Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tesla's frontal attack on gas cars right way to go

tesla-model-s-full-fronteditors-blog-entry3There’s been a ton of talk and debate about the Tesla Model S this week thanks to a lightning rod of an article by New York Times reporter John Broder in which he describes an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Model S from Washington, D.C. to Boston relying on Tesla’s two East Coast Supercharger stations. Most of the debate has centered around the veracity of Broder’s report and/or the relative “idiocy” of his approach to making the trip and (not) charging the car.

I’m not going to focus on that. Instead, I’m going to pick up a strand of discussion long-time EV advocate Chelsea Sexton put forward in a piece published on Wired.Com. In it, the always articulate Sexton argues that Tesla – and others – shouldn’t be pushing a direct comparison between pure EVs and gasoline cars.

Take EVs for what they are, meaning highly efficient, fun-to-drive cars that surpass gasoline cars in many – but not all respects, writes Sexton. Don’t force the point of comparison to be long-distance road trips, because that’s not where pure EVs excel, at least not yet, she contends.

I disagree with Sexton -- and probably most EV advocates -- and align myself on this one with Elon Musk, whose strategy appears to be a full-frontal attack on gas cars.

Why do I think Musk is right?

Because for most people (early EV adopters and EV advocates are not most people, as much as I wish they were), convenience (more of it!), and versatility (more of it!) are the primary motivations for making a switch to a new technology. Unfortunately, convenience and versatility are precisely where pure EVs fall short (plug-in hybrid EVs do not fall short here, which is why they’re doing better than pure EVs).