Tesla front loading emissions?

Tesla front loading emissions?

Hello all, first time posting here :) Not quite a Tesla owner yet, but plan to be in the very near future. I was discussing my passion for Tesla's with a friend the other night and he asked me about whether or not a Tesla (or any BEV for that matter) is TRULY more efficient when it comes to emissions over the typical ICE. He put the emphasis on emissions being front loaded in the mineral mining and manufacture process of the vehicle and whether the process for BEVs vs. ICE vehicles differs greatly - with his point being that if that is the case, then electric cars are not really that much better for the environment (and could be worse).

I didn't know how to answer him, to be honest. I'm still learning about all this stuff. I tried doing searches but haven't had much success. Now, I know about the battery recycling and all that jazz but what I'm concerned about in this question is, how do Teslas compare to an ICE during the actual production process of the car? Is there an article floating around out there that has looked at this?

Thanks in advance for your responses,


Dramsey | 13. Juli 2013

A good question, and one with no clear answers. For example, the Tesla Model S is a very aluminum-intensive car, and aluminum mining is typically done from open pit or strip mines, in countries all over the world. So one might figure that aluminum mined in, say, China (where the environmental regulations may be politely described as "lax") is going to have more environmental impact that aluminum mined in the U.S.

Where does Tesla get their aluminum? As best I can determine, they've never said. Maybe it's entirely from recycled aluminum here, which would have a much smaller environmental impact.

This article discusses the environmental impact of lithium-ion battery production.

I'm actually surprised Tesla hasn't given us any metrics about this. If I had to guess, I'd say that the production of the hundreds of extra pounds of ferrous metals, plastics, etc. in comparable ICE cars is more environmentally damaging...but it's just a guess.

nwdiver93 | 13. Juli 2013

This is an argument that becomes less valid every day.

- In terms of raw emissions per kWh a BEV gets cleaner as more solar is added to the grid. AND the more BEVs we have the more solar we can add to the grid. Also EVs are use 1/3 as much energy per mile as ICE.

- In terms of material costs like aluminum; even IF Tesla is using virgin aluminum... which there is no reason to since unlike plastic it's 100% recyclable... there is a near 0% chance that it won't be recycled at the cars end of life.

robby81 | 14. Juli 2013

First time posting here.

Two arguments that are commonly used against EVs and their one liner counter-arguments...

- what if the battery catches fire? Li-Ion batteries are highly flammable if they overheat.
- OK so petrol's not flammable??

- EVs just shift harmful emissions away from the tail-pipe to the powerplant.
- At least the emissions are all in one place and away from large concentrations of people! Having millions of ICE cars spreading harmful emissions around our cities is bound to have far greater health consequences than emissions from one power station 50 miles away!

I'm clearly leaving out the "and when the grid get's cleaner..." arguments. Just wanted to add a relatively new angle...

Love EVs. Love Tesla. Can't wait til they get to Austria!!!

stevenmaifert | 14. Juli 2013

Any valid comparison has got to include materials mining and manufacturing emissions for both ICE and BEV. Then look long term at the well to wheel emissions for what powers both types of cars. I don't have an opinion as to which is less polluting, but I would like to see fair and unbiased objectivity by the so called "experts" when they do their studies.

frmercado | 14. Juli 2013

What about the emissions produced while making and shipping all of those thousands of little parts that make up an ICE?

Funny how everyone points out how energy intensive it is to produce an EV and no one takes into account that just to produce enough aluminum or other metals that go into the engine block alone of any ICE, not considering all the extra bits and pieces (hoses, pulleys, seals and gaskets, sensors, ball bearings, etc.), actually is very energy intensive. I'm sure that that the ICE vehicles and EV are pretty close when it comes to production energy costs.

Neech | 15. Juli 2013

When it comes to emissions, it is amazing how ICE owners that try to make this argument forget about the CO2 that spews from the exhaust every second the engine is running. Even with better exhaust systems these days, I still see cars and trucks spewing clouds of soot on a daily basis. The factories that produce the hundreds of parts that form an ICE engine, transmission, exhaust, etc. have got to generate much more carbon/pollution than a BEV, which has a fraction of the number of parts. I'm no expert and have no data, just common sense here.

Joshua Burstyn | 15. Juli 2013

Every vehicle has a cost to the environment. ICE vehicles require mined materials as well. Red herring argument.

For those who were wondering where the 'S aluminum comes from... I believe Alcoa may be a provider:

CalDreamin | 16. Juli 2013

Interesting comment in the Alcoa press release, pointing to how much aluminum has been recycled over the years:

"approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today"

Also, EPA says:
"Nearly 90 percent of automotive aluminum is recovered and recycled. Although this aluminum represents less than 10 percent of the average motor vehicle by weight, it accounts for roughly half of the vehicle’s value as scrap."

At end of life, the aluminum in Model S will be recycled. It's far too valuable to landfill.

"A survey of aluminum producers in mid-2008 indicated that the total recycled content of domestically produced, flat rolled products for the Building and Construction market was approximately 85%."
"To produce aluminum from recycled material requires only ~5% of the energy required to produce aluminum from bauxite ore, and every ton of recycled aluminum saves 4 tons of bauxite. Additionally, using recycled aluminum instead of raw materials reduces air pollution generation such as CO2, SOx, and NOx by 95% and water pollution by 97%."

Beware of claims that the Tesla Model S requires huge amounts of energy to manufacture due to its aluminum content. Those are bogus claims based on assumptions that all of the aluminum has to be made from mined bauxite ore (a very energy intensive process), and that it won't be recycled at end of life. Bottom line, the claims are off by around a factor of ten.

cloroxbb | 18. Juli 2013

The people that actually bring up that argument, don't really care about the emissions. They just bring it up so they can easily omit facts about the ICE manufacturing process and make electric vehicles seem worse. And stupid people fall for it, and regurgitate it.

Timo | 22. Juli 2013

One thing to point to people that use this argument to bash EV:s is that in every ICE there is catalyzer which requires platinum. Getting enough platinum requires huge amounts of mining because amount of platinum in even richest mining site is some fraction of grams in a ton or ore.

Differences between ICE and EV for manufacturing emissions are tiny.