So I want to write about Tesla. I will not feed you lots of facts because I’m afraid my brain just isn’t that good at retaining facts. But I will try and be logical.
First of all… we bought a Tesla Model 3 in October 2019 – just before life in general turned into a kind of whirlpool of weirdness. It has a range of around 500kms. So I have first hand experience of the car, the company and the service. My parents also have a Tesla which they bought 2nd hand and which, to their credit, they charge completely from solar power as they are not on the power grid.
In addition to our Tesla we have a Nissan Leaf – another fully electric car – built in 2012. We bought it 2nd hand and now, at best, it has a range of just under 100 kms. Before these two cars, we had a Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid. Its battery allowed a range of about 50kms before the petrol engine kicked in. You could charge the battery with the engine or you could plug the car in and charge the battery electrically. And my parents, as their second car, have a Hyundai Kona electric.
I tell you all this because a lot of people compare Tesla to established car companies. They talk about their profit margins and they talk about their production capacity. But to me, that’s not comparing apples with apples. You can’t compare a company that is less than 20 years old with companies that have been in an industry for decades. It’s crazy. Tesla is still building itself. Tesla is still expanding and not only are they expanding, but they are trying to be vertically integrated.
Unlike a lot of car companies, Tesla makes all its own parts. It wants to control the quality and the production of the batteries, the panels, the brakes, the sound system… everything. Because they do this, their initial costs are probably pretty high, right? They need to have a factory with all the machines for every part. They bought some battery companies and partnered with Panasonic and they are making huge battery factories. They have new ideas and they have the power and control to incorporate them.
I think you will find that most established car companies do not operate in this way. They buy in parts – chassis, engines, brakes… whatever. So they have a factory that puts the parts together but doesn’t necessarily actually build all the parts. It’s very different. And, I can’t stress this enough, Ford and Toyota have been around for soooo much longer. Of course they’re better established. It’s just history.
But apart from that, assuming you believe that electric cars are a viable and useful alternative for a green future, the established car companies are simply in the dark ages compared to Tesla. They are sourcing their batteries from elsewhere and, as demand for batteries grows, those battery companies can’t keep up with their multiple customers. Furthermore, the established car companies still design their cars like petrol powered cars. Our Nissan Leaf (which I love driving and which is such a good run-about) has a bonnet full of very heavy looking crap. I’m not a mechanic. I don’t know what they’ve shoved in there but it’s chockablock full of big blocks of stuff. The heating system in the Leaf and in the Mitsubishi Outlander and in our Tesla are like a kettle – totally inefficient in terms of power usage. But because Tesla makes its own parts and is constantly evolving, the newer model Teslas have reverse cycle heaters better suited to electric cars.
Electric cars (unlike ICE cars) don’t need servicing very often. We try to get the Leaf to Nissan about once a year just to give it a check over but really every two years would probably do as long as we keep an eye on the tyres and the brake fluid. But when you go to Nissan, very few people there know anything about electric cars. Their computer system still demands that they note how many cylinders the engine has. My husband knows a good deal more about the charging systems than they do. We had the same experience at Mitsubishi and, when we went to Hyundai to look at the Ioniq we got the same drift there. One dude had been trained on electric cars and if he wasn’t there, nobody could help us.
There is one Tesla repairer in Canberra. His name is Zach. He knows about Teslas and he knows about electric cars. When my husband talks to him, it’s a proper exchange of information. Furthermore, the Tesla gets updated at home in the garage while we’re sleeping or eating lunch or hanging out the clothes or whatever. The map they use is at least 10 years more up to date than the map in my parents’ Kona that they bought last year. (I think we noticed something out of date for the first time the other day and it was some piece of road that had changed in the last few months). And if you want to update a map in a Kona or a Leaf or an Outlander, you take it into the dealer and they have it for a whole day and then you go back and they say “Sorry. Mitsubishi says that map is already up to date.”
The ability of the Tesla to self-drive is constantly changing and improving. When we first bought it, it couldn’t do much more than drive itself on a freeway (including recognising and adjusting for the speed of cars in front). Now it understands traffic lights, can navigate pretty well on bigger city roads, can negotiate a round-about (although it gets panicky at times), recognises pedestrians and bicycles and takes steps to safely avoid them or navigate safely around them.
Of course Tesla isn’t perfect. It’s managed by humans. But, like it or not, they’re having an impact. And they use all their profit to improve and enlarge what they’re doing. Furthermore, they do ZERO advertising and yet they still have more demand than they can keep up with.
So when you read articles in mainstream media criticising Tesla’s cash flow, or picking on Elon Musk for some of his more eccentric statements or wilder dreams, just stop a moment and think about what the company HAS achieved and what they ARE doing. Elon Musk may be odd at times but he’s changing the world which is a damn sight more than most billionaires can claim. Most of them (including the media moguls) are desperate for things to stay exactly how they are.