Would You Believe a Tesla Model S Causes More Pollution Than a BMW 3 Series?

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

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.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Categorized as a ‘High Polluter’ in Singapore

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.”

[Source: Bloomberg]

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Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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3 of 88 comments
  • RWS RWS on Apr 26, 2016

    CO2 is NOT a pollutant. CO and NOx are.

  • Gregg Fritz Gregg Fritz on May 14, 2016

    This is why we can't launch mass electric cars quickly. Our infrastructure for electrical distribution is predominantly coal based. Nuclear is the only way you can power mass electric vehicles, and well that is proving to be not such a great idea either...

    • BruceofCanuckistan BruceofCanuckistan on Jul 12, 2017

      They hold several days of charge now even for the 90% percentile commuter. So they could be charged using solar and wind, as power is available, if you have a smart grid, and widespread charging stations, and...