Tesla's original model, the Roadster

Tesla’s original model, the Roadster

Range Anxiety. It is the number 1 reason that fewer people own all-electric cars. I’ve heard comments like this for years:

Weight, cost, space are my only concerns. Versions/hybrids are currently running with success. I see a combination of a small diesel powered generator, battery and electric motors being the most viable and easiest to achieve in the near future. Having to charge every 600 miles? Getting infrastructure for CNG has been tough enough, imagine the banks of charging stations needed, drivers have a hard enough time finding parking for breaks. 34,000 lb. payloads might be a little skinny.

This response was from an article about Tesla’s upcoming semi rig.

I think a fundamental assumption was made that someone else has to build the charging infrastructure. Tesla doesn’t wait for that. Currently, there are over 2600 chargers in over 370 locations in the United States. There are plans to double those in 2017 alone. And I ain’t talking for semis. Or, at least I don’t think I am.

I live in the “black hole” of Tesla charging stations. Arkansas does not have a single one, nor are there any in western Tennessee. It is easy to be myopic regarding Tesla when an MSA of 300,000 plus has probably less than 10 Teslas on the road, and the nearest Supercharger is 100 miles away. Arkansas is also a black hole for other things, but even Mississippi has more superchargers.

But those in the rest of the country see them all the time. I counted 5 at a traffic light stop during a visit to San Jose. I’ve seen them used as Uber and pizza delivery cars. I heard that one is being used as a food truck in Portland. (Ok, I don’t know the food truck one is real, but it feels true.)

Hybrids Are Not Part of the Plan

I Googled “why didn’t tesla start with building hybrids?” and found this post on Quora. The takeaway from Ernie Dunbar is that “…they didn’t want to fuck around.” Indeed, that is precisely why. Hybrids are an interim solution to the all-electric, solar-powered future.

It is also why those in the transportation industry should take notice how quickly all of this has happened. It stems from failing to question generally accepted conventional wisdoms. Lockheed-Martin could not believe an individually financed company could unseat them at NASA. But SpaceX did.

Ford and GM (maybe not Ford, now) probably don’t think that Tesla can unseat them as the largest auto manufacturers in the United States. I know that Blackberry never saw Apple coming, then went through their denial stage until their death. Steve Ballmer at Microsoft ridiculed Apple for getting into the phone business. People told me in the Eighties that personal computers would never be in someone’s home. A whole slew of people thought letting Donald Trump run the country was a good idea.

True industry disruption occurs when someone questions conventional wisdom and starts with “first principles“. Why can’t we re-use rockets? Why do we have to wait for others to roll out infrastructure? Why can’t roofs be made from solar cells, instead of mounting them on top? Why do electric cars have to look like shit?

Electric power has gobs of torque. Battery technology is constantly improving.

Sure, the first ones may only go 600 miles and only have have a payload capacity of 34,000 pounds, but the Tesla roadster (a “hacked” Lotus) was released in 2006, but by 2012 – just 6 years later – Tesla released a new-from-the-ground-up 4-door legitimate all-electric card that outsells most full-size luxury sedans to this day.

Tesla went back to first principles to question design, engineering, manufacturing, everything. For the upcoming Model 3, they even skipped a build prototype stage that conventional manufacturers use to test actual manufacturing processes with disposable manufacturing lines and vehicles. Saved Tesla months in getting the Model 3 to market, and will probably revolutionize auto manufacturing.

The internal combustion engine is dying before our eyes. 20 years from now it will be a quaint thing that will be nostalgically remembered like rotary dial phones. Only car aficionados and collectors will be interested in ICE cars. Electric will be too mainstream and a “no brainer”.