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Are Teslas Front Loading Emmisions?

I am reading articles that accuse battery powered cars of front loading emissions in their manufacture. Somehow that sounds wrong. Any experts that can clarify how this argument is just in error?

Whenever you see an article by John Peterson just skip it. The guy is a moron and I don't understand why anyone still reads his garbage. I checked your link, saw his name and did not bother to read it. I read them at one time thinking there were facts in his stuff but there are only lies and stretched truths.

Others can go on trying to explain any of his false claims.

Of course electric vehicles cause pollution during their manufacture. So do ICE vehicles. The difference is that even after their manufacture, ICE vehicles continue to pollute a great deal whereas a BEV should produce far fewer tailpipe emissions.

Last I read even in the areas with the dirtiest power generation stations BEVs are at a breakeven in terms of CO2 produced versus an ICE automobile. More commonly BEVs cut emissions by a third or more.

I'm certain many others can provide exact stats if you need them.

Look at my reply to the CO2 Topic. Feel free to quote.

I agree with Sudre,

I did read the article. As the author said he took a study and "adjusted" it's numbers. A couple of changes he made was to a different rate of CO2 emission here than in Norway, did his own calcs on what a Tesla battery pack takes to manufacuture, then appears to have neglected that a variable frequency AC motor does not require rare earth permanent magnets. He then procededs to draw some graphs based on unchanging conditions, eg, unchanging oil extraction costs, unchanging mix of electricity to renewable sources, ect.

As someone who works with data for a living he's stretched the origional data with questionable assumptions, ignored any facts he doesn't like, and drew pretty graphs that look impressive but aren't worth the paper it's printed on.

40% of new capacity on the US grid now comes from renewable energy, eg. wind, bio, solar. In total 14% of US grid is renewable. Solar growth is doubling not including the home rooftops. Peterson takes none of this into consideration.

So while your ICE will leak oil and spew polution more and more every year, your BEV gets cleaner and cleaner.

All of this is a long way of saying John Peterson is full of s%^*t as usual....


I am reading articles that accuse battery powered cars of front loading emissions in their manufacture. Somehow that sounds wrong. Any experts that can clarify how this argument is just in error?

I find it interesting how you put that. You aren't necessarily interested in getting the truth, you want someone to validate your opinion.

Not knocking you, it's human nature. Also not saying that what Petersen wrote is necessarily correct (he's established himself as a hack with an agenda in my mind). But I read your post to mean you're precluding any possibility that his premise is actually correct.

I understand I'm in the minority among those on these forums, but my question is: what if he is? So what? Would that make the car any less quiet? Any less convenient, stylish or high-tech? Would it make the 0-60 acceleration any slower?

In my opinion, if you're buying the car for any intangible reason based on saving the planet, etc, you're doing yourself a disservice. Because it may not make any difference, or could even somehow generate more pollution / negative environmental consequences overall. Strongly held beliefs are not the same as immutable facts, and for every study you point to that says you're healing Mother Earth by buying a Model S, I can point to one that says you're not.

The car is awesome and worth the money. That's really all I need to know.


He actually mentioned Tesla was the only EV that doesn't use rare earth magnets for the motor in the prev. article, but immediately pointed out that the majority of it is cobalt that can't be easily separated when they recycle batteries.
He didn't care about LI at all.
He's not a moron, he just has an agenda.
He thinks using batteries as a fuel tank is inefficient, very expensive and has no future.
His thoughts is that hybrids are the way to go for now with something else later.
I think the battery tech will improve over time and something new entirely may come up later that will make current batteries obsolete.
The beauty of Tesla is that the drive-train is all electric, and the future technology will focus around generating electric power one way or another, so Tesla will replace one "fuel tank" with another, but otherwise will stay the same.
Granted, the "fuel tank" is an integral part of the chassis today, so may not be as easy to do, but still easier than adapting ICE.
If nothing else they have a competitive advantage.

I think the report highlights that a good life cycle analysis by Panasonic or Tesla for the batteries is needed. I haven't found one, though I haven't looked too hard either.

Tesla needs to have a couple of good white papers on that, plus a battery road map oriented towards addressing recyclability and use of materials with lower mining footprints. If not, it cedes space to anti-EV propaganda.

That said, the "study" has cooked numbers, mostly by using coal as a power source, but also by assuming there is no recycling (under the notion that "first wave" EVs do not include materials recycled from earlier EVs).

So this leads to cute things like the report placing water toxification on EV use, due to coal mining tailings. But it omits oil spills completely! So in the world of the report, the BP spill in the Gulf never happened, or doesn't count, or something.

It's really tricky how they put it together. I wasted over an hour on it before I started getting it. It simply stacks a bunch of assumptions, each sort of reasonable, but always favorable to ICE cars, and they add up.

Thanks all for your thoughts and opinions. I have no doubt that the individuals actions help shape the future. My wife and I do what we can to move towards a sustainable planet for future generations- not perfect, but better. No question how much I enjoyed driving the S! Awesome as you all know. I just see the Tesla direction as the right way to go for so many reasons. Until recent years I never considered how inefficient and dirty the ICE is. I am noticing the foot dragging by ICE manufacturers to move on to better technologies. I am suspicious of articles telling us how electric vehicles are not the answer and ICE is the clear winner. An industry sounds threatened, autos and oil, even though the electric car numbers are so small, so far. Maybe that's the clue that we are on the right path.
And I can't wait to drive my own S, with my amazing wife urging me to punch it again, punch it again! You can do the right thing and have fun doing it.
Thanks again for your thoughts and opinions.

John Peterson is on a one man crusade to kill off EVs as an industry segment. Originally from Texas, moved to Switzerland, and claims to practice some sort of legal office there. However, his anti-EV articles have become (more or less) a full time job for him ever since June 2012 when Tesla began production of the Model S.

According to his statements, he is not shorting TSLA. However, he encourages others to do so. He is indifferent to American manufacturing jobs, as well as Tesla in general. He is apparently heavily invested in the company Axion Power (AXPW). The Company manufactures specialty lead-acid batteries for use in automotive (Stop-Start technology). The stock has lost roughly 85% since July 2012.

He's probably holding on and hoping that Axion rebounds. I suspect that any successes for plug-in EVs are stealing the thunder away from this disaster of a company. So he writes 4 to 6 articles every month to bash EVs and confuse readers. Tesla Motors takes the biggest hit because they have had the most success.

Front-loaded emissions, even positing the failed hypothesis that CO2 is a pollutant, are easier to control and limit than millions of point sources. From a management and efficiency point of view, that's pretty much all you need to know.

Tesla needs to have a couple of good white papers on that, plus a battery road map oriented towards addressing recyclability and use of materials with lower mining footprints. If not, it cedes space to anti-EV propaganda.

I have a tank of CO2 in my garage. You are welcome to come have a whiff. Then let me know if you think it's harmless.

Petersen is not worth the time it takes to load the page. The thread appears to be veering off into a climate change argument....How about we just agree Petersen can go "be fruitful & multiply with himself" and leave it at that?

tharasix, that page is four years old and refers to the Roadster battery. I believe the Model S has a somewhat different chemistry, and in any case there isn't a lifecycle assesment on the battery pack, which would include energy and materials required, and impact produced, by the manufacture of the battery.

It was OK for the time it was written, but now Tesla is becoming a real threat to internal combustion and the battery is an easy target. People instinctively all batteries are toxic, while there is little detailed information on battery recycling for the various battery types.

I have no doubt that the NTNU paper is biased, but the point of such papers is to make people doubt (an old tactic perfected by big tobacco). Clear, detailed facts are required to remove that doubt.

No problem. It would be like a breath or two in a brown paper bag. CO is toxic, CO2 is not -- till you breathe (for a while) at 30,000 or 50,000 ppm (3-5%). Even then, it's just messing with your internal breath control systems, not poisoning you.

In a pure CO2 atmosphere you can, of course, suffocate. Same is true of N2, Argon, helium, or any mix without enough oxygen. That's the source/cause of the (few) instances of CO2 mortality -- e.g., small kids in Africa walking into hollows where CO2 seeps have pooled. They would extinguish candles, too, for the same reason.

You guys can always be counted on to recharge my batteries- no pun intended. Thanks again.(cross off Peterson- saves me some time)

Notice in the comments a link to a study that draws the opposite conclusion.

I'm with danielccc on this one.

I'd like to see a detailed Life Cycle Analysis on Panasonic's 18650 Li-Ion batteries as well as the Model S as a whole before concluding that the front end emissions are better or worse than for ICEs.

Other than the battery pack, most other aspects that I can think of for EVs should have equal or lower front end emissions, but not sure if this is enough to offset the impact of the battery pack.

You may have good reason to be skeptical of the author of this article (sounds like he's a shady character based on what people have posted here) but I think the question of front loading emissions and LCA is a completely valid and critical issue that must be addressed as EVs continue to gain traction in the market.

Who gives a $hit!... These oil sluts will say anything to save their depleting poison! 

The FACT is the Model S is a ZERO emission vehical that cost pennies to run on ANY kind of electricy, and can kick the living crap out of the finest 580HP Bavarian! 

Whoever isn't impressed by that, is a total tool, and a worthless piece of crap! Enough said.

The amount of justification going on here is pretty interesting to me. Want to lower your emissions and save the planet? Move into a small home/apartment close to your work and buy a bicycle. Stop living in a suburb, and give up that garage. Don't fly either, for the love of god. The amount of emissions you are saving with an electric car is nullified by an airplane making a single trip.

I refuse to tell people I am buying the Model S for environmental reasons, and roll my eyes at people that think that it's going to make a difference. Even if the entire USA switched to electric overnight, it probably wouldn't make a dramatic impact on emissions. Especially with the developing world err developing.

Is Peterson an idiot? Yeah he is, and he wants the model S to fail because he holds stock in competitors. He's going to write whatever he can. Are electric cars going to reduce emissions enough fast enough to stop global warming (assuming science has the proper model)? Not a chance.

I am buying a Model S because after riding a bike for 5 years, I want a "cool car". It looks cool, its cheaper to fill up, and I can beat my friends at red lights while making "VROOOM VROOOM" noises with the windows rolled down. It will make me happy, but it probably won't save humankind from flooding our coasts.

Notice I said "humankind" and not "the planet". If global warming happens the planet honestly won't give a crap. It's suffered through far worse. We are like tiny gnats, and couldn't hurt the planet if we launched every nuclear warhead. It would bounce back, given enough time.

evanstumpges, I am saying something a little different. I am concerned about battery lifecycle impact but I have little doubt that EVs have a lower footprint than ICEs.

As I noted in the CO2 topic, the report was authored by a group from NTNU, Trondheim, a university that has a deep relationship with Statoil, to the extent that it was host to "Statoil Day 2012" this year. Trondheim is next to Norway's off shore fields, and Norway is Europe's #1 oil and gas producer and exporter.

So there is plenty of reason to doubt that the "study" was prepared in good faith.

However, the way to fight these things is with solid, verifiable information. Hence the need for white papers and life cycle analysis of the battery.

Jhall118, definitely the Model S won't save the planet by itself, but it's a step in the right direction at a time when big money is pushing for steps in the wrong direction, like tar sands.

And what a Model S driver will be able to do, from day one, is stop giving money to oil companies. And that's no small thing.

@Jhall118 +1

@danielccc et al: It must be a huge burden to have the fate of the world on your shoulders. Are you guys able to even get a guilt-free night's rest once in a while? Or do you stay up wringing your hands?

Brian H,

Ah my friend, I should have you over. CO2, is not like inhaling helium, nitrous oxide, or argon. Think amonia but with no odor, but all the reaction.

And the CO2, seeps in africa are not CO2, but methane. I can mail you a baloon full or a quart jar if you want a snort. Used to do this in the home brewing lab for guests. Allways fun.

@tesla.mrspaghetti: Personally, I can't think of a bigger issue for us today than the environment. If we ruin the only place we can currently live, then politics, economics, religion, etc. don't matter at all. So I do what I can in my life, and I educate others about ways they can help. It's not about the guilt. It's about seeing a problem and doing what you can to help solve it. Just because the problem is bigger than one person doesn't absolve one from doing their part.

@danielccc: I assumed that the S batteries weren't so dramatically different from the Roadster batteries that it would require a different recycling method. We're talking liquid-cooled LiIon in both cases. It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong, though.

In any case, I agree that writing up their methods for the full lifecycle of the car would be beneficial.

@tesla.mrspaghetti: I sleep guilt-free every night.

This isn't about guilt, it's about not being stupid. Unsustainable use of resources is stupid. If we continue, at some point people will look back at this era and ask, "What the heck were they thinking?"

It's not about the Earth, either. It's about the species. Will we pass the Darwin test? It's an open question.

tharasix: I don't know. That's kind of the point. The formulation is somewhat different.

Also, even with the Roadster battery, is the resulting material, especially the metals, suitable for new batteries? In other words, are the batteries recycled or downcycled? If downcycled, is there a battery technology roadmap that will lead to actual recycling at some point?