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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 Mr. Money Mustache, 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.

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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.

 

  • CPT Cactus April 17, 2016, 7:50 am

    There is something strangely satisfying about a new technology disrupting an old, established order. Especially since I am not a benefactor of said established order. Can’t wait to see what the future brings!

    Reply
  • Heckler April 17, 2016, 8:19 am

    Sounds wonderful to replace oil, but have we considered where the tones of lithium for batteries will end up coming from? High in the Andes in Bolivia are salt flats that are poised to become the next environmental disaster.

    http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2023839_2196778,00.html

    http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2013/04/05/the-lithium-triangle/

    Although it may just look like a salt flat, it’s a very unique natural feature that will be destroyed to continue our need to keep on moving around!

    Reply
    • Heckler April 17, 2016, 8:25 am

      Tons.

      Although, I am happy to learn that Bolivia is resisting multinational interest in running the lithium extraction process, and planning to become the next Saudi Arabia themselves.

      Reply
  • Shaun April 17, 2016, 8:54 am

    As an electrical engineer by training, I loved the Model S the moment I saw it. I’m currently saving to purchase one using passive income. That way, I end up with the car and the money! I’m just over 20% of the way there!

    Reply
  • Stephen B. April 17, 2016, 9:48 am

    The demise of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks (that’s coming too) will greatly cut the demand for and the support of refining and retailing capacity to supply fuel for other things that still will use liquid fuels derived from oil. A whole list of such things come to mind, one being yard equipment. I can easily see electric lawn mowers, garden tractors, snow blowers and what have you finally growing into their own industry and I welcome that, whether they be corded or more likely battery powered. I’ve even seen a few battery powered chain saws and what have you and I think such devices will make much sense.

    It is, however, harder to power such devices in commercial service. I’m thinking of a landscape company’s commercial lawn mowers that have to run 5 to 8 hours in a business day and they won’t be able to count on recharging at their customer’s premises nor can I easily imagine charging facilities on the landscapers’ equipment trailers and trucks. Professional tree people that use chain saws all day might be able to keep several spare batteries around, but I’m not sure that will work for the multitude of mowers, blowers, and what have you that a landscape company employs, but maybe.

    Construction equipment is a more complex situation in that some construction equipment remains at a site for weeks at a time and perhaps can be recharged overnight from temporary power hookups often seen at construction sites. This *might* work as even a fairly large excavator only burns 20 to 50 gallons of diesel a day, which doesn’t require a whole lot of KWh to replace, especially given the much greater efficiency of electric motors compared to a diesel engine. Even still, the chargers for such equipment are going to require a couple of hundred amps overnight. Then too there is the danger of mixing large charging cords on muddy, somewhat chaotic construction sites and if a construction site has a dozen or more pieces of equipment needing several hundred KWh charges, then electric charging infrastructure at such sites becomes problematic I think. It’s one thing to permanently install a Tesla Supercharger at a rest stop for cars, but does something like that work at construction sites?

    Other construction equipment gets used further afield for weeks at a time, perhaps to lay a pipeline somewhere. How does something like that, located well away from existing electrical infrastructure, get charged daily?

    Also, what do people like my potato farmer neighbor in northern Maine do? At certain times of the year, his fleet of a dozen or so large tractors need to run for 12 or more hours a day to get planting, harvesting, or other field operations done sometimes in very tight time and weather windows.

    On the other hand, perhaps construction and farm equipment hangs onto diesel engines for some time because diesel fuel may be around for some time, the latter being very similar to jet fuel. Jet fuel-powered airliners aren’t going away any time soon because even lithium batteries are not going to be powering such aircraft for some time into the future due to weight and performance issues.

    Ocean-going ships I have read, will continue to use diesel and heavy “bunker” fuel oil for some time to come, though there are modern sail systems, controlled by computers, that can be installed on ships to augment the powered propulsion systems. Batteries don’t yet have the capacity to propel a 1000 ft. long container ship across the Pacific.

    With the demise of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks, the burden of supporting the now shrunken oil producing and refining industry will fall onto a smaller customer base, so I wonder what that means for fuel prices for the remaining customers, if anything?

    Reply
  • Paul April 17, 2016, 10:46 am

    …and have you seen podride yet!! Tops!!
    https://youtu.be/4lKq1fGtXFM

    Reply
  • Bill April 17, 2016, 11:31 am

    Great discussion on the plusses and minuses of electric transportation. Nothing beats biking and walking, but I understand we can only talk about those modes of transportation for so long :-) How about more on PeerStreet? I’m a long time Lending Club investor and am always looking for better ways to deploy capital.

    Reply
  • Norm April 17, 2016, 1:36 pm

    I can’t wait for private car ownership to be a thing of the past. My car brings me a lot of joy, but the drawbacks are so huge. Maintenance, fuel, storage… It’s very easy to imagine a city with 90% fewer cars, the remaining few just in fleets serving people at their call before moving on to the next caller. I imagine something like Uber’s “surge pricing” becoming a big deal, where having a car drive you to work during rush hour would cost more than a trip to the grocery store on a Sunday night. Kind of like how utility pricing works, the price going up at parts of the day when demand goes up.

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  • SirSavesaLot April 17, 2016, 2:50 pm

    I would love MMM’s vision at the end of his post come true, where most urban dwellers only rent cars short term for the occasional cross-town trip. It would allow Los Angeles to become what it is probably better suited to be than any other city: the biking capital of the world par excellence. Almost entirely flat, with fantastic weather 360 days a year, you could well do 90% of your traveling in LA, even across town, by regular bike. But today, even the most intrepid biker is discouraged by its choking traffic of inattentive, aggressive drivers. (Chose your route carefully!) A fleet of autonomous vehicles that cut traffic to manageable levels would fix that quite handily. I even can imagine bicycle freeways: limited access, multi-lane affairs on which you could do 20+ mph for virtually your whole journey. That would be great.

    Reply
  • Edifi April 17, 2016, 4:39 pm

    The equivalent energy content of 1 gallon of gas is ~33 kWh’s. That means a Tesla supercharger pumps the equivalent of 4 gallons of gas per 30 minute charge. A Bugatti Veyron Super Sport can travel 268 mph and empty its 25 gal tank in 8 minutes.
    Human ingenuity has done amazing things for the internal combustion engine, and fossil fuels continue to offer many advantages over other technologies. These gaps further demonstrate the challenges Musk and other manufacturers have already overcome just to get this far. Society also deserves a great deal of credit for the support of hybrids, electrics, and renewable resources. It’s great to be alive to see such a technological transition in our lifetime!

    Reply
  • McGerf April 17, 2016, 7:23 pm

    I’ve heard from several people this vision that automated driverless cars are going to make owning a car unnecessary. I don’t quite understand it though. Basically, we’re talking about fleets of taxi cabs without drivers. Taxi cabs with drivers do little outside of very large cities to discourage car ownership, so why would it be different just because they won’t have drivers?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 18, 2016, 9:35 am

      Just because in a taxi, the majority of the money goes to paying the humans involved. With an autonomous car, the marginal cost of transport would become much closer to the marginal cost of driving your own car. But without the massive fixed costs of owning your own car.

      So, the idea is people aren’t fond of paying $35 for a taxi ride to downtown Chicago from a suburb. But they’d gladly pay $8 instead of $2 in gas plus $300 a month to own and insure a car.

      Reply
      • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 2:05 pm

        Plus, a lot of cities don’t have taxis roaming around constantly. If you want one, you have to call and wait. But if self-driving cars can get off the ground, you should never have to wait more than a couple minutes! People might “rent out” their own self-driving cars to go play taxi while they’re at work or whatever, making for a much larger and more accessible fleet.

        And it’ll just be a cultural shift. Hopefully once people aren’t driving the car, they won’t feel a need to OWN the car. I’ve already got students, in car-loving Dallas, who casually use Uber to get wherever they want to go, because either they can’t drive yet or they don’t have a car of their own. Once they taste this independence, they’re a lot less hesitant about using buses and the rail line – something most suburbanites never even consider. When it’s common-place for teens to do that, they might not see the urgency of buying their own car when when they grow up. Then maybe some of them never will. Because if you see a car as a necessity, as many people in Dallas do, then you don’t really think about the expense and hassle. But if it’s an optional convenience, then suddenly it’s pretty ridiculously expensive! Self-driving cars will help push this shift forward – which it needs, because right now it’s going WAY too slow. People look at me like I’ve grown a second head if I suggest taking a train or bus somewhere. Walking is a fun novelty. Biking? Are you CRAZY?

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  • HowardH April 17, 2016, 8:40 pm

    That Tesla Model 3 is cheaper than a high-end Prius – without a tax rebates! I think Tesla can outdo all of the gas car manufacturers in the next 5-10 years. Thanks MMM for the great article!!!

    Reply
  • Captain Dividend April 17, 2016, 9:20 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun driving. I would love to see some of the autonomous safety features put to use in big rig trucks. The vehicle road map could be a nice feature for truckers especially when changing lanes with vehicles in blind spots. Thanks for the update.

    Reply
  • Chris April 18, 2016, 6:46 am

    Two comments on this:

    First – I’m really excited about assisted and self-driving cars. I have a daughter with autism and I want her to live as independently as possible. She will never drive a car, but the technology is moving at such a pace that by the time she’s in her mid-twenties she’ll be able to go anywhere she wants. Also, can you imagine how this will impact the elderly?? Amazing stuff!!!

    Second – Elon Musk is a friggin genius. I’m only speculating, but I think he knew that the only way to make electric car technology catch on was to first create a status symbol brand. He could have started his company with the $35,000 model, but it would’ve failed because fewer people care about technology and the environment than BLING. All of the people I know who own a Tesla don’t give a shit about the environment, but their addiction to status just might save the fucking environment.

    Reply
    • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 1:51 pm

      Self-driving cars will make SUCH a huge difference to people who can’t drive now! Or people who really SHOULDN’T be, but insist on doing so.

      Reply
  • Chris B April 18, 2016, 8:27 am

    I don’t need an incremental improvement on the overall concept of the car. I need a way to not have or at least not use my car.

    Moving over a ton of finely crafted metal and plastic back and forth to work will never cost less (to me or the environment) than my 2011 Corolla currently costs. How many tons of diesel fuel were burned to mine the lithium in that Tesla?

    But why do I travel? Because my employer wants me to do my computer work in their building instead of from home. This is a building that costs them millions to maintain, pay taxes on, heat, cool, clean, secure, and provide telecom services – all costs I already cover for my home office.

    I spend 45 minutes a day sitting in 10 miles of traffic, round trip, burning gas and wearing out a car, so that my employer can duplicate all the expenses I already pay for my home office.

    How about you pay me the $10,000 my cubicle, parking space, and share of the bathroom and utilities cost the company, and I’ll WFH, while saving the $6,000 my car costs me each year?

    The reason they can’t: A lack of information systems to do the following:
    -meet
    -monitor/verify work progress
    -communicate in real time

    How has this basic software problem not been resolved in the year 2016! Why is our webinar software still unreliable? Apple, where are you? Google? Microsoft? China? Somebody write a program and get us out of this situation! THERE IS NO TECHNOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC, OR LEGAL BARRIER TO CLEAN SKIES, EMPTY ROADS, AND GREATER PROSPERITY! Yes, managers would need to learn a new remote management style, but the market will resolve that.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 24, 2016, 7:42 am

      Chris, it sounds like your company’s management style just 20 years in the past. I started working from home regularly in the late 1990s, and by 2005 when I retired it was not questioned at all. Here in 2016 the majority of my software friends in the neighborhood work from home 90% of the time or more.

      Sure, the office environment is great fun and it’s worth going in to work if you live within biking distance. But if I had to choose between a car clown commute through a traffic jam, and working from home, it would be WFH FTW.

      Also, you might want to look into a bike or e-bike. 10 miles takes only 30 minutes with a leg-powered bike, or 20 mins with an e-bike.

      Reply
    • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 1:48 pm

      That is super-frustrating, but I think the shifts you’re waiting for are already (SLOWLY!) happening. More and more people do work from home!

      As for the boring and expensive commute – have you considered biking? Even if you only do it on nice days, you’re still improving your wallet and your health! Until very recently* I biked eight miles to and eight miles from work every single day, and loved it! It took anywhere from 40-60 minutes, depending on wind and what lights I hit. Weirdly, when I was house-sitting for my parents and had a 15 mile trip each way, it still only took me about an hour – way less fiddly turns and lights on that trip. I’m a particularly slow cyclist, so you should be able to get better times than I was! And before you say your area isn’t bike-friendly, give it a few tries! I live in Dallas. Here they just SHOOT cyclist. But really, no matter how much drivers may not LIKE you on the road, they can still just put up with you. Everywhere’s a good place to bike if you make it work.

      *Now I live close enough to work to just walk or run! It’s been almost two months and I’m starting to miss my bike….

      Reply
  • Mattattack08 April 18, 2016, 9:08 am

    The electric vehicle market is real exciting stuff. In high school, I competed in the Science Bowl and we made model hydrogen fuel cell cars. I thought those were gonna be the next wave of the future. I still think they will be, there are just a few things that need to be considered/solved: cost and a safe continuous supply of fuel. Elemental hydrogen is highly combustible and potential very dangerous (but then so is gasoline). Also, being the smallest element, it is very hard to store in a traditional tank. It leaks out. I think electric vehicles will take over the world for the next generation or two until they are finally replaced with fuel cell cars.

    Reply
  • Ben April 18, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Checked out the Tesla website after this article. Inspired to see Tesla is ramping up to sell a super-efficient battery for your home. Solar panels -> DC to AC conversion -> battery. Or have the battery charge during non-peak hours and use its power during peak use hours.

    Consider the efficiency of a passive solar house with the addition of solar panels and a Tesla battery or 2!! In the ~30% of the country where one can be reasonably comfortable 90% of the time without AC, your annual energy expenses would be insignificant. (I just made up the 30% figure above. Referring to population, not land area. I’m thinking of New England, the West coast, northern AZ and NM, CO, the Sierras, most of MT, WY, ID, UT, , WA, OR, maybe the upper elevations of Southern Appalachia, the far north Midwest/Great Plains. Not the suffocatingly hot, moist genital region of the US [eg Florida]).

    Reply
  • Amit April 18, 2016, 4:33 pm

    There are other vehicle that are self driven and one of these are my favorite. It is awesome and MMM favorite.
    Self driving bicycle. Assuming you live near your office then your self driving bike can come pick you up.
    May be MMM can ride this one tell us how feel like to ride this bad boy.

    Check this link for future of biking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSZPNwZex9s

    Reply
  • Michael Chella April 18, 2016, 11:01 pm

    Interesting article! thanks! Look forward to the day when I will have solar panel on the house to power an electric car, for more carbon neutral set up as well as less ongoing expenses.
    First I didn’t know that self driving cars were already a reality. From 60 Minutes story and articles I knew a lot of companies like Google had protypes and models they test but I didn’t know we could already buy a self driving car. I thought due to both legal and technical issues it would be 5-10 years away.
    Secondly, I’d never heard about or considered that self-driving cars + Uber type hailing a service might mean in the future it is much cheaper to hail a self driving car by app, rather than pay to own, maintain, insure, register, store our own vehicles. Interesting to see if this comes about in the future.

    Reply
  • Anthony in Melbourne April 19, 2016, 2:23 am

    Why not sell your house and buy a self-driving RV? Imagine millions of people in constant motion?

    Reply
  • Boris April 19, 2016, 5:16 am

    And today The Netherlands announced that by 2025 they do not want any sales of brand new petrol or diesel cars. The future is in motion.

    Reply
  • LabRat April 19, 2016, 2:29 pm

    I’m curious on everyone’s thoughts on how electric cars will be taxed to facilitate maintaince of our public roadways. I work for my state department of transportation, and generally all of our funding here comes from taxes on fossil fuels that everyone pays at the pump. So far as I’m aware (the case may be different in other states) my state has no policy in place to tax electric car owners for maintanace of the roads, unless they’re driving toll routes…and the nearest of those to me is several hundred miles. Lol As electric cars increase in popularity and begin to cut into sales of fossil fuels significantly, our funding is going to take quite a blow. I always thought the tax on gas was an appropriate way to do it. You pay that tax to the state you’re in, no hassle to you. So it ultimately gets put back into that road you used.. The more you drive the more gas you buy the more taxes you pay.
    I’m just curious on people’s thoughts as to how new policies may be implemented.

    And as far as less cars on the roads I do hope this becomes true, however I don’t think we will be narrowing our highways anytime soon.. Not around here anyway. Loads of semi traffic due to farming and feed yards. Feeding the masses takes a lot of extremely large, portable equipment. And as tractors and combines continue to get bigger and more efficient, ours roadways will need to grow to accomidate them.
    But I’ll say there isn’t much need for 12′ wide lanes going through neighborhoods and local shopping centers.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2016, 4:59 pm

      Yeah, that is a good point and I think we need to pay for the roads based on how much we use them (plus how much wear we create, which depends on vehicle weight).

      Since modern cars are always connected and logging their trips anyway, I’d propose the roads bill us for mileage x weight, and they can even apply congestion pricing as needed for busy roads. This is much more precise than gas taxes and if done right it would make sure there was always enough money for road maintenance.

      Reply
  • Michelle April 19, 2016, 10:53 pm

    While I think electric and autonomous cars are going to be a fantastic improvement over the situation we have now I a, not convinced they will reverse the trends of far too much sprawl and driving. Particularly as anything that makes long congested commutes more tolerable encourages people to move further and further from their places of work.

    This was a great little write up of some of the potential nightmare senarios:
    http://transportblog.co.nz/2016/01/07/doomsday-driverless-scenarios/

    I thought the one where ‘rich people by multiple self driving cars and use them as personal taxis to ferry their children around to and from school and sports’ particularly rang true. Also the potential situation where the fact that the cars always will yelled to a jaywalking pedestrian leads to campaigns to limit pedestrians from crossing roads or getting in the way where there are self driving cars ultimately giving vehicles even more priority in our cities and people spaces.

    At the end of the day humans seem very egear to embrace any technology which will allow them to be lazy or interact less with other people, I think autonomous vehicles will reinforce this trend and be used inefficiently for maximum personal comfort.

    Reply
  • Chris April 20, 2016, 2:55 am

    Great post – I share your optimism and can’t wait until I can summon an electric self-drive if I need a car (I doubt it, sadly, as I have legs and a bike). I love driving race cars round tracks but driving on public roads is the most boring activity ever.

    Reply
  • lesterB April 20, 2016, 12:15 pm

    Although my main mode of transportation is my humble bicycle and a Tesla in not on my radar, I am curious of the practicalities, specifically is this a sun belt only car?
    Here in Calgary, it can get very cold in winter, but it is sunny.
    So far Tesla has 0 charging stations in Calgary, but curiously, there is one in Red Deer.
    https://www.teslamotors.com/findus#/bounds/50.887991830291,-113.98360066971,50.885293869709,-113.98629863029,d?search=supercharger&name=t3m1e9
    How does the very cold weather affect performance? How effective is the car heater and how much does that limit the distance you can drive on a charge?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2016, 8:03 am

      Hi Lester – if you look this stuff up you’ll find some good data. Teslas (and other electric cars) are actually big sellers in Norway and other cold countries. The battery does output less energy in cold conditions, but it is insulated and self-heating (especially if you leave it plugged in overnight) so it is not such a big deal. The cabin has climate controls just like any luxury car, plus the seats are heated.

      As long as your commute isn’t pushing the range limits of any electric car, cold temperatures are not an issue at all. However, you have a better solution – don’t sign yourself up for a car commute in the first place, especially in winter. It’s no fun in any car.

      Reply
  • JP April 20, 2016, 2:33 pm

    All this Telsa madness is also changing the face our landscape. People are getting instantly rich in Australia mining tantalum so much needed for the batteries. The flipside is that those mines in Pilbara might leave some nasty scars on our planet, though.

    Reply
  • Oelsen April 20, 2016, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for reporting on the future rich class.

    Is there enough solar insolation around for agriculture, living and houses, automotion, concrete, fertilizer, urban farming and steel production?

    I don’t think so. Mass markets are cheap because of low labor costs or huge externalities. EV is either both in perpetual subsidy or a high end, overdesigned and expensive niche market.

    Further terms beyond Randian politics: Jevons Paradox, credit crunch (like right now), infrastructure costs esp. High Way systems, EROEI etc. I don’n see it. Oil has the tendency to stay low, not decades, but too long to move investment. Also, cars now finance inadvertently trucking. Without trucking, no goods, no food, so no work. Workers without income will buy a Tesla?

    Have fun in your niche, but do not expect it to be social reality for everyone.

    Reply
  • dave April 20, 2016, 8:58 pm

    Regarding MMM’s low food bill. I have a theory. He has declared himself a meat eater. Perhaps he’s hunting for his own food. He is Canadian and may have garnered those skills living in the wilds of Canada.

    Reply
  • Pam April 22, 2016, 11:00 am

    I feel that the electric car with batteries is a giant leap in the right direction and I really enjoyed your article. My brother in law just bought his 2nd Tesla and LOVES it. He says the auto-pilot feature is jaw droppingly amazing! And is super fast! I can’t wait to visit and go for a ride!

    On a side note, I hope to see the development of hydrogen electric cars, where a hydrogen fuel cell replaces the battery pack. From what I’ve read (and I’ve certainly have not read everything about this) the battery is a huge offender of environmental destruction in the grand scheme of things. The amount of energy it takes to produce a battery is huge and the waste product is bad too. I’ve read that the hydrogen electric car is Toyota’s new overall fleet goal for the future. Depending on how the hydrogen is harvested, it can be incredibly environmentally friendly. Currently, a large amount of our hydrogen is harvested as a by product of fracking, which is destructive obviously. But hydrogen is also harvested as a by product of solar power generation. I really hope Toyota (or any car company) can make hydrogen electric cars financially viable for the average consumer. What is your opinion of the hydrogen electric car?

    In closing, I have very much enjoyed your blog and am a huge fan. You’ve helped me to turn around my financial situation as well as become aware of my overall consumption habits, both financially and physically (throwing away trash, living a minimalist lifestyle, etc.) Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Gabe Sanders April 22, 2016, 12:50 pm

    I hope to report my experiences with my model S when it’s delivered. Hopefully in the next 4 weeks. I think it will be the perfect car for a Realtor.

    Reply
  • James Pollard April 24, 2016, 9:21 am

    I was on the fence for a long time about the Model S, but I feel like I will finally pull the trigger on the Model 3. The price point is too good to pass up, and it’s one of the most beautiful cars on the market today. I love that hot tire smell too – I thought it was just me! Although the fumes probably aren’t very healthy…. :)

    Reply
  • Jason April 25, 2016, 8:56 am

    Great article MMM,

    Here’s an article that might be of interest. As we continue to consume more fossil fuels using new methods, we can’t ignore what it is doing to the environment.

    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/australian-politician-sets-river-fire-protest-fracking-064640159.html

    As much as I love the TESLA, the only real solution is a fundamental shift in how we live. We need to realize that this car culture isn’t sustainable.

    Reply
    • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 1:36 pm

      I think self-driving cars will be a step in the right direction, though, because hopefully then people will feel less need to OWN the car they aren’t actually driving. You’ll have an app, that summons a car, which then drives you where ever you’re going while you play on your phone. That’ll mean less cars in total, and more efficient driving. More efficient both in the sense of safer, less deadly driving, but also in the sense of just being slower, calmer, less fuel-burning driving. If people can detach their egos from their cars, cars can be nice, fuel efficient little things. If people can play on their phones or eat or whatever during their commute, then they won’t mind if the drive’s a little slower.

      Once that cultural shift happens, it won’t be that big a step to save money by letting your self-driving car pick up a few others going the same way…. And then we sneakily have mass-transit back! Huzzah!

      As a car-free cyclist, I’ve given up on trying to convince people to bike or otherwise escape their soul-killing vehicles. I’d just like them not to honk at me or try to kill me. Self-driving cars will do neither, so I’m pretty happy with the idea.

      Reply
  • Nick April 25, 2016, 10:04 pm

    I work as a urban farmer in California. My goal is to help give many of these soon to be unnecessary parking lots back to nature. We can use them to grow food in our cities and provide organic, healthy local food and jobs to many.

    Reply
  • Thomas April 28, 2016, 4:56 am

    This is it. This blog has hit another low. This is merely a commercial for several web sites and Tesla. Once, when I started reading this blog it had great articles like the ones about flaming emergency debt, complainypants and money shops (incl. face punches). Maybe it is time to make this an archive for the great articles and stop with new content.

    (And yes, I drive a car that gets >40 mpg and save >50% of my income.)

    Reply
  • Cheryl April 28, 2016, 7:20 pm

    Another thing to consider: most people I’ve talked to say they don’t bike because it’s “too dangerous”. Once self-driving cars take over the world, that means no more careless drivers, no more ignorant honking assholes, no more death threats! Then more people would feel safe biking, and might actually DO so!

    Reply
  • Dave April 30, 2016, 2:38 pm

    I’ve been telling people that my kids will be the last generation to learn how to drive – at least in the traditional sense.

    My generation (I’m in my 40’s) won’t worry about being too old to drive.

    And drunk driving will be a problem of the past.

    Reply
  • Mortgage Mutilator May 7, 2016, 6:07 am

    Hey MMM,
    Great piece! Just a thought… The upcoming Model 3 would save someone driving 10,000 miles a year about $500 in gas in a 40MPG car @ $2.20/Gallon. Now this is a great savings but the M3 is a LOT more expensive than say, a 5 year old Mazda 2.

    However, when retired, not having to support an additional $500 of petrol expenses every year means you’d no longer need ~$16,000+ of investments (at a 3% SWR). So the way I see it you have two choices:

    1. Buy a $5k petrol car, work to earn that $16k, put it in Vanguard and have it generate and pay for the extra $500 cost of petrol forever (even more if gas goes back up!). Total: $21k
    2. Buy a possibly ~$26k M3 (after incentives), save $5k in petrol expenses over 10 years. Total: $21k

    As you can see… option 2 is far better! In both scenarios you have to have about $21k tied up in paying for a car, however in option 2 you get a far better car and it helps the environment.

    To me, if you’re living off investments (or soon to be) and consider the FULL scenario of owning a car over 10 years it’s a no brainer decision. Buy the Model 3!

    So MMM… are you going to get one? We certainly are! :D

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 7, 2016, 6:52 am

      Mortgage, you’re missing the key difference: what happens AFTER that 10-year period. The car depreciates to zero very quickly, while the ‘stash (which you can really count on for 4% or more per year) keeps appreciating for life.

      However, luckily there are factors on the side of the car purchase as well: most people drive more than 10k miles, gasoline is usually far higher than $2.20, people who care about pollution are happy to pay more to emit less of it.

      And most of all, you can get an electric car RIGHT NOW to do all of those things for only about $8000 – a Nissan Leaf from Craigslist.

      Reply
  • Paul May 7, 2016, 7:53 am

    You keep talking about those Nissan Leafs on Craigslist for under $8000, and I checked; they’re there. My question is are there electrical outlets conveniently spaced between Los Angeles and New Mexico? I’d hate to move to Los Angeles in order to own one. I guess I could look into having it shipped.

    For eight years, when our children were toddlers through the start of middle school, we were completely car-free. That was definitely my style. The kids got into a charter school for middle school outside of the city limits, and my wife got tired of bicycling to work at 6:30 in the morning in the dark and the ice during the winter.

    So now we are a one car family. It would be nice if that one car could be electric.

    Reply
  • Eduard June 24, 2016, 10:59 am

    Hello there…

    i need your opinion guys.

    My jobs requires me to drive around 1K miles a month, im in sales and i have a large territory.

    tesla is out of question- too expensive, nissan leaf – low range, volt- i really dont see myself expending not even 18k on a car! i am too cheap and hybrids are the same, pollution ( i know, less than my current vehicle wish is great on gas a 2000 mazda protege manual transmission) but i really would like to do something and stop sending CO2 upwards.

    please any advice will be gratefully received

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 24, 2016, 3:52 pm

      Hey there Eduard,

      The Leaf is good for 100 miles in a pinch (80 to be conservative and account for speeding and A/C), which is 2400-3000 miles per month. That would be perfect unless your sales trips are bigger than that range. My second choice in that case would probably be a 2011 or so Prius, or if you do a lot of urban traffic driving with just a few longer trips out to the country, a 2012 Chevy Volt (around $14k).

      By going with a cheap, nice hybrid, you can coast through the next 5 years or so, at which point we’ll have a bunch of the next generation 200 mile electric cars entering the used market at reasonable prices.

      Reply
      • Eduard June 25, 2016, 6:50 am

        thank you mmm..

        any plans on doing a mmm camp in the miami/for lauderdale area any time soon?

        Reply
  • Krislyn November 28, 2016, 10:43 am

    Wow. That sounds amazing. I’ve been dreaming about self driving cars since I saw Minority Report. I have to say there have been many times I’ve descended into the 405 horror show that is LA traffic and I never enjoyed the experience. What a great test. If it can beat LA traffic its a winner. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Reply
  • arcyallen April 7, 2017, 3:20 pm

    I think we’re all missing the important part here: “… or have a beer on the way down to the pub.” The REAL reason the Tesla Autopilot will succeed!

    And MMM: Glad to know you read Atlas Shrugged. It’s amazing how many people are closed minded to different ideas. “Listening”(reading) and “agreeing” are very different things!

    Reply

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