Volkswagen Cries Uncle. Uncle Elon, That Is.

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Originally published on Tesla Mondo.

The skirmish in the Nevada desert is distracting us from the real story of the day.

WSJ graphic uses dirty, moldy colors. Accident?

Volkswagen’s electric-vehicle epiphany, a few days late and a few dollars short, profusely vindicates the early efforts of young mad scientists like Musk and Straubel, who doggedly got ahead of this game before the ref had even blown the starting whistle. Turns out that the future for many, if not every, automaker is indeed grudgingly, reluctantly, embarrassingly, electric. Not diesel, not hybrid.

Just a few years ago, an exhausted Tesla crew showed off a slapdash Model S prototype that had magnets holding the hood in place. But now Tesla has forced Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, to ride in its rooster tail.

Today’s WSJ piece about European air quality just plain assassinates VW — and the entire gas-vehicle world by proxy — while echoing the air pollution slides from the Model X unveiling. Remember? They showed the reduced life expectancy in various polluted regions of the world. Sorry for the cliché, but Tesla smells like a rose right about now.

Regarding that skirmish in the desert, a B-movie scene come real: This may mark the first time photographers have resorted to such desperate measures to capture juicy images of a . . . wait for it . . . building. The incident illustrates how far Tesla has come, so quickly. Here’s Tesla in 2004:

“Had anyone in Detroit stopped by Tesla motors at this point, they would have ended up in hysterics. The sum total of the company’s automotive expertise was that a couple of the guys at Tesla really liked cars and another one had created a series of science fair projects based on technology that the automotive industry considered ridiculous.”

That’s an excerpt from that Ashlee Vance book that everyone was talking about months ago, and which TeslaMondo has finally gotten around to reading. It took a while to snag it from the library. TeslaMondo did not wish to blow its entire annual budget by buying the book.

Anyway, compare that snapshot of baby Tesla to the adolescent company today, with its celebrity construction site in Nevada. A Tesla factory is sexy enough to attract paparazzi hoping to catch it sunbathing topless or something. Maybe Tesla should rename it Rihanna.

Reprinted with permission.

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89 thoughts on “Volkswagen Cries Uncle. Uncle Elon, That Is.

  • Um, I am not the first one to cry bias, but…. what is up with all this Tesla-fanboi stuff?
    Reporting news is fine, thoughtful articles, analysis. But what exactly is this thing here?

    • Exactly. That knee jerk response is why Tesla’s potential (weather it actually thrives, survives or flames out) will go completely unseen by so many.

    • Clean Technica does love Tesla Motors… a bit too much. And I’m sure the Model S and X are amazing but they should tone it down if they want to look more neutral.

      • Yes, tone it down because if Tesla and other electrification of transportation gambits fail to save this world from greedy petro barons, then we can just move on to the next planet. SpaceX can provide that transport if you have the green!

        Another-words, Clean Technica is rooting for life itself. By logical extension, that means you are…

        • good point. Lets not use gas powered cars but electric cars…which require oil and coal power plants to generate orders of magnitude more electricity…which means more coal is burnt. Lets not forget the electric cars use rare-earth magnets. Google rare-earth mining and you will see why china is one of the only nations willing to destroy its local environment to mine the stuff. I would say this is not the real solution to save the environment unless we ignore facts like where the power is coming from and how the car rechargers and batteries are built. As it stands we have just replaced one bad thing with two others. Lets REALLY save the planet and not create new industries that destroy the planet differently.

          • would you be willing to try to understand issues before reaching judgments and commenting?

          • Actually unless a grid is 100% coal EVs still come out on top. In every single state of the USA (and basically everywhere else in the world) based on their generation EVs win. Also we don’t actually have to add much more capacity for EVs because most charging happens at night where we already have a massive over supply.

            Also tesla does not use any rare earths in their cars.
            And there are essentially no oil fired plants in the developed world.

            So if you want to save the planet it Solar/Wind/EV.

          • We don’t use oil to produce electricity except in unusual circumstances.

            Coal use in the US has been falling for the last several years and will be taking a huge hit over the next couple of years as we close about 200 coal plants.

            There are no rare earth minerals in Tesla’s motor And REMs are found all around the world. It’s entirely possible to extract and refine REMs is a responsible manner.

          • “which require oil and coal power plants to generate orders of magnitude more electricity.” You obviously haven’t read any recent stories about the massive numbers of new solar farms and wind farms being planned and built. These clean sources of electricity make up most of any new generation capacity built today. They are currently the least expensive option. Many owners of EVs power their vehicles with clean electricity produced by their own on site PV array.
            We need to abandonDo you really believe that current gas buggies are built without causing environmental damage from the procurement of special materials? Ever heard of any adverse effects to groundwater supplies, air quality of public health associated with oil and gas well fracking? We need to abandon the fossil fuel based society before all humanity becomes the fossils in the fuel.

          • Order for posting comments here:
            1) think
            2) think again
            3) think some more
            4) you may post now

            you skipped 1, 2 and 3.

          • My EV is powered by sunshine and has been from day one over four years ago and I’m not the only one. Somewhere around 40% of the nation’s electricity is generated from coal. The other 60% from either non-polluting or much lower polluting (e.g. natural gas, usually for peak generation). And as more renewable sources come on line, the grid will just get cleaner. I’d advise getting a little closer to the subject before forming a judgement.

          • Seriously? Still trying to argue that a full well to wheels petrol or diesel is cleaner than an ever cleaner grid and battery manufacturing infrastructure? If you think the future of personal transport is anything other than electric at this stage you might be deluded.

          • How about a nice picture that includes the CO2 footprint for car and battery manufacturing in addition to fuel/electricity footprint?

            Look at all that dark stuff on the bottom. Look at California and EVs on the top.

      • Too much?

        The company that is almost single handedly causing a rapid move off petroleum and allowing us to get a huge part of our climate change problem under control?

        We should have a frigggin’ ticker tape parade down Main Street every day for Tesla.

        Do you have any clue how long it would have taken most car manufacturers to get serious about EVs had Tesla not rattled their cages?

        Does one not love the general who has led the fight to vanquish the enemy and save the city?

        • Do you have any ides how long it will be to reach the end of never?

        • Hard to see how some people don’t get this. Just crossed my mind yesterday, what would happen if Tesla did somehow now fail and crash? We know what would happen. The entire rest of the auto industry would slow its move to EVs, bring out less attractive electric products, and do more to try to stop the transition from happening — in private talks with policymakers, through advertising directives, in how they designed their EVs, etc.

          People who don’t get this, and think we’re all for Tesla because it creates quick and expensive cars, really need to spend a little more time reflecting.

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    • This article was a repost from the Tesla Mondo site, which despite a fevrant fanboy demeanor (apparently run by an investor in the company,) states on their “About” page a rather strong detachment from Tesla itself . . .

      If you actually talk to Tesla represenatives (I have) and to Elon Musk himself (many published interviews abound,) they don’t come off as arrogant or self-riightous in the sort of way that Tesla Mondo does.

      Yes, I would also like to see thoughtfully written articles about Tesla and other electric car companies that can be complimentary to technological innovations and even constructively critical of shortcomings. That’s just good journalism. Tesla Mondo, unfortunately, isn’t sophisticated enough to ever do that. I hope Zach chooses sources other than that one when reposting timely Tesla info. Clean Technica deserves better.

      • Tbh, I didn’t get the article at all.. sounds to me like something written together under the influence of drugs.

  • VW should take their dirty TDIs back and give owners their upcoming EVs as compensation and apology to customers that paid a premium for a vehicle that can be considered to have a latent defect and that can rightfully be seen as a slow and silent killer to customer’s family and neighbors. Anything less than buying back all the TDIs or giving customers an equivalent EV when they release one will surely be met by most as a sign that they do not give a shit about their core clients.

    • I think your premise that TDI buyers want electric cars is wrong. And what is an “equivalent EV”? Same range?

      • Whatever, the car should be bought back… the money can be spent on anything else. It’s clear that VW will never exchange a TDI for an EV because the EV would cost more than the TDI… I just wanted to go for an extreme example of what VW should do to win back customer trust. But you knew that, you just wanted to stir the shit a little right?

        • Nope.

      • TDI buyers clearly love their diesels. That puts the ball in VWs court to give them what they were promised.

  • Fun but overblown. VW had a perfectly decent BEV, the e-Golf, already on the market. The news is the shift in priorities, and that is mostly dieselgate rather than Tesla. They no longer have a choice. Proof: GM and Ford are making no similar switch. Yet.

    • What switch? You mean shift? Nissan, BMW, Volvo and Mitsubishi did not switch either. They pivoted…

    • The shift in priorities by VW, the largest auto manufacturer by revenue in 2014, came before dieselgate if you remember. Tesla was a big part of that because VW is German and Germans have a certain mindset – competition when it comes to technology. (For proof, I offer the original blitzkrieg and, as a more benign example, the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world.)

      But the biggest part is just plain old math and physics. If you don’t have a relevant degree like I do, be sure to check author references of layman articles so you don’t get fooled.

      • As a former German resident I am unhappy with VW’s action on diesel since 2009, I thought them to be a bit smarter than that. But since almost all diesel have the same problem 195 out of 200 tested failed only 5 had the same test results in labs as real life, maybe they were not leaders in that ‘section’ (dishonesty).
        As I stated before, if this will speed the transition to full EV’s so much the better! ( we need that for our planet and all of us living on it)

        • You just can not make people buy EVs while they are too expensive. No matter how bad you are gonna make VW suffer they are not going to produce EVs they can not sell, end of story

          • Agreed, no auto manufacturer can make people buy EVs. However, I do believe VW has the money and capability to make affordable, desirable EVs. VW hasn’t taken the necessary actions to manufacture such a vehicle.

          • VW had the money. ;o)

            I wonder if VW is going to launch itself heavily into EVs, partly to rebuild its reputation, or will it retrench while the courts give it the beating it deserves.

          • ” beating it deserves”. ?
            Bit harsh Bob? considering that ford and GM only got their knuckles rapped for hiding design faults that they knew were killing people?

          • I’m not up to speed on what other car companies have been charged for their bad behavior. I have no idea how much this will cost VW. But VW has a lot of bad press ahead as all this works through the legal system.

          • Google ford Pinto fuel tanks and GM ignition switch, both instances where the companies knew that they were directly responsible for people dying in a horrific manner as opposed to VWs fiddling emissions targets, also,the US hammering BP while in comparison lightly slapping the wrist of Exxon after the Valdez spillage.
            Off topic I know but as we move forward into, hopefully, a rapid decarbonisation of our transport systems it’s important that companies can be assured of a level legal field.

          • VW makes EVs.

          • End of the story.

            Picking up Volume 2 in the series.

            Chapter 1. Page 1. Tesla’s Gigafactory opens, producing $130/kWh cells. LG Chem begins selling cells to GM for $145/kWh. The next generation of EVs hits the streets. 200 solid miles for about $35,000. About $3k more that the average new car cost in the US.

            Chapter 2. Page 1. High volume sales of 200 mile range EVs at $35k brings about economies of scale, cell prices drop to $100/kWh and EVs start selling for less than same-model ICEVs.

            Chapter 3. Page 1. ICEVs are seen only in antique car shows and museums.

          • Beautiful scenario. May it truly come to pass

          • I’ll add that we’re already living in Chapter 0.5 (the preface of the book?) . . .

            Already one million OEM EVs on roads all over the world as of September 2015. Early adopters began leasing these cars as early as 2011 and those are starting to come back to dealerships, being sold at very reasonable prices right now.

            I know several who are very happy with their low mileage used Leafs that they recently picked up for between $11K and $14K, depending on vintage and trim level. I’m currently negotiating with a dealer on a very clean 2012 i-MiEV with less than 20K miles on it that’s advertised for $7K.

            Most cars are purchased used and this will be the case for EVs as well. 2015 will go down in history as the first year of the affordable used EV. The next wave of early adopters will be going for affordable 200 mile range EVs in a couple of years and those will also be available as used a few years after that. But if the high range per charge feature is of secondary importance, the low priced used city commuter EV is already here today.

          • I am hoping to be one of those used EV purchasers in a few years… or maybe I will just buy new if the 3rd Gen Tesla is as good as advertised 🙂

          • There will likely be several long winded boring chapters squeezed between your “main” chapters but still a good read :). This switch is going to take a long time but at least we are well underway!

          • I heard something on the radio yesterday about the US going from no gas stations to be well-supplied in 30 years. If you go back and look at street pictures you’ll see no cars to essentially no horses happening in 30 years.

            I expect most of the ICEV to EV switch to happen quicker than that. I can see that by 20 years after the introduction of the ~$35k, 200 mile EV that most people still driving ICEVs will be driving their last ICEV.

          • I clicked on Tesla’s supercharger map yesterday and had the destination chargers on the same map. Covered the country in 3 years;

            – without including the other car makers, thousands of independent chargers, and hundreds of thousands of charge spots in owners garages and driveways.

          • I spoke to a neighbour about this earlier in the year. He moved into our street in 1967. It has approx 35 houses either side so lets say 70 total. When he moved in he had the first car on the street (and all the house were lived in) Almost 50 years later (and i’ve just been to count) there are 56 cars. Interestingly not every house has a car!

          • Where in 1967? I was probably on my third car, maybe fourth, by then.

          • UK, Warwickshire. When i see him I’ll ask him what car it was.

          • Ah, some place with public transportation. We had zero local public transportation. School buses for the young ones, after that you got a car.

      • They didn’t shift.. they were merely delivering some glacier slow transition to HFCVs.
        German car makers – all of them – were aiming for the same bullocks Toyota still hangs onto.. Hydrogen.
        The last 20 years they had been pampered by the state with grants and help to bring that rent-continuing-scheme to market and didn’t deliver.
        FCEVs naturally bring the EV part with them.. so no wonder they can ditch out an eGolf.. just drop the FC part and increase the battery.. eGolf.

        And if you want a piece of the current mindset of german Joe Average and how they are brainwashed hop over to any of the EV pieces by the German media and read the comments section.

    • Agreed. Just one knit “the e-Golf, already on the market.”

      What States are the VW e-Golf is available in? … it’s a compliance car. 🙁

      • And very important question: Does VW earn money with an e-Golf?

        • My response to this can easily become an entire article. IMO – Without going in depth to define what profit and loss are (most would think these are straight forward definition but that’s not the case), the short answer is … if VW is actually losing money on their compliance car VW e-Gold it’s their own fault. There’s no reason why they cannot make a profit on EVs.

  • Sucking up much? It may be hip but you can’t go far enough without a lengthy recharge. Hybrid makes more sense.

    • No. You’re not getting it. We are transitioning to an EV world. Soon, you will understand. Just keep watching.

    • How far do you need to go? With a Tesla S you can drive over 500 miles as long as you charge while you eat lunch and then during a modest break/pee in the afternoon.

      And you know what? You won’t even be charged for most of the electricity you use. You will have to buy gas for your hybrid….

    • Overlooking your derogatory statement, I believe your opinion is shared by a large population. Hybrid technology, while still priced high, is a mature technology. BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) are on their 1st or 2nd generation and very young in their development. With that said, most of us are aware of the 2017/2018 cars coming to market and believe the next generation of BEVs will “make more sense” to a larger section of the population.

  • Non-story have nothing to do with the head line. Head shake.

  • Its easy to cry “EVs!!” when your primary customers are rich hipsters in California. Volkswagen customers don’t buy $130k SUVs which take forever to charge, so Volkswagen has to keep producing those “dirty” diesel/gasoline vehicles and hybrids. EV adoption is driven by battery technology and charging infrastructure (for all vehicles!) and not by “heros” like Musk. So EVs will come, but it will take time. All this hype around individual CEOs is just the epitome of stupidity.

    • Yes, it takes so little to make EVs competitive – rich customers and hefty subsidies

      • Those Tesla guys are pretty smart, eh?

        They figured out how to build a successful company.

        • Pablo Escobar was pretty smart too, eh? Scince he had a successful buisness.

          • Do you wish to be taken seriously. Or are you just going to play the mediocre comic role?

          • I just imply that finding a way to suck subsidies is questionably successful and smart. The real success would be to do it without subsidies and rich people and that is what they have not been able to do so far.

          • Normally I would agree with you, I’m against government help to companies. But here, it’s for a good cause, we should have moved on from gas cars a long while ago. Someone needed to come along and show the world that we can get rid of fossil fuel dependence and not just for transportation.
            Unfortunately, unless you’re Apple, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffet or Ingvar Kamprad it’s very difficult to start a mass production car company with a disruptive technology. You need to make huge investments so a few years down
            the line you can increase production volume, benefit from economies of scale and become competitive.

          • Huh?
            Since when is success measured by who you sell your product to and for how much?
            Are you retarded?

            And Tesla paid the subsidies back in full. And they don’t prey on the poor nor use puppies for making their motors?
            What more do you morale apostle want?

          • Let the fossil fuel and nuclear power companies know, “finding a way to suck subsidies is questionably successful and smart. The real success would be to do it without subsidies and rich people and that is what they have not been able to do so far.” I am sure this information will motivate them to try harder.

          • How long will you continue to ignore Tesla’s game plan?

          • To be fair tesla would still sell every car they make without the 7500 tax credit.

            And the complaint about subsidies is ridiculous when all of their competitors have the same subsides. Its not like the government decided to pick tesla and give them loads of cash. They are successful in the free market.

          • Oy! That’s my job 😉

          • I think he’s from heartland institute or exxon or some criminal organisation like that.

  • I agree that Tesla en Elon have played a pivotal role and I’d love to own a Model S 90D. However, as others have said, you lose credibility by insinuating that Tesla is the only manufacturer that will succeed. Some car makers like the fiat have no vision but others have shown keen interest and compelling prototypes that may succeed in the next few years. Don’t forget that Porsche was one of the first more than 100 years ago to produce an AWD electric car. American big auto decided that they’d make more $$$ selling gasmobiles and that’s how electric cars were forgotten. Otherwise imagine if they had stayed with electric, what would cars look like today if they’d stayed electric early 20th century?

    • They could not stay electric. Even today with gigantic power generation and distribution capacities and electronics to help balance and distribute power there is a concern sometimes whether this network could manage a huge fleet of EVs. Imagine an electric network century ago.

      • I think it would have been possible. If there was more money to be made selling electricity, they would have expanded capacity further. Today, I’d say it’s a no brainer. A solar powered supercharger produces more energy than all the cars it feeds during the year. Now, at least in my region, they’re talking about over-production and thus market prices have dropped significantly since renewables are growing.

        • Expended capacity further with what? There were not any nucler, PV, wind. There would have been millions huge coal powered plants and not even as efficient as today ones.

          • Hydro and nuclear are older than you think. Where I live, we never had any coal for electricity. Plus EVs on coal are still cleaner than all those combustion vehicles on the road.

          • Actually EVs on 100% coal are not cleaner than ICEVs. Coal needs to be down around 70% for EVs to be cleaner.

          • Even if less clean most coal plants are not in the center of major urban areas like the ICEs. Not sure the point is even worth discussing with impending reduction in coal in the US. I was going to stick this one out 🙂

          • Cleaner, in the way I was using it, refers to CO2 emissions.

          • I’m skeptical that the reports showing those results are really taking in all of the inputs for gasoline. In any case the reports that show ICEs as cleaner on 100% coal which I have read, have shown it only happens in comparison with a Prius as the ICE!

      • Imagine everybody adapting dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, computers, power tools, electric lightning…oh wait.

      • Hm.. is out-of-home-day in brain-dead-land?

        Rules for posting here:
        1) think
        2) think harder
        3) think some more
        4) you may post now

        You skipped at 1, 2 and 3.

        • Copy-paste it another couple of times you moron, maybe you’ll learn it yourself

          • I retracted my original post before you even finished tipping your comment

            And my premature comment was jumping the gun on this part of your statement, which is mostly based on the balh-blah-blah by current incumbent don’t-change-my-nicely-running-rent-earning-system-blokes:
            “Even today with gigantic power generation and distribution capacities and electronics to help balance and distribute power there is a concern sometimes whether this network could manage a huge fleet of EVs”
            So, don’t get your self too high up on that horse there.

          • Name-calling is not permitted.

      • There are no grid issues.

      • Imagine? The grid has expanded to meet growing demand needs for the past 133 years. “there is a concern sometimes…”

        Imagine – a grid with reduced needs to pump billions of gallons into customer tanks, or refine billions of gallons of gasoline, or pump millions of gallons of gas through pipelines to refineries. Billions of kWh of electricity freed up for any imagined new demand. Though with hundreds of thousands of EVs now on the roads, demand is down from the peak prior to the great recession. Imagine that!

  • That’s a great graph. It would be nice to see it updated from time to time. As grids clean the EV and PHEV bars will shorten.

    Would really like to see a version for US states.

    Like the inclusion of CO2 for car and battery manufacturing.

  • What would be great now is a return to Tesla’s first project-except take a cheap fun sporty car and put electric power in it.

    The sedan is great but just too expensive for me-what about giving a high mileage car like a used Miata a second lease on life with batteries and reconditioning-the Lotus Elise idea but cheaper.

    Let blue collar types have electric fun as well.

    also to truly takeover Tesla needs an electric pickup-the high torque of electric motors should make this viable-that would be awesome.

    • Got to use the power of selling more expensive EVs to drive up battery production levels in order to drive battery prices down.

      About five years from now it should be able to build a EV “Miata” for less than the gas version. I’m seeing some company building EV skateboards the size of a Miata and selling them on to people who want to build sports cars or small commuting cars on top of them. Even specialty vehicles like pizza and parts delivery trucks. Mass produce the skateboards and get the price low.

  • also-enough with the bs already-electric cars use energy more efficently, even if that energy comes from a coal fired plant-this argument is so bogus.

    And of course you can just put solar panels your garage, but even fossil fuel power is more efficient with electric cars-because transporting gasoline to gas stations takes signifigant energy while sending electricity down power lines doesn’t.

    Enough with the nonsense-also electric cars can possibly send power to the grid making backup power uneccessary-the most expensive type of power-saving everyone money-game over.

  • Wow, great graph! Thank you!!!

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