What Happens To Tesla When The Sleeping Auto Giants Awake?

The history of automotive production is littered with the fallen badges of car companies that shone brightly but fell by the wayside in the face of competition from the industry’s giants. Whether you pine for an AMC, a Studebaker, or a Saab, it’s a Ford or a Honda you’ll be driving in 2019.

In the world of electric cars it has been a slightly different story. Though the big names have dipped a toe in the water they have been usurped by a genuinely disruptive contender. If you drive an electric car in 2019 it won’t be that Ford or Honda, it could be a Nissan, but by far the dominant name in EV right now is Tesla.

Motor vehicles are standing at the brink of a generational shift from internal combustion to electric drive. Will Tesla become the giant it hopes, or will history repeat itself?

How Far Have Electric Vehicles Come?

The Citroën Berlingo électrique. Thilo Parg [CC BY-SA 3.0]
The Citroën Berlingo électrique. Thilo Parg [CC BY-SA 3.0]
To watch the development of electric vehicles over the last couple of decades has been to witness a quiet revolution from low-production oddities to serious contenders. In 1999 a French van, Citroën’s Berlingo électrique, would have represented the pinnacle of commercially available electric  transport. It had nickel metal hydride batteries that gave it a range of about 60 miles, and a DC motor that gave it a top speed of about 50 miles per hour. It was a practical small local delivery van that was produced in small numbers to large customers, but your plumber or your local shop would not have considered it as a viable or affordable alternative to its fossil-fueled stablemates.

So good they dumped one in space: the 2008 Tesla Roadster. Tesla Motors Inc. [Copyrighted free use]
So good they dumped one in space: the 2008 Tesla Roadster. Tesla Motors Inc. [Copyrighted free use]
Around a decade after the Berlingo the electric vehicle was still an extremely niche product, but its technology had changed significantly. Lithium ion batteries and a brushless motor gave the 2008 Tesla Roadster sports car a range of 244 miles and a top speed of 125 miles per hour. In 2010 the mass-market first-generation Nissan Leaf came out with a 73 mile range and a top speed of 93 miles per hour.

In the decade since, a procession of models have appeared from multiple manufacturers, and typical models now approach the range and speed figures of their more traditionally-powered equivalents. Tesla has become the big fish in a small pond, and their prestige models are status symbols across the world. Their future seems assured, the automotive dinosaurs are left wallowing in an oil-rich swamp as the asteroid of global warming appears in the sky above them, and we’ll all be driving Model 3s and their successors in years to come. Right?

An Eventful Month In Electric Car Manufacture

The VW e-Golf. Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz [CC BY 2.0]
The VW e-Golf. Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz [CC BY 2.0]
Harking back to the fate of those Saabs and Studebakers at the top of the page, an observer might ask why the global giants have so far failed to take Tesla on by releasing more than just a token effort or a small car with a limited range. This summer it’s possible we’ve seen some early salvos in that battle, with a slew of announcements from those big manufacturers that herald a time in which their electric offerings become more serious contenders. BMW’s announcement of the long-awaited electric Mini is hardly seismic, Jaguar Land Rover’s conversion of their Castle Bromwich plant to electric production should make you sit up and take notice, while if Ford and VW’s signing of a global deal to share electric car technology doesn’t catch your attention, nothing will.

The Minis are something of a boutique offering and Jaguar may take some of Tesla’s market with their electric executive saloon cars, but the deal between Ford and VW has the potential to be a game changer. Between them the two manufacturers reach into almost every market across multiple brands, and though the current electric Golf has failed to make a significant impact the prospect of its technology, finding its way into cars such as the Ford Focus as well as the VW marques can not fail to change your daily driving.

There Will Be No Tesla Gremlin

The first Tesla Gigafactory. Planet Labs, Inc. [CC BY-SA 4.0]
The first Tesla Gigafactory. Planet Labs, Inc. [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Given the prospect of those electric Fords and Volkswagens, with no doubt a rush of similar mass market machines from other manufacturers, was this the moment at which someone ate Tesla’s lunch?

Producing the innovative and glamorous car the customer wants to buy is no longer enough when there are plenty of good-enough cars that they can afford to buy, if this were not the case we’d still be able to walk onto a lot and buy a new Saab or a Studebaker (Neither the post-1963 Avanti nor the promise of a future Saab-derived NEVS car count in this context). Will the customer want a Tesla, but walk instead into the Jaguar dealer or worse still for Tesla, the Ford dealer for an electric Mondeo?

Perhaps they will, but even then would that spell the end for Tesla? The key lies in their diversification, for instead of taking the battle onto Ford or VW’s home turf with a competitor to the Focus and Golf they have instead become as much an alternative energy company as a car company. The famous Gigafactories do not produce cars, instead they churn out batteries, Powerwalls, and solar products. Meanwhile Tesla’s mark can be found on the road outside their own cars, like VW they have licensed their technology. Mercedes-Benz and Smart electric vehicles produced by Daimler carry Tesla-designed parts, as do the electric Toyota Rav4s. There will be no Tesla equivalent of the AMC Pacer or Gremlin to be the butt of jokes in future decades, instead there will be a drivetrain technology and energy company that also produces some cars. Maybe someone hasn’t eaten Tesla’s lunch, but it’s certain that their helping has just become a little smaller.

Every step we take towards an electric Golf or an electric Focus becoming ubiquitous on our roads is also a step towards their parts becoming as common as those of internal combustion engines. Imagine a world in which a large lithium-ion battery is as easy to find and as easy to recycle as a 12V lead-acid car battery, or in which a car-size induction motor is as common as a washing machine motor. The prospects for hacking with these parts seem limitless but in the near term we’re strapped by a lack of stock. Perhaps Tesla’s lunch may be being eaten, but if a few crumbs end up on our tables that can’t be bad!

158 thoughts on “What Happens To Tesla When The Sleeping Auto Giants Awake?

    1. It’s a website that has a lot to do with home electronics projects, and things people involved in them would find interesting. Not sure why you’d think the articles are only about hobbyist projects if you’ve been to the site more than once; check out the .io portion of the site if you want a higher density of project oriented writeups.

    2. It’s pretty plain in that last paragraph.

      There are a lot of us eagerly waiting for the still-good individual cells rescued from old electric car battery packs to become available to the hobbyist or even due to economies of mass production brand new batteries to plummet in price.

      For the more ambitious of us, as Jenny pointed out there is the motor too.

      And then there is the cars themselves. Already we have seen Tesla hacks here. The electronics and motorized mechanisms of an electric car are more in line with the abilities and experiences of people who cut their teeth on Arduinos, Raspis and building 3d printers than their older ICE counterparts. Getting those into the hands of the masses will no doubt result in a lot more car hacks to read about here in the future.

      1. I’m excited to see the Prius’s show up at the salvage yards. Looking forward to more electric vehicles and a Tesla would be totally awesome at salvage yard pricing. Sucks the batteries aren’t allowed in the yard though.

        1. It’s happening already. The house full of kiters and surfer dudes down the road from me always has a few old Prius’s out front – they’ve been hacking together working battery packs out of broken ones. They got started on drone racing (there’s often a drone zinging around out back), and decided big battery packs are where it’s at.

    3. In a few short years, there’s going to be a ton of used Model 3 parts available for the picking. Motors, battery packs, etc. Lots of potential fun there.

      I really hope to see more home coachbuilding done using EV platforms.

        1. Did you ever see that Venn diagram about Tesla Investors?

          https://www.reddit.com/r/EnoughMuskSpam/comments/7aqvi6/musk_cult_summed_up_in_one_nice_diagram/

          IMHO the model 3 will sink Tesla. They should have stuck with overpriced highest performance vehicle business model with more reasonable margins to absorb their manufacturing and design inefficiencies. Tesla can’t compete making toasters. Fads don’t last long enough to keep 8 year old car designs looking cool. Especially when paying cutting edge prices.

          1. I’m not sure what miles have to do with rust. Some areas are wetter and/or use salt, rust is a problem there. Small changes to coatings and drainage can have large effects on rust. If the Model 3 has a rust problem I’m guessing it will get fixed. Tesla has shown a great willingness to improve their products as quickly as solutions are found, rather than waiting til the next year/model.

          2. Tesla won’t be stripping and re-painting all the shoddy bodywork they’ve already done, and there’s class-action lawsuits already brewing over what a bad job they did with it.

      1. Already happening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKv_N0IDS2A Truckla is a pickup truck built from a brand new Model 3. More like an Australian Ute. With a bit more work to weld in the rear doors to fill the seams and some more trimming and rework in the back (they came up just a bit shy of 48″ wide in the bed between the wheels) it would be a pretty practical thing.

        On the Ecomodder forum there’s a guy who is grafting the skin of his old Pontiac Firebird convertible. convertible (the car he owned when he met the woman he married) onto the stripped chassis of a Prius V. Time had taken its toll on the Pontiac. It had a lot less sheet metal underneath and a lot more rust than when it was new.

    4. I guess you haven’t been here too long, welcome! Sorry Hackaday wasted your second of life with free content that I am Interested in. They hire writers every few years, maybe you can write for them, and move the information to your interpretation of what Hackaday should be. Or you can buy a domain of wereallypost1hackaday.com and be a competitor. Otherwise great comment!

      1. “They hire writers every few years, maybe you can write for them, and move the information to your interpretation of what Hackaday should be. ”

        Editors might have something to say about that.

    5. It can be a part of a monster project. Build a life that it totally self sustaining. Home and car self powered. Add a 0 energy greenhouse and you can eat live and drive free….

    6. The automobile began as a home shop project. Decades later the electric car began life as a home shop project. Decades after that, hacking crushed consumer electric cars into power walls or into cars that were not originally electric is a home shop project.

  1. Not for a while. The problem is currently available electric cars other than Tesla are just modified versions of their existing cars with tragically old-school design. Until you’ve spent some time behind the wheel of a Tesla you don’t really know how graceful the thing is compared to other cars (caveat with some glaring issues).

    Until the major manufacturers do clean-sheet designs Tesla doesn’t have much to worry about. And by then they’ll have diversified from cars to solar roofs and giant power-grid battery banks and who knows what else…

    I don’t mean to sound like a fanboy but the only interesting thing to ever come out of Ford or VW is the new electric microbus and after all this time you still can’t buy it.

    1. The reason it is “graceful” is because there’s a whole other car’s weight in batteries in the undercarriage, making it ride like a lead sled. The other manufacturers have less batteries and simpler designs because they’re aiming for a price point that is affordable to more than 15% of the buyers, so their cars are very basic in design and construction.

      1. Given that a Model 3 with the long range battery option and dual motors is only about 300Kg heavier than a top of the range Ford Focus then I’d say you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.
        Putting the batteries low down gives the vehicle a low center of gravity. A low center of gravity makes for good handling (better cornering, lower body roll etc).
        Traditional motor manufacturers have been producing electric vehicles that aren’t much cheaper than Tesla’s equivalent model, while being vastly inferior as a driving proposition. Take the Nisan Leaf for example – less than half of the range of even a low end model 3, no active battery management and cooling (so repeated fast charging on a long trip is a problem) and its all of about $5000 cheaper. The new Plus version is actually more expensive than the Tesla.

    2. In my opinion Tesla’s chassis design is the reason I wont own one. The way they put all the batteries in the bottom of it seems to make them quite vulnerable to damage in abnormal circumstances, leading to a rather exciting display. I don’t want my car to be exciting in such a way.

      I prefer Renaults approach more, stick ’em in a fire resistant box and have an easily accessed kill switch and point for the emergency services to flood the box if needed.

      1. I guess that you haven’t read that Teslas have a 5 star safety rating. And they are lowest risk of injury. If a fire starts because of battery to battery contact, no switch will work. Batteries don’t “explode”, they flame shorter. I you crash into a tree or concrete wall at 100MPH, not much can help.
        150,000 car fires happen every year in the USA. No news. 1 Tesla fire and 50 articles across country. Don’t believe the news. If you value your life get a Tesla.

        1. They have a five star safety rating and the lowest risk of injury in a particularly narrow set of tests intended to check the safety of old-school gasoline cars, which Tesla almost certainly designed their car to pass. There’s no test for what happens when, say, the Model S runs over a stray piece of metal and it gets rammed upwards into the exposed underbelly of the battery pack – as it turns out, fire happens. There’s no test for other collision types either, and the IIHS’s broader set of tests reveal their cars are no longer top-tier for safety once you step outside the three NHTSA tests.

          1. Yes, there were some early fires due to that. Then Tesla armored the bottom of the battery. I haven’t heard of that vulnerability since. In any case, Tesla’s catch fire at a much smaller rate than other vehicles. They sure do get a lot of air play when it happens though.

          2. >”Tesla’s catch fire at a much smaller rate than other vehicles. ”

            Unsubstantiated claim. Teslas are far newer and far more limited in use than “other vehicles” on the road.

    3. “Until the major manufacturers do clean-sheet designs Tesla doesn’t have much to worry about.”

      Until Tesla gets their prices in-line with typical car prices, they’ll have very much to worry about. The Model 3 still costs $10+k more than most cars with comparable utility. One may want to help save the world, but high priced luxury items inherently limit uptake.

      If one of our aging vehicles gave up the ghost today, we’d probably buy a Prius Prime which, yea, isn’t a apples to apples comparison to a Model 3, but it ticks enough boxes when it comes to basic utility (people/cargo capacity, range, mileage, safety features, etc) at a price that’s a significant fraction less than a Model 3. My point being that, for the masses, price is still a, if not THE, deciding factor. Once the major manufacturers are all-in on electrics, people will have their choice of vehicles down to the low $20’s, and a $40k base model Model 3 just won’t be competitive.

      1. TCO for a Model 3 is lower than cheaper cars. And as they get perfected even cheaper. Model 3s have a drive train designed to last a million miles. And if they get the robotaxi system working it will be cheaper than anything out there.

        1. The fanboyism is strong. Million mile drivetrain? The jury is still way out on that one, and given Tesla’s outlandish claims in the past, one has to be a skeptic there. The real issue is not adopting any SAE charging std. nationwide. This hurts adoption and allows for Tesla-like fragmentation of the market.

      2. Most people over-estimate the “value” of a Model-3.

        It’s technically a sub-compact, and average non-luxury models in that size range sell for about $22k while the Tesla costs $44k. The no-options baseline model -would- cost less, but Tesla is still refusing to manufacture/deliver them in favor of trying to upsell the customers on the waiting list a higher priced model.

        They did the same with the cheapest version of the Model S, so they could claim to have lower prices as promised, but actually not sell more than a handful at that price point.

        1. I own a Tesla model 3 and I can assure you it is far from a “compact non luxury” model. It is broadly comparable to a BMW 3 series but faster and with more conveniences. Yes, they are more expensive without the tax breaks but batteries are still quite expensive. Although it is possible that Tesla may run out of cash before they get fully established, it will be very hard for the regular car companies to catch up. This can be seen from the electric cars of even tech savvy companies like Mercedes which are so-so. Tesla cars are built from the ground up to be electric and are different in some less obvious ways. For example, Tesla has no dealer network so can’t easily handle recalls or make much from servicing. That means that the cars are built to a higher quality. I talked to a couple of Tesla engineers and they told me that they were told to “build the best” probably for the above reason. No bean counters shaving off cents and ruining the cars. All this makes me optimistic about the future for Tesla.

          1. >”I own a Tesla model 3 and I can assure you it is far from a “compact non luxury” model. It is broadly comparable to a BMW 3 series”

            That’s exactly the point. The Model 3 was hyped as the affordable EV – so it should compare with regular affordable cars of its own size class. Otherwise you’re making a “let them eat cake” argument.

            >”This can be seen from the electric cars of even tech savvy companies like Mercedes which are so-so.”

            Teslas are actually full of gimmicks and cut corners, which perhaps aren’t obvious if you don’t understand how cars and lithium batteries work. They’re not built to a “higher quality” – there’s a host of obvious newbie engineering errors, usability issues, and obvious bean-counting cost-cutting omissions and cheats, like the sub-par paint job, or the poorly designed bottom armor that collects debris, or the crazy number of welds that Tesla then arbitrarily removed, ill-fitting body panels… etc. not to mention the battery which is NOT safe in a crash.

            There’s a learning curve in designing and making cars, and they’re still at the beginning of it – but the marketing is strong and people want to believe.

          2. Of course Tesla has a learning curve making autos. Most of the criticism seems to be that they weren’t as efficient in their design as the traditional car companies so the cars cost more to build. That doesn’t significantly affect the quality of the final product. Yes, my Tesla had a couple of minute paint blemishes and the frunk latch failed and had to be replaced (they came to my house to do it) but that is insignificant in terms of the overall experience. Although the Tesla 3 is not perfect, it is still hands down better than my previous car (a BMW). You really have to drive one to appreciate it. I put a lot of that down to the fact that they developed it as an electric car from the ground up rather than electrifying a conventional vehicle, which is what the major manufacturers seem to be doing. If you have a hammer everything looks like a nail…

          3. For example, Tesla omitted mudflaps in order to improve the air resistance, so they could squeeze the promised 200 miles out of the car – that’s how desperate they were.

            But without the mudflaps, owners are now complaining about rocks chipping off the very soft and thin paint that they used.

          1. It’s a common trick – but you do have to sell those cars at the base price because it’s illegal to advertise for products that don’t exist.

            What Tesla did is slightly different. First of all, they are their own dealership so there’s no excuse, and secondly, Tesla sold people a spot on a waiting list for when the car would become available – which isn’t technically false marketing. They just didn’t mention that they’d be deliberately making that wait very very long.

            And as a bonus trick, there was the 200,000 cars limit which reduced the US federal subsidy, so people had the choice of waiting to pay more for the base model, or getting subsidies off of the more expensive model before it’s too late.

  2. You mean what if GM says we offer $1000 per share for Tesla?
    I expect there may be some sort of competitive revies by the Feds, FTC monopoly people etc. What if a Chinese car co tries? WIll Trump lie down for that? Will any of us?.
    In addition, did you notice that Tesla granted a access to other electric car makers to the Tesla patents? Did you read the fine print? What if it is a mutual grant. They get Tesla’s only if Tesla gets theirs? Who owns Tesla’s patents? Tesla? or an offshore entity owned by Musk who licenced them to Tesla USA? – said licence can be withdrawn in case of a hostile takeover.

    So anyone who wanted to take Tesla over would have to buy over 50% through 100(many) different accounts. and then call a meeting. Rat would be smelled, and all those accounts would be inspected in detail to see who owned what and what were their other holdings? I expect 3-5 years could be consumed in this with a few sets of lawyers involved..

    Tesla needs cash. Tesla’s best bet would be to enter into a JV with Ford or ??, to finance things, but leave management to Musk.
    I chose Ford as my potential JV partner and the other US car company residues have Manglement – not a typo, versus Ford has rational Management.
    As for Foreign car companies – they all seem to have a diesel stink about them, and a high degree of conflict who might want to buy Tesla to give it a Viking funeral…

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Viking+funeral&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjg5J370f3jAhUiAp0JHWKJClcQ_AUIESgB&biw=1536&bih=750&dpr=1.25

    American needs Tesla to be left alone to “Live Long and Prosper”, and helped to stay on that course …

  3. EV parts are not yet as common as a washing machine, but I get emails every week from owners of used EV motors that are in mint condition, because the dang things can pretty much last forever. I predict a future where the same pile of useless ICE at the junkyard will be made of powerful and usable 3 phase motors ready to deploy into awesome builds

    1. While salvaged Tesla motors are great for hackers, the cars themselves are not…

      Unlike other automakers, Tesla restricts parts sales to their service network and partner body-shops. This restricts your ability to perform your own maintenance and repairs, and limits mods and hacks to mostly cosmetic changes. They’ve also locked out software updates to salvaged cars, and bricked 1st generation roadsters.

  4. Another thing I want to see more of is doing something with used Nissan Leafs – either replacing/refreshing the battery packs, using the packs for grid storage, or that sort of thing. One of the projects I think would be fun to do is chop one and turn it into a tiny pickup truck. Some folks at Nissan did exactly that a few years back as a team building exercise, but I haven’t seen anyone do it since then. Given how cheap used Leafs are getting, I’m really surprised it hasn’t taken off. Toss the surf boards up on the roof rack, and to the beach in a dirt-cheap electric runabout.

      1. I think that Axiom project looks amazing. I just wish I knew more about it so that I could put one to work!

        Don’t mind me asking, but where did your mate learn to do such things? I’m hoping to learn more!

      1. That’s pretty neat. I knew the packs between the old and “new” leaf were pretty similar, but I would have guessed there would be a bunch of necessary work to get the battery management system and everything else working properly – not just faking the CANbus.

    1. I thought about putting a Leaf or Volt motor into a Pontiac Fiero. The Volt and Leaf battery packs are more hackable then the Tesla ones.
      Though if Tesla S’s and 3s start showing up in the junk yard I might use the motor out of one of those in a C3 or C4 Corvette.
      Maybe with some really careful placement of the batteries could keep the weight balance right or get it even better than it was originally.

  5. The question is, when will we have enough nuclear power (and windmills/solar) to make the electric cars a better option?

    It all depends on the electric mix you use to charge the batterys, in some countries, it is actually more enviromental friendly to drive a modern diesel.

    In many others, scrapping a functional ICE early and buyng an EV is a bigger impact then keep on using the old ICE

    In a few, there is enough clean energy that switching out an old ICE actually makes sense.

    I live in a country with plenty of clean energy (hopfully we will be building new reactors soon) and drives an really old diesel, when it finally dies, it would make sense to buy an EV, but there still is no affordable EV pickup, with decent range

    1. That time was many years ago.

      Burning the diesel into electricity centrally exceeds the diesel ICE when it comes to efficiency, by almost 100%.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine#Efficiency
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_cycle_power_plant#Efficiency_of_CCGT_plants

      And on top of that, it seems solar and wind energy creation is on an exponential up slope world wide:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_photovoltaics
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_by_country

    2. I love EVs I just wish the predominant company wasn’t run by a charlatan like Musk, and yes fanboys that is what you call someone who routinely makes grandiose claims about what his products can or will do, and then fails to do it. At this point it’s part of his schtick. He makes a grand claim of ability or intent, identifies the most challenging technical problem as a fait accompli, provides no evidence, then debuts a significantly deprecated product to enormous fanfare from the media who never hold him to task. Its nauseating.

    3. Can you give an example of a country where it’s more environmentally friendly to drive a modern diesel than an EV? After all, producing 100% of the electricity for an EV by burning coal in a big plant is more environmentally friendly than burning gas or diesel in any kind of a car motor/engine because of higher efficiency of a big plant.

      1. Norway, Iceland produce their electric power by water and earth heat.
        An if you accept nuclear power as environmental friendly (I don’t but some do), then also France as they have the majority of electrical power produces by nuclear power plants.

  6. As I was a kid, I played with cars that had batteries. Since there, not many has changed, but the cars are now bigger and the kids older. Currently the most battery cars are toys for big kids. Nothing else. Everyone that needs a real car drives with diesel or gasoline.

    It’s not a archievement to get the biggest manufacturer of products that only the rich buy because it’s expensive. I’m sure when I build a build a car with wood carburator, and I have some million dollar to throw on it, I’m fast the biggest manufacturer of wood carburator cars.

  7. Until the electricity used to power these cars is derived from carbon neutral sources what’s the point? With inefficiencies of transport do these cars not pollute, or is the pollution offset to another location.

    I like hybrid technology. Pair a low horsepower diesel engine to a generator and battery pack and you have the best of all worlds. An engine that can run on vegetable oil (a renewable resource) and the storage capacity to capture as much energy as you need for high power times…that’s innovation.

    Electric cars, for the time being, just help people feel better about themselves.

    1. ICE engines are 10 to 20% efficient. EVs 90% efficient. Even with the dirtiest energy (coal), EVs are cleaner. Oil companies are spreading that myth. Day to day install solar and power from the roof.
      ICE engines have 2000 moving parts that wear out, EVs about 20.

      1. I think your numbers are a bit out.
        Diesel engines in cars can achieve 45% efficiency:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_efficiency#Diesel_engines
        Thermal power plants can achieve 46%:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_power_station#Thermal_power_generation_efficiency
        Both are governed by the same laws of thermodynamics, neither Otto, diesel nor Brayton cycles (turbines) can exceed the ideal Carnot efficiency.

        Clearly the automotive diesel engine has a lot more opportunity to fall below peak efficiency, when stuck in traffic for example, and a power station will run at max efficiency all the time, but the claim that a power station in 90% efficient is just false. 90% of maximum theoretical efficiency maybe.

        I am not arguing that diesel is a better solution than EV, though. My argument would be that burning fossil fuels for power is a bad idea regardless of how you do it.

        1. No claim was made that power plants are 90% efficient, rather that the battery+motor system is 90% efficient.
          The complete well-to-wheels energy path is significantly more efficient for an EV. Not that this will matter for long as renewables eliminate the “well” part of that equation.

        2. I think you’ve miss read the Wiki article. It says UP TO 45%, so in ideal circumstances it will reach that, but in stop-start city driving you’ll be hard pressed to get anywhere close to that. Electric motors have a vast advantage in cities, which is where they are most needed.

    2. Plenty of places in the world generate electricity from non fossil fuel sources. A key point is that every EV made gets cleaner as time goes on and more renewables come on line. I love my diesel Mercedes, clatter and all, but the future is going to be electric.

      1. The EVs sold today won’t be around when the grid cleans up enough to make them have a point.

        For example, UK average output is around 400 g-CO2 / kWh which gives a Tesla the average CO2 per km around 88 g/km – meanwhile the EU 2021 regulation over regular cars demand 95 g/km – so the EV makes virtually no difference. On the continent, such as in Germany, it’s 560 g-CO2/kWh which tips the scales in favor of driving a regular car – or even better, a CNG car.

          1. Renewable energy is cheap because it’s low quality (except hydroelectricity). It has to be pushed onto the grids at well below market prices in order to find buyers for such random electricity, and then the subsidies make up the difference. Often renewable energy (wind/solar) is sold at negative prices: they pay you (utilities) to take it, in order to then collect the subsidies, tax breaks, and other “green credits” that can be turned into money elsewhere.

            The effect of gaming the market this way causes the average price of electricity to rise, which has happened in California, Germany, Denmark etc. because the integration of such random power into the grid requires massive investments in transmission line capacity and more load following and peaking powerplants, which see low utilization rates with high investment costs and have to sell power at high prices to make ends meet.

            When you flip the switch on, the wind doesn’t start blowing for you, so somewhere a large natural gas converted marine diesel engine made by Wartsila throttles up just a tiny bit.

          2. EVs have the advantage of being able to soak up surplus power when renewable output exceeds demand. What they can also do is pump spare power back when demand exceeds current capacity (making money for the owner on the margin), so they help with both sides of the equation.

        1. You are graciously dismissing the amount of energy -and CO2- released in the making of the fuel. Its not that you can dump crude into your tank, there are refineries and gas-powered logistics inbetween.

          1. Refining oil takes about 20% of the energy content of the oil, and it produces other derivatives besides gasoline and diesel so you can’t pin it all on them, and then the EU mandates adding 10% bio-components in the fuel which at least nominally counts as zero carbon, so you’re very close to the same value anyhow.

            And you forget the greater price of the EV, which offsets the carbon benefit by requiring more economic activity – more energy spent to pay the price.

          1. It is much better for me to feed the grid with my 16 panels during the day when electricity is expensive (read in demand), and to charge the car at night when electricity is cheap (not in demand). Basic economics.
            Eventually this will balance out as more cars charge at night. Charging at work fixes that. Also batteries, which are dropping in price over time.

          2. Anyone with a calculator knows that idea is a non-starter. The non-glass surface area of a large car gets about 5Kw of solar radiation at noon on a sunny day. Derate by all the usual factors and you have hardly any power. Never mind the difficulty of conforming to the curves and folds of the body that are required for aerodynamic efficiency and egress.

  8. This would be the first diesel tank fire I’ve seen in over 4 decades of life, and it doesn’t appear to be a car. I have seen many gasoline cars go up in my life, but I have also seen far too many electric battery fires in a very short period of time. Lets hope as things progress electric cars can be made far safer than gasoline cars. I think they may already be there, but it is hard to tell given how relatively new electric cars are.

  9. To the “not a hack” people – There is huge scope for hacking, in particular for repairs – for example you can’t swap the drivetrain electronics module between Renault Zoes because the module has to match the car’s VIN and AFAIK nobody outside Renault has figured out a fix. I’m sure there are all sorts of other examples ( e.g. John Deere) where hacking will allow repairs, repurposing of EV parts and all sorts of other fun.
    And of course there will be all sorts of scope for repurposing EV packs, upgrading and repairing them, EV conversions etc.

    Tesla’s long-term business may end up being a battery manufacturer.

      1. It’s way too expensive for the purpose. Tesla probably created the product just to dump extra battery modules when the Model S sales failed to meet predictions.

        Same reason why they made the Megabattery in Australia – Musk made up a “challenge” for himself to sell all the extra cells he had already reserved for about 1,400 Model S cars he could not sell because the orders got canceled in favor of the Model 3.

        The irony is that the Model 3 was supposed to have an entirely new type of battery (NMC instead of NCA), for better lifespan and better fire safety, but the engineers couldn’t pull it off in time for production (and still haven’t), so Tesla ran out of batteries retrofitting the Model S cells into the Model 3, which contributed to the production delays for the new car.

        1. You do realise that the model 3 and model S use the same type of cells, and that their production is battery constrained (i.e. they can use all the cells that they make)? Even assuming the model 3 cut into model S sales, the total demand for cells is greater than when they only made the models S and X.

          1. The MS and M3 batteries are different sizes and, I believe, slightly different composition. Definitely not interchangeable. It would be great for Tesla if they were. The MS is saddled with older battery technology, really the only flaw in the MS. Still better than the competition by a wide margin, when considered as a whole.

          2. The battery cells in the Model 3 are different from the Model S batteries. They are larger (2170 size not the Model S 1865 size) and I believe they support faster charging and higher peak output current. Tesla’s technology has moved on a lot since the Model S and this is a problem for Tesla. Their flagship model isn’t as good as the Model 3 in many ways and they probably don’t have the resources to upgrade the Model S (and X) much while they are working on their Model Y. This means that the Model 3 is probably eating into the sales of their higher profit models. I suspect that the specifications and performance of the Model 3 have been deliberately limited to avoid competing more with their larger vehicles. I would be willing to bet that a “Ludicrous” software update will become available for the performance Model 3 at some point giving it better performance than the heavier Model S.

          3. The different size cells create a different sized pack which won’t fit into the S (too thick). I can’t see Tesla investing in changing the stamping for the S until the Y is selling.

        2. And to add, the way Tesla design their battery packs, it’s just a case of putting the right number of the standard size cells into one, rather than “retrofitting” from a model S to a 3.

  10. I always thought Tesla was meant as a vehicle (figuratively) to overcome the lack of innovation in automotive development. I think at some point Tesla will sell it’s name and know how to a large automotive company and will cease to exist in it’s current way.

  11. Aside from great cars, Tesla’s major advantage is their excellent charging network. The few times I’ve tried to charge with the patchwork of non-Tesla chargers, I’ve been disappointed with a lack of availability or reliability, and always slow.
    I can’t see how any of the other manufactures can succeed until they have an extensive charging network. The good news is that they can work together to build a great network. The bad news is that they rarely play well together.

    1. Tesla builds cars but they also are building infrastructure. Eventually they may license the super charger stations as well. There is no other car company where you can take the car and drive it all the away across the country spending 1/2hour every 250 miles to recharge and continue. Tesla will have real competition when the other companies solve the infrastructure problems. The article is correct. Tesla s not just a auto company.

      1. Half an hour? Oh how we’ve regressed in the last century. Back in 1908, The London Electrobus Company could recharge their electric buses in just 3 minutes. Drive over pit, unbolt and unplug old battery, connect up freshly charged one and go. How different things could have been if the people in charge hadn’t been a bunch of scammers. Journalist Mick Hamer wrote a fascinating piece for The Economist a decade or so ago (sadly now swept behind the paywall) and after researching for a few more years came out with a whole book, A Most Deliberate Swindle. Highly recommended.

        1. Sure, but the London Electrobus Company owned all of the batteries. When the time comes, I’ll be happy to unload my 200K mile Tesla battery for a much newer one. Then I’ll stay away from the battery swap system for the next 200K miles. Battery swaps are just not going to fly.
          Besides, it’s nice to get out of the car every few hours and walk around a bit.

          1. I think battery swapping could work. As long as you don’t own the batteries. It works well with camping gas cylinders and welding cylinders. Sometimes you get a scruffy one, sometimes a shiny one, but you don’t care as long as they are full of gas. With a battery you would pay for the electrons you got, so unless a battery was _particularly_ bad you wouldn’t care so much.

          2. Most charging is done at the home base. Half of the joy of an EV is the fact that they start off every day with a full(ish) charge. Range is based on the quality of the battery. If I swap batteries, I’ll never know (in advance) how far the battery that I got is going to take me.

            Aside from that, there is the practicality issue. Every manufacturer would need to adhere to one standard for size, attachment, voltage, current, etc. So, the same battery in an SUV as in a SMART. Then, swap facilities will need to be installed all over the world that stock batteries. It is never, ever, going to work. Electricity is pumped into nearly every corner of the planet. Fast charging make much more sense.

          3. > It works well with camping gas cylinders and welding cylinders.

            Yes, because the cylinder costs a trivial amount compared to the energy it can hold, and the number of times it can be re-filled.

            A Tesla battery costs around a third of the price of the car. The “tank” itself costs a significant fraction of the “fuel” it can cycle through during its useful lifespan.

        2. FYI: They use supercapacitor for electric bus in China back in 2010 Expo. 30 seconds charge to 50% and 80 seconds to 100%. This is good for 3-6km.

          It is okay for buses where there is a fixed route with frequent stops, so they can place charging stations. e.g. bus transfer stations where it is expected to stop for a while. Not so much for cars where the “freedom” to be anywhere makes it much harder.

          https://www.escomponents.com/blog/2017/10/11/china-takes-the-lead-in-adopting-the-all-electric-bus-equipped-with-supercapacitors

  12. “Whether you pine for an AMC, a Studebaker, or a Saab, it’s a Ford or a Honda you’ll be driving in 2019.“

    Sorry Jenny I just drove to work (as I do everyday )in my 1999 SAAB.

  13. As a mechanic, I will never buy a Ford or a VW. At least not a North American VW. Both are the absolute worst cars to work on and the VWs have so many problems with their pollution control and ignition systems. Tesla has nothing to fear. Ford and VW will come out with something atrocious and will get great reviews for the first year or two and everyone will realize what crap they are and noone will be buying it anymore.

  14. Tesla being worried about the so called “big three” is common Democrat liberal protectionist socialist stupid thinking. Tesla is so far ahead in engineering design, safety design, efficiency and innovation the big three are no more the the big three, more like the wimpy two.. The big three are doomed because dealership models encourages maintance profits for oil changes etc. Additionaly unions have ruined the auto industry by increasing costs, reducing quality and killing efficiency with the help of democrats. Tesla allready won the race and the big three have not even crossed the finish line. The big three only thing they have are pickup trucks and Tesla will kill them.

  15. A few numbers as this comments thread is developing in to a discussion of the merits of EV v Diesel.

    VW were caught selling a car certified to 80mg/km NOx that actually emitted 600mg/km NOx in real workd conditions.
    All cars will tend to have worse emissions in the real world than in the lab, in the same way as you hardly ever get headline fuel economy (but accept that you could, if you really tried). An exception will be a long run with a fully warmed-up engine, emissions then may well be lower than the lab standards (which include a cold start)

    What VW did _very_ wrong was cheat so that they didn’t even pass the emissions tests in the lab with the same settings as a customer car. This was a lot more egregious than just optimisation for the test, this was full-on cheating, running different maps if the rear wheels were not turning and there was no steering input. ie, they detected the car was on rolls in a lab and ran a different set of maps.

    As of next year Diesel cars will have to prove that they meet the 80mg/km NOx limit in real world driving. This compares to 60mg for petrol cars. To put this in context, back in 2000 the limit was 500mg in the lab, and real-world was probably far higher. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_emission_standards

    New, conformant diesels are only fractionally worse than petrol for NOx.

    Particulates are another matter, but in the EU (and other countries following the EU numbers) Diesel Particulate Filters have been required since about 2011. Some petrol cars are also being fitted with filters too, to meet the current fairly stringent regs.

    Personally I look forward to a clean electric future, but I will be out of a job then…

  16. Umm …. Tesla isn’t actually the big name in EV.

    It’s Toyota. I think you’ll find they’re the ones shipping the most EVs – sure they’re also shipping ICE with them as they’re all hybrids but they’re much more affordable.

  17. If you look at the full “well to wheels” impact of EVs vs gas/diesel, even EVs that get their charging from coal power plants are typically cleaner than most ICE vehicles. This is in part because great big coal plants, while dirty, are able to get more efficiency out of their fuel than a compact engine that fits in a vehicle.

    This ignores many EV owners who install solar and thus offset their energy usage from the grid, in which case they are effectively improving the comparison in their car’s favor.

    https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-data-show-electric-vehicles-continue-to-get-cleaner

    Some parts in the US as of 2018 were only well to wheels equivalent of high 30’s MPG in terms of greenhouse emissions for EVs, others are over 100 MPG equivalence. And that’s looking at “average” EV efficiency. If you look at high efficiency EVs (ex: Hyundai Ioniq BEV, Prius Prime, Tesla Model 3) things look even better! (see the red map further down the article – the worst case, ignoring a small island – which is 47MPG – is still over 50MPG, best case over 200MPG, with most areas at ~70 or above)

  18. So many holes in your summary. The cars that are coming out now, can’t even beat the specs on the original Model S. All the other players are YEARS behind.

    No one is even close to Tesla on:
    – Charging network
    – Battery life / longevity, estimated at 300,000-500,000 miles. Next year estimated to reach 1,000,000 miles.
    – Battery utilization. The Model 3 is by far the most efficient.
    – Battery charging speed
    – Battery range (A number of current production models OVER 300 miles and Model S now at 370 miles)
    – Self Driving
    – Over the air updates
    – Safety
    – Customer Satisfaction
    – Etc…

    1. It is interesting to speculate what this conversation would look like if electric had “won” back in the early years of last century and now a Tesla-equivalent had invented the ICE range-extender. How much fear, panic and worry would we have about the risks of transporting literally gallons of highly flammable _liquid_ which would leak everywhere through the smallest of holes…

  19. Even EVs that get their power from coal fired power plants are better because the power is produced much more efficiently than it is with either gasoline or diesel burning in a vehicle’s engine. Also, Tesla’s newer cars using the latest battery packs and chargers are able to charge at 1000 miles/hour or 250 miles in 15 minutes.

  20. There are so many potential customers that I doubt Tesla has anything to worry about.

    This cafeteria has so many people in line, it looks like a Depression-era soup kitchen. The more cooks we can get in the kitchen, the sooner we can get everyone fed.

    Competition is a good thing. It will end up with lots of options to choose from. And selling parts and recipes can’t really hurt your business.

    I’m far from convinced that everyone will be happy with a choice between a veggie burger or a t-bone steak. Maybe some fish, chicken teriyaki stir-fry, or Italian pasta? Yum!

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