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Transportation Earth Power Stats

No, the Tesla Model S Doesn't Pollute More Than an SUV 559

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-does-not-consume-live-kittens-or-drive-on-water dept.
thecarchik writes "In an exhaustive 6,500-word article on the financial website Seeking Alpha, analyst Nathan Weiss lays out a case that the latest Tesla Model S actually has higher effective emissions than most large SUVs of both the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and smog-producing pollutants like sulfur dioxide. This is absolutely false. Virtually all electric car advocates agree that when toting up the environmental pros and cons of electric cars, it's only fair to include powerplant emissions. When this has been done previously, the numbers have still favored electric cars. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, concluded in a 2012 report (PDF), 'Electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today.' Working through every one of Weiss' conclusions may show a higher emissions rate than Tesla's published numbers, but in no way does a Model S pollute the amounts even close to an SUV."
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No, the Tesla Model S Doesn't Pollute More Than an SUV

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  • Same as last time (Score:5, Informative)

    by RustyTheCat (2937655) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:14PM (#43877907)
    When the Prius first got popular the same thing was said about it. Was soon proved false.
    • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:18PM (#43877943)

      A Prius is so efficient that you can't even feel yourself pressing the gas pedal, unfortunately the speedometer doesn't either.

      • Re:Same as last time (Score:4, Informative)

        by catchblue22 (1004569) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:22PM (#43878617) Homepage

        I drive a 2010 Prius. The power is quite acceptable. I actually spun my wheels the other day on wet roads when starting hard from a light. I am able to accelerate safely on freeways, and I can easily cruise at 85 mph if I want (though the fuel economy obviously drops). The other day, I gave the accelerator a kick to get across a changing yellow, and the acceleration was quite good.

        The main thing you have to get used to in a Prius is that the engine speed is dependent almost completely on how hard you press the accelerator, and not on how fast the wheels are spinning. This means that you don't get that same increasing engine pitch on accelerating that you do on cars without a continuously variable transmission. This might give some the impression that acceleration isn't taking place, until you look at your speedometer and realize you are going quite fast. I have gotten used to it now, and it seems natural to me.

        The main thing that sold me on the Prius, apart from the fuel economy (which has been 50+mpg by the way) is the durability. I spoke with a cab driver in my area who drove his 2008 Prius for 500000 miles without any significant problems...only brakes and similar things. No new battery. No engine troubles. Nothing. He said he would still be driving it if there weren't regulations on the age of taxis in our area.

    • by w0mprat (1317953)

      When the Prius first got popular the same thing was said about it. Was soon proved false.

      Indeed. The massive environmental impact of the battery pack was part of that criticism, but this is also where electric cars win, if one is being honest about the numbers and don't have a anti-electric car axe to grind: The NiMH battery pack of early hybrids is pretty much 100% recyclable. Li-ion and Li-po etc isn't properly 100% recycled at the moment but that's a infrastructure problem - theoretically 100% recyclable. (I would imagine some years down the track used battery packs would be quite valuable s

    • When the Prius first got popular the same thing was said about it. Was soon proved false.

      Now that everyone has finishes wanking on about which car is the fastest, I feel there are some relevant points here that are often ignored or misunderstood. Firstly this was not proved false about the Prius. In New Zealand Toyota was taken to court and lost a false advertising suit because of their emissions claims. Not because the emissions of the power stations were not taken into account, but because their tail pipe emission figures were much higher than they claimed.

      As to the Tesla, I was one of the

  • Butthurt much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:14PM (#43877909)
    Wow, the amount of skew in that article is truly amazing. You'd almost think that some people have so much invested in the mainstream automobile industry, that they'd say anything to keep their money from going down the drain.
  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:19PM (#43877953) Homepage

    * Can you power a Tesla Model S with non-polluting renewable energy?
    * Can you power a gasoline SUV with non-polluting renewable energy?

    One should think about those two questions for a moment before saying that the Tesla pollutes more than an SUV.

    • The answer to both is yes. At least in a few years, for the gas SUV, economically enough. Speaking as someone in the biorenewables industry. So this is not a particularly strong line of argument. For now, the Tesla wins hands down.
      • by fritsd (924429)
        I'd imagine you can make bio-diesel out of chips waste oil but I thought that diesel was a different type of engine from a gasoline engine. Could you tell us more about what renewable gasoline substitutes are on the horizon? Ethanol? I thought methanol was bad for engines (too corrosive).
    • by cplusplus (782679) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:11PM (#43878509) Journal
      Good point. In my area, you can pay a small surcharge to ensure that all the electricity the power company purchases on your behalf comes from renewable resources like wind, solar, and hydro. I pay said surcharge, so my Model S will be eco-magically-delicious.
    • by Mad Quacker (3327)

      * Can you power a Tesla Model S with non-polluting renewable energy?
      * Can you power a gasoline SUV with non-polluting renewable energy?

      One should think about those two questions for a moment before saying that the Tesla pollutes more than an SUV.

      I'm not going to let your facts get in the way of my insanity!

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:22PM (#43877985)
    Facts don't deter FUD. Glad somebody has, for the two billionth time, debunked the "electric cars cause more pollution than my 3 ton 5 mpg SUV", but it's not going to stop stop the True Believers (True Disbelievers?) from spreading the same old FUD. You'd think they'd be embarrassed by it, but you'd be wrong. I don't get it either.
    • by amiga3D (567632)

      The whole argument is silly anyway. All that matters to most people is how much it costs to operate and expense to purchase. Once you add it all up it's too expensive to operate EVs. I like the idea but the reality is that EVs are still ahead of their time. The expense of battery replacement is a real deal killer too. The only thing that would make me want one is if I could charge it at work on my employer's dime.

  • I haven't read TFA of course, but does it include the lifetime environmental impact of the battery packs? (mining through disposal) That's what usually has me skeptical of today's electric vehicles.

    MadCow.

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:24PM (#43878015)

    Better would be to compare the S model to a typical current-model gas-powered sedan.

    True, it likely does not pollute more than an SUV, but what about a Chevy Impala?

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:25PM (#43878031) Homepage Journal
    1. RIding your bicycle pollutes more than driving an SUV
    2. Pollution is good because it makes the tree grows and opens up the northwest passage
    3. Nature pollution, so it can't be bad
    4. Nuclear energy exists in nature, so it is good
    5. If you hate pollution, you hate god
  • Haters gonna hate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:30PM (#43878063)
    Question. What is thepaybck period on a Prius?

    Question: What is the payback period on a Tesla Roadster?

    I've been asked these questions a number of times. The Electrical car hater beams, as he has clearly won the argument.

    Fair enough - since the question was asked - "What is the payback period on a Bugatti, or Corvette, or even a Kia Soul or Toyota Corolla? "

    Or even my Motorcycle, for that matter. I don't drive my motorcycle because of some great payback, I drive it because I want to.

  • Efficiency (Score:3, Informative)

    by redwards (677803) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:30PM (#43878067)
    Per kwh, a coal-fired powerplant pollutes less than your average Camry. I'm not sure how significant the average transmission loss is, but powerplants obviously have enormous efficiency advantages over a standard internal combustion engine.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:30PM (#43878071) Journal
    Assume it is true, that electric cars produce more CO2 than non-electric cars. They are still an improvement, because now our money isn't going over to warlords and dictators in the middle east (it's popular to blame the US government for propping up dictators and bad actors in exchange for oil, but when we fill up our cars, we all do it).

    And if you want to reduce CO2 emissions, it's a two-step process. First you have to get electric cars (or other alternative), then you need to get better power plants. If one of these steps happens before the other, it doesn't make it less good.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      now our money isn't going over to warlords and dictators in the middle east

      When we started using oil, we were producing it all domestically as well. So now we're going to convert to coal, because we have enough of it... right now...

      We could very well get stuck on coal, then a century from now, we're importing it from China because we don't have enough supply to meet electrical demand. That's more of a worst-case scenario, but it seems too many people are ignorant of the history of oil production.

    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

      by terjeber (856226) on Friday May 31, 2013 @07:03PM (#43878995)

      And if you want to reduce CO2 emissions, it's a two-step process. First you have to get electric cars

      Not true. Electrical cars will not reduce CO2 emissions with a reliably measurable amount. 2-3% theoretical percentage points at most.

      then you need to get better power plants

      This is where you start. This is where you work hard, and once you have solved this, you have solved the CO2 emission problem. Nothing else really matters. Go nuclear and we're all OK. It's safe (yes, it is) and it is quite clean (except for the mines). It is not renewable though, so it is a stop-gap measure.

  • Seriously, what do people have against them?

    I think they're the coolest thing out there, and they provide a way to stop importing oil from the Muslims.

    It's well known that central electricity production is significantly more efficient that a bunch of separate internal combustion engines.

    But why the hate? I know the NYT has a vendetta against the electric car - they're a bunch of scumbags. But why do normal people hate them?

    • by hondo77 (324058) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:37PM (#43878163) Homepage
      <wingnut>Because they're considered to be "green". If something is green, it's supported by hippies. If hippies support something, it must be bad. We must stop the hippies!</wingnut>
    • by bussdriver (620565) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:39PM (#43878189)

      There are studies that show "conservatives" here in the USA will buy CFL bulbs on their own (if they think) but as soon as you label them "green" or with other labels and slogans that have been associated as belonging to the enemy tribe, they will fuck themselves just to not have anything to do with the opposing tribe.

      If you want things to get better you have to avoid terms associated by propagandists with tribalism and negative emotions. If you want the only have your tribe benefit and feel extra smug - then you continue to use the terms even after they've been ruined by propagandists knowing that the other tribe will harm itself in it's hatred of you. Depends on what kind of person you are. Me, I'm no Christian or Buddhist so I like to load things up knowing the fools will screw themselves.

      • There are studies that show "conservatives" here in the USA will buy CFL bulbs on their own (if they think) but as soon as you label them "green" or with other labels and slogans that have been associated as belonging to the enemy tribe, they will fuck themselves just to not have anything to do with the opposing tribe.

        Ooh, how I would love to see a citation for that one...

      • by amiga3D (567632) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:23PM (#43878623)

        I'm a true conservative. As such I do things that make sense to me. When I saw a CFL bulb in Lowes back in the 90's I bought one for the light in my shed. I often left the light on all night and the incandescent bulbs didn't last very long. After reading the package and seeing the projected lifetime I decided to try it. After about 6 months of surviving never being turned off I started to replace all my bulbs that burned out with CFL bulbs. I didn't do it because they were "green" but because it made sense. While I believe you are correct about many "right wingers" hating on CFL's because they are labeled green I see this behavior from lefties too. Many buy anything labeled green regardless if their is any actual valid reason to do so. Lots of people are so caught up in their obsession with political viewpoints that they lose any perspective. Just because a leftie came up with a good idea is no reason for me to reject it. By the way, that original CFL lasted 7 years.

    • If the first hybrids/electrics looked/performed like the Tesla it would have probably been a lot different story. Add in that it's be tied to the "global warming hoax" and you have polarization. ie; if you believe in global warming you should get a Prius, if not f-it.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      There are two groups that hate EVs.

      First you have the green haters. They love to rage against their favourite straw man, the lunatic raving enviro-mentalist who wants everyone to return to a pre-industrial agrarian lifestyle. Anything which doesn't burn fossil fuel and spew pollution is just a part of their scheme to replace all modern conveniences with inferior "eco" versions.

      The second group is the petrol heads. They want a big, powerful and noisy car that makes them feel manly. I understand these guys a

    • Because they can't afford them?

      No seriously, envy is quite often a strong source of dislike in such situations.

    • Seriously, what do people have against them?

      Lots of things; kinda depends on who you're talking to/about.

      For me, I wasn't a fan at first because, well, let's face it - the early electric(ish) cars of the 21st Century (i.e., original Prius, whatever that Honda abortion was called) sucked, and boy did they suck hard. Lots of weird little electrical demons, crazy high price tags, and really nothing more than a status symbol for self-important douche bags who developed a 'my shit don't stink' attitude because, for some reason, they thought a 30 MPGe hybr

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I have no hate for EVs. I don't want one but I don't mind your buying one. I don't think the technology is really there yet. Maybe in a few years when battery tech improves I'll revisit the idea. In the meantime I like the fact that early adopters are paving the way. Thanks.

  • The problem is that most of our electricity is produced through coal burning plants. That's a very messy form of production, and many of these plants have been grandfathered in and their owners intentionally avoid upgrading them because of the costs of 'greening up' their emissions. Coal plants belch out more radiation every few months than the entire Three Mile Island disaster. They're pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, way more than if the equivalent MW was produced through gas or diesel.

    • Economies of scale. A container ship is even more efficient than a train as far as emissions go.

      But only if you are trying to move as much mass as possible. I can guarantee that a car wins if your goal is to move a single person.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      Bad to use Three Mile Island as a standard for your argument, it produced entirely negligible amounts of contamination outside the plant.

      You are somewhat incorrect about transportation, 65% of crude oil consumption by transportation is for personal vehicles in the USA

    • And if we really want to talk about the "greenest" form of transportation: Diesel turbine locomotives has every other form of transport beat by a landslide. And they've been "hybrid" since the 70s; Most of them are direct-drive electric motors and use turbines and a large bank of batteries to store juice, yet are big enough to use recombinant turbines, which are very efficient in their own right.

      ... and that's why every time I see a new electric-hybrid car come out, the only thing I can ever think is "oh, look, they hooked everything up backwards again."

      Is there any legitimate, scientific/engineering reason why hybrid cars aren't set up the same way as hybrid trains (i.e., fossil fuel engine ONLY charges batteries, electric motors turn the wheels)?

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:34PM (#43878123)

    But if Global Warming does not exist, why do you care if an electric car pollutes more than a regular one?

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      increasing ocean acidity of carbonic acid damages plankton exoskeletons. pollution causes human health problems. acid rain damages infrastructure, eats paint off cars, and harms plants.

  • by mr_zorg (259994) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:36PM (#43878147)

    Do these same analysis factor in the emissions caused by the mining of oil, refining it and trucking it to the gas stations? Not usually... That's not fair to count emissions from electricity generation but then only compare it to tailpipe emissions of gasoline.

  • Some local politician tried to peg cycists as big CO2 emitters compared to cars as cyclists breath hard when cycling.

    Is it gasoline people or car worshippers, hard to tell, but somehow they see the current system as optimal and everything else as worse. I don't know why people latch onto the current system as optimal, but they do.

    How much better are bikes?
    https://www.eta.co.uk/2011/12/13/co2-emissions-from-cycling-revealed/ [eta.co.uk]
    According to the report cycling is responsible for CO2 emissions of 21g per km. The r

  • The typical person going out of their way to get a Tesla is far more likely to have, such as in my particular case, solar power at home. At the end of the year, I get a little money back from Sempra here in SoCal, because I produced in excess (I don't store for night use, but I produce more excess during the day than what I use at night). The Tesla, in this scenario, is practically zero emissions...one should, for my particular example, only count the fixed CO2-equiv of the solar panel production and the production of the tesla itself...which is combined, most likely, far less than the CO2-equiv of the production of the SUV. That point forward, every mile burned literally does nothing other than increase that gap.

    Is it "fair" to include the power plant CO2 emissions? Sure, why not...but understand that such is a worst case scenario, and does not necessarily represent the norm. Also, note there is zero effective method for being clean with an SUV, whereas with an electric you do at least have the option of getting solar, if you don't already have it. At the very least, you can choose to pay higher electric rates by choosing to buy renewable energy (most markets allow for this option).

  • How does a freelance writer afford a $100k+ electric car?

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:58PM (#43878963)

    'Electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today.'

    Well there's your problem. They're comparing the best (electric vehicles) against the AVERAGE for gasoline. This is bogus biasing.

    Instead they should compare the BEST electric against the BEST gasoline. That would be scientific.

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