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Tesla: The Pros and Cons

Updated: Feb 20


Teslas, as well as other electric cars, have been catching the eyes of buyers who wish to reduce their carbon footprint as an “environmentally beneficial” alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. It’s certainly a tempting idea, especially with its sci-fi-like design and technologically advanced mechanics that make driving a more enjoyable experience for consumers. A fancy-looking car with a self-driving feature AND it’s environmentally friendly? Sounds too good to be true!


And perhaps it is. To truly ensure that this purchase will be in favor of your, and the environment’s, interest, let’s discuss the pros and cons of buying a Tesla.


 



1. Teslas run on electricity rather than gasoline:

Pros: Tesla’s entire brand is that they only produce electric cars that don’t require gasoline to run. This is huge, as the carbon emissions that come from gas-powered cars play a big role in the deterioration of the ozone layer and the rapidly changing climate. Teslas produce absolutely zero tailpipe emissions, so they emit no greenhouse gasses. Tesla prides itself on not relying on fossil fuels, instead using renewable energy sources to power their cars. Fossil fuels are finite, and they bring on a myriad of issues both environmentally and politically. Reducing the use of fossil fuels will also reduce the amount of oil spills in the ocean.


Cons: Now, what could possibly be the cons of having a car running on pure electricity? The thing is, charging your Tesla may not be as environmentally friendly as Tesla likes to advertise. For one, many Tesla charging stations run on grid electricity, which still relies on the use of fossil fuels. Even though Teslas may not have exhaust pipes, they need electricity, meaning that they will need to use power plants to charge them. Power plants still emit a lot of CO2 into the air, so even though you aren’t directly polluting the air when you use a Tesla or charge it, there are still fossil fuels and CO2 involved. However, if you use at-home charging stations that use wind or solar power, or an energy tariff that will switch to renewable energy when possible, that would be a better environmentally friendly alternative.



2. Teslas use vegan leather for their interior

Pros: To add to its pro-environment agenda, Tesla uses leather-like material that requires no animal products to create. Not only is this ethical, but it also makes the seats incredibly comfortable and creates a sleek, clean look for your car.


Cons: The cows will certainly be thankful you’re saving their skin, but that doesn’t mean that these animal-free textiles are entirely environmentally friendly. Instead of using animal skin, these fabrics are made of polyurethane and other materials that aren’t exactly the best for the environment.



3. Teslas use batteries:

Pros: Teslas use batteries, and to be more specific, they use lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are light, but they can store vast amounts of energy. This will allow the car to not be too heavy, yet still run for a fairly long time without needing to charge.


Cons: Tesla batteries also require a variety of other rare minerals, rare minerals that require some questionable mining practices to extract. When mining, only 0.2% of what’s initially extracted from the earth ends up being these rare minerals. The other 99.8% are contaminated with toxic chemicals from trying to sort the minerals from the rest of the earth, and they are just dumped back onto the ground. Not to mention the fact that these lithium batteries don’t last forever, and they need to be replaced. When disposing of these batteries, they release other toxic chemicals into the environment. They also are difficult to recycle, adding to the growing pile of waste we produce. They can also be a safety hazard, potentially causing fires and explosions.



So does this mean we should boycott Tesla and burn all of their products? No, especially since burning millions of cars would release a lot of CO2 into the air. Maybe Tesla isn’t the angelic savior that will single-handedly save the world from the clutches of climate change, but that doesn’t mean that they should be written off. Having a car that runs on electricity is a huge contribution to the fight against climate change; even if it’s not perfect, it will still reduce carbon emissions substantially.


Tesla admittedly partakes in a lot of exaggerated greenwashing, or the act of trying to make their product appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is. Is it an improvement over gas-powered cars? Yes, but it isn’t perfect. As of right now, there is no such thing as an automobile that will be “beneficial” for the environment. However, more environmentally friendly options exist, such as Teslas and other electric cars. Teslas are still controversial in regards to their contributions to the environment, especially with their use of lithium batteries, but electric cars are still very new. Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to find a way to make electric cars 100% environmentally friendly. For now, we just have to acknowledge that these cars aren’t perfect and can still be harmful to the environment, but marginal improvement is still an improvement.


 

Recap

Teslas have become increasingly popular in recent years, due to their claims that they are environmentally friendly as an electric-powered vehicle. The fact that they use electricity instead of gas is certainly an advantage, as it gets rid of the problem of CO2 tailpipe emissions. However, the electricity comes from power plants which may have their own CO2 emissions. In this regard, it is best to charge your Tesla using an at-home charging station that runs on wind or solar power. Tesla cars use vegan leather instead of real leather, so no animals must be killed to make the interiors of the cars. However, vegan leather may still contain certain materials that can harm the environment, such as polyurethane. Teslas use lithium batteries that store a lot of energy. However, these batteries require rare minerals that are difficult to extract and purify. When disposed of, lithium batteries may also bring harm to the environment.


Overall, Teslas are likely a better alternative to gasoline-powered cars, but they cannot be considered “beneficial” to the environment. It is important to recognize both the pros and the cons of any decision made, so what do you think about Tesla?


Let us know what you think about Tesla by commenting on our social media posts. Stay updated and active by following the Environmental Defense Initiative on Medium and our social media platforms below!






Author: Ina Sabarre


Editor: Charlotte Wang


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