Hating on Tesla

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This started out as a quick reply to a reader – who loves his Tesla electric car – and who cannot fathom my objections to it. The more I wrote, the more I realized it might be worth a formal rant, as opposed to merely a post reply. So, herewith, my enumerated objections to Elon Musk’s electric Edsel:Tesla fire pic

Dear Steve,

I don’t dispute the attractive looks – or the impressively quick acceleration – of the Tesla.

My issues – my objections – are these:

* A fundamental justification for electric vehicles is to get around the cost of fueling an IC car. But if the cost of the EV is literally three or four times that of a decently equipped IC economy car, how is the EV in any way “economical”? I could probably drive a V-6 powered mid-sized car such as a Nissan Altima for probably 15 years before I spent enough on gas to even approach what you spent on your car. Take away the economic advantages (if any) of an electric – or hybrid – powertrain and what are you left with, exactly? Why buy one? I could buy a new Cadillac CTS-V that’s quicker (and much faster) and comparably luxurious for about the same money. Sure, the Caddy will cost me more to feed. But does this issue – the cost of fuel – really matter to anyone who can afford a $70k (to start) car? If you’re interested in spending less to drive, why not buy a $14k or so economy car? Even a well-equipped mid-sized car (a loaded Camry, for instance) makes a great deal more economic sense.musk mug Such a car is also not functionally hobbled; it can travel hundreds of miles on a full tank – and refueled in minutes, not hours.

* While the Tesla can accelerate very quickly, if one uses this potential more than a handful of times, the battery will very quickly deplete. The same goes for high-speed running. In effect, it is like owning a BMW M5 with a 2 gallon gas tank that must be refilled with a syringe. To avoid frequently (100 miles or less) having to stop for an extended period to recharge (an hour at least – if you have access to a fast charger) you must drive the Tesla as if it were a Prius – and your object is hyper-miling, not high-performance.

It strikes me as pretty silly to eggshell-along in a Tesla… driving slower than 75 on the highway and gimping away from traffic lights (and so on) to conserve the batteries. What’s the point of high-performance capability that can’t be sustained for any length of time?

* The Tesla is a very high-end car. The entry price is comparable to a loaded BMW 5 series, Lexus LS or Mercedes E-Class. Only very affluent people can afford such cars. It’s bad enough, as I see it, to force anyone to subsidize the purchase of someone else’s car. But how can you justify giving a very affluent person a massive subsidy to encourage them to purchase what amounts to an indulgence? Is this not exactly like giving rich people huge tax breaks to buy 6,000 sq. ft. homes?

To be very clear: I have no issue with electric cars as such. I am all for developing their potential, if any – provided it is not done by enriching a billionaire and for the benefit of millionaires. If the EV can compete effectively on its merits, then it will inevitably do so. But if it cannot – and so far, that has been the case – subsidies only perpetuate failure on the backs of people who deserve better than being forced at gunpoint to serve as milch cows for the sake of guys like Elon Musk.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. What are the stats on how battery life is affected by high performance driving?

    How many quarter mile runs could you make before fully depleting the battery?

    Does the 0-60 time decrease as the battery level decreases?

    How long could you drive at a sustained 100 mph with the A/c and radio on?

    Thanks.

  2. Do Google Inc And Tesla Motors Inc Have Overly Radical Views On Driverless Cars?

    What do you think about the comments made by Google chief Chris Urmson, and the controversial comments by Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the subject of driverless cars?

    Google and driverless cars have been increasingly mentioned in the same sentence lately. Ever since Google finalized the prototype for its first fully automated car, speculation has been rife about the usage of the vehicle, with many claiming that it will replace traditional drivers eventually.

    Google executive Chris Urmson revealed, not surprisingly, that Google cannot wait for driverless cars to be on the road.

    The Google chief has providing a very light example, talking about his son, who is 11 and a half years old. He pointed out how he will be undergoing a driving test soon to get his license, and Chris Urmson does not want that to happen.

    He says that he hopes driverless cars will be on the road by 2020 so that his son’s driving test will become academic, since humans would not need to drive cars. It sounds like Chris Urmson has planned for quite the birthday present for his son’s 16th birthday.

    Google hopes that semi-autonomous cars will help slowly win over skeptics and critics of fully autonomous technology. The debate concerning how beneficial AI is for humanity as a whole has taken a completely new angle in recent times; and automated cars just add more fuel to the fire.

    Google has tested its autonomous car by monitoring the car as it covered over 700,000 miles in the testing phase, with around 100 Google also given the car for a test-driving experience. The most remarkable results from that experiment have come when the car encountered unexpected situations – even though there was nothing in the car’s programming about what to do when a child driving a toy car impedes the Google Car’s path, the car slowed down to a halt upon sensing the danger.

    Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk holds similar, and somewhat more extreme views on the matter. The chief of the electric vehicles company also believes that automated vehicles will be on the road in the next 20 years, and the delay will only be caused by red tapism as consumers slowly open up to the idea that unmanned vehicles on the road will, in fact, be safe for humans.

    Musk recently raised controversy with his comments, in which he stated that autonomous cars will in fact be so safe that human drivers will be considered extremely dangerous in comparison. As a result, it might be very much possible that human drivers will be outlawed in the future, leaving the road to the mercy of autonomous cars all around.

    If nothing else, that statement painted a stark picture that reflected the (albeit questionable) concerns of many regarding a mechanical Artificial Intelligence utopia where humans slowly lose control to the machines (read: Terminator). But while that seems ridiculous at this point in time, the Tesla CEO’s comments are equally, if not more, ridiculous.

    Marketing your product to some extent is good, but when executives go on to cite extreme examples of how their latest product will be good for everyone, you start to question their motives.

    This also contradicts Musk’s own prior stance against AI, where popular figures like himself and Bill Gates are apparently completely against humans being over-reliant on artificial intelligence.

  3. This past month we (me, the wife, and 2 cats) made a round trip to Florida (had to escape the polar vortex or go insane) in my 2003 Corolla. We did it in 2 12 hour segments, and only stopped for gas twice, not counting the initial fill-up. This car gets 40+ mpg on the highway and is way roomier than a Prius, so what’s the point of all this BS? That trip would most likely take weeks in a Tesla; I can see an electric vehicle if you live in an urban area close to where you work and never take a long trip, but that’s pretty limiting. So if you want a vacation in the mountains you have to rent a car, and if you needed to go somewhere in a hurry and the car is still being charged you’re s.o.l.
    Like Eric said, why should we subsidize a toy for wealthy buyers that makes no practical sense for normal driving. Just another govt. mandate for us mundanes to drive econoboxes to reach their ridiculous average mileage standard. Only the Feds have the hubris to think they can rewrite the laws of physics to suit their standards.

  4. Eric, I recently had a conversation with someone extolling the benefits of driving a Tesla, and bemoaning the fact that “even with the tax breaks, I still can’t afford it”. Since I drive a 1999 Suburban with 199K miles, I thought I’d have fun with this sanctimonious prick. I asked him which Tesla he wanted, the coal powered or Nuke powered one, since that is the source of most electricity in NC. He didn’t think it was very amusing. I’m still laughing at the look of horror on his face as he pondered my question.
    That said, the Tesla is a cool looking $60K golf cart.
    Onward thru the fog.

    • Hi Andy,

      Yup. I drive a ’98 Nissan which I bought – with my own money – for about the same amount as the federal subsidy available to Tesla buyers.

      It chaps my ass to think I am driving around in a 16-year-old truck while some rich rent-seeker is toodling around in his $70k Tesla… that I “helped” to pay for!

      • Eric it does to me as well.
        But ultimately we are ‘losers’ for not playing the game that is set. That’s why Musk is a ‘winner’. He plays the game the way its meant to be played.

        Perhaps I should play. I could win it. Just morality in my way. golden rule and all that…. but maybe the only rule on this rock is do on to others before they can do on to you.

        • Hi Brent,

          Yeah, I’ve thought about it, too – playing the game. The most I could ever bring myself to do was some ghostwriting work for a Republican PR firm. I felt like a $20 whore afterward, though. I doubt I could ever be involved in such shenanigans again… but of course, I won’t really know unless I get really desperate… or I’m offered something really tempting.

          I hope I’d stick to my guns – but the honest truth is no one knows until they’ve actually dealt with that sort of situation….

    • I’d take the nuclear powered one any day over the coal or natural gas powered ones. Despite what we’re told, it is by far the safest, greenest option out there.

    • Andy, a friend still has his ’79 Anniversary T/A with and Oat Willie’s Onward Through the Fog sticker in the back window with the “keep on truckin'” looking character.

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