What Happens To Tesla’s Old Electric Car Batteries?

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Buy a Tesla and you’ll be saving the environment—that’s the story we’re being told. But how realistic is that really? Is the Tesla truly that green? The results from Devonshire Research Group might surprise you.

Devonshire, which specializes in valuing tech companies, recently dug into the data and concluded that Tesla’s environmental benefits are exaggerated. Tesla—like all electric vehicles—still creates pollution and carbon emissions in other, less obvious ways.

A Tesla doesn’t need gas, but depending on how your local grid operates, it might still get its energy from burning carbon. Of course, that changes if your local grid operates heavily on renewable solar and wind energy. And let’s not forget the energy it takes to produce a gallon of gasoline. When you factor that in, “an electric car like the Model S has almost four times lower CO2 per mile than an equivalent gas-powered car,” one Tesla spokesperson says, according to Wired.

That math may be in favor of electric vehicles, but what happens when you consider the materials used to construct them? Teslas are full of high-performing metals. The lithium in the vehicle’s batteries makes it light and conductive, and there are other metals distributed throughout the car. Those metals typically come from environmentally destructive mines—the case for all electric cars (and solar panels for that matter). Rare metals require moving a lot more earth to obtain—and mining has hidden emissions like carbon dioxide.

When it comes to manufacturing an electric vehicle, more carbon emissions are generated than building a conventional car, the Union of Concerned Scientists found.

There’s little question that scientists would still come out in favor of electric vehicles; over the course of its life, EVs generate half the emissions of a conventional car. But what about after that ‘lifetime” is over?

Fortunately, your Tesla will never end up in the landfill. Battery recyclers are piloting new technology to recover a lot of the materials in their batteries. With the size of a Tesla battery, some creative solutions are needed to find efficient and cost-effective recycling processes. At present, only a few companies specialize in recycling lithium batteries.

The more batteries are out there, the easier they will become to recycle—they can be used for energy storage, for example. And Tesla already recycles battery packs returned to it.

The bottom line? The Tesla is better for the environment than a conventional car, but it’s important that we take our thinking a step forward and consider the impacts of the products we’re making.

Source: Wired, Tree Hugger

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