Model 3 emits 60 percent less CO2 per mile than combustion engines

For a while, drivers of electric cars such as Tesla in particular were told that their supposedly climate-friendly vehicle ultimately caused more CO2 emissions than a normal combustion car due to the production of its large battery. But studies with more recent data have now largely overtaken this view, and now Tesla is also providing concrete information on the CO2 balance of at least its Model 3 for the first time: It should be far better than the average combustion engine over its life cycle, even under relatively unfavorable assumptions.

Tesla Model 3 – Solar Roof – (photo by Tesla)

Tesla CO2 far below combustion engine

When considering the life cycle, emissions are taken into account both in the manufacture of a product and in its use. As long as the production of batteries is not CO2-free, electric cars tend to carry a thicker climate backpack with them when leaving the factory than others. According to Tesla, studies on this often work with outdated or otherwise misleading data, which should be corrected with its own report.

Average Lifecycle Emissions in U.S. (gCO2e/mi) – (chart by Tesla)

For the comparison with combustion engines, Tesla uses the usual car life in the USA of 12,000 miles per year over 17 years in its report. Calculated with data on real consumption of cars from the Model 3 dominated class of medium-sized premium sedans, Tesla calculates CO2 emissions of around 480 grams per mile for US combustion engines; This includes both the manufacture of the car and its fuel, including emissions from the extraction, refining and transportation of oil. For a Model 3, on the other hand, Tesla specifies a CO2 value of around 190 grams per mile, including battery production and real electricity consumption based on the US mix.

Annual Water Consumption Per Tesla Vehicle Produced (Cubic meter)

Solar roofs for Tesla factories

That means: Even at the current status, a Tesla Model 3 in the USA produces around 60 percent less CO2 emissions than a combustion engine based on real data (and based on the assumptions mentioned). Tesla also points out that many owners charge their electric cars with electricity from their own photovoltaic systems, as is also available from Tesla. In this case, the pre-emissions increase (because solar modules also carry a CO2 backpack), but there is hardly any CO2 left for driving. Overall, according to Tesla, this leads to less than 100 grams per mile, which is about a fifth of the combustion value.

That alone is a step forward, as is the 60 percent reduction in net-store charging, but Tesla has even more plans for the future. A further improvement is likely to result solely from the fact that the electricity in the grid in the USA and elsewhere increasingly comes from renewable sources; in this way, electric car driving can almost automatically become cleaner year after year.

Solar panels mounted on the roof of Gigafactory Nevada – (photo by Tesla)

In addition, according to Tesla, as many superchargers as possible should be equipped with solar roofs and storage batteries. In addition, efforts are being made to install photovoltaics on as many roofs of factories worldwide as is feasible in practice. This has also been announced for the Gigafactory near Berlin, but is not yet part of the concrete plans for it that are known to date.

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10 months ago

There should be a solar roof requirement, at least for new buildings. We need 100% renewable energy in the network. Then the discussion about the CO2 output of BEVs in operation would be over.

5 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

That is how it is in Spain, every new building from 2020 has to have solar panels in it

10 months ago

Each private car stands on average 95% of the day. And there is still no talk of how sensible these trips are and to what extent the capacity of the private car is used. Knowing this, I think it is an outrage to speak of climate-friendly in connection with owning a private car. And then point to others who are also not climate-friendly. You take it out to have a dirt slingshot built for you like a Model 3. At the expense of the climate! And then you dare to accuse others. What kind of world do some people live in?

Raiden Shepard
Raiden Shepard
10 months ago
Reply to  Marie

If a Model 3 has driven 1 million km, it makes no difference whether it was a private car or one that was registered for a company. The extent to which it has produced less CO2 during this time depends on how the electricity was produced. We welcome everyone when fossils will soon no longer be burned to produce electricity. It would be pretty insolent if people remembered getting a new car that burned fossils for every km. If you want to make sure that no unnecessary trips are generally made, everyone must keep a logbook and this evidence must be checked to determine whether it is legally required. The commute to work would probably be part of it if there was no reasonable alternative by other means of transport. However, the whole thing loses importance when the travel power and the energy for the production of the car and the battery are almost free of CO2. We “need” a lot of things in life, the production of which leaves a large carbon footprint and we are happy to swap them for new ones faster, although the old ones still fulfill their function. If you call the Model 3 a slingshot, I assume that you have already changed your life and that you hardly own any industrial products.