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... How Much Was Consumed?

|Includes: Tesla, Inc. (TSLA)

Much has been said about the ecological damage that the production of the batteries for EV's does ... usually with little or no regard for the equivalent damage done when refining gasoline.

This instablog is just to provide some numbers for the sake comparison. We'll use the model S85 and compare it to a hypothetical 50-mpg hybrid (stacking the deck against an EV is how I usually like to make my points). Elon Musk already claimed that the payback time for EV's is only 10,000 miles, so I'm sure this unfair comparison will still be fine.

The model S85 has a 600kg battery pack, but only 1/2 of it is actually composed of the cells. Volumetrically, the entire battery pack is 4 inches high x 5ft x 8ft ... ~ 13.333 cubic feet.

This battery, assuming 1000 charge cycles can conservatively be used for 265,000 miles.

265,000 miles would consume ~90,000 KWh. If the power came from only renewables, that wouldn't cost any resources to produce, but what would be the fun in that? Let's assume it was all produced by coal. 2000 lbs of coal produces 2460 KWh. So you'd need 36.58 tons of coal. A cubic meter of coal = 833kg. 1 cubic meter = 35.3147 cubic feet. Therefore 1 cubic foot of coal = 51.8 lbs. So you would need 1412 cubic feet of coal to power a model S 265,000 miles.

The US national average is 37% power from coal. So on a national average, a model S would consume 522.44 cubic feet of coal.

A 50-mpg hybrid would consume 5300 gallons to drive that same distance. 10 gallons = 1.33681 cubic foot ( So a hybrid would need 708 cubic feet of gasoline.

Gasoline is refined from oil, at a ratio of 2/3. So you'd need 1062 cubic feet of oil to produce those 708 cubic feet of gasoline.

If we reduced the mileage to only 100,000 miles, that would still require 267 cubic feet of gasoline (400 cubic feet of oil).

Unlike water, gasoline once consumed, doesn't get converted into another state that then falls out of the clouds as gasoline again. Once it's consumed, it's gone for good (for practical purposes anyway).

Think about how much resources was removed out of the ground to enable a single model S to drive 265,000 miles (or even 100,000 miles). And then compare that to the amount of resources it took to enable a hybrid to drive that same distance.


Disclosure: I am long TSLA.