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1400 Miles of Non-Driving in a Tesla

The new way of driving.

I adapted very quickly to the new way of driving.

Although the MMM family leads an almost car-free life these days, I still find myself looking at and reading about the exuberant machines on a very regular basis.

It’s a love/hate relationship because I’ve had some truly great times in cars, and I can appreciate the idea of a high-speed personal comfort bubble that lets you criss-cross the country with friends and stuff along for the ride. I love the beautiful curves, precise engineering, even the smell of hot tires just after you pull off the highway. But I hate what these cars have done for us collectively – vastly degrading the quality of our land and our bodies.

Because of all this, I’ve been following the radical change that has been creeping up on the world of cars and driving with extreme interest. This whole enormous scene we’ve come to accept as “normal”, with the burning gas and crushed bodies, endless parking lots and driveways and traffic jams is balanced exactly where your bulky monochrome cell phone with the pull-up antenna was sitting in 1996. Although most people haven’t noticed yet, it has just hit the tipping point and is about to enter a rapid fall and become something completely different.

Right now, most households have two low-efficiency gas burning cars or trucks which were bought with loans and consume money around the clock despite the fact that they are sitting idle 94% of the time. And we have given up most of the free land in our cities to roads and parking lots that sit idle a similar percentage of the time.

In a very short time, most cars will run on solar-generated electricity and you won’t even want to own them – you’ll just summon one with your phone and it will come pick you up autonomously and drive you to your destination. You can answer a few emails on the way in to work, or have a beer on the way down to the pub. And all this will be cheaper than the way we do things today. We’ll also save trillions on parking lots, roads, traffic problems and road carnage.

It sounds impossibly futuristic, unless you know how surprisingly close we are to this technology right now. In fact, I took a trip straight to this future land, just last week.

1400 Miles in a Tesla Model S

roadtrip

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A friend of mine named Jesse runs a successful software company called You Need a Budget. Because of his active family and business life, he finds himself traveling around more often than I do. In conditions like these, it’s very hard to resist buying a Tesla – just look at any Silicon Valley parking lot for proof – so I can’t fault him for acquiring one. Instead, I decided to just make the best of it by accepting his invitation to take it for a multi-day test drive. Using the King for a Day principle, I figured I could harvest that first 75% of the joy of a fancy car that you get the first time you head out on a solid road trip.

But where to go? Jesse lives in Utah, and I live in Colorado. There was no practical way for me to arrange a long-duration test drive of this car, so instead I arranged a highly impractical one: a joint trip to Los Angeles.

There’s always an excuse to visit LA, our nation’s most outrageous combination of wealth, consumption and natural beauty.  But in this case, I had really wanted to take a tour of a new peer-to-peer real estate investing company called PeerStreet after an invitation from the unusually sharp founders (more on this company in a coming article).

From our starting point near Salt Lake City to our seaside destination in Manhattan Beach, clear at the opposite edge of the LA megalopolis, was almost 700 miles. Across mountain ranges, empty deserts, a city called Beaver and another called Las Vegas.

Our car was the “base” version of the Tesla model S: a 514 horsepower, all-wheel drive electric car with a 70 kilowatt-hour battery pack. There’s no gas tank, no engine, no muffler, no noise, two trunks, and seating for up to seven people. The current list price is about $75,000 USD, although federal and state tax credits can knock up to $12,500 off of that price depending on where you live. As Adm Karpinsk, I’m obliged to state that this is not a reasonable amount of money to spend on a car. But if you have infinite money, it may be one of the less destructive indulgences.

The car sat glowing in the Utah sun as we walked up to the YNAB carport.

unspecified

You already know from the news that these cars are fast and sexy runabouts for high-level tech workers and celebrities. But is it also a practical thing for cross-country travel? What if you run out of batteries? And what’s this rumor about the car’s “Autopilot” feature. Does it really drive itself?

superchargers

This is Tesla’s network of free charging stations as of April 2016. More are going in every day, but in a pinch you can always use one of the other 27,000 or so public electric car charging stations that have sprung up, or charge at home. For comparison there are 168k gas stations in this country.

The quick answer is “Yes”. While the rest of us were poking about burning gas and watching TV ads for pickup trucks, Tesla has quietly built something from about 20 years in the future and then plunked it down today. They have lined the nation’s interstates and major cities with high-speed electric charging stations that dispense an unimaginably fast flow of power into your Tesla, allowing high-speed luxurious travel almost anywhere you’d want to go. And these gas stations are fueled with solar electricity. And they’re automated, 24 hours a day, and they are free.

Catching a charge alongside several other travelers, somewhere in Nevada.

As an engineer, the charging network was actually the most impressive part of the Tesla experience to me. I can understand the basics of how you’d build a big battery, hook it up to some industrial-strength electric motors, and even use radars and sonars and cameras and plenty of software to allow a car to drive itself on the highway. But for a small newcomer to the auto market to install thousands of these chargers in the US, Europe, China and elsewhere in less than 3 years, about the time it takes a traditional automaker to redesign a headlight, is an astounding feat. Each station requires some sort of real estate negotiation, underground infrastructure, and a massively powerful transformer. And that’s because the Tesla chargers are in a whole different universe than regular electric car chargers:

tesla supercharger output

For comparison, I was thinking of buying a used Nissan Leaf and just charging it with a normal electrical outlet at home. This feeds 1300 watts into the battery and replenishes about 4 miles of driving range every hour. The Leaf and other low-end electric vehicles can also plug into higher-voltage charging stations and soak up 6600 watts, or in a few rare cases up to 40,000 if you can find an elusive “ChaDeMo DC Fast Charge” hookup. But the Tesla superchargers effortlessly put out 120,000 watts of recharge power, meaning the car charges at over 350 miles per hour. You can drive for 3 hours, then recover most of that charge in a little over 30 minutes.

The Surprisingly Civilized Rhythm of an All-Electric Roadtrip

It is this massive charging advantage that makes the Tesla the only car that is currently practical for fully electric cross-country road tripping. The base model has a 240 mile range between charges. I found this is accurate as long as you start with a full battery, run it right to the bottom, and keep your speed below 65 MPH. However, the spacing of the charging stations encourages a different pattern: lithium batteries prefer to operate in the 20%-80% range of charge. And humans prefer to drive sports cars at speeds greater than 65. So we had the car drive in the low 80s most of the time, and did more frequent recharging in the sweet spot of the battery range.

This still results in more frequent stops than you’d make in a gas car. But our group of travelers found the casual pace to be a very civilized experience. You travel swiftly for a couple of hours, then get out for a stretch and a walk before you get too cramped from sitting still. We often took time for a sit-down meal while the car was charging, something I never do on gas-powered roadtrips.

The Self-Driving Experience

Saving the best for last, the Tesla Model S has a feature that is at once completely revolutionary and instantly comfortable. If you’re on a reasonable road with clear lane markings, the computer screen that sits where speedometers used to go will pop up an icon of a steering wheel.  If you double-click a stalk near your turn signal, you’ll hear a tone and find the car has taken over the driving. The lawyer-approved official text tells you to keep your hands on the wheel, but this is not necessary: I would lean back in my seat and stretch my arms out on the armrests while the car did everything perfectly.

Planting itself firmly in the center of the lane, the car ascends and descends curvy mountain canyon roads, tracks and responds to other vehicles and obstacles, and will brake and accelerate as necessary to flow with even the most intense traffic. If you flip the turn signal, it will look for a clear spot in the next lane and automatically change lanes.

autopilot

Autopilot builds a mental map of the vehicles around you, so it can respond to them as they move around.

There are well over 100,000* of these cars on the road, and they’re all connected to the Internet and back home to Tesla through a cellular data connection. As their owners drive millions of miles per day, they behave as a giant learning swarm, aggregating the data and sending it back for statistical analysis. In practice, this means the autopilot system learns from experience and improves itself over time.

It already works pretty darned well from what I’ve seen. Although I enjoyed the effortless crossing of 600 miles of inland deserts and mountain ranges, the true joy came as we descended into the Los Angeles basin just in time for a Wednesday rush hour. With nearly perfect accuracy, Autopilot was able to glide me along through the endless traffic jams while I sat in the car’s open, airy, and incredibly quiet interior, streaming music from my phone into the car’s high-end audio system via Bluetooth, and enjoying conversation with my travel companions. It’s more like sitting in a rolling leather-appointed coffee shop than the buzzing, stressful driving experience we all grew up with. The windshield wipers detected a light rain and wiped it away as needed, and the headlights took care of illumination whenever they deemed it to be a little dark.

The navigation system kept an eye on traffic and rerouted us whenever it could find a shortcut, and this was the only manual driving required. Autopilot can’t (yet) help you exit the highway or make turns at intersections in the city. But the technology to do this is here today, and a huge number of the world’s smartest people are scrambling to put it into place.

So How is This Even Remotely Mustachian?

US-Luxury-Car-Sales-Tesla-570x326

source: cleantechnica.com

After nearly 24 hours of driving this car and riding as a passenger, I found the idea of gas-powered cars being driven by hordes of inattentive, slow-reacting humans to be suddenly and hopelessly obsolete. While the Model S may be very expensive at the moment, it’s actually one of the cheapest large luxury cars, because it competes against the fattest V-8 powered BMWs, Audis and Mercedes. As a result, The Tesla S is the best-selling luxury car in the US, claiming over 25% of the entire category in 2015.

The “Gadget Factor” of being able to control your car from your phone is also appealing to many software types.

Although only multimillionaires should even consider buying a car this expensive, there’s nothing inherently expensive about electric car technology in general. Almost half of the cost of this car is in the battery, and the price of that technology has been dropping like a stone – down by over 80% in just the last 10 years. Tesla just announced their next car, the Model 3, which is almost as good by any reasonable standard and will sell for $35,000. General Motors has a competing model called the Bolt that will be ready much sooner, and all the other car companies are scrambling to catch up.

But They’re Still Just Luxury Electric Racing Wheelchairs

It was my privilege to be one of the first few people in the world to experience this decidedly better new way to drive across a country. But it’s important to keep in mind that making better cars like these will only improve the world marginally. By switching to electric cars, we’ll see our cities become quieter and cleaner and we’ll save a few hundred thousand people from the meat-grinder of traffic collisions every year.

But the real way to win the car game is not to play it. The best life is spent not sitting on your buttocks within the confines of a car, but using the fine muscles within that curvaceous piece of engineering to thrust your legs downward as you provide your own propulsion. And that’s why I’m excited about what Tesla is doing.

They started deliberately at the top of the market by making prestigious and fun toys for rich people, because we’ll buy anything. But in the long run, the cars are destined to become ever-cheaper, and to be bought by the million by fleet companies like Uber. With cheap autonomous driving at our fingertips, you can summon a car for the time you need it, and then it can promptly go off and serve somebody else. Thus, we won’t need to consume our cities with large parking lots, and we won’t need huge garages at home. Automated electric vehicles of various sorts might even replace the expensive hassle of local-scale public transportation that we’ve struggled with for so long.

And with less-sprawled cities, we’ll find more walking, more biking, and more tightly knit communities.

In short, it only takes a little bit of optimism to see a clear path between last week’s experimental roadtrip in an expensive luxury car, and tomorrow’s Badass Utopia.

* On Twitter, I recently made fun of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which forecast that in the year 2040, electric cars would still only be 1% of the world’s car sales. Two days later, Tesla pre-sold enough model 3s alone in three days to exceed that figure in the US market. I’m guessing that the whole exponential growth thing will surprise us as usual, and we’ll see at least 80% of new cars are electric by that date.

  • Common cents April 15, 2016, 7:57 pm

    I did reserve a model 3. But, being in California and if I am one of the first 200,000 Tesla’s (or the govt extends the rebate) that will make the car $25,000. I will then sell my 2006 Honda Civic (which I should just keep if I was a die hard mustachian) that I bought 8 years old for $8000 for roughly what I paid for it taking the price down to $17,000. Then, being a s Corp business owner I can depreciate/write the purchase price off to the tune of another 30% or $10,500 lowering the price further to around $6,500. This to me makes good cents when combined with solar. Then I can give the middle finger to opec and never have to go to a gas station ever again. $6,500 for a brand new model 3 = win.

    Reply
    • Vivian April 16, 2016, 7:50 am

      Very clever ended. But the real sucker in this little story is the american tax payer who gives you all these incredible freebies. Grid tied Solar power is subsidized at 70 to 80% by tax and rate payers, and if you live in CA, Telsla and its multimillionaire CEO will receive tens of thousands for selling you that car. Source:
      https://reddit.com/r/California/comments/4aapx7/wsj_voters_should_be_mad_at_electric_cars_tesla/
      Anyway; enjoy the ride!

      Reply
      • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 9:38 am

        Since this article is supposed to be about the current state of the technology, I don’t want to get into too much of the ideological battle over the electric car industry. And the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page that serves as your source is famous for being an ideological stronghold. But I like to think of it this way:

        We all have different opinions on the appropriate role of government in influencing the market. But it’s hard to find a rich country where the people have not elected a government to play this role to some degree. The real world isn’t quite the same as Ayn Rand’s world in Atlas Shrugged (and I say this even as I sit here working on creating a Badass Utopia in Colorado exactly as she proposed in that book).

        The current zero-emission-car subsidies are intended to give a temporary boost to the new technology on the assumption that the long-term benefits to the taxpayers are worth the cost. It’s part of a long line of energy efficiency incentives, and I personally believe these things are helpful – the reason you can get LED bulbs for a buck or two UNsubsidized is partly due to earlier kickstarter subsidies. LED bulbs now save us billions per year in power and infrastructure costs.

        After all, you could spin the statistics the opposite way and add up the premature deaths and asthma, plus carbon pollution and oil exploration tax credits to arrive at an astronomical “subsidy” given to each gas car as well.

        Subsidy programs are never perfect – any project involving multiple humans is always flawed in many ways. But miraculously we continue to advance as a society despite all our flaws. Let’s take it easy on ourselves and look at the big picture instead.

        Tesla cars are already good enough and cheap enough to compete on an unsubsidized basis, as is solar energy. The subsidies are just accelerating the head start, but they’ll be gone soon enough.

        Still, if your goal is truly a freer market that runs on economic principles rather than political favors, I agree that we should eliminate subsidies on all sides. Instead, we should just tax negative externalities and hand that money back to taxpayers in the form of reduced income tax. As my favorite magazine and free market champion The Economist advocates: A carbon tax that might add buck or two per gallon of gas (and on coal-fired electricity and other sources of pollution) and we’re done.

        The problem is, US voters won’t vote for anything that raises the price of gas. So we end up with a more complicated and less efficient pile of incentives and rules.

        Reply
        • Wendi April 16, 2016, 4:29 pm

          You like Ayn Rand??? (heart breaks)

          Reply
          • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 6:41 pm

            Didn’t say I liked her, just said I read the book because I wanted to see what the hardcore libertarians keep quoting. Certainly a clever, badass woman, but also seemed pretty sociopathic and lacking a more nuanced understanding of human nature.

            I’m still pretty free-market oriented though. I agreed with Rand’s observation that the lion’s share of breakthroughs in high-tech accomplishments are done by a tiny majority of brilliant people. We don’t want to restrict the creativity of these people by over-regulating them or punishing wealth. I just think humans who don’t happen to be top-0.5%-genius-overachievers also deserve dignity and we need to acknowledge pollution and ecosystems now that we are such a big species.

            Back in Ayn’s day, we knew almost NOTHING about the human impact on the planet, and that’s reflected in the book (and some of the anti-science complainers that occasionally show up in this comments section).

            Reply
            • Wendi April 16, 2016, 11:13 pm

              Of course.
              But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the top 0.5%-genius-overachievers weren’t motivated solely by money? And it seems to me that most of them probably aren’t. I mean if I was a genius overachiever, I can’t see saying to myself “Today I was going to invent the internet. But I decided against it because my tax bracket would become too high. I will only invent the internet if I get to keep one hundred trillion ka-jillion dollars of my profits. Since I will only be able to keep one trillion ka-jillion dollars, I’m just going to keep working at Sears.”

              Reply
              • Wendi April 16, 2016, 11:19 pm

                (literally choked up over my own idealism.)
                (can’t stop putting inner monologue into parentheses.)

              • EnjoyIt April 17, 2016, 10:03 am

                What a selfish response you have. The overachiever doesn’t owe you anything. They overachieve for themselves and not for you.

                Entrepreneurs take risk because they have potential for big rewards. Why take risk if the reward doesn’t exist. This is an extreme example since there is decent reward for risk takers today. But that reward decreases with ever-increasing regulations and tax burdens.

                Elon Musk created the Tesla for a profit. Yes it helps society cut pollution. But he did it to make money. If it wasn’t for profit he would be selling them at cost since he clearly already has a lot of money.

              • BarrettSun April 18, 2016, 8:22 am

                Most top .5% achievers aren’t motivated strictly by greed. They also don’t respond strictly to tax incentives. Fear not, business data itself refutes the hardline “achiever as greed” narrative that is seeded for reasons of manipulating tax policy and earnestly espoused by innocent believers in tax dogma.

                It is a management truism that money is not an effective daily motivator for top employees. There are many successful entrepreneurs who don’t think “Must get up and earn more today, would stay in bed if tax rates were 44% instead of 36%.” The relevant saying is “Get the money right, then focus on other things”. It means that once you pay your software engineer the $100k that is the market rate, she or he does the daily work for pride of excellence, displaying skill before their peers on the team, helping the team achieve its goals, the exquisite satisfaction of craftsmanship, and so on. The $100k just sets the stage for the theater of personal engagement, which then occurs for other reasons. In some cases, even idealism (“I will build a car that changes the world”) is a sustaining motivator.

              • Greg K. April 18, 2016, 9:09 am

                EnjoyIt – Elon Musk did it to save the world and turn a profit. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive – that’s the beauty of responsible capitalism, especially in the age of the rising B-Corporation. Mr. Musk has spoken extensively about his philosophy and it is decidedly altruistic. Your use of selfish is somewhat perplexing, but I suspect you may have given yourself away as a Randian crank.

              • theFIREstarter April 20, 2016, 1:41 am

                @EnjoyIt – I take it you are a personal friend of Elon Musk then, or if not then have some sort of direct link to his inner thoughts?

                If not maybe you should give up on the assumptions of his motivation for creating Tesla.

                Anyway as others have commented money is not the sole motivator for the top brightest 0.5% who in most cases really are trying to improve the world and the money just comes naturally as a result. Clearly you will never understand that, not being in that genius-over achiever category. Unless I’m way off, in which case let me know what global billion dollar company you’ve taken from start up stage and I’ll take it all back ;)

            • Jeremy April 17, 2016, 9:39 pm

              The lion’s share of breakthroughs in high-tech accomplishments were not funded by private free-markets. R&D costs for many of our favorite toys–including personal computers, cell phones, and the internet–were paid by the tax-payer.

              Government funding deserves a lot of credit. “Punishing wealth” (gimme a break!) is what subsidizes much high-tech research.

              I think this is a great thing. I wish we did more of it, and then charged private industries more for the rights to profit from our innovations.

              Reply
              • The MAD Consultant April 20, 2016, 1:40 pm

                Jeremy,

                Where did you find the data pointing to the lions share of high tech innovations are paid for by the government? That would be useful info in my opinion. Additionally I’m slightly suspicious the “lions share” of all high tech innovations come from the public sector.

                I’m only aware of the National Cancer Institute as a top notch taxpayer funded research unit. Which is then capitalized on big time by the pharmaceutical industry for huge profits. Maybe check out the book “The Truth About Drug Companies” written by Marcia Angell.

              • Quinn April 25, 2016, 6:55 pm

                @Jeremy, economists who study innovation have found that external funding is very important for this area, and governments are extremely well-placed to provide that funding. There are big positive externalities (aka benefits that accrue to people other than the direct purchaser and consumer of a product) to innovation, so if there isn’t some kind of subsidy, the amount produced will be less than optimal . So…yes, governments have almost always played an important role in innovation, whether via actual “government research,” grants to private/non-profit labs, or prizes for private innovations. No one who has seriously studied innovation would assert that the government doesn’t have a role to play here (assuming we want to reach the optimal level of innovation more than we want to defend some anti-government ideology). That’s not to say that the private sector doesn’t have anything to contribute, but the incentives just aren’t well-aligned for the private sector to solve these problems without the government’s support.

                If you’re interested in the technical side of these issues, I highly recommend Scott Shane’s “A General Theory of Entrepreneurship.” It’s the closest thing there is to a textbook on economic theory of entrepreneurship. Keep in mind that it is indeed very technical.

                Also see these articles:

                http://forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2013/07/02/4-government-programs-that-drive-innovation/#40d7898364f2

                http://nakedcapitalism.com/2014/10/government-private-sector-leads-innovation.html

              • Ralph2 April 26, 2016, 6:49 pm

                I agree with Jeremy on this.
                If you have ever used a laptop or phone and connected with wifi you owe that to CSIRO. The tech was used by everyone free until the rights were enforced.
                Many of the current great advances are actually minor changes based on tech developed at publically funded Universities with the rights sold to private companies.
                There are exceptions of course, but even the Tesla rides on the back of publically funded road systems.

            • Duncan Cairncross June 1, 2016, 10:40 pm

              I am not at all sure about that 0.5% bit
              As an engineer with over 40 years of experience I have yet to meet anybody who was more than a bit better than the average.

              Musk would be an example – he leads – very well – but he is NOT creating all of the good things
              His team of thousands of engineers is doing the creating

              They used to say that Issigonis designed the mini – but there is several thousand engineer years of work there
              Issigonis led the team

              We see the top of the iceberg – we don’t see the huge underwater bulk holding it up

              Reply
        • Sean April 16, 2016, 8:51 pm

          Spot on, sir.

          And back to the main topic at hand, another advantage will be a safer bike riding experience and (hopefully) an and to the car vs bike vs pedestrian war.

          Reply
          • Adm Karpinsk April 17, 2016, 12:15 pm

            Totally – that is one of my top motivations for promoting Tesla: allowing more people to enjoy walking and biking.

            Also, I wanted to take exception to EnjoyIt’s theory that overachiever super-rich people do stuff to make money. From those that I have met so far, most of them are doing it out of a combination of the joy of hard work, and a desire to help other people.

            There are exceptions, but it’s actually a bit of a sad addiction to keep caring about money once you have more than enough of it. Especially if you are compromising your ethics to maximize the cash.

            People with this affliction are the minority that give rich people a bad reputation.. but I don’t think they’re a good representation of rich people in general.

            Reply
            • Eric April 18, 2016, 6:54 am

              I’m actually worried that the driverless car will be bad for pedestrians and cyclists.

              As the costs (in time, annoyance, risk, and money) of driving go down I’m concerned there will be more demand for far flung suburbs and car clown 70 mile commutes.

              As with the Tesla, it seems that interacting in urban environments with pedestrians, bikes, etc. is one of the bigger challenges in developing a driverless car. I’m concern that some will try for a solution where those areas are avoided or eliminated.

              I hope I’m wrong, but I can definitely envision a scenario where the driverless car promotes a lifestyle that is less local and less badsass .

              Sell me on why the opposite could be true?

              Reply
              • Adm Karpinsk April 18, 2016, 9:31 am

                I think you’re right – we have a choice of where any technological advance will take us. In my “big wallet/small footprint” article of last month, I suggested that we need to be aware of our options and give a bit of a shit in order to make the right choice.

                So, we win only by electric autonomous transport over the personal gas car AND listening to Adm Karpinsk by walking and riding bikes and living close to the things you like to do.

            • EnjoyIt April 18, 2016, 11:41 am

              I highly doubt that overachievers will overachieve for free. Don’t get me wrong, money is not the sole motivator, but financial compensation for hard work is necessary. Without any financial compensation there is much less motivation.

              Would some of the brightest Engineers, doctors, nuclear physicists still go through all the effort of learning this skills if they were not appropriately compensated? Very few may, but most will not.

              Remember not all people think like you MMM. Most people increase their lifestyle as they make more income or have more money.

              Again look at Elon Musk. Although he has tons of money, he still seeks a profit for his work. Maybe he wants a profit so that he can have more money to R&D new tech, maybe he wants do buy a bigger boat. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Either way, he is charging a pretty penny for those Teslas.

              Another example Bill Gates tried to make as much money as possible. Although he spends a lot of it on charities, his goals were/are to make a large profit.

              Profit is a huge motivator for achievement. Without profit ingenuity would languish.

              Reply
              • Mrs. H April 19, 2016, 9:34 am

                There is a whole lot of reasonable (and extremely profitable) middle ground between innovating “for free” and innovating while making a fair contribution to society through taxes.

              • Bill April 19, 2016, 3:23 pm

                I worry about the future of profit-driven motivation, though. Seriously. Say we solve the energy problem. With a limitless supply of energy and automation, we will have solved most of the problems humans need to solve. What then? How do you motivate someone to earn more when there is nothing left to spend it on? I’m talking on a longer horizon than 100 years here but it seems inevitable that we need to embrace mustachianism or perish as a species.

              • The Long Haul Investor April 20, 2016, 2:27 pm

                @EnjoyIt

                Not sure why you are so convinced profit motivates all people. Maybe Bill Gates was extremely profit motivated at one time, but not all people are in their beginnings. In fact a company he invested in through his charity actually gave life saving malaria technology away for free basically. Check out
                https://amyris.com/our-company/history/ for a quick summary.

                I think your comment “I highly doubt that overachievers will over achieve for free” is short sighted. It insults those with core values that money could never replicate or fulfill.

                The researchers at Amyris could have cashed in on their innovative science with the pharma industry, but they chose not too. There was a good interview I came across once with the scientist/founder at Amyris basically responsible for the malaria technology. From what I recall he thought giving the technology away for free was the best thing he could do. Even though he knew he could get rich and the comp would make a lot of money. Strikes me as the opposite of the over achiever you believe exists.

              • chc4444 April 30, 2016, 10:11 am

                I think part of the reason great innovators want more money is to have control of decisions about the money. Gates gives away a huge amount of his money but he can oversee the use of that money. A good person with a lot of money has the power to do great things and to make sure that the projects that he/she thinks are important are funded ethically.

              • Duncan Cairncross June 1, 2016, 10:44 pm

                There is a problem with TOO MUCH reward,
                Here is rant about CEO’s – but it applies to excessive rewards in any sphere

                There is another very serious problem with sky high CEO pay

                Sensible people work until they have enough plus a margin for a rainy day and to leave to the family.

                Once they have that they are “satisfied” – and don’t need to put major effort into that part of their lives

                Given that being a CEO is a difficult ball aching job that takes you away from your family
                Why do they continue to do it do it?

                The present CEO’s are “insatiable” they literally cannot be filled
                This is a well-known type of mental illness

                A “satiable” person would take the salary for a short time and leave

                What has happened is the “sane” and “satiable” people in those type of positions leave
                Leaving behind the “insatiable” and “insane” people

                The old saying is
                “Pay peanuts and get monkeys”
                We should add
                “Pay millions and get loonies”

        • ToadGardener April 17, 2016, 2:46 pm

          And don’t forget the billions – tens of billions, well, literally, hundreds of billions – of taxpayer money spent on the military to ensure the continued flow of oil from very unstable regions.

          Reply
        • FTR_CRR April 18, 2016, 9:54 pm

          “Tesla cars are already good enough and cheap enough to compete on an unsubsidized basis, as is solar energy. The subsidies are just accelerating the head start, but they’ll be gone soon enough.”

          Except it [solar] isn’t remotely competitive, even with the current massive subsidies. For verification, review of the EIA levelized cost of generation for different technologies. Solar is ~$114 after subsidies compared to $72 for efficient natural gas facilities. Wind is $~73, although the cost of transmission and balancing charges can hugely increase that.

          Most reasonable people agree that the government has a role in shaping markets. I agree. Carbon should be taxed at the social cost. The EPA, in the Rule 111(d), put that at about $35 per ton when I reviewed it previously (that may have changed in the final rule making, which is of course currently under a stay). That equates to roughly $0.25-30 per gallon of gasoline. It’s also vastly less than is currently implicitly paid to solar and wind farms (assuming the marginal displacement is a combined cycle, the $25 per MWh Production Tax Credit for wind equates to a ~$62.50 per ton carbon value). The Investment Tax Credit is even messier due to differing capacity factors for solar facilities. Note that the levelized cost of generation does include a carbon cost.

          Incidentally, fracking has done vastly more to reduce carbon emissions than the tens of billions spent on renewable technologies in the United States. There’s a whole different debate about that which I am entirely unqualified for (the environmental impacts are very complex and difficult to fully quantify no matter what the poorly written white papers by advocacy groups may say).

          Reasonable people can, and should, argue for taxing carbon at the social cost. And they can fit that into a view that we should have generally free markets and let them operate. Arguing that we should set a punitive tax to accomplish certain policy objectives however is a partisan choice that is inconsistent with that view. I don’t have a horse in this race (my name should indicate that I’m agnostic to both sides of the aisle professionally) but I do want people to be accurate, clear, and coherent in their positions. If you want to do something uneconomic (even after accounting for social cost), fine, but don’t claim it’s anything but so.

          (I’m also going to ignore some of the low carbon fuel standards and other such measures that are an unmitigated environmental and economic failure. The idea that we just subsidize a market into creation is only partially true and is dependent on the underlying technologies. Again, this goes back to needing clear and coherent policies based on efficiency rather than basing policy on ideological constructs that may not reflect reality. Many programs began as temporary subsidies but don’t end because the technologies are simply unable to compete but hide from that fact.)

          Reply
          • Mike April 22, 2016, 11:35 am

            “Incidentally, fracking has done vastly more to reduce carbon emissions than the tens of billions spent on renewable technologies in the United States.”

            Data source?

            Reply
          • Mike April 22, 2016, 1:14 pm

            So the claim about fracking reducing CO2 emissions is an interesting one. Fracking is a method of producing oil and natural gas from unconventional geological formations. Natural gas is a fuel commonly used in power generation. When burned for electricity, nat gas produces about 1.22 lbs/kWh vs 2.07 – 2.14 lb/kWh for coal, per EIA numbers. The only way you could achieve a reduction in CO2 by burning natural gas for electricity is if you replaced coal with natural gas at a sufficiently high rate. So has this actually happened in the US?

            We can look at EIA numbers from 2008 to 2013, since both fracking and wind installations began significant upward ramps in 2008, and the most recent emissions data published by the EIA is for 2013. We can see that over that time period, US electric sector emissions declined by 13.6%, or 318 million metric tons. EIA also breaks out CO2 generated by fuel: CO2 from coal INCREASED over this time fell by 411 million metric tons and natural gas emissions INCREASED by 154.5 million metric tons. How much reduction we assume is due to natural gas depends on how much of that coal capacity was replaced with natural gas, and how much was replaced with something else, or nothing at all.

            From 2008 to 2013
            US electric generation fell overall by 54 million MWH
            Coal generation fell by 404.7 million MWH (wow)
            Natural gas generation increased by 242 million MWH
            Wind generation increased by 112 million MWH
            Nuclear generation decreased by 17 million MWH
            Oil generation decreased by 18 million MWH
            Solar generation increased by 8 million MWH

            Bottom line: I can’t really tell what is replacing what, and I don’t think you can either without doing a utility by utility, plant by plant analysis of capital allocation decisions.

            However, we can look at an isolated grid where the situation is somewhat less ambiguous: Texas.

            From 2008 to 2013 in the Lone Star State, power sector emissions decreased by 1 million metric tons, or 0.4%. Not a huge amount, but consider the following:
            Overall generation increased by 22 million MWH
            Coal increased by 2 million MWH
            Gas increased by 4 million MWH
            Nuke generation fell by 2.5 million MWH
            Hydro generation fell by 0.5 million MWH
            Wind generation increased by 19.6 million MWH

            We can reasonably take the position that the massive increase in wind generation in Texas offset the loss of a significant amount of zero emission hydro and nuclear, as well as higher levels of coal and the increase in CO2 emissions from more natural gas generation, which is the result of cheap natural gas. Coal to gas switching might create a short term decrease in net CO2 emissions, but make no mistake: burning methane to generate power creates a significant amount of emissions in and of itself.

            Reply
            • FTR_CRR April 25, 2016, 7:02 pm

              If you really want to understand the data for Texas, I recommend downloading the ERCOT generator information. You can, albeit with some work, approximate the marginal cost of every unit as a function of fuel cost. Change the fuel costs around and you can estimate the marginal replacement function (it’s a hyperplane) with respect to load and prices.

              However, you can make a very crude assumption with your numbers that the increased gas 100% replaces coal. (That’s a reasonable one insofar as crude assumptions: it can’t replace other gas and gas is never cheaper for a marginal dispatch fuel than wind or solar or nuke or hydro*). In that case, gas would have reduced coal emissions by about 120 MMT based on the numbers you pointed out. (In other words, 242 * ~.5). Wind generation, at best replaced 100% coal in which case would be worth 110 MMT. However, realistically, it replaces a closer to 50-50 mix of gas and coal so the benefits are about ~90 MMT. And this is 2013, which saw much higher natural gas prices than 2015 or 2016 has (YTD). Re-run the numbers for 2015 (see EPM) and use the back-of-the envelope emissions factors of 1.1 for coal and .5 for gas. Eyeballing it, I get another ~ -200k GWh of coal gone, ~100k GWh of higher gas, ~50k GWh of renewables. Which works out for a total of about 180 MMT for gas and 120 MMT for renewables.

              *We can go deep into power dispatch theory in SCED but the simple method is to generate with the lowest cost resources first. Since all $0 marginal cost resources (i.e. renewables, nuclear) are dispatched first, at the margin the only resources left to balance the grid are positive cost resources which can be simplified to coal and gas. If one goes up, the other must go down. Therefore a rise in output from one must come at the expense of the other. Also, $0 marginal cost does not mean $0 cost, it just means at the margin it costs nothing to generate with the wind and sun and power dispatch occurs based on marginal cost.

              Reply
              • Mike April 29, 2016, 8:58 am

                Thanks, very nice explanation. You’re basically saying that ERCOT emissions would have been much higher but for incremental gas generation keeping more coal offline. Sure, but since both coal and gas increased 2008-2013, and both create carbon emissions, you can’t attribute an absolute decline in carbon emissions to gas; in the absence of the increase in wind generation, carbon emissions would have increased. Gas muted the net increase; wind accounts for the decrease in this case. Nationally, you’re probably right; Texas is an unusual confluence of power market deregulation and really, really good wind resources. My point is that gas CAN lower carbon emissions, BUT only insofar as it’s displacing coal and assuming no significant increase in methane emissions.

                The other part of your position I’d love more color on is how we can assume that subsidized natural gas is more “economic” than subsidized renewables. While natural gas generators are not to my knowledge supported by any government policy (unless you agree with some Texas regulators who believe that capacity payments amount to a subsidy), one doesn’t need to go far to find subsidies for natural gas producers (percentage depletion, exemption from clean air / water regulations, state-level subsidies, etc). I think it’s reasonable to assume these policies affect producer behavior at the margin, therefore they likely effect price. Can we really say that that natural gas generators are unsubsidized when they burn government-subsidized fuel? I don’t think LCOE numbers account for fuel subsidies like the ones above.

                I think, when you come right down to it, government policy is inextricably wound up in energy economics, and has been for as long as the energy industry has existed. This intervention makes it difficult to know what the economics of energy really amount to; I guess you could say I’m skeptical of the idea that specific technologies should compete on pure economics when we don’t require the same of all technologies, meaning we don’t even really know what the economics are. It all sort of devolves into a pissing contest between advocates.

          • Duncan Cairncross June 1, 2016, 10:51 pm

            Re-Solar power
            I’m in NZ – no subsidies on solar – none at all
            I have just had a nice 5Kw system installed – so far it is returning 11% on the money I spent
            That is a LOT better than the bank and it is almost certain to get better!

            Reply
      • Mike April 17, 2016, 9:46 pm

        I’ve worked in the power industry for the last decade, and it amuses me to no end when someone makes an ideologically loaded assertion about one set of subsidies while conveniently ignoring all of the others. I’d be super interested to know the math behind the 70-80% number. Now, say it with me boys and girls: “There is no such thing as un-subsidized energy in the United States of America.”

        I have never understood this irrational insistence that wind and solar should somehow compete on pure economics when we don’t require the same of oil, gas, coal, or nuclear. Go without subsidies? Sure, no problem; as the old saw about unilateral disarmament goes: “Great idea! You first.”

        Everyone here is internet-capable, so just go read the Wikipedia entry for the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for a reasonably clear picture. I’ve actually walked the halls of Congress advocating for extending renewables support. You know what one Congressman said to me? “Nice to see you, the gas guys were here last week.” Bingo.

        Since I’m footing the bill for subsidies no matter what, I kinda think I should get some clean air and water out of the deal, along with, I don’t know, maybe never sending another American soldier to the middle east again.

        Reply
        • Court April 21, 2016, 3:27 am

          I agree completely, Mike. Well said.

          Reply
    • Dustin Stout April 16, 2016, 12:55 pm

      I’m doing something similar (business tax write off), but my CPA advises I’ll get a better return via a lease due to the limits on annual depreciation (even taking into account the CA rebate). Also, with a new model that will likely have flaws, I think purchasing is riskier. You might check with your CPA to see if you save more purchasing or leasing.

      Reply
    • StockBeard April 18, 2016, 10:42 am

      I’m also impressed by Tesla’s cars. This is saying a lot, as someone who hasn’t owned a car in more than a decade. I’m however always suspicious of things that claim to be “eco-friendly”. What are the batteries made of? Do they all require pounds of some super-rare material than only kids in a 3rd world country can mine with their bare-hands until they die of cancer at 15? I’m not trying to be cynical for the sake of it, but I’ve seen lots of so-called “eco” products that was just another way of selling me stuff I don’t need…

      I 100% agree with MMM’s vision of the future: self-driven car networks is how we will drive in the future, it will dramatically reduce the total number of cars, be more efficient, cleaner… I can’t wait to be there. People who still want to drive their own cars will be quickly convinced out of it as soon as insurance costs for “manly operated vehicles” skyrocket as data will prove humans are the cause for most accidents. Nobody would fly a plane today that isn’t 99% operated by computers.

      Reply
      • Andy April 19, 2016, 11:18 am

        I often hear the argument that self driving cars will dramatically reduce the number of cars but I am not sure how. Most people, especially heavy users, use their cars at the same time of the day: morning and afternoon/evening commute jams prove it clearly (at least where I live). These peak hours are shorter than the expected 1.5 roundtrips for autonomous cars to run the same route — thus we cannot really have many fewer than today. (As an aside: if autonomous, cheaply operated cars will, indeed, become affordable, I cannot see why people would not … afford them.) IMHO drastic reduction in the number of vehicles could be driven either by much better and cheaper public transportation and/or convincing/enabling people to have to move around less and/or making car transportation less affordable (rather than more affordable).

        Reply
        • Micah April 21, 2016, 5:26 pm

          Adaptive pricing, already being done by uber, gives a great economic incentive to alter commuting times. Admittedly the current cost of time in traffic should also be having this same effect now.

          However, history shows us that every time we get more efficient energy, we increase our consumption to at least match. I do think self driving electric cars, with wireless access to Netflix and Hulu, etc, will just lead to people owning their own vehicle and finding 2 or 3 hour commutes as reasonable, because you can work in one place, live in another, and use the commute to get part of the 4 to 6 hours of tv watching that we Americans average.

          Reply
          • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 6:53 pm

            Yes, but they WON’T HONK AT ME.

            – A cyclist

            Reply
      • Duncan Cairncross June 1, 2016, 11:00 pm

        Lithium!
        The no 33 in percentage in the earths crust
        Lots more lithium than rare materials like lead or tin
        Currently “mined” as a byproduct of people mining salt deposits
        Also I expect it to be very very recyclable – first as standby batteries for solar and second for re-use

        Some electric cars use rare earths in the motors but Tesla use induction motors

        Reply
    • GU April 18, 2016, 11:35 am

      “Then, being a s Corp business owner I can depreciate/write the purchase price off to the tune of another 30% or $10,500 lowering the price further to around $6,500.”

      Not according to the IRS, unless you’re buying a Tesla solely for business purposes.

      “If you use your car in your job or business and you use it only for that purpose, you may deduct its entire cost of operation (subject to limits discussed later). However, if you use the car for both business and personal purposes, you may deduct only the cost of its business use. ”

      https://irs.gov/taxtopics/tc510.html

      Reply
  • nick April 15, 2016, 8:05 pm

    After months of reading the blog, I finally sold my 2002 4-cyl Tacoma and bought a used 2011 Prius. I consider myself a fairly frugal guy, and I’ve spent some time modding and hyper mailing the Tacoma…but it’s hard to beat a vehicle engineered ground-up to be efficient, comfortable, and carry plenty of cargo.

    That was 2 months ago…now you’re telling me the Prius is obsolete already ?!

    Reply
    • Troy Rank April 16, 2016, 5:48 am

      The Prius is a very conservatively engineered vehicle. I think being a late adopter with fast-changing expensive technology is a totally badass move. Once your prius dies in 10-20 years, Tesla’s will be quite affordable.

      Reply
      • CapeCoddess April 16, 2016, 11:02 am

        I hope it’s sooner rather than later. My Prius is a 2004.

        Reply
      • FIKristen April 16, 2016, 5:37 pm

        Here here! You made a good move. As kick-ass as Teslas are, they are still not an economical option. However, used Teslas very well may be quite economical on the aftermarket in a few years, particularly if you happen to live in Colorado, where the state provides a very generous tax credit for electric vehicles through 2021, even if you buy one used! (provided it was not previously registered in Colorado). If you live in (or are planning to move to) Colorado and are interested in learning more, check out: https://colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/Income67.pdf
        What’s particularly cool is that it is a “refundable” credit, which if I understand correctly means that even if you don’t pay $6000 in CO taxes, you can still get the credit “refunded” to you. Insights from others welcome.

        Reply
    • James April 16, 2016, 10:38 am

      Prius is far from obsolete. It’s not the fanciest possible thing out there, but you notice that airlines are still flying tons of 737s. Generally less fancy things are more economical, and a Prius is no exception. You’re still going to drastically beat the TCO of even a Model 3.

      Reply
      • isaac April 16, 2016, 2:39 pm

        Barely beats a Metro in fuel economy.

        Reply
        • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 6:59 pm

          That’s true, but the Prius is a large luxurious 5-person family car with a huge trunk. The Geo Metro is a badass Mustachian bachelor 3-cylinder buzzbox.

          Both have their place, but when trying to spread reasonable fuel efficiency to the masses, you need to start with something pretty soft and agreeable. Same approach I take with my lifestyle as described on this blog.

          Reply
    • Mike S. April 18, 2016, 4:54 am

      I’m very interested in seeing what the Prius Prime does when it is released.

      Apparently it will have > 20 mile EV only range. I think that this would be pretty close to the perfect car for me. My work is an un-Mustachian 12.5 miles from home and we have electrical charging stations in the parking lot. So, for normal driving I wouldn’t need any gas and work would pay for (at least half of) my electricity. If I wait a couple years, I’m sure that the range will get better and I’ll be able to do the round trip only charging at work.

      For longer trips, we’d run in hybrid mode so we’d get basically unlimited range. I’m guessing that efficiency will be similar to the ~ 55 MPG that the current Prius gets.

      No price announced yet, but Toyota says that they will be “very aggressive”. Competition from the Leaf, Bolt, and Model 3 says to me that they can’t really charge more than $35k or so.

      When my Corolla dies is 3-5 years, I’ll be very interested to check this car out. By then, I’m sure that the range will be even better and they’ll get back some of the cargo space they had to take out due to the larger battery (compared to the normal Prius)

      Reply
      • nick April 19, 2016, 7:35 pm

        In 3-5 years the Corolla LEEco that started production in 2014 will be old enough to be a cost-effective buy. I rented one for business and couldn’t believe that a decent sized 4-door non-hybrid car could get 42mpg highway (by the EPA rating; which tells me it can probably touch Prius territory if driven correctly). I’d have bought the 2014 Corolla, but it’s still too new/expensive.

        Reply
  • James Roloff April 15, 2016, 8:13 pm

    The future now doubt. The largest potential this technology offers is the ability to have less cars on the road through intelligent self-driving car sharing services. Less cars on the road is the future that will radically change our economy and environment.

    Reply
    • Zed April 15, 2016, 8:30 pm

      YES! This is exactly how I envision the growing sharing economy with the coming of self driving cars! It won’t just be me sharing a car with my family. I won’t even need to own a car because I will be sharing it with my community! That time can’t come soon enough!

      Reply
      • BC April 18, 2016, 5:23 pm

        Most likely autonomous vehicles will enable a whole host of new vehicle types. Instead of vehicles needing to seat four or more, some vehicles will only have one seat while some will have more. While ride sharing may work, single passenger vehicles will be prevalent and will be more efficient due to their reduced weight. Additionally air drag is greatly reduced as the width of cars is reduced since you no longer have to accommodate all the extra seats for additional passengers. As automous vehicles reduce accidents manufactures will reduce vehicle weight which was added as safety features improving fuel economy even further. Automous vehicles opens a whole range of fuel efficiency improvements. It’s an awesome future for transportation that’s for sure.

        Reply
        • casserole55 April 25, 2016, 6:59 am

          This vision of the future, arriving sooner than expected, is very exciting. I am 61. My guess is that when I’m 85 this new paradigm will be completely realized. I’ll be able to get to doctor’s appointments, grocery store, etc with a self driving vehicle. My son won’t have to take my car keys away because I won’t have a car. I’ll probably subscribe to a service that will send a health care worker to my home to check on me if I miss an Uber-style pick up.

          Reply
  • Steve April 15, 2016, 8:15 pm

    I think you said it best when you mentioned the way to truly win the game is to not play it to begin with. Sitting your butt into a car – whether electric or otherwise, tends to be a tremendous waste of time. I’ve spent many-an-hour in cars that I paid handsomely for, but whatever enjoyment that I thought I was getting was quickly dwarfed with…well, real experiences in life, real adventures, real excitement.

    Reply
    • FianceClever April 16, 2016, 1:57 pm

      Agreed with not playing the game at all as the best solution. After 1 year of commuting 25 miles one way to grad school (ouch!), I am happy to say my new job will be 2.3 miles from my place. So I’m looking forward to biking to work pretty much everyday!

      On a larger scale, I think electric vehicles that are charged with renewable sources of energy are a much better alternative than regular cars. As somewhat of a car enthusiast, I can relate to MMM’s love hate relationship with cars. It will be interesting to see how electric and self-driving cars continue to evolve.

      Reply
    • PRNmeds April 16, 2016, 7:15 pm

      Sitting your butt into a car is a big waste of time, but for those who are working on stache-ing’ up a nest egg to retire on getting that drive time back where you could be answering e-mails, or doing other routines while your car transports you from point A to point B is pretty dang incredible!

      Reply
    • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 7:08 pm

      THIS is what I’m somehow never able to communicate to people effectively. I can tell them about the money saved and pounds lost, but I can’t get across how a year and a half of going car-free has made life an amazing adventure.

      I see lots of little animals, big poisonous snakes, and beautiful plants I would never have noticed from a car. I enjoy peaceful breezes and invigorating storms. I helped an older man with dementia get home, survived a flash flood, found an woman who’d just had a stroke and got her an ambulance, and saved a baby bunny from being roadkill.

      And people are impressed by… the weight loss.

      Sigh.

      Get out’cha car, people!

      Reply
  • JWorkman April 15, 2016, 8:17 pm

    I was just thinking about the possibilities of an automated car share program like you talked about in this article. A very cool application of automated vehicles in my opinion!

    Another application I though of that applies to my line of work would be self driving amublances. This would free up two sets of hands to be in the back of an ambulance at all times, very exciting stuff! Although I imagine driving in emergency settings would be much more demanding, but still possible, on the computer system.

    Reply
  • Evan April 15, 2016, 8:24 pm

    My pops has one…it is an AMAZING CAR and I am not a car guy. I love the idea of just taking away the line item of gas.

    Reply
  • Joel April 15, 2016, 8:29 pm

    So at what price point is it feasible for the average mustachian to buy a Tesla for the low-car lifestyle, and how soon can we get there?

    Reply
    • ToadGardener April 17, 2016, 2:56 pm

      If you have achieved FI, and have a surplus of loot, then the time is now. One of the benefits of being FI is it allows you to spend where it is needed. I do not intend to hoard money. I intend to use it. I think one of the greatest challenges facing humanity is the alteration of the climate, and supporting the mission of Tesla is certainly a worthy goal.

      Reply
  • FinanceSuperhero April 15, 2016, 8:37 pm

    Of all the benefits of a Tesla, the additional time I could gain from such amazing technology is what excites me the most. In theory, multiple families could do-own a single vehicle and share the costs. The big auto makers should be very worried.

    Reply
    • dave April 15, 2016, 9:43 pm

      The big auto companies will be on this don’t worry. Toyota, example is well into hydrogen cars which will probably be the go to way to fuel cars despite all the media hype that tesla gets. What’s more the big auto companies already have the infrastructure to deliver huge quantities of alt fuel cars unlike tesla. The car companies have ample resources to produce the next gen fuel cars don’t worry about that.

      Reply
      • Christopher Young April 16, 2016, 8:06 am

        Hydrogen is a non starter because it takes more energy to make the hydrogen than if you just used gasoline. https://carthrottle.com/post/engineering-explained-5-reasons-why-hydrogen-cars-are-stupid/

        Reply
        • LennStar April 16, 2016, 11:22 am

          That assumes – I guess, didnt read it – that you use gas to make hydrogen, which is just dump.
          Hydrogen is to be made from water (with solar energy), thus increasing storage possibilites.
          You can also make natural gas in the next step (and use that then for e.g. cooking as this infrastructure is already established (here)), which on the downside is quite ineffective.

          Reply
        • isaac April 16, 2016, 2:30 pm

          Hydrogen is probably a dead end (why the hell people keep trying to revive that dead horse….. ), biofuels though are probably going to have some role.

          Reply
          • Matt April 22, 2016, 8:32 pm

            Hydrogen is a nice option for spacecraft that are too far away from the sun to rely entirely on solarpanels (generally anything past the asteroid belt) if you don’t want to go nuclear. Also couples nicely with water->electrolysis->H2, O2 combustion based propulsion systems.

            Reply
        • mchrist152 April 17, 2016, 4:39 am

          Hydrogen is problematic for another reason – storage. It’s difficult to store a significant amount of energy in Hydrogen form because it is so light and lacking in energy density. Go through the calculations to find the size hydrogen tank you need to store the energy of an average automobile gas tank and you will see what I mean. In fact, if you could figure out how to store a significant amount of hydrogen, safely, and densely enough you could solve a lot of problems and truly change the world. Alternate energy could supply all of our energy needs if we had a good solution to the energy storage problem.

          Reply
      • Mike April 17, 2016, 11:00 pm

        The, um, big auto companies are effed, in my opinion. Tesla’s not an auto company. It’s an energy company. Can’t say that about any other car maker. Tesla just vertically integrated the personal transportation space and I don’t think the others are even thinking in the same terms.

        Reply
    • Square Peg April 16, 2016, 8:31 am

      I’d say in 2022 when you can get a 5 year old used 2017 Model 3 for cheap would be an acceptably mustachian time to get a Tesla. That’s my plan, anyway.

      Reply
      • Tabiza April 16, 2016, 2:36 pm

        I think it makes sense to get the car with the full rebate ($25k) because the battery is probably only warranteed for 8 years and is very expensive to replace. I also don’t think people will want to sell their teslas. Although by 2022 if they really do ramp up to production of .5M a year, there will be quite a lot of turnover. So once we are able to find out the replacement cost for the battery maybe your idea will make sense!

        Reply
        • Tabiza April 16, 2016, 2:41 pm

          Continued….
          I did reserve a model 3 on day 1, and my Prius is a 2011 purchased new. I plan to keep the Prius until all quirks are worked out on the 3 launch which I very much hope to be part of the first group for!

          Reply
      • Mike S. April 18, 2016, 4:43 am

        I think it depends on whether Tesla survives the Model 3 (I don’t think they will..at least in their current form).

        I watched the announcement and I really want to buy one. But when I read a bit more about them, it really doesn’t sound like the right car for me.

        They’ve shown an inability to hit their release window. Something like 30% of people who reserved a Model X have cancelled because it still isn’t available. Even if they hit their release date for the Model 3, there are estimates that they’ll only be able to make ~ 80k M3s in year 1 (they have 350,000 reservations – at least).

        There are also apparently a ton of reliability issues with the Model S. While Consumer Reports loved driving the Tesla they don’t recommend buying one because of poor reliability (not a great thing for Mustachians). Apparently, the fancy pop out door handles fail a lot (so who knows how long the doors on the X will last). As someone who aspires to be Mustachian, I cringe at the failure of all of these useless components. More concerning is that Edmunds needed to replace the motor 3 times and the battery once in 1.5 years. If that’s anywhere near true, it’s hard to imagine that it will last the 200k miles I expect out of my cars.

        The also don’t have a service station near me. Even if they did, I’d balk at the annual (or 12k mile) service they recommend because it costs between $500 (if you prepay for 8 years) and $600 (if you pay as you go). One of the reasons I like the idea of electric cars is because they are supposed to require less maintenance. Most years, my 10 year old Corolla costs me < $150 a year (oil change, tire rotation, and NYS inspection). Although sometimes (like this year) I get an $800-1000 payment (brakes and exhaust replacement).

        I like what Tesla is doing a lot. I think that they are doing is revolutionary. But, I think that the company will fail because of poor reliability and inability to mass produce the Model 3 (I hope that I'm wrong). I could see them shifting away from cars and solely into batteries and charging grids.

        I think they'll leave behind a great legacy: (1) showing that electric cars can be amazing to drive, (2) sharing their patents, (3) an amazing grid of superchargers, and(4) massive battery fabrication. I also love that they are trying to change the business by letting people buy them without car dealers.

        Reply
        • Matt April 22, 2016, 8:36 pm

          I’ve heard that their reliability has improved a lot over time. The bad reviews were based on the earlier ones. The falcon wing doors are completely idiotic, but the retracting door handles actually make a meaningful improvement in highway fuel economy. I forget the quoted % improvement.

          Reply
  • Andres April 15, 2016, 8:53 pm

    “By switching to electric cars, we’ll see our cities become quieter and cleaner and we’ll save a few hundred thousand people from the meat-grinder of traffic collisions every year.”

    A very optimistic outlook, MMM. Some of us disagree with that, however. :)

    http://rebelmetropolis.org/the-40-funniest-ways-self-driving-cars-will-fail-fucking-hard/

    Reply
    • Mr. Efficiency Nerd April 15, 2016, 9:20 pm

      HA, there’s some great quotes in here. I think this has to be my favorite:

      “Self-Driving Car Doomsday Scenario 31: Chevy unironically unveils model equipped with stationary bike so you can exercise while you commute”

      You just know that somewhere, somehow, there is going to be some kind of exercise equipment built into a self driving car. I seriously hope people will realize the irony of that.

      Reply
  • Insourcelife April 15, 2016, 8:53 pm

    Not having to buy gas is a win already… but much simpler maintenance and less shit to break is what I really like about this trend. It’s exciting to think that my next vehicle might be a (used) electric car.

    Reply
    • Nik April 16, 2016, 10:49 am

      The problem currently is in Tesla’s maintenance model. If you are used to having a warranty and taking your car to the dealership for everything, it’s pretty standard. Unfortunately Tesla won’t let you skip the warranty and maintain their cars yourself. They won’t sell you parts, they won’t give you the code, they’ll actively penalize you and turn your car into a brick if you try to do too many things to it that would be totally normal on any other car. Electric cars do generally require less maintenance, but Tesla is screwing over people who choose to do it themselves.

      Reply
      • Rafi April 16, 2016, 9:01 pm

        So Tesla is the automotive equivalent of Apple.

        Reply
      • AnonymousEngineer555 April 18, 2016, 8:05 am

        Maybe things will change once they become more main stream? The last thing the need is bad press about some battery swap gone wrong burning down a house with children.

        But I agree that is balls, and good to know!

        Reply
      • Matt April 27, 2016, 8:26 pm

        Can you change the tires or brake pads/rotors? Those are the only regular maintenance I’d expect or trust 90% of people to do on an electric car. I can see trying to aggressively preempt security disasters where somebody hacks a car and causes mayhem. I’m sure they realize that the car is inevitably hackable, especially with physical access, so maybe this is just a security measure.

        Reply
  • Mr. Efficiency Nerd April 15, 2016, 9:07 pm

    Wow, nice review of the Model S! I’m very excited for what the future is going to look like, especially with the Model 3 coming out. But I’m actually even more excited for 5-10 years after it’s arrival – assuming cars are still something typically being “owned” at that point, I’d love to get a used Model 3 for under $10,000, similarly to what is happening to the first Nissan Leafs that came out. Of course, it’s hard to say if the Model 3 will depreciate in the same way the Leaf did… but if Tesla continues on it’s path of rapid improvement, I’m convinced the basic autopilot features will become obsolete (?!?) before too long, making the first Model 3s to hit the market less desirable. But I’m betting I’ll still be thrilled with semi-automation in 5-10 years.

    Currently I still do enjoy driving my Prius most of the time, probably in part because I rarely do it these days. There is just something very satisfying about timing my braking/coasting perfectly to arrive at a light just after it has turned green (rather than having to stop), and cruising around optimizing my efficiency to get 60+ MPG. What’s even more crazy is that in the future, cars could automatically make these optimizations perfectly to time lights/etc (if we even have traffic lights at that point…) Cool stuff!

    Reply
    • Mike Reiche April 15, 2016, 10:31 pm

      That’s a great point, with regards to the no traffic lights! Cars just pass by each other seamlessly at intersections, coming inches from collision time and time again without incident! Wouldn’t you hate to be the one car that isn’t autonomous trying to get through??? ha!

      Reply
      • nick April 19, 2016, 7:57 pm

        That technology is available today, it’s actually quite common in Europe. Plus it is dead simple and doesn’t require its of fancy controls…it’s called a traffic circle…

        Reply
    • Kyle C April 16, 2016, 4:44 am

      Me too! I’m 50 and I expect that a used Model 3 will be the next and last car I will ever buy.

      Reply
    • Square Peg April 16, 2016, 10:16 am

      Of course, in an electric vehicle with regenerative braking, waste due to idling and braking are no longer factors, so hypermiling gets a lot simpler!

      Reply
      • Pierre Riteau April 16, 2016, 4:03 pm

        Tesla Motors itself says that the efficiency of regenerative braking is only at most 64%: https://teslamotors.com/en_GB/blog/magic-tesla-roadster-regenerative-braking

        Reply
        • Rich v April 18, 2016, 7:35 am

          That doesn’t surprise me. Converting kinetic energy into electric stores is a slow process compared to, say, a hydraulic system. Whatever became of hydraulic hybrids? I know they have experimented with them and using them in delivery trucks or anything big that starts and stop frequently was a great application.

          Reply
  • Mr. Thriftyskate April 15, 2016, 9:08 pm

    MMM, great information as usual. I LOVE driving my MiEV (a Mitsubishi electric car). Even though its 62hp – a bit lower than the Tesla – it’s still tons of fun. Plus, for all you California drivers, its EV status gets me in the HOV lane during my modest commute. On a more mustachian note, I got it used. Can’t wait to replace Mrs. Thriftyskate’s car with another used EV when the right opportunity comes along.

    Thanks for pointing out the superchargers. I can’t figure out why that hasn’t been its own story on top of them taking on the established auto industry. It blankets the US so a Tesla can drive across the country. Incredible from an infrastructure roll out and maintenance perspective.

    All the technology is available, time for more auto-driving EV’s on the road.

    Reply
  • Eric Bowlin April 15, 2016, 9:12 pm

    I think you are very optimistic to think that harnessing solar power into battery cells will out-do burning oil. Gas puts out far more energy than the small amount of sunlight that most of this planet gets. Someday, electricity generation through alternative means obviously must dominate…as fossil fuels are finite and sunlight is infinite – for a couple billion years at least.

    But I doubt sunlight will beat out fossil fuels in the next 2 or 3 decades. Fuel is just so damn cheap.

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 15, 2016, 9:26 pm

      I think you need to re-check your math on that, Eric. We get more than enough sunlight each HOUR, to power humanity’s needs for an entire YEAR. To generate it all with solar power would require only a few specks of the globe to be covered with panels.

      http://gizmodo.com/5350191/how-many-solar-panels-would-it-take-to-power-the-entire-world

      This is before we even get into wind, hydro, nuclear, and all the other much-better-than-fossil energy sources that are already in use.

      And It’s already far cheaper to propel a car with electricity than with gas – the comparison works out to about 60 cents per gallon.

      Reply
      • Alex April 17, 2016, 5:09 am

        But until we can harness all that solar energy more cheaply, we’re nowhere near the point of making it a significant source of power generation.

        Reply
  • dave April 15, 2016, 9:39 pm

    At least 3 huge negatives. One is waiting for your car to get charged and the other is the cost. It will be many years where electric cars will be cheap enough for the average consumer. One should also google the environmental impact of mining lithium ion.

    Reply
    • Charlie April 16, 2016, 5:36 am

      20 minutes at a supercharger, as MMM mentions in the article, is not that much longer than the 5 or so minutes it takes to fill a tank of gas, especially if you have to queue up at a busy rest stop gas station.

      The cost is an acknowledged but decreasing downside – it is getting smaller and smaller with time. If the “average consumer” has a car that they usually drive less than 50 miles per day, they can pick up an off-lease Nissan Leaf for less than 10k, as mentioned in a previous MMM article. And $35k for a brand new car is not that expensive, comparatively. It’s too expensive for many, but new cars have gotten absurdly expensive overall, lately.

      Finally, lithium. The environmental impact of mining lithium is quite small. In fact, the copper and especially aluminum in the car is far more expensive to acquire, from both a monetary and environmental perspective. additionally, the impact of producing and powering an electric vehicle is not to be evaluated on its own, but in comparison to the alternative – the oil-consuming, CO2-emitting alternative. And, over their expected lifetimes, the electric car is the clear winner in terms of efficiency and cleanliness.

      The issue of gasoline vs. electricity is not at all simple, and the huge interest and/or monetary motivations of both sides make finding objective research and reporting on the core issues and trade-offs hard to find. Any one article or paper claiming that one or the other is the clear winner is usually strongly influenced by an entity with a huge interest in that “clear winner.”

      But, oil will not last forever. It will eventually run out, and the by-products of its acquisition, refinement, and use are acutely harmful to our environment. We cannot manage and mitigate those impacts indefinitely, so an alternative MUST be found.

      Reply
      • LennStar April 16, 2016, 11:32 am

        Also Lithium is the 25th most abundant element on earth, you can find it e.g. in water, esp. certain mineral springs. So we wont run out of this stuff, not like with oil.

        Reply
    • Corey April 16, 2016, 12:22 pm

      Waiting for charging is actually not an issue for most of us most of the time. I like to call it the lucky clover effect; most of our trips start from home and make little circles back to home. It takes 3 seconds to plug an electric in. Mine charges while I am working for 9-11 hours and then charges again a when I get home for at least the 8 hours I sleep. As MMM says above we currently under-utilize the cars we have; they sit 94% of the time. If we do want to go on a long road trip a rental may be the better choice.

      I just found MMM a few weeks ago, but as life-long electric vehicle fan I bought when these fabulous production cars hit the “lease return” market for 30% or so of their original value. No spark plugs, no oil changes, no transmission to go out. Just tires and wiper blades. The time I save in maintenance duties alone free me up to spend more time with those I love. (3 electrics in our family now) Maybe in 10 years I can afford a used Model X or S…

      Reply
    • Julia April 17, 2016, 9:52 am

      My family is leasing an electric Golf and we purchased a Ford C-max Energi (used) for not a huge amount of money. We don’t have a charging station, we’re just using one charger that is shared, in our driveway (no garage) by both cars. Max charges mostly during the day (husband works from home, does a lot of short trips) and EV charges overnight most nights. EV is totally electric, and Max will go 1000 miles in-between fill-ups since most of the trips happen via battery power.

      We took a road trip from Portland to Oakland, and Max averaged about 33mpg, with four people, a 90lb dog and a car top carrier for the luggage. That’s pretty good considering he’s hauling around a rather large auxiliary battery. I highly recommend the C-max (good for tall people) and/or the Volt (if you’re not terribly tall).

      Reply
  • churchie April 15, 2016, 10:13 pm

    Thanks MMM, I’m stymied why the goobers at Consumer Reports named the S as Car of the Year and then pulled their rating. Any thought? Another goober from the NY Times got a witty reply from Elon’s blog a couple years ago: https://teslamotors.com/blog/most-peculiar-test-drive

    Driving a Tesla from the standpoint there will be less foreign oil dependence (and future avoidance of potential crisis and ripple market reaction) is good for North America. I’ve heard enough news stories about the Persian Gulf to last a lifetime.

    Reply
  • PoF April 15, 2016, 10:22 pm

    Is there a waiting list for the used Tesla Model 3 in about 6 years?

    Not much of a new adopter, but I’m hoping my ’06 Chevy HHR holds out until I can get my hands on a reliable electric vehicle with a decent range like the Bolt or Tesla 3.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    Reply
  • Travis April 15, 2016, 10:46 pm

    Any chance you stopped in St George to charge? There’s a Tesla station about 5 miles from my house. Too bad I didn’t see you were coming through this way before the trip — it would have been fun to meet up while the car was charging!

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 17, 2016, 12:22 pm

      Yup, stopped in St. George on both ways through and even had a breakfast at The Egg and I :-)

      Reply
    • Ty April 18, 2016, 8:50 am

      Hey Travis – St. George is my early retirement destination! Now I know there is at least one MMM fan down there!

      Reply
      • Patrick April 21, 2016, 1:13 pm

        Ty, I grew up in St. George and it would be an awesome early retirement spot, with enough outdoor recreation within an hour or two to last a lifetime! And though mandatory air conditioning isn’t very Mustachian, we rarely had to heat our home in the winter with lots of South facing windows.

        Reply
  • Sara April 15, 2016, 11:17 pm

    Hi I just wanted to point out that when you talk about how many people the cars kill it is important to remember that air pollution is a much bigger factor than traffic accidents. Here the tesla helps significantly (if charged with green energy)

    Reply
  • Dividendsdownunder April 15, 2016, 11:35 pm

    Hey MMM,

    I think automated cars will be a wonderful thing for the environment, for cities, for congestion, for deaths. Everyone will be able to get around without having to own a car (would people prefer not owning their own car? I’m not sure it’s as many as some thoughts makes out).

    But to me, the automation thing has worrying long term consequences. All the taxis, truck drivers, delivery people, driving instructors..not to mention the secondary losses. If there only needs to be a 1/4 of the amount of cars on the road, there will only be 1/4 made. Meaning a lot of current car companies will shed a lot of their workforce too.

    Automation is a great innovation, but it isn’t as perfect as some scenarios make out.

    Tristan

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 17, 2016, 11:56 am

      Yup, shrinking down the human driving industry will be a big one, just like when we lost things like paper, typewriters, film cameras, small-scale farming, US textiles, and all sorts of other things.

      So far, we’ve always ended up richer as a society, partly because the cost of basic goods and services goes down when they are produced more efficiently. But if we go too far and all the lower-skill jobs are gone, there is always the “Universal Basic Income” idea. Lots of potential issues, but it also solves a lot of problems efficiently.

      Reply
      • The Vigilante April 18, 2016, 7:52 am

        Some caution is needed. When cars really took root, the animal-drawn carriage industry plummeted. And we all remember the Great Conestoga Worker Famine of 1926.

        Reply
      • JN2 April 19, 2016, 7:42 am

        Hi MMM, the latest I’ve seen on Basic Income is this by Give Directly (a charity in top 4?). For $30 a month you can provide someone with a basic income for life!

        https://givedirectly.org/basic-income

        I was trying to reduce monthly expenses but this so appealed I have increased them :)

        Reply
  • Dana April 16, 2016, 12:14 am

    Ever since I heard about the Model 3 coming out, I have been socking away money like mad to save up for one. But here in SoCal (one of the biggest collections of car clown pretty much anywhere), Teslas and their ilk will mostly only be driven mainly by people who own their own homes – at least until SoCal’s electric car charging infrastructure is improved. We apartment-dwellers are kinda SOL, as most apartment buildings here don’t have electric car charging stations on site.

    I know Tesla is building more superchargers, but apparently they frown on Tesla owners doing all their charging at the stations: http://digitaltrends.com/cars/tesla-sends-supercharging-station-abuse-letter/

    Sad face.

    Reply
  • Yoha April 16, 2016, 12:56 am

    Here is a very interesting blog about the use of space in cities (parking lots, roads, etc.): http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/ . It does highlight how much space is wasted on cars.

    Reply
  • ToadGardener April 16, 2016, 4:59 am

    “…I was thinking of buying a used Nissan Leaf …” Hmm, past tense. Sounds like that idea is off the table?

    If so, it’s probably a wise choice given your lifestyle as described in this blog. If you use cars primarily for occasional long distance driving, the Leaf is not a good choice. I speak as a very happy Leaf owner. This car is great for my short commute (I know, if I have a car commute I am doing something wrong but bear with me on this, there are extenuating circumstances!). It saves a ton on gas (and oil, filters, coolant…) and is just quirky enough in appearance to satisfy my rebel soul. We own an older Subaru for long distance.

    However I am on the Tesla 3 wait list, and the reasons are precisely the increased range and the Supercharger network that you highlight. Now, I know you advocate purchasing used vehicles to save up front cost and depreciation, but I think with a car as potentially disruptive as the Tesla 3, it behooves those with the means and a legitimate need to consider purchasing new to encourage and support the change to clean power. Maybe it will cost more to buy new rather than waiting several more years for cheaper used Model 3s to become available but, I am sure you’ll agree, money isn’t everything!

    Reply
  • Bart April 16, 2016, 5:11 am

    Hello.

    This is my first comment here, although I’ve read ~75% of MMM’s articles so far.

    It is very inspiring site, even for people living in the entirely different economic world, so to speak.
    I am a Polish medicine student and the income and spending you are talking about on this site is pretty ridiculous for me. As an example – average income level in the U.S. is 1,5 higher than the average income level of the doctors here in Poland.

    But I am not here to complain. I am inspired and I want to inspire. I decided to spend first ten years of my professional life to work and save like crazy in order to be financially free. It is possible even in Poland, but you simply have to try harder then, for example, in the U.S.

    And this particular article showed me that it would be awesome to be the part of this positive impact Tesla has started. I am not talking about buying a Tesla’s car, which would be very inefficent and I don’t need one, but about starting or investing in a company which will be dealing with such a futuristic technology. It is my dream that one day I will be part of some world-changing inventions, even as an investor.

    So why not keep on being frugal after being financially free, why not keep working on, but maintaining healthy work-life balance and save and invest the difference? And then, when I am 50 or so, take part in something big? These are the questions this particular article and the rest of MMM’s site made me ask.

    Thank you and wish you all the best!

    Reply
  • Ricky April 16, 2016, 5:33 am

    “I would lean back in my seat and stretch my arms out on the armrests while the car did everything perfectly.”

    Want a bedpan and catheter with that? Sorry…I had to :P

    Reply
  • Mr. 1500 April 16, 2016, 6:09 am

    I’ve come to believe that Elon Musk is the most important person on the planet. While his fine vehicles are amazing, the core of the business is really energy storage. Tesla’s Gigafactory (lithium ion battery manufacturing) could be the inflection point where electric cars go mainstream. Bring on the Model 3!

    Reply
    • Kurt April 18, 2016, 7:05 am

      I am with you there. Elon Musk is one of the true visionaries who only comes along once or twice in a generation. His end game is to try to save humanity by ending our addiction to fossil fuel, and to pave the way for humans to live on other planets eventually just in case that doesn’t work out. Crazy? They said the same about most people who changed the world. To the person earlier who said his motivation is just to make money, I would say read this: http://amzn.to/26m4PWH

      Reply
  • Ian Phi April 16, 2016, 7:30 am

    It will certainly be interesting to see how self-driving cars change the auto insurance industry, if they do catch on. Or if once the safety/efficiency/environmental benefits are established and accepted, if manual driving will be phased out in new models.

    “Back in my day, we drove our own cars!” “…Okay, grandpa – we know!”

    Reply
    • Bob. Frugal+as+dirt. April 16, 2016, 4:30 pm

      Conversely, Grandpa might say “Thank God I have one of these self driving cars… they won’t let me drive myself anymore.” Yes, it will sure be interesting!

      Reply
      • Rocketpj April 19, 2016, 1:47 pm

        With a number of seniors in our family, some of whom really should NOT be driving, I’d live to see self driving cars come along to help them maintain their independence.

        Not to mention prevent them from flattening some poor kid somewhere as they tenaciously cling to their independence even though they should not be driving.

        Reply
  • Fervent April 16, 2016, 7:41 am

    I read Musk’s biography which makes me even more confident he’s going to accomplish these crazy futuristic things very fast. I put a deposit down on a 3, but I still find it highly unlikely that I’d spend that kind of money on a car. But I wouldn’t mind doing a cross country trip in one (even if it isn’t mine) :)

    Reply
  • CapitalistRoader April 16, 2016, 8:08 am

    “In a very short time, most cars will run on solar-generated electricity and you won’t even want to own them…”

    Instead of owning cars, except for the very rich we’ll subscribe to a car service much like we subscribe to a phone service today. To save money we’ll opt for shared rides on our daily commute but only with people we approve of through the car service’s social network site. But we’ll sign up for occasional private cars for special occasions or even, say, once a week for date night if we can afford it. Car injuries and fatalities will drop off to 1/10 of today’s figures, and every human driver-caused wreck will become amplified in the press. Chapters of Mothers Against Self Driving™ will spring up in every metro area and will pressure politicians to ban self driven cars resulting in self driving being restricted to 8am–4pm on Sundays only, which is when driving enthusiasts will gather at the local fast food restaurant with their old fashioned, human driven cars.

    Your trip from SLC to LA was powered mostly by coal . Electric cars will get the vast majority of their power from natural gas in the decades to come.

    http://astro1.panet.utoledo.edu/~relling2/geography_of_2011_US_electricity_generation-martner.pdf

    Reply
    • andy April 17, 2016, 5:18 pm

      Agreed. In the near future, only the privileged few will be able to travel on demand with their own cars. Much like the hypocrits who cry about global warming, but jet around the world constantly to attend their stupid summits.
      The sheep can’t see the road through the shiney gadgets being thrown in their path-this has never been about saving the planet or reducing emissions-its always about control. Driverless cars will never exist; they will be driven by someone, just not you. The forces of anti-capitalism are at work here, limiting freedom by limiting your right to transport your body without constant monitoring. Has anyone really understood that driverless cars are prison cells on wheels?

      Reply
      • Adm Karpinsk April 18, 2016, 9:47 am

        Gasp! You’re right! It’s about control! Elon Musk, the other billionaires, and even all the environmentalists and scientists have no desire at all to help humanity!

        I’ll bet heavily against you on this conspiracy theory. But if I lose, I have a little tinfoil hat business on the side that should see enough of a sales boost to make up for my loss of personal freedom and revenue.

        Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 18, 2016, 9:42 am

      I have no problem with human-driven cars being banned in areas where other humans are walking around, living, and raising kids, if we have a better, cheaper alternative.

      In fact, I think it’s fucked up that we ever criss-crossed our residential areas with car roads in the first place, instead of making circular enclaves with the cars on the outside.

      I think we have become so accustomed to cars that we don’t realize how ridiculous they are for local use. After all, do you think landing personal airplanes and helicopters is reasonable in high density residential areas? Probably not because they’re too noisy, fast-moving, and dangerous to the people living there.

      And remember, we’ll always have bikes.

      Tesla Superchargers are entirely powered by solar electricity, as I said in this article. There may not be solar panels on every charger station, but electricity is fungible like money, and Tesla buys and adds more than enough solar power to the national grid to fuel the superchargers.

      Reply
      • FIexec April 28, 2016, 9:01 pm

        “do you think landing personal airplanes and helicopters is reasonable in high density residential areas?”

        Depending on your definition of high density, yes. If that’s what floats your boat, err.. lifts your airfoil. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce_Creek_Airport

        Passionate aviators have flocked to residential airparks, equestrians to ranches, and maybe someday drivers to auto communities. I think people pursuing their interests responsibility can be quite reasonable, while the rest of population will probably be influenced by the path of least resistance.

        Reply
        • Adm Karpinsk April 29, 2016, 12:22 pm

          Haha.. thanks for sharing that – I had no idea such a thing existed. Sounds like an enclave for passionate ultraconsumers to me, but that’s just from a quick read of the Wiki page.

          Reply
          • FIexec May 11, 2016, 4:04 pm

            Yeah, you’ll certainly find the ultraconsumers there, but you may find more in common with folks on the other end of spectrum.

            The ones taking wood, aluminum, or fiberglass and building their own plane! They tend to be more frugal and “down to earth.”

            Reply
        • Simon Kenton May 12, 2016, 8:02 am

          A flying neighborhood in Kodiak AK centered itself on a small existing lake. Floatplanes.

          Reply
      • Cheryl April 29, 2016, 10:25 am

        I have gotten in shouting-in-the-middle-of-the-restaurant arguements with people about how unreasonable it is that we have cars going 30 mph on residential streets. People are convinced that if a small child is hit by a car outside their house, the blame is on their parents for letting them go outside. The driver is not at fault in that scenario.

        I can’t wait; but I think it’ll be a long time before people can be convinced to walk more than twenty feet between their house and an enclosed car.

        Reply
    • Senad April 26, 2016, 1:47 am

      While I use carsharing in my city exclusively and very happily, it does come with downsides. You depend on the car sharing organization to do a great job. Fortunately, mine does. And you depend on other people to not leave a mess. For example transporting a wet dog will make the car smell really bad!

      I personally would not want the cost and hassle of owning a car, but I know a lot of people who would be very uncomfortable sharing a car with strangers.

      So I guess car ownership will not go away as long as people can afford it!

      Reply
  • Christopher Young April 16, 2016, 8:20 am

    Mr. MMM, do you think the three competing DC fast charging standards will be an impediment to electric car adoption? American and German car manufacturers are using the Combo charger, the Japanese are using CHAdeMO and then you have Tesla with the SuperCharger.

    http://ecomento.com/guide/electric-cars-capable-of-dc-fast-charging/

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 9:48 am

      I think they should definitely get it together and consolidate to save everyone some money, but the different standards aren’t a huge problem. You can already adapt the sources from one to another – for example here’s a ChaDeMo to Tesla adapter for sale right on the Tesla site: http://shop.teslamotors.com/products/chademo-adapter

      In an EV charging station, the biggest cost (besides possibly land) is probably in the 1+ megawatt power infrastructure. That’s equivalent to an entire suburban enclave’s peak power demand just to charge 10 cars simultaneously. Moderately expensive, but still much easier and cheaper than burying leakproof 24,000 gallon tanks for regular, midgrade, premium and diesel.

      So, even the worst case of throwing 3 cables onto each dispenser machine, just as we have 3 hoses on each pump for the gasoline, is not a big deal.

      Even better, since everyone will charge their EVs at home (or the automated EV companies can charge at their central facility), most gas stations can go away. We won’t need them for in-city errand refueling any more, just for inter-city travel.

      Reply
      • AnonymousEngineer555 April 18, 2016, 8:53 am

        Thats very true!

        One consideration,

        If we figure it takes 3 minutes to fill the tank on a conventional car and 30 minutes to charge an EV, that leaves us with 10x. Inter city service stations would ideally need 10x the current capacity of the gas stations if we were all driving Teslas….

        Kudos on the automated electric uber. That is an absolutely revolutionary idea.

        Reply
        • DrFunk April 18, 2016, 10:54 am

          You’re missing the home and work charging stations. Imagine every workplace has a station that can be used for free if you carpool in your electric vehicle. Then you get home and charge there. Charging stations would only exist for longer trips outside of your normal route. The corner gas station would literally disappear from the world’s lexicon.

          Reply
          • AnonymousEngineer555 April 19, 2016, 7:10 am

            Yes I get it but thats not intercity. Unless you have a clown commute?

            Reply
      • EnjoyIt April 18, 2016, 11:12 pm

        Gas stations make a large chunk of their money from sales of overpriced beverages and snacks located inside.

        Since the Tesla owner have no choice but wait, the store located right next to said charging station should end up with extra business.

        Reply
  • The Beginning Is Near April 16, 2016, 8:37 am

    I’ve been reading MMM for a long time now and have enjoyed every piece I’ve read but something about this article made me smile inside.

    Even though I live all the way down in South Africa, and it may take generations for the infrastructure for these sort of recharging stations and technology to be available here, it’s just so cool to see the world changing slowly for the better!

    Thanks MMM, the beginning is near!

    Reply
  • SMG April 16, 2016, 8:53 am

    Do you know that it typically takes 8 years of ‘renewable energy’ to payback all the energy that it takes to source the materials, manufacture the product, ship and install solar panels? We also have a shortage of the rare earth metals to make these panels because everyone is using a darn iPhone. And if we include the massive environmental destruction, obesity epidemic, road rage, etc… of a car culture, then a gas guzzling Hummer is not much different than a hybrid or electric vehicle. I do however agree with a ‘sharing economy’ approach and I think it is the wave of the future.

    We can’t supplement our current energy consumption with renewables. We MUST reduce. I am an engineer and professional sustainability consultant and I get so annoyed that we promote technology over simple living. Unfortunately, simple living doesn’t make anyone money, only cool gadgets do. Yes, we are narcissists by nature, and we like to show off, even if we think it being ‘green’.

    I know MMM is more about simple living and THEN supplementing technology, so kudos, but our obsession over shiny things and gadgets is overriding any true environmental or social gains.

    Reply
    • HenryDavid April 16, 2016, 9:33 am

      Yup, shiny things make me feel important. Shiny expensive things make me feel very important.
      And shiny expensive things that involve a lot of unpleasant hassle, like flying in airplanes, really make me feel like I am living such an important, urgent life–otherwise, why all this pain in the ass for so many people?
      Get outta my way. Important shit is going on here right now. Look at all this equipment.

      Or, I could walk to the public library or weed the garden, or go for an unimpressive ride on my boring 30-year old bike. Or read a book. I know: loser.

      In my view the Tesla is one last attempt to salvage a workable version of a system that never should have existed: private automotive transport. I get that it’s fun, 1 time out of 100. But it does nobody any real good.

      Reply
      • Francis Ogertschnig April 16, 2016, 1:49 pm

        Pairing down is great and so is using your legs or bike as often as possible. But you can’t get everything from reading a book. You can’t experience another culture, way of life just by reading about it. Traveling, by plane most likely, brings so much more than reading or watching it on TV. And depending on where you go, it could be cheaper than living back home in the States.

        I’m currently in Bogotá and I’m from Phoenix. Down here it’s much cheaper to live, I’m not using my car, still running my business, and learning my mother’s culture and language. Unfortunately, I’ll only be here another month and then go back to the hot hell of Phoenix. But I’ll be better for it.

        Sometimes the shiny expensive shit is worth it. Though I agree, I’d love to get rid of the abundance of cars, including my own.

        Reply
        • HenryDavid April 17, 2016, 6:12 am

          Not everything is in books? Huh. I was misinformed.
          Seriously, I like being in other interesting places too, and spend half the year in Europe where it’s so easy to live greener and on way less. But my annual return flight still makes me feel queasy. The air travel experience is maximally consumeristic now.
          Plus I work with too many people who seem ego-drunk on their busy busy travel schedules, their gadgets, their high spending high income frenzied routine. They’re not using it to do truly valuable things. Just feels important.

          Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 18, 2016, 5:26 pm

      SMG, I’m definitely with you on being aware of the embodied energy in every product – and living more efficiently always beats living large on a huge army of energy efficient products.

      But regarding the solar panels: where do you get this 8 year figure? If that were true, then the cost of the panels would be at least equal to 8 years of their energy production – not even accounting for the wages and profits made throughout the manufacturing cycle! They’re already cheaper than that.

      I’ve been assuming a figure of less than one year to account for the embodied energy. In fact this article on cleantechnica said they had reached that level of efficiency back in 2010: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/12/26/solar-energy-payback-time-charts/

      Then I assume the rest of the cost is going to other parts of the economy. And not all of that goes up in smoke: for example the entire energy sector is only 6% of the US economy.

      If you have better stuff I need to study, let me know – if it’s accurate I will change my view on solar panels a little.

      Reply
      • Zac April 19, 2016, 8:34 am

        MMM,

        Thanks for responding to this one, because I was going to if you didn’t. You’ve got it right, that 8 year payback is very outdated information. Efficiency in solar has grown CRAZILY over the past 15 years that a lot of “truths” need to be reexamined. A lot of people don’t know that unsubsidized solar is, in 2016, cost-competitive with fossil fuel world-wide.

        I don’t keep articles saved as ammunition-to convince-internet-strangers-of-an-easily-apparent-truth but even cursory digging around on google (articles written within the last year, please!) should find the facts.

        Loved the article. Thanks for writing it and doing all that you do!

        have a great day,
        -Zac

        Reply
      • Snor April 22, 2016, 1:21 am

        To put matters in perspective, it’s also nice to compare the energetic payback time for renewables (which is indeed much shorter than eight years nowadays) with the energetic payback time of fossil fuel power plants. Which is infinite :).

        Reply
  • 2 wheel $ machine April 16, 2016, 9:09 am

    The thing I really like about the popularity of electric and hybrid cars is that it shows how quickly the public opinion can change. I am beginning to see that same change in regards to cycling and public transportation.

    Reply
  • HenryDavid April 16, 2016, 9:26 am

    Meh. I’m waiting for the real game-changer: riderless bikes!
    https://techinasia.com/baidu-driverless-unmanned-bicycles-china

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka April 16, 2016, 11:18 am

    Not one comment on the increased population implications of a self driving car! What do you think people do when they have their hands free for long periods of time??

    Reply
  • Nate April 16, 2016, 11:39 am

    I ride my bike every day to work, even in the Seattle winters. After I couldn’t convince my wife to ride her bike, we got the Model S and she loves it!

    I really like always leaving the house at 80%. No more, “oh crap the car is almost out of gas” and I need to be some where in the next 5 minutes.

    Our battery is even smaller than the one in the article, they don’t make it anymore. We take road trips all over Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia without any problems. We even go camping and stay in the RV spots to charge the car. Between the two trunks, the Model S can carry way more stuff than the grandparents full size SUV. With two little kids in the car, we never wait for the super charger. The car is always full by the time the kids are done eating, bathroom, etc.

    Reply
  • Parker April 16, 2016, 11:51 am

    Does the model 3 also come with this awesome autopilot feature??

    Reply
    • Fuzz April 16, 2016, 5:53 pm

      Yup. It’s supposed to be standard. Curious what sensors will be stock, and whether there will be an upgrade sensor pack.

      Reply
      • Justin April 17, 2016, 8:04 pm

        Standard it comes with the full Autopilot sensor set.

        Standard the Autopilot safety features are enabled only.

        The lanekeeping/changing etc. self driving features are a software option.

        Reply
  • Stephen B. April 16, 2016, 11:58 am

    As to the car sharing, while I do agree that there may be less cars in society’s future and that the remaining cars will be utilized more and idle less, that idea can only go so far. By this I mean that there will still be a pretty large demand for car trips especially on weekday mornings, so that will imply having a sizeable fleet of cars at the ready. Then too all those cars do have to park somewhere overnight, so parking spaces won’t all go away – not by a long shot, really. Nor do we want all those overnight idled cars to be stored all that far away from the people that will need them in the morning or else we’ll have cars driving themselves around empty for considerable time and distance, which will drive up car hiring costs. Furthermore, I don’t think people really like sharing rides with others. That is, they would like the car to themselves rather than sharing the ride with strangers, so this pushes up the size of the required car fleet as well.

    I’m not saying huge changes aren’t coming, but there will be sizeable numbers of cars sitting around, at least at odd hours.

    Reply
    • Rocketpj April 19, 2016, 2:00 pm

      Car2Go is I think a good comparitor to what is likely to come along – more so than Uber. I’ve been using their cars for awhile now.

      They have a large number of cars spread randomly over the city, enough that there is usually one within a block or two of anywhere. A lot of that is just chaotic systems working – people move cars around in aggregate. Some of it is, I’m sure, staff whose job it is to relocate some cars to various places to meet demand. Obviously self-driving will affect that cost a bit. It’s probably a bit of dispatch wizardry to make it all work, but this year I’ve never had to walk more than a couple of blocks to grab a car on the occasions when I wanted one.

      Cars are booked in a mobile app, which maps all the available vehicles in your area (mostly 2 seat smart cars). I’ve never had to refuel, but I understand it’s quite simple . I pay by the minute, hour or day depending on the length of my trip (over a certain # of minutes results in an hourly charge and so on).

      The Uber analogy suggests an automated taxi service. I think a loosely chaotic system of available vehicles, overseen by some statistical rearrangment of the vehicles will make for a more effective and likely system. Slow times like 3 am will likely be servicing and cleaning times etc.

      From the perspective of a user cars are readily available whenever we want, and irrelevant when we don’t want them. A 1-2 block walk is enough of a mild barrier that I don’t use the cars for anything that doesn’t really need a car (i.e. >20 km, YMMV).

      Reply
  • patrick April 16, 2016, 12:51 pm

    MMM,
    I’m totally on board, but I can’t follow the logic at the end. How does the rise of the on-demand, non-owned electric car lead logically to less sprawl? Might people be just as tempted to travel across towns and cities for work, shopping, or play in that scenario?…maybe even more tempted?

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 6:45 pm

      Hey Patrick,

      You’re right – more convenient and cheaper travel would tend to increase demand. But the sprawl I am hoping we can clean up is all the pointless pavement devoted to parking and compensating for poor human drivers. With automated cars we could have fewer, narrower roads and no need for parking lots surrounding stuff like restaurants, stores, and housing- which means we can have those things closer together and the whole scene becomes more walkable.

      Much cheaper too – parking lots cost thousands of dollars PER SPACE to build, and then an ongoing huge amount to maintain, handle storm runoff, etc.

      Right now when you look at Google Earth, even the largest Wal-mart looks TINY compared to the parking and driving infrastructure that surrounds it. So we could re-develop our parking lots into nice stuff like housing and parks, and have much denser, more walkable cities.

      This redesign should reduce the demand to travel great distances, because there is a greater chance of finding what you want within your OWN part of the city.

      Reply
      • SMG April 16, 2016, 10:25 pm

        MMM – Have you ever “Big Box Swindle” by Stacy Mitchell? I would LOVE to see an interview with her on this blog!

        Reply
  • frank April 16, 2016, 1:33 pm

    You bastard!.. :).. Like you I have the engineering mind too and was quite impressed at how far the technology had come and generally enjoyed your well thought out article. So like any engineering Husband I mentioned it to my non engineer Wfe to be greeted by ” I told we should have bought one of theose!”. I wanna Tesla waah waah.. Ok she was “half” Joking at least.

    Ok that was a little foolish on my part and had now had to paddle upstream furiously as I talked about how we are not early adopters of technology and how my $350 Dodge Neon is perfectly acceptable for a pair of multimillionare early retirees. I just hope this isn’t the thin end of the wedge here dude..:)

    Reply
  • Islwynn April 16, 2016, 1:52 pm

    We have a Zip car station 2 blocks from our house. You don’t have to have driverless electric cars to have carshares and decrease car ownership.

    Reply
  • Micha April 16, 2016, 2:52 pm

    Goodness, I’ve stopped at the gas station next to the Tesla charger in Beaver, Utah many times. I have to drive around the state for work, and every time I saw it I’d daydream about owning a Tesla. The model 3 is half the cost! I’m still working through the debt emergency, so no shiny toys yet. But this is great news. I wonder…would my employer do better to buy our office one instead of paying us mileage? I’ll have to do the math.
    As usual, great stuff, MMM, thanks.
    PS have you read Scott Adam’s How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big? I think he might be your secret twin, separated at birth. Or he stole your Outrageous Optimism Gun.

    Reply
  • Stiofan April 16, 2016, 3:21 pm

    http://wired.com/2016/03/teslas-electric-cars-might-not-green-think/

    Sounds like a lot hinges on whether people figure out a way to efficiently recycle EV batteries. Then the EV is lower environmental impact than the petrol powered car but still quite a burden on the environment. Don’t throw away your bicycles or walking shoes yet.

    Reply
  • Steve April 16, 2016, 4:23 pm

    MMM can you elaborate on the statement “With nearly perfect accuracy…” it navigated LA traffic? What happens when it is only nearly perfect in traffic?

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 16, 2016, 6:48 pm

      Occasionally if the car loses confidence in the lane (for example, if construction detours cause you to drive across painted lines or other rough conditions), it will give you an alert to re-take the wheel and steer yourself.

      The car is even more reliable at tracking the vehicle in front of you. I felt much more confident with autopilot driving than with most human drivers, who tend to get too close to the car in front and react too slowly to changes in speed.

      Reply
      • Fred April 18, 2016, 11:16 am

        which is the cause of probably a large amount of accidents here in SoCal…traffic moving 60mph…coming to a complete hault and people rear-ending the car in front of them because they didn’t keep enough space to react and brake…

        I think I saw 3 of these accidents on my drive to the Manhattan meetup on the 91…and have seen countless others on a weekly/daily basis :(

        Reply
  • chc4444 April 16, 2016, 4:29 pm

    I read every article about Tesla that I see and your article is the best I’ve read in the past 5 years. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Matt Macreadie April 16, 2016, 5:49 pm

    What a great article!

    I never really get excited over a corporation’s Utopian promises. A smart phone watch that adds another chance to trade your soul for screen time. A kitchen appliance that dices, slices and cooks so you can spend more time checking your emails. Tesla is in a league of its own and one I’m interested in backing. Really, genuinely shaping the future. Imagine the reduced road fatalities? Imagine the clarity of air we will experience in our capital cities.

    I think the biggest hurdle for Tesla will be affordability. Not only for initial purchase cost but the pricing of replacement batteries. I’m no engineer but I’d imagine that in 5-10 years charging capacity make be reduced making distance travel more problematic. However if you can autopilot a car and build a vehicle that outpaces an Aston Martin- building a better battery should be a cinch.

    Mr MM, another awesome article. It got me truly enthused and uplifted that our world is getting brighter by the day. Big fan of Jesse too! He has done amazing things to reshape people’s financial future.

    Reply
  • Montana Socrates April 16, 2016, 8:55 pm

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh April 17, 2016, 9:41 pm

      +1!

      Amazing stories on Musk and the future he is creating for us all.

      and WBW is an awesome blog overall.

      Reply
    • The Vigilante April 19, 2016, 7:11 am

      Thank you! I read these months ago and forgot where they came from, and this was all I could think about when I read this post!

      Reply
  • Petra April 16, 2016, 9:49 pm

    Interesting. Your story lead me to reading up on the Nissan Leaf and finding one for rent for $70 per day in my neighborhood (fuel included, ha). Normally I travel to work by train, but if the train doesn’t go for some reason, I could hire this car for the day. While it’s definitely more expensive than the train, it would be a nice supplement.

    Reply
  • b April 16, 2016, 10:20 pm

    I almost thought this was an April fools post part 2. How is spending 70,000+ for a car even remotely mustachian? That’s probably more than most of the commenters net worths. I get that it’s cool technology, but you could say the same thing about fancy 1 million dollar eco mansions. And a bunch of people posting about how excited they are for preordering the model 3? It doesn’t matter which way you try to slice it, if millionaires are made 10 dollars at a time, they don’t buy brand new luxury cars that lose value the minute you drive them off the lot. In 5-10 years maybe, but new??? wtf mmm?

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 17, 2016, 11:50 am

      You’re right of course, B. If you read the article, you’ll see that I addressed exactly that point several times.

      For example, search for the phrases, “Although only multimillionaires should even consider buying a car this expensive” and “…obliged to state that this is not a reasonable amount of money to spend on a car…”

      On the other hand, over the years I’ve met enough readers to realize there are many surprisingly wealthy people hanging out here. For some of them, buying Tesla in cash would consume just a portion of the spare money in a checking account. If they’re going to buy a cool car, I’d much prefer the money go to a Tesla rather than a BMW 7 series gas burner.

      Also, this post was more about an industry trend rather than personal finance.

      Reply
  • Fiona April 17, 2016, 3:17 am

    Fantastic article, thanks MMM. I’m intrigued as well about the future of alternative batteries to lithium-ion (e.g. zinc-bromide, aluminium-ion, vanadium-redox.) Keep wanting to invest in some of those technologies but still too speculative at this stage.

    Reply
  • Sally April 17, 2016, 5:26 am

    What happens if the Internet drops out when you’re on autopilot 😳

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk April 17, 2016, 11:39 am

      The car doesn’t depend on a data connection to drive itself – most of the input seems to be from the sensors
      If there’s ever a problem with the autopilot, the car dings at you to take over. If you fail to do so, it apparently pulls over to the side of the road and stops (also, Self: why didn’t I test this feature!?)

      Reply

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