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May 14, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal sure loves his Tesla Model S. He also thinks that, for using Tesla's name for his company, the least Elon Musk could do was help fund a Tesla museum. Musk agreed.
posted by gottabefunky (116 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, so this hardly cools my ardor for a Model S.

The only thing that disqualifies it is you know how after a couple years your phone won't hold a charge for more than ten minutes and you circa 2011 laptop is useless as it only runs when plugged in? How is Tesla going to overcome the phenomena of batteries that last 500 charges and then go south?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:36 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


This reads like marketing for Tesla.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:37 AM on May 14 [17 favorites]


We live in a world where a cartoonist can afford a Model S. I think that is a remarkable fact.
posted by oneironaut at 10:38 AM on May 14 [26 favorites]


The thing is though that the Teslas are really unsafe to have on the road. They are so sexy that they distract other drivers on the highway. Every time you see one you can't help but stare and shout ooh ooh a Tesla and then you cross the median and die.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:38 AM on May 14 [21 favorites]


It also reads like marketing for The Oatmeal. On the other hand, everything The Oatmeal does reads like marketing for The Oatmeal.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:39 AM on May 14 [48 favorites]


@Keith Talent - Tesla offers an optional battery replacement pre-purchase. I'm sure they'll also happily sell you a new battery down the road, much like laptop batteries can be replaced.

I want a Tesla, for all the reasons Oatmeal lists and the fact that I can charge it from my rooftop solar. But I can't afford one. Maybe in a few years...
posted by msbutah at 10:41 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


How is Tesla going to overcome the phenomena of batteries that last 500 charges and then go south?

Build a giant factory with more production capacity than the rest of the world combined to reduce costs via economies of scale.
posted by jedicus at 10:43 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


The thing is though that the Teslas are really unsafe to have on the road. They are so sexy that they distract other drivers on the highway.

This actually happened to me about a year ago, the first time I saw a Tesla on the road with me. And I don't really care about cars at all, but it was so lovely.
posted by gladly at 10:44 AM on May 14


My favorite part is where he praised the replacement of the car's buttons and knobs and levers with a large touchscreen, demonstrating why he shouldn't be allowed on the road without a copilot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 AM on May 14 [20 favorites]


Lutoslawski: "The thing is though that the Teslas are really unsafe to have on the road. They are so sexy that they distract other drivers on the highway. Every time you see one you can't help but stare and shout ooh ooh a Tesla and then you cross the median and die."

Except that I've seen exactly one Tesla around here. My office building actually has parking spots in the garage with 220v chargers for electric cars but I've only ever seen Volts and Leafs parked in them.
posted by octothorpe at 10:48 AM on May 14


Tesla offers an optional battery replacement pre-purchase.

From that:
This option will provide you a new battery anytime after the end of the eighth year at a fixed price. Prices are as follows: $8,000 for the 40 kWh battery, $10,000 for the 60 kWh battery, and $12,000 for the 85 kWh battery. You will be able to purchase this additional option through your MyTesla page in the near future.
I'm curious as to how that (plus the cost of re-charging, if you aren't using Tesla's free charging stations) compares with eight years of buying gas, but I suppose changes in battery pricing or gas pricing would make any prediction less-than-reliable anyway.
posted by cjelli at 10:48 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


This reads like marketing for Tesla.
It did send me to the "order" button on their website.

Sadly, the price quote did not read like marketing for Tesla.
posted by roystgnr at 10:50 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Replacing the batteries seems like a terrible idea, from an economic POV and esp. an environmental perspective. Everything points to the fact that Tesla is aware of this upcoming crisis. Their answer is to make more batteries.

I don't want to let perfect be the enemy of good, but I think the battery issue needs addressing before the cars become viable.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:50 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The batteries can be recycled. The new "Gigafactory" that's been proposed has integrated recycling facilities.
posted by borkencode at 10:55 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Except that I've seen exactly one Tesla around here. My office building actually has parking spots in the garage with 220v chargers for electric cars but I've only ever seen Volts and Leafs parked in them.

I was in Norway recently, and they're absolutely everywhere. I must have seen two dozen in Oslo. I saw three parked next to each other at the Akershus Fortress. I've also seen a lot of them in Palo Alto, but that's not a surprise.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:55 AM on May 14


I thought the comic was interesting when it talked about his personal experiences, but then he started sounding like a Tesla spokesperson defending it against the fires and talking about the crash rating.
posted by smackfu at 10:56 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Another cool thing about Tesla is that they're trying to disrupt the Byzantine tangle of state laws regulating car dealerships that are a big part of the reason buying a car is such a hassle
posted by TedW at 10:56 AM on May 14 [14 favorites]


I saw an S last week. I only noticed it because it was in front of me in traffic, and the badge caught my eye. Nice-looking, but not so exotic that people were staring.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:56 AM on May 14


Replacing the batteries seems like a terrible idea, from an economic POV and esp. an environmental perspective.

As of 2011 in North America Tesla reused 10% of the battery pack outright and recycled 60% of the remainder. In Europe they use a closed-loop process that recycles pretty much the entire thing.

My favorite part is where he praised the replacement of the car's buttons and knobs and levers with a large touchscreen, demonstrating why he shouldn't be allowed on the road without a copilot.

Tesla's insistence on a pure touchscreen system is insanity. It's hard to say if it would actually keep me from buying one, since I don't have the money anyway, but I think it would.
posted by jedicus at 10:57 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I v. much enjoyed the linked comic. But, yeah, a car whose base price is $70,000? Mmm...no. Now, if, in some distant future, Tesla's global success is such that this type of car is ubiquitous and cheap, that'll be fine for my imaginary grandchildren. But, for now, it's like a really nicely done comic about one man's love for the best polo pony massager evar.
posted by the sobsister at 10:57 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


It reads like the way that the Oatmeal talks about anything that the Oatmeal currently thinks is awesome, that much did not really surprise me. It's like the up sides and down sides to running, only everybody already knows that the down side of a Tesla is that it's really fantastically expensive. I think a lot of the reason he's big enough to have that kind of money is the fact that he is so in love with everything he's in love with, and he absolutely loathes everything he hates, and he generally finds amusing ways of putting that. Acquired taste, possibly.

I was much, much happier, having seen the original thing earlier, to see Musk's response about the Tesla museum.
posted by Sequence at 10:58 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Not that I would actually want one, but I'm trying to figure out how I could own one without off-street parking in NYC.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:00 AM on May 14


Tesla's insistence on a pure touchscreen system is insanity.

Yeah, it seems really unsafe to me. You can't really operate it without looking directly at it.
posted by elizardbits at 11:01 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I thought the comic was interesting when it talked about his personal experiences, but then he started sounding like a Tesla spokesperson defending it against the fires and talking about the crash rating.

Well, he did then turn around and ask the founder of the company for money, so yeah, a spoonful of sugar helps the PLZ GIVE 8 MILLION DOLLARS go down.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:02 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I have an intense, flames on the side of my face hatred for The Oatmeal, I guess the fact that he was able to make a living making something so inane and awful was annoying, but now he's nominated for 2 Eisner awards (yes, TWO) and he's driving around a luxury sedan from the money he's earned from these glorified, illustrated blog posts (and proceeded to make a "comic" post about).

Really the Eisner thing was probably what set me off, it's as if Fred from youtube (this is a thing, look it up at your own risk) was accepted into the Cannes film festival.

I know comic artists who are 100x more talented, harder working, and experienced than The Oatmeal. They don't have Eisner nominations, they're not driving $70k luxury sedans from their comic revenue. What kind of message does this send? Be completely mindless and have an SEO background, and you'll walk over everyone.
posted by hellojed at 11:02 AM on May 14 [33 favorites]


I'm glad the comic explained the door handles, because I spent about five minutes squinting at a Tesla driving beside me (only at the lights! I caused no traffic accidents), wondering where the hell the door handles were. Mystery solved!
posted by yasaman at 11:04 AM on May 14


The thing is though that the Teslas are really unsafe to have on the road. They are so sexy that they distract other drivers on the highway. Every time you see one you can't help but stare and shout ooh ooh a Tesla and then you cross the median and die.

I am not a car guy but this has also been my experience - some dude who commutes home via I-95 near Boston around 6:30PM every night owns one, and I've run into him almost literally on a few occasions because holy shit that is one sexy vehicle.

I was in Norway recently, and they're absolutely everywhere.

AHA! Thanks to this comic I wandered over to the map of Tesla charging stations on their site, and I was wondering WTF was up with all the stations in Norway but not Sweden. That explains it.
posted by Ryvar at 11:08 AM on May 14


...people frequently stop and ogle its magnificence. When they do this, I highly recommend mashing all the buttons on the app at once.

I'm fairly certain that's the single funniest thing I've ever read in that comic.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:10 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


It also reads like marketing for The Oatmeal. On the other hand, everything The Oatmeal does reads like marketing for The Oatmeal.

We're definitely, er, driving clickthroughs to his cartoons. But at least he'll be able to buy a new Tesla battery in a couple years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:11 AM on May 14


Note that the Tesla is big in Norway mainly because of government subsidies / high taxes on gas vehicles.
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on May 14


I want a Tesla, for all the reasons Oatmeal lists and the fact that I can charge it from my rooftop solar.

You have the means to store the energy you collect via solar at home? I got really excited when they installed a solar array on top of my parking garage at work, what with all the requisite tubes that looked like they led directly down to the EV charging stations on the first floor, but the technician I talked to said that they couldn't charge directly from the panels. He told me the technology that would allow for on-site storage (and dispensing) of solar energy was a few years down the road (something something liquid metal batteries), and that the EV chargers were hooked into the city grid rather than directly into the solar array.
posted by carsonb at 11:20 AM on May 14


I know comic artists who are 100x more talented, harder working, and experienced than The Oatmeal. They don't have Eisner nominations, they're not driving $70k luxury sedans from their comic revenue. What kind of message does this send?Be completely mindless and have an SEO background, and you'll walk over everyone.

Welcome to late-stage capitalism! #beyonce #jayz #tcot #mileycyrus
posted by vibrotronica at 11:25 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


smackfu: I thought the comic was interesting when it talked about his personal experiences, but then he started sounding like a Tesla spokesperson defending it against the fires and talking about the crash rating.

Unless you can prove a single point he made is in any way invalid or overstated, you're simply complaining that he educated us on the pertinent facts regarding the risks.

That bastard!
posted by IAmBroom at 11:26 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


They're a bit expensive, but that technology is just a battery array and an inverter, which provides a standard NA 120 V AC supply. Unless I'm misunderstanding something, a Tesla car could be plugged into that. You would need to be concerned about battery capacity, but that should be a solvable problem for someone who can afford such a vehicle.
posted by bonehead at 11:26 AM on May 14


Yeah, it seems really unsafe to me. You can't really operate it without looking directly at it.

I wouldn't be comfortable with it myself, but that might be a net good thing, if it keeps people from trying to fiddle with things. My dad was in a very bad car accident when I was in high school caused by someone trying to adjust their very-not-touchscreen radio while driving. I think sometimes the knobs give us the illusion that we can totally pay attention to the road and the stereo/heater/whatever at the same time. It looks, at least, from their website, like the touchscreen isn't for things like wipers and lights, thank god, and I think most of what's there is firmly in the realm of things you should only be doing when stopped.
posted by Sequence at 11:32 AM on May 14


He lost me at the giant electronic display console. When are manufacturers going to yank the pendulum back from the current fetishization of blinky displays that provide no force-feedback and only contribute to the beeping, glimmering cascade of distractions that already leave drivers with precious few neurons available for piloting their giant metal boxes?

I drive fire engines and ambulances for a living, and I can't fathom why manufacturers think it's a good idea to take the useful knobs and switches I've always used to control my sirens and horns while driving through traffic, which already requires every fiber of concentration I can apply to the task, and convert them into flat, indistinguishable buttons on a panel that requires me to take my attention away from the high-speed slalom course ahead of me.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:33 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


Unless you can prove a single point he made is in any way invalid or overstated

Well, for instance, the NHTSA did not award the Tesla a 5.4 out of 5 safety rating. They gave it a 5, and Tesla said "well, we figure it should be a 5.4 so we'll say we got a 5.4" and then the NHTSA said "cut it out." Tesla Gets Creative With Model S Safety Rating & Ruins It For Everyone.
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


The Tesla Model S is nice, but a while back I went to a Tesla dealership (with no real intent or ability to purchase, but the guys inside looked bored so I figured they could deal with mopping up my drool) and as nice as the Model S is, it looks like a Ford Taurus compared to the Tesla Roadster.

I don't know what happened to the Lotus / Tesla relationship, but I am really sad that they are not going to continue it.

Supposedly the next version of the Roadster will be based on a shortened Model S chassis, not the Elise ... which is fine, I guess. But I am really, really doubtful that they are going to be able to produce a sportscar that drives as well as the Lotus chassis does. The Roadster partnership was just so perfect: let Lotus do what it does superbly well while leaving out the powertrain parts that are frankly just not that impressive on a standard Elise, and drop in the Tesla electric drive system. I couldn't think of a better win-win sort of situation than that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:41 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Now I can't help wondering what sort of vehicles other webcomic artists own, and it occurs to me that I couldn't possibly know. I'm guessing Allie Brosh still drives whatever car Simple Dog threw up in. I'm sure Kate Beaton drives a car, but I can't help imagining her riding around on a fat pony.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:52 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


When are manufacturers going to yank the pendulum back from the current fetishization of blinky displays that provide no force-feedback

Probably never, because they're cheap.

They're not putting in touchscreens because anyone in their right mind thinks that touchscreens are really good interfaces (except maybe dumb consumers, but whatever, cars are one of those things where consumers buy what they're told to buy and by god they'll like it too). But they're really easy to design: on the hardware side you just shove a touchscreen in there and call it a day. Everything else is the software guys' problem. And that also means you can keep developing features right up until the last possible minute before the first unit rolls into the showroom, or maybe even after that via updates.

If you built things traditionally, i.e. with switches and dials and stuff, you need to figure out what features you're going to have and determine the layout of the controls and then you have to actually do the hardware design, and once you make the molds for the plastic and stuff you'd better hope nobody decides to change anything.

Digital cameras went through the same thing starting about 10 years ago, and it's taken a decade to really start getting buttons back, and that's on a product where digging through menus on softscreens was universally hated from the very onset. And of course, today you pay a huge premium to get physical knobs for stuff that was standard on any beat-around student camera in the film era. I suspect the same thing will happen to cars: once the crappiest Hyundai has a giant touchscreen in it, the BMWs and Porsches and Teslas will start going back to switches, but probably only if you pay extra for them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


You have the means to store the energy you collect via solar at home?

I sure do - my house is hooked up to a truly ginormous battery, which I charge up all day, then draw from when I need power after dark. What's cool is that I share this battery with the other two houses on my block who have solar panels, and that helps keep the cost down. What's even cooler is the fact that all the non-solar-equipped houses on my block are also connected to the battery - so the three of us with panels are literally powering our neighbors' houses during the day! We keep it fair by putting meters on everyone's house, so we can keep track of who's using how much power relative to how much they're generating, and then we settle up every couple of months. Works great. We call it "the grid".
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:58 AM on May 14 [24 favorites]


I'm not familiar enough with The Oatmeal to have the disdain for it that some people seem to, but a couple of things in the article compel me to comment. First off, opening the car's software up to developers is a horrible idea. Those fires were nothing compared to the malfunctions that could result from a bunch of amateurs tinkering with the car's OS. Second, Inman doesn't know much about anesthesia, which was well-established 100 years ago. In fact, biting on a bullet began to go out of style after March 30, 1842.
posted by TedW at 12:00 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I know comic artists who are 100x more talented, harder working, and experienced than The Oatmeal. They don't have Eisner nominations, they're not driving $70k luxury sedans from their comic revenue. What kind of message does this send? Be completely mindless and have an SEO background, and you'll walk over everyone.

Dude was on the New York Times bestseller list for like 23 weeks in a row or something? He's raised lots of money for charity, called out funnyjunk and makes pretty good content.
posted by livejamie at 12:07 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


We call it "the grid".

I'd say what you've done is the opposite of the established Grid. Why not call it "the gridlet"? Or "off-gridway"?

Or "the cabal"?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:08 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, "The Electric Cabal" will be the title of my band's next album.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:09 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Greg - I'm being flippant - what I'm describing is just plain old net-metering, through the city-owned electric utility.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:11 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it took me two reads to get Saxman's sarcasm there. Mini-grid Cabal- Off-gridway is exciting to me until Grid-grid gets unhooked from all those coal burning plants and river dams.
posted by carsonb at 12:12 PM on May 14


Fine...but I'm not changin' the album name!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:12 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I'm curious as to how that (plus the cost of re-charging, if you aren't using Tesla's free charging stations) compares with eight years of buying gas, but I suppose changes in battery pricing or gas pricing would make any prediction less-than-reliable anyway.

I friend owns one, and this was my first question. He drives his daily - a roughly 50 mile urban round-trip commute - and averaging out six months of electric bills he says it increased about $30 or so a month. So in commute alone, ignoring any other driving, that's 1000 miles (50 times 20 days a month) and so 3 cents a mile. I, on the other hand, pay 20 cents a mile (20 mpg and $4.00 a gallon). So a couple of thousand in savings a year at 12,000 miles a year, which at least more than covers the replacement battery.
posted by rtimmel at 12:17 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I love being wealthy and owning a seventy thousand dollar car, too.

Oh, wait.
posted by sonascope at 12:31 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


To be fair, if I had the money and to spend $70k on a car, the Tesla is basically the only candidate. I think cars are kind of nifty but I can think of better places to put money.

A Leaf would be a much more likely choice for me. It's within the realm of possibility without winning Powerball.
posted by Foosnark at 12:35 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Unless you can prove a single point he made is in any way invalid or overstated, you're simply complaining that he educated us on the pertinent facts regarding the risks.

Given past allegations that The Oatmeal was created less as an outlet for for ideas and more as a viral/self-marketing platform masquerading as a comic (as alleged by Buzzfeed, challenged by The Oatmeal, somewhat ironically reported on by Gawker, and past discussions on Metafilter) it's not crazy to read anything from him -- most of all an explicit product endorsement -- with some skepticism.

"Sounding like a Tesla spokesperson" needn't mean he's lying or wrong, anyway, nor would showing that he's making an overstatement somehow prove that he does sound like one. He's enthusiastic about the car, like a spokesperson; he's refuting imagined criticisms people might make of his piece (admittedly, criticisms made elsewhere), while entirely omitting others -- the aforementioned battery issue; the real vs. perceived value of touchscreen controls; the fact that the car costs $70 grand -- which makes the refutations of other criticisms all the more glaring.

The pivot from praising the car to praising Tesla Motors the company and then Elon Musk, the owner, is also bizarre, although I suppose understandable if he's trying to get the guy to fund a museum. But it does feel odd: the car is great; go give money to charity. They're disconnected ideas and it's not clear why they're sharing space, except, as he admits at the end of part 1, he is "a fan" -- and I think that appellation fits better than "spokesperson" -- and that explains much.

So, yes, this (as with most of what The Oatmeal has written) really rubbed me the wrong way. Not least lauding the Model S for being "one of the best-selling luxury vehicles in the United States...without doing ANY advertising."

Without doing any paid advertising -- TV spots, radio ads, etc. That's not the same as 'no advertising' -- Elon Musk has been incredibly active in promoting Tesla Motors personally, to the point of personally replying to bad reviews; Tesla Motors has an active YouTube channel to promote their cars; and so on -- a distinction that The Oatmeal, of all people, should be well aware.


*although he's wrong about the timeline on anesthesia and to a degree on telephony, but, to be fair, '100 years ago' is Joke for 'a while ago,' so, eh.
posted by cjelli at 12:41 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


So a couple of thousand in savings a year at 12,000 miles a year, which at least more than covers the replacement battery.

Not to mention, yes I'm spitballing here, an order of magnitude less moving parts to maintain/monitor/replace when compared to an internal combustion engine. Seriously, people seem to not realize that when you transpose an electrical motor for a gasoline engine that maintenance costs, as an aside from straight up fueling costs, spiral down very, very quickly.

Instead what you get is a [tiring] flow of, mostly not all that well thought out,

"... but the battery has to deal with recycling/cost/utilization concerns eventually* whilst I only have to dispose of my oil(s)/belt(s)/filter/transmission/engine every X miles!"

*Really, these aren't the droids you're looking for.

Electric cars are quickly approaching the point of being comparable to the $50 boot in that axiom that gets spread around about socioeconomic unfairness.

I'm very much looking forward to converting our vintage VW to electric within the next few years for those very reasons, The Oatmeal's view one way or the other really doesn't impact my stance on the above one way or the other, I just think he's trying to drum up support from Tesla The Company for his pet project Tesla The Museum by doing a comic Tesla The Car.

*shrug*
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:50 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


I'm curious as to how that (plus the cost of re-charging, if you aren't using Tesla's free charging stations) compares with eight years of buying gas, but I suppose changes in battery pricing or gas pricing would make any prediction less-than-reliable anyway.
The cost of charging depends on the rates provided by your utility company. $0.10 per kw/h would run you about 3 cents a mile and reduced rate off-peak electricity costs could halve that (I pay $0.036 per kw/h or about 1 cent per mile). Charging during peak hours (or without an off-peak meter) could double or even triple that in some markets. Internal combustion engines are still going to be at least 10 cents a mile and normally two or three times that. The prepaid battery replacement warrantee currently costs $12,000. At the moment, batteries have gotten 10-15% cheaper each year and there is a ton of R&D taking place to continue that process.
posted by Lame_username at 1:00 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Greg - I'm being flippant - what I'm describing is just plain old net-metering, through the city-owned electric utility.

You're actually being disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst. Pretending that the electric grid is your own personal battery is completely ignoring the reality of how electricity is generated and distributed.

There is no grid-scale energy storage technology available currently, and in my opinion this is the biggest problem with current renewable energy sources.

The Tesla is potentially a step in the right direction, as people are working on using the batteries in the car as a buffer to store energy generated during the day and provide that energy at night.
posted by inparticularity at 1:05 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


For those that continue to kvetch about the price tag, I'll reiterate what I said once before: the Model S is a (somewhat bastardized) example of working trickle-down economics.

Musk realized the only way to market an electric car with good performance was to dial it up from nine to eleven to give it super performance, then position it as a high-end luxury car price point to smother the battery cost.

All that wealth extraction from the 1% is now subsidizing amazing future-stuff, including at some point a much more affordable electric car. Additionally, although he's raised the bar quite high, competition will nonetheless step up to the plate and we'll likely be wowed by Volt II & friends at some point.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:15 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


I don't have onsite batteries, although that was an offered option when I bought our system. It required extra equipment that would stop feeding power back to the grid in case of a power outage. However, it does power my house during production times. Any excess generated goes back to the grid via a net metering agreement. One which pays for my monthly power bill 9 months of the year and creates a credit offset for the deep winter months. You can even look at and see stats for my system.
posted by msbutah at 1:19 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


including at some point a much more affordable electric car.

That's kind of the sticking point: a lot of people understand that this is the end goal, and a lot of complaining about the price is that it hasn't happened yet. Until an affordable electric car actually exists it's a bit early to claim that it's an example of "working trickle-down economics," or that Tesla Motors is 'revolutionary' (wheel puns excepted) -- it has the potential to be, and I hope that it is, but at this point in time they're selling luxury goods. Apparently amazing luxury goods, for which I have much respect, but still luxury goods.
posted by cjelli at 1:26 PM on May 14


To be fair, most cars should probably be treated as luxury goods. Right now we have communities built on a human scale, safe infrastructure for cycling and pedestrians, decent public transit and a stable climate treated as luxury goods instead.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:31 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


The only thing that disqualifies it is you know how after a couple years your phone won't hold a charge for more than ten minutes and you circa 2011 laptop is useless as it only runs when plugged in? How is Tesla going to overcome the phenomena of batteries that last 500 charges and then go south?

This is a solved problem with clever control and newer batteries. I put around 1000+ charges on my 2009 macbook pro the "evil" sealed in battery and sold it to a friend. It ran for 6 hours or so still, out of the rated 9. You could still get seven if you turned the brightness down.

Many other newer things(IE the super dense sony NEX batteries) also seem to not suffer from this problem so much anymore.

If a $2000 laptop, or a $500 camera has a battery that seems to have figured this shit out, wouldn't you think they had really nailed it in a $50,000+ car they had bet the company on?

You have the means to store the energy you collect via solar at home? I got really excited when they installed a solar array on top of my parking garage at work, what with all the requisite tubes that looked like they led directly down to the EV charging stations on the first floor, but the technician I talked to said that they couldn't charge directly from the panels. He told me the technology that would allow for on-site storage (and dispensing) of solar energy was a few years down the road (something something liquid metal batteries), and that the EV chargers were hooked into the city grid rather than directly into the solar array.

Uh... wut? You just need a lot of batteries, and an inverter which can handle the specified loads. If you wanted really high efficiency you would want something that converted dc>dc at whatever rate the tesla wants rather than going dc>240v AC>dc. But there's no technological reason you can't go solar panels>tons of deep cycle batteries>inverter>car.

lots of people have been doing that kind of thing for years and years now. And yea, charge controllers/battery controllers have been able to handle power coming in and going out of the battery pack at the same time for a very long time. Like, first dot com boom amount of time.

If you wanted to have a wall of chargers for cars you'd need to have some serious batteries and inverters/dc-dc units... but the tesla supercharging stations already do that.
posted by emptythought at 1:32 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


You're actually being disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst. Pretending that the electric grid is your own personal battery is completely ignoring the reality of how electricity is generated and distributed.

Well, yes, that is the point I am trying to make: you can completely ignore the reality of how electricity is generated and distributed, and just pretend the grid is a big battery, and this works out great in practice. Of course this approximation will break down if we get to the point that very large numbers of homes have solar installations, but wouldn't that be a great problem to have? Let's wait to worry about that til we have double-digit installation percentages. For now, stop worrying about storage - solar panels have become cheap, and it's time to install them everywhere.

Maybe mass adoption of electric cars will solve the storage problem, because then every house will have a great big battery pack sitting around plugged into the grid most of the time.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:34 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I was able to get a tour of the Tesla Plant. It is enormous and when they get to scale, i.e., drop the price of the batteries, I think that they will eat Detroit's lunch. So much contextual work going on. Super impressive. Agreed, the price is high now. However, there will be a time in the next 3 years that the cost should hit $40k. When that happens, so many other dominoes will start to fall.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:40 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


There is no grid-scale energy storage technology available currently, and in my opinion this is the biggest problem with current renewable energy sources.

Vanadium flow batteries. A technology that isn't quite there yet, but it's getting close. They never wear out, but the catch is that they're large and bulky. It'll be an energy storage solution for neighborhoods, houses and charging stations, but not individual cars.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:57 PM on May 14


including at some point a much more affordable electric car.

That's kind of the sticking point: a lot of people understand that this is the end goal, and a lot of complaining about the price is that it hasn't happened yet. Until an affordable electric car actually exists it's a bit early to claim that it's an example of "working trickle-down economics," or that Tesla Motors is 'revolutionary'


Well, you know these things take time. The Model S is significantly cheaper than the Roadster. And this all seems to align with The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan which was explained in 2006 (shhhh!)
posted by donovan at 2:03 PM on May 14


an order of magnitude less moving parts to maintain/monitor/replace when compared to an internal combustion engine.

I think you're overstating the case here. Modern internal combustion engines are very, very good. Over the typical lifespan of a car on the US market, I doubt that many people ever replace many of the engine parts. They can be replaced, but they probably aren't.

Most people probably only ever replace the oil and filter, and maybe some belts and hoses, plus or minus a timing chain if the engine has one. If you're smart maybe you'll replace the water pump, because it kind of sucks if it breaks. The components internal to the engine—pistons, rings, connecting rods, crankshaft bearings and stuff—they're basically lifetime components. Even head gaskets, which used to be a standard backyard-mechanic maintenance item, now tend to cause an engine to get sent back for a rebuild if you take a blown one to a dealer. (Which is admittedly more about the economics of car repair than engines; it's more economical to drop in a crate engine in some cars than pull the head.)

The Tesla still has a bunch of moving parts and bearings, it still has a cooling system (for both the motor and battery) with associated radiators and water pumps, and it even has a transmission. Only a single-speed, sure, but it'll still have fluid (aka gear oil), shaft seals, etc. And then the chassis is basically the same as a regular car, with the power-steering system, brake hydraulics, etc.

I like the Tesla and electric cars generally, but the fact that they're conceptually simple (big AC motor coupled to driveshaft) doesn't mean the actual implementations are necessarily simple, and I think they could get in a lot of trouble if early adopters don't maintain them correctly. We have a century worth of data on the failure modes of internal combustion engine cars under different maintenance regimes (or lack thereof); I think there are probably many exciting discoveries still to be made when it comes to electric vehicles.

The overall parts count in an electric car ought to be lower than in a traditional car, but they're not parts that the average owner is going to interact with in any case. The advantage is mostly on the assembly and supply chain side, where the electric vehicle manufacturer doesn't have to deal with nearly as many suppliers, maintain as many specifications, or do as much QA work to ensure compliance. That in a nutshell is why I'm personally quite bullish on Tesla; the end-user reliability of the finished cars may actually be a challenge for a while since the designs are so new.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:06 PM on May 14


I think one of the major points a lot of people miss is that there are a host of incentives and tax deductions you can claim for buying a Tesla. My husband and I looked into it - it brings the actual cost of the vehicle down to around $45K. Which, yeah, still too rich for our blood because of the out of pocket costs, but still.

not to mention the long term savings / maintenance. Vimes' boots indeed.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:20 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


My husband and I looked into it - it brings the actual cost of the vehicle down to around $45K.

Oh no! Don't tell me that! LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!
posted by anonymisc at 3:02 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I think there are probably many exciting discoveries still to be made [about maintenance requirements/costs] when it comes to electric vehicles.

That's probably not the first word that would come into the owners' minds.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:16 PM on May 14


There is no grid-scale energy storage technology available currently, and in my opinion this is the biggest problem with current renewable energy sources.

No, it's a non-existent problem, and unfortunately it will not become a problem here for a long long time. Germany's peak this week was renewables powering 74% of their grid. We are miles from that.
Go nuts with renewables. Storage is an exotic problem for a far-off day. We should be planning far ahead and thinking about it today, but to be calling it a major problem facing renewables is kind of ignoring the reality of the situation.
posted by anonymisc at 3:16 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


That's kind of the sticking point: a lot of people understand that this is the end goal, and a lot of complaining about the price is that it hasn't happened yet.

Ah, but it has. Find and watch Who Killed the Electric Car? Then you will know about the EV-1, which was that affordable electric car that GM built, then destroyed when California's Air Resources Board choked.

One of the things they discussed in the film was that maintenance on the car consisted of windshield fluid, wipers, and tire pressures. If they'd stayed around long enough, tires and batteries would have needed replacing. But never oil, coolant, fan belts, timing belts, water pumps, transmission fluid, air filters, differential fluid, spark plugs, PCV valves, catalytic converters, O2 sensors, mufflers, or exhaust pipes. Or, of course, gasoline.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:17 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


My wife created a game of "Tesla" in which she gets to punch my shoulder if she spots a Tesla before me. Which was fine because she wanted a model X and they're pretty rare. But we live near Elon Musk and the original Tesla showroom. And now that Palo Alto requires every resident to own a Tesla the game is no longer cute.

"UPS truck" and "Padiddle", the origins of the rare car spotting punching game are still playable. But "Tesla" is ljust mean. Don't play that game.
posted by lothar at 3:17 PM on May 14


> Vanadium flow batteries. A technology that isn't quite there yet, but it's getting close.

VRFB has been around for a while, and cost of reagent, energy density, and catalyst poisoning are known issues. What does work at utility scale is liquid sodium cells, or in some cases, trailer-sized LiPo arrays. We're all about storage in renewable energy ever since the FERC ruling on ancillary services last year. Now we can monetize the time value of stored electricity.

But for charging your car from? Nah. We have a grid for that. It's cheaper and more efficient than any storage technology.
posted by scruss at 3:22 PM on May 14


I have a Model S. It's literally the best car that I've ever owned. I'm lucky to be in the position to drive it daily. It is expensive, and I understand that my purchase helps fund the development of the less expensive cars that come after. It's in 'the secret plan' referenced earlier.

While some may have a slight skin irritation re: the Oatmeal, the base points he making about the car ( performance, fun, cool tech ) are true. I'd mirror them here, but it's unnecessary.

The touchscreen, like any other new car's cockpit, requires you to become familiar with it. The lack of touch feedback isn't really a problem for me - any many of the features you'd want to adjust while driving have steering-wheel and voice controls. Mainly, you have to be responsible and not explore every screen available while driving.

I'll now use my smart watch to start the climate control in my Model S - I call her 'Olivia' - and get ready to drive my cool car home. (ducks and runs away from incoming fruit and vegtables)
posted by HannoverFist at 3:23 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


hellojed: I have an intense, flames on the side of my face hatred for The Oatmeal, I guess the fact that he was able to make a living making something so inane and awful was annoying, but now he's nominated for 2 Eisner awards (yes, TWO) and he's driving around a luxury sedan from the money he's earned from these glorified, illustrated blog posts (and proceeded to make a "comic" post about).

Given how the comic looks like Helen Kellers MSPaint project on a normal day, the tesla car is lovingly rendered like it was cribbed from the owners manual. That detail alone speaks louder than words.

posted by dr_dank at 3:46 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


There's already a Tesla Museum in Belgrade, which is interesting but (like most museums in Belgrade) could really use some more money. I'm sure the US Tesla Museum would be awesome, but can't help thinking that the same money would go further in Serbia.
posted by Pink Frost at 3:50 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Knowing that the Oatmeal likes something this much makes it less cool. Seriously. The guy writes long rambling screeds in Comic Sans, and then does crude drawings of lumpy people next to them. I have to agree with hellojed's "flames on the side of my face" hatred for his stuff; his Eisner nominations feel like an insult to anyone who cares about comics as a medium.

I generally try to refrain from trashing other cartoonists but man, the Oatmeal is barely the same medium as me, and it's really depressing to see that he makes enough money to buy a fucking Tesla off of his badly-drawn, badly-written, perfectly-search-engine-optimized "comics".
posted by egypturnash at 4:01 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


badly-drawn, badly-written, perfectly-search-engine-optimized "comics".

I doubt SEO has much to do with anything - his comics often go viral, actively shared from person to person. People aren't introduced to his stuff by googling a topic and oatmeal tops the results, their friends actively shove it in their face. (I assume the oatmeal is ad-revenue-optimised though - I'm guessing that's what you mean :)
People really like the comics - they quickly and easily resonate with people's experiences, and those people share them. I think it's wrongheaded to suggest such a demonstrably well-received use of the medium is "an insult to anyone who cares about comics as a medium", it's an exemplar. Though admittedly one that reveals uncomfortable truths.
posted by anonymisc at 4:32 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Oh my gosh, I just read up on him being nominated for the Eisners, and what the fuck! He is still extremely bad at cartooning.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:37 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


anonymisc: "People really like the comics - they quickly and easily resonate with people's experiences, and those people share them. I think it's wrongheaded to suggest such a demonstrably well-received use of the medium is "an insult to anyone who cares about comics as a medium", it's an exemplar. Though admittedly one that reveals uncomfortable truths."

The uncomfortable truth being that a lot of people love crap?
posted by Reverend John at 4:38 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Reverend John I think the entire state of pop culture pretty much makes your thesis right there. Miley Cyrus and reality TV much?
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:43 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


This comic is a precision-crafted missile with the explicit mission of contacting one specific billionaire and convincing him to donate $8 MILLION DOLLARS to the comic-writer's pet project.

That's a nigh-impossible task.

Yet this comic has succeeded. (Apparently)

(And it took what, one day? ONE DAY?!)

Seriously, give the guy some credit.
posted by anonymisc at 4:47 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


HOW DARE PEOPLE LIKE THINGS THAT I AM TOO GOOD FOR
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:25 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


everybody already knows that the down side of a Tesla is that it's really fantastically expensive.

Well that is one of its many downsides. I've got a list of them because at one point in the not-too-distant past I was considering maybe buying one for my next car in the somewhat distant future. I'm sure everyone is already aware of most of them, but I'm putting it here anyway:
  • All the controls are via a big touchscreen.
  • It's filled with useless electronic gadgets, which replace even such basic things as door handles and the parking brake.
  • Tesla can do things like "release a software update that was wirelessly downloaded to every Model S overnight" and suddenly your car's ride height isn't what you were used to.
  • That previous item implies that you can't adjust the ride height yourself, or any number of other interesting values, even though they're set in software. Maybe hackers will figure it all out eventually, we'll see.
  • Like any electric car, the battery will eventually wear out and the car can soon be expected to deliver less than half its original rated driving range if you happen to be trying to do some highway driving in Canada during the winter, which is something I personally like to do. Cold weather tests of electric cars so rarely seem to include actual (below -20C) cold and normal (around or above 100km/h) highway driving.
  • Tesla's "Superchargers" (I really wish they'd named them differently, because "supercharger" already means something else) are very nice, but again, I'm in Canada where there are not going to be anywhere near enough of them any time soon.
  • Even non-super charging stations are few and far between around here. I'm sure it's possible to drive some longer distances in an electric car, if you stick to major highways such as going from Ottawa to Thunder Bay, but it would not be easy.
  • Elon Musk is amazingly cool in my opinion, but he too has his personal downsides such as a tendency to react irrationally to criticisms of his car company's products. Not that this says anything about the cars, but The Oatmeal managed to include a mention of how great it is that Tesla was subsidized by a DOE loan, so I'm leaving this in.
  • If anything does go wrong with one, my local mechanic is probably going to refuse to even look at it. I do not want a car that can be serviced only by the dealer/manufacturer.
  • Lithium-sulphur, or some other flavour of better batteries, might become commercially viable in the near-ish future, and considering all the various imperfections of current electric cars I'd rather wait for those.
When I was looking at the options, the Tesla was the only electric car around with enough range to make it at least possible to do one of my semi-regular longer-range drives. After all, doing that sort of thing is exactly the purpose for which it has such a huge battery. So it got my hopes up. But given the availability of charging stations it would take a pleasant 7-hour drive and transform it into a boring 15-hour one. I do it rarely enough that I'd buy one anyway, if I were actually buying a new car, if it weren't for all the other disadvantages.
posted by sfenders at 5:26 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I am not in the tax bracket, but if they had a Subaru Outback* clone for Outback money or less, we'd be interested as Mrs. maxwelton's next car in a few years.

I'm seriously tempted, actually, to research what could be done (if anything) to convert my full-sized 60's Ford truck to electric power. A range of 50 miles would be plenty for the things I use it for. Still probably unworkable, alas, especially if I don't want to sacrifice the useful bed for battery storage.

* Actually, a clone of the one we have...as with all cars, every generation of Outback gets bigger and bigger and now they're the size of small dump trucks.
posted by maxwelton at 5:35 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Seriously, give the guy some credit.

YOU CANT MAKE ME
posted by Greg Nog at 6:13 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "HOW DARE PEOPLE LIKE THINGS THAT I AM TOO GOOD FOR"

YEAH! Bastards!
posted by Reverend John at 6:20 PM on May 14


Modern internal combustion engines are very, very good.

Oh, I don't dispute that at all, I've got a degree in mechanical engineering and I love alot of the things that are being done nowadays to the IC engine, both on a metallurgical side and on the level of making changes on the metalevel with regards to the type of cycle itself and countless other places that the average user will never know or see.

I think you're overstating the case here.
...
The Tesla still has a bunch of moving parts and bearings, it still has a cooling system (for both the motor and battery) with associated radiators and water pumps, and it even has a transmission. Only a single-speed, sure, but it'll still have fluid (aka gear oil), shaft seals, etc. And then the chassis is basically the same as a regular car, with the power-steering system, brake hydraulics, etc.

I'm not overstating at all, I specifically said "when compared to an internal combustion engine" and I meant it. I take it as a given that a Tesla still has, you know, tires that turn, a need for lubrication of the components that do move, seals to hold said lubrication in place, brakes to stop it, and power steering equipment... as should everyone reading this I should think. A cooling system and some sort of climate control system as well even.

However, I say again without any fear of overstating, when you transpose an electrical motor for a gasoline engine you are taking out a LOT (I'd still bet it's an order of magnitude) of moving parts in said swap. Sure the overall system still retains moving parts and the electric motor doesn't exist in a vacuum but the overall system is mechanically much, much simpler and, or should be, more robust for said swap. Heck at a cursory glance the design even simplifies down the orientation of the motor in said system such that the differential doesn't call for the 'extra' parts you'd normally see in a car on the road today, as I understand it (it just utilizes the brakes).

In subtracting the one do you add the need for electrical components and logic to control said system? Of course you do but that sort of thing is nothing new to cars nowadays anyway. Since fuel injection became a thing it's basically de rigueur to have an electrical control system driving the car while you just tell said system what to do rather than just pulling on a string moving a valve in a carburetor. Which if you asked most folks they would say is a good thing, if they even understood the question that is, and they'd be right.

The overall parts count in an electric car ought to be lower than in a traditional car, but they're not parts that the average owner is going to interact with in any case.

Right, but neither is the head gasket, rings, etc that you mentioned earlier so what? Classic VW Beetle's aside, very few cars that made it to market have a emphasis on engine replacement ease and access. Speaking of the Beetle, this latest battery swap via robot awesomeness move by Tesla reminds me alot of the whole concept behind the Beetle's intended design (which was, roughly and as I was told, that you'd get an engine swap at a gas station while you grabbed a bite to eat and be on your way instead of dropping the car itself off, you can change an engine in a VW Beetle VERY FAST if you want to).

But, admittedly, it only applies to the battery stuff. I can't find hard data on how to replace the motor itself, I welcome said information/details. But, honestly, having worked with AC motors in an industrial setting and dealt with their maintenance needs (or lack thereof) I have very little concern that the mechanical aspect of the motors themselves, barring some major, major flaw in their design, will be even a blip on the radar of the company in question.

It sounds like we're kinda on the same page, I just honestly look forward to the day when, barring a bike-friendly locale/option that I long for, the biggest concern with my vehicle, outside wiper fluid or a brake checkup or new tires, is changing a tiny bit of [single speed] transmission fluid 100,000 miles from now. Electric cars like what Tesla (and other makers of course) are building are taking us one step closer to that future.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:12 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


YOU CANT MAKE ME

On reflection, he shouldn't really need any credit, 'cos he just landed a few million bucks for his pet project, and that oughta' be enough for a man. I withdraw my request. :)
posted by anonymisc at 7:16 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Well, yes, that is the point I am trying to make: you can completely ignore the reality of how electricity is generated and distributed, and just pretend the grid is a big battery, and this works out great in practice.

No, it's a non-existent problem, and unfortunately it will not become a problem here for a long long time. Germany's peak this week was renewables powering 74% of their grid. We are miles from that.

Germany can get away with that because they are buffered by the massive amount of interconnections with all their neighbors. Here in the US, with such a small portion of our electricity from renewables, we also don't really have any problems in practice.

However, ignoring it until it is a problem is rather silly. Focusing all our resources on renewable generation without considering storage, we will end up with practical limits on the amount of renewables in a system until the storage catches up.

The grid is resilient to a certain extent, but as renewables (especially wind) start making up more and more of the supply, you need a way to buffer, smooth, and modulate the power flowing into the grid. Having a practical storage solution will give you this capability, and also allow even more energy to be generated by renewable sources by storing up excess generation when the grid is not capable of consuming it for use at a later time.
posted by inparticularity at 7:56 PM on May 14


Okay, so I didn't know this car existed, but the part where it does THAT well in crashes is pretty impressive. And I still have to admire the stones of Oatmeal Guy for making the public appeal and getting what he wanted. And hell, that a cartoonist can get that car in the first place. And as someone taking auto mechanics class right now, I cracked up at how the "car guys" don't know jack about how this car runs either. Muahahahah.

That 5.4 thing cracked me up, though. Really, guys?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:02 PM on May 14


Matthew Inman can afford a $70,000 car.

Let that sink in. Who here has trouble ponying up $2500?
posted by anemone of the state at 9:15 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Or, as mentioned before upthread, after incentives and tax breaks, Matthew Inman can afford a $45,000 car, presumably with financing of some sort.

Don't let that get in the way of good old-fashioned outrage, though.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:01 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


so do we use the gold plated pitchforks or the silver for this one then?
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I wasn't outraged until I found out Matthew Inman lives in Seattle, a place that actually has quite nice public transportation. And he also works at home, so he has no commute.

It isn't a 45k car. To him, it's a 45k toy.
posted by FJT at 11:25 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


The important thing, though, is that you were able to find outrage.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:27 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Meh, Mathew Inman got to say his piece, so I should get to say mine, too. I don't see anything wrong with that.
posted by FJT at 11:47 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Outraged is perhaps a surprisingly strong word to apply to one particular person's choice of environmentally friendly car.
posted by jaduncan at 11:56 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I don't really care one way or the other about what car he drives, I'm just used to The Eisners being a generally-reliable measure of what interesting things are happening in comics. I'm kinda bummed that they're sliding into Oscar-type quasirelevancy.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:06 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


also I wish to distance myself from the equating of Miley Cyrus with Matthew Inman because The Oatmeal has never made me feel anything other than mildly annoyed whereas Wrecking Ball is a phenomenally great song
posted by Greg Nog at 6:29 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


oops you're wrong
posted by elizardbits at 9:13 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


liz perhaps you missed the part where she came in like a wrecking ball
posted by Greg Nog at 9:26 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


I thought I had read that Inman had made money via SEO or something prior to his publishing efforts, but there's no mention of that at Wikipedia. It does, however, reference a pretty healthy number for revenue of The Oatmeal (~500K) per year, mostly from merch, which would definitely support a Tesla.

Inman is clearly good at a sort of primitivist infographicesque type of strip. The style is super idiosyncratic, but definitely a Thing People Do now (compare Hyperbole and a Half).

I dunno much about the Eisners, but his receipt of one doesn't seem nearly as absurd to me as it does to some here. I wonder if distaste for Inman personally is coloring that judgement.
posted by uberchet at 9:35 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I think there are probably many exciting discoveries still to be made [about maintenance requirements/costs] when it comes to electric vehicles.

There really isn't though. The company i work for has had an electric delivery car/van of some variation for over 10 years at this point. The first one wasn't engineered that great and had stupid issues, the new one is also used by several college campuses in the area and is bulletproof.

Maintenance on either consisted of tires when it wasn't a design flaw. No drive train component ever needed to be swapped(except for CV joints, which kept crapping out, but that wasn't an electric car related problem).

Many other businesses small and large, colleges, etc have been operating electric vehicles for quite a while. And i don't mean golf carts, things with license plates and turn signals and all that.

And to clarify, this is used as a delivery truck. Completely loaded full of heavy shit and driven up and down steep hills in stop and go traffic every single day. The stops are frequent enough and the streets are crappy enough that an ICE based van would not only never really get to warm all the way up especially on cold days, but all those extra bits would be getting pounded.

The engineering guy here has many compelling arguments as to why electric cars are inherently more reliable and cheaper to service, but it's one of those things where if you just stare at the pros and cons for a minute it's obvious and there really isn't much more to it.

Everyone always seems to exaggerate the battery replacement too. That's already gotten cheaper for the prius, and there's already aftermarket options for that, the old insight, and other models.

I mean hell, go look at taxi cab priuses with 470k miles on them on their second(or sometimes even first) battery pack. Electric drive systems are already "there".
posted by emptythought at 12:40 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I wasn't outraged until I found out Matthew Inman lives in Seattle, a place that actually has quite nice public transportation. And he also works at home, so he has no commute.

I live in Seattle too, and I worked at home for about seven years. I tried going carless for one year, and... well... I proved that I could do it, but I'm sure as hell never doing THAT again. Public transportation here is "quite nice" only relative to the "unbelievably terrible" public transportation available in most of the US. It is adequate for getting around, and it can be not-awful if you happen to commute between two well-served areas, but god help you if you actually want to get out and enjoy yourself every now and then.

Dude wants a car, let him enjoy his car. At least he's not fucking up the atmosphere like the rest of us.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:56 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


As I understand it, there are some gearbox issues with electric drives---high torque isn't always your friend. I wonder if we won't end up with a simple direct drive engine per wheel, to reduce the number of moving parts, and do all the differential speed compensation in software.

Electrics are also going to have a hard road in Canada and other cold places until battery technology in the cold can be worked out. The first-gen Prius' we had at work were useless after the first -35 C snap and had to be babied for the remainder of their lives. A cold night was also one of the causes of that NYT reporter running out of power on their infamous Model S review.
posted by bonehead at 1:32 PM on May 15


uberchet, that's addressed in the Buzzfeed article:

Inman, back when The Guardian speculated in 2008 on whether he was a “genius…or a fiend,” was an online marketer who made his name devising quizzes and cartoons aimed at going viral on the web. But the real purpose of this linkbait was what was hidden inside: search-engine keywords and links to his clients’ websites, an underhanded tactic meant to shoot them to the top of Google.

Inman’s transformation from a reviled search-engine-optimization expert and marketer to a beloved comic artist was less dramatic than it sounds. Inman has described The Oatmeal as a kind of continuation of his Internet marketing work.


I do think the Tesla is interesting and surprisingly successful, in particular winning accolades from Consumer Reports, and Musk is nothing if not an audacious self-promoter with an impressively winning track record. Still, there are those in the industry who expect fuel cells to overtake electric, so the future remains a bit murky. My own feeling is that the really important transition is the addition of hybrid and other green-derived tech, like stop-start, into mainstream vehicles. The cost is limited and the fuel savings are pretty huge as an ROI -- and you lose the issues of drastically changed performance/handling and range anxiety. It's a bit like how SUVs suddenly became popular and then SUV properties like high seating and storage space got folded into the "hybrid" which later became termed the "crossover" built on a car chassis. Hybrid and green (including diesel) vehicles have been flirting with a 5% market share within the last year, but sales have moderated along with gasoline prices.
posted by dhartung at 2:16 PM on May 15


I live in Seattle too, and I worked at home for about seven years. I tried going carless for one year, and... well... I proved that I could do it, but I'm sure as hell never doing THAT again. Public transportation here is "quite nice" only relative to the "unbelievably terrible" public transportation available in most of the US. It is adequate for getting around, and it can be not-awful if you happen to commute between two well-served areas, but god help you if you actually want to get out and enjoy yourself every now and then.

Dude wants a car, let him enjoy his car. At least he's not fucking up the atmosphere like the rest of us.


Yea, i just kinda skimmed past that one without realizing it.

I used to live in an in town, relatively urban residential area of the city proper(greenwood) and work right next to downtown(capitol hill).

Including waiting/loiter time to board, transfer, and walk it was a door to door 1.3-1.5 hour bus commute. If everything synced up FLAWLESSLY it took an hour and two minutes or something.*

It was a 15 minute drive. If traffic was perfect and you made all the lights it could be barely over 10.(think very late at night, etc). It's easy to do what happened in the other thread and argue that an hour and a half isn't "that bad" or "normal" or whatever, but when the drive was that short it was egregious. Even if traffic was kinda crappy or something it took less than a half hour.

I realize he doesn't have to commute, but if you're running errands and need to hit 2-3 locations in disparate areas of town it can be 2-3 hours of driving around and shopping or doctoring or whatever, vs an entire day off of basically all the available daylight of doing those things and busing.

Coming from someone who carefully structured their life so they very rarely have to drive(including living near as many things i'd likely be doing as possible) i completely understand getting a car if you live in a residential area, and i don't really think it's a "luxury". The car he chose is, but the concept of having one isn't. The bus system is decent until you're riding more than one bus to get somewhere, or riding certain slow as fuck perpetually late routes that take an irrationally long amount of time to get from A to B.

It's pretty much only something you can consider a luxury if your time is worthless. I was a truther on that for years who refused to have a car and just had a bus pass and a bike, but now that i'm actually fairly busy most of the time i get it.
posted by emptythought at 3:32 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the oatmeal is hardly the gold standard of modern comics (see this entry posted today, which is basically like a bumper-sticker with some stick figures attached), but at least the guy is doing some good with his influence. I'd rather this than Jim Davis getting more cash for Garfield comics/tchotches.
posted by blueberry at 8:19 PM on May 15


The contempt for Inman that keeps cropping up in this thread is mind-boggling. I like his ideas/initiative more than I like most of his actual work, but how do people get so emotionally invested in being angry at his (relatively modest!) success?
posted by kalapierson at 10:02 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Inman is confrontational, and not shy about self promotion. He's used rape as a punchline in one for this pieces (since removed, but see below).

Buzzfeed attempted a takedown piece on him a few years ago, based on some very poor research. He replied, specifically addressing the SEO thing and his use of the rape punchline.

He's often accused of going for the lazy joke, of being himself just like the Buzzfeed writer he criticizes. The Garfield comparison above, is quite apt, I think. He's probably most like Jim Davis in his ability to convert (perceived) low-effort comics into money, which irritates some to no end.
posted by bonehead at 10:57 PM on May 15


Still, there are those in the industry who expect fuel cells to overtake electric, so the future remains a bit murky.

Here's a surprise: Musk is no fan of Hydrogen as a fuel for cars. I'm not sure anyone else should be, either. It seems that the way H2 is currently produced is by stripping it from fossil fuels, so it still feeds that monster. Also, in the movie I mentioned earlier, they ascribe the automakers' earlier enthusiasm for H2 to their fear that all-electric cars would destroy their parts & service profit-centers. You'll note that when CARB retreated from its zero-emissions standard, the H2 tide quickly receded. Now it's back, and I have to think it's a reaction to Tesla's success. Instead of building all-electric cars using battery tech licensed from others, the automakers are doubling down on fossil-powered fuel-cell cars that require central refueling stations on the gasoline model. Given the choice between a car powered by a battery, which I can recharge at home, and one powered by a tank of pressurized Hydrogen, which I must refuel at an oil-company's gas station, my choice is already made.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:58 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Inman is confrontational, and not shy about self promotion.

I'm increasingly convinced that the latter is necessary to make a living doing the sort of thing he does. I used to find it really distasteful in anyone, but I've gotten over that in my middle years.

I don't read his strip with any regularity, but when he manages to get one into my giant-feed-of-Net-traffic somehow I usually at least smile. I thought his piece about running was pretty spot on, for example, and really enjoyed the ones about his house fire and the mantis shrimp (just off the top of my head). In this case, his effusive observations about the Tesla map mostly to my own (though I agree with others on this thread that the touchscreen-only console is a giant fail -- how often do we adjust the AC by feel?).

I doubt I'd like Inman very much on a personal level, but I don't like most people so that's hardly surprising, and is therefore a very unreliable marker for whether or not someone is terrible.
posted by uberchet at 10:25 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Here's a surprise: Musk is no fan of Hydrogen as a fuel for cars.

Batteries may have the lead over hydrogen for now, but they're both a long way from being as good as gasoline and diesel for conveniently storing lots of energy in a small container. Batteries are definitely not the appealing part of battery EVs, and hydrogen storage is also not so easy. Which one wins in the long run depends on which group of researchers have better luck. I wouldn't write off hydrogen just yet, there are some interesting possibilities: Hydrogenation-assisted graphene origami.
posted by sfenders at 4:23 PM on May 16


Dude wants a car, let him enjoy his car. At least he's not fucking up the atmosphere like the rest of us.

Eh, it just sounds like to me he's more amazed at the technology and luxury branding of the car and the environmental aspects are a secondary benefit.

And I would also dispute who is fucking up the atmosphere more. His Tesla has zero emissions , but doesn't the manufacture of new cars generate a significant amount to a car's lifetime carbon footprint?
posted by FJT at 4:56 PM on May 16


And I would also dispute who is fucking up the atmosphere more. His Tesla has zero emissions , but doesn't the manufacture of new cars generate a significant amount to a car's lifetime carbon footprint?

I'm going to go wild and suggest that he probably sold his old car rather than burned it. This would tend to suggest that someone else is driving it, and that if it was reasonably efficient it will eventually replace a much more inefficient junker (as it, too, becomes a somewhat more efficient junker).
posted by jaduncan at 5:25 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


jaduncan, you would be incorrect. I have it on the best authority that Matthew Inman actually converted his previous car at great personal expense into an equivalent mass of highly radioactive waste, and spread the material on playgrounds across his city.

Also, his new car seats are made of babies. Because he's that evil.

Even worse, he's self-promoting and successful.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:20 AM on May 19


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