In the era of fake news, just because an article cites a scientific research paper, doesn’t mean you should take the author’s conclusion at face value.
A recent study regarding the environmental impact of electric vehicle batteries is trending due to its conclusion that EVs might not be as “green” as people think. But in reality, the research was extremely biased against the new cars on the block.
The study from IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute claims driving a car with an internal combustion engine for 8.2 years produces the same amount of emissions as the production process — including mining of raw materials — of Tesla’s 100-killowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries. That figure, however, is based on a significant overestimation of emissions associated with the battery packs.
Popular Mechanics compared the pollution caused by a Tesla Model S P100D and one of its competitors, the Audi A8 4.0, and found their emissions would really be equal in less than three years. What’s more, Popular Mechanics used SERI’s estimated emissions for the Tesla — 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide — though the real number could be a fraction of that.
Despite explicitly naming Tesla’s 100 kWh pack, SERI didn’t consider how specific manufactures produce their batteries or “the electricity mix they use.” As a result, its research assumed “more than half” of the battery factory’s electricity was generated by fossil fuels, and that’s not actually the case.
The main shtick of Tesla’s Gigafactory is that it will be powered by a 70-megawatt solar farm and no fossil fuels, according to The Verge. Considering SERI says mining accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of emissions, with the rest coming from the production of the batteries, a more accurate total would be roughly 3.5 tons of carbon dioxide for a Tesla Model S P100D.
In addition to overestimating EV emissions, SERI’s approximation for ICE-powered cars represents a significant underestimation. The methodology for these calculations was flawed, in that SERI accounted for the emissions during the production of batteries, but not the fuel ICE cars burn.
Although more general findings from SERI’s study, such as the correlation between battery size and carbon footprint, seemingly are valid, researchers made too many assumptions to draw any specific conclusions about Teslas.
Thumbnail photo via Tesla
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