“Tesla Fanboyism” vs “EV Realism”

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EV realists get called “Tesla haters.” EV realists get called “Tesla fanboys.” These unwarranted and misinformed attacks should really stop.

You are unlikely to find many people more enthusiastic than me about the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, or electric cars in general. Heck, I actually get paid to talk about the broad benefits of electric cars in places ranging from Mumbai (India) to Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Cocoa (Florida) to Vancouver (Canada). And I actually helped my mom to get a LEAF and think the i3 is the best city car out there — the car currently on the market that I’d most like to use for regular transport around the city. Yet, I have many times been “slammed” as a Tesla fanboy, Big Auto hater, etc.

In a bit of a humorous turn, I have also had commenters claim I’m a Tesla hater with a biased agenda who doesn’t “get it” (some people might be inclined to slam me for this just based on my opening comments above). That’s despite being a long-term Tesla (TSLA) investor, despite starting a company that utilizes Tesla cars, and despite having two reservations down for Tesla Model 3s.

Obviously, there’s a bit of a disconnect here. Either that or my “EV understanding” flops around like a pancake in the skillet and I’m just a huge tool.

To put all of this in other terms, I find there’s a constant tightrope walk that EV experts have to walk, and it’s almost guaranteed anyone who covers EVs for a living is going to end up with plenty of bruises from both sides no matter what … by Thursday of each week. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I know many of our writers have faced the same contradictory criticisms, as have frequent commenters here on CleanTechnica.

I think the following two points — which live in the same universe and are not mutually exclusive — form the basic issue and the source of confusion/misplaced criticism:

1) There are strong and powerful benefits to electric cars of all types, so it can be highly counterproductive, misleading, disappointing, and misinformed to disparage non-Tesla electric cars. Non-Tesla electric car drivers understand this and can be particularly annoyed by excessive Tesla favoritism and non-Tesla bashing. Other Olympic runners may not compete with Usain Bolt, but an Olympic runner is still a pretty amazing athlete and shouldn’t be ridiculed as a crappy runner or as someone unworthy of certain honors and respect.

A LEAF is a great car. An i3 is a great car. A Volt is a great car. A Bolt is a great car. Some people think that if you claim such things, you are a Tesla hater and don’t understand that Tesla is leading the EV market in numerous ways. Come on — let’s not go there. There are plenty of good reasons to buy these other EV models, and doing so or believing that doesn’t mean you are biased against Tesla. In fact, plenty of these other EV drivers also have a Tesla, have invested in Tesla, and appreciate what Tesla is doing.

2) However, it’s also clear that Tesla is indeed ahead on several key fronts. When it comes to battery costs, battery production capacity, Supercharging, performance (especially acceleration), navigation tech, over-the-air software updates, and even the sales experience, Tesla has a strong lead. These are matters that are typically very important to consumers — if not all of these factors, at least one or a few of them. As such, these are repeatedly presented as advantages Tesla and its cars have over other companies and their cars — whether from a consumer, investment, or market analysis point of view. These are some of the core reasons the Model 3 received such a record-shattering number of reservations right from the start.

Recognizing these Tesla advantages doesn’t make you a Nissan or LEAF hater, a GM or Bolt or Volt hater, a BMW or i3 hater, etc. Recognizing these advantages doesn’t make you a blind and thoughtless follower of some 21st century tech cult. Just recognizing and discussing these advantages shouldn’t lead to attacks on your objectivity or intentions.

A LEAF is a great car. An i3 is a great car. A Volt is a great car. A Bolt is a great car. I have never claimed otherwise, and can’t imagine I ever would, but some people take comments about Tesla’s advantages as an attack on these models (and other EVs). Some people take criticism of Big Auto approaches to EVs as biased claims against these companies and their EV models. And some people think that if you say anything critical about non-Tesla EVs, you are an out-of-touch Tesla fanboy. Not so (at least, not always). Let’s please not jump to unhealthy assumptions.

The point of #2 is not to write off #1 as unimportant … but many people read it that way.

The point of #1 is not to ignore Tesla’s various advantages … but many people read it that way.

My plea (or something like that) is that 1) Tesla enthusiasts broaden their view enough to realize that other electric cars rock too, and 2) anyone who isn’t a Tesla enthusiast for one reason or another at least accept that there are several things Tesla brings to the table in an unmatched way that explain why there are so many Tesla enthusiasts and Model 3 reservation holders. If everyone starts with those two base points, I think a lot of pointless arguments could be avoided.

Of course, this article is unlikely to move the needle very far in the grand scheme of things, but I think it could at least be an “EV fundamentals” resource that I (and you?) can use to succinctly respond to incorrect presumptions and criticisms limited in context or scope. Next time someone incorrectly criticizes you as being a Tesla hater, you can tell them, “No, I agree with the points made here: https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/12/tesla-fanboyism-vs-ev-realism/” (or something like that). Next time someone incorrectly criticizes you as being a Tesla fanboy, you can say the same.

Yes, you can love Tesla and respect it greatly while still loving other electric cars (natch). Yes, you can love other electric cars (and even own them) while considering Tesla to be king of the mountain. Yes, you can say that other automakers have good EVs without diminishing Tesla’s leadership. Yes, you can praise Tesla’s leadership without claiming that all the other electric offerings on the market are not smart buys for thousands or millions of consumers.

Just sayin’.

Don’t be a hater.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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