Tesla CEO Elon Musk Explains Why Fully Electric Cars Trump Plug-in Hybrids [video]

  • Published on May 10th, 2009 by
 

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About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.
  • Cameron Cooper

    Wow, he isn’t as articulate as I would have expected – don’t put him in charge of sales. He is talking aobut a subject he knows intimately and can barely get across his point.

  • Cameron Cooper

    Wow, he isn’t as articulate as I would have expected – don’t put him in charge of sales. He is talking aobut a subject he knows intimately and can barely get across his point.

  • Joe Kaffir

    For all the money he has, he really should hire a translator. I don’t have a clue as to what the hell he is saying. He should at least define what he means by an EV so one has a base to understand his argument.

  • Joe Kaffir

    For all the money he has, he really should hire a translator. I don’t have a clue as to what the hell he is saying. He should at least define what he means by an EV so one has a base to understand his argument.

  • Boris Gelfand

    His blabbering makes impossible to understand. If his production as good as his ability to speak, then his production is in trouble.

  • Boris Gelfand

    His blabbering makes impossible to understand. If his production as good as his ability to speak, then his production is in trouble.

  • Allan deL

    What he said was clear to me.

    He was saying that a plug in hybrid is a weak compromise which is neither an outstanding gasoline powered or an outstanding electric powered car. Where he may have lost you was his explanation of why this is so. Having two complete power systems is heavy and counter productive to economy which leads to the compromises. The compromises, he says, cause a car which will not please the driver.

    If he is correct, we will all understand this when we get a chance to drive them.

  • Allan deL

    What he said was clear to me.

    He was saying that a plug in hybrid is a weak compromise which is neither an outstanding gasoline powered or an outstanding electric powered car. Where he may have lost you was his explanation of why this is so. Having two complete power systems is heavy and counter productive to economy which leads to the compromises. The compromises, he says, cause a car which will not please the driver.

    If he is correct, we will all understand this when we get a chance to drive them.

  • MichaelBryant

    I disagree with Tesla comment. The plug in hybird is more advance than Ev. They are game changers It transmission system, is more efferent than pure gas system. The generator and elector motors replace a transmission.the drive train is much less and lighter. The plug in hybird give the flexible that ev does not have. yes the battery pack is smaller and batteries have to made different. Capacitors could sever storage buffer and more able to release charge at high power rates, so batteries do not have to work as hard power demand from batteries is more even.

  • MichaelBryant

    I disagree with Tesla comment. The plug in hybird is more advance than Ev. They are game changers It transmission system, is more efferent than pure gas system. The generator and elector motors replace a transmission.the drive train is much less and lighter. The plug in hybird give the flexible that ev does not have. yes the battery pack is smaller and batteries have to made different. Capacitors could sever storage buffer and more able to release charge at high power rates, so batteries do not have to work as hard power demand from batteries is more even.

  • Matt R

    His point is simple. If you want the same performance from a hybrid, you can’t just scale down the battery pack based on the ratios of all electric range. Because of this (whether you use boost caps or batteries), you don’t get all the savings in weight and volume that simple mileage math would indicate. This is all true.

    What he doesn’t say is that the benefits from an all electric are “paid for” with longer charge times and limits on total range (even if there were charge stations all over, going on a 1000 mile trip with an all electric would require a lot of charge time!).

    The case he is making will create a better driving experience for those that want performance and don’t need the benefits of a hybrid drivetrain. Some of the market will want this capability, just like some of the market won’t.

    And what many forget is that this isn’t about what technology will replace the entire light vehicle fleet, but rather how does one commercialize one of the many evolutioinary (or revolutionary) technologies that fill the needs of part of the market space and make them commercially viable.

    My mom never drives a long distance, and a full electric would be perfect for her. My wife and I (and our two kids) make a couple 1000+ mile trips a year, and a full electric wouldn’t be the ideal vehicle for us. And that’s OK…..

  • Matt R

    His point is simple. If you want the same performance from a hybrid, you can’t just scale down the battery pack based on the ratios of all electric range. Because of this (whether you use boost caps or batteries), you don’t get all the savings in weight and volume that simple mileage math would indicate. This is all true.

    What he doesn’t say is that the benefits from an all electric are “paid for” with longer charge times and limits on total range (even if there were charge stations all over, going on a 1000 mile trip with an all electric would require a lot of charge time!).

    The case he is making will create a better driving experience for those that want performance and don’t need the benefits of a hybrid drivetrain. Some of the market will want this capability, just like some of the market won’t.

    And what many forget is that this isn’t about what technology will replace the entire light vehicle fleet, but rather how does one commercialize one of the many evolutioinary (or revolutionary) technologies that fill the needs of part of the market space and make them commercially viable.

    My mom never drives a long distance, and a full electric would be perfect for her. My wife and I (and our two kids) make a couple 1000+ mile trips a year, and a full electric wouldn’t be the ideal vehicle for us. And that’s OK…..

  • He really needs to learn not to repeat the first 2 words of each sentence three times. I couldn’t even understand what he was trying to say, I was too distracted by his stuttering.

  • Allan deL

    Well said Matt

    Clearly this is about who to believe.

    As the owner of three cars, a ZENN EV, a Prius hybrid and a Volvo CrossCountry, I view Mr Musk as an advocate for his choice of vehicle since that is what he has chosen to build. His point of view is interesting as a result. For those who have yet to experience these vehicles to speculate is to a significant extent, well, speculation.

    The temptation is to assume that future vehicles must surpass present vehicles in ALL respects. This is simply not realistic nor helpful. For general use, my Prius is far the preferred vehicle. But it can’t do the heavy work that the Volvo does. For comfort, the Volvo is hard to beat. But for the frequent short trips which happen, the ZENN is just fine and does not require a trip which is long enough to get the engine warm. I understand the frustration of trying to build the advantages of these vehicles all into one car.

  • Allan deL

    Well said Matt

    Clearly this is about who to believe.

    As the owner of three cars, a ZENN EV, a Prius hybrid and a Volvo CrossCountry, I view Mr Musk as an advocate for his choice of vehicle since that is what he has chosen to build. His point of view is interesting as a result. For those who have yet to experience these vehicles to speculate is to a significant extent, well, speculation.

    The temptation is to assume that future vehicles must surpass present vehicles in ALL respects. This is simply not realistic nor helpful. For general use, my Prius is far the preferred vehicle. But it can’t do the heavy work that the Volvo does. For comfort, the Volvo is hard to beat. But for the frequent short trips which happen, the ZENN is just fine and does not require a trip which is long enough to get the engine warm. I understand the frustration of trying to build the advantages of these vehicles all into one car.

  • Glen

    I don’t think Mr. Musk understands the Volt. The Volt is not a hybrid because the gas engine does not power the wheels. The gas engine only charges the batteries which powers the wheels. It’s no different from the Tesla’s batteries being charged by any carbon-burning electrical source. In the Volt’s case, the batteries can be charged by a gas engine. So his analogy of a lawn mower engine powering a sedan is quite incorrect and grossly misleading.

  • Glen

    I don’t think Mr. Musk understands the Volt. The Volt is not a hybrid because the gas engine does not power the wheels. The gas engine only charges the batteries which powers the wheels. It’s no different from the Tesla’s batteries being charged by any carbon-burning electrical source. In the Volt’s case, the batteries can be charged by a gas engine. So his analogy of a lawn mower engine powering a sedan is quite incorrect and grossly misleading.

  • Glen

    In addition, I really hope that GM goes bankrupt and is wiped off the face of the Earth. They are an evil company that had a viable and very successful electric car (GM EV1) but refused to allow the leasing customers to keep the cars even when those same customers offered to pay huge premiums for it. I guess Big Oil and GM had some sort of agreement to screw the consumer and the environment.

    Look who’s laughing now? Big Oil is still making billions while GM and their fat cat union employees will disappear like the dodo bird.

  • Glen

    In addition, I really hope that GM goes bankrupt and is wiped off the face of the Earth. They are an evil company that had a viable and very successful electric car (GM EV1) but refused to allow the leasing customers to keep the cars even when those same customers offered to pay huge premiums for it. I guess Big Oil and GM had some sort of agreement to screw the consumer and the environment.

    Look who’s laughing now? Big Oil is still making billions while GM and their fat cat union employees will disappear like the dodo bird.

  • Willy Bio

    Yes, his point is simple, to those of us already familiar with the technology. For the vast majority of the general public, his incoherent stammering, stuttering, and conflubbering, did little to enlighten them. I could envision a large fellow coming on set, grabbing him by the collar, open palm slapping him back and fourth a few times, while yelling “spit it out already, jackass”.

    So let’s see:

    GM: “Buy the Volt. For most trips you will not burn any gas at all. For those longer trips, the backup generator will kick in and you can drive as far as you like while still getting 50MPG.”

    Tesla: “Um, yes, well, first, you you you need to to to consider that, umn, that that the power density of of of….”

    :-/

  • Willy Bio

    Yes, his point is simple, to those of us already familiar with the technology. For the vast majority of the general public, his incoherent stammering, stuttering, and conflubbering, did little to enlighten them. I could envision a large fellow coming on set, grabbing him by the collar, open palm slapping him back and fourth a few times, while yelling “spit it out already, jackass”.

    So let’s see:

    GM: “Buy the Volt. For most trips you will not burn any gas at all. For those longer trips, the backup generator will kick in and you can drive as far as you like while still getting 50MPG.”

    Tesla: “Um, yes, well, first, you you you need to to to consider that, umn, that that the power density of of of….”

    :-/

  • Kurtis Knappe

    This is the second time I’ve seen Mr. Musk directly or indirectly misinform the public about the Chevrolet Volt (See his appearance on David Letterman, he fails to correct David on several points about the Volt, i.e. Mr. Letterman’s insinuation that the Volt can only go 40 miles. The link to it is actually just below this video).

    What I’m referring to is when he asserts that the small gas engine that accompanies the electric motor in the Volt will not have adequate power. However, the gas engine is a generator for the battery. It NEVER provides power to the wheels but simply recharges the battery.

    Either he really doesn’t understand the concept of the Volt (which I find extremely hard to believe), or he’s intentionally providing misinformation (which is more probable and very sad).

    While I firmly believe in the idea of Tesla, Mr. Musk is proving himself to be a manipulative and unethical businessman, which really has me questioning the quality and future of Tesla itself. If the Tesla product is so good, why is he swinging at a company that is already tumbling towards bankruptcy?

    Being biased towards your own product is one thing, trying to misinform the public is something altogether different. Truly shameful.

  • Kurtis Knappe

    This is the second time I’ve seen Mr. Musk directly or indirectly misinform the public about the Chevrolet Volt (See his appearance on David Letterman, he fails to correct David on several points about the Volt, i.e. Mr. Letterman’s insinuation that the Volt can only go 40 miles. The link to it is actually just below this video).

    What I’m referring to is when he asserts that the small gas engine that accompanies the electric motor in the Volt will not have adequate power. However, the gas engine is a generator for the battery. It NEVER provides power to the wheels but simply recharges the battery.

    Either he really doesn’t understand the concept of the Volt (which I find extremely hard to believe), or he’s intentionally providing misinformation (which is more probable and very sad).

    While I firmly believe in the idea of Tesla, Mr. Musk is proving himself to be a manipulative and unethical businessman, which really has me questioning the quality and future of Tesla itself. If the Tesla product is so good, why is he swinging at a company that is already tumbling towards bankruptcy?

    Being biased towards your own product is one thing, trying to misinform the public is something altogether different. Truly shameful.

  • Anthony

    Kurtis,

    I agree Mr. Musk is being unreasonable in his view of the Volt in both this interview, and others, like the Letterman interview. It is after all his competitor. He should tone it down a bit though, it’s not professional. I am a huge Volt fan myself, and will pay anything to buy the first one that comes to my city. That said, I also hope Tesla succeeds in their own market. They are a great example of good American technology and progress. Leading the way. Competition is always needed!

    I did want to politely correct your post though. Since neither of us want the public to be misinformed. The Volt’s electronic control circuits will be a bit more complicated then you have envisioned. It is true the gasoline engine is not connected to the wheels, it’s only a generator of electricity. However, the power created from the generator while driving the car can go directly to the electric motor driving the wheels, by-passing the battery. If more electricity is created by the generator then needed to move the car, this energy will be stored in the battery, charging it. However, the battery will only charge up to a certain percent from the engine, about 35%. (This is the same percent charge that the generator comes on at too.) When you think about it, this is very logical. This maximizes the amount of driving done on electric alone. You wouldn’t want to arrive back at home with a full battery charged up by gasoline right?

    The generator in the Volt will not be capable of generating enough power for fast acceleration, or a steep hill climb. At these times, the 35% battery charge would be “dipped into” momentarily. Then, later in the drive when a surplus of electricity was available from the generator ( perhaps going back down the steep hill. ) This energy would charge the battery back up to 35%.

    ( The battery also only charges to a maximum of about 85% when plugged in. Using only this 50% “center range” is what gives it the projected 10 year life. )

  • Anthony

    Kurtis,

    I agree Mr. Musk is being unreasonable in his view of the Volt in both this interview, and others, like the Letterman interview. It is after all his competitor. He should tone it down a bit though, it’s not professional. I am a huge Volt fan myself, and will pay anything to buy the first one that comes to my city. That said, I also hope Tesla succeeds in their own market. They are a great example of good American technology and progress. Leading the way. Competition is always needed!

    I did want to politely correct your post though. Since neither of us want the public to be misinformed. The Volt’s electronic control circuits will be a bit more complicated then you have envisioned. It is true the gasoline engine is not connected to the wheels, it’s only a generator of electricity. However, the power created from the generator while driving the car can go directly to the electric motor driving the wheels, by-passing the battery. If more electricity is created by the generator then needed to move the car, this energy will be stored in the battery, charging it. However, the battery will only charge up to a certain percent from the engine, about 35%. (This is the same percent charge that the generator comes on at too.) When you think about it, this is very logical. This maximizes the amount of driving done on electric alone. You wouldn’t want to arrive back at home with a full battery charged up by gasoline right?

    The generator in the Volt will not be capable of generating enough power for fast acceleration, or a steep hill climb. At these times, the 35% battery charge would be “dipped into” momentarily. Then, later in the drive when a surplus of electricity was available from the generator ( perhaps going back down the steep hill. ) This energy would charge the battery back up to 35%.

    ( The battery also only charges to a maximum of about 85% when plugged in. Using only this 50% “center range” is what gives it the projected 10 year life. )

  • mike

    Glen, you got half of your wish…

    GM finally went bankrupt, only they didn’t go away!!! : (

    Even wars can’t wipe out big corporations, they’re essentially immortal: Think Mitsubishi, Krups, and the like. Not that I’m equating GM to an Axis company, its just an example of corporate durability.

    (I’m going off topic for a couple of paragraphs now, but I promise I’ll come back to the Volt — moderator please don’t grab my message by the collar and throw it out of the pub!)

    After WWII, those axis company names should have been wiped from existence. In many ways, they were responsible for starting the war. Instead, they were just “reorganized”.

    Sound familiar? While the recent disasterous mismanagement of the financial sector could’t compare to a war, there was certainly “blood in the streets”. I see no reason why the banks or car companies should have been bailed out, especially not from the top down.

    If gov money is to be involved, and that’s a big IF, it should go to individual citizens, so they can pay off their mortgages or cars, or open their small R&D firms (pick me! pick me!). That would automatically stabilize the big boys, as well as avoiding or at least delaying fragmentation of Main Street, and at best, give birth to new and futuristic companies (like mine!).

    Makes a good case for a “corporate death penalty” — in case of major malfesance causing injury, death, or huge financial loss via fraud, don’t just arrest the CEOs — yank the corporate charter and wipe the company name from the books.

    But I digress. My point is, for a company like GM, bankruptcy is little more than a speed bump.

    Perhaps the Volt will be their redemption. I went through the whole EV1 debacle for years, then swore never to buy another GM product unless or until they sold something of the caliber of the EV1. Maybe the Volt is it. Or will be it. After 20 years of design work, and billions spent.

    I only hope its not too late for GM! Oh, wait, it is too late. Well, I only hope its not too late for GM 2.0!

    Too bad my GM 1.0 stock automatically converted to “ACME Holding Co.” stock at 11 cents per share. None too excited about investing in the “new and improved” version…

    Stock tip — I bought into GM and Ford @ $1 to $2 after The Fall of ’08. GM tanked, of course, but Ford is up 570%!!!

    Easiest $350 bucks I ever made. Celebrated by buying a tank of extra premium racing gas for my Mazda Miata.

    Just a crying shame GM had that EV1 bird in the hand, super heavy duty R&D bought and paid for, light years ahead of the #1 hit Prius, and they didn’t simply open their hand and let it go, they closed their fist and crushed it.

    For more on the EV1, check out my movie: “FutureCrusH”, on video Google. Its free. Though if someone can tell me how to charge money for it, or even collect donations, I will.

    Mike

  • mike

    Glen, you got half of your wish…

    GM finally went bankrupt, only they didn’t go away!!! : (

    Even wars can’t wipe out big corporations, they’re essentially immortal: Think Mitsubishi, Krups, and the like. Not that I’m equating GM to an Axis company, its just an example of corporate durability.

    (I’m going off topic for a couple of paragraphs now, but I promise I’ll come back to the Volt — moderator please don’t grab my message by the collar and throw it out of the pub!)

    After WWII, those axis company names should have been wiped from existence. In many ways, they were responsible for starting the war. Instead, they were just “reorganized”.

    Sound familiar? While the recent disasterous mismanagement of the financial sector could’t compare to a war, there was certainly “blood in the streets”. I see no reason why the banks or car companies should have been bailed out, especially not from the top down.

    If gov money is to be involved, and that’s a big IF, it should go to individual citizens, so they can pay off their mortgages or cars, or open their small R&D firms (pick me! pick me!). That would automatically stabilize the big boys, as well as avoiding or at least delaying fragmentation of Main Street, and at best, give birth to new and futuristic companies (like mine!).

    Makes a good case for a “corporate death penalty” — in case of major malfesance causing injury, death, or huge financial loss via fraud, don’t just arrest the CEOs — yank the corporate charter and wipe the company name from the books.

    But I digress. My point is, for a company like GM, bankruptcy is little more than a speed bump.

    Perhaps the Volt will be their redemption. I went through the whole EV1 debacle for years, then swore never to buy another GM product unless or until they sold something of the caliber of the EV1. Maybe the Volt is it. Or will be it. After 20 years of design work, and billions spent.

    I only hope its not too late for GM! Oh, wait, it is too late. Well, I only hope its not too late for GM 2.0!

    Too bad my GM 1.0 stock automatically converted to “ACME Holding Co.” stock at 11 cents per share. None too excited about investing in the “new and improved” version…

    Stock tip — I bought into GM and Ford @ $1 to $2 after The Fall of ’08. GM tanked, of course, but Ford is up 570%!!!

    Easiest $350 bucks I ever made. Celebrated by buying a tank of extra premium racing gas for my Mazda Miata.

    Just a crying shame GM had that EV1 bird in the hand, super heavy duty R&D bought and paid for, light years ahead of the #1 hit Prius, and they didn’t simply open their hand and let it go, they closed their fist and crushed it.

    For more on the EV1, check out my movie: “FutureCrusH”, on video Google. Its free. Though if someone can tell me how to charge money for it, or even collect donations, I will.

    Mike

  • Kurtis Knappe

    @Anthony

    Thanks for the clarification! I didn’t know the generator would by-pass the battery- very cool.

    Kurtis

  • Kurtis Knappe

    @Anthony

    Thanks for the clarification! I didn’t know the generator would by-pass the battery- very cool.

    Kurtis