Willem Velthoven

Better 36,000 cyclists with AirPods than 1 deaf guy in a Tesla

Update: Ok, 22 cyclists on e-bikes if you're more strict about it.

I was worried about my recent purchase of a set of wireless earbuds. The news tells me it was a bad idea to buy Apple's new gadget.

Airpods are evil because they are hard to recycle and even harder to repair. Apple has a program but is not transparent about its doings at all.

So I thought: let's compare them to another gadget that some of my friends own! And then I ended up ordering another gadget myself...


Het Parool article about evil Apple pushing unsustainable AirPods - "Caressing the ears and taxing the ecology" writes Raounak Khaddari : "Airpods are everywhere. The fact that they are enormously bad for the environment is a well-kept secret of Apple, that pretends to "not want to further explete the world'". Het Parool newspaper from Amsterdam of Saturday November 2, 2019 .


A set of AirPods contains a few batteries and other electronics, transducers, an LED, some metal, and some plastic. The total weight including case is almost 58 grams.

Teslas are also mostly batteries, other electronics, transducers, LEDs, some metal, and some plastic. The average Tesla weighs more than 2,100 kg

That's more than 36,000 sets of AirPod Pro.

Now, of course, we should consider the material of the bicycle that the Airpod listener might be driving. But cycles are very durable and recyclable items compared to Airpod or Tesla. Hell, even if you'd assume an electrical bicycle, the weight ratio would be roughly 2 orders of magnitude. About 90 e-bikes per Tesla. (with or without the Airpods)

So since I already owned a bike for a few years, I gladly ordered the Airpods.

Update 27Dec'19: Then I read the inspiring "There is No Planet B" by Mike Berners Lee (yes, the brother of Tim). This encouraging and critical book is subtitled "A Handbook for the Make or Break Years" and it was published early 2019. It's a best seller in the Anglo Saxon world but The Netherlands still has to discover it. In chapter 4 about travel and transport, Berners Lee calculates how pedal-powered biking relates to e-biking and electric automobile driving. On page 103, he concludes that a Tesla will drive about 927 miles / 1492 km on the yield os a single square meter of sunny land. Whereas a bread-powered cyclist will only reach  45 miles / 72 km on the energy of a 1 sq meter wheat crop! Shocking! The tesla easily goes 20 times as far... However, in the same table, Berners Lee also shows that an e-bike will travel an astounding 21.243 miles / 34.187 km. That is almost 23 times as far as the Tesla but also 427 times that distance a bread powered cyclist would cover.

Wow, now I'm going to order an electric bike: An Elian Cargo, beautifully handbuilt in the Netherlands by Elian Veltman and his team.


Elian Cargo E-Drive - A lightweight cargo bike with a sporty geometry. Handbuilt out of chro-mo steel in the Netherlands. The special handling is achieved by the innovative steering hub that Elian Veltman developed for this beautiful transporter bike. eliancycles.com Elian Veltman

At first, I thought such a fancy bike would be a bit too pricy but now I understand that I'll save a lot of wheat in the coming years!

Thank you for encouraging me @MikeBernersLee!


P.S. Consider the max range of a cyclist with a fully charged set of AirPods. is very comparable to that of a Tesla. (almost 30 hours, if you use the charging case, at 20km/h amounts to 600km). Still, the cyclist would have to eat a lot more bread.

P.S.2 Tesla expects to deliver its 1 millionth vehicle in Q1 of 2020. (Wikipedia) Imagine: that is 1 earbud per head of the world's population. (if you discount the 466,000,000 deaf people (WHO 2018), then we already reached monaural AirPod mass now!)

Apple will probably have sold 100,000,000 AirPods by Christmas: in materials, that's equalling less than 3,000 Teslas only.

P.S.3 These calculations don't factor in the energy and material use that would be caused by actually driving a single Tesla.

P.S.4 A Tesla nowadays has a 100Kwh battery pack. A set of AirPod Pro has a 2.3wh battery pack. A tesla uses about 20Kwh per hour 2 AirPods use 0.8wh per hour. So a Tesla uses more than 20,000 times as much energy per hour.

P.S.5 Please don't wear AirPods in a Tesla. Thank you.


Willem Velthoven is founding director of Mediamatic and currently developing the Autistic Research project