A Thriller in Environmental Change

Chances are, many of us will recognize this dashing, extraordinary electric vehicle: Tesla. Founded in July 2003, this company has an ongoing mission to revolutionize the automobile and energy sectors. By enhancing sustainability efforts through the use of renewable energy, Tesla has the great potential to combat the effects of climate change by reducing reliance on nonrenewable energy sources.

Fossil Fuel Emissions

In an increasingly industrialized environment, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million to 416 parts per million in the last 150 years. These carbon emissions are largely associated with human activity, specifically with the burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, oil, etc.). In the United States, the greatest release of greenhouse gases (29%) comes from transportation.

Thus, Tesla ultimately aims to create a zero-emissions future by combining performance, safety, and efficiency in an all-electric vehicle. According to the 2018 Tesla Impact Report, over 550K vehicles had been sold, and they had been driven over ten billion miles; along with that, over four million metric tons of CO₂ were prevented from being released into the atmosphere. In fact, because several automobile companies have recognized the environmental risks posed by internal combustion engines (ICEs), more electric vehicles are being produced everyday.

The Role of Batteries

The heart of the Tesla vehicle’s energy source is its battery power. Electric vehicles typically use lithium-ion batteries, which are also used to charge smartphones and other electronic devices. These batteries are generally pretty efficient, having a lifespan of about eight to ten years.

Based on the 2018 Tesla Impact Report, Tesla’s Supercharger Network “has delivered over 595 Gigawatt-hours (GWHs) of energy, saving the equivalent of over 75M gallons of gasoline.” In addition, the company utilizes a battery recycling program, in which the materials are refined to be reused multiple times. This method reinforces the valuable qualities of recyclable materials since Tesla batteries were still operating at over 90% of their original capacity after 160,000 miles of recycled battery use (April 2018). At the same time, the Yale School of the Environment reported a serious decline in coal burning on a global scale in 2019. These statistics indicate significant change in the energy sector as more companies are looking up to the implementation of renewable energy sources.

Challenges and Future Directions

Although Tesla has taken groundbreaking steps to encourage the wide adoption of clean energy, various challenges continue to arise.

  • Battery Disposal

This is a serious concern among environmental scientists since improper battery disposal can generate toxic waste. However, Tesla is looking into how lithium-iron phosphate batteries can be incorporated into its vehicles since these batteries do not rely on cobalt – a rare and expensive element that contributes to the high cost of electric vehicle batteries and discourages recycling. On the other hand, 90% of cobalt-free batteries can be recycled, as well as making vehicle production more cost effective. 

  • Evaluation of electric vehicles versus conventional vehicles

Comparing the effectiveness of both types of cars can become complicated since several factors have to be taken into account. These include vehicle size, the way electricity emissions are calculated, driving patterns, and the geographical location where the vehicle is driven. In other words, there is not a set method to determine the efficiency of both vehicles in a variety of circumstances.

Nonetheless, Tesla continues to be a global icon in sustainability initiatives and in mitigating the negative consequences of climate change through innovative efforts.

Sources

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