2022 is a really interesting year to buy a Tesla because this is the first time ever that Tesla is putting three different batteries in their vehicles. Many people are unaware that they’re even doing this. It’s important to know the difference. In this article, we’ll explain Tesla’s three different batteries and how they compare to each other so that you can make the best buying decision for your Tesla.
Tesla Battery #1
Let’s take a look at Tesla’s first battery option: the Nickel Cobalt Aluminum (NCA).
The 18650 Battery
Nearly a decade ago, Tesla began utilizing battery cells called “the 18650” which Panasonic manufactured for the Model S and Model X. The battery name comes from the dimensions of the cells, which are 18 millimeters in diameter and 65 millimeters in length and the overall size is slightly larger than your standard AA battery.
The Model S and Model X are still equipped with these battery cells to this day, with a single vehicle battery pack containing thousands of these cells.
The 2170 Battery
A few years later, in 2017, with the launch of the Model 3, Tesla and Panasonic developed a new and improved type of battery cell called “the 2170” which is 21 millimeters by 70 millimeters and can store a lot more energy than its predecessor.
According to Elon Musk at the time, it was the highest energy density cell in the world and also the cheapest. The 2170 cell is around 50% larger by volume than the 18650, but it can deliver almost double the current. The 2170 battery cell is currently what’s used in all of the dual-motor variants of the Model 3 and Model Y.
Both of these battery cells are considered NCA batteries. This battery chemistry produces some challenges to Tesla, from the ethical dilemma of mining for cobalt to the high cost of nickel which recently spiked to 100,000 per metric ton and ironically made the value of an actual nickel coin worth more than a dime.
Things to Consider about NCA Batteries
Currently, the Model S, Model X, and dual motor variants of Model 3 and Model Y are all powered by NCA batteries, which leads to some things to consider when owning any of these vehicles.
90% Max Charge Limit for Daily Driving
First, you only have a 90% max charge limit for daily driving with an NCA battery because that can lead to quicker and more severe battery degradation. Because of this, your daily driving range is only 90% of whatever the actual EPA estimated ranges for your vehicle.
For example, suppose you have a performance Model Y with an estimated range of 303 miles. In that case, you can actually expect about 30 miles less than that for your daily driving. You’ll only charge to 100% when you’re about to go on a long road trip and when you need that full range. I personally charge my Long Range Model 3 to 80% for my daily driving, which is why I’m a big proponent of EVs with at least 300 miles of range because you’re not going to get that full range all the time.
These NCA batteries are also more expensive to manufacture because of the cost of nickel and cobalt which usually leads to the actual vehicles themselves being more expensive. We’ve seen this play out over the past year as Tesla has steadily increased the prices of their dual-motor vehicles with some models increasing by upwards of $10,000. This brings us to the next battery that Tesla recently began using.
Tesla Battery #2
Let’s go through Tesla’s second battery option: Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LFP). The first Teslas with these batteries were the vehicles made in China, but they have now made their way to Europe and the US. Currently, Tesla says they’re putting LFP batteries in all single-motor models which are now simply called Rear-Wheel-Drive on Tesla’s website. Right now, there is only one vehicle in the US that comes in a rear-wheel-drive option – the base Model 3.
These new rear-wheel-drive models started shipping in late 2021, but there’s a new secret: Model Y could be coming soon, which may have an LFP battery pack.
To check if your Tesla has an LFP battery, open the charging menu on the touchscreen and go to Set Limit. If the battery image displays “50%” and “100%”, your vehicle has an LFP battery. If the battery image displays “Daily” and “Trip”, your vehicle is not equipped with an LFP battery.
What are theBenefits of LFPCompared to NCA?
LFP Tends to be Cheaper
First and foremost, LFP batteries are iron-based. They tend to be cheaper because they contain no nickel or cobalt. Their energy density is lower. These make them an excellent fit for the lower-priced, lower-performing single-motor vehicles while keeping the cost down for both Tesla and the customer. They’re also usually easier and faster to produce.
100% Max Charge Limit for Daily Driving
The other advantage is that you can charge LFP batteries to 100% even for your daily driving without any negative effects on battery degradation, which gives you the maximum estimated range all of the time. This allows most people to get by with a smaller battery pack compared to NCA.
The only downside is that regenerative braking is reduced while driving with a fully charged battery. Hence, until the battery drains a bit, you’ll get a slightly lower driving efficiency. You can daily charge to the maximum capacity because LFP batteries have a memory, which is a weird quirk of battery chemistry and physics. The battery will sort of forget that it can charge beyond a certain limit if you don’t keep reminding it that it can charge up to 100%. It’s kind of strange.
LFP Offers Safety and Longevity
The other advantages of LFP batteries are safety and longevity. In general, lithium-iron-phosphate batteries do not explode or ignite. They’re not entirely exempt from thermal runaway as they share the same structure as lithium-ion batteries, but if a short circuit were to happen, bigger fires are more likely in high nickel batteries because nickel emits more energy than LFP batteries.
LFP chemistry also usually offers a longer cycle life than other lithium-ion chemistries. Under most conditions, it supports more than 3,000 cycles. Under optimal conditions, it supports more than 10,000 cycles which is great if you plan to keep the car for a very long time.
The biggest downsides of LFP batteries are the cold weather effects and weight. They’re heavier than NCA batteries, which will lead to more wear and tear on tires and slightly less efficiency. Their range tends to decrease slightly more in cold temperatures compared to NCA.
Even with these small downsides, you can clearly see why Tesla has implemented these batteries in some other vehicles.
Tesla Battery #3
Last but not least, the most anticipated Tesla battery is the 4680 Tabless cell which was announced in 2020 at Tesla’s Battery Day event. This new battery is expected to change the future of electric cars by massively scaling battery production and producing bigger cells that cost less.
This new battery will have simpler manufacturing and fewer parts with five times the amount of energy, 16% more range, six times the power, and faster Supercharging.
These benefits are the core to what will move Tesla toward their overall mission making their vehicles more affordable, travel further and charge faster. These batteries also come with a brand new vehicle architecture that starts with single-piece castings of high pressure die cast aluminum for the front and rear. These new structural batteries are Tesla’s first ever dual-use-battery, used as an energy device and as a structure to the car. These structural batteries improve mass and range.
When all of this is done, Tesla can cut the price per kWh in half and increase vehicle range by nearly 54%. Tesla’s brand new 1.1 billion dollar factory in Austin will serve as the main hub for producing these new 4680 batteries and the new structural vehicles, of which, the Model Y will be the first vehicle to get these features.
Earlier this year, Tesla confirmed that it had started to produce the Model Y at the Texas Gigafactory. Eventually, it will produce the Cybertruck, Semi Truck, and Model 3. Although there haven’t been any confirmed 4680 deliveries yet, hundreds of Model Ys have recently been spotted in the lots of the Texas Gigafactory, so it should be very soon.
You now know the differences between all three battery chemistries that Tesla is offering this year, so hopefully, you can make a more informed decision on which vehicle you buy.
We all know that lithium has become the absolute rock star of modern-day energy storage, leaving its close relations in relative obscurity.
But lithium is by no means an inexhaustible resource on our planet. There are only four countries in the world with large reserves – Argentina, Chile, Australia, and China.
China is importing most of the lithium it uses anyway to hoard its own supply ready for when the rest of the world runs out.
Sodium Beats Lithium
The world may well run out if we don’t get our recycling and repurposing systems sorted out properly in the coming years. An average electric vehicle has about 10 kg of lithium in its battery pack. According to PV Magazine, if EV sales continue to rise as expected, there’ll be 3 billion of them on the roads by 2040, and we’ll have got through pretty much all of the existing 26 million tonnes of lithium available today.
It’s pretty difficult to extract, too, requiring large amounts of carbon-heavy energy and causing lots of undesirable environmental impacts. Plus, most lithium-ion batteries require other rare elements like cobalt, which is mainly sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo with all the environmental and human rights issues that you’ve no doubt heard about.
By contrast, lithium’s less sexy sibling, sodium, is abundantly available all over the place. There’s more than 1,000 times more sodium in the earth’s crust than lithium. It’s a constituent part of sodium chloride, of course, salt.
It’s actually mostly mined from soda ash, but in any case, as the sixth most abundant element on the planet, it’s pretty easy to get hold of, compared to lithium.
Why Weren’t Sodium-Ion Batteries Rather than Lithium-Ion in the First Place?
Since the sodium-ion battery is safer, cheaper and cleaner than lithium-ion, why it wasn’t sodium rather than lithium that became the darling of electrochemical engineers worldwide and why our modern lifestyles aren’t all powered by sodium-ion batteries instead of lithium-ion.
That’s a very good question. It looks like the world’s biggest battery maker, CATL of China, agrees with you because they’ve just revealed a sodium-ion battery that challenges existing lithium-ion technology for energy density and longevity, which could genuinely revolutionize the future of energy storage.
So, why didn’t CATL and all the other battery firms just use sodium in the first place?
It wasn’t quite as straightforward as our scientific friends may have hoped for.
Basics of Sodium-Ion and Lithium-Ion Batteries
The basics of the two battery types are very similar.
There are two electrodes and two charge collectors, one negative and one positive, which sit on either side of an electrolytic solution with a separator membrane in the middle to block the flow of electrons inside the battery.
As the system charges up, the lithium or sodium atoms release electrons which flow out from the cathode and through the electrical circuit to the anode on the other side where they’re physically captured within the anodes’ structure. Meanwhile, the lithium or sodium ions travel across the electrolyte to reach the same destination.
When the system is connected to a device, the stored electrons move back out of the battery, producing an electrical current that powers the device before returning to its original position in the cathode.
The ions move back across the electrolyte to join them.
Disadvantages of Sodium-Ion Batteries
The main drawback of using sodium instead of lithium was energy density and weight. Sodium-ion batteries achieved something like 150 Wh/kg, compared to well over 200 Wh/kg for lithium-ion batteries. That’s a competitive disadvantage that our market-driven economies simply would not tolerate at the time.
Sodium ions are three times heavier, too. Even though the sodium component accounted for only about 5% of the overall battery weight, it still made them heavier than their lithium-based cousins.
They’re also physically larger than lithium-ions, which meant they couldn’t move freely between layers in a graphite anode in the way that lithium-ions could, so the insertion and extraction of sodium ions into and out of the electrodes put higher demands on whichever material was used.
As the largest battery producer globally, CATL has always been at the forefront of research and development. With more than 5,000 people in a dedicated R&D team and state-of-the-art computer simulation technology, they’re constantly searching for more sustainable ways of producing these essential products, mindful of the finite nature of the resources available.
For example, they’re already making lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for all the Tesla cars sold in China. Those batteries also have a lower energy density than standard lithium-ion batteries, but importantly, they don’t contain any cobalt.
Rivian and Tesla have announced that it’ll be switching over to lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for all of its standard production vehicles worldwide, so it’s not difficult to imagine that CATL is taking incremental steps towards replacing lithium-based batteries altogether.
Sodium-Ion Battery Progress
Back in July 2021, CATL launched the first generation of their sodium-ion battery technology, with an energy density of 160 Wh/kg and a 0 to 80% charge time of just 15 minutes. The primary point of difference with this newer technology was in the materials used for the electrodes. The cathode material is something called Prussian White.
According to science, bods is a fully reduced and sodiated form of Prussian Blue with a high working capacity, high theoretical capacity, and low toxicity, which circumvents the need for a reactive sodium-loaded anode in cell assembly.
Suffice to say, Prussian White is a very cheap, easily produced, non-toxic material with good discharge rates and an ability to maintain a capacity as high as 95% after 10,000 cycles, which makes it a very attractive option for a battery cathode.
Over on the anode side, which in lithium-ion batteries is generally made of graphite, CATL has developed a hard carbon material with a unique porous structure that enables the abundant storage and fast movement of those larger sodium ions giving it an overall performance and cycle life equivalent to graphite.
Because sodium ions don’t tend to form an alloy with aluminum, CATL has been able to use an aluminum foil as the current collector on the anode side instead of the more commonly used copper. Not only does that make each battery about 80% cheaper, it also makes them 10% lighter.
Plus, the properties of sodium salt make it possible to use a less concentrated electrolyte solution, which saves even more money.
CATL says they can manufacture their new sodium batteries using exactly the same machinery and processes for their lithium-ion production, so no expensive new set-up is required either. Just as a cherry on top of the happy little CATL cake, it turns out that sodium-ion batteries have much better thermal stability than lithium-ion, so there’s an improvement in safety ratings too.
In January 2022, the company applied for a patent on a second-generation sodium-ion battery that they claim will surpass 200 Wh/kg, which is even better than lithium-iron-phosphate technology and getting up to the current performance levels of standard nickel-based lithium cobalt batteries.
Full production is scheduled to come online as early as 2023, with CATL looking to supply not only Tesla and other automakers but also low-cost stationary energy storage facilities for electricity grids around the world, helping to smooth the path for the rapid implementation of renewable energy.
As with all these apparently revolutionary new announcements in the world of battery storage systems, it’s important not to get too carried away with slick marketing presentations and instead focus solely on the real-world performance and commerciality of the product.
There’ve been loads of grand promises made by various industry newcomers in the past, all claiming to be the next market disruptor. But very few of those designs have come to fruition. Having said that, CATL is a pretty serious outfit who do tend to do exactly what they say they’ll do. We may well be seeing electric vehicles powered by sodium-ion batteries within the next few years.
We are quickly approaching a tipping point of mass electric vehicle adoption.
According to one study, electric vehicles will represent over two-thirds of passenger vehicle cells by 2040.
Tesla has been the world’s most valuable and famous brand among EV manufacturers. However, there are still people trying to defend the internal combustion engine with hopes of keeping it alive.
Some people say that you need to replace Tesla batteries every two or three years, or it will cost you a fortune to replace Tesla batteries after Tesla’s battery warranty. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. So how long do Tesla batteries last exactly until you need to replace them? How long is Tesla’s battery warranty?
This article will show you how long Tesla’s battery life is, how much it costs to replace a Tesla battery, how a Tesla electric motor and battery are far superior to the gasoline engine when it comes to vehicles, etc.
I won’t deny that the internal combustion engine has served us very well for over 100 years, but times are changing. In the 2020s, electric vehicles, such as Tesla Model 3, are more popular, affordable, and attractive than ever before. It has a lot to do with how the most expensive part of an EV, the battery, has evolved.
Ironically, the Tesla battery is one of the biggest debate points from skeptics. They claim that a Tesla battery costs too much or won’t last very long.
To debunk this, let’s know a bit about Lithium-ion batteries and Tesla batteries first.
Lithium is a useful metal. Properly configured, the metal can discharge energy when needed, take in more energy, and then discharge that energy. Essentially, it can act as a battery, a lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion batteries are what you find in your smartphones, laptops, Tesla vehicles, etc.
When the battery is charging or discharging, an electron and ion leave one electrode and arrive at the other electrode simultaneously. This illustrates the general concept correctly because electrons and ions do shuffle back and forth between the cathode and anode.
The lithium ions drift over from the cathode side as the battery charges. Lithium, the solvent, and the additives react with the shell of the graphite particles to create a protective film on the graphite particles. The vinylene carbonate additive helps this layer form into a stable surface that extends battery life to thousands of cycles.
During discharge, the Lithium at the anode releases an electron to the graphite, which travels to the current collector, and then the wire. The electron added to the electrical pathway creates a domino effect that cascades at close to the speed of light through the open conductive pathway between the anode and cathode. Therefore, a high flow of electrons in an EV battery causes the electric motor to run.
The individual electrons in the pathway don’t move far and shuffle around in the general direction of the cathode in a kind of wave. The movement is similar to the way a wave works in the ocean. A wave in open water carries water molecules in a primarily vertical motion, with some horizontal movement. Then, the wave breaks on shore, and the water is thrown.
Suppose you’ve ever experienced your smartphone or laptop taking a battery life hit after just a couple of years. In that case, you may think it must be the same for your Tesla vehicles because they are all lithium-ion batteries.
However, technically, phone or laptop batteries are not the same as Tesla batteries. A Tesla battery is not a bigger version of a battery in an iPhone. Actually, in a Tesla, there are tons of batteries that are not only far more durable and advanced but well maintained than what people traditionally think of as batteries.
Your electronic gadgets might be fully charged and discharged hundreds of times, and each of these charge cycles counts against the battery’s life. After hundreds of full cycles, a lithium-ion battery begins to lose a significant part of its capacity compared to when it was new.
However, that’s not ideal for Tesla designed to last hundreds of thousands of miles, so Tesla goes to great lengths to make its batteries last longer.
Tesla batteries are buffered, meaning drivers cannot use the full amount of power that they store, reducing the number of cycles that the battery goes through, together with other techniques, such as cooling systems and a recommended daily charging limit of up to 90%, which means that Tesla battery should last many years. In order to preserve the life of a Tesla battery, Tesla ensures that there is additional spare capacity to compensate for degradation over time.
Therefore, as the Tesla vehicle ages, the battery cycles, and the additional spare capacity is used up, allowing the range of the Tesla to stay very close to the same throughout the battery’s life.
Tesla batteries are designed not to die fully but slowly lose charging capacity over time. This depletion happens gradually with a minimal loss of just a few percentage points over several years.
For example, my 2018 Tesla Model 3 is almost four years old, and it still has a rated range of 301 miles which is only 9 miles less than when I got it brand new. That’s only a 2.9% total range loss after driving 100,000 miles. I fully expect my Tesla battery to stay viable for at least another six years, which will meet my goal of 10 years of ownership of the car.
How Long Is Tesla Battery Warranty?
In fact, Tesla batteries are guaranteed under warranties. Take Tesla Model 3 Long Range for example, this Tesla vehicle has a battery and drive unit warranty of 8 years or 120k miles whichever comes first with a minimum 70% retention of battery capacity over the warranty period.
Here’s a breakdown of the current battery warranty you are guaranteed, based on the model and variation of your Tesla:
Minimum Battery Capacity Retention
Model 3 (Standard Range)
8 years / 100k miles
Model 3 (Performance / Long Range)
8 years / 120k miles
Model Y (Performance / Long Range)
8 years / 120k miles
Model S (after 2020)
8 years / 150k miles
Model X (after 2020)
8 years / 150k miles
How Much Does It Cost to Replace A Tesla Battery?
Thanks to recent advancements in battery technology, batteries are not only a fraction of the cost they used to be but are also smaller and lighter. Lithium-ion battery pack prices above $1200/kWh in 2010 fell 89 to 132 dollars per kWh in 2021. This is a 6% drop from just a year ago. Prices usually fall by an average of 19% for every doubling of capacity. Even more promising is that this rate of reduction does not yet appear to be slowing down.
A recent report found that some batteries have already fallen in price to around $100/kWh. That’s the cost that some analysts expect the market to reach broadly by 2023 or 2024.
You may have seen a recent video that showed a frustrated Tesla owner blowing up his 2013 Model S with dynamite because Tesla quoted him $22,000 for an out-of-warranty battery pack replacement.
Obviously, that is a costly repair bill, but that’s not an accurate depiction of reality for most Tesla owners, especially newer vehicles.
How Long Do Tesla Batteries Last?
Since the Tesla that was blown to bits was nearly ten years old, an EV battery is actually a proven technology. Under current estimates, most EV batteries should last between 10 to 20 years before they need to be replaced. According to Elon Musk, Tesla batteries are designed to last 300k to 500k miles or 21 to 35 years.
Based on the battery and drive unit warranties that come with Tesla vehicles and technological advancements, a Tesla battery will most likely never need to be replaced during the car’s ownership.
Given the steady decline of lithium-ion battery costs, even if a battery replacement is needed in the future after the warranty expires, the price should be much lower than it is today.
How Tesla Motors Have Gas Engines Beat
Tesla Motors Are More Efficient Than Gas Engines
Tesla vehicles are more efficient, simple as that. Internal combustion engine vehicles generally run at about 20% efficiency, meaning that 80% of the energy content of their fuel is wasted, compared to Tesla which put about 80% of their input energy into turning the wheels.
An easy way to understand this is to think of it like this: a combustion engine creates heat with a side effect of motion, while Tesla electric motors create motion with a side effect of heat.
A fossil fuel engine produces motion with tiny controlled explosions. Those explosions push interlocking pieces of metal that connect to a drive shaft. All that metal rubbing together generates a lot of heat even when the parts are swimming in oil.
This energy is not being used to push a vehicle forward. When comparing that with the Tesla electric motor, the difference is huge.
In a Tesla, there’s zero contact between the motor and the driveshaft, just an air gap, and the only thing reacting is a magnetic field. With the driveshaft pushed magnetically instead of mechanically, even a running electric motor can be barely warmed to the touch eliminating major energy waste. However, the heat in a Tesla electric motor is variable and can be significant enough to rate-limit the car during aggressive driving.
While Tesla electric motors are vastly more efficient than gas engines, they do not magically generate a motion with magnetic fields. They push electrons through stator wires which generates heat and creates a magnetic field, then they rotate those magnetic fields around the rotor which via induction pushes electrons through the rotor wires, and this generates more heat while creating another magnetic field and the force difference between the stator and rotor magnetic fields turned the rotor and thus the wheels.
So the Tesla electric motor creates heat while creating motion, just like a gas engine generates heat when creating motion, but with different means and with vastly improved efficiencies. That efficiency does have a small downside in the cold, though. The waste heat from a gas engine becomes free cabin heat in the winter, while Tesla vehicles have to produce extra heat as needed.
Tesla Electric Motors Are More Powerful And Simpler Than Gas Engines
Next, Tesla electric motors are more powerful for the times that matter the most which are during acceleration. While gas engines tend to perform better at very high speeds, most legal speed limits are no more than 75 miles an hour, giving gas cars no advantage.
On the other hand, Tesla vehicles can accelerate much more quickly, which comes in handy for daily driving tasks, such as merging or passing, instead of having a useless top speed that will most likely never be used.
Quick acceleration is possible because electric motors deliver more torque at lower speeds than gas engines. Torque is what you need to get a car going, and with more of it, electrics out-accelerate comparable gas engines.
The better torque also has another advantage: Tesla electric motors are simpler than gasoline engines.
With less torque, gas engines need help from the transmission to get moving at low speeds, while Tesla electric motors don’t really need it. Instead of a single-speed transmission, multi-speed transmissions regulate the electric motor; however, this part looks and acts nothing like a transmission in a traditional gas car. Tesla electric motors can safely accelerate under a certain RPM load, so there’s no fear of stalling one.
Not having complex gears and fluids of transmission leads to better efficiency and agility for a Tesla. This also makes them easier to service. Electric drivetrains have far fewer subsystems, no transmission, no oil tank, or no catalytic converter, which means that there’s less to break down. The heart of an electric drivetrain is the motor that is much smaller and more streamlined than its gas counterpart.
Tesla vehicles also feed energy back to themselves. Every Tesla electric motor is also an electric generator, making it very simple to implement regenerative braking that recaptures forward momentum to charge the battery and improve efficiency and range. The really cool part is that this process, just like acceleration, is electrical, not mechanical. Here’s how it works.
The rotor is always spinning in the same direction, but the electrical field reverses, sending electrons streaming back into the battery while helping slow the vehicle. This leads to the last big advantage: electric drivetrains are just smarter.
Yes, today’s gasoline cars can generate very accurate data compared to years past, but Tesla vehicles allow for more and better opportunities to monitor and adjust them. Control systems are much more accurate and probably more transparent as to what’s going on.
As software updates become an increasingly regular part of car ownership, electrics will be much more flexible, better metrics, and let manufacturers detect faults in vehicles before they become a big problem. Tesla has already proven this by fixing a significant recall with an over-the-air software update.
How Do Make Tesla Batteries Last Long?
Tesla batteries indeed lose some of their power over time, called battery degradation. It manifests itself in a couple of ways.
Firstly, the range will drop just like a piston engine’s efficiency drops when it ages, and it’s possible. You’ll start to charge a little slower as well battery degradation is a moving target.
EV technology is moving rapidly compared to current EVs to even two or three years ago, and you can see how quickly we’ve moved on. Compare the cars coming out this year with ten years ago, and they’re unrecognizable.
Therefore, it’s really difficult to accurately pinpoint an exact pattern of how a battery will lose its maximum charge. Still, there is a saying, you look after your battery, and your battery will look after you, which often means charging slower when you can and leaving things like DC rapid charge sessions to when you really need to, and that’s all down to heat.
Avoiding High Temperature
Extremes of temperature are the arch enemies of Lithium-ion chemistry. Charge your car fast every day which involves high power and more internal resistance in the cells, and you generate more heat repeat this hundreds of times over many years, and you’ll prematurely age your battery.
Tesla focused on keeping the battery in its optimal condition. Generally, the battery isn’t harmed when you need to charge quickly. A Tesla battery isn’t one battery. It’s hundreds or thousands of smaller cells. Even if one of those individual cells starts to wear out a little prematurely, there’s plenty more power in the pack.
Tesla Charging Options
For first-time Tesla owners, the daily driving electric car requires some forethought and planning. While you can now cruise past gas stations, you’ll need a convenient charging solution to keep your battery topped off and to keep you out of a hitchhiking-type situation. There are a handful of good options: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging.
You can use the Tesla Mobile Charger to connect the regular household outlet and charge your Tesla. This Level 1 charging is slow for your Tesla because it adds 3-5 miles of range per hour.
The next type of home charging is Level 2 which is much faster than Level 1. The Level 2 charger adds 10 to 52 miles of range per hour charge for your Tesla. This is the best option for you to find a faster charger.
The Mobile Charger offers up to 32 amps of power, and the Wall Connector delivers up to 48 amps of power. There are also many third-party Level 2 chargers on the market.
DC fast-charging stations provide the quickest charge, that is, DC fast charging or Level 3 charging. However, they are very expensive and require more power than the typical home can provide, which is why they aren’t used in residential installations.
In Tesla’s world, the DC fast charging is Supercharging that can add up to 1,000 miles of an hour per charge.
Installing an EV charger at home can get pretty expensive, but luckily, there are a lot of rebates and incentives out there to help save us money.
In this article, I’ll go over a Level 2 charging installation and show you how to save tons of money.
Before we get into the cost and savings, let’s go over the differences between Level 1 and Level 2 charging quickly.
Differences Between Level 1 and Level 2 Charging
Level 1 charging at home just means plugging your EV charger into your standard 120-volt outlet which is the same one you use for your lamps, TVs, and most of your other electronic devices at home.
It’s a really convenient way of charging because all homes have these outlets, but the major downside of Level 1 charging is the slow charging speeds. It adds around 2 to 5 miles per hour.
However, if these Level 1 charging speeds work for you, you’re already good to go. There’s no need to pay extra for anything because you can just plug in and charge from any of the existing outlets at your home.
For the rest of us, we might need a little more “juice”, and we’ll probably need to step up to a Level 2 charger, which means installing a 240-volt outlet along with buying any adapters or charging equipment like a Tesla Wall Connector or JuiceBox 40.
Level 1 Charging (12 amps) = Around 2-5 miles per hour
Level 2 Charging Output
Estimated Miles Added Per Hour
12 miles added per hour
18 miles added per hour
24 miles added per hour
30 miles added per hour
36 miles added per hour
As you can see on the chart above, Level 2 charging is going to be a lot faster than Level 1 charging and it’s going to be worth shelling out that extra cash for, especially for those of us that have longer commutes.
What’s Needed For A Level 2 EV Charger Installation?
The costs and materials needed for a Level 2 EV charger are going to vary from home to home, but generally, these are the main things you’re going to need.
1. Electrical panel that can handle the electricity being used at your home including EV charging
You’re going to want an electrical panel or subpanel that can handle your home’s electrical and EV charging needs.
Most people will probably need a 200-amp electrical panel because most electricians are going to recommend a 200-amp panel for EV charging.
Let’s say you have a 100-amp electrical panel, and you don’t want to go over 80 amps or 80% of the max capacity at one time of the 100 amps that panel offers for safety, so in this example scenario with a 100-amp system, let’s say you got
– lights on at home using about 15 amps
– air conditioner running in the background using 20 amps
– dryer on using 24 amps because it’s laundry day
– EV charging at 32 amps in the driveway
So you’re going to be dangerously close to that 100-amp limit, already with 91 amps going at one time and that’s not even including things like computers, TVs or other devices that might be plugged into the system during that time. Going over the limits of your electrical system isn’t safe and can result in power outages, damaged equipment or electrical fires.
In this example, you can see why an EV charger isn’t going to be recommended on most 100-amp systems. EV charging plus all the other things that need electricity in the house is just going to be too much to handle for most 100-amp systems, but the good thing is most homes will be wired with a 200-amp panel.
You can easily check how many amps your panel can handle by seeing the number that’s posted on that big breaker on the top of your panel. It’s going to be the biggest breaker in your panel and you can’t miss it.
If your home is wired with a 100-amp panel, you may need to upgrade your panel which can get really expensive, or get a subpanel installed.
In either case, you definitely want to have electricians come over and take a look at the electrical load and see what the best option is for your situation.
2. Copper wiring with correct gauge for your needs; Circuit breaker that can handle 125% of the load
The next things you’re going to want to see are copper wiring and circuit breakers. 30 40 and 50-amp circuit breakers are going to be the most common circuit breakers you see for Level 2 charging. and I made a quick table of what wiring and circuit breaker you want to get in most cases depending on the fastest charging speed you’re going for.
It’s also important to note here that whatever circuit breaker you choose will not be the amps you will be charging at, because according to the National Electrical Code (NEC), “electric vehicle charging loads are considered continuous loads,” which just means that the circuit is going to be used for 3 or more hours, like for EV charging, so in this case, the circuit breaker must be rated such that it can handle the non-continuous load plus 125% of the continuous load.
For example, if you want to charge your EV at 40 amps, you need to get a circuit breaker that can handle 125% of 40 amps, which would be a 50-amp circuit breaker along with the 6 gauge copper wiring as seen in the chart.
Max Charging Output
Copper Wiring AWG
Circuit Breaker (125% of load)
Estimated Miles Added Per Hour
12 miles added per hour
18 miles added per hour
24 miles added per hour
30 miles added per hour
36 miles added per hour
Depending on where your wires are going to be installed, you may need some sort of conduit. Conduit is a channel or tube that your wires will run through, and it’s needed in cases where wires are exposed, like if they’re run outside or underground.
Finally, you’re going to want an industrial- grade receptacle or hardwire a Level 2 charger to the circuit.
What’s Needed For A NEMA 14-50 Outlet Installation?
You may have a NEMA 14-50 outlet or similar outlet in your garage already, then you’re already good to go. You can just go straight to buying adapters or charging equipment for your EV.
Getting back to what’s needed for a NEMA 14-50 outlet installation, it’s recommended to go with 6 gaugecopper wiring and a 50–amp circuit breaker, so you’re able to charge at a maximum of 40 amps per hour. I highly recommend consulting multiple electricians for what you need on top of having a general idea of what’s needed for your installation. It’s important for us to be informed because even the pros get it wrong sometimes, and what that electrician was planning on installing could have damaged our home or put our family in danger.
You can cross-check and make sure that you’re getting the best option installed for your home and this is what you’re going to want to see for a NEMA 14-50 outlet installation.
1. If you’re going for a max chargingspeed of 40 amps, you’re going to want to get
– a 50-amp circuit breaker
– a 6 gauge copper wiring route (may have to upsize to 4 gauge depending on how far the panel is from the outlet)
It cost $1,050.00 to install a NEMA 14-50 outlet which included about 60 feet of wiring from the breaker box to the outlet in the garage (The cost varies depending on the State you live in, the distance between the breaker box and the NEMA 14-50 outlet, etc.).
JuiceBox 40 (Plug-in Version) Cost
The JuiceBox 40-amp Level 2 charger can mount in the wall and plug into the NEMA 14-50 outlet in the garage. It cost $634.94.
After installing the NEMA 14-50 outlet and buying the JuiceBox charger, the total came out to $1684.94. Ouch! But it’s going to be okay because there are multiple rebates and incentives available.
Rebates and Incentives
First, there’s going to be the 30% Federal tax credit for EV chargers and installation which is available to everyone in the US. Therefore, we have a 30% Federal tax credit up to a maximum of $1,000 to offset any Federal taxes we owe.
After the Federal tax credit and rebates, the total out-of-pocket cost went from $1684.94 all the way down to $205.48. That’s a whopping $1479.46 in savings.
Even if you don’t plan on getting an EV anytime soon, I would definitely recommend taking a look at what rebates and incentives are available in your area and see if getting an EV charger installed in your house makes sense for you.
These are some sites where you can search for incentives and rebates by State.
– Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Federal Tax Credit
Making a road trip in an electric vehicle is not the same as doing one in a conventional gas car vehicle. The number one reason is that you have to plan your stops for charging.
You set off in a gas-powered vehicle. You can pretty much guarantee that there’s going to be a gas station wherever you’re going, so you really don’t have to think about stopping for gas.
However, in an electric vehicle, the charging infrastructure is definitely further behind than it is with gas, so you do have to plan where your stops are going to be and how frequently you will be stopping between your destination and where you’re leaving from.
There are a number of considerations you have to take into account when planning your trip in your Tesla or any electric vehicle, and those are things like your tire pressure, the weather conditions, how much altitude you plan to gain on the trip, how much weight you’re towing in, even your driving style. These are all going to have a huge impact on the amount of eventual range that you have when driving in your vehicle that will impact how frequently you need to stop.
Luckily, there are several EV road trip planner apps that help you take those conditions into account and plan a trip accordingly. We’re going to present the three best Tesla trip planner apps that might be really handy for everybody that’s driving Tesla or even any other EV.
Best Tesla Trip Planners
ABRP (A Better Route Planner)
The best way to plan a Tesla road trip is actually to not rely on the navigation system but instead, utilize the ABRP (A Better Route Planner).
It doesn’t necessarily try to minimize the amount of charging stops you make along the way as the Tesla navigation system does. But you can set the charging stops from “fewer stops” to “shorter legs” based on your trip purposes. Based on how electric car batteries work, the charge is more efficient on road trips to stop more often to charge.
Unlike the built-in supercharging routing on the Tesla itself, you can set how much battery you want at the final destination.
The ABRP is definitely a must-have app. During any long driving or a road trip, it’s usually not a problem for Teslas, especially going from a Supercharger to another Supercharger. However, there are no Superchargers at some places, so you need to find a third-party DC fast charging station or Level 2 chargers to get some juice under some circumstances. The ABRP can help you out because it shows you both Tesla Superchargers and third-party charging stations.
If you are planning long journeys with multiple stops along the way or no stops along the way, the ABRP will help map out exactly where you should stop.
Therefore, when you’re planning a trip with your Tesla or any EV for that matter, check out A Better Route Planner. It’ll definitely make the process a lot easier.
Tesla drivers can add waypoints.
It allows you to plan your road trip way more accurately.
It’s flexible for you to determine what charging stops you want.
It’s flexible for you to increase or decrease charging stops along your trip.
It shows you both Tesla Superchargers and third-party charging stations.
It shows lots of information in detail such as cost, charging time and the amount of electricity that you will take on.
It optimizes the charging curve of the vehicle so that the charging sessions are usually under 30 min.
It shows lots of accommodations around the charging stations, such as restaurants, restrooms, etc.
You can easily load it in the car browser, load up your trip and get real-time tracking to compare that to the estimates.
It shows lots of detailed information about the charging stations but not the real-time availability of stalls at the charging station.
Although it shows all the charging stations on the map, the payment system is not integrated into the mobile app. So you have to pay your bills with a different app from the charging station provider.
Tesla On-Board Trip Planner
The planner that’s built into the Tesla navigation system is okay. The built-in Tesla trip planner is perfect if you plan a straight shot from point A to point B, but we really wouldn’t recommend using it for any road trips that require more than one charging stop. It just provides very few options for customization and is limited to the conditions of right when you’re using it, meaning that if you want to use it to plan a trip that’s a couple of weeks out, the car is going to use the current conditions such as battery level and traffic. You really can’t plan that well in advance.
You can’t add waypoints. The navigation system won’t account for the return journey in case your final destination is pretty far from a charging location. On top of this, it seems to just try to minimize the number of stops on road trips which makes sense at first glance, but in reality, that results in uncomfortably low margin and doesn’t seem to take into account inefficiencies, such as temperature effects or carrying a lot of extra cargo with you.
The road trip plan made by Tesla is an ideal scenario. It’s not taking into account extra weight, road conditions, higher speeds, or weather.
Overall, there are just very few ways that you can actually customize this system.
Very convenient integration into the center screen of the vehicle.
It shows up all the cost, stopping time, and real-time supercharger status. So you can reroute your charging stops when needed.
Great integration of real-time traffic information.
Really precise energy consumption based on various driving conditions such as elevation, so the state of charge upon arrival is very accurate.
It knows the state of charge of your vehicle, so it can plan the trip accordingly.
Sometimes the trip planner is not optimizing charging stops based on the vehicle charging curve.
You cannot add waypoints in the on-board trip planner.
The map is not showing other fast charging options for Tesla.
PlugShare Trip Planner
The PlugShare trip planner is really cool for people that have limited range or are planning long road trips, but you can only get access to the PlugShare trip planner on the desktop version.
If you don’t have a PlugShare account, you won’t be able to use the trip planner, log into stations and leave notes.
The trip planner allows you to add your vehicles. After entering the trip starting point and destination, you will see a green circle in which a bunch of charging stations show. These are every charging station along that route within a particular radius. The green circle is the estimated range of your vehicle. You can adjust your range accordingly.
You can check the elevation of your drive through this trip planner, so you can add in more charging stops or fewer stops depending on the elevation that you’re driving.
The PlugShare app is one of the best apps for public charging stations because it is a lot more comprehensive and shows more charging stations on a variety of networks.
It shows all the available fast-charging stations from all charging station providers on the map, and it tells you the types of connectors a certain charging station has.
It can add waypoints for your trip planning, such as your favorite restaurant that you would like to have lunch.
The integrated payment system in the mobile app. It is not a huge problem for Tesla drivers to charge at superchargers. But it is a problem for other EV drivers to charge at different fast-charging stations. Paying all your bills for different charging stations is a very convenient feature.
If you do not set the preference of charging stations, it sometimes routes you through some slow charging stations with only 60 KW of charging power.
It does not show many details of your charging stops, such as cost, stopping time, and charging time.
How to Use A Better Route Planner?
We’ll step through an example of how to plan a trip with A Better Route Planner.
Let’s say we want to make a road trip from Denver,Colorado to Boston,Massachusetts.
Open up your web browser and type in abetterrouteplanner.com.
Enter your starting point (Denver, Colorado) and destination (Boston, Massachusetts).
2. Go tosettings and turn on the detailed settings.
3. Choose which car you’re driving ( Tesla Model 3 2018-2020 Long Range AWD Aero 18”). The ABRP website provides all sorts of vehicles and every possible version.
4. Set your departure state of charge. Basically, it’s the state of charger you’re planning to have when you leave to start your journey.
5. Reference consumption is based on your vehicle, and you can leave it as is.
6. Set charging stops among “fewer stops” and “shorter legs”. You can choose more charging stops or fewer charging stops.
7. Go down to battery & chargers. What you want to pay attention to are these options.
7.1 We have fast chargers first. There are Tesla SC, Tesla CCS, CCS, CHAdeMo, Level 2 options.
7.2 The charger availability feature can only be used when you have an ABRP Premium account.
7.3 Set minimum charger stalls.
7.4 Set destination arrival state of charge. This is the minimum state of chargethat you’re okay with arriving at your final destination. So in our example, that would be Boston, Massachusetts.
7.5 Set charger arrival state of charge. It is similar to the destination arrival state of charge, but this is for arriving at chargers. The lower this number is, the faster you’re going to be able to charge.
7.6 The maxstate of charge is really just the highest that you’re willing to charge up to. 100% is fine for a road trip.
7.7 Set Battery degradation. We just leave it at the 5% which we think is pretty conservative.
7.8 Next up, charging overhead in the description. We think about this as how much time it takes you to get out of your car, plug in, unplug and drive away. It’s essentially the amount of time that you’re at a charger that you’re not charging. We set it as 2.
8. Let’s go to the speed section.
8.1 Reference speed is basically a percentage of the speed limit, so 100% means that you’re always doing the speed limit, but let’s face it, and most people on the highway go above the speed limit.
If we put this at 107%, it would mean that if the speed limit were 70 miles an hour, you would typically be driving 75 miles an hour.
8.2 Next up is the maximum speed. We limit this to 85 miles an hour because there are some sections that have 80 miles an hour speed limits.
9. Next up, let’s go to roadconditions. Unfortunately, weather can affect an electric vehicle road trip quite a bit and especially cold weather.
You can set wind speed and direction, temperature and even specific road conditions (dry, rain or snow, or heavy rain and snow).
10. You can set certain things that you want to avoid on your route, for example, ferries, country borders, highways or tolls.
11. The last setting is extraweight. It is really nice if you’re planning to have a bunch of luggage or extra people in the car.
12. Our route has finally loaded. It’s going to take 33 hours and7 minutes to drive from Denver to Boston. That’s about 28 hours and 382 minutes of actual driving to go 2001 miles with about 5 hours and 4 minutes of charging with 17 charging stops.
13. Click on table. It’ll open up a nice table of all of this information in a super helpful format, so it’s essentially just a list of every stop from the start to the finish of the trip. For each stop, it’ll tell you what state of charge you’re going to arrive, how long you’re going to be there charging and what percentage you’re going to depart. It even calculates how much it’s going to cost at the Tesla supercharger.
From the table, you’ve got the distance in miles between the points as well as how long it’s going to take. You can even see the specific time of day based on what time you departed.
14. Export it to excel. It will download this spreadsheet that you can open in Excel or google sheets. This is convenient because you can just open this from any smartphone along the route or take a screenshot in case you’re worried, and you won’t have service.
This sheet also has a link that’ll open up the route that you’ve planned on their website in case you want to go back to that and make any tweaks.
If there isn’t a lot of Tesla Superchargers on your way, the ABRP is extremely helpful to map out where you should charge along the way.
Besides, if you are planning to get from point A to point B, it’s best to use the Tesla navigation system, but if you are planning a road trip and it’s relatively long, a few days or more and there are some in the middle of nowhere areas, it’s better to use the ABRP. It provides you way more information and allows you to plan your road trip way more precisely.
Are electric cars really better for the environment? A lot of people doubt that because even though gasoline-powered cars have harmful emissions, today’s electricity comes from coal a lot of times, and that’s even dirtier. So it stands to reason that a coal-powered electric car could be dirtier than an ICE vehicle. But is it really true? Well, let’s find out the truth together.
Gasoline Car Emissions
As we know, burning dead dinos produces some smoke with sorts of nasty stuff in it. Broadly speaking though, the car emissions can be divided into two broad categories: Pollutants and Greenhouse gases.
The pollutants, those are the toxic ones they’re bad for the health of people, animals, and plants. Pollutants include things like airborne particulates, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen (or NOx), sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. In the US and most of the western world, we’ve been cleaning up these emissions for the past 50 years.
The second type of emissions are the greenhouse gases. You may have heard the truth about their inconvenience once or twice, particularly the issues with CO2 emissions, while CO2 isn’t directly harmful to our health. If its atmospheric concentration changes by a lot, this can really affect the global climate, which can negatively impact us and animals, our lives and future lives.
Carbon Emissions of Electric Car Vs Gasoline Car
Carbon Emissions of Electric Car
As the electric car drives down the road, it will be releasing exactly zero emissions.
Carbon Emissions of Gasoline Car
The ICE car releases pollutants and CO2 from its tailpipe, but just how much is spewed forth into the world? According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, for every gallon of gas that the ICE car burns, it travels on average 24.2 miles 1, otherwise, known as 24.2 miles per gallon. As the gasoline is combusted in the air, about 73% of the exhaust gas is Nitrogen, and that’s just inert. 13% is water vapor and about 13% is CO22. According to the US EPA, one gallon (or 3.8 liters) of gas releases 8.89 kg of CO23.
Taking 8.89 kg of CO2per gallon and dividing by 24.2 miles per gallon, we get a value of 0.37 kg of CO2 released per mile driven or 22.8 kg of CO2 per 100 km.
Fuel Supply Carbon Emissions
Electricity Supply Carbon Emissions – Electric Car
An electric car needs a stream of electrons to recharge its battery every night or whenever you’re going to charge it. Unless this electricity is coming from a renewable or nuclear source, there’s going to be CO2 released during the production of the electricity.
In 2009, over 44% of our electricity in the US came from coal 4. If you’ve ever played a game from SimCity, you know that the coal plants are the first electricity source you build because they’re the cheapest. But you want to replace those things as quickly as you can because they’re so dirty. So how bad is coal? The US Energy Information Administration, or the EIA, puts typical CO2 emissions from a US coal plant at 1 kg of CO2 per kWh of produced electricity 5.
How Much Electricity Does An Electric Car Use?
Looking at our 2020 Model Y, the EPA projects it will consume about 0.28 kWh of electricity per mile 6,but this is only the energy consumed during driving. It doesn’t account for any efficiency losses in all of the equipment getting the electricity from the power plant to the car or from the charging station to the car battery.
After the electricity leaves the power plant, it can travel hundreds of miles across many different wires until it finally arrives at the charging station. As the electricity moves through these wires, any resistance in the wires will cause them to heat up, which represents an energy loss on the part of the electricity flow. The EIA suggests that, on average, about 5% of the energy produced in the power plant will be lost to heat during distribution 7. But just because an electron makes it to the charger doesn’t mean it’s going to get a ride on the big battery.
EV charging stations are notoriously inefficient. Some of the losses are in the components within the charging station. Others are within the vehicle. One group of researchers found that on a typical Level 2 charger, at a current of 40 amps, there was around a 12.4% loss due to charging 8. If we take the Model Y’s consumption of 0.28 kWh per mile and divide by 1 minus the 12.4% of the charging losses and the 5% of the transmission losses, we find that for every mile driven, the power plant must be producing 0.34 kWh of electricity.
Electricity Supply Carbon Footprint
If we assume that 100% of electricity is produced from coal, since 1 kg of CO2 is released by the coal-fired power plant for every kWh produced 5, 0.34 kg of CO2 is going to be released per mile driven, or 21.1 kg per 100 km.
Gasoline Supply Carbon Emissions – Gasoline Car
We’ve expanded the definition of the electric vehicle to include the fuel supply chain, but we haven’t done this for the gas car. Gasoline doesn’t just magically appear at the gas pumps.
Many years ago, in a land, a dino sacrificed its life in the service of your car. Really, in all seriousness, we don’t have to go that far, but there’s significant energy involved in converting the dead dinosaur nectar into gasoline. You have the exploration, the drilling, the transportation of the crude to the refinery, the refining into gasoline and then the shipping of the gasoline to the gas station. Figuring out all of these emissions is really super complicated, and they depend on how the oil is being extracted, how far it has to be transported, in what way it’s transported, and how clean the refineries are.
In a report from the Eindhoven University of Technology 9, they estimate that global drilling for oil releases on average 1.24 kg of CO2 per gallon of gasoline. If you refine within Europe, another 1.23 kg of CO2 is added per gallon. With a final 0.12 kg added for transportation to the gas stations. In total, we’re looking at an additional emission of 2.59 kg of CO2 per gallon of gasoline before the fuel has even reached the car. Dividing 2.59 kg per gallon by our average fuel economy of 24.2 miles per gallon, we get additional emissions for the ICE vehicle of 0.11 kg per mile, or 6.6 kg per 100 kilometers.
Carbon Footprint of Electric Car Vs Gasoline
We get 0.34 kg of CO2 per mile driven released by Tesla Model Y, while 0.48 kg of CO2 per mile (0.37 + 0.11 = 0.48) by gasoline car.
So running our Model Y EV on coal appears to actually be cleaner than running the typical gas-powered car,0.34 kg per mile versus 0.48 kg of CO2 per mile.
But what if instead of the typical car, we choose something greener, something like say a 2020 Prius Eco. The 2020 Prius Eco gets an incredible EPA combined mileage of 56 miles per gallon 6! With 8.89 kg of engine emissions per gallon of gasoline 3 and 2.59 kg of fuel emissions per gallon, the Prius produces 11.5 kg of CO2 per gallon of gasoline. Dividing by the mileage of 56 miles per gallon, we get per mile emissions of only 0.2 kg of CO2 per mile, or about 40% less than the per mile emissions of the Model Y on coal.
Environmental Impact of Making the Car
There’s one source of emissions that we haven’t looked at. There are emissions that are wrapped up just in making the car, like the emissions from making fuel. Manufacturing emissions are really complicated! For instance, let’s think about what goes into making a tiny bolt.
First, you need to find some iron ore in the ground which means a lot of prospecting and research. Then you need to get some heavy equipment to dig it out of the ground. After that, the ore needs transporting to the steel mill and this could be the whole way across the world. The steel mill separates the iron from the ore in a huge furnace and this is likely coal fired. Then the iron is converted to steel before sending the steel to the foundry for forming into the bolt. Next are all of the forging and machining steps required to cut the bolt and its threads. Once the bolt is made, it needs to be shipped to the manufacturing facility where the cars are assembled. It’s attached to the car and finally, the car is shipped to your local dealership.
This is just for a simple bolt, and I’m leaving out all kinds of steps. But my point here is to show how complicated and how much energy is involved in just making a bolt. Now, imagine all of the complex, specialized brackets, engine components, electronics, glass windows, lights, tires, and all the other components that are really essential in modern cars. To try to get a handle on this, I looked at over half a dozen reports and websites on vehicle manufacturing emissions, and I found that most estimates put light vehicle manufacturing emissions somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 kg of CO210, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16. The value for a particular vehicle is really going to depend on the size of the vehicle as well as its complexity and the particular materials it uses. To make it simpler for our purposes here, I’m going to use a value of 7,500 kg of CO2. It really doesn’t matter too much what number we choose as the emissions will be the same for both ICE vehicles and EVs.
In the case of an ICE vehicle, this number does include all of the components of the car, but in the case of an EV, it does not include the emissions produced during the battery manufacturing. Unfortunately, this is not insignificant.
Environmental Impact of Electric Car Battery Manufacturing
According to some researches 13, 14, 15, 16, for an EV with a small battery, like the Nissan Leaf with a 40 kWh battery, the battery production emissions are only about half those of the rest of the car, or about 3,800 kg, but for our Long Range Tesla Model Y with a 75 kWh pack, we’re looking at about 7,600 kg of CO2 released during the production of the battery. This is pretty much the exact same number as the emissions for the rest of the car. So this means that before any miles have been driven, our Tesla has already produced more than twice as much CO2 as a typical ICE vehicle.
CO2 Emissions of Electric Car Vs Gasoline Car Overall
Electric Car Vs Gas Cars: Graph 1 – 100% Coal-Powered EVs
In the vertical direction, we have CO2 emissions in tons of CO2. Just to clarify for those of us on freedom units, one ton here is 1,000 kilograms. Anyhow, along the x-axis is the number of miles driven. At zero driven miles, each of the cars has released CO2 equivalent to its manufacturing emissions, about 7.5 tons for the ICE and hybrid cars, 11.3 tons for the Leaf and 15.1 tons for the Model Y.
As we start driving each vehicle, the Leaf and Model Y increase at about the same rate, with the average ICE car increasing more quickly. We also see that the Prius increases the least per mile. At around 33,000 miles, the ICE car surpasses the lifetime emissions of the Leaf and. The ICE car surpasses the Model Y at around 56,000 miles. Meaning, as long as the coal-powered EVs are driven for more than 56,000 miles, they will both have less lifetime CO2 emissions than the average ICE car. Meanwhile, the Prius keeps looking better and better. By 100,000 miles, we see that its total CO2 emissions are 57% of those of the Model Y!
So why would Elon call EVs sustainable transport? Well, it’s all about this little phrase on my plot, 100% coal-powered EVs. Virtually no electric grid is going to be 100% coal-powered.
Electric Car Vs Gas Cars: Graph 2 – 2019 Average US Grid Electric
Even in the most coal-heavy US state, West Virginia, only about 91% of the electricity is generated from coal 17,18. In some states like California, they only get 0.12% of their electricity from coal 18. In Pennsylvania, it comes in quite low at 16.6% 18. Nationally, around 23.5% of our electricity comes from coal, 39.2% from natural gas and 37.3% is produced by renewable or nuclear sources 18. For the same electricity production, natural gas releases 41% of the CO2 that’s released by coal 5. Nuclear and renewable sources can be classified as emissions-free if you’re not considering the emissions related to their construction, which we haven’t been. What this amounts to is that there are huge reductions in the per-mile EV emissions when we adjust our graph for the current US electricity grid mix.
We can see that by 11,000 miles, the Leaf has a better lifetime CO2 emissions than the average ICE car. It takes the Model Y twice as long to hit the same point, and that’s at about 22,000 miles. However, more interestingly, by 60,000 miles, the Leaf has beaten the Prius. By 100,000 miles, the Model Y is about to do the same thing.
Remember that the Prius represents just about the cleanest gasoline-powered car out there today. It’s significantly more efficient than the typical ICE car. More promising, over the next 30 years or so, the EIA projects the grid will become cleaner and cleaner in the US 19. The coal generation is projected to fall from 21% in 2020 to below 13% in 2050. The natural gas percentage also falls, but just slightly. The biggest change is in the increase of nuclear and renewable sources that are rising from about 40% today to above 50% in 2050.
Electric Car Vs Gas Cars: Graph 3 – Accounting for Changing US Grid
I’m sure you can guess these trends aren’t as dramatic as I’d like to see, but they’re at least in the positive direction. This leads us to a particularly interesting point about EVs. As the grid cleans well into the future, an EV manufactured today becomes cleaner and cleaner relative to an ICE vehicle manufactured today. To account for this, I adjusted the lifetime emissions curves for the year the energy is used in. It’s difficult to see, but the EV curves have begun to bend downward as future emissions become cleaner, according to the EIA trends.
It’s a little more obvious if we extend this out to 2050, which takes us close to 400,000 miles. What we do see is that the points where the EV and the ICE curves intersect, which is the point where the EVs become cleaner than the ICE cars, which means that the EVs are becoming cleaner than the ICE cars at an earlier point in their lifetime. Remember, this is only for cars produced today. ICE cars produced in the future will be more efficient than today, and this will make their per-mile emissions lower. And future EVs will likely be more efficient as well with reduced battery manufacturing emissions.
Electric Car Vs Gas Cars: Graph 4 – 100% Renewable /Nuclear Grid in 2050
So I don’t expect the overall trends between the two vehicle types to change that much, but what would happen if the grid got cleaner than the EIA projects? Let’s say 100% renewable and nuclear by 2050. For this, I assumed an annual compounding increase in renewable generation of 3%, with natural gas and coal decreasing in proportion to their current ratio.
Unfortunately, for a car produced today, we don’t see a significant change in emissions until 2039, after which the emissions curve really begins to flatten. But there is another option that’s available today. And it involves powering your EV using solar panels on your house.
Electric Car Vs Gas Cars: Graph 5 – 100% Rooftop Solar for EVs
And if you were to charge your car using this 100% renewable energy, the CO2 emissions curves become horizontal lines on day one. They’re not perfectly horizontal because there are still going to be emissions that are wrapped up in the production maintenance and disposal of the solar panels.
Granted, I haven’t accounted for any of this in any of the electric sources up till now, but it’s small, and it makes our findings more conservative, so let’s go with it. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory puts this at about 0.04 kg of CO2 per kWh produced 20. As you can see, this is by far the best possible scenario for reducing transportation emissions today.
Electric Car Vs Gas Car Carbon Emissions Tools
Earlier this year, MIT released what they call Carbon Counter, which directly compares lifetime emissions and costs for a wide variety of ICE, hybrid, and electric vehicles 15. I’d highly recommend it. Also, if you’re in the US and you’d like to compare emissions among vehicle types in your particular state. The Department of Energy has a simple interactive tool that is helpful for that 18. It takes into account different electricity generation sources to compare EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and ICE-powered cars.
Are electric cars better for the environment? The answer is YES, absolutely!
By comparing the engine and fuel emissions between electric cars (2020 Tesla Model Y) and gas cars, we get 34 kg per mile versus 0.48 kg of CO2 per mile. The electric car outperforms the gas car.
When we account for the environmental impact of electric car battery manufacturing, electric cars are becoming cleaner than ICE cars at an earlier point in their lifetime.
As the grid cleans well into the future, and the electric cars will be more efficient with reduced battery manufacturing emissions, electric cars will become cleaner and cleaner relative to gas cars.
Lifetime emissions of EVs are lower than gasoline cars.