Zero Emissions Myth

Zero Emissions

I happened to drive by a new Tesla Model S on the highway and the paper plate stated it produced Zero Emissions. The question that zipped through my mind, how can that be? My mind then spiraled off to consider the different forms of electricity that are used to recharge a “zero emission” Tesla. If an owner uses electricity from the power grid, the sources of electricity are coal, natural gas, nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, wind, solar, bio-mass, geothermal, or petroleum.

2014_us_energy

As you can see in the graph above, the bulk of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from nuclear, natural gas and coal. All of these power sources produce emissions. Non-emission sources of electricity, hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal, make up a very small amount of the power generated (3.1%). But even these “non-emission” sources produce emission in the form of refined petroleum products, grease and lubricants, to keep there machinery operating.

An owner may be saying, I will use solar panels to recharge my Tesla. That is all fine and dandy, except it take energy to produce the solar panels and all the parts that make a working system. Then there is delivery to your home and installation of the panels on the roof or other suitable location. But one could argue that once the solar instillation is complete, my vehicle is “zero emissions”. Only if you have a way to store the electricity generated during the day and recharge your vehicle only at home. If a Tesla owner happens to use one of their many free charging stations, then you are back to using the power grid.

The myth of a zero emission vehicle is really just moving the emissions produced from one source to another. In addition, many of the bearings that allow a Tesla to roll along the highway use grease and other lubricants produced from petroleum. So when one really takes a look at the emissions of a Tesla, or any other plug-in vehicle, somewhere along the line they all produce emissions.

15 thoughts on “Zero Emissions Myth

  1. Zero may be a big misnomer, but I think it’s safe to say it emits a whole lot less than traditional gasoline-fueled vehicles. Now, if only the price was a little lower, I might actually consider buying one.

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    1. I would agree. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered vehicles also produce far fewer emissions, but neither can claim zero. From the beginning, the Tesla was designed as a status symbol, in my humble opinion. Methane is the second most common green house gas. All people produce methane during the digestive process (some more than others). So even riding a bicycle produces emissions. 🙂

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  2. Hi Bro, I have to chime in. I think buying the Tesla (if one could afford it) would be the better way to go. Just because the emissions are not zero does not mean that we as a species should not move to a car that produces less emissions. Here are a few links; yes I have studied the topic because when I have $100k drop on my lap, Tesla will be the first place I go. And I’ll race you anytime! Bren

    Click to access electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

    https://www.teslamotors.com/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-plan-just-between-you-and-me

    http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2013-05/does-tesla-model-s-electric-car-pollute-more-suv

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    1. Hey Sis! I agree that we need efficient and clean burning vehicles. To claim a Tesla is zero emissions, when it is not, is where my brain spun off to. I like the fact it has an insane performance setting.

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    1. Unfortunately, people are spending big dollars in the name of the environment but not really seeing the bigger picture. From my perspective, a hybrid or all electric vehicle is a green status symbol. Truth be told, the cost of some electric vehicle will never save enough in energy costs to make up for the premium cost of being an alternative vehicle. Sergio Marchionne, CEO Fiat, told the public not to buy the Fiat 500e when it went on sale. Fiat loses $14,000 on each 500e it sells due to government mandates to build a certain number of electric vehicles each year.

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      1. Are you saying that Mercedes, Porsche’s, Lamborghini’s, etc are not status symbols? At least the Tesla’s, Volt’s, and even the Prius’ of the world DO help lessen the carbon emissions that we humans are producing by driving our gas guzzling cars. And by the way, the Mercedes AMG GT S happens to run $157,000, you could buy 2 Teslas for that amount and not save on any emissions!

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        1. There are too many cars that fall into the status symbol category to list. Unfortunately, while many electric, and hybrid, vehicles are more efficient, they still produce emissions at the source of electric generation. They produce less emissions but cannot claim “zero emissions” which is my original point. As far as what to buy, I will look for a vehicle that meets my needs which means it will be a truck.

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