Get a Horse

Remember in the Westerns where the hero runs outside, jumps on his horse and rides away? When I was growing up, we owned a few horses. I hardly ever dealt with them, but I do know that it takes a lot of time to settle the horse, put on the reins, put on a blanket, put on a saddle, tighten the cinch and get riding. And it also takes a lot of time to attend to the horse and put away the tack when you are finished riding. Whether you ride it or not, you also have to exercise and feed the horse and clean out the stables. Either you have a stableboy do all that, or you do it yourself. You rarely saw all that work in the movies.

Driving an internal combustion car is a lot more convenient than riding a horse. You jump in, turn the key and drive away. You can drive for hours without stopping, and you can often refuel in less than ten minutes. When you arrive, you park it and turn off the engine. Every few months you take it in for service. The weather has to be really cold or really hot to interfere with the engine’s performance. Even though we love to grouse about delays, we’ve grown up with almost absolute convenience of travel.

EV makers are essentially asking customers to get a horse, in that the electric vehicle requires a lot more time and care than the internal combustion vehicle. It takes hours to charge an EV, and you have to keep it charged whether you drive it or not. The range is a lot shorter, and recharging takes hours, not minutes. You can simply park and turn off an EV, but it is wiser to recharge it at every opportunity. And cold or hot weather are your battery’s enemy.

In, The Charges Are Flying Over a Test of Tesla’s Charging Network, John Broder stands by his East Coast road test of the highly anticipated and praised Tesla Model S, but claims he was really testing the Supercharger network. Of course he was testing both.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and some readers, have criticized Broder for not bringing the Model S to full charge at the Supercharger stations. Broder responds that the display said Charging Complete, that going to Max Range would have taken another 30 minutes, and that topping off is supposed to decrease the life of the battery. I’ve heard that topping off is harmful to the Leaf, but some readers say it can be done occasionally without damage.

In response to complaints that Broder did not plug in the Model S overnight, which led to his running out the next day, he only notes that he had 90 miles of range when he stopped, and needed about half of that. Even if the hotel had no EV charger, he may have been able to use a conventional power source – but it very well could have been a nuisance.

Essentially, Broder made many of the mistakes that many new EV drivers are going to make. Was that a surprise? We’re used to internal combustion rules, and have to learn EV rules. Several enthusiastic owners of the original Tesla Roadster managed to “brick” the battery by leaving it uncharged for too long – a disastrously expensive mistake that supposedly can’t happen to the Model S. Clearly there must be a learning curve for the Model S.

So why did Elon Musk make Broder’s article an even bigger PR disaster than it already was? He could have simply said, we’re working on all that, instead of starting another big media fight over the Tesla’s range.

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