Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter this weekend that Tesla Gigafactory 1 will be powered 100% by Tesla Solar by the end of 2019. The confirmation came as he worked to silence claims that the emissions footprint for building an electric vehicle are higher than those for building an internal combustion vehicle.
That said, the emissions footprint of building a fully electric vehicle has historically been higher than that of building an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, because they utilize a lot of batteries.
A 2015 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the manufacturing emissions from an 84 mile range fully electric vehicle came in at 8 tons, worse than the 7 tons of emissions from manufacturing a comparable ICE vehicle.
If we drill down to just Tesla’s vehicles, which is presumably what Elon was referring to when he tweeted, the vision for a much lower manufacturing footprint for electric vehicles becomes clear. Tesla took the hardline with its Gigafactory very early on, boldly proclaiming that it would not even run any natural gas to the facility, so as not to be tempted by it.
That is a magnificent first step that sets an important standard for the company and for others around the world. The forced move to electrify everything in its factory echoes its stance on transportation. Cleaning up the world’s transportation emissions has to start with electrifying all modes of transport. This tenet holds equally true on the residential front, as cities, states, and nations across the world push to add solar, improve energy efficiency, and hopefully electrify everything.
Taking a moment for an aside, the idealist approach that Tesla took at its Gigafactory encouraged me to take a similar approach to rebuilding our home in Southern California after wildfires flattened our lot. I don’t rebuild my home often, but when I do, I do it without natural gas … and you can do the same. Taking the opportunity to install components that run off of electricity instead of natural gas eliminates the need for local emissions, not to mention the combustion emissions that natural gas stoves and ovens push directly into our homes, contributing to poor indoor air quality. I’ll get off of my soapbox now…
Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada was planned from the start to be a fully self-sustaining facility, with a combination of rooftop solar, nearby wind turbines, and, of course, Tesla Powerpacks for energy storage. Elon’s confirmation that the plan to install solar on the Gigafactory is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019 is an exciting step in driving down Tesla’s manufacturing-related emissions by a significant amount.
As with many of the ideals that Tesla strives for, the 15-year-old company is yet again working to set the bar for low-emission manufacturing. As with every iteration of its processes, expect Tesla to install solar on its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York as well as its Shanghai Gigafactory, which is expected to be constructed over the next 2 years just outside of Shanghai, China.