Thursday, July 9, 2009

The sixth Tesla in Europe

Last week, I saw a Tesla in person in Germany. There are only five of these things in Europe according to the technician, who was also quick to point out that Europeans could consider themselves lucky to be getting the next generation, which will apparently include some improvements. That's another way of saying sorry we did not even really offer the car over here the first time around, but we are used to that in Europe with iPhones and all kinds of other devices.

Anyway, the battery in the US version I saw (the black box that takes up half of the trunk in the picture below) weighs 600 kilos alone. According to the executive of the company that plans to purchase five of them, the car is faster than anything in the straightaway (electric motors reaches maximum torque more or less right away, whereas internal combustion engines generally do not have much power until they reach around 2000 RPM), but because of the weight the car is actually not that great in curves.

Of course, this car is a good demonstration of what is possible with electric vehicles, but it certainly will not help us reduce our energy consumption. The thing is designed as a power hog, not a thrifty means of transportation; there is just barely room in the trunk for a slender suitcase. But it is a nice toy for grown-up little boys, so I am sure we are going to get as many of these vehicles as money can buy, while I still wait on an affordable version of my ultra-thrifty Twike.


  1. Being the practical person I am I couldn't help wondering who services their cars. I can't imagine any old mechanic could do it, and it wouldn't be cost-effective for a mechanic to learn about them if there are only 5 in Europe. Getting spare parts much be tough too...

  2. There is apparently almost no servicing of these cars. There are no oil changes, no dirty filters to be replaced, fewer belts to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, etc. This has actually caused some concern within the car industry because dealers, who reportedly get most of their profit margin not from the sale, but from the servicing of cars, will have very little work indeed.

    Otherwise, you simply need an electrician. I am sure that any car dealer with access to the card company could get the parts needed.

  3. Well, that will go along nicely with the closing of dealerships here in the U.S. :-) Chrysler and GM just closed a TON of dealerships here in the Cleveland area. If you ask me, it makes no economic sense to close dealerships that service your cars, buy your parts, sell your new and used cars, and don't cost you a dime. I can't even imagine a car that doesn't need servicing. That's awesome!

  4. The CEO (I think) of Tesla is one Elon Musk, Paypal co-creator and CEO of my dad's new company, SpaceX. From what I've read, his purpose was that while hybrid civics and all are all well and good for people who want regular civics, what about people who want a high performance car?

    You call the car a power hog, but I'd like to know how it compares in energy consumption to a muscle car, the kind of vehicle it's meant to replace.

  5. "CEO of my dad's new company": Aha, so them's fighting words...

    Personally, I don't think it is very interesting to compare this new muscle car to one with an internal combustion engine. I think you will find the same basic benefits and drawbacks as when you compare any electric car with its ICE equivalent: electric cars have shorter ranges, are more efficient overall, but you generally have to reinvest all of the money you saved on gasoline after 100,000 kilometers, when you have to buy a whole new set of batteries...

    The strong point behind electric cars for me is that they would actually open up a completely new niche that is not at all served right now (see the Twike), so that is why I think the Tesla is so important -- it really shows us how our markets work. The class of people with the money for such toys can have pretty much anything they want, but those of us who realize that we could easily have vehicles today with an mpg exceeding 100 do not have much of anything to choose from. The Twike is not even sold in the US any longer, and apparently it cannot be clearly classified there as one type of vehicle or the other, so you could actually have trouble getting a license plate for it.

    Also, we currently have around 800 million cars on the planet, and that figure is set to rise to 2 billion by 2050. We are planning at the same time to reduce our carbon emissions, at least if you believe the politicians. That means that each car on the road is going to have to become 250 percent more efficient by 2050 for us to maintain the status quo. If we want to actually reduce emissions, say, by 50 percent, then our vehicles are going to have to become 500 percent more efficient.

    Where does the Tesla come in?