Ludicrous Indeed

Unsurprisingly, the BBC gives us a puff-piece on Tesla’s latest offering:

[T]his upgrade enables the Model S to travel from 0 – 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, giving it the fastest acceleration of any currently available production car … Like all electric vehicles, that more powerful battery delivers 100% of its dual-engine torque immediately, pushing the four-wheel-drive saloon past records heretofore the domain of million-dollar supercars.

Million dollars? Let’s first be generous and assume this car actually can do 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and will make it into production (visit Streetwise Professor to see why skepticism over Elon Musk’s pronouncements is warranted).  According to Wikipedia, the Porsche 991 can match this which, according to Porsche USA, costs about $188,000.  This isn’t so cheap, but it’s not a million dollar supercar.  And the Tesla is no bargain, either:

The Model S P100D saloon will start at £114,200 and the Model X 100D sport-utility vehicle begins at £117,200, and older Teslas can upgrade their battery packs for a mere £15,000.

£114k is about $150k in today’s money.  That would buy you an awful lot of Porsche.

That’s expensive, but Tesla is taking the Toms shoes model approach to your wallet. “While the P100D Ludicrous is obviously an expensive vehicle, we want to emphasize that every sale helps pay for the smaller and much more affordable Tesla Model 3 that is in development.” In other words, your need to go very far, very fast helps fund the electric vehicle needs of others less fortunate than you.

Hmmm.  As a business model, this doesn’t sound very sustainable.  You could probably expect some cross-subsidising between models in order to maintain a brand and market share, but this seems to be ass-backwards: it’s normally the high-volume margins on the cheaper brands which provide the cash for developing high-end niche products, not the other way around.  Are Tesla really going to be selling enough of these $150k supercars, and the margins high enough, to be able to reduce the cost of the mass-produced models?  I’d love to see the numbers on that.

The holy grail of EV range has long been 300 miles, which would bring electrics into the full-tank range of most petrol-powered vehicles. Now, 300 miles doesn’t make for a stress-free cross-county road trip, but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying a real meal while your Tesla charges rather than buying Slim Jims and Diet Dr Pepper in the 10 minutes it takes to gas up your petromobile.

If sitting and having a meal for a couple of hours is preferable to stopping for 10 minutes, why don’t more people do that already?  After all, there is nothing preventing owners of petrol cars doing so, is there?  What the article is doing is trying to make light of the biggest issue facing electric cars, which I’ve written about before:

The limited range isn’t actually the issue, as petrol cars also have a limited range.  The problem is the charging time, which renders the vehicle unavailable for several hours.  If you run low on petrol, you spend 5 minutes filling up and you’re on your way again.

The whole concept on which the current breed of electric cars is based will collapse as soon as there are more than a handful of stories of people being caught out miles from home – children in the back, howling – and having to wait at a charging station for hours before being able to continue the journey start to appear on the internet.

The author’s glib suggestion that people will be happy to sit and have a nice meal while waiting to continue their journey isn’t supported by people’s actual behaviour.  A decent journalist would have addressed this issue properly, but then this is the BBC: the entire article is simply a puff-piece for the latest darling of the political establishment:

Mr Musk is betting big on batteries. He’s going to make sure we get to the future  — and quickly.

This is what £3.7bn per year gets you.  Couldn’t they at least send Tesla an invoice next time?

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17 thoughts on “Ludicrous Indeed

  1. As things stands I agree with you entirely. However if my assessment of what the future for motor vehicles will look like is correct then the only consideration on how a motor vehicle is powered will be down to cost and political considerations not practical. When self drive is the norm then ownership and use will change. Owning a vehicle will be rare and we will hire them only for the period in which we will need to be inside one. What ever is available will turn up at the door and deposit us at our destination. If needed a change of vehicles will be made available along the way if the journey distance is too far for the fuel capacity of the vehicle and it will take too long to refuel the one in. I further predict trains will go the way of canal boats as more motor vehicles will be able to use existing roads without causing congestion and more safely.

  2. My last two taxi journeys have been in (i) a hybrid, and (ii) an all-electric.

    The second was, according to the driver, charged up overnight and in his lunch break.

  3. When self drive is the norm then ownership and use will change.

    I don’t think that’s ever going to happen: see here, plus I’ll write another post at some point on a different aspect of why I don’t think it will.

    Owning a vehicle will be rare and we will hire them only for the period in which we will need to be inside one.

    I’m not convinced by that, either. One thing people overlook is the emotional attachment people have to their cars: too many people see them as highly personal, almost extensions of themselves, for me to believe we’ll be happy travelling around only in somebody else’s.

  4. The second was, according to the driver, charged up overnight and in his lunch break.

    There’s no doubt they’ll suit some people. But I don’t think they’ll suit everybody. In fact, I think when people consider what they’re going to be forking out for something that might not be available when they need it, only a minority will buy them.

  5. Electric cars are the perfect example of NIMBY-ism. Ask people who love them and you’ll hear them say, “they are zero pollution vehicles” or something like it. Really? Doesn’t that electricity have to be generated from somewhere? All it does is put the pollution away from the virtue signaling GoodThink driver and who cares if it pollutes flyover country we just need our cities nice and clean for the liberals who live there.

    I like driving. If I could have self drive in bumper to bumper traffic, sure. But you can pry my old fashioned driver controlled wheel from my cold, dead fingers.

  6. Doesn’t that electricity have to be generated from somewhere? All it does is put the pollution away from the virtue signaling GoodThink driver and who cares if it pollutes flyover country we just need our cities nice and clean for the liberals who live there.

    Exactly: and everything is fine now while the number of electric cars number in the thousands, but what about if they number in the tens of millions? We’re going to need a lot more power stations. And I suspect we’d very quickly find production and disposal of a component of the electric car – probably the battery – will cause more environmental damage than the pollution caused by the internal combustion engine.

  7. We wish it, therefore it will be.

    Electricity, it seems in the World of make-believe, is like money, it just grows on trees.

    Where will the electricity come from to charge these car batteries, and who will install the additional grid infrastructure to cope with diners charging their cars?

    What will make the difference is when enough people have electric cars and the grid falls over.

    We are told the UK electricity grid is near to collapse as it is, as it moves towards an increasing proportion of supply from intermittent, erratic, unpredictable and unreliable wind and solar, the additional demand from charging batteries will outstrip supply, and the extra load on the existing infrastructure risks overload and power cuts.

    The whole ‘climate change’ nonsense takes place without any due consideration of reality; and ‘alternative renewable’ energy is little more than belief in magic.

  8. Tim-

    1. Thanks for the props.
    2. Who knew that people who were willing to pay $150k for speed were into hours-long lunches?
    3. Even ignoring the issue of charging time, holding range constant EVs are at a disadvantage due to the lack of charging stations. My QX50 has a range of about 330 miles, but I don’t worry about it b/c I know there’s always a gas station within a few miles, if not a few blocks. Not so with an EV. Another of Elon’s forgotten promises is the creation of a dense network of charging stations. Hasn’t happened, and he can’t afford it now. Though Uncle Sugar is throwing another subsidy his way–it has announced plans to subsidize charging stations.
    4. Bjorn Lomborg has calculated the total environmental cost of EVs, including battery recycling, rare earths mining, etc., and they are hardly green.

  9. If “Ludicrous Mode” was worthy of its name then the car would do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds but only in reverse.

    If the British Broadcasting Corporation was worthy of its name then it would be far more than just a television edition of “The Guardian” edited by posh interns.

    The difference between the two cases is that when Tesla’s PR flacks hype the product they are doing their jobs, but when the BBC’s vapid gap yah hacks repeat that hype they are doing the opposite of their jobs.

  10. Who knew that people who were willing to pay $150k for speed were into hours-long lunches?

    Heh! My main problem with this is nobody considers the scale-change. Sure, two or three people having an hour long lunch while waiting for a car to charge is okay. But hundreds of thousands? Where are they all going to sit? I do a lot of driving around France in the summer, and the “aires” – the rest stops/service stations – in August are absolutely jammed packed. Nobody in their right mind buys fuel along the Autoroute, but everyone stops at one for lunch and it’s a quick in-and-out as the kids get fed and sent to the toilet. Now expand this scenario to each car having to be plugged into a charging point and everyone sitting around waiting for 1-2 hours. Rest areas are going to become the size of ferry terminals and parents are going to spending hundreds of Euros just keeping the kids entertained. Nobody seems to think that what seems cute and edgy for a hundred cars will become living hell for a million.

  11. but when the BBC’s vapid gap yah hacks repeat that hype they are doing the opposite of their jobs.

    Absolutely, the media is utterly failing us in this area, as in so many others.

  12. Tim, you’re right. However, not everyone has to buy a Tesla for them to be successful. The Prius sold close to 6 million units despite being, from most reviews I’ve read, a quite poorly built car.

    Sure, the battery charging system needs to change as not many can wait for hours for a recharge if they are using the car for longer commutes. I think the merit of Tesla is mostly that it forced other companies to invest in EV and, hopefully, the whole industry will evolve to a much more mature (and green) model.

    When petrol cars were first introduced they could hardly compete with horses on ease of servicing and refueling. Still, nowadays people tend to prefer cars to horses in most cases 🙂

  13. The Prius sold close to 6 million units despite being, from most reviews I’ve read, a quite poorly built car.

    True, but Toyota had an impressive pedigree in car manufacturing before they launched the Prius: I think this is important.

    I think the merit of Tesla is mostly that it forced other companies to invest in EV and, hopefully, the whole industry will evolve to a much more mature (and green) model.

    Ah yes, but as I said in my previous article:

    What we have here is a government picking a winner, and this rarely ends well. The underlying assumption is that everyone driving electric cars is a desirable end, and I’m not convinced this has been proven.

    Basically, I think EVs are a non-starter until they find a method other than chemical batteries to store the electricity needed to run them.

    When petrol cars were first introduced they could hardly compete with horses on ease of servicing and refueling.

    True, but the growth of the motor car was exponential and both motorcar companies and oil companies rushed to meet the demand. EVs have been around for a while now, and they’re still dependent on government subsidies.

  14. Why can’t the batteries be made removable? So you pull up at the “filling station” and they take the empty one out, stick it on charge, and give you a freshly charged one? Bill you for the energy and proportionate depreciation. I mean, you surely just need a plug (and a fork-lift truck)?

    It’s probably the economics of having the world covered with battery changing stations for the tiny number of electric vehicles that will ever be on the streets.

    Car ownership is being slowly killed off by car share in the cities – no need to wait for self-drive. But it’s a generational thing – the oldies still emotionally attached to their vehicles.

  15. Why can’t the batteries be made removable? So you pull up at the “filling station” and they take the empty one out, stick it on charge, and give you a freshly charged one?

    A good question. Firstly, they are damned large and heavy, and probably would need to be located in a position in the car which would affect the handling quite badly if they were removable. Secondly, storing several thousand (or tens of thousands) of these batteries at the side of the road is no simple matter. But I think the main reason is the battery is very expensive and makes up a sizeable portion of the cost of the car (see the £15k Tesla battery upgrade, for an idea), and batteries deteriorate. So who is going to want to buy a brand new car, £5k of the price of which is new batteries, and have them replaced with an old set which have been subjected to 1,000+ charging cycles after the first journey? Not many, I’d say.

    Car ownership is being slowly killed off by car share in the cities – no need to wait for self-drive. But it’s a generational thing – the oldies still emotionally attached to their vehicles.

    That remains to be seen. I think the connection with the car goes a lot deeper than that.

  16. Maybe we just have a particularly well-organised and cheap car share here. I can always find a vehicle within at most 5 minutes walk. Unless I was a daily car user there is no way it would be economically rational to own a car.

    I understand the petrolhead thing – my last car was an Alfa GT. I think if I can separate myself from that then everyone else _should_ be able to manage emotionally without their low-budget small family car.

  17. Unless I was a daily car user there is no way it would be economically rational to own a car.

    If car ownership and use was emotionally and economically rational, we’d all be driving about in Toyota Corollas. 🙂

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