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

Amazon Aiming for Carbon-Neutrality

Amazon News. (February 4, 2020 ). Inventing Amazon’s electric delivery vehicle [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKpOE8eulXM

The two main threats that peril the existence of humankind are nuclear annihilation and climate change. Both of these crises can have a bad turnout for the worldwide population as neither are being controlled to the extent in which they should be. With the addition of the ever-growing change in climate, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have placed the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight. This clock, that measures the countdown to ultimate catastrophe or apocalypse, gives little wiggle worm for legislators and activists to revert the effects of both nuclear threats and climate change. Although the legislatures themselves should act more sturdily against these topics, it leaves major corporations in charge of changing their own companies for the better of the planet. One of the biggest corporations on the planet, Amazon, is making strides to help prevent further destruction of the planet. 

In 2019, Amazon announced its new plan for going carbon neutral by the year 2030.  This plan, called “Shipment Zero,” aims to “ reach 50% of all Amazon shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030.” (Amazon Dave Clark, 2019). However, even before the announcement of this project, Amazon had already made headway towards a sustainable future. In 2018, Amazon announced to make 50 “fulfillment facility rooftops worldwide” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2018). This includes the 11,700 solar panels put in place in the Fulfillment center located in Tracy, California. Even earlier, in 2017, Amazon placed a wind farm in western Texas to help the local communities in which they are located. It is reported that these farms will generate “1,000,000 MWh [megawatt-hour] of clean energy” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2017) to the surrounding areas; furthermore, this will provide energy to power homes and provide more jobs to the communities in the wind farm areas. 

Amazon News. (October 24, 2017). A Texas oil town learns to love wind [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=137&v=78RAkM-Q73Q&feature=emb_title

In addition to all these steps, Amazon has partnered with Global Optimism (another climate change organization that aims to cut carbon emission completely by 2050) to form “The Climate Pledge”, which is a “commitment to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early” (Climate Pledge, 2019).  The major car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, has joined “The Climate Pledge” with Amazon by “adding more than 1,800 electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans to its delivery fleet in Europe” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). 1,200 of these vehicles will include the eSprinter, the newest commercial van added to the collection of electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz. The remainder of the vans will be the smaller, mid-sized version of the eSprinter, called the eVito. Both of these options give access to all needs. The eSprinter will be used in larger more populated areas while the eVito will supply the needs of smaller areas that “require a smaller-format vehicle” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020).

Also in 2020, Amazon’s “The Climate Pledge” partnered with We Mean Business to “reduce carbon emissions worldwide” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). We Mean Business aims to support this project by trying to commit other companies, both large and small, to “The Climate Pledge”. They will work with the companies and their supply chain “to encourage suppliers to ramp up their climate goals” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). The CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, Maria Mendiluce said that in order for companies to reach the goal of carbon-neutral processing a pressure on the supply chain is needed and more “Nature-Based Solutions” are needed. Both of the companies are committed to providing resources to help raise awareness and provide companies to search for possible solutions to reach this goal of carbon-neutrality. One of the resources includes supporting and pushing the idea of a decarbonized economy, which is one of the goals that the United Nations Climate Change Conferences outlined in its campaign Race to Zero. Other resources include pushing all of the signatories involved in “The Climate Pledge” to set goals in the Science-Based Targets initiative. This initiative supports the idea of setting scientific targets for corporations to undergo carbon-neutrality.

Sources:

Unfccc.int, unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign.

Clark, Dave. “Delivering Shipment Zero, a Vision for Net Zero Carbon Shipments.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 9 Jan. 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/what-is-shipment-zero.

The Climate Pledge, http://www.theclimatepledge.com/.

“Current Time.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 23 Jan. 2020, thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/.

Daimler. “‘Ambition2039’: Our Path to Sustainable Mobility.” Daimler, 13 May 2019, http://www.daimler.com/investors/reports-news/financial-news/20190513-ambition-2039.html.

“Our Team of Optimists: Global Optimism.” Global Optimism, 9 Sept. 2020, globaloptimism.com/about-us/.

Staff, Day One. “Amazon Launches Largest Wind Farm Yet.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 9 May 2018, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/amazon-launches-largest-wind-farm-yet.

Staff, Day One. “The Climate Pledge and We Mean Business Partner to Reduce Carbon Emissions Worldwide.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 16 July 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/the-climate-pledge-and-we-mean-business-partner-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-worldwide.

Staff, Day One. “Mercedes-Benz Joins The Climate Pledge.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 28 Aug. 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/mercedes-benz-joins-the-climate-pledge.

Staff, Day One. “Sustainability by the Numbers.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 18 Apr. 2018, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/sustainability-by-the-numbers.“What Is a Science-Based Target?” Science Based Targets, sciencebasedtargets.org/what-is-a-science-based-target/.