A recent article published in Forbes was pretty quick to point out what the author thought Tesla’s problem was. “It’s Volkswagen. VW’s ID.3 has been an extraordinary success in Europe and has knocked Tesla’s [TSLA] business for a loop.” The author shared in his piece why he thought this was so and claimed that not only will Tesla not be able to achieve its goal of 500,000 sales by the end of the year, but that there is no customer enthusiasm for the Model 3. He also said that Volkswagen’s newest EV is the new kid in town and is “absolutely destroying Tesla’s sales base in Europe,” while noting that “Tesla now has real competition for the first time in the domestic BEV space.”
I think that the only truth mentioned in that above paragraph is the fact that, yes, the Volkswagen ID.3 is doing well, but it just hit the market and isn’t leading overall in 2020 or even across all of Europe (though, maybe did win in October). While Volkswagen sold 1,974 ID.3 vehicles in Norway in September and Tesla sold 1,116 Model 3 vehicles in there, the Model 3 is far ahead in 2020 as a whole and we don’t yet know how things will even out.
As of the end of Q3 2020, Tesla has had global sales of over 300,000 electric vehicles this year. And one of the main reasons competitors such as Volkswagen are focusing on electrification so much is the success of Tesla’s push toward sustainability.
Let’s not jump on the “Tesla is going bankrupt because the competition is finally here” bandwagon. Tesla just had its best quarter ever and this quarter will surely surpass that one. So, let’s look at what Tesla’s problem really is.
Tesla’s actual problem is one that the group of engineers who founded the company took upon themselves to solve: accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The engineers wanted to show that you don’t have to compromise to drive electric and that electric vehicles can be better, quicker, and even more fun to drive than their fossil fuel counterparts.
In other words, Tesla’s problem that it is solving is the need to help humans quickly cut their use of fossil fuels. The EPA states that a typical passenger car releases around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This number varies depending on the vehicle’s fuel, fuel economy, and the number of miles driven every year. The EPA also noted that tailpipe carbon dioxide, created from burning one gallon of fuel, is 8,887 grams per gallon. When a gallon of diesel is burned, 10,180 grams of carbon dioxide per gallon are emitted from the tailpipe.
This problem is so important for Tesla to solve that, on its website, Tesla has something that all of the other automakers don’t have — a live feed, if you will, of the ever-growing carbon impact that Tesla owners are creating. This number changes by the second, and as of this writing, Tesla owners have kept 3,634,011.62 tons of carbon from being emitted into the air.
What’s In A Ton Of Carbon Emissions?
So, as of right now, over 3 million tons of carbon have not been emitted thanks to Tesla owners driving electric. Let’s examine what exactly is in a ton of carbon emissions. In 2009, the United Nation’s climate talks in Copenhagen wanted to answer the question of what one ton of carbon emissions looked like. “Can you imagine what that much pollution looks like?”
Millennium ART, which is the UN’s Department of Public Information, partnered with Google and YouTube to release CO2 Cubes: Visualize a Tonne of Change. CO2 CUBES represent one metric ton of carbon dioxide and measure exactly 27′ x 27′ x 27′. The structure reflects the carbon footprint that the average person in an industrialized country creates each month. This same amount, TerraPass noted, is made by a U.S. citizen in just two weeks. The hope was that if we could visualize the actual size of a ton of gas — actually see it, not just imagine it — we could understand that impact on the planet, on our lives, and see the true urgency of trying to focus on solutions to minimize this damage. Seeing is believing, after all.
TerraPass created a carbon calculator to help one see what this ton of carbon looks like. I took the test for an individual and my results are probably lower than most since I don’t own a car (never have), rarely fly or travel, and my electric bill is in the $150/month range during the summer (speaking of, it’s almost 90 degrees outside in November). The graph below is a snapshot of my own personal footprint.
It should be noted that I honestly don’t know how many miles I’ve traveled using public transportation — so that number is most definitely higher. In the quiz, I only added my current use, which is hardly any.
These tools are not meant, in my opinion, to be 100% accurate, but to be as close to accurate as possible in order to show you just how much of an impact you are leaving on this planet.
The UN’s method, using art to help you see what a ton of carbon looks like, is genius and creative. Once you’ve seen the video above, picture 3,634,012 of these cubes floating invisibly around you in the air. Now, realize that those 3,634,012 cubes are not in the air — thanks to Tesla. This is the problem Tesla is trying to solve. These cubes of carbon, floating around the planet and heating it up, are Tesla’s problem. Not VW. Well, I take that back, VW and all those who are contributing toward the creation of these cubes are not just a problem for Tesla, but for all of us living on the planet.
The fact that VW is selling electric vehicles is actually a great thing for all of us as well, of course. If it wasn’t for Elon Musk and Tesla’s push toward sustainability, though, VW would not be selling those EVs. Why? Because they probably wouldn’t have been inspired enough to go so strongly down this route, and while it would have created some electric vehicles to meet European regulations, they probably would not have been as compelling or popular. Elon Musk and the team of engineers at Tesla saw and acted with urgency. That urgency is why electric vehicles are selling so fast, why regulators are pushing them so strongly, and why some automakers are trying so hard.
I’m going to leave you with a note from Elon Musk about Tesla’s true competition
Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2019
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