Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tesla Motors – More Greenwashing in the “Green Economy”

Are power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels substantially less harmful to the environment? I still don’t know. After trawling through cyberspace and having read through a number of scientific papers that purport to offer the answer to just that question, it seems that electricity generation may deliver less CO2 than the equivalent power generation by a gasoline powered car engine. However, when you add the emissions from the power plant used to generate the electricity that powers Tesla Motors sporty 125 mph top speed electric Roadster to the emissions generated in building the car and throw in the higher energy cost and carbon footprint impact of disposal of an electric vehicle drivetrain, over its lifetime a ¾ ton low sulphur diesel pick-up truck comes out ahead on environmental impact. The recent defeat of a Toyota Prius by a diesel BMW 520 in an mpg showdown underlines the real green-power of clean diesel. In fairness to Tesla Motors, they claim to have already identified a company that will recycle the lithium-ion battery packs after their intended 100,000 mile life-span and built the recycling cost into the vehicle’s MRSP of approximately $ 100,000.

The vehicle has received DOT approvals and passed all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, although Tesla have not released information on how it faired in these tests other than Vice President of Vehicle Integration, Malcolm Powell rather aptly noting, "I always find it interesting when people say, 'Isn't it dangerous carrying all those batteries around?' Well I don’t know about you, but I’d rather carry a load of relatively inert battery cells than 10 gallons of highly volatile, flammable liquid". Exactly 6,381 lithium-ion battery cells, of the same sort that you will find in your laptop or mobile phone, will power the car. The car will allegedly have a 200 mile range on an estimated 3.5 hour charge. Producing some 248 HP, peak torque from a standing start right up through 13,000 rpm, and a top speed of 125 mph, this two-seater loosely based on the Lotus Elise will make the Toyota Prius look like what it is, the car of dweebs.

But is it “green”? Tellingly, the company was the brain-child of Silicon Valley dotcom start-up uber-geeks, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who allied themselves with Elon Musk, of PayPal fame, back in 2003 to form the company. Neither Eberhard nor Tarpenning are still with the company but the dotcom bravado marketeering that has made successful IPOs out of so much hot air has served Telsa well. After substantial delays in production and a shake-up last year that saw CEO Eberhard replaced by Ze’ev Drori, the company has allegedly sold the first 100 vehicles that it will only begin making this month, despite the fact that they will be produced with “temporary” transmissions that substantially diminish performance. The Roadster has been successfully pitched to the media and public as “green” and, based on the claim of $ 10 million in sales prior to production starting, it may well make Musk, Drori and others plenty of green, regardless.

The Bloated Plutocrat is enthusiastic. He writes, “Smart little car. 248 HP chucking 2700 lbs of sportscar around corners sounds like fun to me. Glad to see a group of entrepreneurs building a business that also makes environmental sense. That’s the way to save the environment. Let the markets lead the way. It’s democratic and rational. It’s not like these unwashed, ill-shaven hippies running around screaming about the Kyoto Treaty and all that nonsense. When people believe that new technologies and new products will deliver positive environmental change, they will adjust purchasing habits accordingly and the markets will deliver. It won’t exactly hurt the coal and oil stocks with fossil fuel still firing the power grid, but if it makes some people happy and other people money, there can’t be much harm in it.”

The Bleeding Heart has a different take on the issue, and almost refused to comment after my posting The Times article about a BMW 520d beating the pants off a Toyota Prius, but he is pleased about news of Tesla beginning production. “Given the government’s collusion with automakers, oil companies, and the tri-lateral commission, it’s amazing that Tesla ever got its Roadster off the drawing board, let alone into production. I can only imagine the merry dance they were led on trying to meet what were undoubtedly the moving goalposts of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as a last-ditch effort to stymie production of this revolutionary vehicle. With more of these vehicles in the pipeline, soon we can end our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse emissions, reverse global warming, and change the world!"
Cool ? Yes. Green? Well,.....maybe

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