What Do Electric Cars and Bricks Have in Common?

By Proof

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Bricks maneuver better without a battery!

In driving, there's a maxim about driving at night: You should never overdrive your headlights. That means you shouldn't drive faster than you can see to stop. The supposedly well intentioned advocates of electric car technology are overdriving their headlights.

Tesla Motors' lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a "brick": a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery. Unlike practically every other modern car problem, neither Tesla's warranty nor typical car insurance policies provide any protection from this major financial loss.

Teslas start at about $49,000. Granted, it is a vehicle more likely to be purchased by the well-to-do. But, imagine the joy of anyone coming back from a vacation or business trip, and discovering that they had forgotten to plug the car in, or someone accidentally unplugged the cord, or a breaker tripped and their $50 to $100K sports car now needs a $40,000 battery and a tow truck or it will never move again. (Unless, maybe up on cinderblocks, in an upscale version of Rio Linda?) And good luck finding one in stock at the local Sears or Pep Boys! Figure on it being in the shop for a while.

This is technology not yet ready for prime time. Some electric cars are little more than street legal golf carts. Others, like the Teslas, are poised to become lawn sculptures. When the technology is ready, people will buy more and more of them, and that will make them cheaper to mass produce. (Think big screen TVs.) But, in the meantime, are government subsidies of overpriced electric cars the wisest use of our limited resources? I sincerely doubt it.

Cross posted at Proof Positive

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  1. Left out of the summary, but also interesting, is the fact that they now have a built-in OnStar-type monitoring feature which communicates with Tesla's systems over the GSM network. Using this, Tesla can get telemetry information, vehicle location, and potentially other information, and the system is not particularly openly disclosed to customers (or removable, and presumably deactivation is not possible).

    It's an interesting "solution" to customer dissatisfaction over a perceived design flaw which damaged their reputation about being forthcoming with disclosure: add a hidden monitoring and tracking system. Curious...

    1. You'd think they could design the monitoring system to track location only when the battery is critically low.

    2. Nick: It sounded to me like the GPS tracking was out of desperation. I don't think they really care where you are so much as to see whether or not you're moving every 24 hours. It won't take very many $40,000 replacement batteries to give them a "bad rap".

  2. I wish electric cars were popular and affordable...then we all make money selling "coal powered" bumper stickers!

    1. Give us an electric car that will travel at freeway speeds, for hundreds of miles, in all weather, with the A/C or heater going, that's economic and doesn't take all night to recharge (or turn into a brick), and I'd consider buying one. That's a lot of "ifs" though. It also relies on government do-gooders not wrecking the grid, and providing us with more, cheaper electric power. Not holding my breath.


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