How is it possible an all-electric car could cause more pollution than a standard gasoline-powered vehicle?
According to a recent report in Bloomberg, a Tesla Model S may indirectly cause more pollution than a BMW 320i in Hong Kong, where more than half its power generation relies on coal. The city’s Environmental Protection Department said that about 53 percent of Hong Kong’s power is generated from coal as of 2012, compared with about 22 percent each for nuclear and natural gas. In mainland China, that number gets higher with coal accounting for over 60 percent of primary energy.
As a result, the energy required to charge a Tesla Model S causes almost 20 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline-fueled motors, says Neil Beveridge, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
Over a lifetime of 93,205 miles (150,000 kilometers), a Tesla Model S in Hong Kong may result in the release of 4.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide more than a BMW 320i, after you take into account the carbon intensity of the city’s power generation and the production of the car battery, in addition to crude oil extraction, transportation and refining.
Naturally, these numbers change if a country or city relies on other forms of energy generation that are less polluting.
“Electric vehicles only make sense in countries where the carbon intensity of electricity generation is low,” said Beveridge in a report. “In Hong Kong, and more broadly China, electric vehicles are increasing rather than reducing pollution, with taxpayers effectively being asked to subsidize this.”
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