I am a proud Tesla owner and a retired engineer. I have heard the comment on emissions from power plants before and I have a different view. I think all that has been written about the Adam Ruins Everything EV article is probably correct. It shows you can prove anything if you don’t consider everything. The thing that is missing is, as Paul Harvey used to say — and now for the rest of the story, the emissions created by refining crude oil into gasoline to burn in all those 25% efficient ICEs.
I am not a researcher, but a little time on the web locates some interesting numbers. Just Google a question and the answer for some pop up. Others require reading a web site. Were I could I listed the web sites.
A Barrel of Oil contains 42 gallons of crude oil from which, in the U.S., typically 19 gallons of gasoline are produced.
One barrel of crude produces 115 pounds of CO2 to refine into CO2. (1) This equates to 6.0 lb of CO2 emitted for every gallon refined.
Burning one gallon of gasoline also produces 19 pounds of CO2. Add the refining — 6.0 more lbs of CO2, is a total of 25 lbs for every gallon the ICE burns. If your Prius averages 50 mpg it is producing 2 lb of CO2 per mile.
In Power Plants using fossil fuels the CO2 produced per kwH varies from 1.22 to 2.17 lbs, depending on type of fuel. (2)
I will use the average of 1.7 lbs per kwh. Could be less considering that only 67% of the US power is produced
with fossil fuel.
My 2015 85D Tesla S uses an average of about 400 watts per mile, or, .4kwH/ mile. At 1.7 lbs of CO2 per kwH this is only 0.68 CO2 lbs per mile. That is only 34% of the hybrid Prius.
Therefore any EV car has much lower overall emissions than a hybrid car. (3) Also, the comment that Tesla should change their statement from “Zero Emissions” to “Zero tail pipe Emissions” does not make sense. An EV does not have a tail pipe. The vanity plate on my Tesla is “0-XHAUST”.
Other points on the subject-
Total CO2 produced in manufacturing the EV power system compared to the ICE power system must be a lot less. The EV needs an electric motor, a simple speed reducing gear box, and a battery. The ICE needs a radiator cooling system, a fuel tank, pumps and lines, an exhaust system with a catalytic converter and muffler and pipes, the ICE itself with peripheral components that have thousands of precision machined parts, and, a transmission with thousands more precision machined parts.
The EV battery of choice today is the Lithium -Ion. The same materials used in our phones and computers batteries. The EV just has a lot of them. I think my Tesla S has about 7,000 cells that are around 18mm in diameter. At the Grand Opening of Tesla’s Gigafactorty Elon Musk stated Lithium is one of the most plentiful elements on earth. (4) However, the new factory includes a battery recycle process that reclaims the materials and reuses them to make new batteries. Also, this huge plant, second largest in the US, will be fully powered by sustainable energy sources.
The article notes there are too many cars which are a big part of the pollution problem. We, in the US bought 17.5 million cars last year. The big manufactures have to schedule their plants at near full capacity to have economical quantities. Then they sell them to people who don’t really need a new car or another car. The result is thousands of cars set unused at our homes, in parking lots and on dealer lots. The pollution and CO2 produced to make the excess cars is unnecessary. Tesla, so far, produces cars only to order. Elon spoke to this problem in his comments at the Gigafactory. (4) He feels that car sharing will be in our future and has an app being designed for sharing. In fact it is already possible at some airports to rent your car while you travel. It is predicted that by 2030 or before people will by only transportation, not cars. Cars will be sold to the ride sharing services.
Many hundreds of thousands of deaths and disabilities occur each year from air pollution. This is from ICEs, the refineries and power plants burning fossil fuels that have many emissions worst than CO2. I could not find a comparison on which is worst per unit of output in producing these noxious and toxic byproducts.