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Don’t be fooled – Elon Musk’s electric cars aren’t about to save the planet

April 7, 2016

By Paul Homewood

 

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/04/06/dont-be-fooled—elon-musks-electric-cars-arent-about-to-save-th/

 

I doubt whether you will see this reported by the BBC:

 

From the Telegraph:

 

As Elon Musk presented the new Tesla 3, a fawning press announced that the “world-changing car” could “dominate” the market. Within days, 276,000 people had put down $1,000 to pre-order the car.

But the Model 3 doesn’t exist yet. There is no final production version, much less any production. Musk is “fairly confident” that deliveries could start by the end of 2017. But running on schedule isn’t Tesla’s strong suit. Meanwhile, Tesla’s current best-seller has been plagued by quality problems.

All of this might just be another iPhone vs Galaxy conversation – except that these vehicles are hailed as green saviours and so are subsidised to the tune of billions of pounds.

Before unveiling the car, Musk sanctimoniously declared that Tesla exists to give the planet a sustainable future. He pointed to rising CO₂ levels. He lamented that 53,000 people die from air pollution from transportation. Tesla, the story goes, is a lifesaver. Like other electric cars, it has “zero emissions” of air pollution and CO₂.

 

But this is only true of the car itself; the electricity powering it is often produced with coal, which means that the clean car is responsible for heavy air pollution. As green venture capitalist Vinod Khosla likes to point out, “electric cars are coal-powered cars”.

If the USA had 10 per cent more petrol cars by 2020, air pollution would claim 870 more lives. A similar increase in electric ones would cause 1,617 more deaths a year, mostly because of the coal burned.

If we were to scale this to the UK, electric cars would cause the same or more air pollution-related deaths than petrol-powered cars. In China, because their coal power plants are so dirty, electric cars make local air much worse: in Shanghai, pollution from more electric-powered cars would be nearly three-times as deadly as more petrol-powered ones.

 

Moreover, while electric cars typically emit less CO₂, the savings are smaller than most imagine. Over a 150,000 km lifetime, the top-line Tesla S will emit about 13 tonnes of CO₂. But the production of its batteries alone will emit 14 tonnes, along with seven more from the rest of its production and eventual decommissioning.

Compare this with the diesel-powered, but similarly performing, Audi A7 Sportback, which uses about seven litres per 100km, so about 10,500 litres over its lifetime. This makes 26 tonnes of CO₂. The Audi will also emit slightly more than 7 tons in production and end-of-life. In total, the Tesla will emit 34 tonnes and the Audi 35. So over a decade, the Tesla will save the world 1.2 tonnes of CO₂.

Reducing 1.2 tonnes of CO₂ on the EU emissions trading system costs £5; but instead, the UK Government subsidises each car with £4,500. All of the world’s electric cars sold so far have soaked up £9 billion in subsidies, yet will only save 3.3 million tonnes of CO₂. This will reduce world temperatures by 0.00001°C in 2100 – the equivalent of postponing global warming by about 30 minutes at the end of the century.  Electric cars will be a good idea, once they can compete – which will probably be by 2032. But it is daft to waste billions of pounds of public money on rich people’s playthings that kill more people through air pollution while barely affecting carbon emissions. The Tesla 3 is indeed a “zero emissions” marvel – but that is only because it does not yet exist.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2016 12:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Good read.

  2. April 7, 2016 12:18 pm

    I was given a BMW i3 to play with. More than happy to give it back as I watched the battery drain way too fast for my liking. I’ll be sticking with the ICE thanks very much. I asked a gentle question about the source of electricity on a Tesla youtube video. I was deleted in seconds and now I’ve been banned. I consider it an honour!

  3. April 7, 2016 12:31 pm

    We in West Virginia, where coal is being killed, miners constantly being put out of work, towns going under and the state budget in the tank due to lack of severance taxes from the coal industry, appreciate the irony of this.

    Of course, Musk and his elitist cronies don’t care a whit about we lesser species in “fly-over” country.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    April 7, 2016 12:48 pm

    ” …… instead, the UK Government subsidises each car with £4,500.”

    This cynic believes the manufacturers falsely inflate their cars’ prices by £4,500, and pocket the extra profit.

    A few batteries and an industrial washing-machine motor have got to cost them substantially less than a complicated engine, gearbox, fuel tank etc.

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 7, 2016 1:10 pm

      Good point! Pricing relates to affordability. Subsidies don’t change affordability.

    • diogenese2 permalink
      April 8, 2016 7:46 am

      Never mind the emissions. Fossil fuel produces £500 – £1000 pa in revenue against subsidy for electric vehicles (and any renewable based recharge). This means that EV market penetration is self limiting as this financial regime is unsustainable. this mirrors the inevitable unsustainability of renewable energy .

  5. marchesarosa permalink
    April 7, 2016 12:49 pm

    The only good thing about electric cars is that IN CITIES, where traffic pollution can be horrible, they could improve air quality IF enough were in use.

    • April 7, 2016 12:53 pm

      Coal fired, baby.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        April 7, 2016 2:02 pm

        Yes but at least it is not in the Cities where the UHI also is, combined they can be a problem, but no where near as bad as the UN & EU try to make out.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        April 7, 2016 2:04 pm

        Note that I am NOT talking about CO2, I am talking about real pollution.

    • April 8, 2016 6:43 am

      I think you’ll find grasping public employees will scupper any benefits – as a gas powered car and van owner who’s watched Boris / Tfl sacrifice / knacker LPG fueled low pollution vehicles in London because the “revenue loss was unacceptable” – I’m more than cynical about the whole Green vehicle thing.

      As ever with the Greens it would seem – too few look beyond the shallow hype and public money is stolen to indulge zealot’s fantasies

      Tfl / Boris could have mandated LPG powered buses like erm… Shanghai and Hong Kong – but no…

  6. Edmonotn Al permalink
    April 7, 2016 12:55 pm

    I would be tempted to short Tesla stock, if the Republicans win the POTUS race.
    No more government grants or loan guarantees; continued huge losses [52 wk EPS $-6.89].
    A lot of people and hedge funds do not hold much confidence in Tesla with about 25% of the stock in a short sale position.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      April 7, 2016 2:00 pm

      They supposedly made a small $11m profit last year.
      But of course the Tax Payers lost quite a bit more.

  7. Gamecock permalink
    April 7, 2016 1:08 pm

    ‘He lamented that 53,000 people die from air pollution from transportation. Tesla, the story goes, is a lifesaver.’

    With 53,000, surely he can produce ONE death certificate for death from air pollution from transportation. Another stupid lie the fawning press accepts.

  8. April 7, 2016 1:57 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    The Tesla 3 is indeed a “zero emissions” marvel – but that is only because it does not yet exist.

  9. Tony permalink
    April 7, 2016 3:02 pm

    So, do you dispute that it takes around about 6kwh of energy to produce 1 gallon of gasoline?

    If that is correct, you can add about 90grams of CO2 per km to a diesel/petrol car. That will roughly half the efficiency of the more efficient cars. Therefore the quoted 0.138g/km for the A7 is actually more like 0.228g/km.

    Also assuming the National Grid quoted figure of 0.527 kg of CO2 per KWH…

    Therefore over 150,000km the Audi will emit 7533 tonnes and a base Tesla Model S P70 about 4875 tonnes.

    The lifetime of the Model S will more like several hundred thousand kms before the battery pack is so degraded to make the car impractical, battery packs seem to be outlasting the estimates so far – probably due in part to the manufacturers recommendations to only charge to 80% unless the full range is absolutely necessary. Which brings me on to the next point.

    The battery packs are reusable. There will undoubtably be an after market for domestic energy storage for degraded car batteries. Even when those batteries are so degraded to be useless, they are recyclable – which does admittedly take a lot of energy, but that is more than can be said for gasoline.

    However, the crucial killer points are these. Electric cars can be recharged from 100% renewable energy – renewable sources of energy are increasing like it or not. Indeed, for the average commute distance many people will be able to charge their cars from their own solar panels to a significant degree. Fossil fuelled cars have no choice in the matter. Further more, the energy density of batteries is increasing. Efficiency of production is increasing. Cost of manufacture is decreasing. The EV market is in an early stage of development and yet EVs are real practical alternatives for many people right now.

    Then there is the overall efficiency of electric cars in terms of servicing, maintenance and materials required for the development of the mechanicals.

    So, taking all that into account, we know that CAGW is bollocks. But so is your argument. AGW or no AGW, why the hell would any sane society persist with oil fuelled cars, when the reality of EVs is cleaner, more efficient and quieter on every front and in every way and is certainly going to get better. You just make the environmental rationalists look like dick heads with his type of head in the sand argument.

    • April 7, 2016 3:26 pm

      why the hell would any sane society persist with oil fuelled cars?

      Because they are the only things that work at the moment.

      Electric cars can be recharged from 100% renewable energy

      On which planet?

    • Joe Public permalink
      April 7, 2016 6:45 pm

      ” …. The battery packs are reusable ….”

      Tesla Roadster battery pack replacement will cost $29,000:

      http://www.autoblog.com/2015/09/01/tesla-roadster-battery-pack-replacement/

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 7, 2016 8:58 pm

      Actually I think your estimate 6kWh is on the high side against a gasoline energy content of around 34kWh/gallon (US) – it’s probably closer to 4kWh including refining and transportation. But even accepting your figure on that, there is no way that it implies an additional 90g/km of CO2 emissions hidden upstream of filling you tank, nor does it amount to a reduction of 50% in efficiency. Now, if we examine the efficiency of generating electricity to fuel a Tesla, we find that the car is about 60% efficient in converting the power it stores in its battery, but the losses upstream (primarily in generation, but also in transmission) mean that its efficiency relative to primary energy input might even be worse than a petrol or diesel fuelled vehicle.

    • April 7, 2016 9:09 pm

      “Indeed, for the average commute distance many people will be able to charge their cars from their own solar panels to a significant degree”

      If only, then I won’t have to pay for said solar electricity via my electricity bill, but I’ll probably have to pay for the very long wires needed to join said solar panels and the parked-at-work car.

    • April 8, 2016 6:51 am

      Battery packs are re-usable?

      – what?

      ah…. you mean the box they come in?

      -dolt.

      A dud battery is a dud battery – chemistry 101

  10. April 7, 2016 6:37 pm

    ‘So over a decade, the Tesla will save the world 1.2 tonnes of CO₂.’

    Unless the battery pack croaks before the time’s up.

    ‘ The lithium-ion battery pack in the Tesla Roadster is projected to have a lifespan of about 5 years or 100,000 miles.’
    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/vehicles/electric-car-battery4.htm

  11. diogenese2 permalink
    April 8, 2016 7:14 am

    ” Within days, 276,000 people had put down $1,000 to pre-order the car.

    But the Model 3 doesn’t exist yet. There is no final production version, much less any production. Musk is “fairly confident” that deliveries could start by the end of 2017. But running on schedule isn’t Tesla’s strong suit.”

    That’s $260m interest free loan for possibly 2 years, redeemable against a purchase (price guaranteed?) of a product whose specification is uncertain. Somehow even Ponzi’s prospectus looked more inviting.

  12. April 8, 2016 11:13 am

    Reblogged this on Petrossa's Blog.

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