Submitted by planetzappa on Sat, 2013-07-27 13:54
Recently i learned a lot about the environmental issues related to creating virgin aluminum from bauxite ore. My main concern is not so much the amount of energy involved in the whole process chain but rather the huge problems surrounding the so-called "red mud", which is extremely hazardous to the environment and is currently usually simply dumped in huge pools surrounded by more or less safe "walls". There have been cases when these walls broke down (e.g. with heavy rain) and red mud spilling out. Besides almost the whole periodic system, this stuff also contains various powerful acids and causes severe damage to your skin. In the areas were aluminum is produced from bauxite, ground water contamination is a regular problem (even if the dumps are kept safe), but in the case of red mud breaking out of a dump, you have a huge environmental desaster. This for example happend in Hungary some years ago.
This aspect of aluminum production is often ignored, most people only talk about the (huge) amount of energy that is necessary to melt raw aluminum from aluminum oxide (which is the final product of a complicated chemical process starting with bauxite ore). As most people know, using recycled aluminum instead of virgin aluminum requires only 5% of the energy. Most people do not know about the fact that using recycled aluminum also means that a lot less environmental damage is caused.
I asked Tesla's bulletin board about this but did not receive an answer yet, so i'm asking you folks now: Do any of you know if Tesla is using recycled aluminum when producing the Model S? (And, if they don't: Why?)