Saturday, December 29, 2012

Growing Demand For Tesla

A number of people are attempting to claim that although the Tesla Model S is an amazing vehicle that seems to be winning every possible automotive award and pleasing the majority of customers, demand is going to drop off and Tesla won't have an expanding market for the car.  Even when faced with the reality of an almost sold out 2013 production run and increasing reservations some people insist that once the early adopter consumers have had their orders filled interest in the vehicle will drop off.  One thing they fail to realize is that this car is a marketing juggernaut that is selling itself now that is being released into the wild in ever increasing numbers.  There is no simple data that can explain the phenomenon, but I keep running across the experiences of Model S owners that paint a clear picture.  These quotes are just a small sampling of what can be found at the Tesla Motors Club forums:

At NO TIME in my fifty years have I seen those with McLaren experience come together with Prius owners and agree on spending $50K to $100K on a car. That simply does not ever happen and yet it has happened. Dogs sleeping with cats. Soccer moms driving rocket ships.

 After having my S for 2 weeks, it blows the doors off of any car I've either owned or driven previously. Luxury, speed, smoothness, space, responsiveness. Nothing compares.

 Ultimately, the Model S made for an easy proposition to pay above my original price-point to essentially make no compromises. Cool tech, no gas, space, luxury, and performance. This was all before I actually drove one! Once I had an oppotunity to drive one it was a serious no-brainer for me.

FWIW - I have tried HARD to find another car that excites me as much as the model S and I just can't find one.

 I've been in Los Angeles for the past three days, where the presence of high-end ICE's is about as good as it gets. I drove by the Ferrari and Lamborghini showrooms a few times and on the road the number of BMWs and Audis is countless. As much as I love and admire these cars, I kept getting the sinking feeling that their breeds are are not long for this world. It might be like how forward-thinking people riding horses felt when the first Model T's appeared. They probably recognized that the old ways were going to die.

Sure, these cars will remain. But they will become oddities of a kind -- collectors items to be admired as the pinnacle of a day gone by. The Model S is the future, ICE's are the past.

 I've driven pretty high-powered, RWD, good handling stick shift cars for my entire adult life.

The Model S is unique blend of driver's car and practical sedan. Even leaving out the eco-friendly/high-efficiency aspect, this car has no equal.

I can get better handling in a Ferrari or Porsche. I can get equal throttle response in a supercar like a McLaren. I can get a comparably comfortable ride and comfortably carry 5 adults in many big luxury sedans. I can get the same amount of cargo room in SUV's and some big sedans/wagon.

To the best of my knowledge, the only place I can get all of that in one car is the Model S. Period. To get that, I'll gladly put up with the 265 mile range and the lack of some features. Especially because it's pretty clear that the electric drivetrain is what lets Tesla put all those features into the one car.

 I think what is interesting is that tesla has attracted new buyers to the luxury car market, people like me who have never even test drove a luxury car.

 Everyone is totally blown away that has never heard of Tesla!!!
I am constantly having drivers behind me at stop lights aiming phones at me (and occasionally in front of me hanging out of a window and facing backwards!)

 I was dropping off a friend at MIA today, and pulled up to the curbside at departures. The skycap looked at the car, seemed intrigued, and then peeked inside and nearly flipped out. He called over some other skycaps, and before I knew it the entire skycap staff was looking at the car, taking pictures and video. I fielded a lot of questions. One of the skycaps said, "I've seen every type of car possible at my curb, and this is the nicest one I've ever seen." I thanked him. He went on to say, "Man, I mean 50 Cent was here the other day and this is nicer than his car!" I said, "Seriously? I beat Fitty???" "Most definitely," he replied. A large woman who appeared to be the supervisor came over to see what the commotion was, and she looked inside too and was apparently pretty impressed. "Are you married?" she asked.

 The other day a guy made about 3 full revolutions around my S by changing lanes and speeding up and slowing down to get shots of me with his smartphone.

And on and on and on, this is just a small sample of the ownership experience.  Tesla owners describe something called "Tesla Time", where you must leave extra time when making trips to answer questions from an admiring and inquisitive public.  At this point there are around 3000 Tesla Model S sedans on the road, in the US and Canada.   What will be the likely outcome when there are thousands more of them on the road world wide?  Does this in any way seem like a shrinking market that will only be populated by early adopters?  Place your bets.  I have.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Better Place Gets Worse

The downward spiral continues for BP:

Following a difficult year, the departure of the founding CEO, and new fund raising efforts, electric car infrastructure company Better Place has been laying off hundreds of employees in Israel...


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Conservatives Should Support The EV Tax Credit

I often hear people say they don't want to support EV development and that the $7500 tax rebate offered for the purchase of an EV is taking "their" money.  In essence this is true since all government funding comes from the tax base that we all pay into.  For Tesla's 20,000 Model S vehicles they are projecting to produce next year this amounts to around 50 cents per US citizen, and is a drop in the bucket compared to other tax breaks that some individuals and companies get but others do not.
However I'd argue that the outrage is entirely misplaced for those conservative, and libertarian, individuals and does not fit with one of their basic philosophies.  Supposedly one of their large concerns is too much taxation and too much misuse of those funds by big government.  Following that logic any program which allows even some citizens to hold onto their tax money and get it out of the hands of government should be seen as a good thing.  Who knows how better to spend that money than the people who earned it?*
Another aspect of the rebate that seems to bother them, especially in the case of Tesla, is that the rebate mostly goes to the wealthy, which makes it even worse.  However, isn't that the basis of trickle down economics, and the supposed reason they oppose increasing taxation on the rich?  Allow them to keep more of their money and they will buy more stuff and create jobs with it, right?

In truth I suspect the anti EV rebate talking point is something they use without much thought in an attempt to support their inherent anti-EV bias.  It's not rational and does not even mesh with their own philosophies.  I will point out that there are some conservatives who do support EV's and do understand the benefits of the tax credit, unfortunately they seem to be under represented.

My own feelings on the topic are that I'm quite willing to see the EV tax credit go away, one second after all the other much larger tax loopholes are filled.  I'm waiting....

*Actually I'd argue against that concept since many people squander their cash with complete disregard for financial responsibility and the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces, but that's another topic.

Monday, November 12, 2012


The awards keep coming for the Tesla Model S:

The mere fact the Tesla Model S exists at all is a testament to innovation and entrepreneurship, the very qualities that once made the American automobile industry the largest, richest, and most powerful in the world. That the 11 judges unanimously voted the first vehicle designed from the wheels up by a fledgling automaker the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year should be cause for celebration. America can still make things. Great things.

 We weren't expecting much from the Tesla other than some interesting dinner conversation as we considered "real" candidates like the Subaru BRZ and the Porsche Boxster. In fact, the Tesla blew them, and us, away.
Of course, practically every new car claims to be revolutionary. But this one actually feels like it is, to the point that many of us were reaching outside the automotive lexicon to describe it. "It reminds me of the first time I used an iPhone," gasped associate web editor Ben Timmins.

 the Model S may not be a rocket to outer space, but it is the most significant automobile to land on our roads in many a moon.

I expect more to come.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

1000th Model S Body Produced

Saw this little update on the TMC forum and had to post it:

V proud of Tesla team for completing 1000th Model S body. More cars made this month than entire rest of year
1000 Model S Bodies

A nice milestone, especially in the face of the supplier issues Tesla has been struggling with.  Here's hoping the suppliers can get their shit together and help Tesla keep building their revolutionary Model S.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Hits Keep Coming For Better Place

The downward spiral continues as BP founder Shai Aggasi is tossed out and BP talks about major layoffs.
Following Shai Agassi's unexpected resignation last week as CEO of Better Place, officials of the electric car infrastructure company said Wednesday the firm could soon face layoffs of as many as half its workforce, thought to number 400 to 450 in Israel.
 Doesn't seem like such a great place.

Who could have predicted that a business model that does not build EV's, batteries, or generate and sell electricity, and makes the overall cost of owning an EV more expensive, might not be a good idea?  That would be me.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Quality Is Job One, At Tesla

Tesla's plan has always been to start out with low production volume, one car a day, to carefully check vehicle assembly and catch any issues early in the game before too many vehicles are delivered and it becomes more difficult to fix any problems.  This is exactly what they have been doing.  Apparently there were some problems with the quality of chrome on the door handles so they switched suppliers, which caused a slight delay.  There was also an issue with a sensor, that also caused a recent delay, but that too has been addressed.  Detractors of course jumped on these minor issues as a sign of Tesla's failure, but in reality they simply prove that Tesla is handling things in the best way possible.  People are getting their cars and loving them, and reviews have been very enthusiastic across the board:
Having driven the Tesla Model S on the neighborhood roads back-to-back not only against most of the other electric cars in the market today, but also comparing it against other premium cars such as Rolls Royce Corniche, I came to this startling conclusion: The Tesla Model S is so superior that it seems that it's just a matter of time until all the other car companies will have to file bankruptcy.
 Production rates are increasing, and while they may not hit the year end target of 5000, it really doesn't matter in the long run as long as they can eventually achieve a rate to allow the planned 20,000 cars next year.  There is still time to hit the 5K mark this year, and I wouldn't bet against them doing it.  They seem to have gotten fairly good at doing what supposedly can't be done, I expect them to continue.  Now I'm just looking forward to the planned announcement of the supercharger network that is supposed to entail more than what people are expecting.  Should be interesting.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First Tesla Model S Delivered

First Tesla Model S all electric sedan delivered to the first customer, 2 weeks ahead of schedule.  What's not to like?

Many thousands more to follow.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are EV's Victims Of Their Own Potential?

EV sales have been somewhat lower than expected and many are claiming this to be proof that the concept is flawed and the technology cannot work.  In truth this may simply be the result of the expected and likely future improvements that are going to take place, and that we have come to expect from modern technology.  Most people don't buy the first iteration of any new technology, be it computer, cell phone, flat panel TV, iPod, or iPad.  They know that waiting a few months to a few years will bring better and cheaper products, which is equally true for EV's.  There are always early adopters who must have the latest and greatest, and they pay a premium to do so.  Since a car is a larger investment than a cell phone or a flat panel display the population of early adopters is of course going to be smaller.  The difference that is often ignored is that early adoption of an EV can actually provide reduced operating costs during it's use, putting it's overall costs more inline with cheaper ICE vehicles.  Also overlooked is the ability to upgrade an older EV with a newer, better pack in the future, giving better than new performance.  Regardless, people know they will get better and cheaper with time, battery improvements and breakthroughs are not only expected but seem to be announced every few months, even though it will take time for them to make it into production.  The car companies themselves talk about future improvements to their vehicles, with longer range and lower prices, but by doing so they probably hurt potential sales in the present.
I'm not sure there is a solution to this problem other than time.  At some point, as with all new technologies, the entry price point will be low enough and the perceived value high enough that people will start to adopt it in large volumes.  In the mean time those of use who paid the higher prices, or put in the time to build our own, get to take advantage of the lower operating costs and get to enjoy the smooth, quiet driving experience, as well as the visceral pleasure of driving past gas stations and not caring about the price per gallon.

Why is this man smiling?  The answer is on his shirt.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Problems For Better Place

More bad news for Better Place, losing money as well as failing to deliver as promised. 

Shay Agassi's electric car venture Better Place LLC is facing delays in the deployment of its battery recharging and quick replacement infrastructure in Denmark as well as in Israel.

 Renault SA (Euronext: RNO), which directly markets its electric car in Denmark, has announced that it will launch the Zoe compact electric car in October. It considers the Zoe more suited to the Danish market than the electric version of the Fluence sedan, which is not popular in the country. Renault also announced that, until further notice, it will market the Zoe only with a permanent battery, rather than the replaceable battery "until Better Place proves that its organization and battery replacement system are functioning properly."

  Better Place was expected to sell 115,000 electric cars in Denmark and Israel between 2011 and 2016, but the company is far behind those numbers.

Oops, who could have guessed?  Oh wait, me!  :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where GM Went Wrong With The Volt

From most accounts of those who own one GM built a really nice vehicle in the Chevy Volt.  Customer satisfaction is very high, though you'd never know it from all the negative press surrounding the vehicle.  Most of the problems that are causing poor sales of the Volt have to do with the GM marketing department, not the engineering and production departments.  GM tried to sell their plug in hybrid as if it was an EV, while at the same time pushing range anxiety and "more car than electric", which backfired when people thought the Volt was a 40 mile "EV" that cost $40K.  GM also made a mistake by marketing it as a Chevy product.  What they should have done is market it as a Cadillac, an upscale plug in hybrid, throw in a few extra luxury bits, and charged an extra $5-$9K for it.  In short they should have made the "Volt" the "Converj" right from the beginning.
Cadillac Converj

The Cadillac brand could have handled the price premium better, and the styling is a little more aggressive and exciting.  By not pretending to be an EV much confusion could have been avoided, along with much negativity.  People would be less inclined to criticize a $45K+ vehicle from Cadillac than a $40K vehicle from Chevy.

Of course what they really should have done was build the real EV that Bob Lutz initially wanted to in the first place, but once that idea was scrapped they should have positioned it as an upscale luxury hybrid and badged it as a Cadillac.  Next time GM, check with me, you could have avoided this whole mess.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Karma Is Not An EV

He's not driving an EV either.

In a previous post I explained why the Volt is not an EV.  For all the same reasons neither is the Fisker Karma.  It's a plug in series hybrid.  It has enough battery to provide about 50 miles of electric range, then the on board generator kicks in, providing electrical power to the motor, but unlike the Volt, the gas motor never drives the wheels directly.  It's a less complex setup, which is good, but in this particular design it creates a less efficient vehicle, which is bad.  The Karma is heavy and not particularly efficient when running from the generator.  Considering it's price tag it also does not have exceptional performance specs, the Tesla Model S is cheaper, faster, more efficient, and an actual EV.
The Karma is a beautiful car, unfortunately it's not all that exceptional beyond that, and it is not an EV.  Maybe at some point they can pull out the gas motor, add enough batteries to improve the performance and range, and create a real EV.