Tesla Model 3 unveiled: But It’s not a Clean Car, no Matter What Elon Musk Says

Late Thursday night, Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk took the stage at the Tesla Design Studio to reveal the Tesla Model 3. “It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport,” Musk said. “The last time there was this level of carbon concentration in the atmosphere was 11 million years ago.”

“Beyond global warming there are 53,000 deaths per year from auto emissions,” Musk added.

As much as I admire what Tesla is doing, the above is just bullshit. Electric cars – unless they are used in countries whose electricity comes from renewable energy – don’t reduce carbon dioxide, or auto emissions, they merely displace the pollution to the place that electricity is generated. In the US, much of the electricity people use is made from coal or oil. The only country where nuclear power is used for a majority of electricity is France (around 70%), but there is still the problem of nuclear waste.

Until renewable energy is ubiquitous, all these cars do is shift pollution to new locations. Sure, it’s better to get them out of cities, but if electric cars are to become common, every country in the world will need to ramp up their electrical production. Some countries can do this with renewable energy, many if not most cannot.

Oh, and apparently if you buy this car, you get a $7,500 tax credit from the federal government; or 20% of the cost of the car. So Tesla is sucking at the teat of big government, and, if the figure of 130,000 Model 3s ordered yesterday is correct, then this is costing taxpayers about $1 billion. All this for cars being bought by people who, for the most part, could afford to pay full price. That’s a pretty good scam Tesla has going… (Yes, the tax credits will decrease over time, but not until the US government has paid $1.5 billion toward Tesla cars.)

Source: Tesla Model 3 unveiled: 215-mile range, 0-60 in under 6 seconds, delivered in 2017 | Ars Technica UK

34 thoughts on “Tesla Model 3 unveiled: But It’s not a Clean Car, no Matter What Elon Musk Says

  1. I’ll call bullshit on your bullshit. Large scale electricity generation is much more efficient (even allowing for energy losses in transmission) than the internal combustion engines in cars. So, yes, electric cars are much more environmentally friendly than ICEs cars. Perhaps not as much as Musk is making out, but much more than you’re allowing.

      • The Union of Concerned Scientists did a very nice briefing on this: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

        Feel free to read it for the numbers you’d like, but the basic summary is that if you run an EV off of electricity generated *entirely* by coal, then the environmental benefits may be marginal or less than the most efficient conventionally powered powered car. But that’s the absolute worst case for electric vehicles (all coal) and the best case for ICE cars (most efficient):

        “The good news is that no matter where you live in the United States, electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today. In some areas—where coal makes up a large percentage of the power plant mix—the most efficient gasoline- powered vehicles will actually deliver greater global warming benefits than EVs. In other areas of the country, however, where cleaner sources of electricity prevail, EVs are far and away the best choice.”

  2. I’ll call bullshit on your bullshit. Large scale electricity generation is much more efficient (even allowing for energy losses in transmission) than the internal combustion engines in cars. So, yes, electric cars are much more environmentally friendly than ICEs cars. Perhaps not as much as Musk is making out, but much more than you’re allowing.

      • The Union of Concerned Scientists did a very nice briefing on this: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

        Feel free to read it for the numbers you’d like, but the basic summary is that if you run an EV off of electricity generated *entirely* by coal, then the environmental benefits may be marginal or less than the most efficient conventionally powered powered car. But that’s the absolute worst case for electric vehicles (all coal) and the best case for ICE cars (most efficient):

        “The good news is that no matter where you live in the United States, electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today. In some areas—where coal makes up a large percentage of the power plant mix—the most efficient gasoline- powered vehicles will actually deliver greater global warming benefits than EVs. In other areas of the country, however, where cleaner sources of electricity prevail, EVs are far and away the best choice.”

  3. I admire your stance, but I dare say you’re wrong on several counts.
    First, CO2 production is not binary — so while tailpipe emissions are just redirected, they are still reduced by using an EV. EV’s are far more efficient than an IC Engine, as is the whole energy distribution mechanism (crude oil > refinery > trucks > gas station > gas tank > energy vs. power plant > transmission lines > battery).
    A country doesn’t need to have “ubiquitous” renewable energy in order to realize the advantages an EV brings; the large scale efficiencies of centralized energy production will help reduce CO2 emissions and other pollutants, even if produced from dirty energy sources like coal. (I live in the US Southeast, and while a lot of our energy comes from coal, more and more of it doesn’t — that’s life, things change.) There are very few locations where driving an EV is actually as dirty as driving an ICE car.
    Also, electricity production doesn’t necessarily have to be increased — most EVs get charged overnight, when consumption is at a low. The grid can already sustain the load.
    On top of that, the problem isn’t that some countries cannot produce electricity with renewable resources — it’s that nonrenewable resources will go away. Period. That’s the definition of “nonrenewable”. If a country is to survive in the future, they MUST convert to renewable energy sources. This isn’t tree-hugger talk, this is basic physics and sound financial planning. Go renewable or go back to the stone age.
    Put another way: If you’ve only got a quid in your pocket, you really should find a way of renewing that before blowing it all on today’s meal. Else you will probably go hungry tomorrow.

    • Yes, it’s true that you do cut out a lot of the transport of fossil fuels. However, you also introduce batteries that need to be recycled, adding a lot of carbon. I call foul on the overnight charging; it’s still carbon, even if it’s not stretching the capacity of the grid, and if there are enough EVs, then the grid will be stretched. My guess is a lot of people will be charging their cars at work, during the day.

      I totally agree that the future lies in renewable (or nuclear energy, but there’s the problem of waste). For now, a lot of the problem with renewables is the NIMBY effect. Someone wanted to put up a wind turbine in a field outside my village, and the locals nixed it.

  4. I admire your stance, but I dare say you’re wrong on several counts.
    First, CO2 production is not binary — so while tailpipe emissions are just redirected, they are still reduced by using an EV. EV’s are far more efficient than an IC Engine, as is the whole energy distribution mechanism (crude oil > refinery > trucks > gas station > gas tank > energy vs. power plant > transmission lines > battery).
    A country doesn’t need to have “ubiquitous” renewable energy in order to realize the advantages an EV brings; the large scale efficiencies of centralized energy production will help reduce CO2 emissions and other pollutants, even if produced from dirty energy sources like coal. (I live in the US Southeast, and while a lot of our energy comes from coal, more and more of it doesn’t — that’s life, things change.) There are very few locations where driving an EV is actually as dirty as driving an ICE car.
    Also, electricity production doesn’t necessarily have to be increased — most EVs get charged overnight, when consumption is at a low. The grid can already sustain the load.
    On top of that, the problem isn’t that some countries cannot produce electricity with renewable resources — it’s that nonrenewable resources will go away. Period. That’s the definition of “nonrenewable”. If a country is to survive in the future, they MUST convert to renewable energy sources. This isn’t tree-hugger talk, this is basic physics and sound financial planning. Go renewable or go back to the stone age.
    Put another way: If you’ve only got a quid in your pocket, you really should find a way of renewing that before blowing it all on today’s meal. Else you will probably go hungry tomorrow.

    • Yes, it’s true that you do cut out a lot of the transport of fossil fuels. However, you also introduce batteries that need to be recycled, adding a lot of carbon. I call foul on the overnight charging; it’s still carbon, even if it’s not stretching the capacity of the grid, and if there are enough EVs, then the grid will be stretched. My guess is a lot of people will be charging their cars at work, during the day.

      I totally agree that the future lies in renewable (or nuclear energy, but there’s the problem of waste). For now, a lot of the problem with renewables is the NIMBY effect. Someone wanted to put up a wind turbine in a field outside my village, and the locals nixed it.

  5. The number of solar panels that have been cropping up on roofs in my neighborhood (just outside Boston) is staggering, though I haven’t seen figures on how much this is contributing to the grid (or what the environmental consequences of solar panel manufacturing might be).

      • It’s certainly possible. If you live in an area where there’s enough sun, and have a battery at home (which Tesla makes, of course). When I lived in France, I lived in the southern Alps for a dozen years, and lots of homes had solar panels, because it was a very sunny area. And, the state required that the electric company buy any electricity from you that you don’t use, which made it profitable. I think they’ve stopped that requirement, however, meaning that fewer people will install the panels, because it’s a pretty big investment. This said, if you do have an EV, then it makes sense.

  6. The number of solar panels that have been cropping up on roofs in my neighborhood (just outside Boston) is staggering, though I haven’t seen figures on how much this is contributing to the grid (or what the environmental consequences of solar panel manufacturing might be).

      • It’s certainly possible. If you live in an area where there’s enough sun, and have a battery at home (which Tesla makes, of course). When I lived in France, I lived in the southern Alps for a dozen years, and lots of homes had solar panels, because it was a very sunny area. And, the state required that the electric company buy any electricity from you that you don’t use, which made it profitable. I think they’ve stopped that requirement, however, meaning that fewer people will install the panels, because it’s a pretty big investment. This said, if you do have an EV, then it makes sense.

  7. Tesla is a FED manipulated bubble. OK the dividend is the ‘environment’….:-)
    The world is oil driven and will be for the next 50 years. Tesla is a easy money scam.

  8. Tesla is a FED manipulated bubble. OK the dividend is the ‘environment’….:-)
    The world is oil driven and will be for the next 50 years. Tesla is a easy money scam.

  9. Your statement re electrical generation generation in the US being fired by coal or oil is incorrect. Oil is a not used to generate electricity. In the last 5 years, natural gas has overtaken coal to become the largest source of fuel for generation. While not renewable, natural gas is domestically sourced, creating thousands of jobs and it is much cleaner than the coal it displaces. Cars running on electric from natural gas are much better for the environment vs gas or diesel. In addition, they reduce the need to import crude.

    • Good point. That’s quite recent, since fracking took off. I hadn’t thought about it. In most countries, it’s certainly not the case, though.

  10. Your statement re electrical generation generation in the US being fired by coal or oil is incorrect. Oil is a not used to generate electricity. In the last 5 years, natural gas has overtaken coal to become the largest source of fuel for generation. While not renewable, natural gas is domestically sourced, creating thousands of jobs and it is much cleaner than the coal it displaces. Cars running on electric from natural gas are much better for the environment vs gas or diesel. In addition, they reduce the need to import crude.

    • Good point. That’s quite recent, since fracking took off. I hadn’t thought about it. In most countries, it’s certainly not the case, though.

  11. Enjoyed your article and your point about electricity generation (although I see some people disagree). But I don’t see how Tesla is “sucking at the teat of big government.” Purchasers of Telsa, yes, but none of that rebate money goes to Tesla. Indirectly benefitting, maybe. But so do solar panel companies and a number of other industries that offer products with tax rebates. As for people who could afford the “full price” well, no, I can’t afford a Tesla S. At $35,000, I can afford a Model 3. HALF the cost is a pretty big price difference for many people.

  12. Enjoyed your article and your point about electricity generation (although I see some people disagree). But I don’t see how Tesla is “sucking at the teat of big government.” Purchasers of Telsa, yes, but none of that rebate money goes to Tesla. Indirectly benefitting, maybe. But so do solar panel companies and a number of other industries that offer products with tax rebates. As for people who could afford the “full price” well, no, I can’t afford a Tesla S. At $35,000, I can afford a Model 3. HALF the cost is a pretty big price difference for many people.

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