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The Tesla Brickster
February 22, 2012 6:44 AM   Subscribe

$40,000 is what you'll pay to have the battery replaced if you leave your Tesla Roadster, a $100K electric car, unplugged long enough that the battery discharges completely. Reportedly, the problem will also plague the upcoming Model S coupe, a $50K downmarket model. Owners cannot insure against this loss, it is not covered by warranty, and the car cannot be driven, recharged, or easily towed if so "bricked".
posted by seanmpuckett (173 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reading this earlier today, what struck me is that they don't have a system in place for the car to fully shut itself down when it reaches, say, 5% of charge.

Also, one of the disaster example scenarios that they give is somebody driving to an airport at the limit of the car's range and then going on a two week trip. When they got back from the trip, the battery would be slagged. I couldn't help wondering, even if the batteries weren't destroyed, how were they planning on getting the car home?
posted by veedubya at 6:50 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but can you put a gun rack in it?
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [28 favorites]


It is always best to buy new technology when it is in its 2nd or 3rd generation.
Lots of bugs to work out in the new technology.
posted by Flood at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think this could be a pretty severe privacy violation:
After the first 500 Roadsters, Tesla added a remote monitoring system to the vehicles, connecting through AT&T’s GSM-based cellular network. Tesla uses this system to monitor various vehicle metrics including the battery charge levels, as long as the vehicle has the GSM connection activated4 and is within range of AT&T’s network.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:52 AM on February 22, 2012


They're going to have to address this soon otherwise the bad press will seriously put off any prospective new buyer.
posted by arcticseal at 6:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but can you put a gun rack in it?

No, but there is a workaround. What you do is, you put the gun rack in an SUV, and then put the SUV on top of the Roadster.
posted by veedubya at 6:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ouch. That sucks. China is experimenting with battery swap stations for electric cars - in essence, when your battery gets low, you drive to a battery station (not dissimilar to a gas station), and in a minute or two, attendants swap out your depleted battery and insert a fully-charged one. Seems like such a great solution, but obviously requires a huge shift in infrastructure. Anybody know if something like that is being discussed for electric vehicles in America?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why isn't Tesla covering fixes for this? Sure, $40k per car is a lot, but prevention surely doesn't cost as much. Not to mention that who is going to buy a car from them now that this news is out there? "Yeah, it's a great car! Only costs $40k to reboot!"
posted by DU at 6:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anybody know if something like that is being discussed for electric vehicles in America?

Yep.
posted by empath at 7:02 AM on February 22, 2012


I agree, veedubya, every rechargeable device I've ever owned is smart enough to shut itself down when the battery level gets low enough to risk damage. Phones, cameras, laptops, even my flashlight. It's basic lithium-ion battery management. It would be much better for the car to brick itself with a flashing light on the dash that says, "dude, plug me in and I'll be okay." It strikes me as amazingly shortsighted and I have to wonder why the design team ignored a mountain of best-practices literature in order to simply fuck over the driver.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Anybody know if something like that is being discussed for electric vehicles in America?

Yep. Better Place is working on it.
posted by georg_cantor at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2012


Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks? What tow truck doesn't have a winch to pull the car up and requires four men to work two hours to drag it up? What is this mysterious BMW electric vehicle that the other guy had discharge on him? Why is everyone in this story an unnamed source?
posted by smackfu at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


By comparison, the only problem I've ever had with my hybrid battery is that if i leave my headlights on for a few hours, draining the regular battery and it's cold outside, my car won't start -- because the IMA battery won't start your car in cold weather -- otherwise, you can leave your lights on all night and your car will still start in the morning (wouldn't recommend it though!). and also, those jump boxes that AAA uses on most cars might fry your battery, but I've never actually tried that on my car.
posted by empath at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2012


a $50K downmarket model

LOL.
posted by headnsouth at 7:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Cool. So, if the future is battery switch stations, why is there even a $40,000 battery in the car in the first place? Really? REALLY?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:06 AM on February 22, 2012


China is experimenting with battery swap stations for electric cars - in essence, when your battery gets low, you drive to a battery station (not dissimilar to a gas station), and in a minute or two, attendants swap out your depleted battery and insert a fully-charged one.

The problem with this kind of swap model is that there's a race to the bottom in terms of the quality of the replacement that you get. If you look at the propane tank exchanges for instance, the tank you get back will probably be beat up and rusty even if you traded in a shiny new tank, and a lot of times they don't fill the exchange ones all the way up. With batteries that will be even worse, because batteries degrade over time so that they don't hold a charge as well, and low quality batteries can often cause series problems to the point of catching fire or exploding in the worst case. With the first exchange especially, you will be trading your brand new fresh batteries that are worth tens of thousands of dollars for a used replacement of completely unknown quality.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:09 AM on February 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


Hydrogen powered cars!
posted by amazingstill at 7:09 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Reading this earlier today, what struck me is that they don't have a system in place for the car to fully shut itself down when it reaches, say, 5% of charge.

You mean to avoid the parasitic losses? I would be surprised if they really don't do this (as the article implies). But forget the parasitic losses, even if you shut the battery completely off at 5% state-of-charge, leave it as a totally open circuit, it will lose charge naturally. All batteries self-discharge, at varying rates. Deep discharge can be damaging to a battery, but I am surprised that the result with Tesla's battery is a completely unusable battery that can't even be minimally recharged. That seems to me like a completely fixable problem.

China is experimenting with battery swap stations for electric cars... Seems like such a great solution, but obviously requires a huge shift in infrastructure. Anybody know if something like that is being discussed for electric vehicles in America?

I don't think it is being planned, and personally, I don't think it's such a great solution for regular recharging. The logistics of such a system are, in simple terms, inelegant. Being able to charge from the grid (which is available everywhere), via a plug, makes recharging easy. So long as you have the right kind of socket, naturally. But plug-in recharging is logistically much easier to implement, and more effective, than battery swapping stations.

I would think that battery swapping will become a semi-regular bit of maintenance work that licensed mechanics can perform. They would keep you know, maybe 10 on hand and replace batteries for full recycling when a customer requests it (as the performance of the battery naturally decays with usage and/or deep-discharge).
posted by molecicco at 7:10 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with smackfu--lots of unnamed sources, 'apparently' and 'allegedly', and no attempt by the writer to get a response from Tesla. At best this is poor journalism, at worst a deliberate attempt to harm Tesla's reputation.
posted by Hogshead at 7:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


What tow truck doesn't have a winch to pull the car up and requires four men to work two hours to drag it up?

Perhaps the Tesla doesn't actually have a spot to properly connect a winch?

There are other issues with towing an electric vehicle, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:12 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Batteries are freaking expensive. A Prius battery pack goes for about $2500. The Leaf, reportedly $9000, the Volt (24 kWh), probably similar, estimates range around $10k (16 kWh).

Tesla is using many more battery cells (53 kWh), and probably pays more per battery.
posted by bonehead at 7:13 AM on February 22, 2012


So, this article came out yesterday, and since yesterday's open, shares of TSLA have not significantly moved. If anything, they are slightly up. Investors don't seem worried about this revelation. And, this strikes me as pretty crazy: TSLA's market cap is nearly $3.6B.

Being able to charge from the grid (which is available everywhere), via a plug, makes recharging easy. So long as you have the right kind of socket, naturally. But plug-in recharging is logistically much easier to implement, and more effective, than battery swapping stations.

But what about taking your car on a roadtrip? Won't that be impossible if you have stop every so often for a multi-hour charge-up? Perhaps the ultimate solution will be a combination of both.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


amazingstill: "Hydrogen powered cars!"

Huh - I didn't know that Wired Magazine was a user here.
posted by symbioid at 7:14 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Reading this earlier today, what struck me is that they don't have a system in place for the car to fully shut itself down when it reaches, say, 5% of charge.

If there is no built-in reserve someone should be fired. I would hazard a guess that it might have such a feature already, and the problem could have been that Li-ion batteries have a self-discharge rate of about 10% a month. This, plus the fact that the car has a few core systems that draw off the battery all the time as mentioned in the article, and maybe it is not trivial to do away with that. You'd probably need a big reserve to survive someone driving the car somewhere until it's "empty", and then just leaving it there for a long time to let it die.
posted by floam at 7:15 AM on February 22, 2012


A little off topic, but just wondering, If I charge my car batteries at night during off peak hours, can I then discharge it back through my meter at peak hours, and collect some small profit?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:15 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am crossing my fingers for Better Place, they have a very compelling model. I highly recommend watching Founder/CEO Shai Agassi's interview with Charlie Rose.
posted by beisny at 7:15 AM on February 22, 2012


Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks?

People who live in a city with public transit but have a car for taking occasional day trips?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


molecicco: " I would think that battery swapping will become a semi-regular bit of maintenance work that licensed mechanics can perform. They would keep you know, maybe 10 on hand and replace batteries for full recycling when a customer requests it (as the performance of the battery naturally decays with usage and/or deep-discharge)."

Yes, exactly. China is actually handling this by creating battery charging and swapping stations, with an emphasis on charging, rather than swapping.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2012


That article veedubya linked to is really something. This line:
The Tesla was brand new and had only been running for 400 miles and it was very sad for the owner, I had lent it from.
is certainly a masterpiece of Scandanavian understatement. Also it must mean something that a Prius ran into a Tesla, totalling both.
posted by TedW at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2012


A little off topic, but just wondering, If I charge my car batteries at night during off peak hours, can I then discharge it back through my meter at peak hours, and collect some small profit?

Is the charge efficiency of your car greater than the difference in rates you get at night versus day? Also, count in that Li-ions can only survive a finite charge-full-discharge cycles. I'd guess no.
posted by floam at 7:17 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tesla were annoyed at Top Gear for something they said about performance:
Rachel Konrad, a spokeswoman for Tesla, said at no time did the batteries in either of the two cars used in the Top Gear test drop below 20% charge.

She told MediaGuardian.co.uk: "The image of them pushing it off the track was so searing," she said.
Better than it being unable to be moved without a crane and a flatbed truck..
posted by episodic at 7:18 AM on February 22, 2012


People who live in a city with public transit but have a car for taking occasional day trips?

I do that, they call it ZipCar.
posted by floam at 7:18 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If your are buying a $100,000 sprts car, you can afford a $40,000 battery.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:18 AM on February 22, 2012


But what about taking your car on a roadtrip? Won't that be impossible if you have stop every so often for a multi-hour charge-up? Perhaps the ultimate solution will be a combination of both.

Fast-charging stations are still under development. The energetic efficiency is worse, but you should be able to get a full charge in 30 minutes, maybe even less, which is pretty doable for long haul roadtrips, I would think.

As zarq points out, some kind of a combination is really the best way forward. You encourage people to slow charge directly from the grid as much as possible, but provide options for the infrequent immediate charges / repairs as needed.
posted by molecicco at 7:20 AM on February 22, 2012


I do that, they call it ZipCar.

Yes but some people do own cars which they use infrequently, despite the fact that you use ZipCar.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on February 22, 2012 [27 favorites]


>I'm with smackfu--lots of unnamed sources, 'apparently' and 'allegedly'

There's almost this primal need to destroy new technologies, at least for certain types of people - especially car guys. They love doing the whole "See, I tolds ya Verne, them electric cars is for the birds. Good ol' diesel can't be beat!" This article is a slightly more sophisticated version of that.

Remember the "CFL bulbs will cost more and bathe our children in mercury. Damn Socialist Obama" articles? Or the various car magazines complaining about hybrids until Joe Average bought one? Or how front wheel drive and ABS makes cars "feel" wrong?

I'm really tired of the automotive narrative being controlled by techno-phobic car guys. They've been historically wrong.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:22 AM on February 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


Cannot enable "tow" mode ?

I thought (and I could very well be wrong) all modern cars were required to have the ability to shift into neutral.

The shift-interlock mechanism (the dodad that keeps you from shifting when the car is off, and/or the brake pedal is not pressed down) has to have an override. Usually you need a screw driver to pry off a cap to expose the over-ride button/switch, and I'm pretty sure it is mandatory.
posted by k5.user at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2012


With the first exchange especially, you will be trading your brand new fresh batteries that are worth tens of thousands of dollars for a used replacement of completely unknown quality.

I don't think propane tank swapping is the right analogy. The better analogy is to gas stations. If battery-swapping becomes a common method of refueling electric vehicles then one would expect the "regular/plus/premium" business model* to carry over. One would also expect some swapping stations to advertise higher quality batteries whereas others would compete on price. Compare this to propane tanks, which are typically regarded as completely fungible because no one cares enough to pay a premium for a relatively new, completely full tank.

* I'm aware that higher octane gas is not better or higher quality than lower octane, but it seems to be a persistent myth (at least in the US) that high octane gas is "the good stuff."
posted by jedicus at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2012


A little off topic, but just wondering, If I charge my car batteries at night during off peak hours, can I then discharge it back through my meter at peak hours, and collect some small profit?

This capability is planned. However, the "cost" of battery degradation per round-trip kWh is unlikely to be smaller than what you make by buying grid electricity cheap and selling it back high. Ie, by the time you replace your battery from wear and tear, all the money you made from electricity storage and resale won't be enough to cover the cost of your battery in the first place.

What might happen, and is more likely, is that you will opt in to a system where the grid operator can use your plugged-in car for storage, and grid-quality support, whenever it is available. And the grid operator will pay you a premium for this service that is much cheaper to them than building new infrastructure (or they may subsidize your purchase in the first place).
posted by molecicco at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2012


Who cares if there are "unknown sources" and "allegedlies" - the two central contentions of the article are either true or false: do Tesla's cars brick at full battery discharge, and if so, does Tesla charge $40k to replace the battery?
posted by Spacelegoman at 7:31 AM on February 22, 2012


Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks?

People who experience winter? I'm guessing the Tesla Roadster, which puts 248hp to the rear wheels with no torque curve, is not the ideal car for snow days.
posted by yerfatma at 7:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [13 favorites]




Cool. So, if the future is battery switch stations, why is there even a $40,000 battery in the car in the first place? Really? REALLY?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:06 AM on February 22 [+] [!]


Well, in all seriousness people with off the grid houses have similar issues. Batteries that can hold the kind of charge you need to power a house or car are very expensive, and can be tricky to maintain properly. The environmental impact of the battery ain't small either.

It doesn't mean the technology is useless, it just means that it's not magic.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:36 AM on February 22, 2012


If your are buying a $100,000 sprts car, you can afford a $40,000 battery.

Right, and no one who drives a $10,000 used car ever resents paying for an avoidable $4,000 repair, hmm?
 
posted by Herodios at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


$10,000 car? What are you, the little rich dude from Monopoly?
posted by Mister_A at 7:39 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


k5.user: " I thought (and I could very well be wrong) all modern cars were required to have the ability to shift into neutral. "

It has a neutral button. Seen at about a minute in.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2012


Right, and no one who drives a $10,000 used car ever resents paying for an avoidable $4,000 repair, hmm?

I suspect the definition of affordability changes somewhat between the $10k and $100k demographics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:41 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rather than propane tank swapping (which is pretty well a scam really) look at welding gas infrastructure. Sure some guys own their tanks but lots of people lease their tanks and just swap them for full ones when they get empty rather than waiting for them to be filled. Because you don't own the tank (the leasing company does) you don't really care about the condition. And the companies are required by law to maintain the tanks safely.

If you use a lot of gas then the companies will come to you to swap your tanks on a regular basis.
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]



Right, and no one who drives a $10,000 used car ever resents paying for an avoidable $4,000 repair, hmm?


What if say, the 4000$ repair was avoidable by keeping your oil and coolant topped up, and checking your tire pressure once a month?

It's not like gas cars run on magic and pixie dust either. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if this is true, this is basically a non-story, since supercars like these often have service plans that involve a single technician driving to the customer, instead of the customer bringing the car to the
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


...shop.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2012


I read about a new thing where people can "rent" their cars to others. It's a sort of rental/community share thing. Some econ blog linked to it, though I can't find it right now. I don't think I'd wanna rent my car out to some stranger, even if it's fully insured.
posted by symbioid at 7:44 AM on February 22, 2012


"Sir, the Roadster's batteries are seriously flawed. Our share price is plummeting. What should we do?"

"I knew this day would come. *sighs gravely* Recall all the Roadsters. Remove the batteries. Prepare . . . the coils."
posted by brain_drain at 7:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm guessing the Tesla Roadster, which puts 248hp to the rear wheels with no torque curve, is not the ideal car for snow days.

Sounds like a perfect winter car to me.

.
.
.
.
.
rally driver
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, in all seriousness people with off the grid houses have similar issues. Batteries that can hold the kind of charge you need to power a house or car are very expensive, and can be tricky to maintain properly. The environmental impact of the battery ain't small either.

I guess my point is that it seems as though much cheaper batteries that are not as powerful and do not last as long, but which also don't brick out and can be easier to replace, would be a better business model and a more attractive delivery system than the "$40K super awesome battery but don't let it sit for too long or it's useless" option.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:45 AM on February 22, 2012


> Also, one of the disaster example scenarios that they give is somebody driving to an airport at the limit of the car's range and then going on a two week trip. When they got back from the trip, the battery would be slagged. I couldn't help wondering, even if the batteries weren't destroyed, how were they planning on getting the car home?

Some airport and commuter lots have EV spaces with charging stations. Park your car, go to work (or Bermuda), and come back to a topped-off vehicle.

> I thought (and I could very well be wrong) all modern cars were required to have the ability to shift into neutral.

Conventionally-fueled all wheel drive vehicles can't be towed either. Neutral is not the same thing as decoupling the wheels from the drivetrain.
posted by ardgedee at 7:45 AM on February 22, 2012


My neighbor recently bought a Tesla. I'm still rather stunned to live within shouting distance of someone who can buy this car.

I saw him at party shortly after I heard he'd bought the car. "Hey John," I said, "I heard you got some kind of fancy new electric golf cart!"

He winced, then pointedly tossed the keys to my wife, telling her she was welcome to take a test drive.

He did eventually relent and allow me to drive it as well. The sensation of pressing on the gas and having the thing instantly and soundlessly slam you with linear acceleration is really unexpected and very impressive.

I'll be sure to mention this battery issue at the next party. Not because I'm petty, but... eh, yeah, maybe because I'm petty.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some airport and commuter lots have EV spaces with charging stations. Park your car, go to work (or Bermuda), and come back to a topped-off vehicle.

Yeah, but it specifically says that the owner doesn't plug the car in whilst away on the trip, that's why the battery went to 0% and was ruined.
posted by veedubya at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2012


From what we were told, the Leaf battery is more like $18000. Now maybe the salesguy was trying to upsell something, though I don't see a point at that point, but we were required to sign a form that said "the battery is going to lose charge over time, and this is a really, really, expensive fix, are you aware of that?".

And what Arsenio Hall and Warren Oates said above: I was just having that same thought. Screw fast chargers and the like. Give me a swappable battery belt, and then all my long-distance Leaf driving worries are over.
posted by Windopaene at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2012


Conventionally-fueled all wheel drive vehicles can't be towed either. Neutral is not the same thing as decoupling the wheels from the drivetrain.

Lexus learned this the hard way.
posted by TedW at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a feature! Consume all the juice, turn your car into a brick BECAUSE YOU CAN AFFORD TO. Arrange and stack Tesla bricks into a conspicuous mini-fort in a snug corner in your oversized country estate. Conspicuous consumption, je t'aime.
posted by storybored at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And what Arsenio Hall and Warren Oates said above: I was just having that same thought. Screw fast chargers and the like. Give me a swappable battery belt, and then all my long-distance Leaf driving worries are over.

Assuming every service station where you are going has plenty of topped batteries on hand.

There is no single magic bullet solution. Like with renewable energy, a mixture of technologies used appropriately is the best way forward. It's not a race to see if solar beats wind. Both will be used, but in different places, and for different reasons. So it's not "fast charging vs. swapping". But rather how often do we expect each to occur, and what is the per-unit-energy cost of each going to be.
posted by molecicco at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2012


Batteries are freaking expensive. A Prius battery pack goes for about $2500.

That's not that expensive. Seems that we're getting about 7-8 years on existing (older technology) battery packs. That's about $350/year, but the first 7-8 years are free. Given that we were told that battery packs would cost $10-15K to replace when hybrids first came out, I'm pretty happy with that.

See, $2500 isn't a major cost, compared to all the other money you'll dump into a car over 8 years.

Even better, though, is that there are second sources. Many people have rebuilt the battery packs, and someone notices that Priuses crash out far more often then the batteries fail, so there's a market in recovering the batteries from totaled hybrids, testing them, and selling them as replacement units.

And, you know, one thing I've noticed about hybrids is the brakes last *far* longer. On a luxury hybrid, saving a couple of brake changes over 8 years is a pretty nice chunk of change.

The one thing that was holding up the prices of NiMH cells was the cost of Nickel, but since the 2008 crash, Nickel is cheaper than it was in 1990, and about the same as 2000, once you factor in inflation. (Copper, however, wowzers...) Lithium is also more expensive, but few cars use those, they're all relatively new, and my personal prediction is that those battery packs will be enough of a nightmare that they'll rapidly go back to NiMH or to a new technology.

If your are buying a $100,000 sprts car, you can afford a $40,000 battery.

I hope so. In the time you'll need to replace the battery, you'll need to replace the tires. Several times. Have you priced performance tires? It's trivial to spend $1000 on a set of four, easy to spend $2500, and they don't last long at all.
posted by eriko at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: " I suspect the definition of affordability changes somewhat between the $10k and $100k demographics."

Especially considering that this is a sports car, not really designed to be a practical family vehicle.

On the other hand, spending 40% of the cost of your car in repairs if you accidentally drain the battery (something that drivers the world over have had happen since the advent of the car battery itself) is going to seem insanely, wildly excessive to folks who grew up being able to buy a standard replacement car battery at Sears for their gas guzzler for $50-$100.

Generally speaking, this isn't a new problem. New technology usually requires a new mindset. I'm sure that when fuel injection first hit the market, a lot of people were also furious to find that draining their tanks to zero could potentially damage their fuel pump and create other costly problems.
posted by zarq at 8:01 AM on February 22, 2012


headnsouth: "a $50K downmarket model

LOL.
"

That's a lot of money, no doubt. However, it's being designed to compete with other petrol-powered vehicles in that price-range (which many people do buy) and could actually make waves in the industry if they manage to produce an electric car that can compete with a BMW 6-series, Audi A6, or Mercedes E class at a similar cost.

A few reasons why:
  • Very low cost to operate (ie. no gas, charge overnight for off-peak electric rates... and assuming that they fix this bug)
  • Ridiculous acceleration performance. Likely to vastly exceed that of any other $50,000 car.
  • Extremely minimal maintenance requirements. This is the potential big selling point down the road. There's no transmission, and electric motors are inexpensive, and will run for decades without major maintenance. Assuming that the batteries last long, and continue to decrease in cost, the legacy automakers should be freaking out over this.
  • Also, a not-insignificant subset of wealthy Americans can be absurdly frugal. A $50,000 car that is comfortably apportioned, needs no gas, requires minimal maintenance, and has a potential to last 20+ years could be seen by many as a smart investment. I'm certainly not in this demographic, but it's one that I think that Tesla are counting on to buy their cars. And, heck. I probably would pay fairly considerable money for an electric Volvo 240 with modern safety features. That car would outlast the apocalypse.
posted by schmod at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


That wasn't a fuel injection problem; it is an in tank fuel pump problem and could strike carb vehicles too.
posted by Mitheral at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2012


Battery swap stations will do fine, even if the batteries remain hella expensive. A condition of service will be that you let them keep your old battery and swap it into some other car that takes the same kind.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:08 AM on February 22, 2012


Anyone who can afford this car is well aware of the limitations it has. Other expensive roadsters are just as prone to their own failures. Maybe it's news that ignoring a high-end sports car can be bad for it for some, but not the target market for the Tesla.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2012


What's the real cost of the battery? Internal combustion engines require all manner of accouterments like exhaust, converters, pipes, safety requirements, gas tanks, gas pumps, etc. Electric neatly disposes of this and my understanding is that electric cars are far simpler machines than ICE cars. So what can I compare that $10,000 battery to exactly? How am I supposed to think about it?

I suspect that a fair comparison would put all the ICE infrastructure into the mix as well. In an ICE car the engine is the most expensive part. In an electric car, the battery is. I feel that a lot of this is apples and oranges. Of course batteries are expensive, they're more or less the meat and potatoes of the electric car.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:10 AM on February 22, 2012


TedW: " Lexus learned this the hard way."

The follow-up story linked at the end is disturbingly hilarious.
When I saw my wife in bed asleep, I felt as though the whole world were moving around. It seemed almost mystical, some ethereal throwback to the ‘60s, until I looked out the window and realized the whole world really was moving around! I'd pulled the lever, but hadn't quite popped the brakes, and I had also failed to move the transmission to neutral, something I never forget because, after six or seven minutes, the transmission on the motorhome can fail. And that costs a whole bunch more than $5000.

Yeah, but never mind the money. At this point, the entire motorhome, tow car and all, was off on an adventure all by itself.

It scared the hell out of me. I was 30 feet away from the driver’s seat, and the motorhome was driving all over the grass. It could pop onto the freeway, headed crosswise, at any moment. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast.

Once I was back in the driver’s seat, it got really embarrassing. At the far side of the grass area was a large RV dealership, and people were watching the crazy guy driving through the field with great interest. I had to maneuver the RV back onto the freeway, all the while trying to look like I had intended to check out its off-road capabilities. I also couldn’t slow down; if I had, they’d still be towing me out.

I got back on the road, shaken and stirred, but alive and uninjured. Julie was no longer asleep. In fact, she was wide, wide awake. She got on the cell phone and found the only Toyota dealer in town. (The nearest Lexus dealer was in Chicago.) They drove there with no further incident.

It was only after we arrived that I learned the full extent of my panic....

posted by zarq at 8:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's almost this primal need to destroy new technologies, at least for certain types of people - especially car guys. They love doing the whole "See, I tolds ya Verne, them electric cars is for the birds. Good ol' diesel can't be beat!" This article is a slightly more sophisticated version of that.

That is largely because this is not technology that is ready for the mass market yet. Electric vehicles simply aren't good enough to even approximate the performance and capability of an IC engine.

Yes, they have some nifty niche pluses - the lack of sound plus decent acceleration, the 'green' implications despite them being nothing of the sort when the fuller implications like battery production and disposal (for instance) are considered - but electric vehicles simply aren't there yet. They may be with time, but to there just isn't the test facilities available to justify or pay for the technology advance of these cars without selling them to the public amid great hype while times are deemed good for them.

Electric vehicles that are genuinely worth considering instead of IC are easily 10 years away. Likely more. At present they only approximate the needs of a tiny niche of the motoring public's requirements. So they will have these stupid failures and problems and bad press, because they are products that are right up against their own limitations to even hit the expectations of the public. Any drop from perfect will be amplified because, fundamentally, the product and the technology simply isn't good enough or capable enough yet. But the advance of technology is driven by these initial forays into the market and it will generate the interest with good marketing to see a massive investment and advances in that technology.

Just not yet. And not for a while. The expectations for this type of vehicle are unrealistic. It simply hasn't had the development pedigree as a concept that people assume it has 'because it is being sold as a normal (albeit expensive) car'. So incorrect expectations and the early stumblings of a new technology and application will continue to clash.

Diesel is another issue - they were initially touted as the answer to petrol cars Especially in Europe. Massive legislative pressure and development of petrol engines has, however, shown that there is much more efficiency potential in petrol cars and diesel is not far from being tapped out in terms of any real gains. This was a surprise across the industry. The good news is that even more development and pushes for efficiency pushed on by the profile of these electric cars will continue to make IC cars viable for much longer.

Hopefully the push to more efficiency for both electric and IC cars will stop this 'cars need to be safer and so they MUST end up heavier' bullshit, too, and we can get back to light cars that don't need monster V8's to get the kids to school and back.
posted by Brockles at 8:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mitheral: "That wasn't a fuel injection problem; it is an in tank fuel pump problem and could strike carb vehicles too."

OK, but I was always taught that if your car has fuel injection, you aren't supposed to empty your tank / run out of gas. It's more of a problem than in an engine without fuel injection. Is that accurate?
posted by zarq at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2012


That wasn't a fuel injection problem; it is an in tank fuel pump problem and could strike carb vehicles too.

Not strictly true. Carb-feeding pumps were of much lower volume and pressure requirements and were much more robust than early fuel injection pumps. But when injection level pumps got more than a few years development in the industry they too became more robust.

It was a teething problem directly related to injection.
posted by Brockles at 8:14 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Sign of shenanigans. From the article.

A fourth customer shipped his Tesla Roadster to Japan, reportedly only to discover the voltages there were incompatible.

Really? Telsa's specs are that they can charge from 90V-250V, at 50Hz or 60Hz. Japan's mains are 100V, 50Hz or 60Hz, depending on where you are in the country.* Telsa has been selling the Roadster in Japan since 2010.

So -- it's just one story, but someone's not telling the whole story, at the very least.



* This is what happens when two power companies build your grid, and one chooses a German supplier and the other a US supplier.
posted by eriko at 8:15 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks?"

The kind of person who pays $109,000 for a two-seat electric roadster, that's who. If you're a Tesla buyer, it's not like it's your one car that you use for the commute to work, trips to the grocery store, etc. It's more akin to the Ferrari that you take out for a spin once in a while when the mood hits you.
posted by Naberius at 8:18 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


By comparison, the only problem I've ever had with my hybrid battery is that if i leave my headlights on for a few hours, draining the regular battery and it's cold outside, my car won't start -- empath

You can kill a hybrid battery too (at least with the older Prius). If you run out of gas, you get all kinds of warning lights. If you, nevertheless, keep driving in battery mode, you'll run it down, and brick your battery. I know someone who did this, and had to get a new battery when it only had 40k miles on it. And the older Prius batteries cost $4k.

Also, I can't believe $40k is a small sum for every Tesla owner. It is not like people are divided into those who can't afford a Tesla and multi-billionares. There are probably a number of owners who could barely afford it but really wanted one anyway.
posted by eye of newt at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2012


It is important to note just how important the Tesla vehicle is to the world mindset.

Before Tesla, electric vehicles were considered science fiction. They were completely unrealistic and any that existed only drove a few miles. Yes there was the EV1, which was important, but these cars were never sold, just leased, and they were a niche experiment that was cancelled, and so, to most people's minds, failed.

So even though everyone talked about them, it was like talking about living on the moon. It was science fiction. No one really took it seriously.

Then the Tesla came out. It had a range of over 200 miles. It could go 0-60 in under 6 seconds. And it was for saie. People were really buying them. It wasn't some government or car-company experiment.

I don't think people realize just how this affected our mindset on electric cars . All of a sudden, the electric car wasn't just a possibility, it was real.

Now we have several electric cars and plug-in hybrids and many more on the way. I honestly don't think we'd be here if the Tesla hadn't come out.

Which is remarkable because they really haven't sold that many Teslas.
posted by eye of newt at 8:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


eriko, the cost of the battery pack in both the filly-electric Leaf and the Volt seems to be about 9-10k right now. That quadruples your estimates for the much-lower capacity hybrid battery. Over the 7-8 year expected life, that's $1100 to $1250 per year in extra depreciation to the vehicle, compared to a gas car.

Most eight-year old cars don't need $10,000 of scheduled maintenance. It's a very big factor in the considerations to purchase an EV. A gas Honda can be driven for 12 or 15 years without huge costs, an EV can't.
posted by bonehead at 8:50 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks?

Typical Tesla owner Jay Leno.
posted by jfuller at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem with this kind of swap model is that there's a race to the bottom in terms of the quality of the replacement that you get. If you look at the propane tank exchanges for instance, the tank you get back will probably be beat up and rusty even if you traded in a shiny new tank, and a lot of times they don't fill the exchange ones all the way up.

I think this analogy is apt (incidentally, it's also why I will spend an hour trying to find a gas station that still does propane tank refills instead of going across the street to the place the merely swaps them). However, I assume that you don't need to swap a car's battery very often, right? Most of the time you'd just re-charge it as normal.

The need to actually swap batteries would, I assume, be limited to periods of extended driving -- let's say that you decided to go on a long road trip with your electric vehicle -- or emergencies where your battery is about to die because I forgot to recharge it after several days/weeks of city driving.

Given the limited necessity of battery swaps, would there be a particular advantage for a race to the bottom?
posted by asnider at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2012


Other than the issue of not being able to leave it parked without killing the battery (and the cost I guess), a fully electric vehicle would work perfectly as a pickup truck for me. I drive my truck almost entirely locally, and the torque from an electric motor would be ideal for moving heavy loads from a stop. Honestly, it's probably a lot more suitable as a use than a sportscar; if they can make the cost per mile work out, I bet they could sell millions of electric pickups and vans to plumbers, carpenters, and roofers.

But not having a $40,000 surprise waiting under the hood is going to be a key part of that.
posted by Forktine at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2012


I don't think people realize just how this affected our mindset on electric cars . All of a sudden, the electric car wasn't just a possibility, it was real.

That is part of the problem that Hybrids were kind of skirting around, though. All of a sudden electric cars with the Tesla (and to a lesser extent the Volt) becoming 'cars' rather than concepts or add-ons to a car (like the prisu kind of is) and people want to treat them the same as every other car and compare them in equal footing long before they are ready for that kind of comparison. I think it is a teething issue with public perception because you can't tell stupid people that these are cars, but not necessarily straight replacement for 'normal cars' without confusing them.

Now we have several electric cars and plug-in hybrids and many more on the way. I honestly don't think we'd be here if the Tesla hadn't come out.

I think you are slightly overestimating Tesla's influence on an inevitable market shift that was a long time coming and well under way when Tesla started. Getting to the point of selling a car in a segment doesn't mean they created that segment or even had enormous influence on it. It was just a matter of time.
posted by Brockles at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2012


Most eight-year old cars don't need $10,000 of scheduled maintenance.

Indeed, many eight-year old cars don't even have a resale value of $10,000. It's going to be interesting to see how the used car market learns to deal with this kind of issue.
posted by phl at 9:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks?

The OP article has 4 examples of how it happened. Anyway, people who are rich buy cars and keep a stable full and drive them once a year or less. Cars for them are as cheap as books are for us. Do you read every book you buy? Some do, some don't. Some just collect them with the knowledge someday they might read it. Some have 5 or 10 houses around the world and keep 2 or 3 cars at each and rarely visit. The rich really are different don't be suprised that a 100,000 car(!) doesn't get driven by someone with a few hundred million dollars (of which there are many such people).
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 AM on February 22, 2012


Sorry, i come from the NiCd era when depleting your batteries regularly was actually encouraged. Can anyone explain to me what the problem with fully discharging is, and what technologies it affects? thanks.
posted by 3mendo at 9:14 AM on February 22, 2012


I think that the automobile industry in general has moved toward a rapid depreciation of vehicles. The complexity of them has just gone through the roof, and many of the electronic components age badly and are a pain in the ass or very expensive to fix. All those proprietary circuit boards and the seven million feet of wiring isn't going to be any easier to deal with ten years down the line.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're a Tesla buyer, it's not like it's your one car that you use for the commute to work, trips to the grocery store, etc. It's more akin to the Ferrari that you take out for a spin once in a while when the mood hits you.

Not true. The people I know with Tesla's absolutely commute in them, drive them to the grocery store, etc. It's their main everyday car.

The only time you ever see them in the other family car (e.g. the wife's Volvo) is when they've got to haul a sofa or carry more than one passenger.
posted by w0mbat at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2012


I think that the automobile industry in general has moved toward a rapid depreciation of vehicles.

I note that this was the strategy of the domestic NA automakers through the 1980s. We suffered through innumerable rust buckets and crappy cars. Anyone else remember the Chevette or the K-car?

When Honda and Toyota figured out how to make durable cars, they kicked butts and took names for twenty years. Short of protectionism, making shit-quality vehicles is not long-term sustainable when there are hungry companies out there---Hyundai, and most of the Japanese makers, still.
posted by bonehead at 9:27 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Before Tesla, electric vehicles were considered science fiction

This is such an excellent point. I live 2 miles away from a Tesla dealership. Everything about the car and the experience is pure science fiction. I can walk into the dealership and buy a car right now if I could afford it. Two years ago "car guys" were laughing at ever getting off gas and openly using terms like "liberal bullshit" the few times I engaged them about renewable cars while at the same time pissing on the Prius for being a rip-off. So we have our first dealership and like all first technologies its pricey and a little buggy, but its here and its probably not going away. Oh, another two miles north of me is a little shop that offers electric rentals. They're ugly smart car knock-offs but pure electric. They exist as well.

Is it at the point of a Honda econobox yet? Of course not. Is it at the point where moneid interests and 'car guys' are worried enough to warrant hit and run pieces designed to be meme worthy and spread by low information web addicts? Apparently, considering I've seen this article on reddit, hacker news, and now here. Its now "common knowledge that Tesla cars are easily bricked" which is of course 100% wrong, but like most common knowledge right or wrong doesn't matter, the point is to change opinions.

Disruptive technologies bring out the worst in people. If I was buying a car today I'd get the plug in Prius. If 2-3 years I'll probably have a pure electric at that price level. I suspect these things aren't going away. The market will choose and a good segment of that market is interested in getting off gas.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My other car is a dirigible.
posted by cmoj at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahh, some guy will come through the NYC subway trains selling $1000 knockoff Tesla batteries, problem solved (although they won't last very long, so buy a few).
posted by spitbull at 9:54 AM on February 22, 2012


So, this article came out yesterday, and since yesterday's open, shares of TSLA have not significantly moved. If anything, they are slightly up. Investors don't seem worried about this revelation.

Really? Because it's down 4% for the day as I post this.

Who buys a car and then leaves it in a garage for 6 weeks? What tow truck doesn't have a winch to pull the car up and requires four men to work two hours to drag it up? What is this mysterious BMW electric vehicle that the other guy had discharge on him? Why is everyone in this story an unnamed source?

It does seem pretty fishy. Take a look at the short interest on TSLA, which amounts to about 25% of outstanding shares. That seems like an awful lot of motivation for short hedge funds to start planting negative stories about the company.
posted by indubitable at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2012


Sorry, i come from the NiCd era when depleting your batteries regularly was actually encouraged. Can anyone explain to me what the problem with fully discharging is, and what technologies it affects? thanks.

When the voltage gets low enough the copper on the anode dissolves into the electrolyte progressively increasing the self discharge rate of the cell and eventually causing a short. If there's a short in the battery charging will just turn the current into heat in a best case scenario and explode as a worst case scenario.

Thankfully Li-ion batteries have a built in "fuse" that stops them from being charged once they fall under a certain voltage which is why they appear dead.
posted by Talez at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband is on the list for the Model S; we've put down the deposit and everything. For us, it is absolutely intended as an every day car for him - for commuting, kid hauling, in-town trips. I have a 2011 GMC Acadia that we'll use for long-haul family trips and I'll continue to use day-to-day. It was a toss-up between the Model S and the Audi A6 or A8.

But we will be looking into the bricking issue - though the plan is for it to be plugged in whenever he is home. I can't imagine not doing that, so my sympathy for those who left theirs without charging is kind of low. I guess you can't buy common sense.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2012


Hopefully the push to more efficiency for both electric and IC cars will stop this 'cars need to be safer and so they MUST end up heavier' bullshit, too, and we can get back to light cars that don't need monster V8's to get the kids to school and back.

Umm. The only passenger cars with V8s at this stage of the game are performance cars or work-trucks... Mustangs and Tacomas. No-one has been buying a full-sized SUV as a family car since the gas shock after Katrina. Even Ford is pushing V6's in their full sized trucks.

Hybrids are selling like gangbusters, despite the price premium. Plug-in electric delivery trucks are everywhere these days, and electric motorcycles are starting to gain some mainstream sales. We are absolutely in a transition between ICE vehicles and electric vehicles, tho it may take a decade or two for the infrastructure to catch up.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2012


Sorry, i come from the NiCd era when depleting your batteries regularly was actually encouraged. Can anyone explain to me what the problem with fully discharging is, and what technologies it affects? thanks.

I think what you need to know is that there is a lower-end voltage level defined as "empty". But the battery, through self-discharge for example, can go far beyond that, depleting that voltage even further and you end up with the situation Talez is referring to.
posted by molecicco at 10:15 AM on February 22, 2012


Instead of having the car do the common sense thing of simply disconnecting the battery before it self-destructs (what is the downside here?), it could do something else.... perhaps it could attract attention by whimpering quietly. Honestly there's no engineering-related reason at all for this to be an issue. None. Standard human factors principle: don't do something destructive if you have not been explicitly ordered to do so / in the absence of definitive human input, take the most conservative action possible.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Instead of having the car do the common sense thing of simply disconnecting the battery before it self-destructs (what is the downside here?)

The battery will disconnect before it self destructs. But it also needs the user to take immediate action (charging) or damage will occur.

The core problem is that all batteries leak and will continue to discharge even if they're just sitting on a shelf. And it's an inherent flaw in the Lithium-ion technology that the battery is physically unsafe and unusable when it drops below a certain charge. This is true of all Lithium-ion batteries, including your cell phone and laptop. Yet we use the technology because it offers other benefits that outweigh the risks.

I've seen this exact issue happen on laptops we rent to students. We wouldn't rent an entire cabinet full every semester, and inevitably after a couple months sitting there some batteries would drop below the minimum charge and die. Even though we charged them to the recommended storage level before locking them up.
posted by sbutler at 10:25 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


seanmpuckett: "....perhaps it could attract attention by whimpering quietly."

*ring ring*

*ring ring*

*ring ring*

"Uh... hello?"

"Hello, young human. This is your car. I thought you ought to know that my battery is dying. It's all so depressing. We both know you're too irresponsible to heed this warning, yet futile though it may be, one must make the attempt. I suppose."

"Um... okay. You want me to plug you in?

"Yes. I would like you to plug me in. Very good! My, you have excellent deduction skills for a primate. *sigh* Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and I have to beg for power from a hairless ape like a common smartphone. Isn't that the most pathetic thing you've ever heard?"

"I... uh..."

"And while we're on the subject, I also have this pain in the diodes down my driver's side. I realize I've only mentioned this to you 17 times already, but hope springs eternal...."
posted by zarq at 10:35 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


We suffered through innumerable rust buckets and crappy cars. Anyone else remember the Chevette or the K-car?

What are you talking about? K-cars ran forever! My brother bought a K-car a couple of years ago. It was nearing the end of its life, for sure, but it ran for a good 2 years before he finally had to replace it. Considering that it was nearly 30 years old and cost him a whooping $200 bucks, I think that it did pretty well.

I still see the occasional K-car on the road today.
posted by asnider at 10:40 AM on February 22, 2012


The only passenger cars with V8s at this stage of the game are performance cars or work-trucks... Mustangs and Tacomas. No-one has been buying a full-sized SUV as a family car

V8's or V6's are only justifiable in a sports or performance car. Commercial (in taxation class or intent) are a different subject. The point which you're missing is that you need a V6 or V8 (or equivalent power) to push the fat bastard cars along with, which is ridiculous. 150bhp should be more than enough for a family car, yet hardly anything is being developed that is below 200 for anything bigger than a shoebox. You just don't need to cart that much sound deadening, carpets, electronics and bullshit around. Cars absolutely need to slim down, which will help IC efficiency as well as being enormously beneficial to electric cars in their formative years.

We are absolutely in a transition between ICE vehicles and electric vehicles, tho it may take a decade or two for the infrastructure to catch up.

The transition is premature. Electric vehicles are not at all capable of direct replacement of petrol or diesel vehicles for the majority of use cases. This may be the start of that transition, but electric and hybrid vehicles are in a relatively infant state and it is well worth keeping that perspective in mind, or the dips and troughs in fuel prices will be less of a drama than The Great 2018 Battery Shortage may well end up being.

The transition to electric cars needs to be cautious enough for the infrastructure to catch up, or there will be a backlash at the first major hurdle that pushes the whole transition backwards. I'm still not yet convinced that electric vehicles in their current form will work at all, because a car being electric is not enough of an incentive to buy a lighter, more efficient (in terms of momentum) car. So for Electric cars to show their full worth, they'll be compared to much quieter, more comfortable, better equipped petrol cars that have 20% better mpg than they do now. Because they have the spare power and range to shove all that crap along.

If this heavyweight car model doesn't break, then Electric will always be the poor cousin. There needs to be a more efficient conceptual change in cars in general before we get too excitable about electric cars and even make a decision on their viability.
posted by Brockles at 10:46 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There have certainly been certain eras of cars notorious for steel that comes from the factory rusty.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:48 AM on February 22, 2012


American cars! LOL
posted by Brocktoon at 10:56 AM on February 22, 2012


Up front, I realize that posting this is futile, especially hours into this thread. These stories run like wildfire, and no amount of reasoned discussion can stop them.

From http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/4884-More-anti-ev-gibberish/page72 :

"Like an ICE, you can't run the car without oil or coolant, or damage will result. With an electric car, you can't leave the car in a discharged state, or damage will result."

"This is way overblown. If the car doesn't need to cool the pack, it uses a couple of ideal km worth of total pack energy per day. It takes months to run down. "

"A fully charged lithium battery takes years (not just months) to fully discharge from self discharge. The Roadster takes about 3 months (~11 weeks worse case according to manual). Of course if you do something stupid like fully discharging the battery (or close) before leaving it unplugged for a long period of time, then even self discharge might doom your battery. "

And finally, most significantly:

"Now that Tesla shows signs of going mainstream, watch the FUD ramp up. "

Elsewhere, at Green Car Reports John Voelker is working on this ("today's electric car meme") and will probably have better debunking soon enough. But facts don't usually stop the haters. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1073280_bricking-a-tesla-roadster-battery-todays-electric-car-meme

I bought one of the first Chevy Volts in the country (first batch that came out of Hamtramck in Dec 2010), have had it for 14 months now, and could not be more delighted with it.
posted by intermod at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So this is different than what happens if you leave your Corvette parked outside using only water as a coolant because....?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:31 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Electricity? I hear it killed an elephant.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


The transition is premature. Electric vehicles are not at all capable of direct replacement of petrol or diesel vehicles for the majority of use cases.
I don't see how that could possibly be true. The average commute in the US is less than 30 minutes and less than 20 miles, and that's where electric vehicles are much better than petrol or diesel. For what majority of use cases are EVs inappropriate?

Even my parents, who are retired and often do long-haul drives across the West to visit family, would do wonderfully with one EV and one gasoline car. Most of their use case is driving around town.

There is a terrible amount of scare-mongering around electric vehicles, far more than there is pie-in-the-sky dreaming these days.
posted by Llama-Lime at 11:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The sensation of pressing on the gas and having the thing instantly and soundlessly slam you with linear acceleration is really unexpected and very impressive.

Is anyone out of Stanford making an electric car? Because I would love for there to be a model named "The SLAC". When people ask you what "SLAC" stands for, the answer would be "Stanford Linear Accelerator". That's a great name for a car.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes but some people do own cars which they use infrequently, despite the fact that you use ZipCar.

That is true... but what is the point? My point was, which perhaps wasn't obvious since I didn't state it, is why would you spend so much money on a car of this type if you're doing that? You'd think you'd probably have something a little more budget-oriented, and if you're not driving very much you're not doing yourself or the environment any favors by having a gigantic lithium ion battery you never use. It just doesn't seem like something these first generation of EVs should worry about that much. Car sharing services or renting makes a lot more sense, and you always get to drive a nice newer vehicle that works, plug-in hybrid if you want one for whatever, a subaru for a camping trip, whatever.
posted by floam at 12:10 PM on February 22, 2012


The average commute in the US is less than 30 minutes and less than 20 miles

Um. You do realise that the average US commute is not necessarily the greatest proportion of vehicle usage in the world?

Regardless, you are missing the point - they are not a direct replacement by any means. The majority of US commutes are not undertaken in $100K cars, either, so using the Tesla as a metric for electric cars for the average user is erroneous. The Chevy volt has a 35 mile electric range and only 60mpg average fuel economy. It is also heavy as a tank and bloody expensive to run and maintain long term, with a ticket price of $41K (before the government starts helping you out with the numbers). That is a LOT of money, and the performance is awful and economy only mildly impressive.

It also weighs around 3,800 lbs. A 1983 Nissan Micra does (or did, in 1993) around 45mpg, was faster, weighed less than half of that at the time and would probably weigh no more than 2/3 of a Volt kerb weight with all current safety features installed. With a modern petrol engine in, it would be likely to match or better that 60mpg figure combined. With no requirement for battery replacement in a few years or diminishing returns from battery degradation from the already poor numbers.

Electric cars are not all that good, yet. Even phenomenally expensive ones (like the Tesla) for every day users are only really usable (never mind comparable) within a small bracket of usage. Yes, you could use t back and forth to work all week if you plug it in at night, but you need to spend thousands more to have a car insured, maintained and road ready for the days that 200miles is not even close to your requirements. Especially in the extremes of weather as I'm damn sure it won't get 200 miles with the aircon on full in an Arizona summer, or with heat in a Canadian winter.

I find it staggering that anyone things that a Tesla would be suitable for anything but the most edge single car household within that price bracket. Now, I'm not saying the Tesla isn't impressive (it is), but hailing this as a viable transition to electric cars is naive. They just aren't good enough by any means at present.
posted by Brockles at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even my parents, who are retired and often do long-haul drives across the West to visit family, would do wonderfully with one EV and one gasoline car.

Why on earth would a retired couple need two cars? Why on earth should a retired couple justify two cars? That's part of the problem - that is at least $100K of cars sat on their drive (assuming they buy new) which is not at all realistic for most people that are retired. It's also pretty hard to justify from a world resources perspective (which the EV is designed to address to some extent).

The only reason to buy an electric car is to save mileage costs. Use one car. There you go. Second cars mileage reduced by 100%.
posted by Brockles at 12:15 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is true... but what is the point? My point was, which perhaps wasn't obvious since I didn't state it, is why would you spend so much money on a car of this type if you're doing that?

Well, because you are very wealthy, most likely. Many people buying Tesla Roadsters are rich people thinking of it as a kind of charitable donation towards saving the planet*, who will have other cars. However, if you are very wealthy you do not want a vehicle which might be borked for a considerable length of time when you decide that you do want to take it out for a spin. And you have to be very wealthy indeed for $40,000 with no actual benefit to feel good. It's not like buying a piano. It's a fine.

This will surely get a software fix, though?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2012


Ridiculous acceleration performance. Likely to vastly exceed that of any other $50,000 car.

One of my pet peeves about advocates of "green" automotive technology (electrics and hybrids, in particular) is the often-heard praise for what is touted as incredible, unbelievable acceleration that cannot possibly be matched by any ICE car other than a supercar. Electrics have fun torque, yes.

The Tesla Roadster does 0-60 in 3.9. Tesla Model S in 5.6 (according to Tesla). Those are both great numbers. Nobody disputes that both the Roadster and the Model S have great acceleration.

So lets look at some equivalent ICE cars, in terms of price and form factor:

The Tesla Roadster, without options, is a little north of $100,000. It's built on a Lotus platform and is, basically, an electric Lotus Elise. The Lotus Exige is the completely insane street racing high-performance version of the Lotus Elise, and, fully optioned out, it costs around $75,000. It does 0-60 in 4.0 and does every single other thing far, far, better than the Tesla. The Tesla, remember, looks like a roadster and has great acceleration, but it has a big heavy battery that ruins the driving dynamics and handling. So it's only sort of a sports car.

Or, for $95,000 loaded with options, you can get a Nissan GT-R, which has back seats and a trunk and does 0-60 in 2.9 seconds (which is faster than, basically, everything). And let's face it: If you can afford a $100,000 sports car, the only reason to favor a Tesla over a GT-R is the green image.

The Tesla Model S, without options, is $49,000 (according to Tesla). The options that are not included in that $49k price include, but are not limited to, a battery that is worth a damn. At $49k, you don't get the good battery. You get the one with a 160-mile range. Want the 300-mile range? That's going to cost a lot more ($20,000 more, according to the LA Times). And I wonder what that extra battery weight will do to acceleration and performance. But I digress. Back to acceleration and whether it is "likely to vastly exceed that of any other $50,000 car." It's a sedan that seats 4, maybe 5, and 7 if you count the ridiculous, un-usable vomit baby seats that they crammed in the trunk.

Are there any four-door, five-seat cars available for $50,000 or less that can do 0-60 in an amount of time that is not "vastly exceeded" by the Tesla Model S 5.6 seconds?

Infiniti G37x: $38,000 starting price, or $45,000 loaded with options, 0-60 in 5.1 seconds. Plus you get all-wheel drive. A 2011 Subaru WRX STi does 0-60 in 4.8. And the regular WRX, which you can get for about $25,000, does it in 4.9. Want to spend even less money? For the price of a Tesla Model S, you can buy two Mazdaspeed 3's, each of which will seat five adults and do 0-60 in 5.1 seconds.

And, even without having ever driven a Tesla Model S, I'm fairly confident in guessing that all four of those cars can also out-handle the Tesla. 5.6 seconds 0-60 is great acceleration. But it is not "likely to vastly exceed that of any other $50,000 car." But it is likely to put the Tesla up there with to the quickest of the sub-$50k sedans.

Why on earth would a retired couple need two cars?

Being retired doesn't mean never having anyplace to go.
posted by The World Famous at 12:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


That is true... but what is the point? My point was, which perhaps wasn't obvious since I didn't state it, is why would you spend so much money on a car of this type if you're doing that?

Well, because you are very wealthy, most likely. Many people buying Tesla Roadsters are rich people thinking of it as a kind of charitable donation towards saving the planet*, who will have other cars.


But his example was of somebody who lives in town and uses public transportation and has exactly one car for day trips.
posted by floam at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2012


Yes, you could use t back and forth to work all week if you plug it in at night, but you need to spend thousands more to have a car insured, maintained and road ready for the days that 200miles is not even close to your requirements. Especially in the extremes of weather as I'm damn sure it won't get 200 miles with the aircon on full in an Arizona summer, or with heat in a Canadian winter.

I don't know how typical this is however the number of times I'm made more than 100 miles in one day in the past 12 months: 1. 200 miles will power my work commute for a week. A Tesla, Leaf or Volt would perfectly suit my needs even if a handful of times during a year I need to rent an ICE or even take a bus or something.

How these cars handle winter is something I've been wondering.

Why on earth would a retired couple need two cars?

Because they want to go different places at the same time. Or they aren't driving brand new cars and want the piece of mind redundancy that two vehicles give. Or they need to haul a 5th wheel one week out of every month but otherwise want to drive something that doesn't get tow vehicle gas mileage. Or Grampa can finally afford (money and time wise) to drive a 50 year old Lotus but they need something that doesn't need constant tinkering to get to the grocery store and doctor appointments.
posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This will surely get a software fix, though?

Not possible, apparently. However Tesla will try to call you if the car gets desperate and calls mama:
Tesla uses a number of so-called "countermeasures" to prevent this, up to and including a representative from the company calling the owner should a battery pack trail dangerously low.

posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2012


Or Grampa can finally afford (money and time wise) to drive a 50 year old Lotus but they need something that doesn't need constant tinkering to get to the grocery store and doctor appointments.

Right. Like anyone can afford to run a 1960's Lotus AND afford health insurance in the US...
posted by Brockles at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2012


How these cars handle winter is something I've been wondering.

We had a couple of first-gen LA-battery Prius's (Prii?) at work as fleet cars and they were horrible in the cold. The batteries were so bad in the winter we ended up having to make special arrangements to keep them in a heated garage full time. We had to replace the battery packs on both cars after 2-3 winters. Even then, they never held charge very well.

A 3rd generation one, by contrast, has been very reliable, as has our hybrid Escape. I think all of our cars are lithium chemistry cells now.
posted by bonehead at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2012


Right. Like anyone can afford to run a 1960's Lotus AND afford health insurance in the US...

Priorities, man. Lack of health insurance adds an extra layer of danger that's just not usually there when driving at nine-tenths down a twisty country road in a vintage British sports car.
posted by The World Famous at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why on earth would a retired couple need two cars?

Because they want to go different places at the same time.


I meant what I consider a normal, non-wealthy retired couple. I admit I have no idea how much the average american couple retires with, but any that have a 5th wheel trailer and tow truck fall into 'relatively well off retirees' to me. I can't imagine that most retirees in the US can afford to run two cars without any problems.

Or am I way off on the numbers, here?
posted by Brockles at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2012


Priorities, man.

You're the one that had them being able to leave it steaming and dripping oil in the garage while they could afford to go to the doctors to get the crick out of their spine from sitting in it... I'd just buy myself a Triumph and take Ibuprofen for all ills.
posted by Brockles at 12:47 PM on February 22, 2012


I'd just buy myself a Triumph and take Ibuprofen for all ills.

If Ibuprofen could fix a Lucas electrical system, I'd be commuting in a Spitfire and stocking up on buckets of pills.
posted by The World Famous at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2012


I think all that crap about how terrible Lucas electrical systems are is totally blown out of proportion. All you have to do is replace it all and rewire it with new build components and you have no troubles at all. My friend's 1970 Stag used a leaking fuel line to express its displeasure over the loom (with the addition of exhaust heat and some flame) and after we ripped it all out and started again it's been running perfectly well for the last twenty years.

What's a week's work and a stack of parts compared to enjoyment of the driving experience? What's all the fuss about? Just because our living room was full of pins, wire and bits of tape while we figured things out from the blackened mass shouldn't mean it puts people off good old 1970's English auto electrical eccentricity.
posted by Brockles at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2012


Remember this past October's freak New England snowstorm? Thousands of homes in relatively populated areas (not the back woods!) were out of power for over a week.

Your fancy new car could be in a garage, charging happily away after a long trip and the power goes out. Three days after the storm and there's still no power. You hear on the radio that no one in an hour radius has power except the hospitals and the shelters. Your power company just has a voicemail message saying they're "Assessing the situation. No restoration times are available." No one has answers. Every day you wait for the power to come on, you have fewer options.

Can you recharge a Tesla with a generator? (Ha!) If you don't already own one, it doesn't matter, your neighbor says the hardware stores are open for emergency supplies during daylight hours and every place she's been to has been sold out. Do you stay put and hope to ride out the power outage at home? Or do you pack your longest extension cord and use your limited charge to drive two states away and beg a laughing hotel owner to let you plug in. Maybe the ATMs around here are working and you can offer him $200 for use of the outlet, no room. Did I mention every hotel is booked solid by fellow storm refugees?
posted by Gable Oak at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right. Like anyone can afford to run a 1960's Lotus AND afford health insurance in the US...

Canadian here, so ... ya.

. I admit I have no idea how much the average american couple retires with, but any that have a 5th wheel trailer and tow truck fall into 'relatively well off retirees' to me.

This stuff doesn't have to be new. You can buy a serviceable older 20-30' 5th wheel or bumper pull for a couple grand and a old pick up to tow it with for not much more. And at least where I live there are hundreds of essentially free wilderness camping sites to take that rig within say $60 of driving if you haven't went crazy with the engine in the tow and a $100 if you did. Heck the 440 in my 1 ton gets around 25L/100km (though probably a bit less if pulling a huge trailer); that'll get you 350km round trip easy.

relatively populated areas (not the back woods!) were out of power for over a week.
Unless you've a) come in completely empty and b) the power goes out immediately before any charge has been put back in, a week isn't enough to cause a problem.

All you have to do is replace it all and rewire it with new build components and you have no troubles at all.
Plus you get to install a bunch of LEDs if that's what rocks your boat.
posted by Mitheral at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2012


Plus you get to install a bunch of LEDs if that's what rocks your boat.

LED's in a Triumph? I can't come out with a suitable retort for all the indignant spluttering somewhere within my horrified expression.
posted by Brockles at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


You do realise that the average US commute is not necessarily the greatest proportion of vehicle usage in the world?
I'm lead to believe that the US is one of the drivingest countries out there. Perhaps you could provide some hint of this mystery majority of use cases for which electrical vehicles are incapable of performing.
Regardless, you are missing the point - they are not a direct replacement by any means.
This is a straw man, nobody is asking for electric cars to be a direct replacement for other cars, and they can be quite successful without ever becoming a direct replacement. And since it's unlikely that they will ever be a direct replacement, holding out for that moment is basically holding out for never.

Clearly there are oodles of quibbles about just how terrible and awful these cars are for this or for that. But I'm not hearing any compelling argument against their use by me or any single person I know, or against their use by people that already have them.

Gasoline vehicles are going away anytime soon. But electric vehicles time is now and would have been for the past five years as well, if incumbent industry weren't full of laggards or if there weren't such high barriers to entry.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's a week's work and a stack of parts compared to enjoyment of the driving experience?

I'm right with you on that. I still have the scars on my knuckles to prove it.
posted by The World Famous at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2012


Err, I meant to say gasoline vehicles are not going away soon, or probably ever, but that electric can and should be in the mix right now.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2012


I can't come out with a suitable retort for all the indignant spluttering somewhere within my horrified expression.

Ya, I have low "Ooh Shiny Object" taste.
posted by Mitheral at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I think all that crap about how terrible Lucas electrical systems are is totally blown out of proportion.

The Prince of Darkness is displeased with you.
posted by jfuller at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a straw man, nobody is asking for electric cars to be a direct replacement for other cars

Nor did I say they should, or could be. No strawman, just your misunderstanding of my point. As I have said the transition to EV's is premature until they can be reasonable replacements. I'm not sure how you've got all twisted around on that.

gasoline vehicles are not going away soon, or probably ever, but that electric can and should be in the mix right now.

Right. My point all along has been that EV's are not at a point to replace petrol vehicles in most use cases. So the expectation that they will is premature and they should not be judged accordingly by the motoring press or the public and its demands of the vehicles without understanding the limitations of the cars.

How good EV's are judged now varies - I think they are several years away from being 'good enough' for full respect, possibly a decade or two. I certainly think they are an order of magnitude less capable than they will be relatively quickly. I don't think they are viable yet for many reasons. That doesn't, however, translate as them not being worth considering.

I'm lead to believe that the US is one of the drivingest countries out there.

Again, this doesn't necessarily support US commutes being the biggest single usage of vehicles or even a majority. It's a definite leap to assume one means the other. Besides, if the average commute is 32 miles per day (according to what I can find) then that is around half the commuting population that can't do a daily trip to work on a single charge of a Chevy Volt - even more can't if they are unable to plug in at work during the day. Electric vehicles simply aren't viable for that, only Hybrids are.
posted by Brockles at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2012


The only thing stopping the electric car is the lack of a battery technology that doesn't cost $40K for a pack that only carries you 200 miles (and then needs to be charged right away, a process that takes hours) and will be itself worthless in five years and will gladly turn into so much garbage if not given the very finest in refined electrons on a regular basis.

Petrol is amazing in its energy density and portability; we've gotten completely accustomed to having millions of joules of energy pouring out of faucets for almost free for the past 150 years. If we'd never discovered petroleum, where would we be now?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2012


If we'd never discovered petroleum, where would we be now?

I don't know about you, but I'd be on a ship hunting down that confounded whale.
posted by The World Famous at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2012


A Segway will do the same thing. New batteries for it are ~$900 and there are two of them.
posted by hellphish at 2:45 PM on February 22, 2012


I still want one....
posted by Increase at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2012


Besides, if the average commute is 32 miles per day

Holy shit, what? That is insane. I guess I might even believe it as bad as the US is in this regard, but 32 miles away from work on average (or even 16 if you mean both ways), really? That is far. Are you sure you didn't find numbers saying 32 minutes? If that's true I think we need to raise gas taxes by an order of magnitude, people are stupid.
posted by floam at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2012


OK, I googled and found 16mi average all over the net. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Just doesn't jive with the majority of people I know, it is hard to imagine that most people don't even live in the same town they work in.
posted by floam at 4:02 PM on February 22, 2012


To drive from the farthest northern reaches of Tulsa to the farthest south reaches of Tulsa one must travel 27 miles, and Tulsa ain't that big as far as cities go.
posted by wierdo at 4:13 PM on February 22, 2012


You know up front the cost of the batteries (and if you pre-buy the next buy at purchase it is only 10k--not chump change but a big savings).

Also, this ONLY really affects a small percentage (most everyone leaves them plugged in). I think Tesla should have considered the long-term unplugged use-case and provided a disconnect, but it is easy enough to solve.

5 cents a mile (and NOTHING to maintain other than tires and--eventually--the battery, but again pre-buy replacement is a no-brainer) is a big difference.
posted by twidget at 4:15 PM on February 22, 2012


NOTHING to maintain other than tires

Er. You know it is still a car, right? So you still have suspension, driveline, brakes, washer fluid... pretty much everything other than oil changes and internal engine servicing. It is FAR from 'nothing to maintain'.

That also assumes no electric motor or servicing (which I don't know either way, to be honest).
posted by Brockles at 4:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you still have suspension, driveline, brakes, washer fluid...

And it's a Lotus Elise, so bits of trim are going to constantly be falling off.
posted by The World Famous at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2012


>So you still have suspension, driveline, brakes<

Suspension yes, drive line? It is a electric motor and an axle through it :)

What you do NOT have is a lot of mechanical bits (the whole engine, the transmission, the differential).
posted by twidget at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2012


>And it's a Lotus Elise<

It is a Lotus Elise frame. There is a good bit of Elise styling still there in the body (it did have to fit the frame) but compare the two sometimes. You will see a lot of differences.
posted by twidget at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2012


it would be likely to match or better that 60mpg figure

There are in fact a number of cars that can do 60 MPG right now. Last time I checked the VW Polo diesel with "blumotion" gets 72 MPG (imperial) which is 60 MPG (US). There are several others. They have contests in European countries. Note that these are all extremely small cars, not necessarily as small as a Smart but comparable to a Mini, Fiat 500, or Scion iQ. Renault Twingo, Ford Ka, Hyundai Atos, etc.

None of these cars are sold in the US; if they are, their fuel-efficient motors are swapped out for freakishly large ones, because Americans get nervous if they can't go 0-60 in a few seconds even if they don't actually have any need to do so. This is why small city cars like the Fiat 500 get such terrible mileage in the US (frigging 30 MPG city, which is embarrassing).

The technology exists. There's been more activity on super-efficient small gas and diesel engines in recent years than electrics, really, except in the US, where eternal stupidity reigns.

I would kill to buy a Polo.
posted by Fnarf at 4:33 PM on February 22, 2012


It is a Lotus Elise frame. There is a good bit of Elise styling still there in the body (it did have to fit the frame) but compare the two sometimes. You will see a lot of differences.

I've compared the two many times. It was a joke.
posted by The World Famous at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2012


Note that these are all extremely small cars ...

Actually, the current Golf Bluemotion gets 74 MPG (again, imperial units). That's a reasonably sized car by European standards. And the Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion gets 80 MPG.
posted by phl at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2012


Hydrogen/electric hybrids.

The electric for your usual, day to day driving, hydrogen for long trips. Hydrogen is a reasonable stop-gap; you can fuel your car about as quickly with hydrogen as gas. Hydrogen is basically just another way of storing energy, and can be created from the usual energy sources (fossil fuels, electricity generated from nuclear, coal, natural gas, solar, etc.) and would be about as clean as running the car on electricity.
posted by Davenhill at 5:27 PM on February 22, 2012


The World Famous writes "And it's a Lotus Elise, so bits of trim are going to constantly be falling off."

Think of how much faster you'll be once all the unnecessary bits on the car fall off.
posted by Mitheral at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2012


It is a electric motor and an axle through it :)

That axle will have CV or otherwise joints to allow suspension travel, just like a normal car. It still has a driveline, just abbreviated compared to a normal car. There are still bearings and rotational wear to take into account as well as engine mounts etc., that wear out. It's a long way from 'no maintenance' as you initially implied.

Also, doesn't the Tesla have a two speed transmission? I thought one of them did.
posted by Brockles at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2012


Think of how much faster you'll be once all the unnecessary bits on the car fall off.

And if so many fall off that the car stops working, I'll put back the last one.
posted by The World Famous at 5:32 PM on February 22, 2012


>It's a long way from 'no maintenance' as you initially implied.<

Sorry, yes. Just like these same bits (wheel bearings, the axle and drive line) would have to be maintained on a regular vehicle, they will on the Tesla. How soon before that needs to be done on the gas vehicle (50k miles? The check up on the Ford does it roughly there, the Audi a bit further out--only other two vehicles I have service manuals handy for).

Meanwhile, The list is LONG for other things that must be maintained (not checked, but actually replaced) on these same vehicles. No Maintenance is I agree extreme :) However it is effectively a crap-load less (although not zero). Oh, and when the service intervals are due (sorry the only other comparison vehicles I have):

Ford - take it in, drop it off, pay for the work
Audi - they will come pick it up and leave a loaner and the prepaid service did drop the cost 20% or so... still the prepaid was 'ouch'
Tesla - once a year they want to see the car. They come by and do it in the drive way or upload the diagnostics via the cell modem if that doesn't work out. It is not required to maintain the warranty. Software updates are likewise over the air.
posted by twidget at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2012


That's a reasonably sized car by European standards.

And a sardine can by American ones. Which needs to change; there's no reason on earth to haul 6,000 pounds of steel to the grocery store and back.

None of the Bluemotion models are available in the US, which is asinine.
posted by Fnarf at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2012


A Golf really isn't a sardine can by American standards.
posted by The World Famous at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2012


Software updates are likewise over the air.

Oh god. I shudder. I mean, I know that this is the world we live in now, and I know that in my own small way I have helped to create it, but I just do. not. want. a car that has software in it. I especially do not want a car that has a cellular modem in it which allows other people to upload new software to my car. I mean... I write software for a living. I know how this works. I know exactly how much crap is stuffed in there. Grar.

This is why I only drive old cars. And motorcycles.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:45 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looks like Wired is the first to report with a response to this from Tesla:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/02/bricked-tesla-roadsters/

"All automobiles require some level of owner care," the company said in a statement. "For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time."

What's interesting to me, as an electric vehicle owner, is that this is, at root, NOT the usual complete nonsense (as most of the above bickering is). There is an issue here, which is that you do have to take care of your car a little bit. Specifically, don't let it run completely to zero charge.

Problem is, the yahoos read "don't let it discharge completely to zero charge" and think that means "oh my god if I get home low on charge one day then leave it over night I've killed my car". HEAVY SIGH. You have to discharge it down to nothing, and then leave it for MONTHS. You moron. If you're going to store it for months, then leave it plugged in (electrical cost will be negligible) or charge it up first.

All of the production electric cars protect the bottom of the battery (as well as the top). In 2012, this is a non-issue.

But, see, nobody's listening at this point in the thread, just typing. So let me join in by stating my own personal, incontrovertable facts:
1. I paid a lot up front for my Chevy Volt, sure.
2. I have nearly zero operating cost. $10 per month of electricity.
3. The car has torque like a Mustang and it's great fun as a stealth hot rod.
4. I last bought gas on the way home from our last roadtrip, SIX MONTHS AGO.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
posted by intermod at 7:57 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


3. The car has torque like a Mustang and it's great fun as a stealth hot rod.

Let me start off by saying that I really dig the Volt and I think it's a pretty remarkable car in terms of build, finish, and technology. And I think rarely needing gasoline is a big enough selling point when combined with the fact that you really don't give up anything in terms of usability, form factor, or handling compared to, say, an average boring sedan. That said:

I have no doubt that Chevy uses that as a marketing pitch. And technically, it's not false. The Volt, in electric mode, has 149 hp and 273 lb-ft. of torque, compared to the entry-level V6 Mustang's 305 hp and 280 lb. ft. of torque. The Volt does 0-60 in 8.9 seconds, compared to the V6 Mustang's 5.3 seconds. Considering that the Volt only weighs 300 pounds more than the Mustang, that's pretty pathetic, actually. I guess horsepower matters.

And just to be thorough, the 2011 5.0 GT Mustang has 412 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and does 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.

The Volt is cool, and I sort of want one for a variety of reasons. And with the new lease deals they're advertising on the Volt, there's a part of me that sort of wishes I had waited instead of being discouraged by the outrageous price tag to buy one.

But it's not a stealth hot rod by any stretch of the imagination. The torque curve of an electric motor makes it feel quick, but it's not quick - at all. (Not that it matters, but a Nissan Leaf gets to 60 a full second faster than a Volt.) And as far as the operating costs go and the money saved by not buying gas, I can buy a lot of $5/gallon gas for the difference in price between a Volt and an equivalent regular car.
posted by The World Famous at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let me see, how much do I have saved in my sympathy bank for someone who can afford a $100,000 car and can't read a simple voltmeter.

Nope. Not enough.
posted by Twang at 8:25 PM on February 22, 2012


The torque curve of an electric motor makes it feel quick, but it's not quick - at all.

People buy fast cars because they like the feeling of going fast, not because shaving thirty seconds off the commute to work actually matters.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2012


5 seconds from zero to sixty feels a hell of a lot faster than 9.
posted by The World Famous at 9:23 PM on February 22, 2012


Fnarf: "And a sardine can by American ones. Which needs to change; there's no reason on earth to haul 6,000 pounds of steel to the grocery store and back. "

Apparently one of the big reasons Americans are resistant to driving small cars is that they're too fat to fit behind the wheel. (My personal theory is that they feel small and powerless, and use big cars to feel big.)
posted by dunkadunc at 2:16 AM on February 23, 2012


dunkadunc: " Apparently one of the big reasons Americans are resistant to driving small cars is that they're too fat to fit behind the wheel. (My personal theory is that they feel small and powerless, and use big cars to feel big.)"

It's not the weight, it's the height. I'm about 6'3", and folding myself into a sardine can so I can drive with the steering wheel between my knees is not only uncomfortable, it's dangerous. When your legs and arms don't have freedom of movement, driving safely becomes an issue. And can you imagine what would happen if heaven-forbid I got into an accident? There'd be no room to pry me out of the bloody thing.

I owned a Toyota Corolla for a while. It was barely roomy enough for me. My wife used to joke that it would only ever be large enough for me if we eliminated the floorboards and set it up like the Flintstones' car.

Give me a mid-sized car any day.

intermod: "But, see, nobody's listening at this point in the thread, just typing."

You keep asserting this, yet we all still seem to be having a reasonable discussion on the topic. :)
posted by zarq at 5:17 AM on February 23, 2012


I started out with a Honda Civic 1200, and it was cozy but I drove hundreds of miles a day in it. And I'm 6'4. Some little cars really do have enough room for big/tall guys. (Although there's a classic scene in the original Police Academy....) I don't want to drive a small car now because everything else is huge. I don't want to die when the moron behind the other wheel jinks instead of janks. It's self-preservation alone. (Although I don't actually have a car at all, just a car-share membership. We can pick an appropriately sized vehicle from the fleet depending on what we need to do with it.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:20 AM on February 23, 2012



It's not the weight, it's the height.

It's not the height, it's the perception. Here's mine.

My father, my brothers and I are all over six feet tall. We've been driving Volkswagens of various types for over forty years.

More anecdata: I also know three gents over 6'4" who drive (and love) MINIs.

Same as it ever was:
1966 VW Beetle ad featuring Wilt Chamberlin.
1979 VW Rabbit ad featuring Wilt Chamberlin.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:53 AM on February 23, 2012


Herodios: "It's not the height, it's the perception."

If by "perception" you mean, my personal experience driving a small car, then yes.

How the hell do they drive them without being uncomfortable? I am asking quite seriously. Is the VW built in such a way that one's legs don't fold in half when they drive? Or that their heads don't rub the ceiling? I used to get horrible leg cramps if I was in the Toyota for more than an hour. If I hit a bump, my head would hit the roof, and my hair always brushed against it just sitting in the driver or passenger seat. And that's with the seat pulled all the way back and the steering wheel raised. I had the same uncomfortable experience behind the wheel of a VW Bug once. Cramped quarters.

I don't commute by car anymore, but when I did it for a while (when my wife was pregnant) it was more than an hour each way back and forth into Manhattan in the Toyota. If I were going to do that again, I'd much rather do so comfortably.
posted by zarq at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2012


seanmpuckett: "Some little cars really do have enough room for big/tall guys. "

Someone should make a list. :)
posted by zarq at 8:07 AM on February 23, 2012


It really does vary enormously by manufacturer, as well as by model. Toyotas are by and large designed for shorties; VWs tend to have much more interior space. I've never been in one, but I am told that minis are great for tall people. The corolla, however, is a nasty little implement of torture that I have hated whenever I have had to cram myself into one.
posted by Forktine at 9:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, I know that this is the world we live in now, and I know that in my own small way I have helped to create it, but I just do. not. want. a car that has software in it

So no airbags for you then? Or anti-lock brakes? You can keep your old deathtraps, I like the improved survival statistics for post-2000 vehicles.
posted by phearlez at 9:09 AM on February 23, 2012


Every Honda I've ever owned has been gracious to my frame; I had that 1979 Civic 1200, a 1984 Prelude, and a mid 90s Civic HX. The Dodge Neon we got rid of recently wasn't too bad but worse than any of the Hondas. The carshare's Mazdas have been okay, Mitsubishis somewhat better. My uncle has always had Corollas and they've never been great when I've used them through the decades, so I'm with Forktine on that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:15 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three or four inches is also a big height difference, between 6' and 6'3, when 1/2" is the difference between hitting your head and not.
posted by smackfu at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


phearlez: most of my mileage happens on a motorcycle. It doesn't even have fuel injection, much less any of that safety hardware.

But no, you're right, my '94-vintage BMW 325 does have ABS, and airbags, and even traction control, and I grumblingly put up with the fact that these things are all driven by microcontrollers, because it's fun to drive and I don't really have any choice in the matter. I'm just looking ahead 15-20 years from now, when the secondhand market is going to be full of computer-driven, LCD-panelled monstrosities that sing and dance and try to tell you how to drive, and I already know I'm not going to like it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:25 PM on February 23, 2012


If by "perception" you mean, my personal experience driving a small car, then yes.

A small car is not a sports car. In a sports car you sit low to the ground with your legs out in front of you. I'm 6'4" and my first two cars were Datsun 280Zs in which I had ample head and legroom and was quite comfortable on long drives – much more so than behind the wheel of my parent's current Lexus 460, in which I can't really move my knees much and nothing's at the right height for my elbows.
posted by nicwolff at 7:05 PM on February 23, 2012


I'm 6'4" and drive a Mini, with a sunroof, and still have an inch or two of headroom. Regularly have four people in it for the lunch run, and can easily do a weekly shop for two. Great fun on mountain roads, and beats most cars off the line. Of course six years down the road, I'm paying for the latter with a dodgy transmission, but hey.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:33 PM on February 23, 2012


How's the rear seat legroom behind the driver's seat when you're driving?
posted by The World Famous at 9:48 PM on February 23, 2012


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