On August 7, Mark Molthan was driving his Tesla Model S on highway 175 near Kaufman, Texas. He was using Autopilot, something he says he has done many times before on that road. He tells police he reached into the glove compartment to get a rag and was cleaning the dashboard of his car when it suddenly swerved off the road and hit a guardrail made of steel cables. The car bounced several times along the guardrail cables before coming to a stop.
Google has sent several dozen of its Roush-built autonomous cars off to Austin, Texas, for testing on public streets outside of California. The company incorporated Google Auto earlier this year and has been talking to several car companies about building the Google Car. So far, none of those companies has stepped up, and so the possibility that it will produce the Google Car itself is getting closer to reality, according to The Guardian.
Last year, when Google unveiled its low-speed, 2-passenger, self-driving electric car, it said it was going to build just 100 vehicles by the end of 2015. But last week, Sarah Hunter, head of policy for GoogleX, told the California Public Utilities Commission, “We’re … making a few hundred of them. We’re making them to enable our team to learn how to actually build a self-driving vehicle from the ground up.”
What is a Google Car?
Hunter then added some interesting details. “A model where we manufacture cars for sale will require the same sort of electric vehicle charging that exists today,” she told an audience of regulators and politicians. “Our prototype vehicles are fully electric. That’s not to say the eventual vehicle we mass manufacture won’t be a hybrid.”
The Google Car has no steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator. “All [the car] has is a ‘go’ button, a ‘please slow down and stop’ button, and a ‘stop pretty quickly’ button,” Hunter says. “The intention is that the passenger gets in the vehicle, says into microphone, ‘Take me to Safeway,’ and the car does the entire journey.”
Google’s self-driving cars currently require highly detailed maps of the areas they’re operating in, with centimeter accuracy with regard to road features like lanes, traffic circles, and stop lights. They are limited to 25 mph so Google can get them onto public roads without expensive and time-consuming crash tests. For now, they require a human driver who can take control in an instant if a system malfunctions.
There’s not a huge story here, but I couldn’t pass up sharing it (especially with relatives in Tacoma who are big Seahawks fans). Basically, a big Seattle Seahawk fanatic + United Airlines pilot who now owns a Tesla Model S decided to make his car a more playful and eye-catching beast.
As others on the Tesla Motors Club forum noted and I agree, wraps like this often don’t look too hot (read: tacky), but this one seems well done. (And note: I’m not personally a Seahawks fan.) That said, it’s certainly not for everyone, and I’d stick with brown, green, titanium metallic, midnight silver metallic, blue, black, or white over something like this. But to each their own, and I do like that this will bring even more attention to Tesla.
To whet your appetite, one pic of the Tesla Model S in “Beast Mode” is below. To see the others, as well as discussion about the look, Texas, and the “12th man,” head on over to the TMC forum thread where the owner dropped four pics.
Originally published on EV Obsession.
Some of the factors contributing to the relatively fast adoption of electric vehicles (EV) in some American metropolitan markets have been identified and characterized by a new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
The dominant ones, according to the new report, are: stronger consumer incentives, a broader range of offerings, stronger promotional activities, and a more developed charging infrastructure.
The new findings are the result of an analysis of actions taken by various state + local governments and utility companies to spur EV adoption in the 25 most populous American metropolitan areas. These 25 areas represent roughly 42% of the total population, 67% of new EV registrations, 46% of vehicle sales, and 53% of the total EV charging infrastructure in the country.
The report also analyzes the various benefits to end users of EVs in specific cities — as well as aiming to differentiate the causes of market uptake in different cities.
The 25 cities in question altogether possessed an average of 1.1% of total vehicle sales being electric — roughly 40% higher than the nationwide average. The 7 top cities — San Diego, Seattle, Portland, LA, Riverside, San Francisco, and Atlanta — have an EV uptake between 2 and 7 times higher than the countrywide average.
The 4 primary conclusions of the study are that: 1) policy is actively driving EV adoption in many cities (manufacturers are specifically targeting these cities); 2) different cities have used different approaches to boosting sales (all of which seem to have been effective to some degree); 3) best practices are beginning to emerge, it seems (which appear to support the “ecosystem approach”); and 4) cities are the focal points of cooperation between the various actors (auto manufacturers, governments, utility companies, businesses, and EV advocates).
“The roles of automaker marketing efforts, dealer actions, and utility action to promote electric vehicles seem clearly important and deserve greater study. Cases like Atlanta, where there has been success that is built almost exclusively upon one particular model (ie, the Nissan LEAF), point to the need for further analysis of the underlying causes. Also, smaller and mid-sized cities that are outside this study’s scope are innovating with electric-drive policies and have greater electric vehicle shares; these cities could be an important source of further lessons.”
To learn more, check out the full report.
Images via ICCT
The irony and hypocrisy in politics are insane, or almost insane, until you take into account cash money — $$$ cha ching! And it’s hard to find a place where it gets more hypocritical than in Republican party leadership.
Republicans are all about the “free market,” right? Yet congresspeople and governors will fight to their death (or almost to their death, perhaps) to keep subsidies pouring in for insanely rich fossil fuel industries… never mind correcting externalities (which are cancer to a free market) and making companies internalize the costs of their human-killing pollution.
If that wasn’t insane enough, Republican governors like the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, think it’s perfectly fine for Tesla Motors to be blocked from directly selling its cars to consumers. You know, because… because…. Oh, screw it, they get a lot of money from auto dealers. $$$ talks, and overrides Republican ideals very, very quickly.
The fight to allow Tesla direct sales to customers has been going on for a while now (see Tesla’s 2 cents here, a rundown of the “convenient” process of buying an American-made Tesla here, AutoNation’s backing of Tesla’s 2 cents here, a former Texas car dealer supporting Tesla’s 2 cents here, Tesla’s efforts to overturn the ban here, Rick Perry pandering for the Gigafactory here, and just Google that shit since almost everyone and their mother thinks the Tesla sales ban is stupid). It doesn’t look like we’ll see any light down in The Lone Star State any time soon, though. Abbott told Bloomberg Radio yesterday that he still wants to stick with Tesla being outlawed and customer wishes being ignored… in other words.
In his words (via Electrek): “Texas has a very robust, very open, very effective automobile sector that seems like it’s working quite well the way that it is. If you’re going to have a breakdown in a car, you need to have a car dealership there to make sure that the vehicle is going to be taken care of. We haven’t seen that from Tesla.”
Ah, the number of logical fallacies there is disturbing….
But the basic takeaway is obvious: Abbott is opposing the free market in order to keep more auto dealer cash flowing into his piggy bank. Can you say “jackass?”
And as Fred Lambert of Electrek very aptly notes:
It’s not clear whether the Governor is referencing particular events or if he literally “hasn’t seen” anything from Tesla.
Tesla operates 4 service centers in Texas, they have a roadside assistance service and they operate a fleet of “Tesla Rangers”- technicians on the road providing assistance and making minor repairs. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports gave Tesla’s service the top ranking among the industry.
The service scores were compiled through a survey of subscribers who had repairs made on more than 121,000 vehicles, and Tesla came out on top.
Originally published on EVObsession
In launching and marketing the BMW i3, executives commonly referred to the electric vehicle as an urban mobility vehicle meant for transporting city folk to and from their destinations within the 82-mile driving range. However, the inclusion of a gas-powered range-extender that effectively doubles that i3’s driving range has made it a big hit outside of cities, reports Automotive News.
Unsurprisingly, California is the largest market for the BMW i3, and two BMW dealers have even opened standalone i-dealerships solely for selling the i3 and its in-demand sibling, the i8. But Texas and South Florida have also proven popular hotspots for the i3. But the typically-liberal Northeast, specifically places like New York City, have apparently turned up their nose at the electric Bimmer. According to Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, New Yorkers apparently don’t put the same priority on electric vehicles as other parts of the country.
It actually makes sense for the i3 to be more popular with EV enthusiasts who live outside of major metro areas. Sales of the i3 are already approaching 1,000 units a month, and at 20,000 units sold the i3 starts to make money for BMW. The optional range-extender turns the i3 into an extended-range electric car with a 150 mile range and the option to quickly refill the two-gallon gas tank. While all-electric range drops by about 10 miles per charge, the extra range from the gas generator means you can take the i3 all the way to its battery limitations, and still have a couple of hours of range left.
Makes sense to me, and for BMW the i3 is quickly becoming a popular alternative to traditional combustion vehicles for both country and city folk.
Originally posted on CleanTechnica
Though it may have been a late entrant to the electric car market, Kia came out swinging with the well-recieved Soul EV. After the initial limited rollout produced higher-than-expected sales, the Kia has decided to accelerate a nationwide rollout by expanding Soul EV sales to five additional states where EV sales are booming.
The Kia Soul EV initially launched last year in California, and soon buyers in Oregon, Washington, Texas, Georgia, and Hawaii will be able to go to select Kia dealers to get a Soul EV of their own. The expansion is set to happen in the coming months with June tapped as the unofficial rollout, and additional markets will come online to get Kia’s first electric car in 2016. Executives previously said the Soul EV has been a “huge hit”, and its little wonder why the automaker would want to get its first electric car in front of more buyers.
“From the inception of the Soul EV program, Kia’s sales strategy has been progressive and pragmatic,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning, KMA. “With the level of demand and supporting infrastructure in the state, California was a natural place to start, but we’ve been carefully studying other markets. Between consumer reaction to the Soul EV and growing infrastructure programs in these five states, this is a logical – and exciting – next step in our rollout plan.”
The Soul EV offers an EPA-rated 105 miles of electric driving range, and drivers could recharge 80% of the Soul’s lithium-ion battery in just 30 minutes using a 50 kW DC fast charger. Soul EV buyers also have the option of choosing from three different home charging stations from Bosch, Aerovironment, and Leviton. The Kia Soul EV has a base price of $33,700 before federal or state tax incentives, as well as a $249 a month lease .
Would you do the electric slide with the Kia Soul EV? Because this writer would.
A day after the New Jersey State Senate passed a pro-Tesla bill that would allow the electric automaker to sell its cars directly to consumers, Chris Christie put his pen to ink and signed the bill into law. It’s been almost a year to the day since Tesla had to stop selling its green vehicles in the Garden State, and it’s a big win for Elon Musk and electric vehicles.
“I said last year that if the Legislature changed the law, I would sign new legislation put on my desk and that is exactly what I’m doing today,” Christie said in a statement. “We’re pleased that manufacturers like Tesla will now have the opportunity to establish direct sales operations for consumers in a manner lawfully in New Jersey.”
Christie drew fire from both the political left and right for rescinding Tesla’s temporary dealership license, which had allowed it to sell its cars to customers for two years prior. Free-market fans derided the monopoly car dealers seemed to have over sales, and many liberals want to see electric vehicles sold, well, everywhere. Since the temporary ban, Tesla has not been able to sell its cars, or even discuss pricing at its several New Jersey showrooms. But now things are back to normal, and car dealers have been handed another big defeat.
But the war is far from over, and the next major battleground is Texas, where a bill to allow Tesla sales has already been drafted and introduced. The Lone Star State will be a much tougher nut to crack, though the momentum behind Musk and Tesla isn’t showing signs of slowing either. With New Jersey now on board, Tesla can focus on opening one of the largest car markets in America to its special brand of electric automobiles.
Last year Elon Musk left the Texas legislature with his tail between his legs as the entrenched car dealer lobby prevented any direct sales bill from ever coming up for vote. Dealers did however approach Musk about selling Teslas through their dealership networks, and according to the Texas Tribune, they were denied as the EV entrepreneur gears up for another fight.
Despite a strict sales ban that prevents salespeople from offering test drives or even discussing pricing, there are about 1,800 registered Tesla Model S owners in the Lone Star State. The new car market in Texas is second only California, and it is also one of the most sustainably-powered states thanks to growing reliance on wind and solar energy. Breaking into the Texas market would be a major move for Tesla, as the hoops would-be owners have to jump through has almost certainly dissuaded a few would-be buyers.
That’s because Texas has one of the country’s strictest car sales laws, as any new car must be sold through a franchised dealership. Some legislators have proposed a hybrid system, where after 5,000 sales Tesla would have to start issuing franchises, but Musk seems determined to be able to sell his cars his way. To that end, Tesla will be upping its lobbyist spending in Texas. In 2014, Tesla spent between $170,000 and $370,000 on lobbyists, but this year the automaker will spend at least $625,000 and as much as $1.18 million to convince the state legislature to allow a direct sales setup. He will also pitch a hyperloop test track and a possible Tesla factory expansion…one day.
It won’t be easy though, as the Texas Auto Dealers Association has been contributing hundreds of thousands of campaign and lobby dollars every year to getting the laws just the way they like it, and it’s not like dealers are just going to roll over for Elon Musk. Will Musk get his way, or are Texas car dealers too deeply entrenched to uproot?
In the early 19th century a group of factory workers called the “Luddites” argued vehemently against the advancements of the Industrial Revolution. Luddites would even go so far as to destroy the machinery of their masters, which they saw as stealing their jobs.
Since then, the term “Luddite” has come to describe anybody with an aversion to technology, and the annual Luddite Awards from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation highlights the most absurd anti-technology laws from around the world. This year four American states have the distinction of being nominated for a Luddite Award because of their opposition to Tesla’s direct sales model. For those not keeping count, those states are Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and of course New Jersey, all of which either passed or enforced legislation last year to prevent Tesla from selling its vehicles directly to customers.
This is one of those rare issues with a lot of bipartisan support, as conservatives argue against “crony capitalism” and for the free market, while liberals flock to support the poster child for electric vehicles. Similar issues, like France banning free shipping on books by Amazon, legislation against Uber, and efforts to stop the use of Airbnb in many major cities, have also received a Luddite Award nomination, though the Tesla issue is arguably the “sexiest” and most well-known.
In its nomination for the award, ITIF writes: “It is clear that these state laws are designed to protect franchise dealers at the expense [of] innovation and competition. State lawmakers should look out for the best interests of consumers and overall productivity, not protect the business model of auto dealers.” These bans have even gone so far as to prevent Tesla from holding test drives in states like Iowa, though crafty Model S owners helped the automaker around that particular ban.
The ITIF isn’t alone either in believing the Tesla sales model should be allowed to compete with regular dealerships. Members of the FTC wrote an open letter in support of Tesla Motors, and several high-profile car dealers have come out in support of direct sales. It’s also worth noting that all of these states are run by supposed Republicans who have all, at one time or another, championed the free market (though in fairness, my own hyper-liberal home of Connecticut also prevents direct Tesla sales). While the GOP is no stranger to hypocrisy, the Tesla issue is one of the few where the rank-and-file are willing to call out the leadership. It’s almost as though nobody likes the current car sales model, except the people that put it into place.
So which of these anti-Tesla states most deserves the award? If it were up to me, the Luddite Award would definitely go to New Jersey, which had been allowing sales of the Tesla Model S until Governor Chris Christie pulled the rug out from underneath the electric automaker. That means the stores Tesla had been operating in the Garden State can’t even talk pricing with would-be buyers. Christie had given every indication that Musk was welcome to do business in Jersey, but now the fight is going to the courts as Tesla sues the state for its right to sell electric cars.
It’s almost as though the status quo is afraid of electric cars. And if you ask me, they should be.
2014 was a mixed bag of news for Tesla, which probably set record sales (we’ll know soon) but also faced setbacks in its direct sales war, none of them larger than the Lone Star state. Elon Musk plans to return to Texas to go to bat for Tesla’s direct sales model once more, and he’ll bring along a plan for a hyperloop test track, reports Automotive News.
Musk already has several high-profile ventures in Texas, including a SpaceX rocket science facility and growing efforts with Solar City. But so far direct sales of the Tesla Model S have been stymied by an embedded car dealer lobby and disinterested politicians, and Musk left Texas having made little or no headway. The fact that Nevada beat out Texas for the $6 billion Gigafactory probably didn’t help things either, but the promise of an 800 MPH hyperloop test track could be alluring to some of Tesla’s Texas allies.
Musk seems to have made a resolution in 2015 to change the car sales laws governing the great state of Texas. He called the protectionist laws “un-Texan” at a transportation summit in Austin, and has previously dangled the idea of a future Tesla factory in the state, possibly to produce an electric truck. After California, Texas is America’s largest car market, and while it’s hard to quantify just how many sales Tesla has lost to the ridiculous loopholes have to jump through, it certainly isn’t helping things any.
Can Elon Musk open the great state of Texas to Tesla sales in 2015? Or is the dealership lobby too strong to break?
Last year Elon Musk was famously rebuffed by Texas politicians who stood by the protectionist laws that prevent Tesla Motors from selling its vehicles there. CBS DFW reports that Tesla executives are planning to woo Texas politicians ahead of the new legislative session to allow sales of the Model S in the Lone Star state.
Tesla currently operates three galleries in Texas, but salespeople not only can’t offer test drives, they can’t discuss pricing or features or a lot of other pertinent information. All they can do is direct customers to the website, and even then the Model S has to be delivered via an out-of-state transportation service using non-descript trucks. For a state that prides itself on being “open for business” Texas has shut the door tight on Tesla sales.
Not that Tesla doesn’t have allies. Outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry cuddled up to Tesla in an attempt to bring the Gigafactory to his state, and at least one former Texas car dealer thinks the electric automaker should be allowed to operate its direct sales model. But the embedded dealership lobby still has a tight hold on the leashes of a lot of local politicians.
So how can Tesla turn the tides in their favor? That will most likely hinge on the promise of building future production facilities in Texas, perhaps the next Gigafactory or a second assembly plant for vehicles once production at the Fremont factory is maxxed out. Toyota recently made the decision to move its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas in part because of the more business-friendly laws, and though Tesla may remain “committed” to California, business is business and Musk has proven he can get what he wants from states when the chips are down.
Texas is a critical market for Tesla, as after California it’s the biggest new car market in America with an estimated 1.5 million sales expected in 2015. That would be about 10% of total U.S. new car sales, and if Tesla could get direct sales approved in Texas, it would bolster their argument in places like New Jersey and Michigan, which have also banned direct sales.
It won’t be an easy fight, but it’s a fight Tesla can’t ignore if it wants to sell 500,000 cars by the end of this decade.
Parking spots may not be a sexy side of the alternative transportation, but many EV drivers still find that they need a place to plug in while out on longer journeys. Ace Parking, a nationwide provider of parking spots, has made an effort to offer a lot of places to plug-in for EV drivers by installing charging stations at many of its locations.
Encouraging more EV infrastructure has been a cornerstone of getting people to embrace plug-in vehicles, and today there are literally tens of thousands of public charging stations across the country. The future of EV charging stations is even more exciting though, as ideas like wireless charging mean you won’t even have to plug in to charge up. Imagine a world where every parking spot also secretly doubles as an EV charger? That future isn’t as far off as you might think.
For now though there’s still plenty of places to for the traditional method of plugging in to fill up. Ace Parking has as many as a half-dozen charging stations at 30 of its lots spread out across Arizona, Maryland, Washington D.C., Texas, and (mostly) California. While parking lot charging stations might not be as cool as the Tesla Model S, they’re every bit as important to the success of electric vehicles in the coming years. The more places to plug into, the more likely future car buyers are to consider an electric vehicle.
And that benefits us all.
This post was sponsored by Ace Parking
Speculation that as many as eight cars would boycott the USGP by pulling into the pits after the first lap- like they did at the 2005 USGP at Indianapolis– proved to be unfounded, and all 18 of the remaining Formula 1 competitors made a solid go of today’s race. That was especially true of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil and Force India’s Sergio Perez, who were so excited to actually be racing that they managed to crash into each other on the first lap!
Further up the field, Hamilton eventually overtook his pole-winning team mate and took a commanding victory, lapping most of the field and giving the impression that he could have done the job in his sleep. Such was the display of Mercedes dominance.
If Mercedes’ continued dominance of the new turbo era is concerning for the other teams, though, surely it’s not the most concerning thing for Ferrari. With Fernando Alonso supposedly leaving the team at the end of 2014, the Scuderia’s hopes for 2015 have been largely pinned on Kimi Raikkonen, who was lapping in 13th to Alonso’s 6th in the last stint of the race. In the same car.
For Ferrari’s sake, here’s hoping Sebastian Vettel can do something Kimi can’t!
You can see how today’s Formula 1 USGP at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) played out for the rest of the F1 field in the chart, below. Enjoy!
|FORMULA 1 2014: USGP RESULTS – FINAL|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||3|
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||7|
|27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||Ret.|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||Ret.|