Green Cars Are Not All That – As Their Price Indicates


In an ideal world we might fully price in the environmental damage caused by an activity by taxing it to the point of compensating beneficial activity. That would mean consumers could just buy stuff based on its relative price without and still be eco smug.

We aren’t there yet, and may never get there, but we do have some good work being done to start the process in Carbon Taxes. Indeed quite a lot of work can now be done into how much CO2 impact activities such as the production of electric car batteries has on the environment.

And so this:

For a Tesla battery of 75 kWh, this means an additional CO2 emission of 10 875 kg to 14 625 kg of CO2.

Now cars which need electricity to be generated also mean CO2 is produced in so doing. In the UK our above average clean electricity production runs at about 300g/kWh. (That’s a “Unit” of electricity on your domestic bill). Teslas do roughly 4 km per kWh, so they use electricity that outputs 75g CO2 per km.

Whereas petrol cars chuck out around 150g CO2 per km.

So we’ve got some fun maths here – roughly 12 extra tonnes of CO2 output in production vs saving 75g per km the car travels. At what point does the leccy car become CO2 greener than the petrol one?

The answer is somewhere around 150,000 km or 100,000 miles in English money. Which might reasonable be described as the entire life of a car.  That is in laymans terms “Never”.

Which brings us back to this – Electric Cars are blooming expensive to buy relative to petrol ones, which indicates that amount of work – i.e. a really rough estimate of environmental damage – done in making the darned things.

* All the maths was done on the back of a beermat without a calculator, but it’s broadly right.

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Bernie G.
Bernie G.

Visited the dealers yesterday and checked out the Jaguar I-Pace. For the same price I can buy a well spec’d F-Type convertible. No contest.

Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston

Which is why I buy second-hand cars and run them until they expire, squeezing every last CO2-equivalent out of them rather than throwing all that embedded CO2 away.