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Analysing the ADAC Tesla vs. Mercedes reports

15/10-2018 by Kim "Emax" Lundberg Stegenborg Madsen

Is Tesla greener than Mercedes diesels? The infamous ADAC (German motororganisation) report from 2016(1) had a lot of errors and was considered misinforming among EV people already when released for a number of reasons. Today it makes absolutely no sense to link to this report as the ongoing development on batteries has lowered the CO2 emission, the same goes for production of electricity with increased numbers of windturbines, solarpanels and water energy. In 2017 the average production for 1 kWh in Denmark was 181 gr. CO2.(2), (edit february 2020: in 2019 only 157!) and the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada is set to be CO2 neutral in ultimo 2019 - By then it will use 200.000 solarpanels, with a total of 70 MW to produce 252 GWh a year(8)

Sadly people still keep linking and referring to articles on the 2016 report and on top of that, in march 2018 ADAC made a new "analyse"(1), where the bigger electric cars apparently cost 20T CO2 to produce, without any documentation on, how they got that number, and they only look at the first 150.000 km, so the diesel very convieniently looks greener than it really is. This is the reason why i made this site and analyse. We need to have a proper debate, on proper numbers, not misinformation! This is a quick conclusion on my analyse for you:

You need to drive less than 44.000 km in an Tesla Model X to be greener than in a Mercedes!

So what was wrong with the report? Number of things: In this analyse I´m adressing the emission of battery production and driving, with 2017 data. (for the lower emission in 2019 substract another 13%)

In the first chart we´ll asume the Tesla battery costs 6T CO2 to produce and no emission to produce whatever for the Mercedes. I´ve used the following official data provided by Mercedes(5)


Model / Body Variant WLTP max. CO2 Emissionen kombiniert WLTP min. CO2 Emissionen kombiniert
E 220 d Saloon 169 g/km 137 g/km
GLE 350 d 4MATIC SUV 246 g/km 231 g/km
AMG GLE 63 4MATIC SUV 350 g/km 343 g/km


Model CO2 per km
Tesla Model X 45 g/km
Tesla Model S 40 g/km
(Actual usage, 4.5 & 5 km per. kWh during 1 year)

It`s quiet clear that the Teslas are greener than the AMG GLE 63 after only 20.000 km, not 500.000 km!:

Model Km break even(approx.)
AMG GLE 63 4MATIC SUV 20.000
GLE 350 d 4MATIC SUV 32.000
E 220 d Saloon 61.000

But what if we say the cars drive 500.000 km? This is when ADAC claimed the Tesla will finally be greener. The chart shows a quite different reality:

Model Tons of CO2 emission after 500.000 km
GLE 350 d 4MATIC SUV 114
E 220 d Saloon 68.5
Tesla Model X 28.5
Tesla Model S 26

Conclusion: Mercedes diesels are 2.5 to 6.5 times as bad for the envionment as the Teslas.

And remember, CO2 is not the only polution Diesel cars generate, there`s also particles which electric cars doesn`t generate.
You might also want to consider the fact that often the Teslas are using solar power from the home (in my case we have 4 kW solarpanels on the roof of our house) or the SuperCharger, so in reality the CO2 cost of the power to the Tesla is less than the data i´ve used in these calculations.



In the chart above we also expect the Diesel to polute the same from start to end of lifetime, this is not the case as diesel cars gets worn out and perform less in time, which increases the polution.

Also we haven`t calculated on the electricity have kept getting cleaner during the years and will be improved in the future. All in all in favour of the diesel cars in these calculations... In fact, in the comparison above we´re actually adding the CO2 of production of kWh to the Tesla, while the diesel just happends to be in the tank of the Mercedes, now that´s not really a fair comparison. It actually cost about 700gr CO2 to produce one liter of Diesel(9 ), but then we also have to look into how many km each Mercedes run on a liter of diesel.

To make the comparison easy i´ve removed the CO2 emission in the charts below, when the Tesla is driving since it doesn´t have an exhaustion anyway. So no emission on production of the "fuel" on any of the cars is added to the chart.

Now we have a quite different result, quite far from the 500.000 km the ADAC report concluded, so either ADAC make a really bad job on that report or the development of electric cars battery and power in general have been quite remarkable during the last two years... And if so the cars will be WAY greener in 2020!

Model Km break even
AMG GLE 63 4MATIC SUV 17.492
GLE 350 d 4MATIC SUV 26.315
E 220 d Saloon 43.795

Again what about a lifetime of 500.000 km? This is where ADAC means the Tesla will finally be greener, remember? Again the chart shows a quite different reality:

Model Tons of CO2 emission after 500.000 km
GLE 350 d 4MATIC SUV 114
E 220 d Saloon 68.5
Tesla Model X 6
Tesla Model S 6

So now we see a result where the Teslas are not only greener after driving 500.000 km, it`s

11 to 28 times greener than the Mercedes diesels after driving 500.000 km!

and we still haven`t taken greener power in the future into consideration or the fact that a diesel engine will be less effective the older it gets... Anyway, it`s pretty far from the ADAC conclusion wouldn`t you say?

And still... remember, CO2 is not the only polution Diesel cars generate, there`s also particles which electric cars doesn`t generate.

What about the battery when the car is damaged, to be terminated or just need a new battery? Well, the business for companies that recycle used batteries as for instance power backups for solarpanels, windturbines etc. is growing, but so far used Tesla batteries are hard to get, cause they hardly fails. But that also raises the question: Is it fair to apply all the CO2 emission from battery production to the Teslas above? I mean, if you buy a car for let`s say $50.000 and sell it a few years later for $25.000 you don`t say it costed you $50.000, do you?




(1) The ADAC report

(2) Energy production in Denmark: Average of 181 gr/CO2 per kWh in 2017

(2a) Energy production in Denmark: Average of 157 gr/CO2 per kWh in 2019

(3) Tesla 85 kWh battery cost 6T CO2 in 2017

For a large 85kWh Tesla battery weighing around 550 kg, the battery would account for 6 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. I’ve seen this as the typical scenario in many research papers but with electricity grids getting cleaner every year the data quickly falls out of date. Still, it serves as a good baseline scenario. You may have seen higher numbers reported elsewhere, but frankly they are based on old data and often use the poor metric of kgCO2e/kWh, which doesn’t hold true as energy density rapidly improves.

(4) Energy production in Denmark in 2017

(5) WLTP emission data for Mercedes

(6) Energy production in Denmark currently

Here you can see how the production is made right now in Denmark.

(7) Energy production in Denmark is below 200 gr/CO2 per kWh

(8) Tesla Gigafactory,Nevada:

Production of 252 GWh a year is my own calculations based on the following data:
Nevada has 3.600 hours of sun a year
1 KW solar panel produces 1 kWh per hour
Gigafactory has 70 MW solarpanels

3.600 * 70.000 = 252.000.000 kWh or 252 GWh

(9) 1 liter diesel cost the environment 3.4 kg/CO2

I received an e-mail from, which states that that in general one liter of diesel cost 3.4 kg/CO2 from oilfield to exhaust of a car, where 0.7 kg/CO2 is production only.