Are Teslas Front Loading Emmisions?

Are Teslas Front Loading Emmisions?

I am reading articles that accuse battery powered cars of front loading emissions in their manufacture. Somehow that sounds wrong. Any experts that can clarify how this argument is just in error?

Sudre_ | October 10, 2012

Whenever you see an article by John Peterson just skip it. The guy is a moron and I don't understand why anyone still reads his garbage. I checked your link, saw his name and did not bother to read it. I read them at one time thinking there were facts in his stuff but there are only lies and stretched truths.

Others can go on trying to explain any of his false claims.

Joshua Burstyn | October 10, 2012

Of course electric vehicles cause pollution during their manufacture. So do ICE vehicles. The difference is that even after their manufacture, ICE vehicles continue to pollute a great deal whereas a BEV should produce far fewer tailpipe emissions.

Last I read even in the areas with the dirtiest power generation stations BEVs are at a breakeven in terms of CO2 produced versus an ICE automobile. More commonly BEVs cut emissions by a third or more.

I'm certain many others can provide exact stats if you need them.

danielccc | October 10, 2012

Look at my reply to the CO2 Topic. Feel free to quote.

jbunn | October 10, 2012

I agree with Sudre,

I did read the article. As the author said he took a study and "adjusted" it's numbers. A couple of changes he made was to a different rate of CO2 emission here than in Norway, did his own calcs on what a Tesla battery pack takes to manufacuture, then appears to have neglected that a variable frequency AC motor does not require rare earth permanent magnets. He then procededs to draw some graphs based on unchanging conditions, eg, unchanging oil extraction costs, unchanging mix of electricity to renewable sources, ect.

As someone who works with data for a living he's stretched the origional data with questionable assumptions, ignored any facts he doesn't like, and drew pretty graphs that look impressive but aren't worth the paper it's printed on.

40% of new capacity on the US grid now comes from renewable energy, eg. wind, bio, solar. In total 14% of US grid is renewable. Solar growth is doubling not including the home rooftops. Peterson takes none of this into consideration.

So while your ICE will leak oil and spew polution more and more every year, your BEV gets cleaner and cleaner.

All of this is a long way of saying John Peterson is full of s%^*t as usual....

mrspaghetti | October 10, 2012


I am reading articles that accuse battery powered cars of front loading emissions in their manufacture. Somehow that sounds wrong. Any experts that can clarify how this argument is just in error?

I find it interesting how you put that. You aren't necessarily interested in getting the truth, you want someone to validate your opinion.

Not knocking you, it's human nature. Also not saying that what Petersen wrote is necessarily correct (he's established himself as a hack with an agenda in my mind). But I read your post to mean you're precluding any possibility that his premise is actually correct.

I understand I'm in the minority among those on these forums, but my question is: what if he is? So what? Would that make the car any less quiet? Any less convenient, stylish or high-tech? Would it make the 0-60 acceleration any slower?

In my opinion, if you're buying the car for any intangible reason based on saving the planet, etc, you're doing yourself a disservice. Because it may not make any difference, or could even somehow generate more pollution / negative environmental consequences overall. Strongly held beliefs are not the same as immutable facts, and for every study you point to that says you're healing Mother Earth by buying a Model S, I can point to one that says you're not.

The car is awesome and worth the money. That's really all I need to know.

sergiyz | October 10, 2012


He actually mentioned Tesla was the only EV that doesn't use rare earth magnets for the motor in the prev. article, but immediately pointed out that the majority of it is cobalt that can't be easily separated when they recycle batteries.
He didn't care about LI at all.
He's not a moron, he just has an agenda.
He thinks using batteries as a fuel tank is inefficient, very expensive and has no future.
His thoughts is that hybrids are the way to go for now with something else later.
I think the battery tech will improve over time and something new entirely may come up later that will make current batteries obsolete.
The beauty of Tesla is that the drive-train is all electric, and the future technology will focus around generating electric power one way or another, so Tesla will replace one "fuel tank" with another, but otherwise will stay the same.
Granted, the "fuel tank" is an integral part of the chassis today, so may not be as easy to do, but still easier than adapting ICE.
If nothing else they have a competitive advantage.

danielccc | October 10, 2012

I think the report highlights that a good life cycle analysis by Panasonic or Tesla for the batteries is needed. I haven't found one, though I haven't looked too hard either.

Tesla needs to have a couple of good white papers on that, plus a battery road map oriented towards addressing recyclability and use of materials with lower mining footprints. If not, it cedes space to anti-EV propaganda.

That said, the "study" has cooked numbers, mostly by using coal as a power source, but also by assuming there is no recycling (under the notion that "first wave" EVs do not include materials recycled from earlier EVs).

So this leads to cute things like the report placing water toxification on EV use, due to coal mining tailings. But it omits oil spills completely! So in the world of the report, the BP spill in the Gulf never happened, or doesn't count, or something.

It's really tricky how they put it together. I wasted over an hour on it before I started getting it. It simply stacks a bunch of assumptions, each sort of reasonable, but always favorable to ICE cars, and they add up.

reitmanr | October 10, 2012

Thanks all for your thoughts and opinions. I have no doubt that the individuals actions help shape the future. My wife and I do what we can to move towards a sustainable planet for future generations- not perfect, but better. No question how much I enjoyed driving the S! Awesome as you all know. I just see the Tesla direction as the right way to go for so many reasons. Until recent years I never considered how inefficient and dirty the ICE is. I am noticing the foot dragging by ICE manufacturers to move on to better technologies. I am suspicious of articles telling us how electric vehicles are not the answer and ICE is the clear winner. An industry sounds threatened, autos and oil, even though the electric car numbers are so small, so far. Maybe that's the clue that we are on the right path.
And I can't wait to drive my own S, with my amazing wife urging me to punch it again, punch it again! You can do the right thing and have fun doing it.
Thanks again for your thoughts and opinions.

David M. | October 10, 2012

John Peterson is on a one man crusade to kill off EVs as an industry segment. Originally from Texas, moved to Switzerland, and claims to practice some sort of legal office there. However, his anti-EV articles have become (more or less) a full time job for him ever since June 2012 when Tesla began production of the Model S.

According to his statements, he is not shorting TSLA. However, he encourages others to do so. He is indifferent to American manufacturing jobs, as well as Tesla in general. He is apparently heavily invested in the company Axion Power (AXPW). The Company manufactures specialty lead-acid batteries for use in automotive (Stop-Start technology). The stock has lost roughly 85% since July 2012.

He's probably holding on and hoping that Axion rebounds. I suspect that any successes for plug-in EVs are stealing the thunder away from this disaster of a company. So he writes 4 to 6 articles every month to bash EVs and confuse readers. Tesla Motors takes the biggest hit because they have had the most success.

Brian H | October 10, 2012

Front-loaded emissions, even positing the failed hypothesis that CO2 is a pollutant, are easier to control and limit than millions of point sources. From a management and efficiency point of view, that's pretty much all you need to know.

tharasix | October 10, 2012

Tesla needs to have a couple of good white papers on that, plus a battery road map oriented towards addressing recyclability and use of materials with lower mining footprints. If not, it cedes space to anti-EV propaganda.

jbunn | October 10, 2012

I have a tank of CO2 in my garage. You are welcome to come have a whiff. Then let me know if you think it's harmless. | October 10, 2012

Petersen is not worth the time it takes to load the page. The thread appears to be veering off into a climate change argument....How about we just agree Petersen can go "be fruitful & multiply with himself" and leave it at that?

danielccc | October 10, 2012

tharasix, that page is four years old and refers to the Roadster battery. I believe the Model S has a somewhat different chemistry, and in any case there isn't a lifecycle assesment on the battery pack, which would include energy and materials required, and impact produced, by the manufacture of the battery.

It was OK for the time it was written, but now Tesla is becoming a real threat to internal combustion and the battery is an easy target. People instinctively all batteries are toxic, while there is little detailed information on battery recycling for the various battery types.

I have no doubt that the NTNU paper is biased, but the point of such papers is to make people doubt (an old tactic perfected by big tobacco). Clear, detailed facts are required to remove that doubt.

Brian H | October 10, 2012

No problem. It would be like a breath or two in a brown paper bag. CO is toxic, CO2 is not -- till you breathe (for a while) at 30,000 or 50,000 ppm (3-5%). Even then, it's just messing with your internal breath control systems, not poisoning you.

Brian H | October 10, 2012

In a pure CO2 atmosphere you can, of course, suffocate. Same is true of N2, Argon, helium, or any mix without enough oxygen. That's the source/cause of the (few) instances of CO2 mortality -- e.g., small kids in Africa walking into hollows where CO2 seeps have pooled. They would extinguish candles, too, for the same reason.

reitmanr | October 10, 2012

You guys can always be counted on to recharge my batteries- no pun intended. Thanks again.(cross off Peterson- saves me some time)

Teoatawki | October 10, 2012

Notice in the comments a link to a study that draws the opposite conclusion.

evanstumpges | October 10, 2012

I'm with danielccc on this one.

I'd like to see a detailed Life Cycle Analysis on Panasonic's 18650 Li-Ion batteries as well as the Model S as a whole before concluding that the front end emissions are better or worse than for ICEs.

Other than the battery pack, most other aspects that I can think of for EVs should have equal or lower front end emissions, but not sure if this is enough to offset the impact of the battery pack.

You may have good reason to be skeptical of the author of this article (sounds like he's a shady character based on what people have posted here) but I think the question of front loading emissions and LCA is a completely valid and critical issue that must be addressed as EVs continue to gain traction in the market.

TikiMan | October 10, 2012

Who gives a $hit!... These oil sluts will say anything to save their depleting poison! 

The FACT is the Model S is a ZERO emission vehical that cost pennies to run on ANY kind of electricy, and can kick the living crap out of the finest 580HP Bavarian! 

Whoever isn't impressed by that, is a total tool, and a worthless piece of crap! Enough said.

Jhall118 | October 10, 2012

The amount of justification going on here is pretty interesting to me. Want to lower your emissions and save the planet? Move into a small home/apartment close to your work and buy a bicycle. Stop living in a suburb, and give up that garage. Don't fly either, for the love of god. The amount of emissions you are saving with an electric car is nullified by an airplane making a single trip.

I refuse to tell people I am buying the Model S for environmental reasons, and roll my eyes at people that think that it's going to make a difference. Even if the entire USA switched to electric overnight, it probably wouldn't make a dramatic impact on emissions. Especially with the developing world err developing.

Is Peterson an idiot? Yeah he is, and he wants the model S to fail because he holds stock in competitors. He's going to write whatever he can. Are electric cars going to reduce emissions enough fast enough to stop global warming (assuming science has the proper model)? Not a chance.

I am buying a Model S because after riding a bike for 5 years, I want a "cool car". It looks cool, its cheaper to fill up, and I can beat my friends at red lights while making "VROOOM VROOOM" noises with the windows rolled down. It will make me happy, but it probably won't save humankind from flooding our coasts.

Jhall118 | October 10, 2012

Notice I said "humankind" and not "the planet". If global warming happens the planet honestly won't give a crap. It's suffered through far worse. We are like tiny gnats, and couldn't hurt the planet if we launched every nuclear warhead. It would bounce back, given enough time.

danielccc | October 10, 2012

evanstumpges, I am saying something a little different. I am concerned about battery lifecycle impact but I have little doubt that EVs have a lower footprint than ICEs.

As I noted in the CO2 topic, the report was authored by a group from NTNU, Trondheim, a university that has a deep relationship with Statoil, to the extent that it was host to "Statoil Day 2012" this year. Trondheim is next to Norway's off shore fields, and Norway is Europe's #1 oil and gas producer and exporter.

So there is plenty of reason to doubt that the "study" was prepared in good faith.

However, the way to fight these things is with solid, verifiable information. Hence the need for white papers and life cycle analysis of the battery.

danielccc | October 10, 2012

Jhall118, definitely the Model S won't save the planet by itself, but it's a step in the right direction at a time when big money is pushing for steps in the wrong direction, like tar sands.

And what a Model S driver will be able to do, from day one, is stop giving money to oil companies. And that's no small thing.

mrspaghetti | October 10, 2012

@Jhall118 +1

@danielccc et al: It must be a huge burden to have the fate of the world on your shoulders. Are you guys able to even get a guilt-free night's rest once in a while? Or do you stay up wringing your hands?

jbunn | October 10, 2012

Brian H,

Ah my friend, I should have you over. CO2, is not like inhaling helium, nitrous oxide, or argon. Think amonia but with no odor, but all the reaction.

And the CO2, seeps in africa are not CO2, but methane. I can mail you a baloon full or a quart jar if you want a snort. Used to do this in the home brewing lab for guests. Allways fun.

tharasix | October 11, 2012

@tesla.mrspaghetti: Personally, I can't think of a bigger issue for us today than the environment. If we ruin the only place we can currently live, then politics, economics, religion, etc. don't matter at all. So I do what I can in my life, and I educate others about ways they can help. It's not about the guilt. It's about seeing a problem and doing what you can to help solve it. Just because the problem is bigger than one person doesn't absolve one from doing their part.

tharasix | October 11, 2012

@danielccc: I assumed that the S batteries weren't so dramatically different from the Roadster batteries that it would require a different recycling method. We're talking liquid-cooled LiIon in both cases. It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong, though.

In any case, I agree that writing up their methods for the full lifecycle of the car would be beneficial.

danielccc | October 11, 2012

@tesla.mrspaghetti: I sleep guilt-free every night.

This isn't about guilt, it's about not being stupid. Unsustainable use of resources is stupid. If we continue, at some point people will look back at this era and ask, "What the heck were they thinking?"

It's not about the Earth, either. It's about the species. Will we pass the Darwin test? It's an open question.

danielccc | October 11, 2012

tharasix: I don't know. That's kind of the point. The formulation is somewhat different.

Also, even with the Roadster battery, is the resulting material, especially the metals, suitable for new batteries? In other words, are the batteries recycled or downcycled? If downcycled, is there a battery technology roadmap that will lead to actual recycling at some point?

Epley | October 11, 2012

Apparently you're not allowed to contradict the almighty John Peterson on his own article. All I said was that touting a peer-reviewed article, then manipulating that data invalidates the conclusion and makes it impossible to draw a valid conclusion...sheesh. I guess they don't like real science...

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User Data:
• Posted by: shamster, userID: 5101761, email:
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Content Data:
• Content submitted on October 11, 2012, 12:35
• On Article Electric Vehicles, Front-Loading The CO2 Emissions by John Petersen
• Original comment:
As a scientist, the way the data is manipulated and extrapolated without sound basis in this article is horrifying. Quoting a peer-reviewed study to sound credible then manipulating that peer-reviewed data invalidates your argument.

jbunn | October 11, 2012

There was some guy on StockTwits that held short positions in Tesla and kept posting (2 or 3 an hour) fact free negative comments. I begged to disagree with him, and he complained, and I had my account suspended and comments deleted. They would not discuss why, but told me they would reactivate if I promised to behave. I told them to leave it suspended, but check several violations of the rules the other poster was committing. Not sure what happened, but he disappeared for a while. Came back more mellow. But I'm not sure if there is a connection.

Try removing the word "horrifying" and repost. I think perhaps they have a filter, and they do seem to look less favoribly at new users. Your alias "shamster" might be doing you a disservice. Usualy Peterson loves to agrue with posters.

I did not find anything offensive in your post. As someone who works with data for a living, I had exactly the same thoughts when I read the article.

The rate of human hair growth is something like 7-10th m/sec. The green tea consumption in China is about 60 kg/sec. Related by time, true. Relevant to each other? Not. Likewise, Peterson seems to have stretched facts beyond their breaking point.

dtesla | October 11, 2012

I am about as pro Tesla as the article's author is anti Tesla. Here is my analysis.

The car he has chosen gets 44 MPG. That is, to produce that much C02 in 150,000 miles you need to average 44 MPG. I personally think a Lexus LS 460 RWD ( is about the same size, weight, and performance as the model S. The Lexus has an EPA rating of 19 combined MPG. Assuming 20 Lbs of CO2 are generated for each gallon of gas burned (, I calculate the Lexus generates 157,000 Lbs of CO2 ( = 150,000 miles / 19 MPG * 20 Lbs of CO2 per gallon) in 150,000 miles.

I can't find any data on the C02 generated to manufacture the ICE engine, so I will accept his figures of about 15,000 Lbs.

Lexus total.... 172,000 Lbs CO2.

He assumes the Model S averages 3.75 miles per kWh (MPK). That is, to produce that much C02 in 150,000 miles you need to average 3.75 MPK. For my pre-purchase planning I use the slightly more pessimistic value of 3.25 MPK. (I will use the 3.25 MPK figure for this analysis, but you can use your own Using the national average of 1 lb CO2 to produce 1 kWh ( I calculate the Model S will generate, indirectly, 46,000 Lbs CO2 (= 150,000 miles / 3.25 MPK * 1 Lb CO2 per kWh) in 150,000 miles. (Personally I have solar PV on my roof. So my personal value is 0 lbs CO2.)

Now the battery.... to build 1 kWh of Li battery you generate 165 Lbs of CO2. (only reference I could find: So a 85 kWh battery generates 14,000 Lbs of CO2 to Build.

Model S total.... 60,000 Lbs CO2.

More to the point of the thread, Front end CO2 cost is about the same for ICE and 85 kWh Model S. EV has lower CO2 after that.

Other CO2 production costs:
1 lb steel 2 Lbs CO2
1 lb copper 0.5 Lbs CO2
1 lb aluminum 1.2 Lbs of CO2

Volker.Berlin | October 12, 2012

For the record, this thread has a sibling:

mrspaghetti | October 14, 2012


We're not ruining our habitat. Our water and air has been getting cleaner over our lifetimes, not dirtier.


Define 'unsustainable'. Were horses sustainable as our main mode of transportation? Was whale oil sustainable as our main source for lanterns, etc? I guess not, because we don't use them anymore. And that's because something better (read: cheaper) came along. And that's how things will continue to evolve.

People label oil as 'unsustainable' without really explaining what they mean. Is there enough oil to last us forever as we currently use it? Of course not, but that's true of everything. We're not remotely close to depleting our oil, otherwise it would be astronomically expensive already (see any text on basic economics). When we do approach depletion, or possibly long before then when something better comes along, we'll change the way we do things. Until then, see my comment above to tharasix and don't panic. Whether or not you crush and recycle your cans doesn't make any difference. I hope I won't give you nightmares by telling you that in many places, all that stuff goes into the same landfill as your non-recyclables (gasp!)

Oaktowner | October 15, 2012

dtesla -

Thanks for the detailed analysis!

danielccc | October 15, 2012


Unsustainable is an easy term to define. An activity is unsustainable if it depletes, destroys, or renders unusable a finite resource. That is, an "open cycle" activity where you end up in a position worse than when you started.

Natural processes are closed cycle, if you exclude the energy from the Sun, life on Earth recycles everything. That's why it can continue for billions of years.

If people want to believe we will never run out of anything with our current extractive model, they can believe it. They can also believe in unicorns. It's true that we won't literally run out. Instead, we need to trash the planet more and more to get to less and less stuff. Canada is bulldozing the Boreal forest in order to get to the tar sands.

I think there are better, smarter ways to fulfill our needs than to turn the Earth into Mordor.

mrspaghetti | October 15, 2012


I think there are better, smarter ways to fulfill our needs than to turn the Earth into Mordor.

Oh boy, queue dramatic music...

As stated above, our air & water are getting cleaner, not dirtier.

Since neither of us will change the others opinion, let me just say that I respect that you have strong convictions and your heart is probably in the right place. I just think you are overly pessimistic when it comes to environmental concerns. As I stated earlier (or possibly in another thread) our next societal upheaval is much more likely to be financial in origin, not environmental. That would be much more worth the angst than what currently gets devoted to the perceived pillaging of mother Earth.

jbunn | October 15, 2012


We don't use whale oil in our lanterns anymore because for all practical purposes we killed them all off.

danielccc | October 15, 2012


The air and water didn't get cleaner by themselves. It took the Clean Air Act and the EPA, and to this day people are fighting both tooth and nail.

I am not pessimistic. I think the future is open to all possibilities. The good ones won't happen by wishful thinking though. When I was born, there were 500,000 African lions. Today there are 20,000. You don't need to be an expert to see that the loss of 96% of a top predator is a bad environmental health indicator. There is more to our environmental status than somewhat cleaner air and water in New York or LA.

And, for whatever it's worth, I do agree that financial risks are large right now. But I don't worry about that because there is nothing I can do about it.

mrspaghetti | October 15, 2012


Interesting. You don't worry about financial risks because you don't think you can do anything about it, yet you somehow think you can do something about the environment.


No, I've been to Alaska and I saw plenty of whales. Are they as numerous as before? No. But who said the numbers of a given species has to remain constant? Or that some shouldn't become extinct? That would be a first in the history of the planet.

Whales were on a trajectory for possible extinction prior to the discovery of petroleum though. So you can thank Shell, Exxon, et al for saving them.

Joshua Burstyn | October 15, 2012

"Whales were on a trajectory for possible extinction prior to the discovery of petroleum though. So you can thank Shell, Exxon, et al for saving them."

I may have to disagree on that point.

Brian H | October 15, 2012

Unsustainable is a hoax. Every time something becomes scarce, something else (more efficient, better performing, cheaper) is substituted. Always. What could people 100 yrs ago have "sustained" for us to use? Nothing.

Alastair.Nantes | October 15, 2012

Unsustainable is certainly not a hoax. Ask the Roman Empire.

That is not to say that we (humans) will not survive (well some of us) but how "rocky" that path of survival is, is the choice before us.

I vote we solve problems pro-actively (like addressing falling supplies of petrol) rather than just waiting for some "invisible hand" to fix it for us!

Good reason to buy a Model S. It may not be the "answer" but it supports the mentality that we need to innovate faster and further (unlike certain high-margin, SUV-loving motor companies I could mention).
Hope is not a strategy!

Brian H | October 15, 2012

The Invisible Hand is just the observation that you pay the real price for everything, no matter how you duck and dodge and subsidize.

As for petrol, the oil fields in the Rockies foothills are now rated by the GAO as equivalent to the rest of the world's proven reserves of light sweet crude put together. EVs are not good because they "save" oil. They're good because they're better cars. Deep-six all the "Save the Planet" bushwah and enjoy your Tesla!

"Recycle your breadcrumbs! Save the wheat!"

I don't know whether I should yawn or laugh. Prob'ly both.

mrspaghetti | October 15, 2012

@Brian H +1

Although I wouldn't say EVs are categorically better cars. Only the Model S so far.

Brant | October 15, 2012

OK...apparently you two think Elon's "Master Plan" is a bunch of greeny crap. Obviously there are many people here that don't take your point of view. If you are going to heckle fans in the stadium why don't you do it from the visitors section.

Mel. | October 15, 2012

Brant, what is wrong with Elon wanting to go to Mars? I love SpaceX