A very worrisome article if its contents are true. Any rebuttals?
John Peterson, the author of the article you reference, is guilty of perhaps the most gross misrepresentation and defamation of EV's I've ever seen. Basically he cherry picks the few articles that support his thesis... his thesis being: Electric cars are basically evil, and everyone should instead advocate microhybrids and also maybe buy some shares in Axion Power which makes (or is trying to make) batteries for microhybrids and which John Peterson has a very large position in. He also, for now at least, has massive paper losses in that position so you can see why he's 'passionate' about the whole thing.
I took issue with Johns (woefully uninformed and largely dishonest) critique of electric cars on the financial site where he used to publish Tesla attack pieces all the time (and I do mean ALL the time), and so wrote a couple of articles to rebut his assertions; hopefully they can put your mind at ease, but if not just google around - there is a LOT of work that discredits him.
On the issue of greenhouse gases and pollution: http://seekingalpha.com/article/680731-ev-myths-and-realities-part-2-gre...
On EV economics: http://seekingalpha.com/article/756681-ev-myths-realities-part-3a-tco-an...
I'm occasionally tempted to chase John to TheStreet and point out his many errors there, but usually I can't be bothered (and there are plenty of others who do so anyway). It's best to just not pay too much attention to him, and if you DO decide to then do very careful fact checking before you buy what he's selling.
And I wouldn't take what he's selling if he paid me.
I took a look at the study that Peterson is referencing. Honestly it appears to me to be a well researched high quality study that is woth a read. Peterson ignores the one very optimistic statement for BEV fans which was also included in the results. It reads: "BEVs have the potential to offer the greatest reductions in emissions and oil consumption at competitive cost if air emissions from electricity generation are substantially reduced, battery prices drop dramatically, gasoline prices rise, high-power charging infrastructure is sufficiently deployed, and battery life is increased beyond vehicle life". In fairness to the authors their thesis is that U.S. policy to subsidize BEVs is inneficient and that ther is a much better opptoruntiy to reduce emissions and oil consumption at a competitive cost by focusing US policy on HEVs and PHEV's with small bettery packs. I don't disagree with their conclusion. However, I don't think they properly account for the benefits of the U.S. Policy moving us further downt the S curve of technology adoption. At the current state of technology it is true that an HEV gives you more emisions reduction per dollar but if the various factors citred in the quote come to pass BEVs will win. The authors are supportive of U.S. funding for battery research for exactly that reason. I contend that by increasing adoption now the applied research that typically happens in industry will take place faster and that there is an uncaptured (in their study) side benefit here to US susidies for BEVs. As far a just buying a BEV now I am still game becuase I do believe that the US grid will get cleaner (and by the way for Tesla with the solar powered supercharger network coming we're already ahead of the game). I also believe that batteries will get cheaper while providing longer life. I see more and more articles weekly if not daily about new charging stations coming on line (not just Tesla) and who doesn't think gas is going to get more expenive.
So I would say by all means read the CMU study that Peterson refrers to. It may give you pause but if you are optimistic as I am about what will ultimately come to pass it won't pause you for long.
The study and your conclusions are nonsense. The only emissions that matter are local, near highways and on city streets. And the Model S is simply a superior product, as it stands.
The Michalek et al. PNAS study that Peterson references is indeed generally correct, but it makes a significant error by guessing that the 240 km BEV (Tesla S base model) has a 66.1 kWh battery instead of 40 kWh. This is understandable since the study was published in 2011 before all details of the model S were available, and the author may have incorrectly assumed that BEV range and PEV range are identical for the same battery capacity (not true: PHEVs with small batteries need significant fractional reserve capacity to retain electric hybrid energy even when EV only range is depleted).
Correcting this error reduced the cost and impact of the BEV240 battery (liter blue bar in the figures in the Peterson article) by 40%. That puts it at lower cost / impact than the PHEV60 (C Volt).
The moral of the story is that cars produce significant negative environmental impact in their manufacture and operation. BEVs do pollute the air less and produce fewer greenhouse gasses during operation than HEVs or gas guzzlers, but the mining of Li and other battery materials for BEVs releases a lot of toxic compounds into the environment.
The most environmentally friendly car to drive is no car - ride a bike! Barring that, drive the HEV or ICE car that you already have provided that it is not a total gas guzzler. Don't junk you current 10 year old HEV for a BEV in order to help the environment. BEVs are only lower impact than ICE or HEV / PHEV IF you operate the BEV for a really long time (think 200,000+ miles) AND if you use a clean electric power source like solar panels on your roof. You can minimize the impact of a PHEV or BEV by getting one with a battery as small as possible; indeed 60kWh is much worse for toxicity than a 16 (Volt) or even a 40 kWh one (S or RAV4). This should be better in 5-10 years if battery storage density of commercial EVs goes up by 2x or more.
First remember Mr. Peterson has a long history of trying to trash Tesla and EV's anyway he can.
In looking at the CMU study I found a few flaws. First they compare against the Prius, a great car and low emissions but hardly the average car. They use a battery cost between $625/kwh and $850/kwh and Tesla is under $500/kwh.
Then I am not sure they are properly accounting for battery production. Here is an excerpt "a materials-based assessment is performed for battery manufacturing, including lead-acid (plastic, lead, sulfuric acid, fiberglass, water), nickel metal hydride (NiMH)". Today's electric cars do not use lead batteries and we know lead is particularly nasty.
They use a "the high case assumes all electricity is from coal". No where are we 100% coal and I cannot imagine a case where we will ever be all coal. The majority of the air pollution costs for the electric vehicle is from SO2, not a good pollution, but it only comes from coal, a power source that is in decline and less than 40% of our grid.
They also appear to assume battery production is 100% coal powered as half of the pollution cost of the battery is SO2. Again I am unsure making lithium batteries makes that much SO2.
Finally they assume $30,000 on battery replacement costs on a BEV that has 150 mile range. I can't imagine that a new battery for Tesla 40 KWH pack would cost $30,000. I am sure they are plenty of other "errors" in the study.