Why the Electric Car Is Doomed to Fail

Why the Electric Car Is Doomed to Fail

Opinions? Main arguments besides the frequest culprits is Fix the Resale Market and Create a Smart Grid

Sudre_ | 2 mars 2012

The guys opinion is that he thinks electric cars will succeed just not the way we traditionally think of car sales. At least that's how I heard the interview. It is just titled in such a way for him to push his book and capitalize on the hype.

He even admits that if battery swapping comes about it decouples the battery from the car and suddenly used EVs are a good buy. He is also pushing Better Place. He claims he's not invested in Better Place but admits he loves their idea.

I don't see a need to plug in when I get to work. I'll have a car that goes 160 to 230 miles and my round trips is less than 16 miles. For others I doubt their round trip is over 100 miles. It's the usual range anxiety. That kills the whole infrastructure problem. Most cars will charge at night when power is usually more available. After driving 10-40 miles to work if you plug in the car will be charged about the time the day time power demands start increasing.

When battery tech catches up prices drop dramatically. Think BMW 5 series type EV for 35K to 60K, sounds very reasonable. New batteries will cost less than half what the gas would have cost. Not to mention deals like paying $10K-$12K now and get a free new battery in 5-8 years (or some such deal). Now you are selling your used EV with a brand new battery. Totally ruins his argument.

Dennis | 3 mars 2012

i never understood this opposition that automatically arises with new technology. let's imagine it's 1901 and we're discussing the viability of the automobile: doesn't sound like a good idea. there's too many obstacles. for this automobile contraption to be more than a novelty you would have to pave over all of the horse paths with tar. think of the cost. never mind the man hours involved. it would take years. and it runs on liquid petroleum. that costs a lot of money to refine from crude oil. america doesn't have that kind of infrastructure. and how will we refuel these automobiles? you would have to design a distribution network that would be capable of transporting the refined fuel to all parts of the country. i don't see how we could do that. as john lennon said, "there are no problems, only solutions." there are no obstacles, only opportunity for more innovation......

Vawlkus | 3 mars 2012

What resale market? I think he missed the part where an electric car doesn't need as big of a resale market as an ICE does thanks to it's durability and the lack of maintenance that an EV needs by comparison to the ICE.

Lets put it this way: why do people sell their cars? Because they believe the car is going to break down after they've driven it for so long, and they don't want to shell out money on revamping their current car. An EV doesn't have the same problem. It's battery will loose range over a long period of time, but the rest of the car is still fine. Is replacing the battery expensive? At the moment, yes, but as mass market moves forward, that replacement cost is going to come down. We saw it happen with cell phones, smart phones, big screen TVs, etc.

Then too, the batteries have other possibilities after their life in the cars are done: they can be reused in a less stressful environment as power grid supplements, and local UPSs. They won't be charged/discharged as often, so their remaining lifespans will be longer than they were in the EVs. What we need is a buyback industry for used batteries that gives discounts on replacement battery packs. If the replacement pack doesn't cost as much as people think, it's a lot more attractive than buying another new car.

ddruz | 3 mars 2012

I've noticed an underlying, unstated assumption in a number of these threads that replacement battery packs will continually be available for Model S in the future. I have been sincerely wondering about this assumption and how it relates to the value of any EV held for a long time. I would be interested in other's comments.

It would seem that at some point battery technology will have advanced to such a degree that it will not make economic sense for an EV manufacturer to build replacement batteries that fit their older cars.

Many enthusiasts will undoubtedly jump all over me for making this statement and say no chance, there will always be someone building replacement batteries for our cars. Yet looking at electronic technology of the past I really wonder if that will always be so. Perhaps a special order might always be possible from a specialty shop but that could be cost prohibitive.

At some point technology will surely make current EV battery packs obsolete. As the ones in our older cars degrade over time, if there are no reasonably priced replacements for them, the cars themselves may retain little residual value when their batteries finally wear out.

EVs have an extraordinarily bright future and this reflection in no way supports an argument that they doomed to fail. But at some point technology may make successively older individual EV models obsolete by virtue of being unable to find replacement battery packs for them.

Hopefully it will be a very, very long time before Tesla stops making battery packs that fit the Model S coming off the line this year. But at some point in the future the economics might justify it. I am curious what others think about how many years before this occurs.

Crow | 3 mars 2012

Then spend $12,000 now and get a replacement battery.

stephen.kamichik | 3 mars 2012

I believe that auto manufacturers must stock parts for their cars for at least ten years (government requirement). Lithium-ion batteries never die but they slowly degrade with time. The solution is to buy the biggest battery pack that one can afford.

ddruz | 3 mars 2012

@stephen.kamichi: Thank you kindly. Your comment corroborates my tentative conclusion--buy a bigger battery pack than you need if you plan to keep the car a long time. This is not because you need the mileage right now, but 10 or 15 years from now after battery degradation you might need what is left at that time plus the car might also retain value for a longer time if it is difficult to get replacement batteries due to improved battery technology and obsolescence of the battery pack in your car. So even though a person may not ever drive over 160 miles between charges it might be the most logical thing to buy the 230 mile battery if he/she plans to keep the car over 10 years and can swing the extra cost. I appreciate your comment very much. It would be interesting if others think this is logical or whether there is a fault in the reasoning.

Thumper | 3 mars 2012

ddruz, Your unsupported battery scenario is of course possible. Here's why I am guessing it is not a high probability. The cell form factor has been around for a while and is quite a convenient shape and size for many purposes. My guess is that although chemistries will come and go, the form factor will still be available for a long time. This should make it possible for someone, if not Tesla, to rebuild the battery pack. There might need to be some PEM modifications as well but as more people earn their living from EVs. The expertise for this sort of thing will become as common as taking your ICE to a speedshop is today.

Discoducky | 3 mars 2012

The computer or cell phone will never take off since it depreciates too much....whatever.

This all comes down to supply and demand in a capitalistic market and worldwide market overtime (~10 years for 10M cars).

And what I like about this forum that I'm convinced, after much intelligent debate with educated people who have expertise in their given fields, that the EV, at least the TM EV, is doomed to succeed.

Will the price of batteries cause my Model S to depreciate? Of course. Will the price of my 5 year old Model S be less than a similar BMW, Merc, Audi or Lexus? Remains to be seen but I doubt it as maintenance costs are high, for the latter, as well as reduction in performance overtime. Not to mention the labor it will take to give my aging Model S a new power source compared to an ICE or the price of energy in 5 years.

And I don't buy the grid argument at all. Let's assume that the EV industry took off next year and sold 100K cars with an average battery size of 30kWh's (that not going to happen but let's say worst case scenario). And let's say 50K are in San Fran (where the grid is already strained) and all of them drove to work and plugged in. Would this be a problem? Not even a fraction of a problem. So how many EV's would need to be plugged in at work or at home (pulling charge immediately) for the grid to notice in San Fran? 100K, 200K, 300K? With 7M plus people in San Fran it would take more than 25% of them to affect peak loads, even in the summer, in 5 years. And how long will it take to get that many EV's into the hands of people who will drive them to work? Well, as long as it takes there are several ways to ensure there is enough grid capacity. These are all in the pipeline and will be green lit if sales take off.

David70 | 3 mars 2012

And as long as the 18650 cells are manufactured (with possibly a firmware update), the current packs could be rebuilt.

Jason S | 3 mars 2012

My reason for buying the performance model is because I expect to replace the battery pack with a 1000 mile version within 15 years and I don't want the car infrastructure unable to handle the load. So I get the biggest infrastructure I can and enjoy the ride.

Maybe at the end of those 15 years I can get a better car, but other than the battery what will depreciate? The flatscreen. The rest of the car is still going to be fast, sexy (in a 2012 fashion) and convenient.

I expect Tesla to continue with the platform and make battery packs on the platform to a long while.

mvbf | 3 mars 2012

We are interesting creatures when it comes to the motives around a making purchase decisions. Is it a logical/economic decision where we rationalize like on teslarumors that the car is essentially free when all is said and done? Or conversely, those who buy on the bleeding edge of technology will get bit when that technology advances? Is it a social/status decision where one envisions themselves cooler among their peers for owning the latest and greatest socially responsible etc etc? Or a more individualistic hedonistic/emotional decision "I just have to have it" type of decision. Or a spiritual leap of faith/intuitive I just know this is the right decision? Maybe its the ethical/geo political rational of preferring to connect to the implications of an electrical grid verses of one dependent on oil. Or from some drive towards perfectionism of just plain wanting to own the best. Most likely it is a mix of many of the above and a bunch of other motives not mentioned. The point is buying a car brings out that complexity and buying this car in particular brings that complexity on a whole new scale. I find myself laughing when analysts try and boil our decisions wearing a single lens.

TikiMan | 3 mars 2012

It's an interesting opinion... With that said, I think it's the only viable future transportation option.

1) Hydrogen: Too volatile right now, and unless they can figure out a way for the vehicle to make its own fuel safely, the infrastructure to re-fuel will take decades to create, at an extremely high cost. I do see it as a possible option in the next 50 years.

2) Natural Gas: It’s cheaper than gasoline, but not cheap enough to get off the ground to replace it.

3) Electric: The energy is extremely cheap, home charge infrastructure already exist, public charge infrastructure is easy and cheap to build, and improve. Battery technology is getting better every year, and has unlimited resources for thousands of years to come. Solar charge stations could help to reduce the strain on the local power grid.

With that said, I don’t foresee the EV market skyrocketing quickly. Like anything new, it’s going to take time. The few who are lucky enough to afford an EV will have to be the pioneers, and lose some money in the beginning to help push the technology to the masses.

I personally don’t see the Tesla Model S or X as being a windfall of a personal investment, but rather a ‘moral’ investment in our future. Sure the perks will be great, and it will be a nice feeling knowing that I am part of the ‘solution’, rather than the ‘problem’. However, BIG OIL will continue to play ‘cat and mouse’ with the masses for many more years to come, so I don’t expect the ICE vehicles to disappear anytime soon (they are still cheaper and for the most part, better looking than just about everything else out there that is available).

I think Tesla will have a great opportunity to be a TRUE pioneer of this eventual change, and I suspect they will do very well over time, and make the ICE car companies take more notice, just as Apple did with its iPad…(i.e. now everyone makes a tablet computer).

Robert.Boston | 3 mars 2012

When you hear people talk about how the electric system will need huge upgrades, remind people that we've absorbed the widespread adoption of large-screen TVs, air conditioning, and other massive power hogs in our homes. These devices typically run on-peak, too, while EVs can charge in the middle of the night.

Did you ever read a news story about a street burning out its distribution transformers because everyone was watching plasma TVs in air-conditioned splendor? I haven't.

Tom A | 3 mars 2012

I generally concur with all the above comments.

As I see it, electricity is the most energy-efficient manner to do work (in the physics sense: move, spin, operate things). Unsurprisingly, it is also the most cost-effective and the least polluting (or totally clean, depending on the source of the electricity). Cars, trains (even diesel locomotives only drive a turbine that generates electricity to traction motors embedded in the trucks), subways, buses, taxis, etc.

Long-distance may be an issue, such as in trucking and desolate stretches of railway, but there are other solutions for those, anywhere from natural gas or ethanol combustion to fuel cells.

Even with the well-to-wheel argument in favor of EVs, there's also this: depending on a variety of details, a US refinery draws about 5 to 6 kWh of electricity per gallon of refined regular gas (87 octane). Using the current US average, the "typical" vehicle can go anywhere from about 20 to 25 miles on that gallon of gas. Well, not really, depending on how much is left after evaporative losses between the refinery and the moment of combustion (I have no idea how much that is, but as it so easily evaporates, the loss has to be substantial).

A Model S (85kWh), at 55mph, can travel 19.4 miles on that 5.5kWh (average) of electricity gobbled up by the refinery. Since it is reasonable to assume that, in both instances, the electricity was transmitted from somewhere, I consider the transmission losses between these two examples to cancel out, for all practical intents and purposes.

So, why not just charge up your car directly and skip the global petroleum pimps and staggering levels of pollution and habitat destruction? Now that we have the supporting technology already developed (microprocessors, sensors of all kinds), and now that the mobile storage tech is moving along, the answer to that question is a resounding "Of course!!"

The focus of transportation solutions boils down to two fields: how to generate, and store, the electricity in sustainable and efficient manners. Yes, that's a mouthful, but there's lots of promise, development and commercial success on several fronts, as has been discussed elsewhere.

Robert.Boston | 3 mars 2012

To be clear, it takes ~6kWh of energy to refine a gallon of gas. Only about 1kWh of that is from electricity; most is process heat from burning natural gas or other fuels. This doesn't undercut your point, Tom A, but we shouldn't overstate the case.

Sudre_ | 3 mars 2012

A friend of mine was in town for his 40th b-day. He used to be a car salesman and is actually looking to get back into it. I asked him his opinion of the EV industry because I knew he does not know much about it since he is into ICE.

He by far has no anomosity towards EV but I found his talking points to be exactly what I hear from these so called analysts.

This is the false information the analysts push.

EV's use too many rare elements to sell in mass.

EV's have no charging infrustructure.

No one wants an EV because no one wanted the Chevy Volt in the small market Chevy sold them in.

The batteries use lead and other tocix materials.

EV's have poor heating and cooling systems in the passenger compartments.

You must have a special charger installed in your garage for each EV you purchase. Regular outlets do not work (120 or 240 volt).

When the batteriers are at the end of their cycle they and the toxic materials will go into land fills.

EV charging will cause blackouts if the masses owned them.

EV's have extremely limited range as proven by Nissan rushing the Leaf to market.

EV's are not practical otherwise all the big car manufacturers would be making them.

I could go on but we have heard it all before. Sadily there is no way to combat the rumors until Tesla gets a car on the road.

Tom A | 3 mars 2012

Robert.Boston: I think I have - what about those mandatory brown-outs that LA has done in the past? I think I may have heard of some rural areas that can lose power if an old transformer overheats or something to that effect. I could be mistaken.

On the battery replacement deal, is it safe to assume that Telsa will have these things set up by the time Model S batteries start wearing out? What do they do with Roadsters? They must have some sort of plan, because they offered the Roadster with that sweet $12k battery replacement warranty.

Do they package a set of laptop batteries like the original, or since the form factor is the same, do they simply rebuild the pack with the cells used in the Model S and upgrade/replace the firmware and/or software?

I wonder how many bought the replacement warranty? If TM continues that service for the Model S and future models, then I'll definitely be buying whatever battery replacement warranty they provide, regardless of model.

From a customer service standpoint, customer loyalty, total cost of ownership, etc., I think TM will simply have to have a plan in place to replace packs with the current tech at the time (not the original for the platform, since 8 years, on average, is a long time for tech to evolve), and have the other upgrades/updates ready for the control systems when that time comes. That way, the car would last a really long time, additionally considering the aluminum body and frame (no rust) and my presumed robustness of the electric motors and inverter electronics.

Now, could they make that cost-effective? I don't know. Until they have both platforms up and running, every penny earned is already spent. Of course, 8 years from now will be the time that they will have both platforms up and running with multiple models being developed very cost-effectively and updating old models even easier (we hope).

Tom A | 3 mars 2012

Robert.Boston: that's news to me. I'm pretty sure the articles I've read on green blogs and in the press stated that that was just the electricity, not the total energy.

If you're right, then you're right, and I have no problem with that. I'm just surprised, that's all.

Mycroft | 3 mars 2012

I think Hydrogen might be applied more effectively to long-haul truckers. The infrastructure doesn't need to be nearly as large and current EV technology would be inappropriate.

harryjsommer | 3 mars 2012

I just read that gm is shutting down production of the volt for the next 5 weeks. Sorry can't find the link anymore. I've drank the kool aid like the rest of you, but gm not being able to sell 10k of these a year isn't a good sign. I have a reservation for a model s and I plan to keep it, but we have to be honest with ourselves. It's going to be a long while before evs take over. I agree tesla is great and people will stretch their budget to buy one. But until these can be produced and sold for the exact same upfront price as a ice, their will be a limited market for them. Maybe that's ok. But even a bluestar at 35 to 40k isn't going to set the world on fire....

Timo | 3 mars 2012

@harryjsommer: I just read that gm is shutting down production of the volt for the next 5 weeks. Sorry can't find the link anymore

This one?

harryjsommer | 3 mars 2012

@timo. Yep that's it. Thanx

Jason S | 3 mars 2012

The Volt was just a little wrong. It wasn't an quite an EV like the Leaf and it wasn't quite a hybrid. The Leaf also hasn't sold all that well in the US, but is only now going nationwide. Limited sales because of limited availability for the Leaf.

I'd considered a Volt but with all the pieces to make it work... just seemed like I'd be better off buying a straight hybrid.

For a while I think electrics will be less widely adopted. Gas prices and battery tech will determine the speed of adoption more than any current advantage an EV has.

WolfenHawke | 3 mars 2012

@Vawlkus and @ddruz, I agree that with EVs a battery replacement in the future will more easily extend the life than required for an ICE vehicle. May also need new suspension bushings, and possibly motor cleaning and at most rewinding. It is highly possible that the battery packs will not be available from the manufacturer though due to advancements that allow smaller packs, and improved form factors. That could just open up an opportunity for aftermarket battery suppliers though.

David M. | 3 mars 2012

I suspect that by 2020 (8 years), the replacement battery for the Model S will be lighter, and have longer range options. By then, the shortest range they might offer as a replacement could be 250mi. The longest range might be 500 mi. The battery cost per mile of range, could be half of what it is today (plus labor to install).

However, I suspect I will just get a new Tesla after 6 or 7 years.

TikiMan | 3 mars 2012

Personally, I still think the ONE KEY FACTOR that has dissuaded folks the almost all on EV’s and hybrids’ is... UGLY!!!!

I have said it thousands of times in my life, and I will say it again...

Even the poorest of the poor want to look good, and will spend their last dime to do so. The fashion industry is a MULTI-BILLION dollar industry! I have seen folks forgo living in safe neighborhoods, just so they could afford to drive a hot looking car. I have seen people willing to go to prison over an average set of chrome-plated 'spinner' wheels! I have seen children starve, so their mom could walk around with a Louis Vuitton purse.

Let’s face it folks, besides Tesla and Fisker, what looks good?...

-Chevy Volt: Great looking car, IF you want to be seen driving around in what looks like a 1990 Honda Civic. I mean SERIOUSLY??? We bail out this waste of an auto-company, and the best they can do is the Volt (vomit)????

-Nissan Leaf: Words cannot describe how completely lame and butt ugly this car looks! I would rather been seen driving around in a Smart.

-Toyota Prius: Without the HOV access stickers, you basically look like a high-school teacher driving this car. Trust me; if you are a man driving this car, you look like Walter White, minus his secret life. If you are an women, you look like the typical single librarian, with ten pet cats.

Lexus CT Hybrid: You are the envy of all the local high-school fan-boys. Most are looking for your 6” exhaust pipe, with a big question-mark on their faces why you car is SO quiet.

Like Fernando Lamas once said… “It’s better to look good than to feel good!”

Brian H | 3 mars 2012

IMO, the "gross" (external) form factor should be relatively easy to replicate, even with totally new internals and chemistry. Remember that there will be at the very least several years of the current form on the road before any drastic advance in tech occurs, so the market and requirement will be there, also.

If TM is smart, it will keep those factors compatible for a long time to come; imagine, then, being able to "pop in" a 700-1000 mi. battery at warranty end. Possibly the contemporary Model Ses will have a modified form factor by that time, but that's not an impediment.

Mark2131@CA-US | 3 mars 2012


" Toyota Prius: if you are a man driving this car, you look like Walter White, minus his secret life."

Ouch! I must admit that you're correct. I've considered buying a pair of "truck nuts" to
hang from my rear bumper to compensate.

harryjsommer | 4 mars 2012

+1 for tikiman

I really wanted to buy a leaf of the new Mitsubishi. Anything to get off of oil. But you take one look at them, and well.... They are really ugly.

William13 | 4 mars 2012

@Tom A, Robert.Boston is correct 5 kWh of energy to refine petroleum to gasoline with a average of one from electricity. This is higher in California. Don't believe every thing you read on the web. Robert is a consultant for electric utilities in New England I believe.

Robert.Boston | 4 mars 2012

@Tom A: The rolling brown/black-outs in 2000/01 were caused by the lack of generation resources. There were several contributing causes, not least of which was the fact that California bureaucrats hadn't allowed a new power plant to be built since 1991. But the utilities' wires weren't overstrained; they just didn't have enough energy to put into them to match load.

Peak Oil bruin | 4 mars 2012

Electricity for EVs can be generated from multiple sources, gasoline for ICEs solely by oil. Diversification is good.

"Toyota Prius: Without the HOV access stickers, you basically look like a high-school teacher driving this car."
Such a steadfast characterization echoes a vacuous gop debate. Some high school teachers I know might say those concerned with auto vanity may suffer from low self-esteem and multiple social insecurities.

Crow | 4 mars 2012

The Volt is not selling as well as hoped because of a couple of reasons. Tiki is right, it's not a great looking car and Chevy doesn't have the brand reputation that Toyota has in order to overcome that. The other reason is that the car is already obsolete. The S is eating into at least part of its market with 10,000 on order. Why? the S a pure EV that looks good, performs better, hauls more, goes far, is simply a better car. The early adopters who might have otherwise bought a Volt see that technology has already passed it by.

Timo | 4 mars 2012

Main reason is obviously the Volt price tag. At $40k it just plain costs too much for its worth. At that price you should expect a bit better car as car, not as greenie treehugger transportation equipment. Prius gives you better deal than Volt does (and IMO it isn't that bad looking either, not the 2012 and 2011 models).

Volt would sell if it costs only $30k not $40k. GM should cut some manufacturing costs, but that might be difficult considering that it has both ICE and BEV in it which multiplies the manufacturing costs.

IMO Tesla proves that time of hybrids is pretty much over. At least for traditional hybrids.

TikiMan | 4 mars 2012


Yes, I am sure a lot of poor teachers say that all the time. But then again, I tend to find that anyone who says negative things about others success, are typically VERY jelious and highly insecure with their 'poor' career choices in life.

When I see a someone driving a nice Porsche, I personally don't see an insecure middle-age person, but rather a successful person who can affor the finer things in life. Someone that I want to do business with!

When I see someone in the near future driving a Model S, I will think... Now there is a successful person with good sence and outstanding style!

BYT | 4 mars 2012

WOW, thanks all! I am so happy I posted this. If you know me from my posts that I am a TOTAL fanboy of Tesla Motors and can't wait for my Model S, but after hearing the battery longevity argument, I think I have just been pushed over to definitely forking our more for the performance Model S and the 300 Mile battery pack to future proof my car.

I plan on keeping my Model S a long time, dare I say, the last car I buy perhaps? Most likely not, but definitely see myself driving it 10+ years from now and if the batteries are kept maintained then I should be find for a long time with a 300 mile pack since the 160 would have been good enough for me.

To help with the battery argument if Tesla stopped putting them out, don't forget their other deals! Toyota will still need to manufacture the battery for the Rav4 EV and so will the other guys so at the very least we can see those maybe steeping up to supply the batteries for our cars perhaps?

In regards to the Volt, I think it was a joke and a lame car to start. I guess I'm already bitter at Chevy for helping "Kill the Electric Car" in the first place and the fact they call it an EV is a joke! It's nothing more then a plugin Hybrid with all the problems of having two completely power sources. Added weight and things that can go wrong, maintenance, requires fuel and fluids of all kinds and then add the electric power train on top of all that. I am not sorry to see Chevy fail! Oh yeah, I agree that it's ugly as well.

The Leaf is a great idea and yes, ugly, but if the Model S wasn't an option, I would be driving that and happy about it for the many MANY reasons we all know about so I will not bore you with it all again... ;)

Thanks again for sharing and helping me make up my mind! My original goal of posting that guys opinion was also to keep it in the back of Tesla's PR mind. Most of his issues didn't apply to me either but may to some of you and I was pleasantly surprised by what you all had to add to this thread.

My5bAby | 4 mars 2012

What pundits don't realize is how many people like me are out there. I've never purchased a new car. I think it is a waste of money. My last car, purchased last year because I totaled a 2003 in a snow storm, is a 2006 Volvo C70. Paid 20k for it with low miles. I purchased this specifically because I've always wanted a convertible and I "thought I'd need it for 1,000 + mile trips. I take these at least twice a year. I've been a reservation holder for 2 years. I've always known I wanted the 300mile battery which will cost 70k before options.

What I'm saying is, although I really like cars, I'm cheap. Cars are not an investment. However the Model S is an investment. It is an investment in our future and the future of US energy independence.

5k or 40k deposits for a car that has not been driven. Think about it. I bet at least 90% of the signature deposit holders and 50% of the production model deposit holders will purchase the car. I bet Tesla will outsell both the Leaf & Volt combined in 2012.

p 2576

Thumper | 4 mars 2012

As a retired teacher I feel I should put in a kind word for my profession. Please do not lump "teachers" into one tidy monolithic lump. We are not all alike any more than CEOs, CPAs, MBAs, MDs etc are all alike. I do not dispute that for each behavior you decry, you can find examples, but it us much like the blind man examining the elephant. My wife and I both taught full careers which we do not feel, even in retrospect, to have been poor choices. We are proud to have helped thousands of young people as they passed through high school. Most teachers I know, know full well that self esteem is a result of an individual's sense of accomplishing something worthwhile, not something that is imbued directly. Speaking only for myself here, I feel that too many people suffer from a surplus of unearned self esteem.
You may wonder how a lowly poor retired teacher has managed to reserve a Model S. Teachers, like everyone else, are able to read, think, economize and invest. Now we will spend more than twice our previous high for a vehicle that will probably be our last car.

petero | 4 mars 2012

I don’t buy in to Professor Adner’s energy/grid argument, but his used computer analogy may have some merit.

BYT. My opinion of GM is slightly different. The EV-1 was created before battery and charging technologies properly existed. It was ahead of its’ time. Regarding the Volt, IMO, it is a superior hybrid system to Toyota and Honda’s. Regretfully, GM has treated the Volt like the EV-1. Meaning no support. Toyota has worked long and hard to build the Prius name. They deserve to be the "king of the Amphibians."

David M. Hope you are right about the battery replacement. However, what do you “expect” the resale value of your “S” to be after 6-7 years? Adner is saying you will be lucky to get 25% of your net purchase price.

Thumper. Good for you and Mrs. Thumper. My wife is a teacher, she is plenty smart, works hard … she has already laid claim to ‘my’ S.

Sudre_ | 4 mars 2012

I am not concerned about how much the S will be at resale. I buy cars about every 10-12years. I am hoping after a new battery in 7-10 years I will be in my 60's before I need another car.

I looked up 2005 BMW 5 series cars with around 50k miles (which seems like low milage) in my area. They range from $12k to $20k. I was never in the market for the car type but I am guessing they were around $50k back then? You guys will know better than me on that. If that was the origonal price then that's about 25-40% the origonal cost. I could now write and article and say that BMWs only resell for 25% of the origonal cost. I am sure the 20k one has more options.

My Saturn is only worth around $2000 but it's going on 12 years old. If I could through in a new battery I would't even be in the market for a new car.

If the S resale price of 25% is this guys guess for next year I think he is WAY off since there will still be a waiting list at this rate.

JohhnyS | 4 mars 2012

My wife is a teacher and librarian. I tried to talk her into a Leaf since she never drives very far, but she thinks it is too ugly and cheap looking. So she is getting a model S. She did express some concern about parking on the street by her school. She does think the Prius looks O.K. I hope to drive the model S some of the time, maybe we will need two.

petero | 4 mars 2012

sudre. Not next year, 6-7 years from now (2020)

Brian H | 5 mars 2012

Resale valuation for the S and X is going to be quite an adventure. For the immediate and foreseeable future, demand>supply, so they should hold value very well.

Beyond that, battery tech will have a lot to say about it, but so will general public awareness (= demand). So every bit of "word of mouth" hyping y'all do is actually an investment in future valuation!!


Vawlkus | 5 mars 2012

Noone ever expects to make much off selling their car used. I've got a 2012 V8 mustang and in four or five years I'll be lucky to get $20 grand back on it if I sold it (purchase price was just over $50 grand).

I expect things will be much the same for Tesla's, at least initially.

Battery shops are already springing up to do work on hybrid battery packs when they fail and manufacturer can't (or won't) deal with them. I'm more than willing to bet the same will be true for EV battery packs. Hell, if GM hadn't crushed all the EV-1s that industry would already be beyond the kit car scene.

Peak Oil bruin | 5 mars 2012

"When I see a someone driving a nice Porsche... a successful person who can affor the finer things in life. Someone that I want to do business with!"

Ughh, Tiki, maybe you could be a little less presumptuous, e.g.
Hedge-Fund manager with ‘Great Tan’ and porsche ‘Getaway Car’ sentenced to decade in prison for Ponzi Scheme; Bradley Ruderman sentenced (2010).

Robert.Boston | 5 mars 2012

There's a long and interesting line of research in economics/sociology/evolutionary biology/etc on the role of signaling fitness through conspicuous consumption. Failure to play on this is a flaw, IMO, of most of the majors: only the very observant person can perceive whether that Ford Focus is the expensive EV version or the normal ICE version, and therefore there is no conspicuous consumption / green-cred benefit. Whatever one might say about the ugly-duckling Leaf, the very fact that it's instantly recognizable creates show-off value. The Roadster has huge show-off value. The Model S does, too, though relatively few people will instantly know that its an EV -- it is, however, obviously an expensive, stylish car.

Bottom line: EVs should strive to be instantly recognizable as EVs, not ICE vehicles. Otherwise the OEM diminishes part of the signalling value of the car.

Timo | 5 mars 2012

@Robert.Boston Bottom line: EVs should strive to be instantly recognizable as EVs, not ICE vehicles. Otherwise the OEM diminishes part of the signalling value of the car.

That's correct only as long as you want to get that signaling value. If the value is bad then you might want to get the new tech introduced gradually and with as small signaling as possible (IE. it's better but it has bad reputation).

Tesla cars are sweet, but that's not because they are BEV:s, that's because they just plain are great cars. If you think of it they don't look like instantly recognizable BEV:s, more like upper class ICE cars. Tesla also isn't selling them with "green values", it is selling by using performance and convenience as selling points. That can be achieved by using quite traditional outlook, so "instantly recognizable as EVs" is not required. Getting that performance using electric is a bonus that goes as side-effect and that is a good thing. IMO it helps the BEV cause a lot more than Leaf instantly recognizable ugly green face.

What you call "green-cred benefit" can also be seen as "green-cred detriment", and hiding that in ordinary looking shell might be a good thing at least as long as public perception of BEV:s is that they are glorified golf carts.

Teoatawki | 5 mars 2012

I've never purchased a car based on its potential resale value. It has been about what the car can do for me over the next few years. Provide reliable transportation, a comfortable driving experience, cargo/passenger capacity to meet my near-term requirements, and a look I don't feel embarrassed to be seen in.

Traditionally I traded in cars around 4-5 years. Although I take pretty good care of my cars, I only get 25-35% at trade in (at best.) My current car is 12 years old and under 40K miles because we mostly use the family vehicle. Even so, it is probably worth less than $4500 trade in.

I'm looking at a Sig S Perf with glass roof, so $100K. I intend to drive this car for a long time, perhaps the rest of my life. Suppose, after 10 or 12 years, I want to upgrade to the latest and greatest, because it is self-driving, has a 60 pound battery pack with a range of 750 miles, and can be quick charged for another 500 miles at the new widely available superchargers in under 10 minutes. At this point, let's assume battery degradation, because Tesla under-promised, and I took great care of the car, range is ~80%, or 240 miles.

By this time, "range anxiety" will be an historical footnote. People will understand their driving habits' relationship to range requirements much better than they do today, mostly thanks to the discontinued (failed) Volt.

What's this car really worth?

Leofingal | 5 mars 2012

The idea of buying any new car as an "investment" is insane. Cars have just about the fastest depreciation rate of any major purchase. The only good way to make money on vehicles is to buy cars in bad shape and fix them up (read lots of labor/parts) and flip them, preferably starting from a relatively rare (low volume production) older car. As such, both the Roadster, and early year Model S vehicles should be a good car to flip in 15-20 years, but that is if you are the guy buying them used in 15-20 years.

As a result, that whole direction taken in the interview is pretty off base in my opinion.

"... you take the most expensive part of the car and make it worth less money". I am thinking I should sell my 2001 Audi TT to this guy for 80% of the price of a new Audi TT. That would make buying my Tesla a LOT cheaper than I was planning for. Instead I will probaby get about 15-20% of its original price and that with only 80k miles.