Tech Study: Elon Musk’s Tesla Is NOT As Green As Once Believed

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A leading tech investment firm is asserting that Tesla’s all-electric, all-green brand is at risk of taking a massive hit once its environmentally conscious customer base realizes its electric vehicles (EV) are responsible for pumping out more carbon emissions than a conventional gas-powered vehicle.

According to Devonshire Research Group, an investment firm specializing in valuing and devaluing tech companies, Tesla EV are “not as sustainable as they may seem.” — which, unfortunately for the company’s CEO, techno-wonder boy Elon Musk, could expose the company to “serious brand risk and an unknown legal exposure.”

According to the March 21 report, everything about the Tesla — from its headlights, to its chassis, to the way it is produced — creates massive damage to the environment.

Tesla, as insiders explain, has to rely on lightweight structures to maintain its sustainable credibility. And one of the best ways to accomplish this feat, the company has wagered, is through the use of a massive lithium ion battery.

Lithium ion batteries soak up energy equaling about 1.6 kilograms of oil per kg of battery produced. They also rank dead last in greenhouse gas emissions, ratcheting up to 12.5kg of carbon emissions equivalent emitted per kg of battery.

Lithium is a rare metal, making it difficult and time-consuming to discover and produce. Mining it results in staggeringly negative side effects for both the environment and those producing the metals that will eventually go into making Tesla products, but more on that later.

Tesla vehicles, primarily through the use of the lithium battery, cause more pollution during their production stage than gas-powered automobiles, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group in favor of environmental causes, though gasoline-powered vehicles cause around twice as many emissions over their years of service. Teslas also create 86 percent more deaths from air pollution than conventional vehicles, Devonshire points out.

These statistics, Devonshire’s report notes, eat into the efficacy of Tesla’s sustainability claims and its brand credibility.

There are other rare metals such as cobalt and nickel peppered throughout Tesla’s fleet of vehicles — their headlights and on-board electrical systems, for instance, are all made of precious metals that are difficult and dangerous to mine.

Tesla contains a whopping 18 pounds of cobalt throughout its entire battery, Devonshire’s research shows. It is considered deadly at 20 milligrams.

Worse still, the mining of cobalt, an ABT Associates study found, leads to debilitating health effects to those exposed — “respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological effects” are cited as just a few examples.

The mining of these metals is ultimately where the fossil-burning, carbon emitting, environment degrading, action really takes place, according to Devonshire’s report.

In the Jiangxi, a rare metal mine in China, workers hollow out massive holes in the ground and pour in ammonium sulfate (which was allegedly used as a component in explosives for terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan before its ban in 2009) to dissolve the hard clay lying beneath.

The muck and grime remaining is washed in acid, baked in a kiln, and then used to make all the parts that go into a Tesla. The wallowing out of the mine’s clay is aided, of course, by massive fossil fuel-powered earth-moving equipment like backhoes, excavators, and bulldozers.

China’s graphite mines are destructive to the environment as well, Devonshire points out, ultimately causing outbreaks of lead poisoning, acid spills and heavy smog in the country.

Only 2 percent of the stuff pulled out of the Jiangxi mine is used on Tesla’s parts, according to WIRED, who published an extensive report fleshing out some of Devonshire’s findings. The other 98 percent of the now-badly contaminated muck, mud, and refuse is then shoveled back into the ground, causing more environmental damage.

The investment firm concluded its report by asking if the monolithic lithium batteries can be recycled once they reach the end of their life cycle.

Well, according to Tech Metals Insider, which is run by precious metals market analyst group, Kitco, the answer is … not really.

Tech Metals Insider found that the recovery rate – or the recyclable rate – for lithium ion batteries is in the single digit percentages, even for wealthy first world countries. In fact, most of these highly combustible, poison-leaching batteries end up in landfills.

Devonshire’s conclusion:

Elon Musk better tread lightly, as the technology he is creating (all-electric, lithium battery-powered vehicles) could well become a future bugbear for environmentalist global warming fear-mongers.

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