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Tesla Motors' Dirty Little Secret Is a Major Problem
The Motley Fool ^ | 1/19/2014 | Katie Spence

Posted on 01/20/2014 6:22:29 PM PST by logi_cal869

Energy independence, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, lower fuel costs: All of these promises are factors behind the rise in electric vehicles' popularity. Unfortunately, they're more fiction than fact. Here's why, and how it could affect companies like Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) .

Do you want cancer with that battery?
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy undertook a study to look at the environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries for EVs. The study showed that batteries that use cathodes with nickel and cobalt, as well as solvent-based electrode processing, have the highest potential for environmental impacts, including resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity, and human health. The largest contributing processes include those associated with the production, processing, and use of cobalt and nickel metal compounds, which may cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological effects in those exposed. 

Tesla Model S base. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In other words, li-ion batteries that contain nickel and cobalt have a significant effect on health and the environment. More specifically, this includes Panasonic's automotive grade li-ion batteries, which contain lithium, nickel, cobalt , and aluminum, and a proprietary cathode geometry developed jointly by Panasonic and Tesla -- and are currently used in the Model S.

Exchanging one energy dependency for another

The above sounds bad, right? It gets worse. One of the big pushes behind "green" vehicles is the goal of reducing the country's energy dependence. Consequently, when considering battery-powered vehicles that rely on lithium, it's important to ask where the lithium comes from.

Salar Brine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The answer? Not America. That's not to say America doesn't have lithium, it does, but most of the lithium that America uses is imported from other countries. Precisely, according to the 2013 U.S. Geological Survey, from 2008-2011 America's import sources were: Argentina, 52%; Chile, 44%; and China, 3%. This necessarily leads to the next question, "Why does America prefer to rely on imported lithium?"

Simply put, lithium, in its pure form, doesn't occur naturally on Earth. So in order to obtain it, it must be mined through hard rock or salar brines. More importantly, salar brines -- the most economical and popular way of obtaining lithium -- destroy the environment. Friends of the Earth, Europe states:

The extraction of lithium has significant environmental and social impacts, especially due to water pollution and depletion. In addition, toxic chemicals are needed to process lithium. The release of such chemicals through leaching, spills or air emissions can harm communities, ecosystems and food production. Moreover, lithium extraction inevitably harms the soil and also causes air contamination.

And, the European Commission on Science for Environmental Policy states that "[lithium's] continued use needs to be monitored, especially as lithium mining's toxicity and location in places of natural beauty can cause significant environmental, health, and social impacts." 

A bleak outlook
Clearly, the above isn't great news for those who are concerned about the environment beyond their backyards. And it's not the only bad news for EVs. The EPA found that when looking at life-cycle impact assessments, categories such as global warming potential, acidification potential (transformation of air pollutants into acids), eutrophication potential (water pollution often leading to excessive water weed/algae growth), ozone depletion potential, photochemical oxidation potential (air pollution), human toxicity potential, occupation cancer hazard, and occupational non-cancer hazard, the only time an EV battery scored better than a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle's battery is in the category that measures potential for global warming.  

Unfortunately, the EPA added this statement about global warming potential: "GWP benefit only appears when the electricity grid relies less on coal production and more on natural gas and renewables. ... Accordingly, in regions where the grid is more heavily coal-centric, the study results suggest that PHEV-40 vehicles may be preferable if global warming impacts are highly valued." 

Obviously, that's bad news for EVs, which brings us back to Tesla. Tesla's made a name for itself as the future of "green" cars, and as of the time of this writing, its stock price is trading as if that's true. However, according to Climate Central, in 46 states Tesla's Model S is the least climate-friendly EV, and it's worse than all but two hybrids when it comes to CO2 emissions over 100,000 miles of driving. When you couple that with the above information from the EPA, it's clear that Tesla isn't nearly as "green" as it wants you to believe.

What to watch
EVs sound promising on the surface, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, they're not nearly as environmentally friendly as they seem, nor do they help America become energy independent. Further, thanks to its battery, the Model S is even less environmentally friendly than most other EVs. As such, it doesn't meet the requirements for "green car of the future," which means Tesla's high stock price may be unsustainable in the long term.

Yes, the Model S is a nice car -- it should be for what you pay for it -- but the future of green technology? Not without a major overhaul of its battery. Further, if you're looking for an environmentally friendly car,, part of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, lists Toyota Motor's (NYSE: TM  ) Prius C as the Greenest Vehicle of 2013. It's closely followed by Honda Motor's (NYSE: HMC  ) Fit, and Volkswagen's (NASDAQOTH: VLKAY  ) Jetta Hybrid. Consequently, if you're looking for your next truly green auto stock, you may want to steer clear of Tesla Motors. Or, if you're just looking for an environmentally friendly ride, I'd take a closer look at the above three vehicles. 

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Michigan
KEYWORDS: automakers; ecopalypse; efv; energy; lithiumbattery; michigan; tesla
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I already knew this, including the finite supply of economically-recoverable lithium, which isn't really covered in the article and a whole separate story, as the environmental side of all EV battery tech is on the other side of the curtain.

The article was linked via Yahoo, surprisingly, as they are typically a shill for Tesla spin. (imho) Furthermore, The Motley Fool asserts that they own Tesla stock. It's not very objective, but touches on all the subjects avoided by mindless bots & deserves to dwell among the pool of propaganda. (again, imho)

(Note: My parents made the foray into EV/Hybrids with a Nissan Hybrid 5-6 years ago. The performance was subjective and the gas powerplant had issues the dealer wouldn't address (valvetrain noise during the 5th year). My father was ready to drop on a new Nissan, but he felt slighted by the dealer and went with a climate-changing Honda instead that, ironically, is getting better mileage than the Nissan Hybrid without the intense heat of the batteries in the backseat (impossibly uncomfortable for passengers unless it's COLD outside). He was drawn to the Tesla, but once he read up on all the counter-claims, i.e., non-Tesla-produced information, some courtesy of yours-truly, he opted not, despite a shiny new network of Federally-paid-for Supercharger stations up & down I5.)

1 posted on 01/20/2014 6:22:29 PM PST by logi_cal869
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To: logi_cal869
Recent developments show lithiated manganese batteries (LMD) are the most stable, highest powered and quickly rechargeable technologies available.
2 posted on 01/20/2014 6:29:27 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks ("Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.")
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To: logi_cal869

Personally don’t believe the Earth is so fragile that I make it ill by driving an old Ford pick em up truck.

I seriously doubt we will ever support the environmentalist culture with our dollars buying a hybrid, or EV. Neither seem to be all that great a deal to our perspective.

3 posted on 01/20/2014 6:42:38 PM PST by rockinqsranch (Dems, Libs, Socialists, call 'em what you will. They ALL have fairies livin' in their trees.)
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To: logi_cal869
The author didn't even address the problems of other rare earth elements in EV production as well as "alternative" energy production.

From two years ago:

Threat of Rare Earths Shortages to Hybrids and EVs Remains Unclear

According to a recently-released Department of Energy report (PDF), several clean energy technologies—including electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles—are at risk due to the “critical risk” posed by short-term supply disruptions in the rare earth elements market. The DOE’s newly release report, titled “2011 Critical Materials Strategy,” outlines several components, including five rare earth metals, that it says will face severe supply challenges in the years that lie ahead.

According to the report, five rare earth metals—dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium—were found to be in critically low supply in the short term (2012–2015.) These rare earth metals are typically found in magnets used in today’s wind turbines, electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Supply of other elements, including cerium, indium, lanthanum and tellurium—were found to be near-critical in the short and medium term (2015–2025.)

4 posted on 01/20/2014 6:47:10 PM PST by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Batteries are batteries, there are fundamental limits as to how efficient we can make them, and even at that limit, they won’t work to make a truly useful vehicle.

We’re never going to see a battery that stores 1/10th of the energy of combustible fuels per weight, or that charges in 1/10th the time that it takes to fill up a fuel tank.

If we’re going to see electric that are as capable as internal combustion, we’re going to need something very different than batteries. (Hydrogen fuel cells? Super capacitors? Something else? I have no idea. But it won’t be chemical batteries.)

5 posted on 01/20/2014 6:48:02 PM PST by jdege
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To: logi_cal869

Tesla can’t exactly be blamed for this (though their customers might want to dial their sanctimony back a notch) — but we should not forget that these cars are ultimately powered, in large part, by coal.

6 posted on 01/20/2014 6:50:59 PM PST by southernnorthcarolina ("The power to tax is the power to destroy." -- Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819)
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To: jdege
Count me as a fan of combustible fuels !
7 posted on 01/20/2014 6:51:36 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks ("Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.")
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

Exactly. That’s why I asserted it was a whole separate story altogether.

You may have seen this. If not, here-go:

8 posted on 01/20/2014 6:54:43 PM PST by logi_cal869
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To: southernnorthcarolina

Coal is 37% and dropping fast nationally.
Nat gas and the Baraqqi regime are making sure of that.
And coal not much of a factor at all where most Tesla’s are sold.

Having said that, I’ve felt Tesla stock was a slam dunk short but am afraid to do it because of Musk’s relationship to the regime. It’s dangerous to be against crony capitalism.

9 posted on 01/20/2014 6:58:28 PM PST by nascarnation (I'm hiring Jack Palladino to investigate Baraq's golf scores.)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Only piston engines over 300 HP here.

10 posted on 01/20/2014 6:58:49 PM PST by dalereed
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To: logi_cal869
CleanCar photo IDriveACleanCar.jpg
11 posted on 01/20/2014 7:00:04 PM PST by preacher (I am not a global warming hoax denier.)
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To: logi_cal869

I’ll buy a Telsa when they make a Suburban like SUV that will tow 7000 pounds. Until then, Telsa is an overprice golf cart.

12 posted on 01/20/2014 7:06:44 PM PST by ExCTCitizen (2014theyearofdeadRINOs)
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To: preacher; geologist; thackney; All

Your graphic raises the question: “ What is the true gasoline mileage of a car that runs on electricity generated by an electrical power station that uses crude oil to generate electricity?

13 posted on 01/20/2014 7:10:44 PM PST by Graewoulf (Democrats' Obamacare Socialist Health Insur. Tax violates U.S. Constitution AND Anti-Trust Law.)
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To: logi_cal869

Green used to be a color.

Now it is just a word that means stupid, impractical, politically correct, feckless.

14 posted on 01/20/2014 7:19:02 PM PST by editor-surveyor (Freepers: Not as smart as I'd hoped they'd be)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

But is it out of the lab yet? I’ve not been following it for a while; I’ll have to look it up. I’ve been saying for years that Lithium tech was short-lived, almost frothing at the mouth over all the taxpayer $$ that went to all these alternative energy (A123, among others) manufacturers that have come & gone. GM was the last straw.

Preacher’s graphic has it right. This is what we get when emotion trumps science.

Liberals/Progs: We all know they’re F.I.N.E. to the point of putrescence. But I’m at odds what the coming years are to bring...

15 posted on 01/20/2014 7:19:15 PM PST by logi_cal869
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Further, if you're looking for an environmentally friendly car,, part of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, lists Toyota Motor's (NYSE: TM ) Prius C as the Greenest Vehicle of 2013. It's closely followed by Honda Motor's Fit,..

The Honda Fit is a GASOLINE vehicle! Even the greentards at admit that the BEST EV/Hybrid isn't much greener than a gas powered car.

16 posted on 01/20/2014 7:24:43 PM PST by Henchster (Free Republic - the BEST site on the web!)
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To: preacher
I had this idea many years ago:

17 posted on 01/20/2014 7:24:53 PM PST by RandallFlagg (IRS = Internal Revenge Service)
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To: logi_cal869
Thanks…just read / skimmed the whole document. It certainly seems to be the authoritative report on recoverable deposits around the word. It is quite a condemnation of the folly of powering luxury cars with LiIon batteries. Section 5.3 Environmental and Ecological Factors, says it all...

Lithium is a rare and scarce metal found only in significant quantities in two remote, unspoiled and fragile parts of the Earth: the Andes and Tibet. The Salar de Uyuni is quite justifiably recognised as a Natural Wonder of the World. To extract enough Lithium to meet even 10% of global automotive demand would cause irreversible and widespread damage to these environments, that have taken millennia to form. On the other hand, the alternative and superior battery technologies of ZnAir and Zebra (NaNiFeCl) depend on common metals and materials that are already the mainstay of industrial civilisation and found ubiquitously.

The concept of the “Green Car” is incompatible with the fact that if LiIon batteries are used to propel it, it will be produced at the expense of two of the most fragile and beautiful ecosystems that are left on this planet. The degradation of the salars and effects on their wildlife will be hard to defend and justify, when it was completely avoidable by using metals that are already well established in our industrial infrastructure.

It would be irresponsible to despoil these regions for a material which can only ever be produced in sufficient quantities to serve a niche market of luxury vehicles for the top end of the market. We live in an age of Environmental Responsibility where the folly of the last two hundred years of despoilment of the Earth’s resources are clear to see. We cannot have “Green Cars” that have been produced at the expense of some of the world’s last unspoiled and irreplaceable wilderness.

18 posted on 01/20/2014 7:28:29 PM PST by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: logi_cal869

dependency on liquid fuel is the real problem.

EVs running on coal, very good.

19 posted on 01/20/2014 7:33:08 PM PST by RockyTx
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To: RockyTx

I’ll have mine hooked up to a bald eagle, spotted owl, Califonria Condor chopping windmill!

20 posted on 01/20/2014 7:54:44 PM PST by Dogbert41 (Up yours NSA !)
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