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Are Teslas Front Loading Emmisions?

I am reading articles that accuse battery powered cars of front loading emissions in their manufacture. Somehow that sounds wrong. Any experts that can clarify how this argument is just in error?

Apparently you're not allowed to contradict the almighty John Peterson on his own article. All I said was that touting a peer-reviewed article, then manipulating that data invalidates the conclusion and makes it impossible to draw a valid conclusion...sheesh. I guess they don't like real science...

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User Data:
• Posted by: shamster, userID: 5101761, email:
• user since: October 8, 2012
• In moderation since:
Oct 8, 2012
Content Data:
• Content submitted on October 11, 2012, 12:35
• On Article Electric Vehicles, Front-Loading The CO2 Emissions by John Petersen
• Original comment:
As a scientist, the way the data is manipulated and extrapolated without sound basis in this article is horrifying. Quoting a peer-reviewed study to sound credible then manipulating that peer-reviewed data invalidates your argument.

There was some guy on StockTwits that held short positions in Tesla and kept posting (2 or 3 an hour) fact free negative comments. I begged to disagree with him, and he complained, and I had my account suspended and comments deleted. They would not discuss why, but told me they would reactivate if I promised to behave. I told them to leave it suspended, but check several violations of the rules the other poster was committing. Not sure what happened, but he disappeared for a while. Came back more mellow. But I'm not sure if there is a connection.

Try removing the word "horrifying" and repost. I think perhaps they have a filter, and they do seem to look less favoribly at new users. Your alias "shamster" might be doing you a disservice. Usualy Peterson loves to agrue with posters.

I did not find anything offensive in your post. As someone who works with data for a living, I had exactly the same thoughts when I read the article.

The rate of human hair growth is something like 7-10th m/sec. The green tea consumption in China is about 60 kg/sec. Related by time, true. Relevant to each other? Not. Likewise, Peterson seems to have stretched facts beyond their breaking point.

I am about as pro Tesla as the article's author is anti Tesla. Here is my analysis.

The car he has chosen gets 44 MPG. That is, to produce that much C02 in 150,000 miles you need to average 44 MPG. I personally think a Lexus LS 460 RWD ( is about the same size, weight, and performance as the model S. The Lexus has an EPA rating of 19 combined MPG. Assuming 20 Lbs of CO2 are generated for each gallon of gas burned (, I calculate the Lexus generates 157,000 Lbs of CO2 ( = 150,000 miles / 19 MPG * 20 Lbs of CO2 per gallon) in 150,000 miles.

I can't find any data on the C02 generated to manufacture the ICE engine, so I will accept his figures of about 15,000 Lbs.

Lexus total.... 172,000 Lbs CO2.

He assumes the Model S averages 3.75 miles per kWh (MPK). That is, to produce that much C02 in 150,000 miles you need to average 3.75 MPK. For my pre-purchase planning I use the slightly more pessimistic value of 3.25 MPK. (I will use the 3.25 MPK figure for this analysis, but you can use your own Using the national average of 1 lb CO2 to produce 1 kWh ( I calculate the Model S will generate, indirectly, 46,000 Lbs CO2 (= 150,000 miles / 3.25 MPK * 1 Lb CO2 per kWh) in 150,000 miles. (Personally I have solar PV on my roof. So my personal value is 0 lbs CO2.)

Now the battery.... to build 1 kWh of Li battery you generate 165 Lbs of CO2. (only reference I could find: So a 85 kWh battery generates 14,000 Lbs of CO2 to Build.

Model S total.... 60,000 Lbs CO2.

More to the point of the thread, Front end CO2 cost is about the same for ICE and 85 kWh Model S. EV has lower CO2 after that.

Other CO2 production costs:
1 lb steel 2 Lbs CO2
1 lb copper 0.5 Lbs CO2
1 lb aluminum 1.2 Lbs of CO2

For the record, this thread has a sibling:


We're not ruining our habitat. Our water and air has been getting cleaner over our lifetimes, not dirtier.


Define 'unsustainable'. Were horses sustainable as our main mode of transportation? Was whale oil sustainable as our main source for lanterns, etc? I guess not, because we don't use them anymore. And that's because something better (read: cheaper) came along. And that's how things will continue to evolve.

People label oil as 'unsustainable' without really explaining what they mean. Is there enough oil to last us forever as we currently use it? Of course not, but that's true of everything. We're not remotely close to depleting our oil, otherwise it would be astronomically expensive already (see any text on basic economics). When we do approach depletion, or possibly long before then when something better comes along, we'll change the way we do things. Until then, see my comment above to tharasix and don't panic. Whether or not you crush and recycle your cans doesn't make any difference. I hope I won't give you nightmares by telling you that in many places, all that stuff goes into the same landfill as your non-recyclables (gasp!)

dtesla -

Thanks for the detailed analysis!


Unsustainable is an easy term to define. An activity is unsustainable if it depletes, destroys, or renders unusable a finite resource. That is, an "open cycle" activity where you end up in a position worse than when you started.

Natural processes are closed cycle, if you exclude the energy from the Sun, life on Earth recycles everything. That's why it can continue for billions of years.

If people want to believe we will never run out of anything with our current extractive model, they can believe it. They can also believe in unicorns. It's true that we won't literally run out. Instead, we need to trash the planet more and more to get to less and less stuff. Canada is bulldozing the Boreal forest in order to get to the tar sands.

I think there are better, smarter ways to fulfill our needs than to turn the Earth into Mordor.


I think there are better, smarter ways to fulfill our needs than to turn the Earth into Mordor.

Oh boy, queue dramatic music...

As stated above, our air & water are getting cleaner, not dirtier.

Since neither of us will change the others opinion, let me just say that I respect that you have strong convictions and your heart is probably in the right place. I just think you are overly pessimistic when it comes to environmental concerns. As I stated earlier (or possibly in another thread) our next societal upheaval is much more likely to be financial in origin, not environmental. That would be much more worth the angst than what currently gets devoted to the perceived pillaging of mother Earth.


We don't use whale oil in our lanterns anymore because for all practical purposes we killed them all off.


The air and water didn't get cleaner by themselves. It took the Clean Air Act and the EPA, and to this day people are fighting both tooth and nail.

I am not pessimistic. I think the future is open to all possibilities. The good ones won't happen by wishful thinking though. When I was born, there were 500,000 African lions. Today there are 20,000. You don't need to be an expert to see that the loss of 96% of a top predator is a bad environmental health indicator. There is more to our environmental status than somewhat cleaner air and water in New York or LA.

And, for whatever it's worth, I do agree that financial risks are large right now. But I don't worry about that because there is nothing I can do about it.


Interesting. You don't worry about financial risks because you don't think you can do anything about it, yet you somehow think you can do something about the environment.


No, I've been to Alaska and I saw plenty of whales. Are they as numerous as before? No. But who said the numbers of a given species has to remain constant? Or that some shouldn't become extinct? That would be a first in the history of the planet.

Whales were on a trajectory for possible extinction prior to the discovery of petroleum though. So you can thank Shell, Exxon, et al for saving them.

"Whales were on a trajectory for possible extinction prior to the discovery of petroleum though. So you can thank Shell, Exxon, et al for saving them."

I may have to disagree on that point.

Unsustainable is a hoax. Every time something becomes scarce, something else (more efficient, better performing, cheaper) is substituted. Always. What could people 100 yrs ago have "sustained" for us to use? Nothing.

Unsustainable is certainly not a hoax. Ask the Roman Empire.

That is not to say that we (humans) will not survive (well some of us) but how "rocky" that path of survival is, is the choice before us.

I vote we solve problems pro-actively (like addressing falling supplies of petrol) rather than just waiting for some "invisible hand" to fix it for us!

Good reason to buy a Model S. It may not be the "answer" but it supports the mentality that we need to innovate faster and further (unlike certain high-margin, SUV-loving motor companies I could mention).
Hope is not a strategy!

The Invisible Hand is just the observation that you pay the real price for everything, no matter how you duck and dodge and subsidize.

As for petrol, the oil fields in the Rockies foothills are now rated by the GAO as equivalent to the rest of the world's proven reserves of light sweet crude put together. EVs are not good because they "save" oil. They're good because they're better cars. Deep-six all the "Save the Planet" bushwah and enjoy your Tesla!

"Recycle your breadcrumbs! Save the wheat!"

I don't know whether I should yawn or laugh. Prob'ly both.

@Brian H +1

Although I wouldn't say EVs are categorically better cars. Only the Model S so far.

OK...apparently you two think Elon's "Master Plan" is a bunch of greeny crap. Obviously there are many people here that don't take your point of view. If you are going to heckle fans in the stadium why don't you do it from the visitors section.

Brant, what is wrong with Elon wanting to go to Mars? I love SpaceX

"Whales were on a trajectory for possible extinction prior to the discovery of petroleum though."

Fascinating. So the Atlantic Grey Whale which thrived from the Pleistocene eara hundreds of thousands of years ago, just happend to go extinct in in Europe after Roman times, and became extinct on the American coast in the late 1800's when the American whaling fleet was at it's height?

Shame they are all wiped out now. All gone. But I'm sure it was headed for extinction anyway and we had nothing to do with it.


The Exxon Valdez incident is a great event to mention if you're looking for an emotional response, but it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.


I never said human activity wasn't responsible for the possible extinction trajectory. We definitely hunted them and used them for all kinds of stuff, and other species of whales probably would indeed have been hunted to extinction if not for the discovery of petroleum.

But somehow I don't seem to miss them. Maybe I should - I bet they tasted great.


I don't see any heckling going on, just a discussion.

Another group to ask about unsustainability is the Easter Islanders.

I can't make any sense out of claims that unsustainability is a hoax with regard to ICE vehicles as personal transport.

Oil, CO2 and other air pollutants are just a small part of the equation but once you factor in other things such as deforestatation, non-point pollution, population dynamics, food resources, water resources, economics, the impacts of necessary infrastructure for processing, transport & exploration, and the other factors I can't help but conclude that it adds up to unsustainable with the path we have been on.

Also, we need to prioritize our use of fossil fuels so that we can use them for air travel, space exploration, materials and other things that do not yet have sustainable, reliable and/or economically feasible alternatives.

+1 Captain_Zap

Brian, 100 years ago is of little relevance. Population is now four times what it was then, energy use has gone up by a factor of 10, materials use by a factor of 8.

This growth is continuing, and it is unprecedented in history. 100 years ago was just the start. At that time, vast areas of land had only been explored in the previous 50 years. There were huge virgin forests and jungles around the globe.

Do you seriously think we can increase our resource extraction by a factor of 8 or 10 again? Please spend some time with Google Earth. look at the Amazon, what's left of it. It's as if it was being shaved clean.

The rules are simply different than before 1850. Don't think by historical analogy, just do the math.


Oh boy, queue dramatic music.

"Recycle your breadcrumbs! Save the wheat!"

I don't know whether I should yawn or laugh. Prob'ly both.


What's your point? Shall no one on this forum use hyperbole or sarcasm without being asked to leave by you?

Just proving that you live in denial in more than one aspect of your life

Ok, the topic of this thread was pretty much a guaranteed disagreement between a couple of us and everyone else. I can see things are not going in the generally positive way most of the threads here go and I'd like to avoid getting personal or hurting anyone's feelings. I've intended no offense with any of my comments and I apologize if any was taken.

To make one final comment 'on topic' that we can all agree on - John Peterson is an idiot. [I don't mind hurting his feelings]


Heh, you didn't hurt my feelings, for sure.

Look, this whole thing is about what Tesla means. To me it means excellence and performance in an environmentally sound way.

Yes, the Model S has been designed to be the best car, period. But Elon is not shy about the environmental goals of the company, so a discussion on what that means is worth having.

It ends up being a matter of degree. There is a spectrum between the bamboo bicycle crowd and the 0-60 in 2 seconds (but EV) crowd. My rough position is that Tesla has to be at par or slightly better than industry standards for the glider, but needs to have a very solid story for the power train, which is the brand's signature. There are a lot of ways to do this.

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