Welcome back to The Illusion Exotic. On Mondays I post about whatever. This week it was a certain Facebook whatever that got my attention. A post about electric cars is making the rounds on many of my friends’ Facebook pages. Here’s the post, maybe you’ve seen it already:
"Total fuel consumption of U.S. airlines is approximately 19 billion gallons annually. Total fuel consumption for mining Ore for construction of electric car batteries is approximately 21 billion annually. The 21 billion gallons of fuel burned can only produce enough Ore to build 250,000 electric car batteries. The lifespan of an electric battery is 10 years and is not renewable. By 2050 these batteries will fill landfills with 50 million pounds of waste that does not break down. I wonder if people would still believe in electric power cars, vehicles or equipment if they knew how massive the carbon emissions footprint really was? So that you understand, more energy is used to mine for these batteries than they will ever produce."
When I read it, my instincts told me this post was a pile of dog squeeze. The bold presentation of statements-as-facts without sources bugged me. It looked like a piece of poorly crafted disinformation. It also bugged me because my friends reposting it aren’t fools. They saw it, and in their minds it validated their worldview, so they reposted it. The post seduced them. That’s what disinformation does, it seduces the reader.
I found who originally posted this to see if they were a reputable source or if they provided more information or sources in the comments section. No on both counts. It only took me a few minutes looking at reputable sources and doing some basic math to completely discredit almost all of it. Did I comment on the post or report it for misinformation? Of course not. He can say whatever he wants on his Facebook, that’s his right.
Its’ also my right dissect the post here in the quiet and comfort of my own website. Let’s break the original post down, point by point.
"Total fuel consumption of U.S. airlines is approximately 19 billion gallons annually."
You’ll find that number “19 billion” number quickly using a Google search. You’ll also find 18 billion gallons (of what, jet fuel? avgas? Both?). I took a little extra time and went to the US Government Bureau of Transportation Statistics and US Energy Information Administration websites. In 2019 the US airlines (just airlines) used 12.1 billion gallons of fuel, or about 8% of the US’s annual petroleum use. Still, I could give the original poster credit for this one. This number doesn’t discredit the post, and I think that’s why the author put it first, but it’s that last one that holds any water.
"Total fuel consumption for mining Ore for construction of electric car batteries is approximately 21 billion annually."
21 billion what? Are we still talking gallons? Gallons of what? Unleaded? Diesel? JP-8? No real statistician is going to use this figure, because you can’t get a standard measure with just “gallons” across different fuel types. That’s why national/international stats use barrel of oil, exajoules, thermal units, or some common energy standard. Second, what do they mean by “Ore”? Are we talking nickel? Cobalt? Lithium? Magnesium? Graphite? Because all of these are in electric vehicles (EV) batteries and all have very different mining processes and energy costs. For example, only 7% of all global nickel production (which comprises the bulk of the materials in Tesla electric car batteries) goes to EVs. Most nickel mining is for steel production, not EVs. So let’s say for simplicity sake this social media post says 21 billion gallons of petroleum is used annually for only 7% of the worlds nickel production. If this were the case, 300 billion gallons of fuel are used annually for nickel mining for other purposes, like steel. In comparison, the United States only used 124 billion gallons of finished motor fuel TOTAL last year. The stat doesn’t hold up beyond a cursory investigation. The background is too vague, or the numbers have been seriously warped to support the author’s opinion.
"The 21 billion gallons of fuel burned can only produce enough Ore to build 250,000 electric car batteries."
There were 3 million EVs produced globally last year alone. So I guess the over 2.75 million EVs materialized from thin air. This stat goes completely out the window.
"The lifespan of an electric battery is 10 years and is not renewable. By 2050 these batteries will fill landfills with 50 million pounds of waste that does not break down."
Right now, most Tesla EV batteries are 100% recyclable. Yep, you heard that right. Most can go on to be repurposed in other power applications because so much life remains in them. However, if they are not repurposed Telsa just patented a new recycling technology that may make them 92% recyclable. It is Tesla’s policy NONE of its batteries end up in landfills. As InsideEVs reports on 11 August of this year :
“The manufacturer recently pointed out that 100 percent of the batteries it scraps are recycled and nothing ends up in a landfill. It has been setting up internal structures within the company to gather and recycle old battery packs for years and it believes that the companies that made the packs should also recycle them, arguing this is more efficient than having third parties do it…Tesla points out that through the use of this new process, it managed to recycle 1,300 of nickel, 400 tons of copper and 80 tons of cobalt last year alone.”
Recycling will become more lucrative over the next ten to fifteen years, to the point about 40-50% of all materials going into EV battery production could be from recycled sources. However, as of now most of Tesla’s recycling has been on test batteries, not used consumer batteries. Why? Because most of its batteries are still on the road.
Which brings me to the “10 year life on a battery” statement. That’s also made up. Depending on model, Tesla batteries are warranted for up to about 150,000 miles or eight years. That doesn’t mean that’s how long they last, that’s how long the company will guarantee them. At that point they will have about 70% of their original capacity. Some Model X Tesla cars are still on the original battery at 400K miles. Using the average American diving 15,000 miles a year, that comes out to 26 years of life. Tesla is now working on a million-mile battery.
"I wonder if people would still believe in electric power cars, vehicles or equipment if they knew how massive the carbon emissions footprint really was? So that you understand, more energy is used to mine for these batteries than they will ever produce."
Right now, with our current power grid and battery technology, an average electric car produces about 220 grams of CO2 per mile over its lifetime (150k miles). By lifetime, that “mine-to-wheel,” - raw materials to production to consumer use. From raw materials production to consumer, the average consumer fossil fuel vehicle getting 28 mpg (also lasting 150k miles), produces about 460 g/CO2/m. That’s more than double the CO2 footprint of a current EV.
So, pretty much this whole viral Facebook post is crap.
Why did I spend a few hours on a weekend researching all of this? Yes, I don’t have a life but that’s not important right now. Nor do I own a Tesla or an electric vehicle. In fact, I love gas powered vehicles and own two. I don’t care what you drive and I’m not an environmentalist. I can’t stand Facebook fact-checkers and I’m not trying to be one of them. I do, however, like truth.
Every time you enter the world of social media, you enter a battlefield. The military calls it “information warfare.” It can be government disinformation, it can be corporate disinformation, it can deceptive advertising, or it might just be someone who wants to sow chaos.
My point is that it’s important to take a few moments before you blindly repost something, ESPECIALLY of it reinforces your worldview. It’s important to ask yourself, “Is this accurate?” Because if you post it, and its false, it hurts your worldview and diminishes your credibility.
Don’t help them. Don’t blindly take the bait. Think before you repost…unless you want to repost this, then go ahead. While you’re at it, visit my author page on Amazon and check out my great books.
These are some of my sources. I forgot to bookmark all of them, but feel free to do some searching on your own:
#disinformation #misinformation #electricvehicles #electriccars #tesla #elonmusk #elon #musk #environmentalism #facebook