2nd Thing I’ve Learned From The Tesla–NYTimes Firestorm

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This article has been reposted from EVObsession.

Shower by SweetCapture, some rights reserved. (Yes, this picture is relavant to this article -- read on.)
Shower by SweetCapture, some rights reserved. (Yes, this picture is relavant to this article — read on.)

As I just noted in another article, even I have learned something pretty important from this whole Tesla–NYTimes debacle. But the thing discussed in that article isn’t the only thing I learned from all this. I’ve also learned that it’s a lot easier to get people to focus on what they’re losing than on what they’re gaining.

Or, an alternative to that might be: it’s a lot easier to get people to focus on the negative than on the positive.

Or: it’s a lot easier to convince people to stay stuck in their ways than to be leaders.

The first two points come to mind because of one specific issue that differentiates electric cars from gasoline-powered cars (and the third comes to mind from the first two). That specific issue is convenience.

The general “wisdom” is that gasoline-powered cars are more convenient because you hardly ever have to go more than a few miles to find a gas station. In other words, you don’t have to do much thinking or planning to keep from running out of gas.

However, thinking and planning aren’t equivalent to inconvenience. In fact, if it’s a simple matter, they’re extremely easy things to do. And if you actually develop a habit out of that thinking and planning, things get obsessively convenient.

Much more inconvenient is standing outside in the heat or cold at a dirty gas station and smelling the harmful and disgusting fumes of gasoline (though, I hear that some people actually like the smell… not sure how that came about). With an electric car, you simply don’t have to go through that. You simply plug your car in when you get home and/or when you get to work, and then you unplug it when you leave again. Ridiculously simple. Ridiculously convenient compared to standing at a gas station on a regular basis.

It’s like the convenience of having a shower at home versus having to go to a public shower to wash up every day or two.

When it comes to convenience, I think it’s obvious that an electric vehicle wins hands down.

But hey, there’s actually more to the convenience of an electric vehicle versus a gasoline-powered car. Electric motors are a lot simpler than internal combustion engines, and they have a lot fewer moving parts. Basically, with an electric car, you don’t have to get oil changes and you don’t have to deal with all sorts of maintenance issues and replacing of parts that you have to deal with when you own a gasoline-powered car.

So, next time you get into a conversation with someone and they start talking about the “convenience” of a deadly gasmobile versus an electric vehicle, please do everyone a favor and direct them over to this article!

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34 thoughts on “2nd Thing I’ve Learned From The Tesla–NYTimes Firestorm

  • I think that the most scary thing about EVs is that if there is sufficient capacity in the EV-battery, they can be charged fully only when there oversupply of renewable wind and solar electricity. This is because 20 % of Model S’ capacity is sufficient for 97 % of trips.

    This makes clean and renewable solar and wind far more attractive choice and driving with EV is practically free.

    Also range anxiety with electric vehicles is somewhat silly, because when EVs goes into mainstream in around 2020, there will be (wireless) charging option in every parking lot.

    • Electric companies actually *like* EV’s to be charged at night, when they very often have too much generation capacity in their baseload plants. This is why they often charge less money per kWh at night.

      And yes, if you can put a solar PV system on your roof (using just a fraction of the money you used to pay for gas in a year), then you will not only lower your electric bill by a lot, but that cost will also cover all your driving, too.


  • We have habits and we take a lot for granted with the cars we are used to. Take cold weather, which also reduces the range of internal combustion cars especially on short trips. My mileage drops about 20% in the winter vs the summer, and on short hops, it is even worse.

    ICE powered cars have more troubles starting in cold weather, if the starter battery is 4 or 5 or 6 years old, and/or if there is a bit of water in the gas, and certainly if you leave the dome light on or something like that.

    Electric cars have virtually no regular maintenance – no oil changes, no coolant changes, no tuneups (just software upgrades), no exhaust systems, and they even use their friction brakes far less because they have regenerative braking. EV’s have transmission oil changes and they have cabin air filters, but both of these are also on ICE’s – and ICE transmissions are big ticket items that sometimes break.

    Electric cars are like big cell phones – you may forget to plug them in once, but once your habit forms, you will realize that each and every day you start with a full battery. Each day and week and month and year that you can go without buying any gas – will be exciting!

    Drive an EV sometime – just go into a dealership and ask for a test drive. They are amazingly quiet and smooth and peppy – instant torque with no shifting is a revelation; and you may wonder how you ever tolerated all the noise and vibration – and idling is such a waste!


    • Great points. As with so many things, it really just comes down to habits. (And fear of change.)

      Quite frankly, if we were making a shift from EVs to ICEs, consider all the negative things people would say about ICEs, why they’d never become popular… except they’d probably actually be correct in that flipped reality.

  • Huh? You assume people are only going to use their cars locally. With the economy the way it is road trips and tv are primary means of entertainment. Gone are the American vacations to foreign countries. Walmart is in and quality is out. So range anxiety is real and needs better solutions.

    Then there is maintenance. Expect to pay $600 to $700 for basic maintenance every 12.5K you drive. That’s not including electricity costs, tire costs, or battery replacement costs. Furthermore it’s unclear what happens when you go past 50K.

    Silly shills working for the NY Times, err agents for the oil companies, may not be smart enough to avoid shooting themselves but there are real issues that do need to be addressed before Tesla’s are ready for the masses.

    • Please explain the “$600 to $700 for basic maintenance every 12.5k”. One of the benefits of electric cars is that they are so simple mechanically, they don’t have anywhere near the maintenance costs of a gasoline car. And tire costs? That would be a function of how many miles you drive and not what drivetrain your vehicle has.

      • Tesla offers two service plan options. Many of their customers are very very upset about this additional $600 to $700. You need to get an account and read the messages on the Tesla site to know what I’m talking about.

        • Regular maintenance on internal combustion cars will cost $3,000-3,400 per 90K miles. Fuel costs are about 15 cents/mile vs about 2-3 cents/mile for EV’s.

          On a Leaf or an i MiEV, the only regular maintenance costs are tires, wiper blades and the cabin air filter – all of which are also on ICE’s.


          • Hey Neil. So you are saying regular maintenance on a Tesla is about 50% more? Or perhaps more if that 3 to 3.4K per 90k includes tires?

            Not that it matters. Tesla is not yet about cost but about the experience.

          • Well, I’m a bit surprised that Tesla charges that much – are you sure? Why is it $600-700? That is like a major service and an intermediate.

            If gas prices climb much, it will shorten the payback time – you save about 12-16 cents per mile and more as gas prices climb, and it depends on the fuel economy your ICE car. I think a high performance 5 seat car is going to be on the high end of that.

            If an ICE car costs as much as $3,400 for 90K miles that is ~3.8 cents/mile. And taking your number of $700/12.5K mile equals 5.6 cents/mile. The difference is 1.8 cents/mile, which reduces the savings on energy cost down to about 14 cents/mile.

            In 100K miles that’s $14,000 savings.

            If you use some of that to put a down payment on a solar PV system About $2,500 is what a typical lease contract is here in Massachusetts. My brother and his wife, who each drive EV’s are getting a 6.4kW system, and their electric bill is currently $80-170/month (including both EV’s and A/C in the summer). They will pay a flat monthly rate of $58; saving about $800/year.

            So, if you have a solar PV system, you “regain” the 2 of the 3 cents/mile you were paying for electricity; increasing the per mile savings up to 16 cents/mile, which is $16,000 in 100K miles. PLUS your savings on electricity of 5 years (@20K miles / year) is another $4,000 – making the total savings over 100K miles of $20,000.

            Drive the gorgeous and high performance Tesla Model S for 200K miles and save about $40,000 overall. And virtually no carbon into the atmosphere.


          • I’m always making mistakes Neil so I’ll copy and source my info. Maybe I’m not reading it right. “Several months ago we announced a Four Year, up to 50,000 Mile Prepaid Maintenance program for $1,900, or $2,400 with unlimited Tesla Ranger visits. You will now be able to purchase an additional Four Years and 50,000 miles of Prepaid Maintenance for an additional $1,900, or $2,400 with unlimited Tesla Ranger visits. With this additional program you can now cover everything on your Model S, except tires, for eight years and up to 100,000 miles for $3,800, or $4,800 with unlimited Tesla Ranger visits.” from http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/2013-model-s-price-increase

          • It sounds like it is an *option*, just like the battery replacement plan they also mention.


    • 97% of trips are under 50 miles. (For those remaining trips, most people aren’t simply going to drive somewhere to do something for a few minutes and then get back in the car and head home.) http://evobsession.com/one-of-the-biggest-things-i-learned-from-the-tesla-nytimes-debacle/

      Regarding road trips: For sure, I’m not denying that. But a lot of people already rent a car for a road trip in order to keep from ruining theirs. And a lot of people own more than one car. And a lot of people have friends and families they could potentially swap cars with if neither of the above fits. (And, don’t shoot me for bringing this up, but there are also trains and coaches.)

      I’m not sayings EVs are for 100% of trips. But they are certainly a good fit today for a lot more trips than the mass media and common public seem to think.

      • I disagree with the first paragraph. Second paragraph I also disagree with. Third paragraph… I have to agree with you but I’m approaching it from the other side. I want to believe the Tesla is ready for 100% of the well planned trips.

        • #1 is from US government data. (Believe it or not, I guess.)

          #2 o.O

          • Guess I need to be more explicit. The 97% wasn’t being argued. It was the length of the stopovers. I suspect the remaining 3% of the trips will have peculiarities to them which can’t be summarized neatly as you have done. I disagree with that.

            Not sure what “o.O” means. I simply can’t see myself willingly renting a car for a road trip. And I don’t own a second car. And I have no friends or family I’d willingly swap my Tesla with. In fact there is no way I’d do a road trip unless I could take my Tesla. And I wouldn’t be doing a 55mph limp about with the climate control off. The Tesla is for pure and simple enjoyment. I’d plan my road trip very carefully around the superchargers.

          • Not for 100% of trips/people. But are a good fit for a lot more drivers than people realize.

        • I think the Tesla S is ready for 100% of well planned trips.

          But you’ve got to follow the plan.

          If you need to control your speed in order to make it to the next charger, then you need to control your speed.

          If you need to get a 90%/100% charge before leaving the charger, then you need to finish charging.

          And, ideally, you need to find a place to plug in on cold nights. That is not impossible. Some hotels already have EV charge outlets.

  • The one thing that is really needed when actually plugging in the EV at home is to make sure the energy source is a green one. Otherwise we’re only moving the pollution problem.

    • While it’s a great idea to want your electricity as green as possible, it isn’t true that you’re simply ‘moving the pollution problem’. Consider that If I stop using gasoline I stop all the pollution that goes along with it. If I exchange it for electricity, I”ll be getting my fuel from a (usually) very efficient power plant. An internal combustion engine is, at best, about 30% efficient in turning gasoline into motive power. Consider also that the current mix of grid power in the US is less than 40% coal, and renewables are on the rise. That being the case, an electric car purchased today will be greener next year and even greener the following. And if I were especially keen on the idea of zero emissions I could always put solar panels on my roof.

    • It takes a lot of electricity to find oil, extract it, transport, refine it into gasoline, store, transport again – even to pump it into your tank! Gasoline doesn’t appear out of thin air, right?

      It takes about 7.5kWh of electricity per gallon of gasoline; which would let you drive a Nissan Leaf about 26 miles – and you would save all the carbon embedded in the gasoline.


      • Neil Blanchard
        “It takes about 7.5kWh of electricity per gallon of gasoline”
        Where do you get this type of data?

        • This number came from Nissan around the time the Leaf came out. Peder Norby puts it a little higher at ~8kWh/gallon: http://electricmini.blogspot.com/2011/10/it-takes-lot-of-coal-to-make-gasoline.html

          As time passes, oil is harder and harder to get – deep water drilling is very difficult and it takes a lot of energy, and fracking for oil and getting thick sour crude out of the ground requires millions and millions of very hot water (heated with natural gas – and a little solar heat, too!) be pumped down underground to loosen the oil up to then be able to pump it up – which as Peder notes is a very intensive use of electricity. And tar sands bitumen is worse, yet. To even pump it through a pipeline, it has to be dissolved with cheap gasoline – and that gasoline has to come from somewhere!

          They generate electricity at refineries but this still “counts” toward the energy overhead. At every stage along the way from extraction until the gasoline is made, it gets pumped and transported, using more electricity. Super tankers burn a lot of fuel, and tanker trucks burn a lot of diesel – and those each have to be refined… Even the very last stage – pumping the gas into your tank uses some electricity.

          And that’s just the electricity – there is a LOT of natural gas used along the way. ALL of that carbon and all the electricity used to get the natural gas has to be added to the total. AND a lot of water is used for fracking (some places have to stop fracking when they deplete the water supply!) and guess what? Electricity is used to pump water out of the ground and to move it to the fracking site. Tar sands also uses a lot of water and a lot of natural gas…

          The “long tailpipe” argument made against EV’s just goes up in smoke!


          • OK Neil, thanks!

            So if I understand it right, the cost of a gasoline car together with its gasoline use is going up slowly, while the cost of manufacturing EVs including batteries and recharging them goes down slowly?

            I wonder, looking at this, is there any kind of comparison available among different car types based on average (energy) use of gasoline versus electricity (or both), some kind of break even figure?
            That would help people while making a decision when it’s time to buy a new car, for example…

          • Set up a spreadsheet. That way you can use your own electricity prices, expectations for inflation, etc.

            I’ll share mine. What I found is that over a 12 year ownership –

            The Nissan Leaf (without subsidies) is $6,247 more expensive to drive than a Nissan Versa.

            The Nissan Leaf (without subsidies) is $292 more expensive to drive than a Toyota Prius.

            Including the Federal $7,500 subsidy the Leaf is $3,128 less expensive to drive than a Nissan Versa.

            Including the Federal $7,500 subsidy the Leaf is $9,083 less expensive to drive than a Toyota Prius.


            (There could be errors in my spreadsheet. I sometimes play around with the numbers and then forget to correct.)

          • Thanks for sharing Bob!

          • One thing that you should update is the 2013 Leaf is rated at 290Wh/mile (0.29kWh/mile). What cost per kWh are you carrying?

            Also, your ‘oil and filters’ number doesn’t include other regular maintenance cost. My Toyota dealer has a set charge for a 5K mile minor service of about $75, and a 15K intermediate service of about $250 and a 30K major service of about $450. These include all other fluids including coolant, cabin and engine air filters, injector cleaning, etc.

            Thanks for sharing!


          • Thanks, Neil. 0.29kWh/mile is a big improvement over the 0.35 per I was using. (I had been using 0.31 but an anti-EV person was complaining that I was being unrealistic using the previous Nissan number so I increased it to his suggested 0.35 in order to show him the math still worked.)

            In the version you saw I had electricity set a 8 cents per kWh. Figuring that most people would charge with off-peak electricity and that TOU billing is coming to most people as meters get smart.

            Using 0.35kWh/mile and $0.08/kWh I got…

            “Including the Federal $7,500 subsidy the Leaf is $9,083 less expensive to drive than a Toyota Prius.”

            Using 0.29kWh/mile and $0.12/kWh I get…

            Including the Federal $7,500 subsidy the Leaf is $7,925 less expensive to drive than a Toyota Prius.

            I guesstimated insurance based on sales price. Don’t know how accurate that might be.

          • Hi Pieter, You’re about right, though I don’t know about future cost of electricity.

            The number I estimated was a Leaf would save you about $17,000 per 100K miles driven vs an average 23MPG car, including typical regular maintenance costs and energy costs. I used a guesstimate of an average per gallon cost of gasoline for the 5 years or so it would take to get to 100K miles at 20K per year. For electricity I used the US average of 12 cents/kWh for the entire thing.

            And that was with the initial version of the Leaf which is rated by the EPA at 340Wh/mile – the 2013 is rated at 290Wh/mile which is 15% better, so that would add about ($816-696=120×5=) $600 savings; totaling $17,600 per 100K miles.


  • Tesla – and other automakers from Ford to Honda – must start producing electric vehicles on the level of pricing equal to that of the Leaf. That is where the revolution is going to really take off, and it’s why Nissan is increasingly owning the market. Most people simply don’t have the income – or desire – to be blowing $50,000+ on any vehicle. Not when wages are falling for everyone other than the upper-class (who are microscopic in number).
    Under $20,000 (after incentives for now) is that magic number.

    • Nissan, Ford, GM and the other established manufacturers have a sales base of ICEVs which lets them enter at a lower price point/lower profit level than Tesla could do.

      Tesla started smart. They started with products for deep pockets. There’s a higher profit margin and that let them build a company. They couldn’t afford to lose/not make money off their cars for multiple years as established car companies do.

      They also established themselves as a premium brand.

      Their first product was a $100k+ roadster, the Roadster. Then they brought out the S which, in its lower range version, sells for around $60k. I think they have one more model in the pipes which is supposed to be followed by an EV ‘for the rest of us’.

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