As you know, we bought a Tesla Model 3 back in 2018.  It now has just above 80,000 km on it.  I've driven about half of the mileage while the other half have been driven by my guests on Turo.  Recently, I exchanged a few comments on Facebook with my university buddy, Dennis, regarding how environmentally friendly driving an electric car really is.  I really didn't know at that point, but it just seemed to me that not producing CO2 from burning 6400 L of gasoline (thus far in the car's life) was not a bad idea.

Of course, there are skeptics in this world, perhaps caused by misinformation spread by conspiracy theorists, right leaning media, and the oil giants of the world.  So, I decided to do some quick research just to see on a very general basis, whether driving an EV would benefit the earth.

Carbon Emissions
First, I wanted to look at carbon emissions, namely the amount of carbon dioxide emitted directly or indirectly by driving an EV vs a gas-powered car.  This turned out to be a not-so-tough task.  There is a free app called Tezlab that I use and it provides a charge report.  It basically tells you what the carbon impact is for your charge.  The neat thing is that it actually looks at your location, and by using publicly available data on the electricity grid, determines the equivalent volume of fuel burned.

In the screen capture below, you will see that I recently charged my car from a state of charge of 38% to 90% (i.e. 52% of the battery capacity) which is an approximately equal to 250 km of travel range.  It cost me $3.77 of electricity and had a equivalent carbon impact of burning 0.6 L of gasoline.  0.6 L!!  How far can one drive with 0.6L of gas in a Prius?  I think maybe 15 km under the best conditions, and that's a Prius.  It is an order of magnitude better to drive an EV.  Let's say I put 250,000 km on my Model 3.  It would mean that I would save about 10,000 L of gasoline worth of carbon being put into the atmosphere, when compared to a Prius.

This huge difference in carbon impact is actually due to the fact that Ontario produces 95% of its power using fossil-free resources such as nuclear, hydro and wind.  Only 5% of the power generated comes from natural gas power plants.



I guess the next question is: well, that's Ontario; what about in places where they burn coal to generate power?  It turns out that driving an EV will have a lesser impact, from a carbon perspective, in 95% of the world.  Most countries are de-carbonizing their electricity grid due to the great economics caused by the declining costs of solar and wind power generation.  So, this will only get better in the future.  Eventually, we will get to 100% non-fossil fuel power generation.

What About the Batteries?
Another often cited downside of EVs is the sheer volume of battery cells used in an EV.  Since batteries contain harmful materials like cobalt, lead, copper, etc., that would be a problem in itself.  A quick read of the Wikipedia article on battery recycling informed me that battery recycling technology today can achieve up to 96% of the materials recycled.  With EVs scaling up, I can only believe that battery recycling technology will further improve.  There is no shortage of new battery recycling companies starting up.  Since the battery pack is the most expensive single component in an EV, there are great economic incentives for companies to solve this problem.

Recycling batteries, in my opinion, is also a much easier engineering problem to solve than removing or capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where the concentration is merely 400 parts per million (0.04%).

Often Forgotten Benefits of EVs
As I mentioned above, I've put about 80,000 km on my Model 3.  Thus far, the only maintenance task I've had to do on the car is replacing wiper blades and changing to-from winter/summer tires.  There is no engine oil, transmission oil, and engine coolant to change and dispose of.   In fact, there is no regular maintenance schedule for Teslas.  You bring the car in as you see fit.

There You Have It!
To me, it was quite intuitive that EVs are a great means to reducing my carbon footprint.  However, there's much misinformation out there.  Hope this quick post will help you transition to a cleaner future!  Also, 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds or less is also pretty darn sweet! 😉

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