Tesla's Model S Isn't As Green As You Think

Sep 26, 2014 01:31 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma


Tesla's popular all-electric Model S isn't quite as green as it's made out to be since the aluminum used to manufacture the model strains the environment in other ways, according to a TIME blog report.

The sedan's speed and agility are remarkable given that the car runs completely on battery power. Its performance depends on the lightweight aluminum used to make the vehicle frame.

Aluminum is about 40 percent lighter than steel, allowing Tesla to extend the electric sedan's driving range without cutting back on performance. The metal also makes for a car that accelerates faster, has more responsive brakes and handles better.

Among the top three most abundant elements in the world, aluminum the metal comes from a raw form called alumina, which is obtained from an ore extracted in open-pit mines. Bauxite, the aluminum source, is processed to produce alumina, which is in turn processed into aluminum through smelting.

As a byproduct of the intensive smelting process, aluminum production contributes about 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, said the report.

Aluminum is completely reusable, but Tesla hasn't specified whether its aluminum sources are primary or recycled.

If Tesla continues to be successful, production of its cars will mean a rise in demand for aluminum, creating more carbon emissions when new metal is processed.

In another indicator of the automaker's growing presence, a convertible version of Tesla's Model S was recently spotted on the open road, InAutoNews and other media reported.

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