Elon Musk continues to defy the conventional wisdom of the armchair pundits, who claim that widespread adoption of electric cars is still decades away. They claim electric vehicles (EVs) are impractical, unappealing, too expensive, with no charging infrastructure, plus they take too long to charge. One by one he has removed these barriers with his Tesla cars.
His first two models are selling well, despite efforts on the part of several states to block the company’s direct-sale model. Despite this, and the lofty price tag, Teslas are consistently the top-selling electric cars on the market. (We’ll come back to that price issue in a minute.)
Tesla has set up a supercharger network across the U.S. that will allow transcontinental drives (as long as you follow certain routes). The supercharger technology is exclusive to Tesla cars which are configured to accept higher current levels, allowing them to charge relatively quickly, at least compared to other EVs.
Still, it can take an hour or more to charge up, more time than most people want to spend at a gas station. Sure, you can stop for lunch, if that fits into your schedule, but we Americans tend to be busy people who are in a hurry as often as not. Tesla has an answer to that, too.
If you had a battery that would last as long as one were willing to drive in a day, then it wouldn’t be a problem. You just charge up at night, wherever you are, ready to go again the next day. In a recent interview with AutoExpress, Musk said: “It will be possible to have a 500-mile range car. In fact we could do it quite soon, but it would increase the price. Over time you could expect to have that kind of range.”
In fact, Tesla is planning an upgrade to its first car, the Roadster, that will substantially increase battery range from its current 245 miles.
“The Roadster had an old generation battery,” he told AutoExpress. “We’ll upgrade it to a new generation battery pack and it should have a range of about 400 miles, which will allow you to drive from LA to San Francisco non-stop.”
How many people are going to want to drive more than 500 miles in a day? Even if you did, you’d probably be happy to stop somewhere for an hour, where you and your car can get something to eat. Once that capability is available, it’s going to really put a dent in sales of combustion vehicles. For me personally, the only thing that would stop me at that point would be price.
This brings us to the next point: Prices are coming down. Musk described the outlook for the new Tesla Model 3. You can see pictures of it, which, at $35,000, is priced to compete with the new BMW 3 series.
Now, $35,000 sounds like a lot of money for a car, for those of us who are not in the BMW league. But when you consider the fuel savings you will realize over the car’s life, these vehicles turn out to be surprisingly affordable.
Take an average gasoline-powered vehicle, which today gets 29 miles per gallon, and compare it to a Tesla Model S, which gets the equivalent of 95 mpg, and drive each car for 100,000 miles. Based on today’s national average fuel prices, you will save $11,458 over the life of that car. When you add to that the fact that electricity prices have remained stable compared to gasoline prices (which were $1.50 back in 2001), the savings could be considerably greater.
The Model 3 will be unveiled in 2016 and available for sale in 2017. It is expected to be about 20 percent smaller than the Model S and based on an entirely new platform. The car will have a range of more than 200 miles and strong performance like the Model S. Says Musk, “We want people to fall in love with their car and look forward to driving it.”
Tesla also announced plans for an R&D center in the U.K., which is expected to contribute to the new car.
Image credit: Randychiu: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.
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