine. gas cars waste 93% of the fuels power while EV's use 65% from sources like RE and still even 20% from old, ineff coal plants now all closed as not profitable, dirty.

  39. If you follow the money/source on this story I bet you'll find big oil money behind it as do most lies about EV's, ethanol, etc.

    They hire PR firms and even people to come online like here to spread lies like these.

    And why are my lightweight EV's cost 25% to run vs a similar gas version and none of that goes to big oil.

  40. I wouldn't characterize Ozzie Zehner's claims as "studies". He uses inflammatory rhetoric to get media attention, to sell his book. He's made ridiculous claims, such as equating cost with energy intensity. As if labor and resource supply/demand balances have nothing to do with cost!

    Zehner claims that solar PV requires "more conventional energy to fabricate, install, and maintain a photovoltaic system than that system ever produces." Not true; not even close. Brookhaven National Lab found that solar PV returns 15 to 60 times more energy than used to produce the system, and the "EROI keep improving as systems and material utilization efficiencies continue to improve."
    http://www.clca.columbia.edu/236_PE_Magazine_Fthenakis_2_10_12.pdf

  41. Well then should we also include the energy used by the coal miners to drive back and forth to work everyday for a fair comparison?

  42. @Laura: Fair point. My comment shouldn't have referred to Zehner's work as "studies" but as an "analysis."

  43. I would like to see some knowledgeable and astute person write an article for Green Car Reports on how (of if) lithium ion batteries can be recycled to reclaim the lithium therein - so as to return that lithium to the manufacturing sector for future battery manufacture. I mean, almost any metal you can think of that goes into a product can be recycled. Mr. Voeckler, can you help with this request ?

  44. Here's an article by Tesla on battery recycling.
    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/teslas-closed-loop-battery-recycling-program

  45. That's useless to measure CO2 emission of EVs with include generating electricity. It has to evaluate EVs itself alone because EVs don't choose or eliminate any source of electricity. If they consider generation sourse together, EVs would be valuable only in countries highly dependent on nuclear-generated electricity.

  46. Discussing Zehner is a complete waste of time.

    The DOE, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Sierra Club have all been following all of the EV studies for years (including the older 2010 one Zehner cherry-picks from) and they are all solidly behind the environmental benefits of vehicle electrification. In fact USC and SC pointed out some of Zehner's errors.

    Second, it doesn't matter. Very few people buy cars based on their environmental friendliness. That criteria comes in last based on surveys of EV owners as to their reasons for buying.

    EV opponents attack this angle because 1. they THINK it is the only reason to buy an EV, and 2. it is the most complicated EV advantage, so it is the easiest to raise doubts about.

  47. "EV opponents attack this angle because 1. they THINK it is the only reason to buy an EV, and 2. it is the most complicated EV advantage, so it is the easiest to raise doubts about."

    I'd never considered the debate from that angle before. That's a wonderfully clear summation, thanks.

  48. oh, this again? the ignorant fool argument, ill just copy and paste to save myself some time

    How an EV is powered
    Coal/Hydro/Thermal/Solar/Nuclear > power lines > Battery inside EV > Electric Motor

    How an Internal Combustion engine is powered

    Coal/Hydro/Thermal/Solar/Nuclear > electricity to power Offices to determine where to drill for oil > electricity to power drilling rig site + Camp to house all those workers > electricity to power Pipeline, tankers or ships to move oil to refinery site > electricity to power oil refinery to process crude oil > electricity to power another pipeline, tanker, ship transport stage > electricity to power a 24/7 gas station > electricity to pump gas or diesel into tank > burn inside engine @ 18% eff.

  49. The only flaw in an otherwise clean line of thinking is that, the first creates power to deliver forward motion, the second model takes power to obtain an energy packed resource. It _might_ take less energy to obtain the high-energy resource. That's the counter augment for EVs. Obviously, here, we're all confident that it doesn't. However, we probably need to move quickly to counter the easy-to-swallow nonsense that 'all that mining for lithium' is really bad. Maybe throwing in some "Emissions made here" might emphasize that ICE generates lots of emissions right down the line.

  50. @Michael: To be fair to Zehner, it's not JUST the lithium. It's also the larger amounts of rare-earth metals used in (some) motors for (some) electric cars, power electronics, and so forth.

    I tend to believe, as I wrote in the linked Spectrum OpEd, that more study is needed to air out these claims and subject them to full peer review. The Zehner book, like it or not, is getting a lot of airtime--so the best way to counter it for the "movable middle" is to refute it with science.

    I see far too much conspiracy theory, assumption of Big Oil Trying To Squash Us, and lack of science among pro-EV commentators (not you!). That doesn't help. Debate based on scientific analysis does.

    My 2 cents.

  51. "larger amounts of rare-earth metals used in (some) motors for (some) electric cars"

    how large is that?

    less than 20 lbs of REM? Nickel, Copper, Lithium, Tin and Alumium, none of them are Rare Earth Metal.

    Also, REM can be easily recycled. They are in far higher concentration inside recycled electronics than any mining ores....

  52. Xiaolong, I would strongly disagree that REM can be recycled. I work for the largest consumer of REM in the world and we've yet to recycle even one gram and our research still seems years away from any high-volume recycling.

    Yes, I've read about pilot recycling programs (Honda), but we're still years away from large-scale equipment needed to do the actual recycling work.

    I'm far from an expert on REM, so I may be wrong on some minor details, but until 2010, there was no need for recycling since prices were so low. In 2010 and 2011, when RE was high, lots of companies were working on this, mine included. Now that REM prices are again 70% down from 2010, the movement toward this seems to have slowed down again.

  53. Depending on the REM. The REM mostly used in the electric motor (permanet mag kind) is the Neodynium magnets which is very compact and high power. It can be recycled or reprocessed into newer magnets.

    I think Germany announced recently to start doing so after China started restricting the export of REM.

    At the end, it is all about cost. China used to dump the raw REM on the market so it is so cheap to produce new ones and no $$ in recycling it. Now, the price is up and there are actually incentives to recycle them.

    Some other REM used in space, coating, semi-conductors are harder or more expensive to recycle.

  54. @EM CH
    You stated (how an internal combustion engine is powered)
    Coal/hydro/thermal/solar/nuclear. I don't know what planet you're living on, but here on planet Earth, ICE vehicles are only powered by gasoline, so it looks like you are the ignorant fool.

  55. @Gene: Please do NOT insult other commenters, no matter how strongly you disagree with their posts. We encourage robust debate on this site, but we stick to the facts--and don't respond to baiting. Please keep it respectful. Thank you in advance.

  56. 1. The central absurdity of every 'EVs are dirtier than gasoline' claims rests on the idea of blaming the EV for the ills of fossil fuel power production. These claims serve only to reinforce the obvious: That fossil fuel power production is polluting. These claims ignore the actual power choices made by EV manufacturing and EV consumers.

    Example: Panasonic, Tesla's current battery maker, is involved in solar projects. Tesla is associated by common chairmanship with Solar City. In the case of Tesla all of the energy used in manufacturing and a life-time of driving is offset by renewable solar energy. It is

    On this basis alone the pseudoscientific claims that EVs are dirty is in fact bogus.

  57. 2. The second and slightly more subtle absurdity of claiming EVs are dirty rests on the idea that it costs somewhere between 12 and 14MWh to make an 85KWh battery in what is known as "embedded energy". Obviously if that embedded energy was solar-derived there is no argument, but let's say it had to be justified as though it was all gasoline. The answer is two-fold. Firstly the energy in gasoline is burnt at around 400% in an ICE vehicle as electricity is consumed in an EV for each mile traveled.
    In a Model S traveling at 265 Miles / 85Kwh (EPA) then the (worst case) environmental break-even would come at (((2.4MWh/85Kwh)x265)/400%) = 18705 Miles. Half of that 9353 miles) when using lower estimate of 12MWh for embedded energy.

  58. 3. The final absurdity of claiming EVs are dirty can be exposed by explaining something obvious about the Tesla/Solar City business models that Musk is not ready to announce. The Tesla NCA 85KWh battery is a hot-swappable modular unit (as demonstrated) and the battery chemistry it contains is good for 2700 deep cycles to 70% capacity under lab conditions. Vehicle conditions are actually more favorable than lab conditions. 2700 x 225.25 average is 608,175 miles over a potential 40 and half years of 15,000 miles per year of driving. Clearly most of the life of these battery pack modules will be spent doing something else. The answer to that is distributed grid storage for Solar City to upgrade a daylight power source to a 24/7 power source.

  59. 4. Once it is clear that the whole life of an 85KWh must be accounted for, then the idea of EVs being worse from the environment than gasoline (Zehner et al) is profoundly debunked.

    Even with high-end figures for embedded energy of 24MWh for an 85KWh battery pack. The life-time contribution of that pack to replacing the need to burn fossil fuels is 195.075 MWh throughput (with 70% of the useful capacity remaining after 2700 cycles). Another 100MWh throughput before end of life would be a fair estimate.

    If the pack is discarded with 70% of its charge-absorption capacity remaining then the environmental payback is 813% minimum (four times that rate when benefit is miles traveled).

    If the pack is produced with Solar the payback is infinite.

  60. 3a. ps: "Something else" includes using several post-car batteries as power storage at solar-powered SuperChargers. Recently saw this somewhere on Tesla Motors's website. 24/7 idea is good for more than one Musk company.

  61. Without typos!

    2. The second and slightly more subtle absurdity of claiming EVs are dirty rests on the idea that it costs somewhere between 12 and 24MWh to make an 85KWh battery in what is known as "embedded energy". Obviously if that embedded energy was solar-derived there is no argument, but let's say it had to be justified as though it was all gasoline. The answer is two-fold. Firstly the energy in gasoline is burnt at around 400% per mile in an ICE vehicle as KWh e is consumed in an EV (4 x efficiency).
    In a Model S traveling at 265 Miles / 85Kwh (EPA) then the (worst case) environmental break-even would come at (((24MWh/85Kwh)x265)/4) = 18705 Miles. Half of that 9353 miles) when using lower estimate of 12MWh for embedded energy

  62. I think EVs are cleaner, but if not, it's not the only reason I think they are a good idea. The other reasons include; national security (no oil wars), cost to travel (EVs will cost less than ICE cars and fuel will always be cheaper), trade deficit, jobs for americans. Let the doubters discuss those issues too.

  63. John, what car does Mr. Zehner drive? Do you know? Is he part of the problem or the solution? What grand idea has he to make the world a better place?

    I'm so tired of phony experts like this that make a living on the backs of people who get sick and die from smog made by old gasoline cars.

    He needs to get on the better car train with the rest of use or he'll be left all alone at the pollution station.

  64. "Ozzie Zehner is the author of Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley."

    Here is the link to his site;

    http://www.greenillusions.org/


    Here is bio link to his site:

    http://www.greenillusions.org/author-bio/

  65. I'm a big EV fan! And I can't wait the day when it will makes as much sense to buy an ICE car than a 35 mm camera! I've seen a lot of studies about how really green are the EVs, and all of them as the same conclusion : EV are always greener, in every case.

    But, we still need to keep in mind that even if EVs are a great way to reduce our greenhouse emissions, it doesn't solve every problems that this type of transportation created! Even worst, if EVs became too cheap, what will happen? Are we going to drive more? Will we need to build more roads? And who will pay for them if nobody still buy gazoline? EV might be greener than ICE, but it won't never be as green as public transportations.

  66. I sell solar energy, and I sell electric cars. I know this market well. I've been running my home and car on sunlight for almost eleven years with virtually no problems.

    Today, for less than $10,000, you can install enough solar PV to power a LEAF 12,000 miles per year, and it'll keep generating clean energy for at least 40-50 years. To buy enough gasoline for the same number of miles, you'd spend $60,000 - $80,000 at today's prices. What do you think the price of gas will be for the next 40-50 years?

    The economics of this technology are vastly superior to ICE, there is no doubt. Batteries are only going to get cheaper. Oil will only get more expensive.

    I think we need to acknowledge the cost of our military protection of oil.

  67. The study by the Union of Concerned Scientists mentioned in this article is, IMHO, really good. However, there is another very comprehensive study that I often find more useful. It is "Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles", by US Dept of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, at

    http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php.

    Pulling values from a chart on the first page, I compute that BEV's give a [(13-8)/13 = 38.5%] reduction in CO2 over ICE vehicles. This is across the entire US, shows the percentage of each contributing fuel source.

    Website has a calculator by Zip Code; for my Zip Code, 98104, the reduction in CO2 is [(13-4.9)/13 = 62.3%(!) Have fun - try it for your favorite region.

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