An EV revolution: Four key takeaways from Tesla’s first sustainability report

On Wednesday (16 April), the world's most talked-about electric vehicle (EV) company published its inaugural sustainability report, revealing in-depth information on its environmental credentials for the first time. Here, edie rounds up the key takeaways.

An EV revolution: Four key takeaways from Tesla’s first sustainability report

From vehicle sales to solar solutions

You’d be hard-pressed to host a discussion about EVs without Tesla cropping up. Since its formation in 2003, the California-based company has grown from a small start-up to an EV juggernaut which now sells five luxury EV lines – the Model S, Model X, Model Y, Model 3 and Roadster – and boasts its own solar power solutions business, SolarCity.

The firm has been credited by many as a key driver behind the transition to electrified road transports which is currently gripping transport markets across the US and beyond, both for its work to make EVs “sexy” and its investments into the tech and infrastructure improvements which will be needed to support the low-carbon mobility systems of the future.

But until Wednesday, the company had never publicly produced a sustainability report of its own, or included certain key environmental and social information in its financial reports.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the launch of its first “Impact Report” has captured the attention of media outlets and automotive sector professionals alike. Here, edie rounds up the key takeaways from the 48-page document, rounding up Tesla’s progress and challenges to date while touching on the future it envisions for the EV market.

1) Tesla has sold more than half a million pure-electric cars to date

Prior to the launch of the new report, we already knew that Tesla’s model 3 was the best-selling luxury car in the US during 2017, with almost 146,000 sold during the 12-month period. However, the document reveals the true extent of Tesla’s EV sales drive to date for the first time, confirming that it has sold more than 550,000 pure-electric cars since its first model, the original Roadster, launched in 2008.

Of these vehicles, almost half (245,000) were sold in 2018 alone, suggesting that a sharp uptake in sales is now underway and is set to continue throughout 2019.

Using these sales figures and combining them with consumer information about the average use of its vehicles, Tesla has estimated that its EV stock has collectively travelled around 10 billion miles to date. Were this distance covered by petrol or diesel cars, the company claims that an additional four million tonnes of CO2 would have been emitted.

2) Tesla hasn’t publicly set any operational emissions goals…

Given that the company is often associated with climate action and the low-carbon transition, it will come as a surprise to many that Tesla has only been measuring its operational carbon impact since 2017. The report reveals that Tesla emitted 282,000 metric tonnes of CO2e during 2017, with the greatest proportion of this accounted for by its facilities (146,000 metric tonnes CO2e).

In a bid to minimise the carbon footprint of its factories, Tesla has made a string of renewable power deals and invested in several energy-saving technologies, including LED lighting, new cooling towers and updated injection moulding and water testing booths. It claims that these moves have saved more than 10GWh of energy over the past five years, but does not give a baseline figure, updated total or time-bound goal.

Indeed, time-bound and numerical targets for renewable energy sourcing and carbon emissions reductions are also notably absent from the report. The document states that Tesla is “committed to making significant progress” against a goal of powering all manufacturing, vehicle charging and other operations with 100% renewable power, but does not set a deadline or define its classification of “significant”.

3)…or set growth targets for its ‘Supercharger’ portfolio

Following the publication of several reports warning that EV uptake is beginning to outpace the installation of supporting infrastructures such as charging points and grid improvements, Tesla’s report provides further evidence of this trend. 

It states that the company has installed 12,800 of its ‘Superchargers’ across 36 markets globally. While this makes Tesla the largest host of charging points in the US – and means that 99% of US residents now live within 150 miles of a publicly available Tesla charging facility –  it is equivalent to just one for every 42 EVs it has sold to date. The report also does not disclose how many more Superchargers the company is aiming to roll out in the future.

4) However, its solar and storage portfolio is growing rapidly

As well as its progress in the EV space, the impact report also documents Tesla’s journey as a solar solutions provider. It reveals that the company’s Energy arm had installed around 3.5GW of solar installations globally, as of February 2019, with these arrays having generated more than 13TWh of clean power within the same timeframe. Tesla claims this output is the equivalent of that used to supply all of the residential electricity used across Connecticut for a year.

The company currently offers solar panels across all of its global markets and is currently taking pre-orders for its Solar Roof solution for residential properties. It additionally offers a combined solar and storage solution, called Powerpack, to commercial and utility users, and a home battery system, called Powerwall, to domestic customers.

Tesla claims that all of its large-scale and small-scale arrays and solutions have been designed to last for at least 35 years. It estimates that its existing solar portfolio will generate 86.5TWh of power throughout its lifetime.

Accelerating the rEVolution: 7 business innovations in e-mobility

edie readers who are keen to follow all the latest EV sector developments – and what they mean for business – now have access to a free downloadable guide outlining which game-changing are driving e- mobility and accelerating the sector forward into the next decade.

Download the 10-page guide, produced in association with UK Power Networks Services, by clicking here

Sarah George

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