Tesla Environmental Impact

Tesla Environmental Impact....

The International Energy Agency Report states that the transport sector causes 21 % of total greenhouse gas emissions, within which the road transport sector accounts for 15% of total carbon dioxide emissions. This is an alarming figure as increased greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change and global warming.

The pollution released from conventional vehicles is not only detrimental to the environment but also to human health. Research shows that vehicular pollution is the cause of acute respiratory infections, cardiac disease, asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis.

Vehicular pollution is also responsible for ozone depletion as it releases harmful and toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Hence, given the current environmental crisis, we must turn towards clean and green technology which focuses on sustainability and resource conservation.

Tesla is one such initiative. Tesla Motors is a renowned manufacturer of electric vehicles, solar panels and batteries for cars and home electricity storage. The company emphasises clean energy generation and has designed the first all-electric sedan which has been called the best car across all categories.

Tesla utilises renewable energy in its technological endeavours. Its electric vehicles are said to emit lesser CO2 emissions than gas-run vehicles. However, it is said that the manufacturing process of a Tesla is more energy-intensive as it needs rare earth elements to power its lithium-ion battery.

We can say that Tesla is the future of sustainable transport and clean energy generation. Tesla’s electric vehicles reduce the carbon emissions once they are on the roads and contribute to reversing the impact of climate change.

Tesla’s 2020 Impact Report describes the company’s goal to decrease the environmental footprint across its various functioning departments. The report’s introduction stated the company’s aim of “ accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

However, Tesla cars’ environmental impact cannot be seen as a white and black picture. There are many drawbacks as well. Tesla cars are very expensive, have high repair costs, longer repair time, there is a lack of Tesla service centres, its towing capability is low, and it also faces faster battery degradation.

How clean and green is Tesla?

In May, CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk had announced that the company wouldn’t accept bitcoin due to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels and its energy-draining nature. However, figures show that Tesla is even far behind other automobile manufacturers like General Motors and Ford in disclosing its carbon dioxide emissions and setting regular greenhouse gas reduction targets. Given these facts, a question arises. How green and clean is Tesla?

Results from a study conducted by Arabesque have shown that Tesla is among the 15% of the world’s biggest automobile companies, that do not provide any information on their greenhouse-gas emissions. It is also said that Tesla’s innovative environmental technology is a bit hyped. Nonetheless, Tesla continues to be the leading producer of energy-efficient cars.

Tesla’s Manufacturing Impact

Tesla’s Manufacturing Impact

Industrial operations consume enormous amounts of energy. Almost every production process has an impact on the environment. Regarding Tesla’s carbon footprint, there are differing reports on the actual emissions generated during the manufacture of its cars.

A recent study conducted by the Technical University of Eindhoven has found that Tesla Model 3 emits 91 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilometre, which is 65% less than the 260 grams of a Mercedes C 220d.

Given such data, it is evident that Tesla’s production is less energy consumptive and less polluting than conventional vehicles. Elon Musk has also claimed about the sustainable functioning of Tesla’s production plants which make use of high technology robots and the latest machinery. The plants are powered by LED lighting to conserve electricity. They are also reliant on local energy sources instead of conventional electricity.

These are claims which may not be entirely true. Still, the company is said to have got a zero-waste certification at the Fremont plant although reports have been doing rounds regarding the company’s waste generated at this plant.

As new Tesla plants are built, they are originally designed to function on renewable energy. Also, the company emphasises water conservation during production. This is visible during its sale, services and delivery locations. They have even brought out the concept of a waterless car wash in some regions. This can be called real environmental innovation.

While the company has continuously reiterated that it focuses on accountability and follows sustainable manufacturing practices, it is still treading on the path of progress.

All opinions about Tesla converge on one point, that in comparison to the standard manufacturing process, Tesla’s production process is still a welcome environmental intervention.

Material Procurement -is it truly sustainable?

The negative environmental impact of Tesla is the material procurement to power its batteries. Tesla has said that it obtains its raw material from environmentally responsible suppliers who follow ethical conduct however reports are contradicting Tesla’s claims.

In the past few years, Tesla has come into the limelight regarding the wrong treatment of the natives living near the lithium mines in Argentina. The list also includes accusations from people residing near a graphite source in China.

Tesla has given ambivalent responses regarding these accusations. It said that its supply chains are complex and the company is continuously striving to develop a perfectly clean and transparent supply chain.

The company stated, “Reliably determining the origin [of these materials] is a difficult task, but the diligence practices required of our suppliers adds transparency to help us and our suppliers adhere to the responsible sourcing principles of our Code.”

What is a Tesla’s lifespan?

Electric vehicles are different from conventional ones and they have a longer lifespan as well. Traditional cars which run on fossil fuels need regular maintenance, repair and wear out after 5-6 years with a harmful impact on the environment. They generate more waste and also result in resource wastage.

Talking about Tesla, the data supports that its Model 3 and Model Y Teslas can cover up to 120,000 miles or run for eight years, while the Model S and Model X can cover up to 150,000 miles. There are also claims that Tesla’s battery could exceed the lifespan of the car. The battery would work fine for more than eight years. Thus, Tesla has a longer life span than other cars. It translates to less material sourcing, reduced scrap waste generation and also energy-efficient transportation.

Tesla’s Charging Stations

Tesla’s Charging

It is known that electric vehicles need electricity to charge their batteries. This electricity can come from any source however, mostly it comes from the national electricity grid which uses fossil fuels to generate electricity. Hence, electric vehicles cannot be called truly sustainable if they run on electricity generated by fossil fuels.

Elon Musk has reiterated that the charging stations for Tesla cars are powered by renewable energy but this cannot be accepted totally.

The company has stated, “We aim for carbon neutrality, and where the market allows via wholesale power purchase, we source renewable energy, even though it is slightly more expensive. In Europe, the power for all our Supercharger stations is sourced from renewable energy. Continuing to convert our superchargers to solar power will push us further down that road.”

If we try to analyse the issue, we can say that Tesla cannot control what source the consumer uses to charge their car once it goes into their hands. Its the responsibility of the buyers to invest in solar panels to charge their cars. They can also visit only those charging stations which are powered by renewable energy instead of those which use non-renewable sources.

Also, this combination of renewable and non-renewable energy sources depends from country to country. For instance, Lowa is dependent on wind energy for 40% of its electricity generation whereas West Virginia produces all its electricity from coal. In such a scenario, individuals hardly have a choice in the source of energy they can use.

It is also the responsibility of governments to encourage the use of renewable energy in all spheres of industry and the economy. And so an electric vehicle will be useless in regions that are solely dependent on fossil fuels for producing electricity.

Tesla vehicles do not completely run on renewable energy but the company owns a solar power production enterprise. This reduces the carbon impact of Tesla cars if they are charged on the Tesla charging stations.

Battery Concerns

Battery Concerns

The disposal of an electric vehicle’s battery is a controversial topic as environmentalists express concerns over the generation of enormous and hazardous electronic waste. These batteries are often not recycled and lead to resource wastage as they are made of rare earth elements which are mined causing land degradation.

However, Tesla uses new generation batteries which do not make use of cobalt. They are also recyclable. Data states that 90% of Tesla’s battery components can be fully recycled and even after they are drained out, and cannot be used to run the Tesla, they can still store energy for another 20 years. Also, batteries can be reused by eliminating some bad cells or removing the working cells to use them in another battery component.

Conclusion

Thus, despite certain drawbacks and challenges, Tesla continues to successfully breakthrough these barriers towards achieving sustainable and clean transport through its highly popular designs, which are not only attractive to the eyes but also beneficial for the planet. It is acting as a catalyst for change in the automobile industry by prompting other companies to turn to sustainable manufacturing and also encouraging buyers to go for electric vehicles and play a part in reducing their carbon footprint.