Can an electric car really cause more pollution than a gas-guzzling SUV?

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Tesla is one of the leading innovators in the brave new world of fully electric cars that don’t use any gas. As far as pollution, what’s not to like about a car that doesn’t let out any nasty exhaust fumes from its tailpipe? Well, one analyst – someone who researches facts and makes a conclusion – says the Tesla Model S could pollute more than a gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicle (SUV).

tesla
Tesla Model S hybrids.

That’s quite a big claim to make! Before we get into the facts, though, let’s first look at the analyst. A lot of times, business analysts can be biased – meaning they judge something a certain way for personal reasons. The analyst, Nathan Weiss, has clients who pay him for advice on how they should spend their money. He’s been known to tell these clients that they should bet against Tesla in something called the stock market – which is where a company gains and loses value based on how much “stock” other people have bought to own pieces of it. It’s like if you create a brand new cake and someone pays you money to own a slice of it. Then, if everyone loves your cake, it becomes very valuable, and now they can sell that slice of cake for more money than they bought it for.

The analysis by Weiss was published on the very same day that Tesla’s stock value jumped up 30 percent. It seems like a lot of people enjoyed Tesla’s electric car cake! Weiss had told clients not to invest in Tesla, hoping the price would stay down, and I bet the people who passed up the opportunity to get a slice were not happy.

However, Weiss does bring up some decent points in his analysis. Many of his points are ones that others have brought up. While the car itself might not release pollution, there’s lots of pollution created when the battery for the car is made. See, the biggest source of pollution from cars is a chemical called carbon dioxide (CO2). Since electric cars use “lithium-ion” batteries, the process of making one creates CO2. The pollution that occurs both in producing these batteries and also in the electrical grids that the cars plug into definitely adds CO2, but Weiss doesn’t factor in the CO2 released in gasoline production for non-electric cars, not to mention the extra pollution from gas-guzzling SUVs. What’s most interesting is that he backed down on some of his calculations after being criticized for misusing facts to compare a Tesla electric car to an SUV.

So, while green technology – the kind that’s created to be nicer on the environment – isn’t perfect, it’s definitely advancing every year. As far as whether we should listen to the conclusions of experts like Weiss, you should always try and consider a variety of opinions before forming your own.