I recently had the opportunity to drive Ford's new electric Mustang for a week. For someone like me, coming from a 2009 Prius, it's mind-blowing. But it's SO fun, SO powerful, it made me a little queazy about an EV-dominated future.
Have you done a post on ebikes and other electric micro mobility options? I just bought one and am riding a wave of hype for them. I bought a bike trailer to haul groceries and my daughter to daycare and it's a game changer. It also works well in existing semi urban landscapes. I feel pretty strongly that ebikes are a better way to be more sustainable than a new electric car, if you already own an ICE vehicle in good working condition (not your van, in this case).
Interesting story: I follow a guy named Marco Arment. He apparently made a good deal of money in the software industry and currently publishes the podcast app "Overcast". He was very much a "car guy". Then he got interested in electrics and got a Tesla, which he sang the praises of. But recently he apparently moved his family to a beach community on Fire Island, and when I last heard him he was expounding on the joys of living in a compact, walkable community that prioritizes people over cars. I suspect evolution like this may be gathering steam. Car guy -> Electric car guy -> No car guy!
While I too am a convert to the idea that the best lifestyle is to live in a walkable/bikeable community and get into a motor vehicle only when absolutely necessary (and yet I am moving to the Oregon Coast in a month. 🤷♂️ Tradeoffs), moving some meaningful fraction of the US population into walkable/bikeable communities is the work of many decades. After all, it took half a century for the auto industry to destroy walkable America, that can't be unwound overnight. And we need fossil vehicles to vanish from dealerships in, like, ten years. Five would be better. So, I see absolutely no downside to EVs being as awesome as possible. Killing the internal combustion engine is the project for the next decade. Reconfiguring land use so that private vehicles are silly and unnecessary is a project for the next century.
Addressing the actual point of this: Have you asked NHTSA for stats on car-on-pedestrian or car-on-cyclist collisions? I would bet you the price of a nice meal that EVs, and Teslas in particular, are involved in a lower rate of such collisions per VMT because of the driver assist features. The Tesla will hit the brakes for you, if you try to accelerate towards a person.
I work at Tesla, so I freely admit I'm biased, but have you _tried_ any of our vehicles? If you're replacing a minivan, the Model Y or Model X is probably what you want to look at. A friend of mine just got a Y (and this is a totally practical mom with kids, she serves on our local school board), and reports she's delighted. I, on the other hand, _am_ a car guy, and so I have the Model 3 Performance. His name is Lapis Lazuli, and I love him to pieces.
I helped put together the assembly line for the dual motor drive train, and then a couple months later my own car went across it. :-D
As a fellow non-car guy, I can say this: I've been driving the Chevy Bolt for two years now, and what I very much appreciate is that it's basically just a normal car. There's precious little of the Tesla/Mach-E pizazz. It just does what it's supposed to, and does it well. It's not overpowered by any stretch of the imagination. My hope is that once EVs become more commonly accepted and don't have to impress people with extra, non-ICE features, things will settle down a bit and they'll become just plain-old cars again.
I've been driving an Audi e-tron for almost 4 years now, and all of the above...the lack of noise and amazing acceleration, it's like driving an Audi, but silently! I love it more now than when I got it. The other thing is the lack of maintenance, essentially software updates and wiper fluid. Once you get into the habit of recuperative braking and/or cruise control (in the mountains of New England you can pick up a ton of range by cruising at the speed limit), it's hard to go back to driving an ICE vehicle, and you do lose the urge to fly when you see how it peels off the miles of range. And when you're stuck in traffic, you use hardly any energy. The only downside is my electric bill at home (my area does not have discounted rates for off-hours charging), and the lack of charging infrastructure (Level 3 chargers) for non-Tesla EVs. That's improved in the last year.
I resisted getting a Tesla for a long time mainly due to the touch screen. I eventually needed painless long distance ev driving so got a Tesla simply for the Supercharger network. I thought I’d hate the touch screen but got used to it to the point where it’s actually pretty good. Still prefer to have buttons for some things, but I’m happy that I don’t hate it at all :). Also, many of the new EVs (Kia, VW, …) aren’t as powerful as sporty cars like the Mach-E or Teslas so no worries there. I’m not hearing anyone calling these cars as particularly fun. I think we’re safe from EVs.
I think your worries about power might equally be applied to the people driving around in high performance ICE cars. The thing about selling EVs now, which Tesla demonstrated and showed, is that they need to be exciting in order to generate buzz and to be cool, rather than kinda nerdy like a Prius or Leaf. Not all that many car buyers are motivated primarily by environmental concerns.
Also, EVs today are generally on the expensive side. To justify that, you've got to provide more than just basic transportation. As production rates rise, costs will come down, and you'll be seeing a lot more bread-and-butter EVs, on the order of Toyota Camrys and Corollas.
Background note: I've been a car nut pretty much since birth, but I recognized the climate imperative. My wife had a 2008 Prius and is now on her second Ford C-Max Energi PHEV (first one was leased, second was leased then purchased). I leased a BMW i3, and after that bought a Chevy Volt, into which I put about 8 gallons of gas every 4000 miles or so, unless I take a road trip. Would love to have gotten a Tesla Model 3, but the promised $35K version never materialized.
The Volt is pretty good in EV mode, but it's nowhere near as responsive as the i3, which was really good at the "I need to be in that next lane going 15 mph faster NOW" maneuver.
Hi David, This is a comment on your dictating instead of typing. I thought this post was just fine. It might not be quite as smooth as your usual writing but it was still great. And I'm a very picky reader; I was a college English teacher for awhile. Considering the tendinitis problems you are having, I think you should just switch to dictating and quit worrying about it. And maybe do more podcasts which are fantastically good. I love those. With dictating and podcasts it seems to me you could get away with very little typing and continue with your wonderful blog with no loss at all.
I agree with your post, though I live in a spread out community so walking is not really doable for even grocery shopping. I bought a Tesla, and wow, is it fun for the acceleration power you described. And my engineering friends described that as a "jackrabbit start", which is a fun, accurate description. Yes, there is more danger from this fast maneuvering, but the Tesla also barks at me when I get too close to anything, and as you say, may even take over control.
And my cute story is that I was at a stoplight to get onto a highway, sitting next to a fancy hot rod. When the light turned green, I took off like lightening (note I've gotten dizzy from doing this), and when I got onto the highway I stayed at the highway speed limit. The hot rod pulled up along side me and the driver gave me a wave.
So it is so much fun to be a non-car person and impress the folks in the corvette/hot rod community of the new paradigm of cool cars and to help them consider moving away from fossil fuels.
If gas prices stay high, perhaps the market will warm up to more ordinary EVs simply for the lower cost of ownership, without needing to wow with unreasonable power. I just had an older couple ask about the cost of charging and using my Bolt and when I told them it costs about $5-8 to drive 200-250 miles for typical electricity rates, one of them said “no offense, but that makes me want to kick you” and they walked away smiling and in disbelief
Like you I am the furthest thing from a "gear head". I'veowned a Prius and now a Tesla. I agree EVs are fun to drive. I had reservations about the central screen myself. (A friend who helped me pickup the Tesla home that I was paying a lot of money for and iPad.). In practice the screen hasn't been a problem.
One thing which you overlook in your reservations about EVs, is their ability to function as battery storage for intermittent, renewable electrify. I would have to rate this as amajor advantage of electrifying vehicles. Of course, electrifying freight and public transportation vehicles should be a higher priority.
I have high hopes for advanced driver assist features to limit the damage from poor drivers. As in your example with the lane correction what could have been an accident was averted. Similarly, software allows to limit what new drivers who are just learning can do via 'parental controls'. EV rentals already put such limits in place.
Good summary! I think that you hit the main points. Yes, an EV is fun to drive--even a smaller and less powerful one. They need not be so powerful--that is a Musk contribution. It is controllable in software, and the demands on the battery would be less. Most importantly, we will not be able tomaintain a future infrastructure needing the kinds of roads, bridges, and parking structures that we now use. That means that smaller and lighter vehicles need to become the most used, with longer trips hopefully made with rail transit.
One aspect of EV use is the interface with pedestrians and cyclists. Their accelerations can be misjudged, and they are so quiet that one may not hear them, or believe that a vehicle is further away as it is so quiet. Hopefully, we can look forward to redesigned communities where people walking, cyclists, and multi-use transit is the norm, and ideally separated from traffic that diminishes over time.
Please let me enjoy my one point of common ground with the part of America that loves cars. After nearly a decade of not needing to own a car (living in a highly walkable metro with lots of public transportation, and using zipcars or other rentals on frequent occasions), my partner and I got a Tesla Model 3, and we absolutely love it. We used to have the mantra "stickshift or self-driving," but ended up caving before the latter was available. I will certainly never own another ICE vehicle, and I hate when I have to rent one when I travel. I do really like the touchscreen - especially in comparison to all the nonsensical button systems that I would never bother to learn in rentals.
I don't love the hype around electric bikes and such. They always end up being used in spaces that are supposed to be for pedestrians, and I've nearly been mown down multiple times. Yes, we need more bike lanes everywhere, along with better sidewalks, denser communities, and everything else. Right now, I'd rather walk or run than ride an e-bike - it just feels like there are so many more fun ways of risking my life than riding one.