Do you drive a Tesla? Does someone you know?

Tesla drivers are generally a self-satisfied lot. The cars have had a lot of well-publicized problems including battery fires and quality-control issues with doors, windows and other onboard systems. The battery range of about 275 miles is a bit confining for me; I often take trips of 300–400 miles.

But there is no denying that the body designs are great and the driving performance is superior. Acceleration is fast and the engine is almost silent. That’s a rare experience.

I always objected to the $7,500 tax credit per car. Whenever I saw a Tesla on the road, I always glared at the driver and thought, You owe me $7,500 because your credit came out of my taxes. That aside, I support innovation and free markets, so if someone wanted to build these cars and someone else wanted to buy them that was fine with me.

The one thing that was indisputable was that the cars reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions. Or do they?

According to this article, Teslas turn out to have more CO2 emissions than a typical “dirty” diesel engine. There are two main reasons for this.

The Tesla batteries are made from lithium, manganese and cobalt, which are mined with energy-intensive means that emit CO2. The batteries on the car are charged from the power grid, which is still largely coal fired (sorry, there’s not much wind or solar contributing to the grid). When these exogenous sources of CO2 are added to the equation, the Tesla is one of the dirtiest cars on earth.

Just remember that the next time you see one at a “clean” charging station. Tesla has financial and production problems, but being singled out as a “dirty car” that contributes to high CO2 emissions was probably not on management’s radar screen. Now it is.

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