Human activity has led to dangerous climate change that threatens to destroy our planet in the not-so-distant future .
The good news is that we can help: individual activity makes a difference in reducing global warming . Unfortunately, most of our options – reduced meat consumption, recycling, using less electricity  – require behavioral changes that are difficult to sustain in the long term. How many times have you tried to develop new habits such as reading more books or exercising more? Permanently changing our behaviors is no small task. To make the changes necessary to save the world, we need things that we want to buy or do, not things we should buy or do.
Personal transportation is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere . Cars that reduce fuel consumption have been on the market for a long time, but at the expense of horsepower and aesthetics. We should buy these cars, but do we want to?
Tesla, an electric vehicle and energy storage company, is here to take advantage of this opportunity. Tesla’s mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” It has a better chance at actually achieving this goal than the hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles that came before it because Tesla isn’t boring; Tesla is making sustainable products that people want, almost irrespective of their sustainability.
Tesla has done this with electric vehicles that are all-around masterpieces. Its cars have received endless praise for their handsome styling and safety , and have also won over car enthusiasts who lust over their massive horsepower that competes with traditional, fuel-guzzling vehicles . In the video below you can see a Tesla Model S P85D (“the quickest sedan in the world”) go head to head against a ferociously powerful Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (“the fastest sedan in the world”) . Tesla’s cars are such good products that most of us would choose them over similarly-priced BMWs, even if they weren’t sustainable.
The demand for electric vehicles is likely on the rise. Many governments offer financial incentives to consumers to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. Furthermore, as the number of offerings of desirable electric vehicles increases (car type, price, and make), the demand for electric vehicles should increase. But putting all of these electric vehicles on the road doesn’t solve the problem, because they are only as green as the energy used from your local grid to charge their batteries .
There’s a solution: solar panels!
Solar panels use energy from the sun to create a flow of electricity. SolarCity, a provider of residential solar panels, installs solar panels on your roof at no cost. You buy the electricity generated by the solar panels from SolarCity, like you would from your utility company, only it’s miraculously cheaper. This benefits the environment and saves you money! And yet, the vast majority of homes don’t have solar panels. Why is this? Unfortunately, most people probably think they’re ugly.
(Re)Enter Tesla. Tesla has partnered with SolarCity to make a revolutionary product, Solar Roof, which was unveiled last week on October 28th. Each tile of the Solar Roof looks like a traditional roof tile, but has a solar cell hidden within it. As Elon Musk explained: “The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than normal roofs, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. So why would you buy anything else? ” Finally, solar panels you want on your house.
When we take time to think about the devastating effects of climate change on our planet, we want to adjust our behavior and start to help, but most of us do very little. In the absence of more obvious signs of climate change in our day to day lives, it’s easy to feel like the situation isn’t urgent and that our own individual actions don’t matter that much. This is precisely why Tesla has such an opportunity now and should continue to focus on its consumer facing products. We’re in a time of transition: we’re not ready to give up on performance, beauty, or price for the planet. We want to have our horsepower and save the world. This business model serves as an important evolution towards getting people accustomed to living sustainably. As long as we live in a world where people are reluctant to make sacrifices for sustainability, Tesla and businesses with similar approaches will thrive. However, as environmental conditions worsen and individuals (hopefully) become more accustomed to living sustainably, perhaps the need for the Teslas of the world will shrink and we will accept a broader range of possible solutions.
1. National Geographic, “Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye | National Geographic,” YouTube, published December 2, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtW2rrLHs08, accessed November 2016.
3. Natural Resources Defense Council, “How You Can Stop Global Warming,” https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming, accessed November 2016.
4. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “How much carbon dioxide is produced by burning gasoline and diesel fuel?,” http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=307&t=10, accessed November 2016.
5. Tesla, “Tesla Press Information,” https://www.tesla.com/presskit/autopilot, accessed November 2016
6. Tesla, “Tesla Timeline,” https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/tesla-timeline-0, accessed November 2016
7. Motor Trend, “2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat vs. 2015 Tesla Model S P85D! – Head 2 Head Ep. 65,” YouTube, published April 29, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWQ-dnpplaA, accessed November 2016.
9. Wired, “Tesla’s Electric Cars Aren’t as Green as You Might Think,” https://www.wired.com/2016/03/teslas-electric-cars-might-not-green-think/, accessed November 2016.
10. Tesla Motors, “Powerwall 2 & Solar Roof Launch,” Vimeo, published October 28, 2016, https://vimeo.com/189402941, accessed November 2016.
11. Tesla, “Solar Roof,” https://www.tesla.com/solar, accessed November 2016
The featured image at the top of the post is from: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/RWQ-dnpplaA/maxresdefault.jpg