OT: Tesla Model 3

Submitted by NYC Fan on August 1st, 2017 at 9:08 AM

Given that the Big 3 operate in the backyard of Ann Arbor, I wanted to hear everyone's thoughts around Tesla.  Do you currently have one?  Did you place a reservation for the 3?  How do you see the Electric Car market in the future?

Growing up in a GM family (in Michigan), there doesn't seem to be any thought from many of them around Tesla.  Living in Chicago, there seems to be a lot of buzz.  What say you engineering folks?

Yes, I am aware that username does not check out.


The People's Jones

August 1st, 2017 at 9:12 AM ^

love the idea of renewables and clean energy, but where does the battery power come from? if you're charging the battery with electricity from a coal plant then that's just a giant circle jerk.

having said that, musk is a real life tony stark and i look forward to following his ventures


August 1st, 2017 at 9:18 AM ^

1.) even in a world where utilities are primarily coal powered, electric cars have a significantly lower carbon footprint than gas powered.

2.) many utilities are in the process of shifting away from coal generation to renewables and natural gas. DTE just announced plans to shut down most of their coal plants by 2030 and all of then in the next 25 years.


August 1st, 2017 at 9:29 AM ^

The plan for DTE - from what I understand (let's just say I know people who know) - is to be around 80% renewables, natural gas and nuclear by about 2040 or thereabouts, with the only remaining coal facility being the one in Monroe (and even this would be phased out soon thereafter), which for the time being still provides a significant portion of load generation. 

We just put in one of the largest solar installations east of the Mississippi up by Lapeer and have numerous smaller ones around Detroit - and now in Detroit as of last month.


August 1st, 2017 at 9:39 AM ^

At the moment, renewables yield a very small fraction of the power generated in the US.  Personally, the world of nuclear power has not stood still and ultimately, I believe that modern nuclear may be the way to go. TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima were examples of very old and poorly engineered nuclear power.

Bill Gates thinks this way also.  Here is a link to a company called Terrapower which is developing travelling wave reactors that can be fueled with nuclear waste and don't create secondary products usable in weapons:



August 1st, 2017 at 10:04 AM ^

The simple basic problem with nuclear: it's too damn expensive.  It can't touch solar, wind, coal, or nat gas on price.  New reactor designs must be much safer but equally important much cheaper to compete in the modern power generation world.  With storage prices dropping every year and no fuel costs, it is easy to see solar and wind (especially off-shore) winning the day.  Sooner than most expect.  This is why building new fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines is economically foolish.


August 1st, 2017 at 10:23 AM ^

That's the case for giant reactors built in the 1960s and 1970s -- not to mention the cost of insuring them.  Newer reactors being designed, especially molten salt reactors using the thorium fuel cycle, are smaller, far safer, and less expensive.  The biggest obstacle of all may be the US nuclear regulatory apparatus, so I'd expect to see some of these reactors popping up on military bases first.


August 1st, 2017 at 1:18 PM ^

Get understanding. The reactors leak, might be today tomorrow or ten years from now but they leak. Some are reported right away, great! Some are reported days later, some aren't discovered right away, some aren't reported because they're supposedly "contained" under normal procedures or "pose no danger".

Point is, they all leak eventually and produce dangerous waste which has to be stored into perpetuity, stupid way to generate power, they should all be docommissioned.















And.. both Quebec and now California seem to be decommisioning their last nuclear reactors.


blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 11:29 AM ^

Nuclear power proponents keep claiming that the next round of nuclear technology will be the one to make it affordable but it keeps failing. It's not just the reactors of the 60s amd 70s, construction on a nrand spanking new nuclear reactor was just halted yesterday because of cost concerns.



August 1st, 2017 at 12:07 PM ^

Cost issues have more to do with regulatory compliance and publicity - ie: years of feasibility and environmental studies and the publicity campaigns for acceptance - than actual construction and operating costs.  The NIMBY crowd is alive and well, and nobody knows anything about nuclear power.  Ask the average citizen to describe a power plant, and they get emotional about TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukishima while describing a cooling tower.  

The good people of Charelston, SC praised late Congressman L Mendel Rivers for expanding the naval facilities in Charelston.  They praised for this so much that the Navy named a fast attack in his honor, and homeported it in Charelston (to great success for crewmembers in, ahem, difficult traffic court situations).  When asked about nuclear power, though, they sang the liberal praises of California - not in my backyard, it's too dangerous!

They never put together the fact that the esteemed LMR was the driving force behind bringing ~25 operating reactors to Charelston...  F'in people...


August 1st, 2017 at 1:11 PM ^

Maybe you don't realize it, but anytime you have to make a change to anything in a nuclear plant during construction, there's a long and expensive regulatory process that's followed. That's what ruined the V.C. Summer project, and may end up ruining the sister plants at Vogtle. Keep in mind this is for any change whatsoever (even changing bolts or wire routing), and changes during the construction of a 1+ GWe nuclear reactor that is designed solely on paper do happen once real world implementation of the plans are put together.

The future of nuclear is likely going to be in the world of modular reactors, where the bulk of the construction is done on what is essentially an assembly line and then shipped to a plant site. Controlling the construction as much as possible to ensure everything is done the same each time is where you save all the regulatory hassle and costs. And with Congress beginning to take a harder line with the NRC in terms of having them actually work with utilities and manufacturers instead of acting like a road block, you may start to see long-term cost effectiveness of nuclear reactors falling into line with natural gas. Or at least close enough to make it a reasonable diversification option for large utilities.


August 1st, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

All fuels that are used to power large power plants have their issues.  Lots of discussion from people that like to politicize one type of energy over another, but often the equations that govern fuel selection are rather complex and include long term projections that may or may not be accurate.

Althoughh fracking goes back more than 50 years, how many would have predicted even 20 years ago how current fracking techniques have changed the gas/oil equations.


August 1st, 2017 at 1:34 PM ^

The AP1000 is hardly a brand spanking new reactor design. The original application for design certification was filed in 2002, and was based largely on a design (AP600) that was first submitted in 1994. Just because they're in the process of being built doesn't make them "brand spanking new" unless you consider someone rebuilding a 1994 Toyota Corolla from original parts a "brand spanking new" car.


August 1st, 2017 at 2:33 PM ^

While I'd agree the car vs. nuclear plant timelines aren't comparable, the point is you can't assume something is new when the technology it was designed and built with is from over 20 years ago.

The 10+ year issue is one of the major things Congress has been pressing the NRC about. The most recent design to be submitted, the NuScale SMR, is supposed to be under 4 years for certification approval, with the first units built, installed, and online by 2024. 7 years is still an incredibly long time, but it will hopefully lay the groundwork to get the NRC to work more to get designs safely approved and regulated in reasonable timelines, rather than using utilities and manufacturers solely as a revenue stream by needlessly extending review and approval dates.

blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

It would be great if you were right because safe, affordable smaller scale nuclear power plants would be a game changer.

I've seen lots of highly touted advancements in the power sector and only a small number of them come to fruition on the timetable their supporters hope and I tend to be skeptical.


August 1st, 2017 at 5:49 PM ^

I hope I'm right because I work in the nuclear industry, including on some of the projects referenced herein. I've known too many people who have been laid off because plants are shutting down, not being built, etc. It'd be nice to have a job for the next 35 years and see my hard work and those around me be rewarded for a long time after that.

blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 10:01 AM ^

Natural gas only creates NOx because it is combusted with air. If combusted with pure oxygen, it only emits CO2 and water. There is a company building a demo plant (scheduled to be completeted this year) that in fact does this. This would remove one of the biggest hurdlex to carbon capture. Of course it still leaves the big question of what to do with the captured carbon.



August 1st, 2017 at 10:51 AM ^

Going by that logic, humans exhale a lot of CO2 as well. Cattle release a lot of methane. What do we do about those? 

Unless we change the large scale power generation paradigm of heat-water-run-turbine-generate electricity, we need to have these baby steps to move from coal to natural gas to "carbon free global warming neutral/reducing renewable power source". 

Longballs Dong…

August 1st, 2017 at 11:23 AM ^

1. Don't assume electric cars have a lower footprint regardless of power plant.  Here's an interesting article showing where you should go electric vs gas down to the county level:


2. I think long term, yes, you'll see a shift to EVs being better and maybe it's worth the investment now... idk.  I do believe solar will be the winner here, especially if Musk's solar roof is as advertised.  If you can't tell what is a solar panel and what is regular building material and it's not much more expenseive then I think you'll see a huge shift to solar.  But, solar can't make plastics so don't think petroleum is going away anytime soon.  Only about 45% of oil usage in the US is for cars.

blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 12:51 PM ^

Two others cited on this thread show benefits most everwhere. I tried to dig down into the study, but it didn't seem to be publicaaly available. There appeared to be at least one clear flaw to using this today and what I suspect is a much bigger flaw (but couldn't find the details to do so). FWIW, I have spent most of my career focused on the electric power sector including evaluating historic emissions and modeling future emissins so I've spent a lot of time looking at studies like this.

1. It appears that the data used is from 2014 or earlier. Coal-fired generation fell over 20% between 2014 and 2016. Much of the reduction came from shutting down the dirtiest, oldest coal plants. At the same time many other existing coal plants improved their controls

2. This is the part that I could not understand from the limited explanation provided, but it appears they assumed that the EV had the emission profile of the nearest fossil plant which would be a highly dubious assumpttion. most of the other studies look at average regional electrcity prifiles which are like;y to be much more accurate.

Longballs Dong…

August 1st, 2017 at 2:01 PM ^

1. Agreed, it's getting old now.  I also pointed this out and said over time the conclusions will shift more towards EVs.  To be fair though, ICEs continue to be more efficient over time and I'm not sure which is getting "cleaner" faster.  

2. Forgive me, but I'm not sure I understand this complaint.  The article states they used the emissions based on the powerplants of local power grids.  If they know I live in Oakland county and they know the breakdown of power sources in Oakland county, wouldn't that suffice?  At any rate, I have seen similar complaints that argue using 26 grid regions is more realistic (this is the methodology in the pnas study).

The data is publicly available, but they want a $5 donation here: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21291

here's another study that includes the entire lifecycle into account but draws similar conclusions.  


They ranked 11 power sources from CNG, gas, EV from coal, EV from renewable, etc and the last place whether comparing just tailpipe or the entire lifecycle was EVs powered by coal.  EVs powered by natural gas or renewables were 1st and 2nd in both rankings.  Again, my point was to not assume EV = always better (as stated in the OP I responded to).  The reader can determine (maybe) their source of energy and make their own opinion.  

here's another that looks at the upstream and portrays EV upstream emissions more favorably, but still concludes that EVs aren't always best.  


I'm definitely not arguing that someone shouldn't buy an EV.  They are already better in many places and will continue to be better as power grids get cleaner.  I just don't think many people think about their sources of power and assume all EVs are the same when in reality it makes a huge difference based on power source.  

There are also other alternatives to EVs that are really good.   If the debate is whether a Model 3 will be more green than a Yukon XL, it's pretty easy but if it's Model 3 vs 60 MPG Prius, I'm not so sure.  

In full disclosure, my job and life has nothing to do with cars, emissions, power grids or even science - I have no motive or pre-formed conclusions, i just find it interesting.  




August 1st, 2017 at 2:30 PM ^

Responding narrowly to the source of electricity question. 

If you proceed, as the study in question does, with the "closest power plant" it misrepresents the actual sources of purchase in your area. Oakland County is served by DTE, which operates coal, nuclear, some gas, and some wind and solar. However, the way wholesale markets work is that at any given time your purchased (consumed) power may or may not be the DTE mix. And unequivocally it's not as simple as "I'm closest to the St Clair Shores coal plant, my fuel source is coal".

In practice the most granular level you can get to is either the utility's generation mix in non-ISO/RTO states (primarly the Southeast / Southern Company territory at this point) or the mix for your zone in an ISO/RTO. Oakland County isn't a delineated subdivsion of the energy market so you'd need to look at the smallest delineation in which OC is included. For SE Michigan, that's MISO Zone 7.

Does that help? The FERC map a post above also kind of explains the ISO/RTO system.

blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 3:34 PM ^

Is significantly better. If you compare the maps you will see significant differences. It shows that unless you buy a vehicle with signifavntly better fuel efficiency than average, EVs are better everwhere un the US. Further, those numbers are only likely to get better. The power sector is decarbonizing more quickly than vehicle milage is improving. For instance, the changes that DTE has planned over the next 5 years will likely significantly improve the numbers in MI.

Lou MacAdoo

August 1st, 2017 at 11:44 AM ^

Why are they shutting down? Didn't they get the threats? That's too bad, I was thinking about pushing my kid towards it, as everything I've been told was that it was making a resurgence. I guess we'll have to go back to the drawing board.


August 1st, 2017 at 12:50 PM ^


Dozens of think tanks and scientific organizations have ventured conclusions about the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles. Most are supportive, but a few are critical. For instance, Richard Pike of the Royal Society of Chemistry provocatively determined that electric cars, if widely adopted, stood to lower Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions by just 2 percent, given the U.K.’s electricity sources. Last year, a U.S. Congressional Budget Office study found that electric car subsidies “will result in little or no reduction in the total gasoline use and greenhouse-gas emissions of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next several years.”

Electric-car makers like to point out, for instance, that their vehicles can be charged from renewable sources, such as solar energy. Even if that were possible to do on a large scale, manufacturing the vast number of photovoltaic cells required would have venomous side effects. Solar cells contain heavy metals, and their manufacturing releases greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which has 23 000 times as much global warming potential as CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What’s more, fossil fuels are burned in the extraction of the raw materials needed to make solar cells and wind turbines—and for their fabrication, assembly, and maintenance. The same is true for the redundant backup power plants they require. And even more fossil fuel is burned when all this equipment is decommissioned. Electric-car proponents eagerly embrace renewable energy as a scheme to power their machines, but they conveniently ignore the associated environmental repercussions.

Finally, most electric-car assessments analyze only the charging of the car. This is an important factor indeed. But a more rigorous analysis would consider the environmental impacts over the vehicle’s entire life cycle, from its construction through its operation and on to its eventual retirement at the junkyard.

Alas, these carrots can’t overcome the reality that the prices of electric cars are still very high—a reflection of the substantial material and fossil-fuel costs that accrue to the companies constructing them. And some taxpayers understandably feel cheated that these subsidies tend to go to the very rich. Amid all the hype and hyperbole, it’s time to look behind the curtain. Are electric cars really so green?

For now, I'm sticking with my 18 year old gas-powered Toyota Camry. I live close to work, use California gas with additives to reduce smog generation and get a smog check annually.
That said, living in SoCal, I sure see a lot of Teslas on the roads out here.

blue in dc

August 1st, 2017 at 1:09 PM ^

That an article from 2013 is quite outdated. Improvements in EVs has outpaced expectations and the power sector is moving away frim coal more quickly than was expected. While I will agree it is complicated, that is all the more reason to evaluate the technology usung up to date information


August 1st, 2017 at 12:51 PM ^

Dr. Steven Greer's "Disclosure" book. You might believe that the military/industrial complex already has the means to take humans completely off the fossil fuel dependence. Its a fascinating read. Keep an open mind and consider all of the accomplished individuals who contributed to the work.

yossarians tree

August 1st, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

But what about the pollution footprint of all these batteries? I don't have a lot of stats on this admittedly but the mining for rare metals is a nasty business, especially in China and other parts of the world where there is little regulation. And then the batteries die and get tossed and the batteries are leaching into the ground. My guess is what Tesla is doing are just baby steps toward what will ultimately be a solution that cuts down costs and pollution.


August 1st, 2017 at 4:30 PM ^

I was in school 09-13, had some guys come in for a guest lecture that made an ultra high efficiency vehicle for a competition. They went through the basic math that showed that the eMPG listed on EV stickers are inflated if you want to look at the carbon footprint. the example they showed gave an estimate for the carbon footprint of nissan Leaf (~80 eMPG) as ~30 if you look at the carbon footprint. the crux of the issue is that the eMPG is based on energy output from the battery, but doesn't account for the line losses & thermal (in)efficiency of the power plant.


August 1st, 2017 at 1:22 PM ^

Elon Musk has been working in collaboration with MSU on a new security system.  It's called "Red Lock."  No one has been able to tell me what it actually means, but my Sparty friends seem to think it is really important.  


August 1st, 2017 at 9:56 AM ^

Not really.

Having millions of tiny little power plants driving around is incredibly inefficient. Just the act of centralizing that power generation in a few large plants and charging your vehicles off of that power is a huge improvement. If we then also generate that power with renewable energy then that's another huge step. But centralizing the production is step #1.


August 1st, 2017 at 10:08 AM ^

I disagree.  Assuming that the tiny power plants are just as efficient as the large power plant - that is, that they extract the same amount of energy from the source - then having the power plant only delivering power when it is needed, and directly to the user of the power, without need for distribution or storage, is more efficient.