Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Model 3 Is Released! Prepare For The Negativity!

The Model 3 officially went on sale last Friday. Prepare yourself for a flood of negative press for the next couple of weeks or months.

I don't expect the car to be bad. In fact, quite the opposite. I expect the car will be very high quality. But I am expecting a lot of news stories about problems with the car. Furthermore, I'm betting almost all of these so-called "problems" will be driver-related.

When Model 3s start rolling out their new owners, there will be a flood of people who will be getting their first taste of electric vehicles. There will be a learning curve and many people will flounder around against that curve for a bit.

Here are the types of stories I expect to see:

Cost-Related Stories

First, expect stories about how the typical Model 3 costs closer to $50,000 than $35,000. These stories have already appeared and I expect more of them to crop up.

The gist of these stories will be "the car isn't really low cost. It's still more expensive than the typical Toyota / Nissan / GM car."

Well, no.

The price goes higher than $35,000 because, just like every other car on the market, you can upgrade the options it comes with.

The base price for a bare-bones Prius is $23,475. But if I trick it out and add a bunch of options, I can get the price up to $32,646. That's a 39% increase over the base price.

Based on pre-order data, the average Model 3 sales price is $50,000. The increase from the Model 3 base price of $35,000 to $50,000 is 43%, so the Model 3 upgrades are comparable to upgrades on other mass-market cars.

Range-Anxiety Stories

Current owners of Model S and Model X Teslas have had time to adjust to driving an all-electric car. They know taking long road trips takes a bit of extra planning. You can't just throw some suitcases into the back and set out on a three day road trip. Tesla's network of Supercharger stations is large and growing larger every week, but they still aren't as ubiquitous as gas stations.

New drivers will face a learning curve. Instead of miles per gallon, they will have to learn about kilowatt-hours and power regeneration. They will see the car's displayed "miles until empty" counter vary based on speed and elevation changes much more so than in a gasoline powered car.

Expect lots of stranded motorist stories. This isn't a problem with the car. It's a problem with the driver not understanding that driving an electric vehicle will be a little different.

Keep in mind, the vast majority of driving is done locally and range anxiety will not be an issue at all.

Crash-Related Stories

This has happened already with the Model S, so there might not be as many of these. But the Model 3 includes the Autopilot functionality and many people will try it out and push it to its limits. The name is somewhat unfortunate because it's not yet a truly driver-less system and the driver still needs to pay attention to the road.

However, as with anything that goes mass-market, there will be those users that don't follow directions or read the manual. Those people will cause crashes. Again, it won't be the fault of the car. It will be driver error.

It's-Not-As-Green-As-You-Think Stories

There will be a bunch of stories about how the Model 3, and electric cars in general, are not as great for the environment as you might think. There will be analyses showing just how horrible the batteries are for the environment and how long it will take to recoup the costs, etc. These stories have already appeared and seem to pop up every 1 or 2 years.

They are almost always false and written by people with a vested interest against seeing electric vehicles (or Tesla specifically) succeed. A common tactic is to include all the environmental costs incurred in the creation of batteries in the environmental impact of the car, but neglect to include all the environmental costs incurred in drilling, pumping, refining, and transporting gasoline in the environmental costs of a gasoline car.  Whenever you see these types of articles, read them critically and make sure the authors are comparing apples to apples.

The Union Of Concerned Scientists did an in-depth study (warning: PDF link) comparing the environmental impact of electric vehicles to gasoline vehicles. They concluded (emphasis mine):
"From cradle to grave, BEVs (battery-electric vehicles) are cleaner. On average, BEVs representative of those sold today produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, even when the higher emissions associated with BEV manufacturing are taken into consideration."

So Stay Positive

Despite what I expect to be a deluge to negative-slanted stories, the overall benefits of electric vehicles, and the Model 3 in particular, are enormous.

What types of Model 3 stories are you seeing or expecting to see?


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