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Is Driving a Tesla Better for the Environment? It Depends…

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Are Teslas and other electric vehicles perfect for the environment?

The answer is “no”, since nothing can be perfect. Electric vehicles are still a source of GHG emissions as a result of the manufacturing and raw material extraction processes. Further, and more importantly, lifetime emissions for electric vehicles also depend on the sources of fuel used to power the local grid.

So Is Driving a Tesla Better for the Environment?

Today’s infographic, which looks at the well-to-wheels impact of electric and gas vehicles, was created in association with Delbrook Capital, a financial services company that has launched the CO2 Master Solutions Fund.

Together we explore the latest data on the lifetime emissions of gasoline and electric vehicles, and how they compare depending on the state you live in:

Is Driving a Tesla Better for the Environment? It Depends...

Is driving a Tesla better for the environment than using a comparably sized gas-powered vehicle? In the majority of places, the answer is “yes”.

However, the true environmental impact depends greatly on the specific power sources that the local grid uses to generate electricity.

The Power Mix

According to a study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average new gasoline vehicle generates the equivalent of 29 MPG of emissions over its lifetime. The study found that the average electric vehicle has emission equivalents in a range between 35 MPG to 135 MPG depending on the local power grid of the state it is driven in.

Electric cars driven in the Pacific Northwest states, as an example, have the emissions of an equivalent 94 MPG gas-powered car. This is miles better than a new Honda Fit (36 MPG) or even hybrids such as the Prius (50 MPG) or Honda Accord hybrid (47 MPG). This is because 52% of all power in the region comes from hydro.

In Colorado, about 70% of all electricity is coal-fired. This means that the electric car has the equivalent emissions of a gas-powered Honda Fit with 35 MPG. In Florida, natural gas has replaced coal usage, and now accounts for two-thirds of all electricity generated. Powering an EV on Florida’s grid for an estimated 51 MPG equivalent is better than driving a hybrid such as a Prius (50 MPG) or a Honda Accord Hybrid (47 MPG).

The Future of Emissions

Today, the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that 66% of Americans definitely would generate less emissions by driving electric vehicles based on the compositions of their local power grids.

In the very near future, plugging in will be better in 100% of places in America. Here’s why:

  • Battery technology will continue to get better. More efficiency means lighter and better cars.
  • Coal is falling. It’s gone from 44% of all U.S. power generation in 2009 to 33% in 2015. It’s forecasted to fall to 22% by 2020.
  • Many states also have committed to specific targets for green energy as a portion of their energy mix. More renewables for the grid means less emissions.

For investors, these changes will create many opportunities for investors.

As the electric car era is ushered in, some experts are predicting that entire power grids will need to be re-wired to accommodate. Automobile dealer networks will be profoundly affected.

Car part manufacturers will also have to adapt. How many pieces are in a typical gas-powered vehicle? According to energy expert Gianni Kovacevic there are about 100.

Parts in a gas-powered car

In an electric vehicle, which only needs about 20 components, many of these parts such as pistons and spark plugs will become antiquated.

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Visualizing EV Sales Around the World

With global sales hitting new milestones and adoption rates rising, are electric vehicles now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world?

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electric vehicle sales

It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.

The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.

Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.

Electric vehicle sales

The EV Capital of the World

Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.

In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.

That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)

China’s Supercharged Impact

One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China.

The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.

China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.

Electric vehicle charging stations

Accelerating from the Slow Lane

In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.

Nationally, EV sales increased throughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.

U.S. Electric vehicle sales

North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.

The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Have you ever wondered how much copper is in an electric vehicle? This infographic shows the metal’s properties as well as the quantity of copper used.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Copper’s special relationship with electricity has been apparent since ship designers first regularly began installing copper to protect the masts of wooden ships from lightning in the early 19th century.

Today, of course, you might be more used to seeing copper’s electrical applications through the use of power lines, telephone wires, and wiring in practically every major home appliance you own.

Millions of tons get used for these applications every year, but it is still early days for copper’s use in electrification. That’s because copper will continue to be a critical component of the green energy revolution, thanks to the rising adoption of battery-powered vehicles.

Why Copper?

Today’s visualization comes to us from Canadian Platinum Corp., and it focuses on showing how much copper is in an electric vehicle, along with the properties that make it the ideal choice for an EV-powered future.

Here is why copper is a crucial component to vehicle manufacturers:

Cost
Copper costs roughly $0.20 per ounce, compared to silver ($15/oz) and gold ($1200/oz), making it by far the cheapest option for electrical wire.

Conductivity:
Copper is nearly as conductive as silver – the most conductive metal – but comes at a fraction of the cost.

Ductility:
Copper can easily be shaped into wire, which is important for most electrical applications.

It’s also important to note that temperature does not affect copper’s conductivity, which makes the metal ideal for automobiles in all climates.

Copper in Gas vs. Electric Vehicles

The UBS Evidence Lab tore apart a traditional gas-powered vehicle as well as an EV to compare the different quantities of raw materials used.

What they found was crucial: there is 80% more copper in a Chevrolet Bolt, in comparison to a similar-sized Volkswagen Golf.

The major reason for this is that at the heart of every EV is an electric motor, which is built with copper, steel, and permanent magnets (rare earths). Electric motors tend to be much simpler than gas-powered engines, which have hundreds of moving parts.

Incredibly, in an electric motor, there can be more than a mile of copper wiring inside the stator.

The More Electric, the More Copper

According to Copper.org, along the scale from gas-powered cars to fully electrical vehicles, copper use increases dramatically.

Conventional gas-powered cars contain 18 to 49 lbs. of copper while a battery-powered EV contains 183 lbs. Meanwhile, for a fully electrical bus, a whopping 814 lbs. of copper is needed.

With the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles, copper will be an essential material for the coming electrification of all forms of ground transport.

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle and the world will need more. By 2027, copper demand stemming from EVs is expected to increase by 1.7 million tonnes, which is a number just shy of China’s entire copper production in 2017.

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