Article in today's Daily Telegraph

Article in today's Daily Telegraph

Electric cars will be a good idea one day, but we aren’t there yet
Bjorn Lomborg
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 electric vehicle.
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, the company’s current best-seller has been plagued by quality problems.
All of this might be dismissed as the concerns of a geek – 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, so 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 US 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 electric 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 total carbon emissions.
The Tesla 3 is indeed a “zero emissions” marvel – but that is only because it does not yet exist.

Follow Bjorn Lomborg on Twitter @BjornLomborg

Read more at Telegraph Opinion

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月7日

Yeah. So, I stopped reading at the word 'coal'. It is just one more of the dozens and scores and hundreds of articles that always uses the same trite phrases to criticize the very concept of electric vehicles and Tesla Motors in particular using FUD and outright lies.

malcolm.hall1932 | 2016年4月7日

Times are a changing. The U.K. Closed its LAST deep face coal mine (Kellingley, North Yorkshire) in December last year.

Archesfarm | 2016年4月7日

The premise of his argument is that a Model S will emit 13 tonnes of CO2 in it's working lifetime based on coal fired electricity generation. I believe (and stand to be corrected) that the aim is to have Superchargers solar charged. Therefore, it could reasonably be assumed that the 13 tonne figure would reduce fairly significantly. Is that correct?

Nexxus | 2016年4月7日


You're absolutely correct!! Not only are the SC's to be solar powered, but a lot of people buying Tesla's today, have their homes powered by solar as well. So they feed the grid by day and use off peak power at night to charge, thereby allowing the power companies to level output for consumers. This leveling means they are running their generating equipment at more constant speeds so there is less wear on the equipment adjusting output.

Articles like this also forget to mention that the CO2 can be scrubbed much more easily at the source than from the millions of tailpipes spewing it. As more power plants are converted from coal to natural gas or upgraded with better scrubbers, this story becomes much more irrelevant.

Change is hard but we will take the world over, kicking and screaming, if we have to. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!

brian | 2016年4月7日

I get several key points from the Article:

The Model 3 doesn't exist yet. Somewhat obvious.

China coal power plants are so dirty. Not everybody lives in China. Assuming the claim is true.

"the top-line Tesla S will emit about 13 tonnes of CO2" - lots of unstated assumptions here - which country is this in? China?

Is there any truth to the claim "But the production of its batteries alone will emit 14 tonnes, along with seven more from the rest of its production and eventual decommissioning."?

"yet will only save 3.3 million tonnes of CO2" so we should give up now?

"Electric cars will be a good idea, once they can compete – which will probably be by 2032" this is not going to happen unless they start developing the technology today, and that costs money which the article is complaining about.

inconel | 2016年4月7日

Folks, the article is right!
We recently renovated our house and converted all the lights to gas-powered lamps. They burn much cleaner than the old coal-powered Philips bulbs ;-)

ELECTRFY | 2016年4月7日

That article is not considering that at least the US there is already a transition from coal to renewable resources (solar and wind mostly) to power the nation's electric grid. Putting all these Tesla cars (and others) on the roads will boost these effort from switching of coal and oil based energy. At least that is how I perceive it.

hmallett | 2016年4月7日

In the UK you can choose your electricity supplier. You can choose one who uses only electricity generated from renewable sources.

Even if your supplier does burn coal, they can change their nervy sources without you having to change anything. If you buy a hydrocarbon-powered car it'll always burn that fuel source.

cpmarino | 2016年4月7日

Oh, and let's not forget that these cars are made in CA, and then transported all over the globe using carriers (trucks, ships, etc.) that burn lots of fossil fuels!

So, here's an interesting question ... how much fossil fuels are being used to generate the electricity utilized by a gas station. compared the the amount of fossil fuels being used to generate electricity to charge a Tesla at home? There are lots of gas stations ... so not only are ICE cars burning fossil fuels directly, but they refuel at stations that are burning fossil fuels just to power their devices used to dispense the fossil fuels.

I'm no tree-hugger, I like Tesla for what it is, not because it's "green". But, honestly, you can't make a valid argument that a Tesla uses more fossil fuels than an ICE and all the ICE infrastructure.

teslagiddy | 2016年4月7日

Ok, so don't buy the car because it's environmentally responsible. Buy it because it's awesome in ever other way too!

carlk | 2016年4月7日

Every argument of electric cars are run by coal generated electricity failed just by one simple fact. It takes ~6 kWh of electricity, enough to power an EV for 20 miles, to refine a gallon of gasoline.

Chunky Jr. | 2016年4月7日

It defies common sense that it is better to refine oil into gasoline, which requires electricity, transport that gasoline to a gas station, and then burn that gasoline in your car in an inefficient engine than it is to put the electricity directly into a battery and use that to power a very efficient motor.

Articles like this are just a form of hippie punching.

ann | 2016年4月7日

We selected the "renewable" source of energy with our electric company at home years ago, when it was first offered, so any electricity that we buy, and that will charge the Tesla, comes from renewable sources of energy. So, the author of the article didn't bother to ask Tesla buyers how they will be charging their cars!

Hi_Tech | 2016年4月7日

My Model S is powered/"fueled" by two main sources:
1. Solar powered Super Chargers (do lots of long distance travel)
2. Solar powered at home (over 50 panels on my roof... enough for most of the house and the EV)

Therefore, the article is completely irrelevant.

nelscharli1970 | 2016年4月7日

I live in the NW and work for the Hydro industry. My Tesla will be charged with clean renewable, Hydro power. We also have installed solar panels on our house to further reduce our CO2 impact.
Bjornis making many assumptions to discredit Tesla and other EV builders. Same tired, old story.
Change is happening, you have to start somewhere...

damonmath | 2016年4月7日

The coal comparison is a straw man argument. We could easily go into detail about how much pollution all the ICE parts generate during manufacturing. All the rubber hoses, engine parts, plastic parts, wiring, fluids etc... Then there is the pollution generated from oil and gas manufacturing. All the drilling, transport, refining, transport again, etc... Not to mention actually BURNING gasoline under the hood of the car. Then there is the heat pollution and wasted heat energy attributed to the engine, hood, tail pipe, etc... Did I mention the cancer warning labels at the gas pumps?

When I do a little research I find that coal is on the way out, and depending on where you live and get your electricity, that amount of coal could be higher or lower. The entire argument is meant to detract from what is actually happening, which is the beginning of the end of gasoline powered commuter transport.

finman100 | 2016年4月7日

Holy crap! Talk about damage control. All these entrenched oil companies and their cronies are scared out of their minds with 325,000 votes AGAINST their precious fluid(s). Love it! May Tesla rise above it all (the clouds of fossil-induced pollution!?) and just do what they do. Disrupt for the betterment of all.

acuoio | 2016年4月7日

This is an interesting site to learn where your state generates its electricity and heat. I live in Washington state and we're 'lucky' enough to have hydroelectric as our main source of power.

http://www eia gov/state/?sid=CA

jamilworm | 2016年4月7日

@acuoio thanks for that link! Looking at California where i live makes me laugh at the article because for electricity generation you can barely see the sliver that represents coal on the bar graph. A large majority of electricity here comes from natural gas.

Tropopause | 2016年4月7日

I think this "journalist's" brain is powered by OPEC.

Tropopause | 2016年4月7日

Tesla used to have a link which showed where each state's electricity comes from but I can no longer find it.

jordanrichard | 2016年4月7日

In the U.S., the number of coal plants is diminishing. Presently I believe only 40% of our country's electricity comes form coal.

However, let's say it was 100% and you can use this argument with people like the author of that article. We can pull up to that dirty coal plant, and plug in and charge. Try that with a gasoline car.

No, that coal generated electricity needs to first go to an oil refinery plant which uses it to run refine oil into gas. Then it uses more electricity to pump it into the tanker trucks. Then those tanker trucks burn diesel to deliver the gas to a gas station which runs on electricity, whether you are there with your car or not. When you do pull up, an electric pump is used to pump the gas out of the ground and into your car, which then burns it.

JeffreyR | 2016年4月7日

@jordanrichard +1
I have just one thing to add. "...which then burns it, once."

It's one of my favorite comebacks on this topic; you only get to burn gas once.

Tropopause | 2016年4月7日

One and done! Very true!

SUN 2 DRV | 2016年4月7日

CarlK +1

Yep, You're a hero for reminding us...

"Every argument of electric cars are run by coal generated electricity failed just by one simple fact. It takes ~6 kWh of electricity, enough to power an EV for 20 miles, to refine a gallon of gasoline."

Haggy | 2016年4月7日

I don't think we need to get into the coal argument because we already know that his argument is wrong even with 100% coal. If you want to talk numbers, how about we throw in the 287,000 vehicle fires per year in the US alone? Does he think the smoke from that isn't polluting. And of course there are the people it kills and injures.

JeffreyR | 2016年4月7日

@Haggy +1
I knew there were a lot of vehicle fires, but I had no idea it was that many. BTW that is an old number so it could be even worse. The citation I found was:

"In 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 480 civilian deaths, 1,525 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage annually."

Report: NFPA's "U.S. Vehicle Fire Trends and Patterns"

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月8日

If anyone needs to check how much coal generation is used to make electricity in your State, check this link: | 2016年4月8日

As others have pointed out the article is wildly inaccurate and very misleading. Likely written by the highly subsidized oil lobby who wish to keep things the way they were.

A key issue is when you charge your EV car. Most owners do it between midnight and 6am. This is the time when there is excess energy being produced by hydro, wind, nuclear and geothermal (no CO2). The electric companies can mostly turn off the dirty coal plants during this period and they still have more electricity generated than is used. As a bonus, for time-of-day metering, the cost is typically 25% of the peak daytime rate.

bj | 2016年4月8日

Bjorn Lomborg is not a journalist but an academic (adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School), and well-known "climate skeptic" in Europe. Or to be more accurate, while he doesn't deny climate science, he is of the view humanity has many more pressing problems to solve sooner and at much less cost (such as world hunger), and that the approaches to climate change are almost universally wrong-headed, costly, ineffective, or all of the above. Hence the tirade above against EVs.

He writes to be deliberately contrarian and provocative, but it does his academic credentials no good when articles like this are filled with so many easily disproven falsehoods. It's lazy writing underpinned by little or no basic research.

JeffreyR | 2016年4月8日

@bj +1 Your post's signal to noise ratio puts BL's to shame.

Solarwind | 2016年4月8日

It is amazing these lies just keep coming. It takes 7kwh to refine one gallon of gas, Best estimate is it takes another 7kwh of energy to drill, pump, haul, and deliver to station where more coal energy is used to pump again. The Tesla will go farther on the energy used to get one gallon to a ICE then any ICE will go on it. There is no comparison. As far as the rest of the lies Elon has said the gigafactory will be 100% solar.

Sleepydoc1 | 2016年4月8日

According to the Sacramento utility (SMUD) at, Sacramento receives 0% of its power from coal and California in 2014 had about 6% of its electricity from coal, decreasing each year. My solar panels generate 90% of my electricity. My X will be clean when it is delivered "soon."