Saturday, July 22, 2006


Tesla Roadster. Not For Me. Not Just Yet.

Mary Madigan has a post over at Dean's World about some new car company that has a new car called the Tesla Roadster. Mary's point about the car is that bloggers need to be flown in and given a chance to test drive the car so we can write about it and get the word out through the alternative media. I am so in favor of that. However, I'm not so confident about the car.

Read the article about it here. Back again? Ok, great! On to the problems.

You'll note that the car has a range of 250 miles. Range is a funny thing. Maybe I'm different from most people, but for me, range is how far I can go before I have to refuel (charge the batteries). Oh, but that might be the same for you guys. Let me further state that for me, a range of 250 mile means I can drive 250 miles away from my house before I have to refuel/recharge. In other words, for me, a 250 mile range means I can reach any point on the circumference of a 250 mile radius circle that centers on my house.

That's not what this car does. By the time this car reaches 250 miles, that 250th mile better include making it back into your own garage. As you read in the article, recharging this car requires "a special 220-volt, 70-amp outlet." Let's put it another way. You can't use a regular outlet to recharge it. At the very least, the article doesn't mention that you can use a standard outlet to recharge it.

Recharging time? With the special outlet, it takes 3.5 hours. Maybe you can recharge it on a regular outlet, but who knows how long that would take.

What about the electricity itself? how much electricity is there in 3.5 hours of charging on a 220 volt, 70 amp outlet? We've had a bit of a heat wave here in northern California (112 degrees anyone?), with record electricity usage. Did you know that here in California, utilities establish a baseline usage. That's where they decide how much a house with your square footage should be using. As long as you use up to that amount, you pay one rate. Up to 130% of baseline, you pay a higher rate. About an extra penny and a half per kwh. If you live in a place around 1000 square feet, and you have an electric bill that closes in on $200 in the summer, are you really going to be looking for more ways to use electricity?

Of course, who am I kidding? Only richie types are out there buying an $80,000 car that isn't 100% reliable and requires a backup car to be owned as well. When I say 100% reliable, what I mean is this: the car is fine for just short trips around town, just like any other electric vehicle. Long range, the thing is useless. Traveling no more than 125 miles from my home is worthless.

This is America. Not only that, this is California. Sure, maybe back east I could cross six states in 125 miles, but in California, that's nothing. This car in my life would be handy for in town driving, back and forth to work, and running errands. I suppose I could plug it in every night and it would be ready in the morning. For tomorrow's day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium? Sorry, too far. Good thing I have a gas car available. Can you see my point? If I owned this car, I'd still need another one for a trip of any length or duration. Forget seeing the USA in my Chevrolet. All I can see in this thing is a little less than two hours worth of highway.

The only good thing this car has going for it is the singularity. Look up Ray Kurzweil if you need to. I will try not to butcher the idea. A technology starts out ridiculously expensive, and doesn't work very well. Sort of like the Tesla Roadster in its current form. Time passes and tech improves. Then the tech becomes rather expensive, and works fairly better. Time passes and tech improves. Then the tech is ubiquitous, cheap, and virtually 100% reliable. Picture the evolution of the household telephone and you'll get the idea. Unlike the 120 years or so that the telephone has been around, however, Kurzweil believes these changes are happening faster and faster as improvements build on improvements that build on improvements.

I wouldn't buy a Tesla Roadster today. In ten years, maybe everyone will have one in his garage. Including me.
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