The Tesla 3 (and Why I Probably Wouldn’t Get One)

Like nearly every nerd I know, I’m excited that the Tesla Model 3 has been unveiled and that in about 18 months it will be a reality. Between it and the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt, reasonably affordable all-electric cars are becoming an actual thing and not just a weird quirk for eco-geeks, and/or status symbols for rich people. The nation needs electric cars that can go reasonable ranges, aimed at people who have less than six figure incomes. Now we’re on that path, and it makes me happy.

But this doesn’t mean I’ve plunked down $1,000 to reserve my own Model 3, either. For as much as I like the idea of the Tesla 3 (and the Bolt, and other electric cars), I’m not their market, their market being people in relatively dense urban/suburban areas, whose driving needs allow them to do all sorts of things within the 200 mile recharge radius of the car. I live in rural America, and my driving needs are generally a) almost nothing because I work from home, b) long trips because I’m going somewhere far beyond my usual environs. I have almost nothing inbetween. Also it means that right now, “fast-charge” stations near me are very few and very far between.

Which means that a car like a Model 3 or a Bolt, both with an about 200-mile range (longer if you pay more, less when it gets cold), fits perfectly into my “range anxiety” sphere. Driving the thing would probably make me twitchy all the time. In ten or fifteen years, when the average electric car has a 450-mile range (i.e., enough to get me to Chicago and back, Chicago being the furthest I would drive before buying a plane ticket instead) and fast charge outlets are at every gas station, this won’t be a problem. Right now, though, it’s a big nope for me.

Here in 2016, the perfect electric car for me isn’t a Tesla model or the Bolt, but the Chevrolet Volt. It has an electric engine with a range of about 50 miles and then fires up a gas powered generator for a 400+ mile total range, which means that it works perfectly as an electric car for my local travel, and then doesn’t make me freak out about finding a place to charge when I’m on a long trip. I’m not going to get one of those right now either — we have two cars and they run just fine — but I’m pretty certain the next car we get won’t be gas-only. Unless something else comes out to fit our driving profile, the Volt’s in pole position for the car I’m most interested in next.

Which possibly means I need to turn in my Nerd Card, as Tesla is the official automobile manufacturer of the Nerd Nation. But that’s fine. I’m a nerd, but I also live in the non-nerd world, out in the sticks. Here in the sticks, for how I live, the Tesla’s not practical. Until and unless it is, I might be a Chevy man.

111 Comments on “The Tesla 3 (and Why I Probably Wouldn’t Get One)”

  1. You are also well positioned to appreciate the impracticality of the “Everybody should commute by mass transit, dammit!” sentiments occasionally bandied about.

  2. John, to reclaim your nerd card, you need do only one thing: buy *two* Teslas. You can then daisy-chain the batteries and get a 400+ mile range. And if the one you’re driving breaks down, you can simply jump seats into the trailing vehicle. Buy a third one and you can probably make it to Schenectady, where the ideas come from. *G*

    Okay, that’s probably not practical. But I bet you could buy a small trailer, fill it with those Tesla PowerWalls, and drive to Mars (Pennsylvania) or Jupiter (Florida) and back.

    Better living through (Rube Goldberg) technology!

  3. We have (and very much like) a Prius. But I want a Smart ForTwo, painted to look like a Dustbuster.

    Wait a minute. They already look like Dustbusters…

  4. Electric vehicles that aren’t solar powered seem to me to not be very green.

  5. You are completely correct; you are not a good fit for the current electric car product (as awesome as Teslas are). No need to turn in your geek card (says this tech & SF & car geek). But don’t buy a Volt. It doesn’t have a generator/range extender, it has a complicated hybrid drivetrain in which both the gas & electric engines may drive the wheels. Hopefully a real electric+generator will be on the market by the time you buy, but if not… just buy something that weighs less than 2 tons and gets decent mileage. No need to be guilted into semi-electric :).

  6. Range is one thing, cold is the other that would prevent me from considering a Tesla (if I would be looking for a car). Going skiing and parking overnight outside would be a big no-no, since it can get significantly below freezing out there.

    But yes, these are good developments.

  7. For those looking for an old-fashioned oil-burner, for a small family I recommend the Honda Accord. Good mileage, cheap to maintain, not time-consuming to maintain (about every 5 months vs. every 3 months), company is very helpful, like they want your repeat business. As opposed to whatever hedge fund is running Ford nowadays. I inherited a Taurus a while back. Couldn’t figure out from the manual whether it had a timing belt or chain. Called the company who built the thing. Nobody there knew, either!

  8. I have similar feels. My usual driving is indeed less than 50 miles per day (to/from the office), but I have a monthly trek of 120 miles (each way), often with a bunch of local driving at my destination. And I want to make that 120 miles FAST. I don’t care if there are quick-charge stations on the New Jersey Turnpike–right now I do the drive with a 5-minute stop for gas. Unless an electric car can recharge in 5 minutes, it won’t be fast enough.

    Which means that other than the Chevy Volt, any electric car I would get would have to be a second car. I don’t need two cars. I can only drive one at a time.

  9. –E:

    Yeah, that’s the other thing: A fill up of a current car is a couple of minutes. Electric, even with a “Supercharger” is considerably more time. That will take some getting used to.

  10. We get a reliable 250 miles (cold) – 300+ (warm) in the model S; as long as one is willing to stop for coffee every 3-4 hours, that gets us basically anywhere in a major US population zone, and my guess is that with the rollout of the model 3; the density of superchargers is going to increase even more rapidly than it currently does. So we’ve taken it happily on 3-400 mile (one-way) trips without stress – and it *is* glorious to drive and sit in :).

  11. The all electric cars really appeal to my spouse but as someone who drives more than 100 miles one way on a regular basis, and goes on trips which are 500-1000 miles one way at least a few times a year, none of the electric cars would work for me. Also what if your long trip includes a stay someplace where you couldn’t charge your car? Just for example, its 100 miles almost exactly from my house to my parents who live way out in the country. Once I get there I perhaps could run an extension cord to my car, but how much will that dick them over on their electric bill? They already pay three times what I do because its a rural electric coop, AND all the electric comes from coal power plants so its not really all that environmentally friendly either.
    Finally, I often have to go off road, or put lots of heavy things in my car for work. I have a small SUV and the week after I got it I put 500 pounds of soil samples in the trunk. I’m pretty sure that would drain the batteries even if it had room.

  12. It’s a nice car, and I’m betting that glass roof will have a photovoltaic option soon, but also need something that has the infrastructure to support being out in the sticks as well. Although I commute to densely urban/suburban areas and see a number of Teslas here already. Out where I live, though, it looks like the Prius (although I did see a Volt, once). The Prius I want is still out of my price range, though.

  13. @E & @Scalzi: At least a 400-mile range would be enough to allow one to build up an appetite. Co-locating high-quality restaurants with charge stations, allowing dine-while-you-charge, would probably be lucrative once a certain market penetration is reached.

  14. The math on solar roofs don’t work; not nearly enough power available that way to make a difference.

    Priuses (or Priusi prounounced “pre-eye?”) are highly complexified gasoline-powered cars. While there are some good technologies in there (regenerative braking for example) there really isn’t much ecological or cost benefit in comparison to simpler modern high-efficiency cars. Plus, ugly. And slow. Buy a mazda mx-5 and enjoy burning a little gasoline instead :).

  15. My neighbor has a Tesla that I’ve ridden in it numerous times. We live just on the edge of a medium sized college town in Indiana, not far from you, and since he works at the university (as I did before I retired at the end of 2013) it’s a practical – if not pricey – car for him to own.

    I urge you to either test drive one or ride in one a friend owns. They are fantastic! The acceleration is phenomenal and like the very affordable Toyota Prius, it uses the motor for some braking duties and will stop quicker than my BMW motorcycles (and man, that’s saying something!). So when stomping on the accelerator, be sure all your body parts are well secured, and when stomping on the brake, check the rearview mirror first!

    Incidentally, how long a stretch have you gone without leaving home? Since retiring, I think my record is three weeks without leaving the house (other than for walking in the neighborhood or on a nearby trail for my daily excercise) but I probably spend at least two or three straight days at home every week anyway. I like the leisurely pace life affords when there’s often nowhere I need to be besides home (although I have numerous hobbies that keep me occupied).

  16. The thing about Mass Transit is that it isn’t particularly practical in all but the largest, most well-planned cities. It works great for New York and San Francisco, but here in Sacramento, the capital of California, it takes two hours to get from my workplace to my home on public transportation, but if I drive, it takes me about ten minutes.

  17. Another thing to consider in the electric car equation (for folks who do live in areas where such a vehicle could work for them logistically) is your local power plant. Electric cars are pretty efficient and clean if your local power company gets a reasonably high percentage of its energy from greener and cleaner sources. If you live in a state or municipality where most of your electricity comes from coal or oil, though? Not so much. A hybrid (or very efficient gasoline car) might actually be a better choice.

  18. We recently moved to Walla Walla, WA which gives us a similar driving profile (our usual “long” trips are shorter at 100miles). For some other potential “long” trips range would be an issue requiring planning and perhaps significant changes to the trips. I ended up getting an OBD-II logger from Automatic to track trips so that once I’m ready for my next car I can look at how I’ve been driving rather than contemplating how I might drive.

  19. Forgot to add: If I was going to buy an all-electric (which I’d like to, but we’ll see how I feel when my current car needs to be replaced), I’m more interested in the Nissan Leaf, which I can get with lots of bells and whistles for about the same as the Tesla 3 base price.

  20. Onegee notes about the Prius: “While there are some good technologies in there (regenerative braking for example) there really isn’t much ecological or cost benefit in comparison to simpler modern high-efficiency cars.”

    There’s a huge cost benefit if you’re in a jurisdiction with pricey gas, as is the case here in Quebec. (Our gas prices are significantly higher than yours — used to be about double. Europe’s even worse) That is also accompanied by a large ecological benefit. Compared with our two previous cars (both gas burners at the top of their respective classes in fuel economy) we figured that we repaid the extra cost of the Prius in less than 3 years. This comes from saving fuel of up to 2 L/100 km compared with those previous cars; savings are less in the Canadian winter because the engine’s too small to heat the car efficiently. We’ve just hit 130k km on the odometer, so you do the math: call it an average of 1 L/100 km savings year-round, and that’s 1300 L less fuel we’ve burned. And we don’t drive all that much; if we commuted daily instead of working at home, we’d probably double that saving.

    Consumer Reports does real-world testing rather than relying on the EPA estimates, and the Prius is well ahead of the best pure gas burner. Last I saw, the closest non-hybrid in their ratings (a diesel) earned something like 5 to 8 mpg less than the Prius. And the new Prius claims to have improved its fuel efficiency by ca. 3 mpg. You can dig up the actual numbers easily enough by getting their car guide from the library, so consider my numbers inexact but in the right ballpark.

  21. I live in nerd, central also known as Seattle, and yes we own an all-electric car. We also own a non-electric car which we use when traveling further than the range of the EV. It is hard to own just an EV no matter where you live. But if you have two cars, I believe you can function with one of them being an EV in most places. At some point in the near future, at least when it comes to trade out the fossil fuel burner there will be an affordable EV with a 400+ mile range and charging stations located in rural as well as urban communities.

  22. The description by Glenn of the Chevy Volt is completely wrong. I own a Volt so I know. It has a battery with a range of about forty miles. When battery is depleted it starts a gasoline engine which powers a generator under the hood, so it is always powered by electricity. It is just a matter of whether the electricity comes from the battery or the generator. Glenn may be confused by the fact that the Volt is often referred to as a hybrid and all of the other hybrids do have a hybrid drivetrain.

  23. Pogonip, I’m with you — I love my 2003 Accord, which is still doing just fine other than minor cosmetic damage. Of course, it helps that it’s still under 100K miles after twelve and a half years. I’ve killed two batteries through inactivity, back when I lived nearer to a public transit station. But chances are that when it finally does kick the bucket I’ll end up with an at least partially electric-powered car. Probably my husband will have worn out his Prius (152Kmi) and gotten an e-car (?) by then.

  24. I get the impression that charging one’s car mid-trip isn’t supposed to be a common thing*, hence why pure electric cars are poorly-suited for rural folks. Here in California, I could get to work or the nearby towns and back comfortably, and many places have charging stations so I can afford to look at the range as a one-way. (I am an apartment dweller and have a car that runs fine and that I’m still paying off, so there are other reasons not to buy a Tesla. But I am living in an area where an electric car could work with a bit more planning if I need to drive to LA or SF.)

    * But I agree that if we’re going with highway charging stations, maybe have a nice cafe and restaurant so that people can time charging the car with refueling themselves.

  25. @Michael Johnston: another Sacramentan here, and you’re so right about public transit turning a 15 min drive into a much longer trip. There’s a light rail stop near my home and one on the campus where I work, but even so, it takes well over an hour to get there on the train (a transfer is involved, for one thing). This is a problem in many western US cities that grew up around the freeway system :P

  26. The Model 3 is rumored to take a 65 kWh battery. Assuming that, for reliability purposes only 80% of that capacity is usable (don’t let the charge get too low or too high, or batteries do bad things), the a “full charge” would be about 52 kWh. If you want to do that in 5 minutes, that’ll require over half a MW of electrical power, and would require about 62A at 10 kV. Wires capable of carrying that current would be at least 3-6mm thick solid copper (depending on what safety standards you apply, probably thicker). I don’t want to say “never”, but how about “probably never”?

    While it is possible for people to drive 8 hours straight, it’s not a good idea. A 240-mile range would give 4 hours of driving at 60mph highways speeds, which is a good time to take a break anyway. Charging while eating, or overnight sleeping, on long drives may be practical with a 240-300 mile range.

  27. I just bought a new car two years ago, to replace one that my mechanic said he didn’t want to see again it was so bad. Other than that I am the perfect market for such a car. I live in the middle of urban sprawl and drive less than 150 miles/week. There’s a Tesla charging station at one of the businesses that shares my work parking lot. And barring some major changes in public transportation, we’ll be staying a two car family. And I’m an eco-buyer. So yes, I’m expecting our next car, whenever it happens, will be EV.

  28. Transportation options in the Imperial Capital are now so varied and plentiful (Metro, Uber, Lyft, taxis, car-sharing services, and the like) that I no longer own a car (and don’t really miss it given the substantial expense involved). . . .

  29. I’m pretty psyched about the Bolt & T3. I commute ~40 miles a day. But I live in CT, and winter still happens here occasionally (not this year really, but last year was a doozy). So range anxiety with, say, a Leaf, is a real thing. My understanding is that a Leaf has about 100 miles of range under ideal conditions, but real-world use in a northern winter can result in substantially less. 100 miles of range *even in the cold* is probably my minimum comfort level. So, until the Bolt, 3, and/or improved range Leafs are available, I can’t go for it. Which is fine, because I’m hoping to drive my current commuter car (civic) for another 4-5 years.

    Though even with tax credits, the up-front cost of these cars is still a little daunting. Sure, they’re not $75-$100k like the S, but $35k is no joke. I’m the sort who buys 2 year old cars for ~$15k. It’ll take some mental adjustment.

  30. I just want to know how so many can get away with using “affordable” to describe the $35-40K vehicle. Damn expensive STILL. You have to get below $25K to maybe use the affordable adjective.

  31. I’m a Prius driver with a 50-mile commute. I average 48 mpg on my commute, which is not a number I’ve seen any all-gasoline engines be able to meet. The engine is powerful enough that I burned rubber off a stop yesterday, so neither of Onegee’s objections sound to me like they actually describe my car at all.

  32. Onegee, had two Priuses (Prii??) during my time. Had both of them over 100 mph many times. Slow, they are not. The reason people think they are is folks getting mesmerized by the mile-per-gallon display and trying to maximize what they are getting. I selected a different display, then just drove, as usual, got 48-50 mpg, and raced around like a madman. Unfortunately, they aren’t accident-proof. My wife challenged an oil truck for a left turn, and lost. That took care of one, and I gave my daughter the other one when she needed a car. Last I checked, she still had it.

  33. Re. public transit, it’s definitely a problem given that it was engineered out of so many cities decades ago, and would be at best difficult to retrofit onto existing structures. But it can be done. For instance, the bus I used to take in from the burbs (Montreal, Quebec) could take an hour to get me downtown during peak traffic. Increasing the bus frequency, providing two different express buses, and providing a dedicated bus lane for part of the route during prime commuting hours cut this by about half. (These are crude-ass estimates, since so many factors cause times to vary. But they’re ballpark-correct.)

    In a car, it can still take me an hour to drive the ca. 20 km downtown during peak rush hour periods. So the bus compares favorably, and if I’m going during one of the times the train is running, the 15-minute transit time to the main station is awfully attractive.

  34. If you pay more than $7500 in federal income tax then the price of the vehicle can be reduced by $7500. Also some states (OR is one) that have state tax credits as well and other states do not charge sales tax which help make these cars more affordable if not cheap. Also, depending on much you drive and where you live there are savings from cheaper fuel (electricity) and better efficiency. Our EV gets 4+ miles/kWh which works out to less than 3 cents/mile in Seattle. So my 30 mile daily commute costs less a dollar, which is about half of what a fairly fuel efficient gas powered vehicle would cost to drive the same distance. The difference amounts to savings of a few hundred dollars a year which over the course of 10 years adds up to a few thousand dollars.

  35. I’d really like to get one for my commuting int he greater Seattle area. The dense population of already bought Teslas in the area help push charging stations, as well as I usually don’t do more than 100 miles in a day. If I’m traveling farther, my wife and I have two cars, so the second one would continue to be a high mileage gas car. Especially since a lot of our travel is to north central Washington, were there are no charging stations and probably won’t be for some time. Typical one way trip is about 300 miles.

  36. I currently drive a Subaru XV Crosstrek that is used almost exclusively driving around my home town of Naperville. It gets driven 15 miles one way maybe once or twice a week, and has been driven farther than that precisely once in the almost three years I’ve had it. I average about 300 miles a month. When the time comes to replace it, an all-electric would be entirely feasible. We have a Honda Accord that we use for longer trips, but it only gets driven about 600 miles a month on the average – though it also does a couple of 1500 or so mile round trips a couple of times a year. Most of the rest is my wife’s 3.5 mile (one way) daily commute to work, plus the occasional drive into downtown Chicago for concerts or other such activities. Wouldn’t want an all-electric to replace that, though a Prius would work. My brother is on his second one and has driven both from his home in the DC area to visit us in Naperville (and sometimes on as far as Madison) several times. The Honda should be good for another 5-6 years, and to be honest I don’t know if I’ll be driving by that time, since I’ll be in my mid-80s by then,. We may go down to one car at that point; my wife will only be about 70, so we’ll still need one car for sure.

  37. My husband put down a deposit on one (right now we’re one-car). I said
    Can you put a ski rack on it?
    Your last car grew moss because you never drove it.
    Your last car had to park on the street because it couldn’t go down the driveway.
    There isn’t any parking at your office.

    And he said:
    Maybe it’s your car then.

    Well OK! (Though we might still have to move to get a garage for it.)
    (And for the Seattle-adjacent: Steven’s Pass ski lodge has electric car charging stations. I’ve seen Teslas plugged in there.)

  38. Within the time the 3 is actually released, the charging network density will double. Also, battery technology will have advanced another 15%. Also, it’s actually healthy and more prudent to stop a few minutes every two hours of driving.
    All this to say that in a couple years, every argument against owning an electric car will be moot.
    Disclaimer: I’m a proud owner of a Smart ED and I love it. But I live in the Montreal suburban area so charging infrastructure is better here than in rural Ohio I have to admit.

  39. It is sometimes said the the all electric cars are good in cities where you make shorter drives. However if you live in an apartment and your car lives on the street, it takes a very long extension cord to keep it powered. Or else long hours at charging stations unknown distances from home. Not practical quite yet.

  40. The current Leaf has an effective maximum range of 60 miles, based on the commentary of several friends here in the Bay Area who own them. None of them dare to go further than that, based on range anxiety. One friend with a 2011 Leaf reports that his range is now less than 50 miles because of battery degradation. The Model 3 will have almost 3x that range, so preferring a Leaf in a comparison with a Model 3 is a really unusual idea.

    I have a Gen I Volt, and my boss has a Gen 2 Volt, which are great cars. I get 120 MPG (average over 3 years of use) charging once per day, with a commute that’s 15 miles longer than the electric range. The Gen 2 Volt on my commute would do more like 240 MPG with the extra 20% electric range. As for the opinion above that the Volt isn’t an electric vehicle, there are some specific instances where the gas engine contributes to directly drive the car once the battery is flat, but those drive modes are there to provide more efficient gas operation of the car. Even then, the primary drive motivation is electricity from the generator. If the battery has charge, it’s a fully electric vehicle (except if it’s really really cold out, then the gas engine will run to help heat the cabin rather than burning the battery charge up entirely on resistive heater operation. Gas engines are really good at producing waste heat).

  41. We are a two-Prius family and while the second one wasn’t as beneficial as the first (gas prices have nearly halved since we got the first one), both do get substantially better mileage than the other non-hybrid/electric cars we were considering, and were only nominally more expensive than the other cars we considered. Our next car will likely be a plug-in hybrid or a pure-electric model; there are charging stations where I work and we have solar electric already, and our normal trips are maybe 100 miles round trip at most (living in the South Bay, we go to Monterey or San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley). For longer trips we’d have the other Prius.

  42. I am totally the target market for this car – I live in Los Angeles, have a 12 mile roundtrip commute, and am highly interested in not putting gas in my car. However, as with many folks in the “city”, I live in an apartment. Unless there are serious incentives thrown at landlords, most urban apartment-dwellers won’t have anywhere to charge their cars. I bought my first car 4 years ago, after several years relying on a combination of roommate carpooling largesse and the public transit system were ultimately wearing me down, but I think when it’s time for the next car (it’s a Honda, so it’ll probably be quite some time yet) it’ll probably be a hybrid rather than a full on EV.

  43. Another renter here. EVs aren’t an option for us. And I agree with the commenter upthread about $35K being “affordable.” My car (a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid) cost me $12K last year, and that was more than I wanted to pay. There wasn’t a cheaper Insight, Civic, or Fit of similar vintage within 100 miles. Damn Honda for making cars that people still want to buy used. My last car was a 1995 Accord which I got for $6K in cash in 2008. *That’s* affordable. :-)

  44. Yet another renter with nowhere to plug in an electric car. Well, I suppose I could prop the security door to the apartment building open and run a really long extension cord down the stairs and outside … and watch the landlord’s head explode.

    I looked at a Prius last year when I needed to buy a car in a hurry (another driver ran a red light, no one hurt), but the sight lines stunk. Backup cameras are no substitute for turning around and looking where you’re going. I might check them again when the Accent I bought needs replacing.

  45. GM has been putting LTE hotspots in their cars. The Volt might get better internet than your house. Just sayin’.

  46. I am probably a good candidate for an electric car as I drive maybe 300 miles a month. Short 5 to 10 mile round trips to stores, etc. But still some long drives occasionally of about 200 miles one way.

    My major concern is that here in MN, it can get pretty cold in the winter. I never hear a discussion about how effective the heaters are in these cars and how that affects mileage. Anybody care to comment?

  47. I lived in the boonies, about 15 miles outside Ann Arbor on a lake. Our average outing was 20-50 miles round trip, which would seem to be ideal for the Tesla. Even better if you employed some of your vast acreage in solar panels for home charging. However, I do think $35K is a bit steep for an “around town only” car. On the other hand, I didn’t sign a massive writing contract recently.

  48. Two years ago, I felt the same way you did. I live in a rural area also. I make trips to town for supplies, and occasional three-hour drives to visit friends in the big city. Yesterday I put down my $1000 reservation.

    What changed? The price, of course. The Model S was a year’s salary at my job (I also work from home). My income is higher than that due to investments, but working a year to pay off a car seems excessive. The Model 3 is more in line with what I paid for my Prius, and by the time my number comes up, said Prius (the third one I’ve owned) will be 7 years old, and I’ll be ready to replace it.

    The other thing that changed was that Tesla installed a supercharger along the route I use to get to town when I need to get supplies. And they installed another supercharger halfway to the big city where my friends live. I no longer have the range anxiety that I had two years ago.

    I don’t feel bound by the reaction I had two years ago. The situation has now changed. And the rate of that change is sufficient that I feel sure that two years from now, the situation for EV car owners, and especially for Tesla owners, will be even better.

  49. Trip to Chicago.

    You could do it! :-) But I get the range thing. And the wait to charge. Up here is the Northwest on a trip between Seattle and say Portland or Canon Beach stopping in Centralia for lunch is pretty much tradition, luckily the charger is there. There’s zero time differentail for our most common family trip between an a Tesla and my Audi A4 NerdWagen.

    Nevertheless, IMO, driving a EV cross country is a lot like flying a small plane. You need to plan ahead.

  50. Ian Kennedy. I can remember when you had to plan ahead to drive an ICE car cross-country, especially if you’d be driving at night.

    More to the point, I remember NOT planning ahead, and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with no fuel, sleeping in my car until the operators of the gas station arrived in the morning to open the store and unlock the pumps.

    One advantage driving a Tesla has over those unfortunate trips in my younger days: The car has an app that will guide you to the nearest charging station. Not just the superchargers, but also the run-of-the-mill EV charge points that are scattered here and there.

  51. I keep thinking a EV would be mostly practical for Tammy and her niece/assistant Julie, because most of their driving is around town or within a 100-mile radius of our home in Central NY. The problem is, there are always those occasions when they/we need to go to NYC, or Pittsburgh, or Baltimore, or Toronto, or….

    Give me a EV that can make it over 400 miles on a charge even with the AC or heat running, listening to my iPhone, and driving at night in the rain so both the headlights and windshield wipers are going. At this point, unless I suddenly decided to be an Uber or Lyft driver, or deliver pizzas around town? A Smart Car or a Honda Civic (which Tammy owns and Julie drives) makes much more sense.

  52. I’m sure you will, but test drive the Volt before you drive it. My understanding is it’s based on the Cruze platform, and that’s one of the crappiest cars I’ve ever had the displeasure of driving, maybe marginally better than the PT Cruiser, maybe. Relatively small interior, handled and accelerated like a boat and drank fuel like water. Obviously some of that would be changed with a different powertrain but the overall handling and visibility, ugh.

  53. Pogonip: Had a bulletproof 2000 Civic, but our 09 Accord with its V6 is causing some anxiety- I’m afraid it may get retired early. Any gas we’ve saved with that cylinder deactivation tech has been outweighed by inconvenience and anxiety. So far all work is under warranty, but the last repair included piston rings, so that has to be major bucks. Yeah, I kept a bottle of oil in my Vega and Spirit, didn’t expect to do that in a (relatively) low mileage Accord.

    A friend has had a Volt for six months and still raves about it. On the other hand, he purchased a year-old one, so instead of $30K new he paid $20K lightly used. Those kind of economics make it much more attractive.

    Model S tip: They say (it’s on the internet, so it has to be true!) that charging with a regular 110V outlet gives you 18 miles of range per hour of charging.

  54. I think the plural of “Prius” should be “Prii”.

    With regard to recharging on long trips, the technology has to fit into the use case. Yes, on long distances one generally does not drive 400+ miles non-stop – but with a gasoline (or diesel) car, one can combine a refueling stop with a ten-minute restroom-and-stretch-your-legs break. If recharging an EV takes an hour, yes, you can combine it with a meal break – but that requires you to take an hour-long meal break, not a ten-minute break.

    Plus, if I forget to fill up my gas tank the night before I leave, I can stop at the gas station on my way out and it only adds five minutes to my trip. If I forget to fully charge my EV the night before I leave, I’ve added an hour or more.

    In the spirit of the Accord recommendations, for those looking for an average family-size sedan with good mileage, I’d recommend a Nissan Altima with the 2.5L engine. The CVT uses some sort of voodoo black magic to get 28-30 MPG in my normal around-town driving; on trips I reliably get 36-38 MPG, and have hit as much as 42 MPG on stretches of pure highway driving. I could probably do my regular round-trip from Central NJ to Syracuse (560 miles) on a single tank of gas but I get nervous.

  55. “Prius” is either an adverb (which has no plural) or a neuter comparative adjective, the plural of which would be “priora.” In either event, the correct English plural would be “Priuses.”

    Astra: I stopped by the store at the Domain yesterday and there was no line, but they told me just to go online instead. Also, it was pouring.

  56. How long do these things actually take to charge? And how many cars can be charged at one time? Even at a very busy gas station I never have to wait more than a few minutes, and if I could figure out a way to not pick the slowest line every single time it wouldn’t even be that long.

  57. Isn’t Ohio still on Team Coal? Down on here in Kentucky we sure are. One of our biggest state level PACs is literally called “Friends of Coal.” So unless you’re converting the farm to solar, electricity’s not particularly green anyway.

  58. And I admit to some ignorance here, but what’s the barrier to getting a truly affordable all-electric car? I’m talking base model Honda Civic type price (MSRP from less than $19K). Electric motors are simpler and cheaper than internal combustion engines, not to mention all the other simplifications you get (no gearbox, no alternator, no cooling system, etc). How is it that nearly every all-electric car is more expensive than a Prius, which has both a gas engine and an electric drive. Are the batteries and charging mechanisms simply still too expensive? Is it just supply and demand?

  59. Lithium-ion batteries, particularly in the amounts needed for practical EVs need their own dedicated cooling systems. Li-Ion batteries are susceptible to thermal runaways (they get hot enough to burst into flames) if managed improperly.

    Teslas all have transmissions, granted they are all simple single fixed gear systems.

    The biggest cost in EVs are the batteries and charging infrastructure. The Tesla S uses a battery pack made up of over 7 thousand AA sized Li-Ion batteries arranged in a grid weighing 1200 pounds. And charging points are very thin on the ground at present.

    I keep seeing vids and links to graphene based batteries that store as much juice as current Li-Ions but are fully charged in under 10 minutes at 1/4 to 1/3 of the weight.

  60. Currently we’re a two-Honda family (2004 Element and 2008 Fit), both cars are < 100k (the Fit's under 40k) so we hope that we won't have to buy another car for a few years! Currently, it's a 10 minute drive to work for whoever's not taking the kids to day care. The bus system would take at least an hour. The home-day care-work route is about 15 or 16 miles. Just the first leg would take at least 90 minutes by bus.

    We would seem to fit the profile for an electric or hybrid car.

    With two kids that will likely top 6 feet within the lifetime of the next car we buy, we'll have to consider leg and headroom for the back seat passengers. I don't think the new Tesla has it.

    Also thinking to the future, there's a dry riverbed between home and work/schools. That means that commuting by bike is out unless you're an experienced, careful, and fearless rider (not me, and not the kids). The two "closest" roads are two lanes over the riverbed, and have significant sections with no shoulders–and no sidewalks.

  61. I don’t see the need for electric cars. I don’t like the idea of great huge batteries flying down the road, and most electricity doesn’t come from especially clean sources. They exist mostly so some people can feel good about themselves.

  62. I would like a Smart for Two painted like the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. Yee, I say, Haw!

  63. In regards to the affordability issue – it seems a bit disingenuous to compare new cars to cheap used Honda Accords. I figured I was out of the price market, but it turns out 2013 Nissan Leaf’s run in the $10K-$12K range. Which is actually theoretically possible for me.

    This guy has some posts about buying a used Nissan Leaf that covered some of my concerns, so I might save up my next few tax returns and buy one.

  64. dana1119 You have a problem with huge batteries going down the road, but are ok with 100 lb packages of liquified napalm? The batteries are no more inherently unsafe than the gasoline. It’s just a matter of being used to one, but not the other.

    As for how green the electricity is, it’s getting greener all the time. Old coal plants are closing down and being replaced by solar, wind, and yes, natural gas.

    Further, if petroleum were an irrelevant material, the last two gulf wars wouldn’t have happened, and ISIS would be short its major income source. That by itself would be plenty green enough for me.

    I’m not suggesting anyone buy an electric if it doesn’t work for them. Especially considering that for the next several years EVs are likely to be supply limited. Just that it’s good that there are now EVs that work for many, and that given the improvements we’ve seen, they’re likely to work for a greater and greater percent of the population.

  65. I’ve been driving electric since 2000 and I love it, but I also live in the Bay Area conveniently near transit, and rarely drive more than 50 miles round trip anywhere. I have solar panels too so my fuel is very cheap. So for me an electric is a great fit (especially since I can take transit to work), but for people in your situation a plug-in hybrid makes great sense. The Volt seems one of the best options on the market for it. My ex-husband had one when they first came out and he was very happy with it- I imagine they’ve probably made them better since.

    I’m rather disappointed there aren’t more good plug-in hybrid options out there with good range, aside from the Volt and the C-Max nobody’s really been putting decent batteries in them, although apparently there are a few more options coming out soon. Plug-in hybrids do seem like they’re a better fit for the average driver, especially those further away from major population centers. For renters it’ll probably be awhile before plugins of any kind are a great option.

    My mother placed a reservation for the Tesla- she’s been wanting one for ages but was waiting for one to be close enough to reasonably priced that she could consider it. Now she’s got to hope her current car hangs on until it comes out.

    In terms of why there aren’t good really cheap electric options, it’s really a chicken and egg thing. The battery costs are high, and they’re slowly coming down, but until they’re producing the cars in sufficient volumes there’s a limit on how low they can go. Most car companies don’t want to produce large volumes of electrics if they don’t think they can sell them, and they can’t get the prices low enough to sell them without volume.

    I have a lot of respect for Nissan for going all in with electric cars when everyone else was afraid to do more than dip their toes in. The Leaf isn’t the perfect car, but I’ve been happy with mine, and it allowed me to keep driving electric at a time where there were very few options. Between them and Tesla, there’s now enough serious interest in electrics to accelerate the process of price drops and technology improvements, bringing us closer to a time in which electrics become a good option for a lot more people.

  66. When my wife’s new job started requiring long drives (she routinely puts in at least 2,000 miles/month) we decided to get rid of the minivan and get something more fuel efficient. We test drove a number of cars and settled on the Ford C-Max Energi. We bought a 2013 model earlier this year and are very happy with it. The thing is that the car has a very small EV charge and it’s exhausted after 20 miles, even with regen braking and downhill charge assist. You’d think that piddly range would have a negligible impact, but when she’s not driving long distances, the rest of the trips are quite short–well within that range. 99% of our daily errands, such as grocery shopping, picking up the kids at school, going to the ATM, etc. are all covered and then it’s plug-in time when we return home. Plus our electrical provider has given us special rates for charging at night; plus we get an HOV access sticker (a big deal in SoCal). And even when the EV charge is gone, we are still getting 40 MPH (or so).

    As I said, we test drove a number of cars including the Prius, and we liked the way the C-Max felt and we liked the acceleration when entering the freeways. It suited us just fine. And we are saving tons of money. Your milege may vary, of course.

  67. Like many, there’s a theory that I’d be an ideal customer for an electric car – I have the income to buy one outright, I work about 20 miles from home, I have PT fallback options that suck because they take so long, and we have PV on the roof that we can afford to significantly increase if swapping battery packs every day becomes an option (charging a stationary battery during the day then using it to charge the car at night makes the overall efficiency laughable).

    But… I already have the option of an EV that will get me to work faster than a car, and it would cost under $2000. But I won’t even spend that much, because I can ride my non-power assisted bicycle to work in under an hour. That lets me combine my love of junk food with my laziness in a way that won’t kill me – I can take PT to work, but it takes much longer than riding so I very rarely do it (bad weather, I’m sick, or… well, that’s about it).

    In Australia at least, the gap between “can afford an electric car” and “can afford to live with cycling distance of work” is vanishingly small and may not exist. Plus our bigger cities have train systems that work pretty well and road systems that don’t. Some of my coworkers who drive to work do so “for convenience”, because getting the 4km from the nearest train station to the office is an ugly bus ride or a long walk. So they drive an hour or so instead.

  68. We are thinking very hard about getting an EV once DH’s Civic kicks the bucket, but the goal on that one is to get it to the Moon @ 250k miles, and it’s only halfway there :) My car is still quite new, a 2013 Honda Fit with only about 20k miles on it and excellent mileage, and I intend to take that one to the Moon as well.

    Our area would be ideal for EVs: limited driving range (it’s an island), eco-minded (we are currently getting about 20% of local power from windmills, rooftop solar, and other renewables), and a growing range of charging stations. Unfortunately, our local electric company is running scared because of the proliferation of household solar power cutting into its profit and keeps tweaking its payback system. It’s making it ever harder to recoup the investment, and an EV will usually charge either at night, when solar doesn’t count, or when you aren’t home and can take it from your home system. Still I’m seeing more and more EVs on the road.

  69. Cars like the Volt, with a smallish battery, may be best for around town, so I presume that’s where the “ideal EV user = small commute” stuff comes from? The Model S is great for trips, depending on your driving style I suppose, and people use it just fine for longer commutes.

    I go DC to Raleigh regularly and I’ve done DC to Boston a couple of times. My commute may not be long, but I didn’t get it just to go to work! It’s fun to drive on trips and works great. But unlike some folks here, I can’t drive all day without stopping (a 2-minute gas stop is not a stop; that’s barely a pause for breath), and when we stop with a gas car, we usually stop for at least 15 minutes anyway. So, stretching that to 30 minutes or a little more – not a big deal. Also, I’ve run out of gas a couple of times in my life, but never run out of electricity why the EV.

    That said, no car is right for everyone. I’m not trying to convince anyone; I’m just adding my two cents.

    @Les Elkins: No, a 110v outlet gives you around 2-3 miles an hour. It’s inefficient as well as slow, so it’s a last resort. But going to Boston to visit friends, they were happy to have us park & charge in their garage (and refused my attempt to reimburse; what, something like $8/day maybe?). That 2-3/hr was fine over 3-4 days, especially given we didn’t go there to drive around town; we were too busy playing games and socializing! :-)

    @David Lewis: EV drivers normally plug in whenever they’re home; you get used to this in a day or two. It’s a different way of handling refueling, and not intuitive till you actually own an EV, but you don’t “fill up the tank” when it’s low; you plug in when you get home each day, so you ALWAYS leave with a “full tank,” as it were. It’s second nature; I never think about charging unless I’m on a trip.

    Again, not trying to convince anyone they should get an EV; just clarifying a few things. Interesting comments all around, folks.

  70. In everything I’ve ever owned with a battery (phone, MP3 player, laptop), the battery has worn out and stops holding a charge after 3-4 years. Does this happen with the electric cars and how much does the battery cost to replace? I can’t imagine it’s cheap.

  71. The timing on the recharge stations can be a drawback if there aren’t enough of them, as may happen as EVs become more popular. No one wants to pull into the parking lot of the rest stop (or private eatery) and find they have no station available, and who knows when the owners of the cars currently charging will be leaving?

    Be interesting to consider the rate of conversion of rest stops from gas to electric charging stations. At peak times (say, 11 am on sunny Saturday in June), the gas lines on the NJ Tpke can be very long, and that’s with 15-20 pumps available. But you know when those people are leaving. You get on line, sit in your car, and every five minutes you move forward one car length (sometimes two car lengths! )

    Could state-owned rest stops would commit to having a charger at every parking space, or half of the spaces? I don’t know what is required to install them. Even if Elon Musk personally pays to put them all in, is there a lot of digging and disruption involved? Do they take up more space than a regular parking space? The charging stations I’ve seen are normal-size parking spaces, but there’s the big machine next to them that takes space, and they were all next to the sidewalk, so I I don’t know if there’s infrastructure under the pavement.

    And, of course, who pays for the electricity. Do charging stations have a credit-card slot? Or are they currently free to use?

  72. Batteries are expected to last rather more than 3-4 years; they have rather sophisticated charge management systems. Tesla warranty theirs packs for 8 years and they aren’t likely to do that if they anticipate having to pay out very often.

    Cold weather issues: well Teslas are quite popular in Norway, which has weather about as awful as MN etc. They seem to manage perfectly well so far as I can see.

    Charging speed: these days lithium cells can be charged quite fast with suitable charge management systems. 5C is pretty common for model plane use; there are versions that can handle many times that. The practical problem in backward countries like the US is the crappy grid and poorly run power industry. Even so, you ought to be able to get 220v @ 30A at home. Tesla’s superchargers push in around 120kW right now.

    Paying: Tesla provide free access to their supercharger stations for Tesla owners, so effectively you pay up front and gamble that that cost will be less than you would pay for charging by other means. Not so big a benefit if you live a long way from one – like I do. On the other hand I pay a lot more for petrol than usanians and a fair bit less for electrickery. Non-Tesla chargers typically have a credit card slot just like petrol pumps, so the drivers pays just the same.

    Fitting 6ft people in a T3: several drivers of the demo cars have mentioned plenty of space with a 6’3″ driver and a 6′ passenger behind. It’s not a small car except by bloated American standards.

  73. Dear folks,

    First of all, a warning––RJ is *not* your friend! You really, really do not want to test drive the Tesla–– the damn thing is crack on wheels. I am not kidding. You really need a monkey on your back that you can’t afford?

    It’s not the technical specs that sell Teslas. It is the driving/riding experience. It is impossible to explain in less than hundreds and hundreds of words; then it is merely very, very difficult.

    Whatever, briar patch, tar baby ,don’t go there. Seriously. You will hate yourself. I am actually considering writing another novel in part because then I will be able to justify the economic frivolity of the Tesla S.

    Which leads me to a serious question, if anybody here has any insights. Obviously this may only be answerable by taking test drives (especially considering my previous remarks), but it looks to me like a comparably-optioned Model 3 is half the price of a Model S. So, what makes the Model S worth spending twice the money (no, I don’t care about immediate availability––that one’s obvious)? Is there something spec or feature-wise or in the driving experience that clearly differentiates them, or is this an indication that the Model S will become an irrelevant product when the 3 is in full production?

    As a potential buyer (of either) as well as an already-hopeless-addict, I’m rather interested in the answer to this question.


    Several people asked technical questions about batteries. Yes, the cost of the battery pack is currently the limiting factor on dropping the price of electric cars. This is why so many of the less expensive cars have really miserable ranges. The same way the screen is the most expensive component by far in your tablet or high-end laptop? The battery pack eats up ridiculous amounts of the manufacturing cost of electric car.

    This is mostly because batteries are simply too expensive to produce. That’s the reason Musk built his giant battery factory in Nevada, to be able to drive down the cost of battery production as well as ensure sufficient supplies for his future plans (to avoid a supply and demand price bottleneck).

    Don’t hold out hope for fast returns on alternative battery technologies. Folks have been R&Ding electric cars since the start of the automotive age; it is a very tough technology to implement. The automotive environment is the worst imaginable one for “consumer” electronics. Think of all the extremes of usage and conditions, mechanical, environmental, electrical, and so on, that an automobile is subject to. The battery packs simply CAN’T fail the way the ones doing our portable electronics if we look at them cross-eyed. (And yes, car manufacturers understand that, so the battery packs are warrantied as part of the power train– terms depend upon manufacturer.) They have to be robust. That’s why a whole lot of promising battery technologies never make it onto the street. All those new laboratory developments, like the graphene battery and such, only prove that we’re nowhere near the end of the engineering curve. Any one of them is very unlikely to translate into a viable product. It’s a long row we are hoeing.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  74. I am considering a Tesla 3; just not a first generation model. I want to let the early adopters work out the bugs for me, and then reap the advantages of lessons learned without having to pay for the lessons myself.

    My daily commute is around 80 miles, and there is a Supercharging station between work and my home. Using a Supercharger station for my primary charging needs, with my home charger being used for emergencies, means that I’m effectively charging my EV for free. I’m assuming that I have the patience to stop at the station on a daily basis and the Tesla’s aren’t so popular that I have to wait for a spot.

  75. “Tesla warranty theirs packs for 8 years and they aren’t likely to do that if they anticipate having to pay out very often.”

    My current car is 12 years old. Having one that turns into a punkin at 8-10 years doesn’t appeal, especially at that price.

  76. @JD_Rhoades

    That’s the *warranty* not the pumpkin date. What was the warranty on your current car?

    Also that’s on the battery pack, not the whole car–while those battery packs are expensive they’re not going to cost as much as buying a new car.

  77. So I just read some post-unveiling articles about the Model 3, and…. arrrgh, they’ve always got to have a gimmick, don’t they? That George Jetson glass roof that incorporates the windshield AND the rear window looks incredibly cool, but I bet you won’t be so happy the first time it gets cracked (which happens to my windshield with alarming frequency), and it also means they can’t give the car a rear hatch even though it would obviously be ideally suited for one.

    I’m not terribly fond of the dash display that consists entirely of a center-mounted LCD screen, either. I dislike modern Toyotas because they moved most of the gauges over there for some baffling reason.

    The Chevy Bolt looks to me like a much more practical version of the same thing.

  78. I suspect I’m not going to be able to practically drive an electric car until I have a house whose electrical system makes it practical to get a 220VAC outlet or better that is accessible from the driveway. (I foresee a lot of renters and condo owners having the problem that they don’t have a charging station where they can park, until social norms change.)

    I have a pretty long commute, but if I could charge at home and at work, I could easily make something with a range as short as a Leaf work as a daily commute car. Currently I can’t do either.

    The charging-station problem is path dependency at work. A priori, it ought to be a lot easier to wire up a society that has ubiquitous electric lines with EV charging stations than to put underground tanks of highly flammable petroleum distillate within easy reach everywhere. But gas stations are what we’ve got.

  79. timrowledge:
    Cold weather issues: well Teslas are quite popular in Norway, which has weather about as awful as MN etc. They seem to manage perfectly well so far as I can see.

    Depends where in Norway. Stavanger and the west coast are significantly milder than Minnesota, but then, Minnesota doesn’t have the Gulf Stream. Average minimum temp in St. Paul in January is about 13 C colder than avg min in Stavanger and 7 C colder than avg min in Oslo.

  80. Re. battery packs & warranties, adding to Cat Faber’s comments: Also, the 8-year warranty on the battery is unlimited miles (at least, mine is; it may depend on which battery pack you have). And they don’t turn into a pumpkin; over time, the max charge it holds may degrade a little, that’s all. Not the end of the world for most if not all people, really.

  81. Kendall said: “…the max charge it holds may degrade a little, that’s all.”

    –>And given that my aging gas-guzzler now freaks out if I let the tank get too low (presumably sludge in the tank), this sort of thing has a petroleum equivalent. I used to get 250 miles (highway) on a tankful. Now I start looking for a gas station as I approach 200 miles, or even 150 miles if it’s all city driving.

  82. I love the idea of Teslas in general and they have been at the back of my mind as a next car purchase when my current compact SUV kicks the bucket but I have 2 main issues with them (and EVs in general) that haven’t really been addressed to my satisfaction yet.

    My first concern is infrastructure. The primary appeal and marketing around EVs seems to be based on the mindset of “not gas burning = infinitely better!” which I have some issue with. Sure you’re not putting petroleum byproducts into the air every time you drive but you are using quite a bit of electricity. How much is that costing you over the life of the car vs gas? Especially if you pay a lot for electric wherever you live for other reasons. And that electricity is generated somewhere. Where and how? For a good part of the country EVs just mean swapping oil for coal, not an awesome switch. What are the economics and environmental impact of electricity generation from different sources vs gas burning car? I’m sure all these studies have been done (I just haven’t looked them all up) but the lack of reference to these issues in the overall discussion makes me suspicious that in many cases you aren’t ending up that much greener (that’s mostly my corporate/energy industry cynicism talking).

    I also have personal logistical issues with EVs. In some ways I would be the target demographic – urban non-apartment dweller, commute less than 10 miles for everything within my city, and charging stations are cropping up more and more at grocery stores and the like. But I have a 4wd v6 SUV for a reason, I’m less concerned about an ideal car for my work commute and more concerned about having a competent “trekking vehicle” for my monthly to bi-weekly treks out of the city which involve up to 400 miles non-stop to remote locations with no hope of a charging station (yet), not to mention the off-roading, dirt-roading, trailering, etc. That’s all a lifestyle choice so its on me to decide to accommodate an EV or not but there are enough people in that situation that full adoption of EVs is still a long way off. (and I’m a one-car household so while the dual cars for dual purposes set-up sounds great, its not happening). In the end, the majority of America is highway country , set up for long road trips through the middle of nowhere where stops more than 20 minutes are rare. The usual rebuttal is “but its better to stop every couple hours driving and spend some time out of the car anyway”. Well yea, it probably is but that’s not how I travel and making that switch to accommodate charging a car would require some drastic shifts in my very ingrained travel habits. Which I may very well decide to do once its worth it, but its not yet.

  83. I currently drive 3 miles a day in my (now almost 11 year-old) Prius to get to the commuter train station, and on local trips (i.e. for groceries) of less than 10 miles. My other use for the car is in long driving trips of 200+ miles round trip for vacations (I like to go to regional gaming conventions) with some travel on the other end and very little chance to get recharged on the other end. So when my beloved Prius finally breathes its last, my inclination (assuming this happens in the next 3 years or so) is to get a Prius plug-in. Since I have solar panels on my house, the plug-in would be a great way to store the electricity. But because it has a reserve gas tank, it would allow me to do the long distance trips without either renting a car or taking the family Highlander hybrid.

  84. I put in my deposit. There’s a chance I won’t be able to wait about 2 years for the T3 after all (my little Corolla is at 125,000 miles; still runs fine but you never know), but I figured the deposit is refundable, so, why not.

    I did look into replacing my car about a year ago and considered the Leaf, but I couldn’t do that range. My commute is only 15 miles round trip, but getting to the airport is close to 40 miles one way; so is visiting my boyfriend. T3’s range would definitely settle my range anxiety. I think it’d be the same case for most of us out in the Denver metro area, which is getting better with public transportation but still has pretty far to go (especially the farther north you get, and I’m pretty far north).

  85. in CO an EV will have higher emissions than an efficient gas car, since most of our electricity is coal-fired.
    “in Colorado a grid powered electric car is equivalent to about 30 MPG US.”

    I looked at the Prius, but it was $10k more than the Honda Fit. Arithmetic showed that to recoup that difference I’d have to drive the Prius for 20 years or more.. The Volt is $20k more than the Fit, which makes it unaffordable anyway.
    So now have a Honda Fit which gets 35mpg in my town driving, 40-45 on the freeway.

    If we could afford to install rooftop solar, it would make sense to have an electric runabout for town and the minivan for trips. But there again I won’t live long enough to recoup the cost of rooftop..

  86. Cam, the type of power generated where you live is definitely a factor in how clean an EV is, but it is generally cheaper than gas. EVs tend to be overrepresented in areas which have a cleaner power mix, such as California, and EV owners tend to disproportionately have solar panels. In my case I produce more power with my solar panels than I use, and the power company only reimburses me .03 KWh for excess, so it’s way cheaper than gas, even at the currently low prices.

    For anyone who typically drives very little, but also does long trips that aren’t well suited to an EV, a plug-in hybrid seems particularly ideal. It would mean you do almost all your driving on electric, but you’d have gas for those longer trips. I’m not sure if there are any good hybrid or plugin-hybrid off-roading vehicles as it’s not something I do, but there may be something that’s a reasonable compromise.

    If an EV or hybrid isn’t a good fit for financial or other reasons, it’s still good to at least try to pick a car that’s as good for the environment as can fit your needs.

  87. I plopped down my $1k to reserve my place in line. Tesla hit it just right for me as I got my annual bonus at work just the week before, so it was essentially “found money” (i.e. not in the budget at all).

    I can see why someone in a rural community might be put off by an electric for an every day ride, and given your driving habits, it probably wouldn’t work out well. But wouldn’t it be a great graduation gift for Athena?

  88. Dear Cam (and others),

    Economically, what will matter to you will be the cost per KWhr of electricity where you live (assuming you charge at home).

    Environmentally, all of North America is effectively a single supplier. Energy gets bounced about the grid depending upon demand, pricing, pollution credits and other incentives, maintenance, etc. You really CAN’T track that stuff unless you’re an expert. Consequently, if you’re concerned about the environmental footprint of electric vs gas, about the best you can do is look at the average mix of electricity in North America and use that.

    Assumes you’re not growing your own, of course.

    One other factor is that it is MUCH easier and cheaper to clean up pollution (and sequester CO2) at a central source than coming out of a million tailpipes. Tailpipe solutions to pollution problems have always been the least cost-effective ways to deal with the crap. But ya gotta work with the infrastructure ya gots.

    One of the purposes of electric vehicles is to change that infrastructure.

    All of this does get discussed. Frequently. But every conversation about electric vs gas isn’t supposed to be a PhD thesis and we’d all be terminally bored to death if it were. So we heavily shorthand and jump to the punchline. ‘Cuz that’s what humans do.

    pax / Ctein

  89. Dear Folks,

    (sorry for serial posting– I fergot this)

    I should mention that a Model S makes NO economic sense for me. For the amount that Paula and I drive, it would cost about the same if I simply called for a taxi or a towncar any place I wanted to go in the Greater Bay Area.

    It’s that $#&($!! crack-on-wheels thing.

    pax / Ctein

  90. I would love to have a Tesla, not necessarily because it’s an electric car, but simply because it’s a frakking cool car that just happens to be electric. But then we have the problems of (a) it costs so much, and (b) no place to charge it overnight in my apartment complex.

    But the Chevy Volt/Bolt are another matter: I will never again buy another car from “Government Motors.” I have never forgiven them for going to the government and begging for bailout money. To paraphrase Jubal Harshaw, a car company that needs government bailouts is an incompetent whore.

    That’s (part of) why I now drive a Ford Taurus, Ford being the one American car company that did not require bailouts. In fact, one of the local Ford dealers prints on its license-plate frames, “Built Without Your Tax Dollars.”

  91. What do people think of the Model 3 touchscreen controls? Strikes me as a nonstarter. No usable muscle memory for given controls, no way to do something without looking down and poking around on a screen. ?? Sounds nuts. But what do I know. My most recent car is a pokey 10 year-old sedan.

    Anybody else have any thoughts on that?

  92. I’m not a driver these days (I live in the center of an old Eastern European city where possession of a car is more trouble than it’s worth), but I remember when my family had a Prius, and one of the things about it in an urban/suburban setting was that it generally didn’t burn gas when idling. The engine would start when and as needed to add power to the drive train or charge the batteries, but if you were stopped at a traffic light, the engine would generally cut off completely until you stepped on the gas again (and not even then if you went easy on the accelerator).

    And slow it wasn’t; that little sedan had a lot of pep to it, especially if you had both the electric motor and the gas engine feeding the drive train.

    But I think the idling thing is one of the most significant benefits; I read somewhere that idling when stopped is a really significant air-pollution contributor…

  93. I live in a major metro area, so I assume there are charging stations around. However, I seriously doubt the ability of these little tykes to handle the 12 inches of snow we get here. Until they come in an SUV size with 4-wheel drive, I’m out.

  94. @Bruce K: My sister loves her Prius; her other half also has one, too, IIRC. I rented one once and it had about as much pep as a snail, though – it seemed to fight having to accelerate quickly or drive at highway speeds. Are you saying it was user error??? ;-)

    @Terese: I’m not sure about the 3, but the Model S and X have all wheel drive versions (the “D” versions which have dual motors, one for the front and one for the back). I don’t know how they do in12″ of snow, though – we don’t get that much where I am, and mine’s not a “D” model.

  95. Dear Quixote,

    Touchscreens are not new to Teslas. I was dubious when i heard of it in the Model S– I think the teenty, tiny toushcreen in the middle of the dashboard on the Prius is one of the worst ergonomic horrors I’ve ever experienced. Horrid design. Hence, I was prepared to dislike the one on the lower midconsole on the Model S.

    Turns out, it works! Really, really well. To coin a phrase, size matters. When it’s a honkin’ big screen, you don’t end up fumbling for a control or having to really look where you’re jabbing.

    I’m concerned that the screen in the Model 3 is a little smaller, but having it up near eye level on the dash is so much better than the placement in the Model S that I think it will more than make up for it.

    Do keep in mind that what sells Model S’s are in good part the ergonomics, which is much of what makes it crack on wheels. Tesla understands “driver experience” better than almost anyone.

    pax / Ctein

  96. I just got a C-max Energi (Ford’s version of the Volt basically) and thought hard about it versus a Volt. I ended up not liking how claustrophobic the Volt feels since it’s got these huge side panels that make it hard to see between your windshield and side window views. However, I haven’t actually found its fuel mileage to be noticeably better than the TDI Jetta (pre VW lying) was with diesel. Anyway, just thought I’d mention there is a Ford hybrid you can think about too :). It’s really funny when the engine turns off at traffic lights.

  97. @Kendall: “Rental” is what raises the red flag for me in your case; a rented Prius might not have been in as good a condition as the one I drove, or the ones your family drove. Which generation design might also make a difference; the one I drove was a second-generation, and it handled like a dream on highways as well as having lots of pep.

  98. @Bruce K: Hmm, I rented it within the past couple of years, and car rental companies don’t keep cars long, so it wasn’t an old model. People generally talk about how long they last and how reliable they are, but you have a fair point; maybe the one I drove had some problems. I had no reason to think that at the time, so it just left a horrible impression on me . . . but that may not be fair, based on just one experience.

  99. Dear Kendall,

    I would concur with Bruce– there was something weird about the Prius you got. I’ve been in lots of them since it came out, and it has fine pickup (that’s in the nature of electrics– great low-end torque) and no problem with freeway speeds.

    pax / Ctein

  100. @ctein: Thanks, between the two of you, I’ll try to revise my impression of the Prius. :-)

    (Granted, I was comparing it to my S, which accelerates like a bat outta hell.)

  101. Hey, thanks @Ctein! Interesting. Now I’ll make the effort to at least try one out once I’m in the market for a non-pokey sedan.

  102. Our ’02 Prius made it 10 years and 219,000 miles before we replaced the HV battery. The cost was about $2800 ( in San Francisco) including a new battery pack from Toyota and labor) but it had been SO reliable we were planning on making it to at least half a million miles… Sadly it was taken out a year later by that uninsured rapscallion that seems to hit everyone eventually. 😕

    Currently driving a 2013 Prius and waiting for the perfect car to come along and wean us away from Toyota, maybe the next iteration of the Tesla?

  103. I have a Ford Fusion hybrid, which is currently at 42.1 mpg overall (it was around 47 the first summer we owned it, but it gets less in the winter). We were limited quite a bit by which cars my husband fits in (he is 6’3″ and slender, but besides his height he has a bad knee that some seat configurations make much worse — the Prius was okay for headroom but killed his knee, IIRC).