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The best car we have ever tested. Ever.
May 9, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Consumer Reports says the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable car.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes (251 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to need to see the logs.
posted by orme at 10:28 AM on May 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


For $100,000 it damned well ought to be pretty good.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:28 AM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Saw one in a mall showroom in Bellevue, WA, where it was stripped down to just the chassis, so you can see the flat battery. Really amazing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2013


I totally want one. It is absolutely gorgeous and that is one impressive review.
posted by bearwife at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2013


I was surprised to hear Tesla posted their first profit ever, I guess there are enough people buying the $100k car to make it work? I would buy one in a second if it was say, $40k tops.
posted by mathowie at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2013 [59 favorites]


I guess there are enough people buying the $100k car to make it work?

They're starting to look like either Priuses or BMW 3-series (take your pick) around the SF bay area.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


For $100,000 it damned well ought to be pretty good.

A friend of mine came into some money a while ago, and he bought a top of the line BMW, as in featured in a James Bond movie top of the line.

Within a few years, it was crap. Electrical issues, glass problems, engine problems. All things the BMW dealer was happy to attempt to diagnose at an hourly rate.

$100,000 ought to get you a great car, but it is not guaranteed to get you a great car.
posted by zippy at 10:36 AM on May 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm proud of Elon Musk and I don't even know the guy. Between this and SpaceX the guy is a world changer. It isn't just an electric car, it just may be the electric car that people want to drive, instead of driving to do their part for the environment.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


My husband is so happy with his. There are a few little things I might change, but those are all driver/user experience things, so probably very individual quirks rather than Tesla-related issues. And I don't get to drive it nearly as much as my husband (it's his primary car, I drive the kid-hauler), so he's more comfortable with it than I am at this point.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2013


zippy: I think I know the model/line and era of BMW you speak of and it was, shall we charitably say, not a good time for attention to detail in Bavaria. I have a friend with a mid-aughts 5-series and it has every predictable electrical problem imaginable.
posted by basicchannel at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2013


If I won the lottery, I would probably buy one of these before a house.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:40 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


In sad carmaker news, VPG is out of business, despite strong demand for their vehicles designed for wheelchair users.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:40 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have a show room in our local mall, despite the best efforts of the local car dealers to shut it down. However great a car it might be, I didn't like how opening the door was a two step process to extend the door handle and then open the door. I guess if you have the key fob it'll do it automatically, but this was a "feature" that reminded me of the worst of any Microsoft product. "Hey, let's put in an inconvenient extra step just because it's neat!"

But that's a minor thing that only nitpicky types like me will care about. The rest of the car seemed pretty neat and if it's all it's cracked up to be it could be the start of something big.

I'll be curious to see a review of the same exact car after it's a year old, and then again at two, three, five, and ten years.

I thought it was going to be John Carmack who would change the world but now I'm hoping it will be Elon Musk.
posted by bondcliff at 10:41 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was surprised to hear Tesla posted their first profit ever, I guess there are enough people buying the $100k car to make it work? I would buy one in a second if it was say, $40k tops.

That's apparently the plan for 2015ish:
Looking even farther into the future, Von Holzhausen is most excited about the prospect of Tesla’s third-generation car, which will, he says, “be an Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Volkswagen Jetta type of vehicle that will offer everything: range, affordability, and performance. We’re confident we can do it at a starting price of $30,000, which is the break-in point, where we can bring all this excitement and technology to the average customer.”
posted by zombieflanders at 10:42 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The 200 mile range is pretty much the only thing I would care about when comparing it to something like the Leaf. The only reason I wouldn't seriously consider an electric car as my next car is that there is nothing at my price point that would comfortably handle the amount of driving I do on my busiest days. The 200 mile range though would be perfect.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:42 AM on May 9, 2013


The review mentions their charger stations allow a half charge in half an hour for free. If I understand correctly, that's over 40KWh of power per car per charge.

I wonder how the financials work out on that, and whether the offer will continue once they sell more cars and more people use these stations.
posted by vanar sena at 10:43 AM on May 9, 2013


So, I must be stuck in the past because I would have guessed this thing has a CVT in it, but instead the website suggests that the only thing even resembling a transmission is a "Single-speed fixed gear"? How in the monkey's ass does that work?
posted by invitapriore at 10:45 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great for folks who buy $100,000 cars, I guess. I'll have to wait for the technology to percolate down to us proles who have never spent one-fifth of that on a car.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:45 AM on May 9, 2013


This interview with Musk impressed me. Read what Musk has to say about the reliability and tolerances they're striving for:

"I pick cars at random to drive and make sure that the driving feel is correct and the sound system is working as it should and if there's an issue, I'll trace it back to the exact place on the line where that occurred. For example, yesterday I found that the installation of the headlamp was not quite correct and there was a slight asymmetry between the right and the left. I think most people wouldn't see it, but it seemed pretty obvious to me. So I was like, this doesn't seem right, this is off by like three millimeters. So I literally walked over to the lead tech on that portion of the line to find out why is this three millimeters wrong and it turned out he was still operating with the part dimensions of the old part, but we had made a new part that didn't require shimming and nobody had given him the new instructions that it no longer needed shimming to get to the right position. And that was the origin of the problem. On Saturday, I will talk to the whole assembly, metal stamping and plastics team to make sure that everybody understands that they are all empowered to be perfectionists on the line and that they should not let a car move from their station if they see anything that is slightly wrong. They must reverse the line and send it back to the prior station.

...

"In the beginning, we have to be slightly imperfect because we don't have everything completely dialed but our aspiration is to get to cars that are accurate to the limit of reasonable physics. What I've told my teams is that we want our cars to be so accurate you could use them as a calibration device. So, if I want to know how long is a meter, oh, don't worry, I can go measure the car.

"We're going to be ordering some laser calibration devices so we can literally calibrate the entire dimensions of the car within tenths of a millimeter. If it's wrong, let's trace it to the origin and fix it."
posted by Dasein at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


It's very cool. $100k is out of most people's price range of course, but that's fine -- all these technologies eventually trickle down.
posted by modernnomad at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, I must be stuck in the past because I would have guessed this thing has a CVT in it, but instead the website suggests that the only thing even resembling a transmission is a "Single-speed fixed gear"? How in the monkey's ass does that work?

Electric motors make their full torque regardless of RPM. There's no need to keep it running in an optimal rev range, so they don't bother. When you go slow, it spins slow, when you go fast, it spins fast.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


How many people here who are car nuts actually trust Consumer Reports' car reviews?
posted by mrbula at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, if they get out a 30-40k model in 2015, I should be able to save up and afford a used one by 2018. Maybe.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:47 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


At $100K, it's not a car. It's an investment, and in a relatively unproven technology at that.

I don't expect they really mean to sell many of them. The car is meant to create buzz, get rich early adopters excited, and learn enough to prepare them for a cheaper, mass market offering.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2013


Why is everyone saying $100? The car can be had for under 70 with rebates.
posted by stbalbach at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2013


it's not a car. It's an investment

No, it's a car. Resale on them after 5 years will almost certainly be awful as the technology improves quickly.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm not a crazy car guy, and I know how toxic car culture is, but I do appreciate a fine automobile (although it's usually ones at least 40 years old). And let's face it, the idea of never pulling into a gas station is an appealing one. Between hybrids, electrics, and the smart phone integration being folded into more cars, this is probably the most exciting and innovative era in automobiles since the birth of the pony cars. (I'm sorry but regardless of how many lives they save, air bags and crumple zones aren't that thrilling.)
posted by entropicamericana at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Someone make Tesla resurrect Saab, plz.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw my first Tesla in the wild yesterday, driving to work. It looked pretty spiffy, but it was definitely a car for sports car folks. Intersting to see if they can make it work for more practical consumers.
posted by tavella at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2013


The first TVs were priced too high for ordinary folks, too. That high price tag funded the R&D needed to make them cheaper. I just wish these things were cheap already now. If it hadn't been for the best efforts of the US industry to keep us hooked on combustion engines, we might have already gotten there.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:51 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, I must be stuck in the past because I would have guessed this thing has a CVT in it, but instead the website suggests that the only thing even resembling a transmission is a "Single-speed fixed gear"? How in the monkey's ass does that work?

The torque curve is completely flat, so it has no need for gears.

At this point, I see more Tesla Model Esses around LA than BMW M5s, which I guess makes sense, since they cost about the same and the Tesla is quicker. Automotive technology is one area where things really do trickle down from the most expensive over a matter of a pretty short time. I can't come anywhere near affording a Tesla (and the giant iPad console would be a deal breaker for me even if I could afford it - how awful), but I am very tempted to have my next car be a Fiat 500e, which costs 1/4 the price of a Tesla Model S, has an 80 mile range and is a blast to drive. I do need a trunk sometimes, but I'd be willing to give it up for a super fun car that costs almost nothing to operate.
posted by The World Famous at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've driven the Leaf and I can tell you that it is not suitable for North American winters, although I suppose California and the Southwest would be okay.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013


The Tesla Model S outscores every other car in our test Ratings.

So I guess their ratings don't include cost?

One could spend a hundred million dollars to have artisan engineers build the fastest, most luxurious, most reliable vehicle ever, but I don't think that any honest consumer reviewer would be able to call it the "best" and still keep a straight face.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


As long as I stay in my little town and run short errands, the 200 mile range would work for me. But, at 200 miles, I would not be able to do a run to Indy and back, unless I immediately turned around and headed back home as soon as I got there.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013


Napkin math:

Nice Toyota: about $25,000, more or less. Range: between 400 and 500 miles between refills/recharges. Driving distance in full recharge: 800 miles vs 200 (assuming 12 hours of maximum driving time per day).

Amount of fuel to buy for the remaining $75,000: 18750 @ $4/gallon (right now, Ohio). Total range of this, assuming a typical Toyota average mpg of about 35 mpg: 656,250 miles.

Time it would take a typical suburban driver to use up those 656,250 miles (aka: me): about 30 years. And 3 to 5 years is about the lifetime of current battery tech, unless there is some magic going on under the floorboards there, so you need to swap those out and I understand that is running in the $15,000+++ range.

30 years @ 3% compounded = $182,000 (common savings bonds or whatever).

Bennies: it's a Toyota, so it's pretty reliable - I had one for ten years - and can be fixed anywhere, parts are cheap, and it's not likely to be stolen, and the dashboard isn't this driver-distracting 17" touchscreen.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only thing needed to change the world is a battery the same weight and cost that will take it 400 mi instead of 200.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Old'n'Busted - I don't think anyone's buying this for the 'value proposition' any more than people buy Ferrari's for the value.
posted by modernnomad at 10:54 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many people here who are car nuts actually trust Consumer Reports' car reviews?

To be fair, it's been getting glowing reviews from just about everybody. It won 2013 car of the year from Automobile Magazine and Motor Trend.

I saw my first Tesla in the wild yesterday, driving to work. It looked pretty spiffy, but it was definitely a car for sports car folks. Intersting to see if they can make it work for more practical consumers.

Actually, the Tesla Roadster was much more of a sports car, given that it was skinned by Lotus.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2013


The 80-90 mile range of our leaf is great for around town. We have seen rumors of a Tesla X I think, which is more along the lines of a small minvan/normal SUV, that's supposed to have 340 mile range and cost a lot less than $100K. Perhaps that is just our imagination though. If we have that kind of range we are in business.
posted by Windopaene at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't compare it to a $25 grand Toyota. Compare it to a car that is actually comparable in terms of performance, ride, size, and luxury: A BMW M5.
posted by The World Famous at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I was like, this doesn't seem right, this is off by like three millimeters. So I literally walked over to the lead tech on that portion of the line to find out why is this three millimeters wrong and it turned out he was still operating with the part dimensions of the old part, but we had made a new part that didn't require shimming and nobody had given him the new instructions that it no longer needed shimming to get to the right position. And that was the origin of the problem. On Saturday, I will talk to the whole assembly, metal stamping and plastics team to make sure that everybody understands that they are all empowered to be perfectionists on the line and that they should not let a car move from their station if they see anything that is slightly wrong. They must reverse the line and send it back to the prior station.

That man needs to read Deming. He did the right thing finding out the source of the problem, but the fix should be in the system, not in exhortation of individuals to be more perfectionist. Fixing things that are wrong is expensive and making quality depend upon individuals doing more than their job is unreliable. The system must be designed to make it harder to do it wrong than to do it right. He needed to find out why the new procedure wasn't communicated to the relevant part of the line and change the process to make it automatic that no changes to parts get made until the changes to the manufacturing line are in place. This fixes not only that problem but all the future ones of this type as well.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [34 favorites]


(Also, Consumer Reports is notoriously bad at reviewing cars, so I'd take this whole thing with a giant grain of salt.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, if we sold our house and lived in our Teslas, we could have two!
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many people here who are car nuts actually trust Consumer Reports' car reviews?

Consumer Reports has certain pecadilloes about the cars they review, but they are much, much more impartial than most car reviews. I did a post about this a while ago.

The idea that auto journalists are essentially forced to say nice things about every new car that comes out is one that's stuck with me. It occurred to me the other day when I was reading this review by David Booth of the refreshed 2013 Mercedes GLK. Here's what he says about the interior:

"The same could not be said of the original GLK’s interior, which many deemed not up to Mercedes’ stellar rep. New for 2013 are higher-class, softer-touch materials, more wood trim, a better LCD screen for the centre dashboard and air vents that look like they were lifted from an SLS. The lower console space has been freed up for cupholders, etc. thanks to the gear shift lever moving to the steering column. The changes don’t usher the GLK into Jaguar-like cocooning warmth, but no longer does the GLK feel like a CR-V in drag."

A CR-V in drag? Wow, that must have been a crappy interior in a $40k car. Surely that's the sort of thing he would have remarked on if he'd reviewed the last version. Oh, wait, he did review the 2010 GLK, in an article entitled Life of the party. What did he have to say about the interior?

"The interior is also much more refined than budget Mercedes of the past. The GLK's interior quality rivals that of an Audi with the Stuttgart product just a half-step behind something like an A4. The plastic bits are of high quality and, since most of the pieces are lifted directly from the new C-Class, they are at least familiar if not superior."

Right. In other words, you get the truth about a car's shortcomings when it's time to sing the praises of the next generation. This is what happens when car reviewers are dependent on the car companies supplying them with testers. Consumer Reports, on the other hand, buys their cars from dealers, without letting on who they are. They're not driving enthusiats, for sure, but they're a lot more independent than your average car reviewer.
posted by Dasein at 11:00 AM on May 9, 2013 [44 favorites]


TESLA DOES NOT COST $100,000
posted by stbalbach at 11:00 AM on May 9, 2013


He did the right thing finding out the source of the problem, but the fix should be in the system, not in exhortation of individuals to be more perfectionist. Fixing things that are wrong is expensive and making quality depend upon individuals doing more than their job is unreliable.

Yeah, I noticed that too, his response sounds like a really fragile solution at best. I finished reading that paragraph and was left wondering when he was going to get around to talking about how he was going to revise their processes.
posted by invitapriore at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2013


"Car nuts" may not like CR reviews, but for people who are just interested in buying cars, they are invaluable. As Dasein said, they care not at all for sucking up to the manufacturers or being trendy; they just care about how good the car is.
posted by tavella at 11:04 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


$580 per month after gas savings could buy a lot of groceries per month before hunger pangs.

Not as cool, but healthier. Especially nice when you share.
posted by lampshade at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2013


The Tesla Model S outscores every other car in our test Ratings.

So I guess their ratings don't include cost?


If price was a score, I suspect the Model S would also outscore every other consumer car that CU test. And there's just no realistic way that price is coming down to the buyable $20-$30k range with the kinds of tolerances Elon Musk wants his engineers to go after. Still, I lust for the chance to own one, if I ever win the lottery.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on May 9, 2013


I still find it a little vexing that the places these cars are most suitable - dense urban centers - have the fewest people capable of owning one. I'm not really talking about wealth gap here (thought I'm sure that's an issue), it's more that no one has any private parking to install a charging station. I'd buy an electric car in a heartbeat, but I park on the street and running extension cords out of the window is not ideal.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:06 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


TESLA DOES NOT COST $100,000

Consumer Reports paid $90,850 for the one they raved about. Still way too rich for my blood.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:07 AM on May 9, 2013


The World Famous: "Don't compare it to a $25 grand Toyota. Compare it to a car that is actually comparable in terms of performance, ride, size, and luxury: A BMW M5."

The M5 goes GROWL GROWL ROAR, so case closed. That alone is worth $20K at least. (Because the car is too quiet, they amplify the engine roar through the car's audio system.)
posted by vanar sena at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2013


The lede is "best car ever" but when I read the article I constantly get the feeling I'm hearing "surprisingly pretty good."
posted by nathancaswell at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2013


TESLA DOES NOT COST $100,000

Per Tesla's website, the Model S Performance model, with the good battery, has an MSRP of $87,400. Add the taxes and yeah, it costs $100,000.

The one tested by Consumer Reports cost - according to CR - $89,650, not including taxes.
posted by The World Famous at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2013


Chocolate Pickle: "For $100,000 it damned well ought to be pretty good."

For $100,000 you would not be buying the car featured in this FPP.

Great for folks who buy $100,000 cars
posted by Longtime Listener


Except, it doesn't cost $100,000

It's very cool. $100k is out of most people's price range of course
posted by modernnomad


How lucky - it doesn't cost $100,000

At $100K, it's not a car. It's an investment
posted by snickerdoodle


That would be a bad investment - it doesn't cost $100,000

I guess there are enough people buying the $100k car to make it work?
posted by mathowie


Nobody is buying it for $100,000

$100,000 ought to get you a great car
posted by zippy


Maybe, but not this car.

cost a lot less than $100K. Perhaps that is just our imagination though.
posted by Windopaene


Yes, imagination.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've driven the Leaf and I can tell you that it is not suitable for North American winters, although I suppose California and the Southwest would be okay.


What kind of battery life did you get in winter in the Leaf?
posted by modernnomad at 11:09 AM on May 9, 2013


The M5 goes GROWL GROWL ROAR, so case closed. That alone is worth $20K at least. (Because the car is too quiet, they amplify the engine roar through the car's audio system.)

I agree. I'd rather have an M5, even though the fake engine noise they use is ridiculous.
posted by The World Famous at 11:10 AM on May 9, 2013


Stbalbach - I think people understood what you said about the price the first time. The arguments all apply whether it's $90k or $100k. It's not a "daily driver" for the average person, but that's ok - it's not positioned as one either.
posted by modernnomad at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The World Famous: "TESLA DOES NOT COST $100,000

Per Tesla's website, the Model S Performance model, with the good battery, has an MSRP of $87,400. Add the taxes and yeah, it costs $100,000.The one tested by Consumer Reports cost - according to CR - $89,650, not including taxes.
"

You could spend that much if you tricked it out and payed MSRP, but after green energy rebates and so on it can be considerably less than that. It's a strawman argument to pick the highest price possible and then knock the car down for being too expensive. If price is your concern, than look at the minimum price for entry, not the maximum.
posted by stbalbach at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it Turn Every Post Into A Pedantic Nitpickfest Thursday already? My, how time flies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


I hope that when they call out The Stig to test drive it, Daft Punk comes out instead.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


$100k is out of most people's price range of course, but that's fine -- all these technologies eventually trickle down.

Interesting choice of words. This is where "trickle down economics" is actually working - the indirect application of wealth harvested from the 2% or 3% to experimental geewhiz technology with the goal of making it available to a lower-profit-margin-but-much-bigger market.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The torque curve is completely flat, so it has no need for gears.

Yeah. To be clear, it doesn't have a transmission, because it doesn't have an engine. It has motors coupled directly to the driving wheels (rear? I think so). It has a trunk in back... and a trunk in the front. The battery is an enormous flat panel on the bottom of the chassis. And that's the entire motive power system.

My boss got one and drove us around. The performance is fantastic, despite it looking like a bloated 7 series. You don't realize how badly gear changing compromises acceleration until you don't have to put up with it. Honestly, you know how when you slam on the gas from a full stop and you jolt off the line? The Tesla is like that, but it just keeps going until you hit like 150 mph. OK, we stopped at about 60 mph, but it was nowhere near maxed out, let me tell you.

Whoosh! Not about to buy my own, but they are fun.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could spend that much if you tricked it out and payed MSRP, but after green energy rebates and so on it can be considerably less than that. It's a strawman argument to pick the highest price possible and then knock the car down for being too expensive. If price is your concern, than look at the minimum price for entry, not the maximum.

Or, since we're discussing a car that was reviewed by Consumer Reports, we could just look at the price of the car Consumer Reports tested. How about we do that? What a stupid argument.
posted by The World Famous at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


modernnomad: "Stbalbach - I think people understood what you said about the price the first time. The arguments all apply whether it's $90k or $100k. It's not a "daily driver" for the average person, but that's ok - it's not positioned as one either."

Actually it is a "daily driver", it's a sedan. It can be had for around $70k which is what many people pay for cars, it's really not anything unusual or elite. Most car mfg's produce models in this range. They are driven by doctors, real estate agents, anyone who wants a nice car. It's not a sports car, though it has good performance.
posted by stbalbach at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2013


Jeremy Clarkson once said in a review "This car has more torques than every other car in the world...combined."
posted by miyabo at 11:18 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand all the people reacting about the price, it's like they've never used Consumer Reports before and don't understand how the ratings work.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:18 AM on May 9, 2013


It can be had for around $70k which is what many people pay for cars, it's really not anything unusual or elite.

First, for around $70k, you get the crappy low-capacity battery. Second, $70k is absolutely an elite price to pay for a car. It's a hell of a lot of money that gets you an absolutely elite car, without exception.
posted by The World Famous at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


It can be had for around $70k which is what many people pay for cars

Most people? That's higher than the median annual household income in the US.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I guess there are enough people buying the $100k car to make it work? I would buy one in a second if it was say, $40k tops.

Also a big factor is California ZEV credits. Simplified, the biggest car companies in California have to sell 13% or so zero emission vehicles. A lot of them sell 0% ZEV. Well, Tesla over there sells 100% ZEV. So they take their credits and sell them to the other car makers. The accounts vary higher and lower, but this credit could easily be in the $10,000 range per car. Not a bad deal.

And it's not really a government subsidy, but all the gas car drivers subsidizing it.
posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2013


"Many" is actually a completely different word than "most"! #truefact
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, if you are seriously arguing that paying $70,000 for a car (after rebate!) is not unusual, you need to take a hard look at what you think "usual" is.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Many" is actually a completely different word than "most"! #truefact

Ha I completely read that wrong. Point withdrawn.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2013


High end car, sure. Elite? Not really. You aren't talking top Ferraris or Lamborghinis here, it's more like a luxury BMW.
posted by tavella at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The one tested by Consumer Reports cost - according to CR - $89,650, not including taxes.

It also includes over $20,000 of battery upgrade to the large battery. If you don't intend to travel over 100 miles with the car (the national average is just under 37), it's a car that starts under $60,000. Which is what a luxury sedan costs. Some people buy luxury sedans, and some people do not. People who don't buy luxury sedans probably do so in part because they think that they are too expensive; people who do buy them think that they are worth it.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


What will excite me is when electric cars are available with manual transmissions.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


He did the right thing finding out the source of the problem, but the fix should be in the system, not in exhortation of individuals to be more perfectionist.

I read his statement about speaking to the line to mean he was exhorting them to *find* problems. That they should raise red flags when anything doesn't look right, so that it doesn't come down to him randomly driving a car and noticing things.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2013


Instead of being angry with the high cost of a low-volume manufacturer's output, can't we just be happy for the electric car? I heard it's powered by the world's sheer hatred of oil executives!
posted by antonymous at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


$15k might as well be $50k might as well be $100k to most people. It doesn't really matter if it's give or take ten grand or so. It's too expensive for the common folk.

Give me a ring when it's on Craigslist for $500 OBO and currently has a family of rabid squirrels living in it.
posted by Malice at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's some combination of hard to believe/totally cool/somewhat horrifying that this conversation coexists on the same site as the discussion about people using SNAP benefits because they're unable to afford to eat.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:26 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me know when they are useful at -20 degrees F.
posted by mygoditsbob at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2013


I'm in no way in the demographic target for any of the Teslas, but I'll admit to being a bit thrown off by all of these protestations re: the price. Hey, the car isn't for you. It ain't for me. It's for rich people. Later, they'll have cars for people like us. That's kind of how these things work.

Remember these conversations -- "$400 for a phone? That's insane, who would ever pay that much?"
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


What will excite me is when electric cars are available with manual transmissions.

Good.....good luck with that.

(I am totally on board with being psyched about what the technology in the car represents. I unabashedly covet them, I'd buy one if I could, and I don't begrudge those who do have the money. It's the weirdly defensive insistence that cars with $90,000 MSRPs are totally not expensive and how dare anyone suggest otherwise that is just...well, weird and defensive.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


High end car, sure. Elite? Not really. You aren't talking top Ferraris or Lamborghinis here, it's more like a luxury BMW.

Look, Captain Moneybags, I realize that there are different levels of super expensive and "eliteness" among the extraordinarily wealthy. But a $70,000 luxury BMW, while not as opulent or expensive as an LP-700 or an MP4-12C, is, in fact, elite.
posted by The World Famous at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Re: the price, I think the point is that while the Tesla S is out of range for most car buyers, it is not out of range for many. Both can be true at the same time.

As a new resident of LA, I see cars worth more than the S every day. Do most people own them? No. But enough do that it's not a rare sight, not like seeing a Hope Diamond on wheels.

Consequently, there are enough people who can buy a Tesla S so that it has a viable market. That will make the car more visible, and eventually new production techniques and new models will gradually bring the Tesla line closer to the average buyer.

And to that point, I see quite a few Tesla S around LA. They look awesome. I feel bad that their drivers they have to look back at me and see my old faded CRV. But not that bad.
posted by thebordella at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2013


Can it recharge my Frankensteins? I called up the local dealership but they wouldn't answer me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


$15k might as well be $50k might as well be $100k to most people.

Actually the average denizen of a large city can afford $20k for a car. New cars average $30k though, so there's that.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2013


All I know about the Tesla is that the people I always saw driving the little roadsters (I think they were mostly test models) drove very politely, and the people driving the Model S - at least the ones on Sand Hill - drive like assholes.
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2013


What amuses me is that the gas savings are much higher than you would expect, because the luxury cars they compare it to have terrible gas mileage and require premium fuel.
posted by smackfu at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


modernnomad

What kills the Leaf life is running the Climate Control system. So if you need heat, because it's 15 degrees outside, you've got some issues ahead. Can't imagine trying to drive it on snow either, as it has such ridiculous torque. We have the issue in Seattle of needing to run the defogger a lot, and it just wails on our driving range.

But that's not all that constant. Seattle's a pretty "ideal climate" for a Leaf, other than some even more moderate climes.
posted by Windopaene at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


$580 per month after gas savings could buy a lot of groceries per month before hunger pangs.

Where are you getting $580 a month in gas from? Are you really thinking that people are driving around 5,000 miles a month on a single car, every month, all the time?

stbalbach: it's $100,000 after taxes and shit, just like the Toyota is $25,000 after same taxes and shit. So, it's $100,000 car.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2013


Elon Musk had some words to say about the 787 fire debacle. What keeps the Tesla safe is the size of the cells in the battery pack - you're essentially powering the car with a few thousand AA batteries.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2013


Which is what a luxury sedan costs. Some people buy luxury sedans, and some people do not. People who don't buy luxury sedans probably do so in part because they think that they are too expensive; people who do buy them think that they are worth it.

Apparently one problem with the Tesla that luxury car people do complain about is that the price range is so wide but it's essentially only one model. So at the upper end, you are buying a $90k car that isn't quite as nice as other $90k cars, because it really has the interior of a $60k car.
posted by smackfu at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2013


there's really no need for a transmission, stick or automatic, because of the torque characteristics of an electric motor, as was explained above.

i have a leaf and a plug-in prius... the leaf really accelerates fast off the line. i've never driven a tesla (i don't want to for fear of car envy) so i can't compare but it sounds like it's similar.

here in norcal, electricity is very expensive - $0.36 per kwh at the highest tier on the normal residental plan. this puts the leaf at around 9-10 cents per mile, which is on par with a prius getting 50mpg at $4/gallon (8c/mile). of course you only get 50mpg in the prius if you have long commutes, but the leaf will get the same economy pretty much no matter what.

seems like it would take forever to charge a tesla at home even with an L2 EVSE. the L2 standard is capable of 80A but i don't think many peoples' homes can provide that much current.
posted by joeblough at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2013


Interesting. I've only seen 1 Leaf driving in Toronto, and it wasn't in winter. They strike me as an ideal second car in an urban area, but I guess even that has limits depending on range in cold temps.
posted by modernnomad at 11:37 AM on May 9, 2013


there are huge federal and smaller state subsidies for electric vehicles, you know. i'm not sure if the pricing people are throwing around in this thread are net of those subsidies or not.
posted by joeblough at 11:37 AM on May 9, 2013


there's really no need for a transmission, stick or automatic, because of the torque characteristics of an electric motor, as was explained above

Yeah, and this makes me sad because one of the things I love about driving is using a manual transmission. That's all I'm saying here.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:37 AM on May 9, 2013


the people driving the Model S - at least the ones on Sand Hill - drive like assholes

I like to pretend that is not Tesla's sole demographic. It is of course, but I like to pretend.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2013


Here in the Bay Area I see as many Leaf's as any other car model.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2013


there are huge federal and smaller state subsidies for electric vehicles, you know

$7500 for most states, $10k for California. On a car this expensive, it's nice but I don't know about huge.
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2013


They strike me as an ideal second car in an urban area, but I guess even that has limits depending on range in cold temps.

My friend just bought a Leaf and we took it out over lunch one day. Has all the bells and whistles you could want, including a very strange "360 degree" live overhead view of the car.

We decided to try to use one of the public charging stations in the next town over and ran into an interesting problem: the stations only accept those tap-to-pay credit cards, and neither of us has one. Also, the town finally wised up and put parking meters in the charging spots, and we were out of quarters.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2013


It can be had for around $70k which is what many people pay for cars

I was very ready to give you points for pedantic correctness, but, come on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why don't these electric cars come with a tiny gas tank for powering a/c or heat, or other components that really drag on a car's range? Seems as if that would answer many complaints from those in cold climes.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can it recharge my Frankensteins?

Do you have $100,000 per Frankenstein?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:43 AM on May 9, 2013


there are huge federal and smaller state subsidies for electric vehicles, you know. i'm not sure if the pricing people are throwing around in this thread are net of those subsidies or not.

They aren't just at the consumer end of things either. I'd be curious what the status of Tesla's "profit" would be without all of those.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:44 AM on May 9, 2013


Where are you getting $580 a month in gas from? Are you really thinking that people are driving around 5,000 miles a month on a single car, every month, all the time?

I did not get $580 a month in gas and no I am not thinking that and that is not what I wrote. I was referring to the total cost per month as noted on their website.


MODEL S - ZERO EMISSIONS. ZERO COMPROMISES.
$580 PER MONTH AFTER GAS SAVINGS
Introducing a car so advanced it sets a new standard for premium performance.
ORDER TEST DRIVE
teslamotors.com/models

posted by lampshade at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2013


I live in New England, in the 'burbs, and I would happily drive this to work every day.

My commute is like 30 miles round trip each day, so I drive a Toyota sedan. I know that a Smart Car (or "Smaht Cah," as they say here) would be more efficient, but I am afraid of that tiny plastic coffin, and I also heard from someone who drives one that they hate its cheapness. If Tesla really can make a car that competes with a Camry on price, lasts all week without a recharge, and isn't a flimsy piece of junk, then I would be keenly interested. And if they someday make a minivan-shaped thing, I am fascinated!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:47 AM on May 9, 2013


We decided to try to use one of the public charging stations in the next town over and ran into an interesting problem: the stations only accept those tap-to-pay credit cards, and neither of us has one.

you just need to sign up for an account with ChargePoint or Blink and they will send you RFID cards. link your credit card to the account and you are good to go. FWIW Blink used to be free everywhere but now they are charging amounts which are equivalent to gasoline prices. for the most part ChargePoint stations are free since the municipalities which are installing them seem to be picking up the tab for the electricity.
posted by joeblough at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2013


i'm not sure if the pricing people are throwing around in this thread are net of those subsidies or not

I did some sums being curious about the prices being thrown around here. Living in Vancouver, BC it is going to cost me around $80k to get the cheapest available Tesla; $78k for the base model, less $5000 in provincial incentives plus GST/PST plus transport costs. I then went to toyota.ca to see what could be had from the king of mass-market car manufacturers for that amount. As far as I can tell they do not offer a single model within $5k of that price; a Sequoia 4WD Platinum 5.7L goes for $68k before taxes and delivery.

If a car is easily more expensive than the entire Toyota model line then I'm calling it a luxury car.
posted by N-stoff at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2013


I think stbalbach's comment about "many people" being able to afford a car like this is spot on and I don't understand why it's contentious. Believe it or not, rich people live in America, and there are a lot of them. Even if you only include the richest 5% of Americans as "rich enough" to buy a car like this, that's over 15 million people. Pretty good market if you're in the business of trying to sell a few thousand high-end luxury cars.

One of the amazing details from the conference call was that 25% of customers who test drove a Tesla S ended up purchasing one. Made me go: 0_0
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2013


Jubal: Why don't these electric cars come with a tiny gas tank for powering a/c or heat...?

Jubal, I think most cars get their cabin heat from the waste heat of that big gas engine under the hood, and I guess a little engine could provide this.

Cooling comes from a compressor up there, which would have to be retained; considering that the Tesla is from out in California, where they know well the sun's heat, I imagine this is already accounted for. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:50 AM on May 9, 2013


$7500 for most states, $10k for California. On a car this expensive, it's nice but I don't know about huge.

are you sure the rebates for tesla are the same? it is dependent on battery size. could be maxed out at $7500 though.

btw the feds rejected my credit and i had to provide all kinds of supporting documentation. apparently there is a huge amount of fraud on this particular credit because it's so large. people were claiming all kinds of random VINs.
posted by joeblough at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2013


According to my friend who worked for Tesla, the base price is $55k after tax rebates.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2013


are you sure the rebates for tesla are the same?

Those are the ones from the Tesla site.
posted by smackfu at 11:55 AM on May 9, 2013


Because the car is too quiet, they amplify the engine roar through the car's audio system.

That's like the modern-day equivalent of how they used to attach wooden horse heads on the front of old-timey motorcars to keep from spooking real horses.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:55 AM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I know that a Smart Car (or "Smaht Cah," as they say here) would be more efficient, but I am afraid of that tiny plastic coffin, and I also heard from someone who drives one that they hate its cheapness.

Don't feel bad. Smart Cars get about 35 mpg, which is really pretty terrible. I don't know what you're getting with your Toyota, but my mid-size, very fast sports sedan gets 30 and I drive with as lead a foot as anyone I've ever met.
posted by The World Famous at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2013


Oh, I don't feel bad! :7) When we gave up the Tiny Red Car, an early-90s Tercel that got 35 MPG, then I felt bad.

I only have 100k on my car now, so there are several more years for us together. But if, three or five years hence, Tesla has a $35k sedan that I can use effectively in the winter, I would really want to look at it seriously.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:00 PM on May 9, 2013


stbalbach: it's $100,000 after taxes and shit
posted by Old'n'Busted


*sigh* I give up.
posted by stbalbach at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Smart Cars get about 35 mpg

Yea, my Yaris (and it's from the year they started importing them here to the US) gets that or better. Much better if I drive with a mind to conserve fuel, yay standard transmissions among other tricks/mods...

I've never understood the poor mileage numbers reported by the Smart Car crowd. I could probably figure it out but I always chalked it up to people driving like maniacs and/or wanting zippy performance/acceleration and AC set to 'artic'* out of a car that just isn't designed to provide it, which would obviously cause the mileage numbers to tank and look horrible.

*Or the same factors being reflected in whatever test is used to post the mileage stickers of course.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2013


Navelgazer: "According to my friend who worked for Tesla, the base price is $55k after tax rebates."

Sounds about right. But the myth of the $100k Tesla will never go away, regardless.
posted by stbalbach at 12:04 PM on May 9, 2013


Another thing, people that "own" these level of cars (BMW, Audi, Mercs) usually lease them.

So $3k down and a $550-600 monthly is doable if your income is 200k+.
posted by wcfields at 12:06 PM on May 9, 2013



We have a show room in our local mall, despite the best efforts of the local car dealers to shut it down


Here is what the dealers in NC have pulled off: Senate Bill 327 (SB 327) as introduced, would prevent North Carolina consumers from purchasing a Tesla at a sales location or online through TeslaMotors.com. This law would be the first of its kind in the United States.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those who live on the east coast, the recharging stations have started popping up on I-95, so you can easily get from, say, NY to DC in one of these with at most a stop for coffee in Delaware.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:08 PM on May 9, 2013


According to my friend who worked for Tesla, the base price is $55k after tax rebates.

This is a very un-scientific analysis of the Model S I did a couple of months ago (just options, not tax breaks). I just pulled data from their website to compare, side by side, a basic and a loaded model. The numbers are still pretty much in the same range.

I am sure that in time the cost will come down as the various tech components are manufactured in larger quantities and more companies join the party. When that trickle down comes to fruition, I will be right there to buy one of these types of vehicles.

For the next 5-10 years though, I will be sticking with the likes of the DorkMobile.
posted by lampshade at 12:09 PM on May 9, 2013


Yes, You Can Lease a Tesla Model S — But Not for $500 a Month

After teasing a major announcement Tuesday, electric carmaker Tesla revealed its first leasing arrangement for its top-of-the-range Model S sedan. The company claims the cost amounts to a payment of $500 a month.

But as anyone who's spent a lot of time negotiating at car dealerships knows, you have to look at the fine print to find out what's really going on.

The real lease payment is actually $1,200 a month, assuming you get a 2.95% APR (which seems a little low to us). Tesla was factoring in tax incentives, assuming you drive for business, and overestimating the price of gas. But that's not all.

Most egregiously, the company is estimating that the time you spend pumping gas is worth $100 per hour.


Now, I don't know about you, stbalbach, but that sounds like Tesla is playing games with the numbers, to me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Roadster was about $100K, the S, as other have said, starts at about $65K. The X will probably be more like $80K but who knows? Maybe it's also be 60-ish base.
posted by GuyZero at 12:14 PM on May 9, 2013


the people driving the Model S - at least the ones on Sand Hill - drive like assholes

I like to pretend that is not Tesla's sole demographic. It is of course, but I like to pretend.


Really, it just solidifies the comparison to the BMW/Audi market.
posted by LionIndex at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ok, stbalbach, you win. Consumer Reports must have either lied about or mis-typed the $89,650 they paid for the Model S, plus $1,200 for Tesla's High Power Wall Connect. Or maybe those numbers don't really add up to more than $90,000. Or maybe there are enough rebates and tax credits to knock off half the price. Or maybe we should be talking about some $70,000 car or $55,000 car that wasn't mentioned in the Consumer Reports article. The point you seem unwilling to accept is that this car is way, way out of reach for the vast majority of car buyers.

There's nothing wrong with Tesla pricing a car at that level. If somebody wants to spend $70,000 or $90,000 for a car, Tesla may have the right model for them. In raw numbers, there are probably enough buyers out there for Tesla to succeed. But for the most of us drivers, it's all academic. Until the price gets down to $30,000 or so, it won't matter how good the car is because most of us can't pony up that much, even if we end up saving a bundle on gasoline over the life of the car. That's the point some of us are making. It takes nothing away from the quality and performance of the car.

Is that really so hard to grasp?
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Folks, if you're not trolling make an effort to look like you're not trolling.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd buy one of these.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2013


I'm not at all a 'car person' (I drive a 10 year old subaru), but man, I saw one of these in downtown Portland yesterday (first I've ever seen in real life) and my jaw just dropped. It was beautiful and completely silent.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2013


Smart Cars get about 35 mpg, which is really pretty terrible.

Wow. I'd've thought at least 40-something -- my old Geo/Corolla would push 40mpg on the freeway and sometimes do as well as 30 around town.
posted by weston at 12:40 PM on May 9, 2013


Smart Cars get about 35 mpg, which is really pretty terrible.

Wow. I'd've thought at least 40-something -- my old Geo/Corolla would push 40mpg on the freeway and sometimes do as well as 30 around town.


According to Fuelly, a lot of people do average 40+ but most average in the high 30s.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:47 PM on May 9, 2013


I'd say that more than anything, just having to think about whether or not it's worth ~20k to have an extra 160 miles of nominal range per charge is a rather unfamiliar consideration to have when evaluating a car.
posted by hoople at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2013


tylerkaraszewski: "Electric motors make their full torque regardless of RPM. There's no need to keep it running in an optimal rev range, so they don't bother. When you go slow, it spins slow, when you go fast, it spins fast."

MoonOrb: "What will excite me is when electric cars are available with manual transmissions."

Never gonna happen. Electric cars don't have transmissions, because electric motors don't need them. They produce tons of torque at all speeds, and are (more or less) equally efficient across their entire rev range.

A fun bit of trivia: Virtually every diesel-powered train is driven by a diesel engine coupled directly to a generator, which powers a series of electric motors that are directly attached to the wheels. Having no transmission is more efficient; the engine and generator can be tuned so that the engine spends most of its time in an optimal rev range, and the whole thing is much, much, much easier to build and maintain.
posted by schmod at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess we'll see: at least one manufacturer is working on it.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2013


Does anyone have information on the distribution of new car sales by price range? It would help a lot to know how many 70k (or 100k) cars are sold per year as compared to 25k cars. I tried looking on google but was unable to find anything (I probably did not use the correct search terms).
posted by Vindaloo at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2013


Last week I saw a beautiful red sedan while waiting at a red light. So beautiful I pointed it out to my girlfriend, thinking it was an Alfa Romeo.

Of course it wasn't. It was a Tesla S. Dead in the middle of an intersection, being pushed into a gas station by helpful bystanders while the owner stood on the curb, texting.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with Tesla pricing a car at that level. If somebody wants to spend $70,000 or $90,000 for a car, Tesla may have the right model for them.

And to add on to that thought - while a Tesla is not at all in the cards for me in the near future, at the same time I absolutely appreciate that there are people who will buy something like this at this time. It really is (at least one) significant way to advance the technology and otherwise assist in its propagation. Otherwise, it goes the route of so many good ideas that arrived before their time.

Consumer Reports has it right: "All this comes at a price" as a general note. The next to the last paragraph in the article sums it up pretty well.
posted by lampshade at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2013


I am an electric car convert. I leased a Volt, which, thanks to GM's crazy incentives, actually costs about $250/month with no upfront payment, and I save $80/month on gas (net electric costs). The result is about the cheapest car you can lease, and mitigated technology risk, since I can give it back after 3 years.

I love the Volt, aside from feeling more luxury-ish than any other car I have owned (not that crazy given the used cars I have typically had), it is both fun to drive and easy to sneak up on pedestrians since it is quiet. But I would really, really love a Tesla. They make electric cars seem cool, and 200 miles of range, instead of 40 - wow.

I don't understand why people get Leafs, however.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:58 PM on May 9, 2013


Yeah. The Smart car is an idea that I want to love, but their execution of the concept is just dreadfully terrible (fortunately, they're apparently a lot safer than they look, so they did at least one part well).

Most models include the worst automatic transmission that I've ever seen, which also probably contributes to the fact that nobody can actually achieve good fuel economy.

The suspension is also alarmingly bad. You might think that this would be fine for a "city car" if you've never driven in a city before. Unfortunately, city roads are rarely smooth.

They're neither cheap nor efficient. There is no compelling argument to buy a Smart car over a compact entry-level Nissan or Honda.

However, Car2Go is pretty rad. Smart Cars actually seem to make sense in that one very specific context. I don't suspect that our future has much room for widespread private vehicle ownership, so this is more important than you might think. The first company to successfully pioneer a fully autonomous decentralized electric carsharing service will own the 21st Century.
posted by schmod at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2013


Napkin math: ...

If you measure the value of a car solely by its value proposition, then there's only one car that anyone should ever buy: the one that costs the least to purchase and operate over the next ten years. You can also expand that to include "...that carries the number of people you need to carry."

The truth is far more complex than that, and nobody buys a $90,000 Mercedes over a $25,000 Toyota for financially practical reasons. Heck, if you're focusing on money, you should be buying a $2,000 Toyota from 1993, not a new one.

Ultimately it is more like buying a house. All houses will do certain specific things. Beyond that, your purchasing is based on price, sure, but also about desires, from the location to the condition to the amenities to the look of the thing and your proximity to the people and places you want to visit.

So when you look at any electric car, you shouldn't run the fuel and purchase costs and call it definitive. The driving experience in an electric is actually pretty fantastic, and much like dropping a good engine into a boring car, it can be transformative: I drove a Focus and hated it, but I loved the Focus Electric, and the only thing different was the parts that make it go. Even the LEAF was surprisingly quick and fun compared to gas-powered cars in the same price range.

Ultimately, think of your actual needs first: range is a lot like seat count, you can't buy a two-seat sports car as your only car if you have a family and you can't buy an electric car as your only car if your daily mileage exceeds a reasonable portion of the stated range. As a second car, though, two-seat sports cars and electric cars can make a lot of sense, and for some people they do make sense as an only car.
posted by davejay at 1:02 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why people get Leafs, however.

Aww, I had my favoriting finger all ready to click and then I got to this sentence. I love, love, love my Leaf. Seriously, I'd fuck it if it had a tailpipe.
posted by 0 at 1:09 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blahblahblah can you elaborate on how to get a Volt for that price with no upfront payment?
posted by chaz at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2013


I'm seriously tempted by the Leaf as a replacement for my Civic when the time comes. A little commuting car with a hatchback, seems perfect.
posted by humanfont at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2013


Yeah, as a daily commuter car the Leaf is perfect. It's exactly what a fair number of people need. If you live somewhere without weather, so much the better. I walked by six of them coming back from lunch.
posted by GuyZero at 1:24 PM on May 9, 2013


We bought the leaf because we needed the carpool stickers. but as the first "real" mass-produced electric car, i was all over it.

it's actually quite a fine car.
posted by joeblough at 1:24 PM on May 9, 2013


Aww, I had my favoriting finger all ready to click and then I got to this sentence. I love, love, love my Leaf. Seriously, I'd fuck it if it had a tailpipe.

Sorry, sorry! Didn't mean to insult Leaf owners. I just get range anxiety, and the relatively small price difference between a Volt and a Leaf (and the relatively high cost of a Leaf compared to other high mpg cars) made it hard to for me to get why someone would choose a Leaf. But we can all be electric brothers and sisters together.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


What will excite me is when electric cars are available with manual transmissions.

I'm still waiting for my smartphone with a rotary dial.
posted by chundo at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


RonButNotStupid: The Tesla Model S outscores every other car in our test Ratings.

So I guess their ratings don't include cost?

One could spend a hundred million dollars to have artisan engineers build the fastest, most luxurious, most reliable vehicle ever, but I don't think that any honest consumer reviewer would be able to call it the "best" and still keep a straight face.
You seem to think "best" is the same as "best bargain". They are not remotely the same.

If you wanted to fly to the moon, would you want to get in the spacecraft with a balance between fewest crashes and lowest cost, or the spacecraft with the fewest crashes per launch? Only one is the best, in your own opinion.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:27 PM on May 9, 2013


Blahblahblah can you elaborate on how to get a Volt for that price with no upfront payment?

Last summer there were some crazy deals, when it looked like the Volt wasn't taking off. Right now, looks like the rates are a lot higher. Bummer.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:31 PM on May 9, 2013


MODEL S - ZERO EMISSIONS. ZERO COMPROMISES.

Ah the zero emissions claim really chaps my hide. It's only as good as the electricity generation. In Alberta, for instance, your Tesla would be powered by coal if you're not opting for one of the (more expensive) renewable energy sources.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bullfrog Power costs maybe 3x (ish?) for electricity rates in Canada which makes recharging a Tesla a quarter instead of a dime. It's not a hard problem to solve.
posted by GuyZero at 1:34 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah the zero emissions claim really chaps my hide. It's only as good as the electricity generation. In Alberta, for instance, your Tesla would be powered by coal if you're not opting for one of the (more expensive) renewable energy sources.

I'm not buying one until they offer an option for a bolt-on coal chute. Along with the manual transmission.
posted by The Bellman at 1:36 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


yeah "zero" emission is somewhat misleading. clearly the car itself does not emit any pollution, which is still meaningful. well, okay, it spews rubber on the road...
posted by joeblough at 1:39 PM on May 9, 2013


Not to mention their manufacture. There aren't any solar powered factories building electric cars that are shipped by wind freight. To my knowledge. But hey, it's a start.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


...the relatively small price difference between a Volt and a Leaf (and the relatively high cost of a Leaf compared to other high mpg cars) made it hard to for me to get why someone would choose a Leaf.

I was all set to get a LEAF when they first came out, but my little how-far-do-I-drive diary made it clear that the range was just a smidge too short for my daily worst case scenario, and my yearly mileage was too large for the lease deals they were doing. So I'll be waiting until the range improves, and my yearly driving needs drop somewhat.

The Volt for me, on the other hand, was a non-starter: why should I get a car that doesn't have sufficient electric range for even my typical trips, and has a separate engine to lug around and maintain, plus the requisite more complicated transmission? At that point, why not just get a fuel-efficient gas-powered car? It is the same reason I consider a Ford C-MAX Energi as little better than a C-MAX hybrid.

So, there's one answer from one person for you.
posted by davejay at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is a start as well. nissan barcelona plant fitted with solar panels.
posted by joeblough at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to mention their manufacture. There aren't any solar powered factories building electric cars that are shipped by wind freight. To my knowledge. But hey, it's a start.

It's a start, sure (I'm keen and would love one) but it's still a car. Cars are responsible for a significant social and environmental cost regardless of emissions, in terms of manufacturing, road building and maintenance, and parking. We have one car between my wife and I, but mostly I'm happier commuting on my bike. My bike cost less than 1/50th of this and I still get to work on time.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:49 PM on May 9, 2013


I believe that the definition of "zero emissions" for the purposes of an automobile is zero tailpipe emissions. If you wish to redefine where the perimeter is for analysis/complaint, that's all well & good -- I suggest starting with the Universe as a whole.

It's tidier that way.
posted by aramaic at 1:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, I tend to look at luxury cars as purely visual objects and I wonder, does the Tesla S actually need a grill? I suppose some things in an electric car still need cooling, but I wonder if it's just there so it looks more conventional.
posted by gamera at 2:02 PM on May 9, 2013


Granted, I live between a Tesla showroom and Sand Hill Road, so I will likely see more of these than average, but in the last month there's not a day that goes by (that I leave the house) that I don't see less than 3 of them in a day and at least a couple of Roadsters a week (I saw one yesterday nearly bottom out on a speed bump when I was out picking up lunch). And most seem to be bought cars, not just someone out for a test run. The only car that's shown up more on my radar of late is the Leaf. Those things are almost as common as a Prius day-to-day.
posted by marylynn at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2013


I live in a really affluent area and I still can't recall ever seeing a Leaf in the wild. Are they a west-coast thing? Do they blend in with regular Nissans?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:05 PM on May 9, 2013


does the Tesla S actually need a grill?

No. It's a purely aesthetic element. It's like the fake spare tire hump on an old Lincoln or landau bars on a hearse.
posted by The World Famous at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe that the definition of "zero emissions" for the purposes of an automobile is zero tailpipe emissions. If you wish to redefine where the perimeter is for analysis/complaint, that's all well & good

I think it's a reasonable assumption to make that people are buying electric cars at least partially for environmental reasons. Therefore, if more emissions of a nastier type are produced by generating the electricity required to charge the car than a comparable combustion-engined would, it's fair to point that out. Given the efficiency of large-scale power generation vs. a car engine I seriously doubt that that could ever be the case, so pointing that out is being excessively nitpicky, but at its core, "zero emissions" is basically a greenwashing term.

I think everyone hopes that we eventually have ways to get around that pollute as little as possible, powered in a way that neither pollutes or degrades the environment. Electric cars are one step along that path, and I think the case with Tesla is that they're demonstrating that you don't necessarily have to give up much drive-ability to own an electric car, price notwithstanding. Hopefully, that raises demand for similar electric cars and the technology gets cheaper to produce and manufacture, thus driving the price down.
posted by LionIndex at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2013


does the Tesla S actually need a grill?

It has a grill??? I'm totally getting one! Burgers and fries and BBQ chicken on the road, yum....

I'll enjoy it almost as much as the built-in Jacuzzi on my Motocuzzi.
posted by miyabo at 2:19 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd make burgers on an electric grill? You monster.
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, and this makes me sad because one of the things I love about driving is using a manual transmission. That's all I'm saying here.

MAKER MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE: Make your own Tesla Stick Shift with a screwdriver and a shoebox, then bling it up with a Bedazzler
posted by Sparx at 2:28 PM on May 9, 2013


IAmBroom: You seem to think "best" is the same as "best bargain". They are not remotely the same.

Nor are "best" and "best performance" or "best" and "best luxury". Consumer Reports said the Tesla Model S "outscores every other car" in their tests. Really? Don't they take into consideration cost, or even availability for that matter? Certainly in those tests, the Tesla falls flat when compared with other vehicles. In a fair testing regimen, it might do better than other cars on average, but it's not going to surpass them all in every single category.

If you wanted to fly to the moon, would you want to get in the spacecraft with a balance between fewest crashes and lowest cost, or the spacecraft with the fewest crashes per launch? Only one is the best, in your own opinion.

It's not my opinion, it's the opinion of Consumer Reports. Though they do offer a half-hearted disclaimer that the Tesla might not be for everyone, they do declare it to be the best.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 2:30 PM on May 9, 2013


Consumer Reports said the Tesla Model S "outscores every other car" in their tests. Really? Don't they take into consideration cost, or even availability for that matter?

You could go to their site and see exactly what metrics they use and what weights they are given (you might have to be a subscriber to see all of that).
posted by rtha at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah. Grille. Heating elements folding out of the trunk would be pretty cool but your lunchtime barbecue might reduce your range. Anyhooooo . . . thanks, The World Famous. I found a discussion about the front end styling on the Tesla forum and someone did a quick mockup of a grille-less S. I think I like it better without the grille, but then I like weird cars.
posted by gamera at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2013


It's funny how the advertising keeps saying that refueling is just the time it takes to get a cup of coffee -- just a brief stop on the turnpike on your way from NY to DC, say. Most of the people I know who make that drive frequently dedicate a large portion of their lives (during the drive) to shaving off a few minutes here, dodging traffic by taking 295 there, etc. If you offered them an awesome car but told them it would increase the drive time from 3 1/2 to 4 hours -- and said it would only cost them 89K -- they would look at you like you were crazy, no matter how well-off they are. To put another way, most people I know who make those long drives would easily trade quite a lot of torque and dazzle if you said they could trim their drive time by a half hour.

None of this is to say that it doesn't make sense around town, but even that bigger battery doesn't really make sense for a lot of people who aren't just touring around, but actually have to get somewhere a decent way away.
posted by chortly at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2013


In my extended family "consumers" has more credibility than the Bible. If you buy any major appliance or car and it comes up at a family gathering you will be mentioning how well Consumer Reports rated it as part of the justification for purchasing the specific model. God forbid you buy something and it has a bad review on Consumers, or without checking it. You will never hear the end of it. My uncle made the mistake of confessing that he just bought a TV at costco without checking because they have a great return policy and he was in a hurry. The rest of the family looked at him like he'd just confessed to a major crime. I'm pretty sure that my family isn't that unique in this behavior. The full throated endorsement of Consumer Reports is going to sell a lot of Teslas.
posted by humanfont at 2:39 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's been a long time since I read a car review in CR, but no, typically price isn't a big factor in their ratings, since they're usually comparing 4 or 5 cars in the same category/class/market sector, although they'll typically label one or two as "Best Buys" which balances the quality of the car with the price.

Generally, they test for safety, comfort, handling, engine noise, ride noise, ride smoothness, acceleration (and a bunch of other stuff car magazines would car about), and manufacturer defects (things rattling around in the car when it's right off the assembly line). Once car lines get some lifespan, they rate for reliability.
posted by LionIndex at 2:41 PM on May 9, 2013


It can be had for around $70k which is what many people pay for cars

I think people are having problem with the relativeness of "many". If you have 300 million people and only 10 million buy cars at this price range many might not compute, but, that said, 10 million people is a hell of a lot of people so it can be taken either way.

Yeah, and this makes me sad because one of the things I love about driving is using a manual transmission. That's all I'm saying here.

Think of it as trading that for a bucket load of torque. For those who just can't live without shifting gears on an engine without gears perhaps they'll make a stick shift that cuts the power of the engine briefly and a throttle that will give you less torgue if you press it lightly and more if you press it full on. You'll have a slower car of course, but hey, stick shifting!
posted by juiceCake at 2:42 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you watch the Car and Driver clip, the guy talks about the "grille". It is just a piece of coloured plastic to match our expectations of what a car front-end should look like. I suspect many people would be put off by a grille-less car as being some how un-automobilish.

The Tesla S does have some small heat exchangers to cool the battery and to run the AC, but they're hidden underneath the front end.
posted by bonehead at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


...but at its core, "zero emissions" is basically a greenwashing term.

My favorite is "Partial Zero Emissions." The partial zero is a thing we were not taught about when I went to school.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work for a municipality that just installed solar panels on the roof of my building and our parking garage. There are four charging spots downstairs in the garage, and they are almost always full when I see them. The first Tesla S showed up just yesterday (though I've seen plenty of them driving around town) and coincidentally there was a Roadster parked one floor up. There were two Volts and a Leaf plugged in beside the S, which is about the usual proportion.

Right after the installation, up until just recently, those parking spots were very lonely and I fantasized about parking the Roadster I bought used from Flea on Craigslist right there all the time. (I don't really have Flea's car. But one Sunday afternoon after a bike ride along the river I stopped in Frogtown to watch the kids in the skate park there and this Tesla Roadster whooshes to a stop and Flea gets out and joins the BBQ over on the other side of the park. Best celeb sighting yet.)

I'm considering a car purchase right now and can get a hybrid that averages 55mpg for 8 or 11 grand. How, oh how I wish I could be considering an all-electric vehicle.
posted by carsonb at 3:18 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


someone did a quick mockup of a grille-less S.

Ha! Makes it look like a Mazda.
posted by carsonb at 3:26 PM on May 9, 2013


Ha! Makes it look like a Mazda.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by gamera at 3:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grill-less cars you say? Distinctly ugly, I reply.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:37 PM on May 9, 2013


Grill-less cars you say? Distinctly ugly, I reply.

Yeah, I guess that's what they're trying to avoid. I admit I have a pretty high tolerance for wacky looking cars.
posted by gamera at 3:46 PM on May 9, 2013


Grille-less ugly?

Does no one remember the Studebaker Avanti?
posted by rock swoon has no past at 4:01 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Tesla without a grille looks like a Panamera.

Grill-less cars you say? Distinctly ugly, I reply.

It depends on the car, I think.
posted by The World Famous at 4:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not sure of the efficacy, but the LEAF *does* have a (small) solar panel to trickle charge the battery/power the AC/heater.
posted by fragmede at 4:47 PM on May 9, 2013


"Is it Turn Every Post Into A Pedantic Nitpickfest Thursday already?"

It's Friday where I am, but let me join in anyway.

"Electric motors make their full torque regardless of RPM" … "The torque curve is completely flat" … "there's really no need for a transmission, stick or automatic, because of the torque characteristics of an electric motor" … "They produce tons of torque at all speeds"

Not true. Torque is highest near minimum RPM, and decreases with increasing RPM.

(In reality it's not quite like that due to electric/magnetic losses & similar/other effects which limit torque at lower RPM, so it looks more like this. In the case of the Tesla Model S, that apparently equates to fairly flat torque curve up to ~53MPH - but the 'completely flat / full torque regardless of RPM' thing is false.)
posted by Pinback at 4:47 PM on May 9, 2013


i think that solar cell only trickle charges the 12V battery... it's kind of useless.
posted by joeblough at 4:53 PM on May 9, 2013


i stand by my comment. i never said the torque was flat at any rpm. by "torque characteristics" i meant that it produces lots of torque at low RPM. an IC engine does not, hence the need to gear it down to put enough torque at the wheels to move the car from a standstill.

the tesla S and roadster 1.5 have single-speed gearboxes. i suppose if you want to be pedantic that's still a transmission, but it only has one gear... making it kind of the degenerate case.
posted by joeblough at 5:00 PM on May 9, 2013


I'd love to own an electric car, just because it would be one of those living in the future things but I only spend about $800 a year on gas and half of that is on long distance trips where a 200 mile limit wouldn't be very useful. I once went so long without buying gas that I was able to fill my tank for free because I'd saved up $3.50 a gallon in fuel perks from the supermarket.
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 PM on May 9, 2013


For $100k I'm getting a fully kitted out F350 diesel Arctic Package crew cab long bed with duallies.

And $50,000 worth of gas.

And I'm rolling right over your little perfect electric toy car like it was a Armadillo on a Texas blacktop.

Just kidding. I'm probably spending it all on dope.
posted by spitbull at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2013


The reviewer in the Car & Driver video takes his eyes off the road for a scary long time while poking at the touch screen to change some setting in the S's controls. Maybe it's just me but I want knobs and buttons with tactile feedback.
posted by jamaro at 6:05 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that's $50,000 worth of diesel. Not gas.

Sour, preferably.
posted by spitbull at 6:11 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The full throated endorsement of Consumer Reports is going to sell a lot of Teslas.

Yup. I think the demographic overlap of Tesla buyers and CR readers is a lot bigger than, say, that of Jeep owners -- a model that always gets one of their lowest ratings, for fit and finish, ride, handling, road noise, and everything else. But then, those are things that if you're buying a Jeep (Wrangler, or perhaps Cherokee) you don't care much about anyway. They have historically -- at least since the 70s -- rated American cars lower on quality issues, which has been considered anti-American/liberal/reverse-racist by some, but then they also had a years-long fight with the Japanese automaker Suzuki over the tippy Samurai.

Anyway, the Model S is well out of my reach, but I don't have a problem with them rating the car independently of its price as being a great vehicle that satisfies their universal scoring system. They evaluate vehicles at all consumer price ranges (i.e. except the most elite, like Lambos or Aston-Martins). Eventually Tesla is going to make a range of vehicles (a minivan is suggested) and those will have to be more affordable in some sense if they're going to sell.

In any case, the point I see is that this is a new bar being set that other automakers may strive to compare to. What I see happening is that hybrids were a weird one-off thing with the Prius, but are now sold by practically every automaker, and electrics are the current weird one-off thing, but are well on their way to their own ubiquity. A hurdle has been crossed. What we're seeing in the Model S will soon trickle down, as it were, to lesser marques. Look at what's happened with ABS and ESC.
posted by dhartung at 6:21 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


chundo: "I'm still waiting for my smartphone with a rotary dial."

Here you go.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:31 PM on May 9, 2013


It has a grill??? I'm totally getting one! Burgers and fries and BBQ chicken on the road, yum....

Like the guy in the $150,000 electric car is gonna grill his own hamburgers. Come on!
posted by Flashman at 6:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just averaged 45 mpg over ca. 200 mixed highway and city miles in a barebones rental 2013 Mazda 3 with a tiptronic transmission, like a $20k car. For $100k I could buy two of them and enough gas to put about half a million miles on the two cars at $4/gallon (I actually paid $3.69 btw). Seeing as 250k is a reasonable expectation from a modern Japanese compact car, I'd say we are a long way yet from any obvious value proposition in a 100k battery mobile.

So I need to see the environmental benefits similarly quantified to care yet about electric cars. Of course the comparison should more properly be to a Leaf or Volt. But I see you and raise you a TDI biodiesel.
posted by spitbull at 6:46 PM on May 9, 2013


You can get a 3-year lease on an electric Fiat 500 or Ford Focus for about $250 a month with $1000 down.
posted by The World Famous at 6:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well how about that.
posted by carsonb at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2013


You gotta tell me the mileage limits and battery life (ie, mileage btwn replacements) for that to compute, never mind the cost of the electricity.

And how do do you quantify the humiliation of being seen in a Fiat?
posted by spitbull at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2013


I drove across the country twice in a Mazda GLC I bought for $100, averaging 30MPG since one of the cylinders wasn't firing too great and the spark plug was stuck in the cylinder block. For $100K I could buy another faded blue $100 Mazda and have enough money left over to buy enough gas to make the equivalent of 12 round trips to the moon and back. Electric cars are too expensive.
posted by Flashman at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And how do do you quantify the humiliation of being seen in a Fiat?

Seen? It's completely silent and goes like hell. Nobody's going to see you unless you slow down on purpose to show off.
posted by The World Famous at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And how do do you quantify the humiliation of being seen in a Fiat?

MPGe* (It always has an asterisk.)

I looked long and hard at the gas-powered 500c a few years ago, and yeah they're ugly cars.

Nothing's uglier than the busted-up gas-guzzling S-10 I drive right now though. It looks like it's been punched in the nose. I used to drive an Accord that said

No Limit Oldie s
BOUT IT, BOUT IT

In the back window and featured a driver-side door that didn't open. Luckily I'd shattered the driver-side window, and could climb in like it was a race car. Hardly ever rained in Tucson, anyway. Before that the Camaro had a fiberglass hood and a sweet T-top until that one freak night it hailed golfballs. I love my vehicles, but not because they're pretty. If they humiliate me, it's because they don't function properly or aren't very efficient.
posted by carsonb at 7:34 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fiat 500s are adorable! We rented one when we visited the Pacific Northwest, and we got tons of compliments. The best was when we randomly met a bunch of Fiat Italy employees, who were amazed to see one in Canada.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:51 PM on May 9, 2013


The World Famous, I'm referring to waiting in one place for two hours drinking coffee while you charge your silent speedster.

Just teasing. I figure the next time I actually ever buy a car (when I retire) the electrics will be perfected.
posted by spitbull at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2013


And how do do you quantify the humiliation of being seen in a Fiat?

Depends where you are, I suppose. They're common enough here to be unremarkable.

Now, the time I was standing on Mission St., having a smoke outside a bar, and a guy took two tries to get his Maserati parallel parked? When everyone on the sidewalk stopped to stare - and not the "whoa dude nice car" kind of stares either? That had to be humiliating.
posted by rtha at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2013


The thing no one has mentioned here is that if the S breaks down, Tesla will send someone in a top-of-the-line S to your house. They give you the new S while they take yours away and fix it.

This is the thing that is going to make my mom buy the Tesla S. I am not kidding. She's not lazy; she gets easily overwhelmed and she would consider this a huge benefit.
posted by rednikki at 8:01 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adorable is not the opposite of humiliating.
posted by spitbull at 8:06 PM on May 9, 2013


A datapoint re market penetration:

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, where one certainly sees a lot of hybrids. There are also plenty of people in town who can afford a $70,000 car. I know what the Tesla is, but this thread was the first place I learned it was already being sold to customers.

On the other hand, per Wikipedia, just under 10,000 model S's have been sold since last June; that actually sounds like a lot, considering that, e.g., the car I drive, the Subaru Forester, sells about 80,000 units a year. If there end up being 1/8 as many model S's on the road as Foresters, that really means something, because you can't walk out of a grocery store in this town without stubbing your toe on a Forester.
posted by escabeche at 8:38 PM on May 9, 2013


"Dead in the middle of an intersection, being pushed into a gas station by helpful bystanders while the owner stood on the curb, texting."

You could be forgiven for thinking it was an Alfa, in that case.

"As long as I stay in my little town and run short errands, the 200 mile range would work for me. But, at 200 miles, I would not be able to do a run to Indy and back, unless I immediately turned around and headed back home as soon as I got there."

"For those who live on the east coast, the recharging stations have started popping up on I-95, so you can easily get from, say, NY to DC in one of these with at most a stop for coffee in Delaware."


For intercity travel, you should really be able to use (high-speed) rail. That's a big part of a sustainability strategy, though it doesn't help the individual driver.
posted by Eideteker at 8:42 PM on May 9, 2013


Why all the snark? A $60k at low end, $100k at high end electric car has been created that gets rave reviews, called "the best car ever", etc. The company in question has explicitly stated that their long-term goal is to create a more affordable, $30k car. The current range is 200 miles, which will no doubt increase rapidly as battery technology improves in the future. The car is, compared to any other gas-powered car, indeed zero-emissions. (Of course it's not going to be 'truly' zero - it can't run on magic!)

It seems to me that Tesla and Musk is doing everything right, and the skeptics are 2013's version of "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." Or even more recently - remember all the doubt and skepticism about touchscreens when the iPhone first came out?

It seems to me that the largest hurdle to the adoption of the electric car, after the technology, is a mental/societal/image-based one, which the Tesla is strategically piercing through, with their initial introduction of the Roadster. I mean, it's "cool" to have a sleek smart high-quality electric car. The electric car wasn't always seen that way - it was seen more of a 'dorky' thing, like the Smart Car, or seen as targeting the 'eco-conscious educated yuppie middle-class crowd', like the Prius. Tesla has the technology down - the reviews speak for themselves - and now they've got the image as well.

Mark my words. Soon (in 5 years) we'll have other manufacturers trying their best to mimic Tesla's approach, creating high-end electric cars, trying to set up their own charging infrastructure. We might see car companies trying to install charger stations through their network of dealerships.

"Should I get an electric car?" is going to be more and more like asking: "Should I get a laptop rather than a desktop?" Which is to say - gas cars won't be going away soon, the same way that desktops aren't going away soon, and are required in many situations. But laptops increasingly occupy the day-to-day reality of most people's lives; so will electric cars.
posted by suedehead at 10:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


"zero emissions" is basically a greenwashing term.

No, it isn't. The places I've lived, you have the option to buy 100% clean energy. Sure, that's not available everywhere, but the people who are in the market for these cleaner cars are very likely to not only have that option available to them, but also to be already using it.
posted by anonymisc at 11:37 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a car person, but the only cars that really impress me are 50s cars with giant fins and old muscle cars. So this isn't doing it for me.

I do hope to build one in Motor World: Car Factory, though. That game makes cars cute.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:42 PM on May 9, 2013


Not true. Torque is highest near minimum RPM, and decreases with increasing RPM.

No, no, no. That graph you show with the linear decreasing torque is for a DC motor. The Tesla uses a three-phase AC induction motor that has completely different torque characteristics, which is almost flat from zero RPM to about 80% of maximum RPM.
posted by JackFlash at 11:58 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, people. WAIT.

You say that the first all-electric mainstream-production luxury sports car was built by an American manufacturer that was started from scratch 10 years ago by a dotcom bazillionaire? And it is like BMW-level in terms of performance, looks, handling, trim, overall sexiness? And it just got the best review in the history of Consumer Reports and probably just launched the single strongest PR campaign for ending the reign of the internal combustion engine ever? And the company's solvent and innovative and has already shocked and amazed and disproven legions of critics and naysayers?

You're telling me the Tesla Model S did all that, and yet somehow failed to be cheap and self-clean the grid when you plug it in and be chargeable in as long as it takes me to pee and cure cancer and otherwise come out of the gate at 60mph solving all the world's transport and energy problems?

Well, then, people, I am going to kvetch, I tell you.

KVETCH.
posted by gompa at 12:15 AM on May 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


I'm waiting to hear what Top Gear think. If they can get past their bias and praise it than you know its a great car.

But part of me think that if we silence our vehicles to placate the earth we're losing something precious - the full-throated growl of our machines striding the Earth.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:20 AM on May 10, 2013


something precious - the full-throated growl of our machines striding the Earth

Oh, for God's sake. I live next door to a moron who loves nothing better than revving his stupid fucking V8 at all hours and maybe chucking a few donuts in the car park behind my house because he wants that magnificent feeling of his shit bag machine striding the Earth. Shut up and fuck off, neighbour dickhead.
posted by Wolof at 12:29 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


gompa, I think it's more that the price is impractical for widespread use, and people are disappointed by that. It could create more energy than it uses and it still wouldn't matter because there won't be that many - unless of course, this takes off and as someone said above, they manufacture it more cheaply. There's a future with cars like these, but we can't know if it's this car.

So while it's impressive, the price makes it rare enough that it doesn't matter how clean it is, it won't put a dent in the amount of people with regular cars.
posted by Malice at 4:37 AM on May 10, 2013


Adorable is not the opposite of humiliating.

[cut to Sticherbeast writing this 1000x on a blackboard while wearing a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume]
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:48 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


But part of me think that if we silence our vehicles to placate the earth we're losing something precious - the full-throated growl of our machines striding the Earth.

I live near one end of a road that gets twisty and scenic. It's a favorite with bikers, and every year, starting in May, I am blessed with the precious full-throated growl of herds of forty or more HA wannabes striding the earth on their illegal-exhaust Harley (or Harley-like) machines. That's something I would willingly lose.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:13 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Serial explosions in inadequately-muffled internal combustion engines don't annoy people, people annoy people.
posted by vanar sena at 7:35 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it isn't. The places I've lived, you have the option to buy 100% clean energy.

Also greenwashing, unless the utility has more people purchasing clean energy than they were generating anyways. For a lot of locales, your purchase of 100% clean energy just reduces everyone else's percentage of clean energy.
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on May 10, 2013


Valuing engine noise for its own sake is confusing the map for the territory. Speed is the goal and noise is a consequence that we treat as speed's signifier, but the bond isn't eternal.
posted by invitapriore at 8:34 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


the price makes it rare enough that it doesn't matter how clean it is, it won't put a dent in the amount of people with regular cars.

Gotcha. And I'm saying that the Tesla Model S was designed to be rare, exotic, expensive, aspirational. I'm saying that Tesla has just guaranteed that one of the first and loudest clearest things Americans hear about EVs in 2013-14 is that they are hot as Ferraris and classy like a BMW. I'm saying that if you're only going to have a tiny little sliver of EVs on the road right now, it is powerfully transformatively awesome that the best known one is not some little Euroboxie Smart car that your average car buyer can't imagine owning but rather a sleek wicked-quick gearhead's fantasy. I'm saying that, long term, that'll do more to put a dent in the amount of people who seriously consider buying EVs instead of regular cars than if Tesla was selling 100X the volume right now of something that reminds people of a golf cart.

And, yes, I'm saying that's as close to an unqualified good as you're going to find in cleantech, and all the perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-seriously-goddamn-good up in here misses the point entirely.
posted by gompa at 9:28 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


How many people here who are car nuts actually trust Consumer Reports' car reviews?

I'm a bit of a car nut and 100% a tech nut. When I really know an area, Consumer Report's opinion usually seems too quantitatively dry and missing the mark, especially where the quality might be difficult to measure objectively.

For example, with computers, Consumer Reports is fine comparing hard drive size, not so great on the things that actually get people to choose Macs instead of Windows PCs: aesthetics, a well organized interface, and all the little things that add up to a more pleasant or compelling experience. I wouldn't be surprised if they compared iPods to mp3 players back in the day and iPods didn't get top marks.

But they're objective and, in an area I don't know diddly about, like washing machines or blenders, their opinion trumps any magazine that depends on the good will of the manufacturer, which is every other magazine besides theirs.

So they're a good baseline.

I use them for the objective stuff and the subjective stuff where I don't know an area well, and I mostly ignore them for the subjective stuff in areas I know especially well.
posted by zippy at 9:35 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who loathes the sound of Harleys and other ear-shredding bikes, who also rides a motorcycle himself albeit one that is very well muffled, I can say that loud motorbikes are not only about speed nor only about sounding like a bad-ass-mofo who doesn't give a shit about other people's ears: they are also about being a measurably safer ride than quiet bikes.

Automobile drivers, even oblivious fucks in SUVs with the music up, inevitably notice and take care for the presence of shriekingly loud motorbikes near them. Quiet bikes like mine seem to have to do a lot more defensive manoeuvring than the Harleys do. And that kind of sucks. But there it is.

So, while I still hate the sound, I now also appreciate its utility.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:36 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to ride a lot, for a lot of years. I find the louder is safer argument to be extreme question-begging. These days, driving in a car with tunes on, I don't hear the loud-pipe bikes until they are in front of me. I wasn't going to run over them from behind anyway.

You know what absolutely makes a difference WRT auto drivers noticing you? Running your headlight in the daytime. Turn it off, and somebody's almost bound to present their flank for you to center-punch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:56 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit of a car nut and 100% a tech nut. When I really know an area, Consumer Report's opinion usually seems too quantitatively dry and missing the mark, especially where the quality might be difficult to measure objectively.

Really? Because when I was trying to pin down my new car, their FR-S video review was quite open about the more subjective parts of what makes a car great, namely the drive and the fun.
posted by Talez at 10:08 AM on May 10, 2013


here in norcal, electricity is very expensive - $0.36 per kwh at the highest tier on the normal residental plan. this puts the leaf at around 9-10 cents per mile, which is on par with a prius getting 50mpg at $4/gallon (8c/mile). of course you only get 50mpg in the prius if you have long commutes, but the leaf will get the same economy pretty much no matter what.

Wow, it's only like $0.09 per kwh here but then it's all coal generated here.
posted by octothorpe at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2013


...they are also about being a measurably safer ride than quiet bikes...

Didn't know this! Being a Public Health nerd I quickly googled and found a melange of speculation and opinion, but little hard data. Do you know of any good studies on this?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2013


For those talking about how often they've seen electric cars on the road: here in Los Angeles, I see LEAFs every day, usually more than one, I've seen at least one Model S a week, often more than one, for the last month or so, and I see a Volt every day or two.

And I've only seen one of the Mitsubishi MiEVs.
posted by davejay at 11:34 AM on May 10, 2013


Mental Wimp, I've seen responsiveness from motorists directed to noisy bikes they haven't given me, which yeah is anecotal, but it's also received wisdom from the motorcycle course instructors I had: noisy bikes are somewhat safer up to a point, then they become illegal and then tut-tut-tut wink and nod.

I don't know if there are any peer-reviewed studies, though. Might be possible to do some statistical analysis of accident databases.

(In Canada, everyone's headlights -- bikes and cars -- run all the time, which rather helps with the SMIDSY neglients. I've done a few wobbles for perpendicular turners at distance just to be sure.)

Sorry for the derailishness but the notion of "how loud is loud enough for those who can't see me to still know I'm there" is definitely intriguing for all vehicle types.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:57 PM on May 10, 2013


I don't know if there are any peer-reviewed studies, though. Might be possible to do some statistical analysis of accident databases.

Yeah, the "measurably safer" is what caught my attention. There seems to be a great deal of disagreement, even within the biker community. It would be an interesting study to do, although I'm not sure it's possible to use retrospective accident data; as far as I know, the muffler system isn't part of the NHTSA database. I'll check with my colleagues to see if it can be done.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:16 PM on May 10, 2013


Mental Wimp, the Hurt Report (1981) is the only broad study performed in the USA, and it says nothing at all about loud pipes saving lives. I am also an avid motorcyclist, and I do not believe it one bit, and have never, ever seen any evidence that supports such a conclusion. I personally believe it to be rationalization by those who prefer noisy things but won't admit to preferring noisy things.

Back to the topic at hand, I'm endlessly amused by people who compare cars like the Tesla S to a cheap Toyota. Cars are not purchased like fungible goods, and making such a comparison is foolhardy. If you want something with the level of luxury and refinement of a Tesla, you are certainly looking at a car with a big V6, V8 or even a V10 or V12. You are paying a gas guzzler tax. The Tesla commands no price premium for its powertrain, given its level of appointment, and that is pretty amazing.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:25 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also greenwashing, unless the utility has more people purchasing clean energy than they were generating anyways. For a lot of locales, your purchase of 100% clean energy just reduces everyone else's percentage of clean energy.

Again, no it isn't. Perhaps such shady scammy locales exist somewhere, but everywhere I've been, the laws were clear that selling green power legally obligates the utility to increase their green generation by the same amount.
posted by anonymisc at 7:31 PM on May 10, 2013


Wow, it's only like $0.09 per kwh here but then it's all coal generated here.

$0.36 is the top tier. The prices start at 0.07c/kWh, but you can only buy a certain amount at that price, and anything more will be purchased at the next tier's price, and likewise, there are tiers after that.
Basically, it means that your bill can be really small if you need it to be, and conservation is well rewarded, and if you have a huge house and leave the lights on all day (or charge your Tesla) then you can presumably afford to pay a premium.

Something that people do to get around this (or at least, something that people who can afford Teslas do) is to install solar panels. The panels subtract from the monthly kwh that they need to buy, which means the panels eliminate the most expensive kWh first, then the next-most-expensive, and so on. Makes a lot of sense if you plan to use electricity instead of gasoline.
posted by anonymisc at 7:43 PM on May 10, 2013


The Genius of Tesla: The electric car company is a little bit Apple, a little bit Google, and about to be huge.
posted by homunculus at 10:28 PM on May 10, 2013


Mental Wimp, the Hurt Report (1981) is the only broad study performed in the USA,...

Thanks, TheNewWazoo. I'll check it out.

I work with Sue Gerberich, who is a well known violence and injury researcher, and I'm thinking about asking her if an epidemiologic study of this issue is worthwhile. Although my intuition agrees that it probably doesn't prevent accidents, I tend to withhold final judgement until I see data from at least one well done study.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:19 PM on May 12, 2013


I'm just a random rider, but I absolutely think it's worthwhile. There's huge contention between the motorcycling community and the rest of the populace over motorcycle noise. It's working itself out in such ways as SB435, the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, which provides law enforcement remedies to illegally modified emissions systems on motorcycles. If there really, actually is something to the loud-pipes-save-lives issue, knowing that would add an excellent data point to a science-based discussion of the tradeoffs involved.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:44 PM on May 13, 2013


No, it isn't. The places I've lived, you have the option to buy 100% clean energy.

smackfu: Also greenwashing, unless the utility has more people purchasing clean energy than they were generating anyways. For a lot of locales, your purchase of 100% clean energy just reduces everyone else's percentage of clean energy.
Riiiggghhht.

You go with that. People who choose to pay slightly more to support green technology are "reducing everyone else's usage of it".

I think we all understand where you're coming from now.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2013


Tesla stock rose 14% today, while the the Dow is down slightly. That's a 48% increase from a week ago. Wall Street's taking notice.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:23 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's huge contention between the motorcycling community and the rest of the populace over motorcycle noise.

That's not the entire motorcycling community you're talking about, just the component that loves their loud pipes. There are bikers who don't, and who don't believe the loud = safety claim.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:27 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tesla stock rose 14% today, while the the Dow is down slightly. That's a 48% increase from a week ago. Wall Street's taking notice.

Wall Street was already taking notice, it's just that almost half of the interest was from short sellers. Now that they're getting squeezed, the stock is rocking. But it's not just all buyers. The price will probably come down a bit, but it's definitely been good to be a shareholder these last few days.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:20 PM on May 13, 2013


You go with that. People who choose to pay slightly more to support green technology are "reducing everyone else's usage of it".

I think we all understand where you're coming from now.


The place where I assume that the electrical companies act in bad faith? I'm not putting bad motives on anyone else here. And if there is a law that prevents the electrical companies from doing this little scam, that's great.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 AM on May 16, 2013


Watch Tesla go from a Stimulus boondoggle to a thrilling private sector success on Fox News in just over two minutes.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tesla Pays Off All $465M in Federal Loans 9 Years Early
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:33 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Musk: $35,000 Teslas might be three years away, will be 20 percent smaller

Elon Musk reveals Tesla's Supercharger network will triple its coverage area this month
posted by zombieflanders at 3:19 AM on May 30, 2013


Tesla's announced details of the expansion of the Supercharger network here in a video.

The next month has a rollout of stations; this is the tripling alluded to above:
- California expanded to include stations on the Pacific Coast Highway between LA-SF
- NE expanded with stations near Providence, Richmond VA and two close to NYC (on each side)
- Texas to support Dallas-Houston and Dallas-Austin
- West of Denver to support Vail and Aspen
- Florida has two on E coast and one on Gulf coast to support Tampa/Miami/Orlando/Jacksonville
- Pac NW has stations between Sea/Van and between Sea/PDX.
- Illinois stations near Bloomington (for Chi-StL) and near Rockford

The six month map has massive expansions, with the areas above getting more expansion as well as:
- West coast down I-5 from Whistler BC to San Diego, and inland to Spokane and Phoenix/Tuscon
- Florida and Northeast connected along I-95
- I-85 corridor from Atlanta-Charlotte-Richmond
- S Ontario around London, Belleville and Kingston supporting Detroit-Toronto-Montreal
- Handful of locations around Midwest, mostly in Wisconsin and Michigan

The one year has further expansions, including a coast-to-coast route connecting NY-LA via Chicago, S Dakota, Denver, Las Vegas. The 2 year looks like the map from an epidemic disaster movie; stations everywhere (I think six different E-W routes through the centre of the US, although still no trans-Canada outside Quebec-Windsor and Vancouver-Calgary-Edmonton).

It's an impressive rollout proposal; if the cars sell as well as they hope (especially with a $35K car), the problem might be capacity at these stations.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:01 PM on May 30, 2013


Does The Tesla Model S Electric Car Pollute More Than An SUV?
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on June 1, 2013


We Think We Know What Elon Musk's Hyperloop Is, And How It Can Get You From LA To San Francisco In 30 Minutes
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on June 1, 2013


Every single time this comes up in my recent activity I misread the title again as "The best car we have ever tasted.

Every single time.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:29 PM on June 1, 2013


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