We live in a very mobile society. Part of that mobility includes our continual access to transportation. After all, where would we be without our cars? We all tend to gravitate toward certain makes and models, but with increased on the impact emissions may have on air quality, electric cars are becoming a more popular option. It begs the question:
Why are Teslas so popular – are they worth the hype? Nobody can definitively say that Teslas are the right choice for everyone, but they have been proven to reduce the individual automobile carbon emission footprint and to reduce dependence on fossil fuels – not only gasoline but also oil. These two facts alone may be enough to suggest that the Teslas are, indeed, worth the interest.
Some people like to be on the leading edge of everything; others prefer to stick with what they know. One person’s Tesla is another person’s Mustang. But there’s no mistaking it – Tesla’s popularity is soaring. And its appearance on the road is becoming more commonplace.
Why are Teslas So Popular?
There have been over 500,000 Teslas sold in the time span between fourth quarter 2015 and third quarter 2019. To put that number in perspective, of the top 20 electric car models sold in 2018, nearly 25% of them were Teslas, leaving Nissan, VW, BMW, and all the other manufacturers of electric automobiles combined in the proverbial dust.
According to many Tesla owners, the three best things about Tesla ownership are:
- The autopilot feature.
The Tesla autopilot feature is a continual work in progress. Elon Musk’s vision is that one day, a driver can “summon” or “request” their car come pick them up from across the country, and the car will know to automatically charge along the way.
For now, the standard autopilot feature includes the same features that many other new models have:
- Automatic braking. If the car’s sensors indicate danger – like a pedestrian stepping into the road in front of you, the car will automatically engage the braking system to avoid disaster.
- Blindspot warnings. If you are changing lanes and don’t see that motorcycle in your blind spot, the Tesla will alert you that you need to stay where you are and will indicate there is a danger in your blind spot.
- Lane switching. This is a fascinating feature. With the simple tap of a turn signal, the car will determine if it is safe to change lanes, and once it confirms there isn’t any danger, will automatically change lanes for you.
Tesla’s enhanced autopilot features give you even more – for an additional charge. With the enhance autopilot features, you can get:
- Self-parallel park. Gone are the days of stressful street parking. With the push of a button, the Tesla will alert you to an available parking spot of the right size and slide right into that parallel parking spot that used to make you break out in a cold sweat.
A recent update even allows the car to park automatically in a standard perpendicular space. No more worries about being too close to the line on either side of the car!
- Autosteer. When driving on roads with a center divider, the car will take over the steering for you. This doesn’t mean that you no longer need to pay attention to what’s going on around you, but it does free up your hands to have that quick bite on the road.
Bonus: If you’re driving on the road without a center divider, like residential roads, it will only allow you to travel at 5 mph to help you avoid dangerous situations.
- Speed management. Isn’t that called cruise control? No, this is more than that. When you are using your cruise control and come into a congested area, you have to disengage your cruise control and handle the slowdown and speed up on a manual basis. This feature handles all of those speed changes for you.
- Pick me up. If you are within 33 feet of your Tesla, and on private property, you can have the ability to press a button and ask your car to come to get you. Have a smart home? Open the garage door and have the car back out for you.
- The car’s performance.
The Tesla is much quieter than the average automobile. Why? It doesn’t have the entire fuel injection system running that makes for so much of the road noise you currently deal with on a daily basis. You’re so used to hearing that noise that you don’t even recognize it – until you no longer have to deal with it.
That said, as of September 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has enacted its “Quiet Car” rule that requires makers of electric vehicles must install an automatic “noise maker” when the vehicle is traveling at 18.5 miles per hour or less.
The car is also very responsive. It has a quick pick up – 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Of course, stepping on the accelerator like that takes a toll on the battery’s charge.
Tesla’s regenerative braking system is built to save your vehicle’s battery life. When the car’s brakes engage, the kinetic energy is redirected to the vehicle’s power source to save energy use.
Does this mean that you can avoid charging your battery by using your brakes more often? No, but it does mean that when you need to use your brakes you use less energy than when you run your car. Regenerative braking systems are a huge benefit in metropolitan areas that have a lot of stop-and-go traffic.
AutoStart isn’t a new technology but being able to start your car remotely from an app on your smartphone is a nice convenience. In fact, your smartphone can become your vehicle’s key.
- The wonderful lack of maintenance the car requires.
One of the huge benefits of a Tesla is the vehicle’s system updates happen automatically because you connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi system.
Bye-Bye Pricey Oil Changes
You won’t have to worry about some of the traditional annual car maintenance duties you’re used to, like:
- Oil changes
- Fuel filters
- Spark plugs
- Emission inspections
- Even your brake pads only need to be replaced every 100,000 miles
There is still some required maintenance you’ll want to perform to keep your Tesla in top condition:
- Replace your cabin air filter every two years to keep the air you’re breathing inside your car fresh and clean.
- Replace your High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter every three years. This filter gets those small particulates that your regular cabin air filter doesn’t capture.
- Tire rotation and wheel balancing. You’re still running on tires, not air, so this is still a standard part of your vehicular maintenance process.
- Brake fluid replacement. Even though the brakes are regenerative, that doesn’t mean they don’t need fluid to perform well. Tesla recommends having your brake fluid tested for contamination every two years and replacing it as necessary.
- Brake caliper maintenance. If you live in a cold-weather climate, Tesla also recommends that you have your brake calipers cleaned and lubricated every 12-months or every 12,500 miles.
- Air conditioning servicing. If you’ve ever had your air conditioning stop working in the middle of summer, you’ll recognize the value of this step. The frequency of how often your a/c needs to be recharged or serviced on some other level depends on which Tesla model you own.
Some of the Downsides to Teslas.
Tesla owners have three consistent frustrations:
- How long it takes a car to charge fully.
The length of time it takes to charge your Tesla’s battery depends on the size battery you have. In general, you’re going to need 40-90 minutes to charge your car’s battery. That makes for a long fill-up stop.
There are actually several things involved in this complaint.
- One common discussion point is that new Tesla owners needed to have a special level of electrical service installed in their parking area to allow them to properly charge their car. Typical 110 v. service is not adequate for handling the current required to satisfy the vehicle’s charging requirements.
- It’s recommended that you not allow your vehicle to get below a 20% charge level or above an 80% charge level on a regular basis. That’s not much different than the recommendation that gas tanks do not go much below a quarter of a tank – it’s not only beneficial for the vehicle’s optimum performance, it’s also recommended for safety reasons.
Have you ever been stuck on an interstate because of construction, weather, or a tragic accident? It’s disconcerting knowing you had pushed your mileage a little too much as you watch that gauge go farther and farther down toward that despicable red E.
- Using the Super-Chargers too much can be detrimental to the life of your battery. One realtor tells a story of having to charge his car multiple times per day because he didn’t pay attention and overcharged his vehicle and let it get too low too often. The higher voltage of the Super-Chargers will degrade the battery if they are used too frequently.
- Plugging in your car and letting it charge overnight while you sleep is not in your best interest as you will regularly overcharge your battery by doing this. While that may seem like a convenient thing to do, it’s not recommended.
- Not everywhere you go will have a Tesla Supercharger – although there are about 1,339 stations with a combination of 10,836 chargers around the US. Even though Tesla estimates that there is a charger available within 150 miles of anyone in the US, you will want to take your car’s extra charging connector with you when you travel so you don’t accidentally get stranded somewhere.
- If you haven’t done your research, you’re likely to experience sticker shock.
Teslas aren’t for everyone. Even the Model 3, which is Tesla’s “mass market” version of the automobile, carries a base luxury sedan price tag of about $35,000 for the regular battery range edition.
As of the writing of this article, the base prices for Teslas range anywhere between:
- $35,000 – $59,500 for the Model 3
- $85,000 – $119,000 for the Model S
- $89,500 – $124,000 for the Model X
Those price tags, of course, are before you add your service plans, extra-navigation options, upgraded tires, taxes, tags, etc.
- The availability – or rather the unavailability of Service Centers.
Service Centers aren’t everywhere; in fact, even most major metropolitan areas only have one – not multiple. Because the parts are not as easily manufactured, getting access to replacement parts can be challenging and take time.
Another Tesla owner tells a story of having to wait four weeks to have his car repaired after a driver said, “I didn’t hear your car” and opened his door into a busy traffic lane. The Tesla owner goes on to say that he felt lucky because others have told him that this was “actually pretty fast for a Tesla repair.”
Note: Tesla’s road-side service warranty does NOT include running out of charge on the road. This is one reason a AAA membership may be worth the investment.
Are Teslas Worth the Hype?
Deciding if anything is worth the hype that’s being generated requires a lot of self-evaluation.
It can be difficult to separate the hype of multi-million-dollar advertising budgets from the actual facts.
There are questions about whether or not the hype around all of the things Tesla says the car will eventually be able to do will actually come to fruition. On the other hand, Tesla has been working to live up to the promises they have made to customers and Wall Street, alike.
Considering other EV (Electric Vehicle) Brands
There are 35 highway-capable electric vehicle makers in addition to Tesla. Some of them aren’t yet available in the US, but many are, and they also have multiple models available. Here’s a list of makes and models (alphabetized by maker):
|BMWBMW Brilliance||I3Zinoro 1E||44/5|
|Chery||QQ3 EV||(Not specified)|
|Chevrolet||Bolt EVSpark EV||54|
|Honda||Fit EVClarity Electric||(Not specified)(Not specified)|
|Hyundai||Ioniq ElectricKona Electric||45|
|JAC Motors||JAC J3 EV||5|
|Jaguar Land Rover||Jaguar I-Pace||5|
|Mercedes-Benz||B-Class Electric DriveEQC||55|
|MW Motors||Luka EV||2|
|Renault/Renault SamsungRenault||Fluence Z.E. / SM3 Z.E.ZoeTwizy||552|
|Smart||Smart electric drive||2|
National Legislation Driving the Move Away From Fossil Fuel Automobiles.
The government is working on getting citizens to become more environmentally aware. Part of that effort is encouraging people to move away from fossil fuel-dependent automobiles.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was enacted to encourage people to start considering electric vehicles. Part of that legislation allows for tax credits of between $2,500 and $7,500 per new vehicle purchased. Several individual states also offer incentives for residents to own and drive electric vehicles.
The current stated goal is that by the year 2030, at least 50% of the automobiles on the road will be alternative fuel vehicles.
Some Other Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Electric cars aren’t the only alternative fuel vehicle on the road.
Additional forms of electric transportation
- Electric scooters.
Many people think of scooters as children’s toys. The fact is that motorized scooters can be used as an alternative form of transportation. Although they have limited range, they can be very affordable for quick, local trips.
- Electric bicycles.
If you live somewhere with hills or you just aren’t feeling the same energy level you once enjoyed, an electric bicycle may be a viable option for you. You have the option to use the battery assistance or to pedal like you would any traditional bicycle.
Various models offer a range anywhere from 30 – 100 miles on one battery charge. That’s a lot of bike riding! That said, electric bikes are a prime target for thieves. Make sure you have a quality bike lock.
- Electric moped scooters.
These are different than the electric scooters listed in number one. These are the miniature motorbikes that go 25-30 miles per hour. Mopeds offer you a comfortable seat and a place to rest your feet while you motor down the road. In some cases, you can even have a second rider on the moped scooter.
It’s important to acknowledge that mopeds don’t go to top road speeds, but like bicycles, they must obey the rules of the road.
- Electric Segway E+/Airwheel S3 & clones.
Segways are a good way to get around town. They’re different from electric scooters in that the wheels are larger, and your feet are parallel to one another rather than one behind the other. You still need to have a good sense of balance to use one of these, but the larger wheels make the Segway sturdier than the scooter.
Other non-handlebar options.
- Electric skateboards,
- Electric self-balancing unicycles – yes, that says unicycle – there’s only one wheel with footpads on either side of the wheel,
- Electric hoverboards, also known as self-balancing scooters.
- Electric one wheel. This is a skateboard that has a single wheel in the middle of its board.
These are options that tend to be more about recreation than function, but there are individuals that use these options as part of their daily commute.
Other types of alternative energy
We have become so used to seeing diesel at gas stations that it’s hard to recognize that it is considered to be an alternative form of vehicular energy. One area where many diesel vehicles don’t eliminate pollution is when it comes to noise pollution.
Most major automakers offer some sort of a diesel option. Among them are:
- Land Rover
Ethanol is not all it’s cracked up to be. It is less efficient than gasoline and results in damage to the fuel system – the alcohol used in the creation of ethanol corrodes parts.
Additionally, it attracts and even absorbs water. When the ethanol and water sit in your tank long enough, they separate and can severely damage your engine. If you’re interested in testing an ethanol vehicle, Honda makes some ethanol models.
These vehicles use a fuel cell rather than a battery to power the vehicle. The fuel cell works by hydrogen gas as opposed to gasoline. These vehicles fuel quickly and can have a driving range of over 300 miles. The most common type of fuel cell is the PEM or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cell.
There are several automakers that have offered fuel cell concept cars, but the following have fuel cell vehicles in production:
A Hybrid vehicle uses a combination of gasoline and an alternative energy source. Most drivers of these cars only use the gasoline as a backup if alternative energy source runs low on charge.
If you’re looking for a Hybrid, you won’t have to look too far. Many makers have been developing their own alternative models:
Similar to how many run their backyard barbeque off of propane, some run their automobiles off of propane. These are popular options for cold-weather climates as the propane doesn’t have a water content that will freeze like some other alternative fuels.
One downfall to the propane vehicles is that they are about 27% less efficient than gasoline propelled vehicles, but they are branded as the green, clean-air vehicles. The following automakers offer some form of retrofit for propane vehicles:
- Alfa Romeo
- Aston Martin
- Land Rover
- Mercedes Benz
There are approximately 1,400 propane fueling stations located throughout the United States and Canada. Although there are large gaps in coverage for some areas, with strong planning, it would be possible to travel long distances in a propane vehicle.
Fossil Fuel Cars with Excellent Emissions Ratings
It is still possible to drive a gasoline fueled automobile and have a small carbon footprint on the environment.
The Top 10 Cars with Low Emissions and Excellent Greenhouse Gas Scores (In alphabetical order)
Many of these cars are actually some form of a hybrid of electric and gasoline, but their range extender is gasoline powered, so they fall into this category.
- BMW i3
- Cadillac ELR
- Chevrolet Volt
- Ford C-Max Energi
- Ford Fusion Energi
- Honda Accord Hybrid
- Honda Civic Hybrid
- Toyota Prius c
- Toyota Prius
- Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
The Top 9 Green Cars (In alphabetical order)
This list of cars is not based on best mileage or even the most efficient, but the cars deemed to be the best choice for those who want to still have access to fossil fuels yet be considered “green.” You’re going to notice one duplication from the excellent greenhouse score list:
- BMW i3
- Hyundai Ioniq
- Jaguar i-Pace
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
- Nissan Leaf
- Tesla Model S
- Toyota Prius
- VW Passat GTE
- Volvo XC60TX
Which Electric Vehicle is Right for You?
The best type of vehicle for you is the one that is going to meet your needs.
If you drive long distances frequently and don’t want to spend an hour to an hour and a half every time your car needs a charge, a hybrid, propane, or a traditional fossil fuel vehicle may be what’s best for you.
It is true that the Tesla has come a long way since its first Roadster rolled off the production lines in 2008, and the maker keeps working on development enhancements to live up to the dreams HG Welles penned in the late 1800s. Tesla’s detractors would also tell you its true that they have a tendency to release things before they’re fully vetted.
As with anything, there are those who adore Tesla and those who can live without it. What you need to decide is if you want to be on the cutting edge of technology and whether or not the investment in the future is worth the required capital investment required of you.
You will pay for gasoline, propane, or electricity. It comes down to which resource you are going to choose to use.
Wherever you land, enjoy the journey!