Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Do Electric Cars and Bricks Have in Common?

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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 LCR, Say Anything.


  1. I like the overdriving the headlights analogy.

    These are nothing but self-righteous green status symbols, or as Papa Silverfiddle would say, expensive monuments to stupidity

    1. Papa 'fiddle sounds like a wise man. That's where you get it from!

  2. Can you tell me where my nearest dealer is?

    1. Odie: I'd drive you there, but I have this $50,000 brick blocking my driveway!


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