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Friday, May 5, 2017

Which Electric Car Would you buy, Bolt, 2018 Leaf, Model 3, Model S, or Model X?

Bolt, Leaf, Model 3, Model S, Model X (Tesla images via Next Big Future)
Cue the Sesame Street song, "One of these cars doesn't belong here." That would be the Model 3, of which, none have been delivered. Is it just me, or do the Tesla's all look like they all came from a storyboard for a James Bond movie?

My Leaf's range is approaching the point that it will no longer meet my minimum criteria, which is to get to Everett or Renton from Seattle on a cold day without need to hit a fast charger.

Musk and Trump share at least one thing in common, ah, make that two things: both are quite wealthy, both are consummate salesmen. Musk's Battery Wall pitch a few years ago was near total BS. His purported game plan has been to use the profits from his high-end sports and luxury cars to fund the development of an affordable electric car for the masses--the Model 3. But, I've been driving an affordable electric car for almost six years now.  Lots of car manufacturers beat him to that punch. The Chevy Bolt also beat him to the punch, and the new Leaf, with similar range as the Bolt, may beat him to the punch again.

The $7,500 tax credit is limited to the first 200,000 electric car sales by any given company, which means that the credit will not be available for Tesla cars sold at some point in time next year, making his affordable car for the masses less affordable.

Some have suggested that when the Model 3 finally gets to the showroom that the low-end version will be hard to get your hands on, as was the case with the Model X, forcing people to buy the very expensive version, or continue to wait. Tesla says that won't happen this time (because they did it last time).

All else being equal, the most expensive car tends to have the higher status. People tend to seek the most status they can afford, the most bang for their buck. Marketers sometimes capitalize on status by association. Status by association is what name dropping is all about. Just as people bought the poor man's version of the Hummer (the H3) to be associated with the more expensive H1, people are going to buy the poor man's Tesla to garner status by association with the $100K luxury versions. From Barrons:
Turns out, not all consumers appear to understand the differences between the upcoming Model 3 and the Model S -- namely that the mass-market car isn’t as good as the luxury car. CEO Elon Musk felt the need to address the confusion with Tesla’s earnings report Wednesday.

But status comes in many flavors. The VW bug had counter-culture status in its day, as did the venerable VW van.

I saw my first Bolt a few days ago. That's it in the first photo, just above my 2011 Leaf. Chevy classifies it as a wagon. I wrote my first article on the Bolt back in August of 2015.

The Model S and X are not my cup of tea (eyes tend to roll when I see one drive by).
Ostentatious: designed to impress or attract notice. Synonyms: showy, pretentious, conspicuous, flamboyant, gaudy, brash, vulgar, loud, extravagant, fancy, ornate, overelaborate.
2007 cell phone photo of Hummer and Cherokee

To me, the Model S is the Liberace of electric cars. The Model X is the Hummer of Electric cars.  You can't please everyone, and marketers know that, which is why they usually shoot for some segment with a given model, covering all segments by using different models for each. Beauty (and status) is in the eye of the beholder.

The weight and high acceleration of the Model S and X also make them somewhat dangerous to other drivers.

The smaller, cheaper Model 3 dodges most of my critiques. However, it's a sedan. I have never owned a sedan simply because you can fit bigger things into a hatchback design. That's the whole idea of a hatchback. 

With Trump in office, I wouldn't hold my breath that congress will extend the tax credit. If it isn't extended, electric car sales will certainly be affected.

Electric cars are not going to end the growth of oil consumption in the foreseeable future (more oil is still consumed every year than the previous year even with electric car sales).

Electric cars are also not going to help integrate wind and solar into grids, in fact, the increase in demand for electricity peaks as owners arrive home from work well after the sun has hit its peak output. Few, if any electric car owners are going to let utilities wear out their batteries by using them to balance sporadic wind output. Also, that increase in electricity demand will make it harder for wind and solar alone to meet it. And finally, unless your electricity is coming from a low carbon source, an electric car will do little to lower emissions.
787 Turbofan Engine

All the same, and as I've said many times, if battery prices can come down enough, I foresee electric cars with their spinning rotor eventually replacing reciprocating engines the way turbo fan engines with a spinning turbine replaced reciprocating engines for airplanes.

Edit 5/9/2017: Be sure to read the comments for some excellent additional insights.

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