Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tesla's raw materials

Those of us who are fans of green technologies must be on guard against sloppy thinking.  It is FAR too easy to ignore the fact that even while making a concerted effort to transition towards energy renewables—easily job one in any plan to save the planet from ourselves—a great deal of the old technologies and their ghastly environmental problems will be necessary to build a better future.

The following illustrates the massive environmental costs necessary to build a Tesla Model S.  Start with the simple problem caused by making something that weighs in at 4647 pounds (2108 kg.).  Assuming fabrication losses of at least 50%, that means this beast requires something on the order of 3.5 tons of raw materials and goodness knows how much energy it takes to process.  Then, because an electric car requires a radically different material set, very little of these material will come from recycling old cars.

So while the Tesla S is a hugely important car, it is obvious cars like this will play a minuscule role in replacing the monster fleets of fuel burners already on the road (250+ million in USA alone).  The new transportation systems would do well to incorporate recycled materials into their designs—something that was obviously NOT done with the model S.

I found the illustration below incredibly interesting—sometimes in the rather insignificant details.  For example, the Tesla doesn't use nearly as many rare earths as one might expect for an all-electric vehicle.  In fact, the only application seems to be for the cabin's electronics.  Apparently you can make a high-performance electric car without rare earth materials but not premium sound system speakers.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

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