Electric cars, hybrids, and related vehicles

I think they made that sound louder on purpose in more recent years, right? I used to hear on Top Gear and stuff how electric cars were too quiet, which was a hazard since civilians couldn’t hear them coming. The other day, I had an electric vehicle behind me as I was walking and listening to my audio book, but I still heard that electric drive sound and tire noise behind me and got out of their way.

While I didn’t know that e-bikes specifically had something like that (after all, OG bicycles aren’t exactly noisy,) here’s the Wikipedia article about it–Hyundai’s version is called VESS for Virtual Engine Sound System:

Well, I was being mostly facetious. In the past fifty years, cars have become quite durable, and in many cases people don’t get a new one because the old one died, they get a new one because they want a new one. Or they leased. So it would make sense that a similar model might apply with EVs.

Still, if that model doesn’t continue, if people buy EVs and keep them significantly longer than they do ICE cars (and I don’t know if that will be the case of course), it makes you wonder what companies will do to maintain profits if they can’t sell you a new one every few years.

But I can’t help think that EVs need far less service than ICE vehicles. Less service means less revenue for dealers. So maybe it’s dealers that will figure out a way to make people buy more often! Or sell battery polish or something.

Bring a Kindle. Load a movie on a tablet. It’s not so bad. Also, you really think a slower charger will take “several hours”? That seems excessive. And do you really need to charge to 90% again or can you just add another 20-30% and get back to driving?

Finally, if you really do need to take a long road trip, the EV can be a bit limiting, but you can always fly and rent, or just rent and drive. Is this something you have to do multiple times a year?

There’s not just this but the maintenance is cheaper. Dealers make a lot of money on maintenance. EVs don’t need oil changes or air filters or radiator flushes or water pumps or fan belts, etc. EVs may reduce the repair revenue dealers get from ICE cars.

I started an EV at work the other day to pull out into the back. Then I promptly turned it off because I didn’t realize it was on already 🤣

I was very happy with the Tesla service when I had my Model S for 7 years even though the last couple of years the S was in the shop a lot.

In the bit over 2 years I’ve had the Model 3, I’ve only needed to go in the shop for a couple of minor issues, and the tech came to my house for one minor recall item. The service was no longer exceptional, no fully loaded Teslas as loaner cars, just an Uber voucher. The Tesla service center was no longer stocked with fancy beverages, just coffee and water.

However, yesterday Tesla made me an impressed customer again. While driving to a noon lunch, I got a notice that my low-voltage system was failing (aka the 12 V car battery) I was warned that it would start shutting accessories, and eventually the car wouldn’t start. I was told to schedule a service appointment with my Tesla app, at 3 PM I opened the app, the error codes were already transferred to the app. I hit request service and a few seconds later I was asked if the mobile service guy could come to my house between 8-12 AM. Not wanting to be stranded somewhere with a dead car, I eagerly said yes.
At 8:30 the tech showed up at 8:45 he was done replacing the battery. The total cost to me was $0.

Now there may be some legacy car makers who remotely monitor their car’s system and proactively dispatch service techs to customer houses before they fail, but I’m not aware of them

One has to wonder though how long such good service will go on, and whether anyone else will try to match that. More interestingly, Tesla doesn’t really fit the “dealer” model that most car companies have to use, at least so far. I find it hard to believe most dealerships would have that level of service, and the other car companies outside of some high-end luxury lines certainly don’t either.

Not having independent dealership is advantage for Tesla outside the halls of Congress, and more importantly state legislators. Car dealership are traditionally some of the weatlhiest and most influential people in many districts.

But, I don’t think it costs Tesla more than other automakers to provide this level of service, since it is almost entirely provided by software.
Monitoring of system, built in and cost Tesla probably $30/year/car for access to cellular network (and possibly in the future can use starlink)
Transferring error codes to the app; software
Using an App to schedule to appointment, much much cheaper than humans.

Now the mobile service technician is a bit of luxury. But maybe not as much as you might think. The young man, had been with Tesla just over a year, and started out as Service Rep. He came out in Model Y, and the only tools he needed was screwdriver (to remove panels where the 12V battery) and wrench and the standard Tesla 12V battery. He also didn’t need to be a experienced mechanic, the previous mobile visit I had I all the guy did was replace a bracket, to fold the seats.

Sure they waste time and gas (opps no they don’t) putting people on the road. On the other hand they don’t get by with smaller less fancy service center for customers, they don’t need to provide loaners car, or Uber vouchers, or a van to take customer home. They don’t need to provide the technician, with workspace, just a car, which they make. Obviously, there are limitation to how severe a problem they can fix mobile, but there are lot of minor problems involving cars.

Over the decades I’m probably over 50/50 in recognizing that I needed a new battery, before the car just wouldn’t start. But not having to deal with car’s battery dying in some random parking lot, is very nice feeling.

I don’t doubt other companies could do stuff like that, technically, but I do doubt whether they will. Years, literally like 100 years, of the dealer model and a captive, dependent customer base have made most automobile dealers and manufacturers less than eager to embrace customer friendly solutions for, well, anything.

Yup, disrupters have advantages, and now that Tesla has achieved scale, I’d be very concerned if was an executive at legacy car maker. Being able to provide superior service for less money, is a competitive advantage to Tesla. Combine that with superior product at competitive price, and that fact that Telsa is making money on their EVs while everyone else is losing money on their EVs. I don’t blame Mary Berra and other trying grab all the money they can while they still can. Nor, the UAW for trying to do the same thing.

Now mind you I think Tesla stock prices fully reflects all the advantage the company has. In the past, I thought Tesla bulls were crazy, now I think they are just optimists.

I mean they were crazy to the extent they were pricing in Musk’s fantasies about every Tesla being a self-driving taxi. But that seems to be ascribing more rationality to the bull market than there was.

The sad thing about all the Musk insanity, as well as some of the extreme fanboi-ism (and hater-ism) around Tesla is that looked at rationally and dispassionately, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the company, its product, and its future. No need to hype it to the stratosphere or condemn it to the depths of hell–looked at without emotional filters, it’s a pretty good bet overall.

I don’t know. At the current rate of production, Tesla is basically a niche product. It’s the 8th largest car maker in the US, 15th largest in the world. Globally, its production rate peers are Geely (?), maybe Suzuki? It’s hard to shake the felling that as soon as a couple of the big players get really serious about EVs, they’ll eat Tesla’s lunch.

On the other hand, I’ve thought that for a while, but the big boys remain stubbornly committed to their ICE cars.

It’s likely that they will end 2023 on par with, say, Mercedes or Renault. They do still have crazy growth rates.

It’s seems switching to EVs is becoming problematic for standard manufacturers. I was pinning my hopes on VW (the one most committed to EVs) but it seems they are seeing less demand than anticipated. It doesn’t help they are not even trying to compete on price.

It’s possible players like VW, Toyota and GM will keep farting around, but it sure doesn’t seem likely. On the other hand, they have so far.

I think the bull case for Tesla is these other car makers licensing their technology.

Besides their Autopilot / FSD technology, what are other carmakers licensing?

Supercharger access for sure, perhaps battery tech too but I’m not by any means an expert on that.

For all the dunking on Elon we like doing here, the Autopilot is pretty fuckin great. I use it every single day. I don’t think I can go back to a car without it. It would be like… um… going from 5th edtion D&D back to 2nd edition!