After all we have covered regarding emissions and EV fallacies that people still choose to believe, comparing a car with a combustion engine to one powered solely by batteries can look like a contradiction. Yet, when it comes from Engineering Explained, it is worth taking a look. He compared the emissions in a Tesla Model Y to those from a Toyota RAV4 Prime.
If you are asking which emissions could be involved with an electric car, we have already named them a few times. Making the battery pack generates quite some CO2, as well as manufacturing the car itself and charging from grids that need fossil fuels to produce electric energy.
That also affects combustion-engined cars. Fenske was careful enough to find the well-to-wheels carbon dioxide emissions for gasoline cars, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Each gallon of gas burned by an engine generates 10.7 kg of CO2. A gallon of gasoline weighs 6.3 pounds (2.86 kg).
Anyway, there seems to be something wrong with that number. If you burn one gallon of gasoline, the 5.5 lb (2.49 kg) of carbon combine with oxygen and increase their weight by 3.7 times, according to EPA.
That makes a gallon of gasoline convert into 20.35 lb (9.23 kg) of CO2. It is improbable that extracting oil, transporting it, refining it, and transporting gasoline add just 1.47 kg to the emissions. We’ll ask some of our sources for a more precise number.
Despite that, it is a fact that the RAV4 Prime has a much smaller battery pack than the Model Y – impersonated by Fenske’s Model 3 in the video. While the Toyota has an 18.1 kWh battery pack, the Tesla has something around 75 kWh, according to the youtuber.
That would make the Model Y start the challenge with a huge disadvantage. The production of its battery pack would emit 11,250 kg of CO2. The car production itself would add 10 metric tons to that, ending up in more than 21 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Demanding the same 10 metric tons of CO2 to be produced, the RAV4 Prime’s battery pack emits 2,715 kg of the gas. That makes it have to deal with “only” 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
After Fenske makes the first comparison between them, he concludes that the RAV4 Prime can be a greener option depending on how much you drive per year. We should add that this also depends on where you drive it. If the plug-in hybrid is never used on road trips, it may be even cleaner. The youtuber supposed it would run 45 percent of its mileage on highways.
That’s when Fenske comes up with different numbers for the Model Y, extracted from Tesla’s 2019 Impact Report. It said there that producing the car itself emits about 5,000 kg of CO2. Manufacturing their battery packs end up generating about 6,000 kg of the gas. That would make the Tesla cleaner than the Toyota from the get-go.
However, the numbers for the RAV4 Prime have dropped in the second comparison. Fenske told InsideEVs he applied the same Tesla numbers to the Toyota to allow for a fair comparison since we do not have the emission data from the Japanese company. If it was not for that, it would be the RAV4 Prime that would have to break even with the Model Y, not the other way around.
Make sure you watch the entire video regardless of these details. The discussion raised by Fenske is fascinating, and it may show that all our calculations so far to determine how dirty ICE vehicles really are may be underestimated.