No, Making a Tesla Battery Does Not Equal 8 Years of Driving an Internal Combustion Car.

“The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.” – Niccolò Machiavelli 

 

If you have an irrational resistance to change, particularly technological advancements that can in anyway be portrayed as being good for the environment, then right now there is a terrific propaganda piece being spread around that will reinforce your worldview.  Based on a Swedish study, this story claims that the production of a Tesla 100 kWh battery, Tesla’s biggest, produces 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions which they allege is equivalent to driving an internal-combustion vehicle for 8.2 years. There is just one problem: it is utter nonsense.

In taking on this claim, we will take their numbers and assumptions at face value and address the first question: How far do you have to drive an internal combustion engine powered vehicle to reach their 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide? To figure this out we will use the Audi A8 4.0 since it is a comparable vehicle in terms of size, performance, and price range to the Tesla Model S equipped with the 100 kWH battery. According to it’s official EPA ratings, the Audi achieves 19 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 22 mph in combined use. Taking those numbers, we can calculate that you would have to drive the Audi just a tad over 31,500 miles to reach our 17.5 tons of carbon emissions. In the interests of transparency, feel free to verify the match here.

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The next question is how many miles does the average American drive in a year? According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average across all age groups in 13,476 miles per year. So now we can divide 31,500 miles by the annual average of 13,476 miles driven and we arrive at an apples to apples number of 2.34 years – not 8.2 years.

Now that we have demonstrated this to be blatant propaganda, allow me to point out a couple of the other logical fallacies involved:

  1. They completely ignore that these numbers will soon shift even further in favor of Tesla once their first Gigafactory, powered by renewable energy, comes online.
  2. While this study focuses solely on battery production, it looks only at internal combustion engine miles driven and completely ignores the carbon emissions produced in the production of the 93 octane gasoline used by the Audi. The EPA calculates an additional 1.1 tons of upstream carbon which would further reduce our number.

As a car guy, I understand there are plenty of reasons to like the internal combustion engine: quick refueling, established infrastructure, the sound of a high performance engine. But no matter how you look at it, environmental superiority isn’t one of them.

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Gretchen, stop trying to make “Climate Change” happen. It’s not going to happen.

I’m sorry, I am fluent in movie quotes and just couldn’t help myself with the title. But, if you are honest with yourself after reading this post, I think you will find that the emotion or curiosity you felt when you read it perfectly illustrates the point I am about to make. Chase here to talk about why I think we should all stop using phrases like “global warming” and “climate change” if we ever want to accomplish anything.

Over the past few decades our culture has become obsessed with labeling very complex issues with catchy, easy to digest buzzwords. This is no doubt due to the influence of media, particularly online media, and the marketing industry. The downside is that when we take such large and complex issues and try to wrap them up in a buzzword, we force people to either be 100% in support or 100% in opposition to all facets of it with no room for nuance and compromise (that is not a bad word). These buzzwords become incendiary language and cause people to instantly dig in their heels and reject your cause outright. In my opinion, this has a lot to do with why our society and government have become so polarized and gridlocked on many issues.

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So what do I suggest? I suggest we stop being lazy! Understand that these issues are enormously complex and stop trying to solve them in broad generalities. Speak directly to what resonates with the audience. Instead of telling people we need to leave fossil fuel energy production behind to fight climate change, we should try to explain that renewable energy has the potential to create a huge number of jobs and be a major economic growth sector. Instead of telling them that we need to transition to electrically powered transportation to fight global warming, we should try framing our dependence on oil as a national security issue that we have the technology to solve. And oh, by the way, these things are all much more sustainable and better for our environment too!

We should also seek out unlikely allies and work with them where our issues intersect. For example, Ducks Unlimited is a 501c nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and upland habitats for waterfowl. Their objective is to do those things to ensure that waterfowl hunting remains sustainable, but guess which habitats are best at carbon sequestration? Wetlands and forests!

These are just a few examples of subtle changes we can make that may help reach people and perhaps make progress, even if we don’t use the same lingo and our stated goals are different. Give it a try, see what happens. Whatever you do though, don’t screw it up by saying “climate change”!

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Death of the Internal Combustion Engine

Less than a month after Tesla became the United State’s most valuable automakerFinancial Post is reporting on a newly published study by Stanford University economist Tony Seba that is sending shock waves through the automotive and oil industries. After careful analysis of current market and economic trends along with technology investments and advancements, Seba’s forecast titled Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030 suggests that by the late-2020s the internal combustion engine will be all but extinct on the dealer showroom.

According to Seba, this revolution is being driven by technology and simple economics rather than government policies. Electric cars are currently the fastest growing segment in the global automotive industry. March 2017 saw a 134% increase in electric automobile sales over March 2016 and a 87% increase Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016. With this kind of growth, two things are occurring: 1) the economies of scale are making electric cars and their components cheaper to produce and 2) the automotive industry worldwide is pouring billions of dollars into battery and electric systems research and development.

Over the next 2-3 years battery ranges are predicted to meet and exceed to 350-400 mile range petrol powered vehicles typically reach and entry level electric vehicle prices are projected to break below $30,000. By 2022-2023 entry level EVs will be approaching $20,000. That is when, according to Seba, the avalanche will occur. “What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally,” Professor Seba projects. With EV life expectancy in excess of 1 million miles, almost zero maintenance, and less than 7 cents per mile to operate, internal combustion will simple become obsolete.

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This shift is not without its challenges. The US government stands to lose up to $50 billion in fuel tax revenue, funds that are used for road construction and other surface transportation projects. “Certain high-cost countries, companies, and fields will see their oil production entirely wiped out. Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP could see 40 percent to 50 percent of their assets become stranded,” the report states. Additionally, the traditional automakers with their large bureaucracies are at risk of being leapfrogged by nimble cash flush tech companies that are already making moves in the industry. That is a lot of economic and geo-political instability added to an already complex world stage.

While I feel like Seba’s projections are a little optimistic, the trends are clearly pointing in one direction. And with renewable energy constituting the majority of new energy production coming on line the news is all the sweeter. What are your thoughts on this? Comment below and let us know.

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Baby Steps Towards Sustainable Living

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Whether you just want to take small steps in your current lifestyle to live more lightly and sustainably or you are planning to radically change the way you live, you have to start somewhere. Chase here and in this post I will go over some baby steps anyone can and, in my humble opinion, should take. Keep in mind these are just a few examples and is far from an exhaustive list. Feel free to contribute more ideas in the comment section below.

Finances

Wonder how many of you were expecting me to lead off with that. Getting your personal finances in order is a critical element of overall sustainability. There is no economic theory out there that can argue that the US economy, which is currently carrying $60+ trillion in public and private debt (by the way, that is approaching $175,000 in debt for every man, woman and child), can continue on indefinitely. You can not sustain infinite growth on finite resources so, at some point, simple math is going to force us to reevaluate how we live and spend in Western culture. In 2008-2009 we got a sneak peek and our solution was to delay the inevitable with…………..more public and private debt.

I could write a book on this topic but the book I would write has already been written. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is that book. It was immensely helpful to Victoria and I and helped put us in a financial position to be able to make more significant lifestyle changes.

Food

For most people it is not feasible to produce 100% of your food. That is a HUGE undertaking but even a simple herb and veggie garden is a step in the right direction. If you have a little bit of room like we do, a raised bed garden is a great option. If you are a limited on space something like a counter top AeroGarden or an AquaSprouts Garden might work for you.

You can also take steps towards reducing the impact of the food you consume. Rather than going to the national chain grocery store and buying commercial food that is often produce hundreds and even thousands of miles away, buy local. Do more of your grocery shopping at local farmers markets and look into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Check out localharvest.org to find our what is available in your area. The food will be fresher, healthier and you will be supporting your local economy rather than stock market prices.

Energy 

Spend $20,000 on a solar power system for your home. Just kidding! There are so many simple low-to-no cost things you can do to reduce your energy consumption and save money in the long run. A few examples are:

  • Reduce the temperature you set your heater on by 2 degrees.
  • Increase the temperature you set you AC on by 2 degrees.
  • Add insulation to your home.
  • Seal any cracks and gaps around doors and windows.
  • Turn off the light switch when you leave a room like your momma taught you.
  • Turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Install high-efficiency LED light bulbs.
  • Install thermal curtains on your windows to keep heat in or out depending on the season.
  • Install a tankless water heater.
  • Carpool, ride your bike, or take public transportation.
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained and running well.

Water

Water usage is becoming a pretty serious issue in some places. Just like energy consumption, there are a not of low-to-no cost steps you can take.

And there is so much more you can do, these are just baby steps. If you have any other recommendations, drop a comment and let us know.

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