President Obama, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, and an army of Washington politicians with no experience in the auto industry say that electric vehicles are the future. They’re so sure of it, they’ve invested $489 million of your taxpayer doctors in the EV tech leader, Tesla. But as Tad Friend’s in-depth look at Tesla for The New Yorker shows, the future is not quite ready for primetime.
A few highlights:
* The price for the power train alone for battery-powered Tesla cars costs $15,000 — or about five times more than a standard gas-powered sedan. The average price paid for an entire new car in America today is $26,000.
* Tesla’s hard-driving founder, Elon Musk, says Tesla plans to populate American rest stops with QuickCharging stations, which will allow drivers to recharge their batteries in “just” 45 minutes. In the meantime, Americans have to plug it into 110-volt wall sockets. Friend tried that while test-driving the Tesla for his story. “Its battery gained only nine miles in two hours,” he writes.
* To charge the Tesla in the five minutes that American are used to spending at the gas pump (while on their way to work or taking the kids to soccer practice) it “would require an 840-kW connection, which would drain the grid as much as a 100-unit apartment building does in the course of a day.”
* And then there’s this from longtime Detroit product guru, Bob Lutz (now with GM), an admirer of Tesla — even as he points out the gulf between a boutique technology currently prized by Hollywood millionaires and a mass-produced technology: “Over thirty-five hundred parts sourced from around the world have to come together at the right place and the right time to produce sixty to seventy of these things an hour. And to make them, you need. . . an unbelievable amount of reliability testing that Tesla can’t afford to do right now — and we can’t afford not to.”