Electric cars made by Tesla are green, right?

February 18th, 2014 § 0 comments

An electric vehicle itself may be zero-emissions but what about the fuel source? This question could undermine the appeal of electric vehicles, unless policies are already in place to account for these shortcomings.

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority

The measure to remember is the CO2 emissions per unit distance traveled, even if it was not directly emitted by the car! If a hypothetical Tesla Model S travels 1 km using energy that emitted 5 g of CO2 by its generation (in a fossil-fuel power station) then it is less “green” than another hypothetical Honda Civic that emitted 3 g of CO2 burning diesel on its own.

The above may be the case in China, Tesla’s newest and largest target market where the bulk of energy is generated using coal-fired power stations. In contrast, a Model S charged using the power grid in Norway where Tesla’s newest iteration recently became the best-selling car, has a lower CO2 footprint because hydroelectricity is the primary source of power in the Scandinavian kingdom.

According to the paper by Babaee and friends (link below) the crucial element to reducing air pollution are policy mandates to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Continuing with the example, Norway has strict policies levying additional charges based on emissions resulting in electric cars having a price advantage which contributed to the appeal of the Model S and other electric and low-emission vehicles. Until other places do the same, incentive discrepancies will continue to exist.





How Much Do Electric Drive Vehicles Matter to Future U.S. Emissions? (Environmental Science and Technology via Scientific American)

Tesla readies for Model S sales in China (Gigaom)

Norway’s best-selling car (Bilnorge.no)

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