Tesla Motors Beats "Range Anxiety"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Electric cars are, as I have noted in the past, a ridiculous idea because they are impractical as transportation and they fail to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, anyway. (The latter sets aside the whole question of whether human activity causes global warming, if that is happening at all. And that is not to mention whether global warming would be a problem and, if so, whether it ought to be addressed by the government.) That is, electric cars fail to provide adequate transport, as evidenced by the popular phrase, "range anxiety", and they fail to achieve their alleged purpose of reducing the need to burn fossil fuels.

But Tesla Motors, makers of the first electric roadster, recipients of $465 million in government loans, and beneficiaries of government "incentives" to car buyers for purchasing electric cars may well have licked "range anxiety":

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.
The article goes on to note that the wheels of these "bricked" cars cannot be electronically unlocked (for "tow mode"), so transporting these "bricks" to the shop is an expensive hassle on its own, and that the $40,000 is a special "friends and family" price for the battery replacement. Tesla Motors has, furthermore, been less-than-forthcoming about the underlying problem, yet sneakily tracking car locations and charge levels of owners' cars before calling them to warn against battery depletion -- and even, in at least one case, dispatching staff to plug in a car.

Since the government is picking my pocket -- just for starters -- to make this absurd story even possible, I feel no qualms about openly mocking the government, its automotive lapdog, and the AGW alarmists who are customers of Tesla Motors: At least the government seems to have found a solution to the whole problem of "range anxiety" for owners of electric cars.

-- CAV


Today: Writing at The Clean Energy Blog, Sam Jaffe calls the above story into question:
Here's the primary fact that the blogger in question doesn't understand: the Tesla battery pack is not a battery. It's a collection of more than 8,000 individual batteries. Each of those cells is independently managed. So there's only two ways for the entire battery pack to fail. The first is if all 8,000 cells individually fail (highly unlikely except in the case of something catastrophic like a fire). The second failure mechanism is if the battery management system tells the pack to shut down because it has detected a dangerous situation, such as an extremely low depth of discharge. If that's the case, all that needs to be done is to tow the vehicle to a charger, recharge the batteries and then reboot the battery management system. This is the most likely explanation for the five "bricks" that the blogger claims to have heard about. They probably aren't actually bricks, but cars in need of servicing.
This sounds quite plausible to me. The electric car is, nevertheless, a bad idea for the reasons I have already elaborated upon in the past.


Jennifer Snow said...

Good grief if the battery costs 40k how much does the CAR cost?!

Gus Van Horn said...

True. And even without the update since your last comment, I wonder whether the high cost is an attempt to cash in on the maxim that a fool and his money are easily parted.

AC said...

GVH, this post is uncharacteristically off-base IMHO.

First, it is *very* unlikely that AGW alarmists are customers of Tesla motors. I happen to be good friends of one of Tesla's customers. He actually bought two roadsters recently, to the tune of about $350,000, after he sold his second start-up business. Let's put it this way; those who have lined up to buy Tesla's roadster are not looking to save the environment, they're looking for 0 - 60 in 3 seconds.

Second, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla motors and SpaceX, is a man supremely adept at turning his vision into reality including the vision of designing and building high dollar, high performance electric vehicles in the belief that other highly successful people like himself would line up to buy it *regardless* of government assistance.

Third, well, just read this article: http://www.airspacemag.com/space-exploration/Visionary-Launchers-Employees.html

Bottom line, regardless of how you feel about electric cars, Tesla motors and, in particular, Elon Musk, have earned admiration, not scorn.

Gus Van Horn said...


I can certainly see technophiles who aren't AGW alarmists being interested in these cars and, given that many AGW alarmists are basically Luddites, you have a good point.

On the other hand, many technophiles ARE AGW alarmists and "compartmentalize" the implications of their beliefs from their love of cars, not to mention what having many more electric cars would mean for our infrastructure. (See my earlier posts.) Furthermore, the fact is that the company IS the beneficiary of perverse incentives caused by AGW-influenced central planning.

In case you come here from OO.net (which re-blogged an earlier version of this post), please do note the PS. This post was based on my too easily accepting what turned out to be bad information.