Roger Marolt: I can’t drive electrified
How are you going to be king of the road trip on a 350-mile range?
Do you want to hear something stupid? I think Tesla cars are obsolete. They’re old news as soon as they come off the assembly line. Many do not agree. Nonetheless, I don’t own any of their stock. I don’t have one of their cars. I don’t want either.
Teslas are loaded to the gull-wing doors with technology and gadgetry, and still they are seriously constrained in what they can do. They are on the dull edge of progress while still on the drawing board. They simply can’t do what every other ordinary car does — namely, to go wherever you want, whenever you want to go.
Choose any Tesla model you like. It can do what? Go 350 miles, if you baby it, before it needs be re-charged for the next 10 hours? That’s without a bike rack on top. How are you going to be king of the road trip like that? A regular car essentially runs nonstop forever. You drive 400 miles and fill it up in the time it takes for a bathroom break and to grab a pack of Twizzlers.
It may sound like I’m emphasizing trivial things here. But to me, at least, it is everything. The driving range of a normal car is an afterthought. There’s not a ton of difference between a 300 mile range and a 485 range for internal combustion engine cars. It adds up to one extra Kum & Go stop for about every 1,200 miles of driving. In an electric car, to be limited to a few hundred miles before having to park it for the night to refuel is more of a buzz kill for cross country driving than was lowering the national speed limit to 55 mph in the mid-1970s.
Even if I were to use the electric car only for commuting, there’s still the plugging in everywhere all the time thing to deal with. It’s not a big deal … as long as you don’t think of your Tesla as a convenient mode of transportation.
I had a first-generation Volkswagen diesel Rabbit a long time ago. It had to be plugged in every night in the winter to keep the engine warm or it wouldn’t turn over the next morning. What didn’t seem like a big deal on the showroom floor when this necessity was explained to me quickly became an irritating nuisance when I got the vehicle home. Plugging it in is another daily obligation.
I was beyond thrilled when I got my new gizmotized workout watch last year. When I figured out I have to plug it in about every other night, the luster faded. It would actually be more convenient if I could just wind it up with a knob on the side. I love all the information it provides about my workouts. I pore over the data download to my laptop. But, if I forget to charge it and it doesn’t work when I go for a ride, it pretty much feels like the workout didn’t count. I am man enough to admit this. As a timepiece, my Suunto pales compared to the old Casio still keeping time in my junk drawer for the past 10 years.
One thing the Tesla has going for it is outstanding performance, at least on paper. I have never actually seen a Tesla tear off the line at a traffic light, nor have I been passed by one on the freeway flying along at over 100 miles an hour. I know they can do both, but at the cost of a few hours recharging the battery afterward.
I rode with my brother-in-law in his new Tesla, and he was tempted to demonstrate its amazing acceleration.
Then looked at his battery gauge and did the rough math indicating he might not be able to get back home if he showed off. If the Tesla gets up to highway speed in about three seconds while burning through an hour of battery charging, the actual acceleration is really zero to 60 in an hour and three seconds, right?
Still, I am thrilled that Tesla sales are back ordered. We need even more people to buy them. We need our government to subsidize them more. We need more automobile manufacturers to design and build more electric models to choose from. The more money that flows into this industry, the sooner we get to a Tesla with an 800-mile driving range and a five-minute rechargeable battery. When charging stations start looking like 7-Elevens, we will know electric automobiles have become cutting edge.
Roger Marolt is excited for the first real electric car for the masses. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While I love to travel, it seems that more and more the best part of any trip I take these days is the part where I come home.