There’s been a bit of discussion, though not really very much, about Obama’s new CAFE standards that mandate average fleet fuel economy at 54.5 mpg by 2025. That’s not that far away. And as noted, the leftist watermelon environmentalists are very fond of making up mandates that simply cannot be met – such as requiring fuel companies to use a fuel that doesn’t exist. The objective it to get rid of cars they don’t like by making their production nearly impossible or illegal, citizen demand be damned. But the most interesting car issue has been about a newer car idea from government.
In the last week or so, there’s been a kerfuffle in the car communit about the Tesla S sedan. To put this out there before we even get started, Tesla is effectively a government project. They got a loan to the tune of $465 million from you, the taxpayer. Tesla is a government sponsored “good idea”. Electric cars are expensive (the roadster runs about $109K), so the proletariat has to ride mass transit, and the Tesla is eco-friendly and expensive, so the limousine liberal set can pat themselves on the back for being “green”. The poor are shoved into government control, the rich are allowed to feel enlightened. South African billionaire Elon Musk spent almost a half-million dollars lobbying for his half-billion dollars in taxpayer handouts, all so he could design a car for those who tell you how to live to get them to and from their bureaucratic offices.
Back on Feb 8, the NYT, which has a harsh leftist bias to the point that they aid Al Qaeda by showing where US body armor is weak, and is all about fighting Manbearpig, decided to have one of their reporters test the claim that the $101,000 Tesla S sedan could be driven like a normal car.
WASHINGTON — Having established a fast-charging foothold in California for its electric cars, Tesla Motors has brought its formula east, opening two ultrafast charging stations in December that would, in theory, allow a speedy electric-car road trip between here and Boston.
But as I discovered on a recent test drive of the company’s high-performance Model S sedan, theory can be trumped by reality, especially when Northeast temperatures plunge.
It’s an interesting story of what happens when an enlightened “good idea” meets the real world:
Setting out on a sunny 30-degree day two weeks ago, my trip started well enough. A Tesla agent brought the car to me in suburban Washington with a full charge, and driving at normal highway speeds I reached the Delaware charging dock with the battery still having roughly half its energy remaining. I went off for lunch at the service plaza, checking occasionally on the car’s progress. After 49 minutes, the display read “charge complete,” and the estimated available driving distance was 242 miles.
Fat city; no attendant and no cost.
Except that $465,000,000 taken out of the taxpayer’s pocket. And the fact that the car runs on coal.
But he went on:
As I crossed into New Jersey some 15 miles later, I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating. At 68 miles since recharging, the range had dropped by 85 miles, and a little mental math told me that reaching Milford would be a stretch.
Simply put, the cold weather, along with other factors, reduced the battery life. He started calling Tesla and they told him to shut off the heater. And they told him do do “regenerative braking“, which will conserve energy, but won’t actually recharge batteries. You can’t burn energy to go forward and then stop and get all that energy back by stopping, because energy was expended in moving from one place to another. Tesla’s engineers apparently think that the laws of thermodynamics don’t apply to them just because they’re friends with Obama and he can tell Eric Holder not to prosecute.
The NYT reporter quoted Obama’s leftist watermelon environmentalist who wants $8/gallon gas Energy Secretary Steven Chu:
At the Washington Auto Show last month, Dr. Chu, who has since announced his plan to leave office in the next few weeks, discussed the Energy Department’s goal of making electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids as cheap and convenient as comparable gasoline-powered cars.
He continued: “We can’t say this everywhere in America yet, but driving by a gasoline station and smiling is something everyone should experience.”
Chu’s decided what you should experience, what’s good for you, and he will make you drive an electric car by killing the gas car. I could dissect the leftist tyrannical knows-what’s-best-for-you mindset of Steven Chu, but I’ll move on to a simple fact of why people won’t be smiling as they look at gas stations. From the NYT:
I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.
Instead, I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons from the hitching post. When I continued my drive, the display read 185 miles, well beyond the distance I intended to cover before returning to the station the next morning for a recharge and returning to Manhattan.
To get 185 miles of range in a mostly fuel-inefficient (but powerful) Ford F250 that could pull a Tesla S on a trailer, I can pull into a gas station and get those 185 miles of range in about four minutes, unless it’s a very slow pump. Then I’ll be back on the road. To get that 185 miles of range in a Ford Focus, you need maybe two minutes, because that’s only about 6 gallons of gas. You also don’t need to turn off your heater when you’re driving, and don’t lose huge amounts of mileage in the cold.
And then, for the NYT reporter, things got worse. He stopped overnight and a charge of 90 miles dropped to about 25, short of what he needed for the last leg of the two-day trip.
…“Car is shutting down,” the computer informed me. I was able to coast down an exit ramp in Branford, Conn., before the car made good on its threat.
Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, found a towing service in Milford that sent a skilled and very patient driver, Rick Ibsen, to rescue me with a flatbed truck. Not so quick: the car’s electrically actuated parking brake would not release without battery power, and hooking the car’s 12-volt charging post behind the front grille to the tow truck’s portable charger would not release the brake. So he had to drag it onto the flatbed, a painstaking process that took 45 minutes. Fortunately, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.
At 2:40 p.m., we pulled into the Milford rest stop, five hours after I had left Groton on a trip that should have taken less than an hour. Mr. Ibsen carefully maneuvered the flatbed close to the charging kiosk, and 25 minutes later, with the battery sufficiently charged to release the parking brake and drive off the truck, the car was back on the ground. A Model S owner who had taken delivery the previous day watched with interest.
Tesla’s chief technology officer, J B Straubel, acknowledged that the two East Coast charging stations were at the mileage limit of the Model S’s real-world range. Making matters worse, cold weather inflicts about a 10 percent range penalty, he said, and running the heater draws yet more energy. He added that some range-related software problems still needed to be sorted out.
You can’t drive it like a normal car. It doesn’t work. You can’t use it for road trips, and the “super recharge” stations run on coal, and take an hour to charge. When the batteries get cold, you lose power, when you lose power, the car shuts down.
But we spent $465,000,000 on a “good idea”.
The South African billionaire needed $465,000,000 of your money to make a car that doesn’t work and build infrastructure for an idea that as far as cars go, was cutting edge in 1884 but abandoned back in the early 20th century. The South African billionaire then went on to rant about how the NYT was out to get him.
Of course, as Jalopnik noted, third parties shot that paranoid criticism down. And the NYT reporter wrote not just one, but two responses of his own.
Virtually everyone says that I should have plugged in the car overnight in Connecticut, particularly given the cold temperature. But the test that Tesla offered was of the Supercharger, not of the Model S, which we already know is a much-praised car. This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it. Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop.
Knowing then what I know now about the car, its sensitivity to cold and additional ways to maximize range, I certainly would have treated the test differently. But the conclusion might not have been any better for Tesla.
It wouldn’t have been. The thing is, it’s not a normal use car. It’s a niche car for people who want to out-smug Prius owners, and have $100K to do it with.
Some CNN Money reporters went on to repeat the distance of the drive from DC to Boston, but not the duration of the drive. They made the drive successfully, but as they note:
There were some differences with my ride and the one from the New York Times. The weather for mine was about 10 degrees warmer. And I did mine in one day; the reviewer from the Times split it into two.
The NYT reporter stopped overnight and his Tesla’s battery died in the cold. He didn’t plug it in because he wanted to drive it as a “normal use” car, which it clearly isn’t.
Some of the advice given to the NYT reporter sounds like Tesla is trying to apply Keynesian economics to cars:
It was also Tesla that told me that an hour of charging (at a lower power level) at a public utility in Norwich, Conn., would give me adequate range to reach the Supercharger 61 miles away, even though the car’s range estimator read 32 miles – because, again, I was told that moderate-speed driving would “restore” the battery power lost overnight. That also proved overly optimistic, as I ran out of power about 14 miles shy of the Milford Supercharger and about five miles from the public charging station in East Haven that I was trying to reach.
If you spend some power to run the car and “prime the pump”, the car will magically keep running!
Those people are so foolish they don’t understand that power has to come from somewhere. It would be like calling Surefire and having them tell you that you can make your flashlight brighter by turning it on for a while, because the batteries don’t run down when used, they’re charged by being used. You’d be wondering if the guy is an idiot, or if he’s just an asshole on his last day.
It doesn’t work that way with flashlights, or cars. Doesn’t work that way with government spending or government cars, though some governments and their car companies think it does. They think wrong.
In addition to the $465,000,000 in taxpayer money for a car that can’t drive 200 miles over two days without spending hours of downtime being plugged into a coal mine, there’s also the fact that if you leave them parked, they might never start again:
One owner, Max Drucker, provided Wired.com with an email he sent to Telsa Motors CEO Elon Musk saying his battery was rendered “dead and unrecoverable” after he left the unplugged car in storage for six weeks.
“I had no idea I could be putting my car at risk,” Drucker told Wired.com by phone. “This was an accident. I didn’t know.”
Drucker, first identified by Green Car Reports, took delivery of Roadster No. 340 in May 2009, more than a year after placing a $50,000 deposit for the vehicle. He said he has driven the car 13,000 miles and followed Tesla’s service guidelines. He moved into a rental house while his home was being renovated and parked his Roadster in the garage, leaving it with a 25 percent state of charge. He didn’t touch it for six weeks and found it dead when he attempted to start it earlier this month.
“It wouldn’t do anything,” he said. “It wouldn’t even unlock. It took four guys two hours to get the car out of my garage and onto a flatbed truck. The car wouldn’t even roll.”
He sent the car to the Tesla store in Los Angeles. Three days later, Drucker said, Tesla told him the battery must be replaced at a cost of $32,000 plus tax and labor. He said Tesla told him the warranty will not cover the repair, and his car remains at the Tesla store.
Sounds like a government car.
The government spent $465,000,000 of your money giving it to a South African billionaire to develop a car that costs $100,000 that as a brand new car that runs on coal and can’t go from Boston to DC without special treatment and constantly talking to the manufacturer.
Top Gear reviewed the car and both liked it and found it horribly impractical because it takes forever to charge and it runs out of battery life. So naturally, Tesla sued them. And Top Gear won the suit.
“But as a device for moving you and your things around, it is about as much use as a bag of muddy spinach.”
– Jeremy Clarkson on the Tesla Roadster
The Tesla is a government-sanctioned program, forcibly funded by taxpayers (remember at April 15th that you’ve paid for these bags of muddy spinach), with that $465,000,000 given to a South African billionaire so he can have funds to sue anyone who questions the holiness of the car that will stop Manbearpig.
If it was his own car company, then it would be a simple indictment of electric cars as technological throwbacks due to their massive limitations, no matter if they do have good 0-60 times. But as is, it’s another reminder not only of Milton Friedman’s statement that no one spends money as carefully as the person to whom it belongs; but it’s also an indicator of what government mandates amount to when they meet the real world – fanciful ideas, but nothing that works.