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carbon load estimate for manufacturing the battery?

carbon load estimate for manufacturing the battery?

Does anyone know of a good estimate of the carbon load of manufacturing the Model 3 batteries? I have seen good estimates for the carbon impact of charging the car (which depends on type of local electricity generation), but not for building the car in the first place. I am guessing that even with the efficiency of Tesla's gigafactory, mining the raw materials must be very energy and carbon intensive. I also wonder how much CO2 emission will be needed to recycle these huge batteries at the end of the vehicle life.

Maybe just too difficult to estimate accurately, but I would like to see the range. I have a first-day reservation for a Model 3, and I would buy a one just for the simplicity of the design compared to ICE, but I would not buy one if the Tesla was likely more environmentally unfriendly than an ICE car. As much as I admire Elon Musk, I definitely do not want to take his word for it, regarding the environmental benefits of BEVs.

Red Sage ca us | 14 marzo 2017

Hmmm... "carbon load of a building the Model 3 batteries"

So. I read that a few times. Decided this is possibly just a typographical error. Maybe it should be something like, "carbon load of manufacturing the Model 3 battery cells and assembling battery packs" instead. Yeah. That's a bit better.

But then I got to this part, "I am guessing that even with the efficiency of Tesla's gigafactory, mining the raw materials must be very energy and carbon intensive." Now my SPiDEY Sense is tingling a bit, or its just another mild headache, because this seems to be leading down a dark, dumb, and dangerous path.

And then we get to the destination I feared with the very next sentence, "I also wonder how much CO2 emission will be needed to recycle these huge batteries at the end of the vehicle life."

God.

You know, whenever someone posts stuff like this, I try really hard to ignore it for a while. I try to let others respond, then chime in later. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, presume they really don't know yet, haven't seen all the presentations I have over the past three years regarding Tesla in particular, let alone the environmental data I've come across in the 40+ years since I was an eight-year-old...

But then, upon seeing the veiled intimation that recycling things creates even more waste, it becomes clear I am dealing with a crackpot.

Dude. If you won't take Elon Musk's word for it, then you sure as [HECK] ain't gonna take mine. Please. Go away. And read some science books while you can. Damn.

Tarla's Driver | 14 marzo 2017

Also, every time this comes up, I see crazy short life expectancies for the batteries. This leads to assuming not one, but several battery packs for the life of the car, as well as inflated recycling energy use.

The warranty is for eight years, and there's every indication that they'll last longer than that. Even more importantly, after they're taken out of the cars, they will still be quite useful in Powerall-type applications, so the batteries should have a useful lifetime of at least 20 years, possibly longer.

jdmd | 14 marzo 2017

Yikes, I am just hoping to find some estimates from an academic expert in environmental science. I just like to know the numbers, because the BEV environmental impacts are less direct than those from burning gasoline in an ICE car. I am not at all suggesting that an ICE car has lower environment impact that a BEV. I just would like to know by how much the BEV is superior, from scientist experts.

I guess Red Sage is just saying the information is readily available, and I have just not looked hard enough. And I guess he is saying that dealing with the battery at end of its life is totally negligible compared to using it for travel throughout its life. Fair enough.

The Union of Concerned Scientist has decent info here:
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life-cycle-ev-emi...
but without supporting detail on the manufacturing estimate.

I also do not mean to question the value of recycling. Nor of using batteries. Rather, I am just curious about how much more difficult it is to recycle a BEV, compared to an ICE car. Like aluminum cans versus paper fiber.

topher | 14 marzo 2017

Have you (OP) got solar panels yet?

As to embodied energy (which must, of course, Red, take into consideration recycling energy), there is nothing unique about BEVs. If you are looking for an easy estimate; it is proportional to weight. A non-easy estimate is a subject for a good thesis, let us know how it comes out. But for any car, the vast majority of the energy is in operation. And unlike gasoline powered cars, there is a wide range of carbon load, depending on where the energy is sourced from. Electricity from fossil fuel plants are about the same as gasoline right to the car. Nuclear, solar, and wind are near zero. So we are back to my original question. Minimum carbon load for a car will be from sourcing electricity from the sun, right next to where you charge it.

Thank you kindly.

jdmd | 14 marzo 2017

The EPA says that the relatively dirty electricity in my region means that an ICE with better than 44 mpg (e.g. a regular Prius hybrid) would have less carbon emission than a BEV. So my question seems not as ignorant as Red Sage says.

http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/images/2015/11/vehicles-m-emis...

topher | 14 marzo 2017

"So my question seems not as ignorant as Red Sage says."

That is only *operating* carbon load, not embodied energy carbon load, which is what your original question asked about.

So, about those solar panels...

Thank you kindly.

Frank99 | 14 marzo 2017

For recycling the vehicle body, an EV isn't that different from an ICEV although there may be more use of Aluminum to keep weight down - ICEV like the Ford F150 are going that route also.
The Tesla EV motor is essentially iron, epoxy, and copper that can be easily recycled, where ICE will have a lot of heavy metal- and oil-contaminated mixed metal (iron, aluminum, various alloys) that is a bit more difficult to recycle, although the recycling stream is well-defined and obviously available.
The battery pack isn't toxic, and is mostly aluminum (frame) and steel (battery casings) with graphite, electrolyte, and lithium internal to it. Here's a generally negative overview of battery recycling from a few years ago:
https://www.fool com/investing/general/2014/02/09/will-battery-recycling-help-tesla-motors-massive-s.aspx
Because the chemistry and contents are well-known and simple, long term recycling should be able to extract any valuable or problematic, like cobalt or nickel, components easily. Lithium may never be recycled from the batteries - simply because it's so simple and cheap to recover from natural brines that it doesn't make economic sense to recover it from the waste stream, and it's ecologically inert enough to not need extraction. Note that the author's postscript about mining lithium is rubbish. See: http://www.lithiummine com/lithium-mining

I haven't seen a good examination of the birth-to-death carbon footprint of an EV relative to an ICEV, including the recycling loop. It seems like its a tremendously difficult thing to get a handle on - although one can say that as energy moves to renewables (solar, wind, etc) the carbon footprint of EVERYTHING goes down. If the smelting plant runs off Solar, you don't need to worry about it's carbon footprint, and if the semi that delivers a car is an EV charged from an offshore wind farm, you don't need to worry about it's carbon footprint either.

topher | 14 marzo 2017

"although one can say that as energy moves to renewables (solar, wind, etc) the carbon footprint of EVERYTHING goes down."

Yes!

Thank you kindly.

Garyeop | 14 marzo 2017

I wonder if this chart would match up with state alternative energy funding. Kansas here, home of the Koch brothers gas companies. Lots of constant wind. Cheep natural gas. No solar or ev incentives. So we could use wind and solar to produce energy but instead we produce high carbon electricity.

Which causes which? Do politics force us to use high carbon electricity or is it just too cheep to burn coal and gas?

dsvick | 14 marzo 2017

@jdmd - "The EPA says that the relatively dirty electricity in my region means that an ICE with better than 44 mpg (e.g. a regular Prius hybrid) would have less carbon emission than a BEV."

That also depends on whether or not you can choose your electric source. As topher suggested solar on your own home would be best, but if that's not an option, then you should see if your provider offers a choice in supplier. Mine does and I can select providers that generate their supply only from 100% renewable sources.

Carl Thompson | 14 marzo 2017

It is true that in some areas BEVs don't reduce carbon emissions _right now_. But you have to look at the future too. A new gas-powered car purchased right now will _always_ burn gas and will _always_ have a certain amount of carbon emissions. But a BEV purchased now, even in an area with dirty power plants, can grow cleaner as old power plants are replaced or by simply moving the car to a cleaner power producing area. You can't simply base overall carbon emissions on an instantaneous snapshot in time like that EPA chart. You'd also have to consider changes in energy production and sources over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Short version: Gas powered cars have no upside over time. But BEVs will likely grow cleaner overall as they age because energy production will grow cleaner.

Carl

topher | 14 marzo 2017

" Do politics force us to use high carbon electricity or is it just too cheep to burn coal and gas?"

No. Politics, and the people buying it, do everything they can to try to make gas and coal cheaper, and it STILL isn't enough. Solar and wind are cheaper than either coal or gas even heavily subsidizing the latter.

Don't have enough low carbon electricity near you? Put some up. Either on your own home, or in a community solar or wind farm. Here is one that I was involved in: https://www.revisionenergy.com/solar-farms/edgecomb-community-solar-farm/

Thank you kindly.

Frank99 | 14 marzo 2017

Amongst the other advantages, coal and gas have existing infrastructure in place, so the marginal cost to burn coal/gas is just the cost of the fuel. To generate renewable energy, you have to put down some pretty hefty capital investments before you start getting any clean energy out. So, until you run out of capacity in your coal-burning plant, it's gonna be cheaper to burn coal than capture photons.
Once you need to build a new plant - either to replace an obsolete plant or to meet new demand - renewables should be on a fairly even footing with a new coal or gas plant especially for daytime needs. The old coal plant may still be necessary for nighttime demands or other baseload demands that aren't met by your current renewable mix, but it's use should be drastically scaled back from what it was before.

david.jones24 | 14 marzo 2017

Ahh, how true Frank. Unless you couple your new clean power generation with Tesla Powerpacks. Then you can store excess electricity generated during the day and use it at night. 100% clean.

Badbot | 14 marzo 2017

IIRC sparks nv gets mostly hydro power from Cal

Frank99 | 14 marzo 2017

I agree; BUT
The Navajo Generating Station is a 2GW coal-burning plant here in AZ that was recently scheduled for closing. 2 GW times 14 hours of darkness in the winter is 28 GWH of PowerPack storage - about 350 times the largest PowerPack installation to date (80 MWH to SCE). That's a lot of batteries to replace one coal burning plant...

Nexxus | 15 marzo 2017

@jdmd,
You said: The EPA says that the relatively dirty electricity in my region means that an ICE with better than 44 mpg (e.g. a regular Prius hybrid) would have less carbon emission than a BEV.

What they don't tell you is the amount of C02 produced making the gasoline, not even how much energy it takes to make the gasoline, transport it from the refinery, and pump it back out of the tank before you even use it.

With the grid getting cleaner year to year BEV's will always be the better value when it comes to the environment. The people that write the articles you've read mostly spread FUD, not the truth.

topher | 15 marzo 2017

"The Navajo Generating Station is a 2GW coal-burning plant here in AZ that was recently scheduled for closing. 2 GW times 14 hours of darkness in the winter is 28 GWH of PowerPack storage"

Do you have evidence that the nighttime usage is REALLY 2 GW for all 14 hours? Usually if someone thinks it a good idea to close a plant, it isn't being used anywhere near capacity.

Thank you kindly.

minervo.florida | 15 marzo 2017

Have you ever considered the real carbon and energy to make gasoline?

Such as building, moving, and operating a drilling well in the gulf. Not to mention, these wells leak. Then you have to transport the crude to a refining plant and the mess with that place. Then transport the gasoline to all these storage stations, then transport to gas stations. Just crazy.

Watch Before the floor or Gasland 2.

How many fracking wells in the US, take a guess?

over 1.1 million.

KP in NPT | 15 marzo 2017

Flagging the troll EaglesPDX.

minervo.florida | 15 marzo 2017

EVERY car company is going electric because it is better in every way.

Red Sage ca us | 15 marzo 2017

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a pigeon that's BENT after consuming to many 40 oz adult beverages!

Civicrick | 15 marzo 2017

But should his perception be my truth? We are on a long journey of evolution and GHGs and global warming and melting ice caps are all part of it. Soon we will all fly our Teslas on inter galactic journeys! Go Elon!

Oops. I dropped a brick and cracked his pot.

djharrington | 15 marzo 2017

OP, in your quest for data, be looking for the following:
Many times, CO2 comparisons will look at the manufacturing of both types of cars, in addition to the CO2 for electricity production versus the CO2 emitted from the ICE. However, make sure that the data includes the CO2 from refining and distributing the gas for the ICE. That is a significant amount that gets passed over a lot of times. Use your brain, search for many sources, and you should feel good with the result.

Frank99 | 15 marzo 2017

Topher -
It's unlikely that the plant provides it's maximum 2.25 GW - everytime I drive by the place, only two of the three units are running (pretty common scenario for large plants - two are running while one is doing maintenance. I see the same thing at the Palo Verde Nuclear plant outside Phoenix). It's closing because of many reasons, mostly that the cost of electricity from natural gas fired plants is now less than that from this plant, and required environmental upgrades were looking pretty pricey.
However, I was using this as an example of the amount of battery storage you'd need to replace ONE power plant at night. Perhaps the real number is 1.5 GW (two units) for 9 hours in the summer - that's still 160 times the largest installation to date.
Regardless, it's not yet feasible to "couple your new clean power generation with Tesla Powerpacks" to end up with 100% clean power - the number of required PowerPacks is huge. What might be feasible is to use the non-CO2 generating power in AZ (Nuclear, Hydro) to provide most of the overnight load, with PowerPacks to fill in the shortfall, and lots and lots of Solar to generate the afternoon peaks. Unfortunately, California is right next door, and effectively doesn't allow new Natural Gas powered plants to open in their state - so a lot of them were built in AZ with the intention of selling power to CA. We get the emissions, CA gets the clean energy - there's something wrong there.

topher | 15 marzo 2017

"Regardless, it's not yet feasible to "couple your new clean power generation with Tesla Powerpacks" to end up with 100% clean power"

Sure it is (check out go100percent.org) , you haven't even factored in Wind yet. Or tidal, or wave, or geothermal (real), or...

Of course, none of those are 100% clean, but they are a heck of a lot better than coal... (212lbs CO2/MBTU vs 26 lbs CO2/MBTU for solar)

Thank you kindly.

topher | 15 marzo 2017

"We get the emissions, CA gets the clean energy - there's something wrong there."

I hear ya, we here in Maine get the emissions from the entire NorthEast. And NO benefit (unlke the taxes you are getting).

Thank you kindly.

EaglesPDX | 15 marzo 2017

Union of Concerned Scientists is probably the best source on the topic.

"The Union of Concerned Scientists agrees; it found that even when you add in emissions from battery manufacturing, EVs generate half the emissions of a conventional car over the course of its life.)"

Badbot | 15 marzo 2017

FUD flagging please

EaglesPDX | 15 marzo 2017

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/ev-emissions-tool...

Chevy Bolt 98 gCO2 per mile
Tesla 75D 115 gCO2 per mile

This in Pacific NW which has cleaner power than most.

djharrington | 15 marzo 2017

The calculator Eagles posted above does a fine job of estimating operational emissions, based on 100% grid charging. However, that's where it stops. It doesn't look at emissions related to material sourcing and manufacturing of the traction battery, as the OP asked. It's still a nice tool to see where you rank against ICE if you grid charge.

You can possibly get an even better estimate if you read your utility's annual report (assuming they provide details such as production method percentages, and even peaker information).

EaglesPDX | 15 marzo 2017

"However, that's where it stops. It doesn't look at emissions related to material sourcing and manufacturing of the traction battery, as the OP asked."

www.fueleconomy.gov does that 90g for Bolt, 110 for Tesla.

djharrington | 15 marzo 2017

Essentially the same type of calculator, Eagles. Nice for what it is, but does nothing to answer the question about battery manufacturing.

EaglesPDX | 15 marzo 2017

"These differences change as soon as the cars are driven. EVs are powered by electricity, which is generally a cleaner energy source than gasoline. Battery electric cars make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within eighteen months of driving—shorter range models can offset the extra emissions within 6 months—and continue to outperform gasoline cars until the end of their lives."

djharrington | 15 marzo 2017

Now you're getting it :) Good job, Eagles.

JeffreyR | 15 marzo 2017

No one seems to have mentioned the plan to have Gigafactory 01 be net-zero on emissions. They will power the factory w/ a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal. They did not even include a natural gas line to the factory because they knew if they never had it they would not fall into the trap of "just a little bit... just for now."

@OP
Think of it this way. Elon conceived of GF-01 as a way to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy (sound familiar?). They will build battery packs and drive units there. So basically the entire drive train will be built at a zero-emissions factory. In addition GF-01 will have recycling (or up-cycling) as part of its production. Most likely this will be using batteries that no longer meet the strict demands of transportation batteries, but would be just fine for stationary storage.
In addition, GF-01 will be vertically integrated. This is something that Elon learned at SpaceX (and Tesla too). The closer you can get to raw materials, the closer you get to the theoretical limits of cost (in other words just the cost of materials). This eliminates both a lot of cost and a lot of waste from the supply chain.

So the part of the BEV that differentiates it from an ICEV will be produced at a zero-emissions plant. The rest will be just like an ICEV (Body in White, steering, suspension, etc.). Even at Fremont Tesla uses PowerPacks to eliminate peak demand from their electricity demands. This also means that peak power plants are not necessary. So even the part of the car that is nearly identical to an ICE is cleaner.

Q.E.D.

P.S. Plus all the stuff everyone else mentioned above about operating far outweighing the production of a car.

P.P.S. Ever wonder why Elon felt compelled to help start and eventually purchase Solar City? There is a strong correlation between people that get solar -> they usually get an EV. Also, people that get an EV -> they often get solar. Thank you kindly @topher.

Red Sage ca us | 16 marzo 2017

JeffreyR: +42! The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything concerning the queries raised in the OP, and why I was so PO'd. Why would anyone that was honestly coming to this site to 'find answers' have not checked the extensive blogs Tesla has written over more than a decade, or even those made in the past three years about the Gigafactory? It appeared to me that would only be done for the sake of spreading FUD. NOT 'information gathering'. Thus, both incongruous and lacking integrity. Sneaky. Not to be trusted.

djharrington | 16 marzo 2017

@Red,

I'm not jumping to any conclusions about the OP's intentions. To me, it seemed to be an honest question. Many people lack experience searching for factual information on topics such as this, especially topics where there is clear misinformation all over the web, making it harder for the average Joe to filter.

My house and both cars are 110% offset by solar on my roof. Does that mean I'm emissions free? Not by a long shot. The solar panels have roughly a 25g CO2/kWh production cost, but that's amortized over a 25yr service life ... but in reality, all of that CO2 was dumped into the atmosphere over the months of material sourcing and production. There's a cost to that. I'm also grid-tied, and even though I generate a net excess, the utility's plant can't reduce it's output to exactly account for solar installations, so they are always slightly over-burning (some types of plants are quicker reacting than others). When my excess power goes to my neighbors' homes, maybe that's slightly more efficient than the transmission losses if their power was coming from the grid. My point is that there are a ton of variables, but the net effect is a drastically reduced footprint.

In the same way, GF will [hopefully] be powered by 100% wind and solar, but it will still have a carbon footprint. Until we have solar panels and windmills sourced, manufactured, delivered, and installed completely with no-emission energy, could we say those panels and windmills have no CO2. Eventually, that might be the case, or close to it, but not today.

Anyhow, the realistic goal isn't zero CO2 planet-wide; but massive reductions are certainly possible over time.

bmalloy0 | 16 marzo 2017

As a followup to djharrington, has there been any word on the Buffalo Solar Panel plant being net-zero or not? That would help with PV footprints

johnse | 17 marzo 2017

+1 JeffreyR

I wanted to add that there's a common red herring in the OP's original question. That of adding costs (CO2 and otherwise) of the end-of-life recycling to the burden of the car/battery/whatever.

Those costs apply to the things produced by the recycling process. You are comparing the cost of recycled raw materials or reused/recycled items to the costs of completely new materials/items.

The costs that could possibly be attributed to the original car/battery would be disposal costs--whether those are strictly environmental or mitigated by whatever disposal methods are deemed necessary. When looking one costs, recycling can be used as a way to offset. But when considering CO2 costs directly, storing old batteries in a junkyard doesn't generate CO2.

As Jeffrey pointed out, Tesla will have recycling at the GF, so CO2 from recycling will be net zero.

JeffreyR | 17 marzo 2017

+1 @johnse Good points.

EaglesPDX | 17 marzo 2017

"The columns on the far left show the State of Charge results without accounting for vehicle manufacturing; an EV results in a 98% drop in global warming emissions when charged exclusively with solar power, a 77% drop when charged on the cleanest US regional electricity grid, and a 19% drop in when charged on the dirtiest US regional electricity grid region."

http://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/what-we-should-learn-from-a-lifecycle-a...

topher | 18 marzo 2017

"Anyhow, the realistic goal isn't zero CO2 planet-wide; but massive reductions are certainly possible over time."

Currently our goal needs to be MINUS CO2 planet wide. It doesn't really matter if people think it is 'realistic', it is required for our continued existence. Physics doesn't pay off on 'realistic' 'good tries'.

Thank you kindly.

Carl Thompson | 18 marzo 2017

topher:
"Currently our goal needs to be MINUS CO2 planet wide. It doesn't really matter if people think it is 'realistic', it is required for our continued existence."

That's a bit of exaggeration and hyperbole. We definitely need to significantly reduce carbon emissions. But even if we don't and millions or billions die from drought and famine it is extremely likely the humans would continue to exist.

Carl

EaglesPDX | 18 marzo 2017

"But what are the global warming emissions of electric cars on a life cycle basis—from the manufacturing of the vehicle’s body and battery to its ultimate disposal and reuse? To answer this, the Union of Concerned Scientists undertook a comprehensive, two-year review of the climate emissions from vehicle production, operation, and disposal. We found that battery electric cars generate half the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, even when pollution from battery manufacturing is accounted for."

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life-cycle-ev-emi...

EaglesPDX | 18 marzo 2017

Scientists tell us that humans need to reduce CO2 output by 80% based on 2000 CO2 levels in order to reduce the environmental damage from the industrial CO2. We can't eliminate the coming problems which science tells us are coming 30 years prior to their predictions such as the die off the Great Barrier Reef.

Carl Thompson | 18 marzo 2017

@EaglesPDX

For sure we can't eliminate the changes that will occur short term (next few decades) but reducing emissions as you say will hopefully avoid some of the worst long term consequences.

But human beings, the planet and its ecology are adaptable. Whatever happens I'm sure life will go on. Hopefully we will have the resolve to do what's necessary to make sure life in the future isn't too terrible.

Carl

EaglesPDX | 18 marzo 2017

"But human beings, the planet and its ecology are adaptable."

But human technological civilization is not. It is very fragile and interdependent. If you mean humans will survive as cave apes after a nuclear Armageddon caused by overpopulation and an environmental Armageddon, possibly but even that low level existence is not guaranteed.

But musing over it is pointless. What we can do is go by the science and cut GHG emissions by 80% based on 2000 levels.

Those of us who are doing it are a very, very small minority but we do what we can.

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