Study: Tesla car battery production releases as much CO2 as 8 years of driving on gas

No subsidies, no sales.Enormous hopes are linked to electric cars as the solution to the automotive industry’s climate problems. However, electric car batteries are eco-villains during their manufacturing. Several tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are generated even before the batteries leave the factory.

IVL The Swedish Environment Institute has, on behalf of the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency, investigated the climate impact of lithium-ion batteries from a life-cycle perspective. The batteries for electric cars were included in the study. The two authors—Lisbeth Dahllöf and Mia Romare—have done a meta-study, that is, reviewed and compiled existing studies.

The report shows that battery manufacturing leads to high emissions. For each kilowatt-hour of storage capacity in the battery, emissions of 150 to 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide are generated in the factory. The researchers have not studied the individual car brand batteries, just how they were produced or what electrical mix they used. But to understand the importance of battery size, two standard electric cars on the market, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, have batteries of approximately 30 kWh and 100 kWh respectively.

Even before you buy the car, CO2 emissions equivalent to 5.3 tons and 17.5 tons, respectively, gets produced. The numbers can be difficult to put in context. By way of comparison, a trip for a person returning from Stockholm to New York by air emits more than 600 kilograms of CO2, according to the UN organization ICAO’s calculation model.

Another conclusion of the study is that about half the emissions come from producing the raw materials and the other half from the battery factory. The mining accounts for only a small proportion of between 10-20 percent.

Read more: “The potential of electric cars’ main advantage”

The calculation is based on the assumption that the electricity mix used by the battery factory consists of energy generated by more than 50% fossil fuels. In Sweden, the power production is mainly from fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydropower and why lower emissions had been achieved.

The study also concluded that emissions grow almost linearly with the size of the battery, even if it is pinched by the data in that field. It means that a battery of the Tesla-size contributes more than three times as much emissions as the Nissan Leaf size. It is a result that surprised Mia Romare.

…snip…

Mats-Ola Larsson at IVL has calculated how long you need to drive a gasoline or diesel car before it released as much CO2 as the battery manufacturing produced. The result was 2.7 years of CO2 emissions for a battery the same size as a Nissan Leaf and 8.2 years for a Tesla-sized battery, based on a series of assumptions.

“It’s great for companies and government to embark on ambitious environmental policies and to buy climate-smart cars. But these results show that one should not think of choosing an electric car with a larger battery than is necessary,” he says, pointing out that manufacturers should also address this in the design of instruments.

Cobalt, nickel, and copper are recycled but not the energy required to manufacture the electrodes, says Mia Romare, pointing out that recycling is a resource-saving point rather than a reduction of CO2 emissions.

Peter Kasche from The Energy Agency highlights the close relationship between the battery size and CO2 emissions are important.

In some way, one must really make sure that you optimize the batteries. You should not drive around with a lot of kilowatt hours unnecessarily.

H/T TallBloke TalkShop

Read more at NyTeknik

Comments (27)

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    I can still remember all this mindless malarkey about FIGHT POLUTION RISE HORSE well surprise horses leave a mess and whining PETA idiots oppose using horses in anyway(Exscept in making dumb movies or for photo shoot)and a good car for Gore and iCaprio theres two choices the Flintstone car or Gilligans Island car both a foot powered

    • Avatar

      Gregor

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      This is fighting wrong battle. I cannot replace car in horse. BUT I can make horse in cows, formidable green house CO2 and poison methane productions in livestock meats. I propose in replace cattles for horse to eat, live great reductions for climate changes, taste just as good.

  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    It’s none of my business if Tesla builds cars. Go ahead and pretend that your new Tesla runs on green energy . Just don’t ask me to subsidize your fantasy.

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Unfortunately the added CO2 by the manufacturing of Tesla batteries has the same effect of human generated CO2 . Virtually nothing . But for the wealthy who wish to “do good ” and relieve a tiny bit of consumer guilt then buy away . After all people should be able to donate to the religion of their choice .
    Eight years equivalent of CO2 then it’s time to replace the battery . Hmm …
    Nice cars and nice subsidies. Imagine if everything got built that way .

    • Avatar

      Bill Jackson

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      I would like to see a complete analysis of the Swedish study. If they assume all power used in the battery factory is made by coal burning – they are wrong. The Tesla factory in Buffalo is completely supplied by Hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls. What about the brine extraction and extraction of the Lithium? I agree that might use coal derived electricity – however the salt flats where brine is evaporated have year round sunlight and one would logically expect they would seek to use as much solar power as possible from the huge desert areas around them? Again, strongly driven by economics, so I would expect solar generation to rapidly increase.

  • Avatar

    G

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    Come, come people! Everyone knows electric cars are powered by energy that is pure as the wind-driven snow! They’re “pollution free”!

    “On that train all graphite and glitter
    Undersea by rail
    Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
    (more leisure for artists everywhere)
    A just machine to make big decisions
    Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
    We’ll be clean when their work is done
    We’ll be eternally free yes and eternally young

    What a beautiful world this will be
    What a glorious time to be free”

    -IGY, Donald Fagan

    • Avatar

      Sonnyhill

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      Capital idea, G. I’ll crank it up after 7PM, when discount power rates kick in. Those lyrics reflect the irrational optimism of college youth. Reach exceeding grasp.

      • Avatar

        G

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        “Those lyrics reflect the irrational optimism of college youth. Reach exceeding grasp.”

        So true. The difference is that we used to have experienced, sober adults standing between our starry-eyed, emotionally-driven, indoctrinated youth and the rest of society.

        Popular culture society now worships millennials as if they have great wisdom born of superior education and compassion. No wonder they take themselves so seriously. After all, they have so many participation trophies to acknowledge their profound achievements.

  • Avatar

    James Plotts

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    Where’s the STUDY? This is just FAKE NEWS.

      • Avatar

        James Plotts

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        Why thank you! I had a hard time finding the link in the article.

    • Avatar

      kb

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      ^^ Tesla owner ^^

    • Avatar

      Young

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      Indeed, truly cherry-picking data at its finest here.

      “Mats-Ola Larsson at IVL has calculated how long you need to drive a gasoline or diesel car before it released as much CO2 as the battery manufacturing produced. The result was 2.7 years of CO2 emissions for a battery the same size as a Nissan Leaf and 8.2 years for a Tesla-sized battery, based on a series of assumptions.”

      Let’s see.. the report states that the battery production produces 150 to 200 kg of CO2 per kWh of battery. That’s 441 lb of CO2 at high. Take Tesla’s largest pack @ 100 kWh battery. To produce this, it theoretically emits 100 * 441 = 44,100 lb of CO2. Now a gallon of gas produces 20 lb of C02 (https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/contentIncludes/co2_inc.htm). An average person in US driving a car uses 656 gallons of gas per year (https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/01/14/heres-how-much-gasoline-the-average-american-consu.aspx).

      44,100 / (20 * 656) = 3.36 years. A STARK CONTRAST to 8+ years stated by this article’s source of Mats-Ola Larsson at IVL. Can we have HIS method of calculation? I fear not, as that would not be in the interest of this article’s clear propaganda.

      The reality is that economies of scale and efficiency involved in Tesla Gigafactory’s battery production are going to produce less CO2 than this study’s conservative estimate (which clearly states that it doesn’t have any transparency), and the energy source used in creating these battery cells will be less than 50% fossil fuel, further lowering the CO2 estimate. Here’s a tell-tale tidbit from the report (with CAP done by me):

      “Based on the assessment of the posed questions, our conclusions are that the currently available data are usually not transparent enough to draw detailed conclusions about the battery’s production emissions. There is, regardless, a good indication of the total emissions from the production, but this should be viewed in light of there being a small number of electric vehicles being produced compared to the total number of vehicles. THE POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF SCALE UP ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE ASSESSMENTS. Primary data for production, especially production of different pack sizes, is therefore interesting for future work.”

  • Avatar

    Bill Jackson

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    I find a degree of conflict in what they say. Have they analyzed the energy inputs properly? Buffalo get all it’s power from Niagara falls = clean hydroelectric power. The actual production of lithium uses a lot of electric power. The lithium mining/brining cycle should be properly assessed.
    Nothing in it is smelter based. I would anticipate Tesla to make a counter to this. In addition, lithium is almost 100% recyclable from car batteries – again, an electric process.

    • Avatar

      James Plotts

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      Did you find the study that purportedly claims this CO2 emmissions? The link in the article goes to some Swedish website that is not a research report.

  • Avatar

    James Plotts

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    I think the conclusion that car battery production releases 8 years of CO2 is premature. Quoted from the PDF Study:

    “Not until we have a clear definition of
    stages can we assess where the energy consumption and emissions are largest, or what actions that
    can help lower the impact.”

  • Avatar

    Bill Jackson

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    Yes, that was the basis of my response. Sweden does not produce lithium.
    Brine based lithium does not involve smelting, but rock based might. An analysis of the power used in this production would be a better way to assess the CO2 balance. Sadly, all the brine makers might burn oil for power??

    https://www.thebalance.com/lithium-production-2340123

  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    Similar cost / benefit analysis has been done for corn ethanol production. All inputs must be accounted for. In the end, someone has done a sales job from the Green end. I’ve been upfront about ethanol, it’s a make-work project for the Midwest. Maybe Tesla should come clean about the all-in carbon footprint of their cars. I don’t see anyone advocating hay-powered transportation.Yet.

  • Avatar

    Bill Jackson

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    Does Tesla bother with counter-propaganda? or have they decided it is a fools game?

  • Avatar

    Del Rey Pacheco

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    As several others have mentioned, the vast majority of “production” caused C02 is due to the high energy use in the battery creation. So…if the production facility such as the giga factory uses 100% renewable sources to provide for production energy…I would expect this would drastically cut the C02 production output specified in the article. Will be interesting to see the data when taking this into consideration

    • Avatar

      G

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      And perhaps some of this would be relevant if CO2 was a “pollutant” that was causing a global climate crisis…

  • Avatar

    Test it

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    Did they compare it with other manufacturing processes? E.g. oil/gasoline rafination or creating other classic cars parts.

  • Avatar

    Maurice Douek

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    This shows the absurdity of the whole thing. Furthermore the electricity used to charge the batteries is made from fossil fuel. Even if we develop safe efficient fuel cells using hydrogen to make eletricity the hydrogen gas is made by electrolysis of water with power made from fossil fuel

  • Avatar

    Pally

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    Swedish study lol

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