As Elon Musk presented the new Tesla 3, a fawning press announced that the “world-changing car” could “dominate” the market. Within days, 276,000 people had put down $1,000 to pre-order the car.Lomborg points out that most of the electricity that recharges electric cars is made with coal, so emissions reductions are largely negated. Further, the process of making an electric car, and its essential batteries, is hardly CO2-neutral:
But the Model 3 doesn’t exist yet. There is no final production version, much less any production. Musk is “fairly confident” that deliveries could start by the end of 2017. But running on schedule isn’t Tesla’s strong suit. Meanwhile, Tesla’s current best-seller has been plagued by quality problems.
All of this might just be another iPhone vs Galaxy conversation – except that these vehicles are hailed as green saviours and so are subsidised to the tune of billions of pounds.
Before unveiling the car, Musk sanctimoniously declared that Tesla exists to give the planet a sustainable future. He pointed to rising CO₂ levels. He lamented that 53,000 people die from air pollution from transportation. Tesla, the story goes, is a lifesaver. Like other electric cars, it has “zero emissions” of air pollution and CO₂.
Moreover, while electric cars typically emit less CO₂, the savings are smaller than most imagine. Over a 150,000 km lifetime, the top-line Tesla S will emit about 13 tonnes of CO₂. But the production of its batteries alone will emit 14 tonnes, along with seven more from the rest of its production and eventual decommissioning.Electric cars are largely a feel-good move for people who want to think they are helping the environment, much like hybrid gas-electric cars such as the Toyota Prius. Note that sales of the hybrid Honda Accord paled in comparison to the Prius, because the Accord looked like, well, an Accord. The Prius looks like a fucking jelly bean that is clearly identifiable as a Prius, so greener-than-thou drivers can feel good about themselves, knowing that everyone around them knows that they, and they alone, are saving the planet. It might not be true, even by the standards global warming true believers use to define "saving the planet." Things to think about before you "go green."