Are electric vehicles overrated?

My perspective is different.

I am a Mercedes fanboy and planned to drive Mercedes the rest of my adult life. My previous vehicle was a 2008 E350, which I loved. I began looking into buying a new one about a year ago. My old car was getting older (about 150k) as well as not having modern amenities like bluetooth. I spent many months searching for the car I wanted.

My friend then bought a Tesla.

He began talking about it, showed me the app and let me drive it. Although I loved the simplicity of an electric car, I was plagued by “range anxiety”. It was something I began to consider more and I began researching other people’s experiences. What was super charging? What habits would you need to develop? What would you suggest I do to improve my driving habits?

I am someone who researches every major purchase for many years to make sure I know everything. I signed up to several forums and read all the material I could. I tried to find out about Mercedes’s plans for the future (they have an E series plugin hybrid which I thought would be fantastic because it would eliminate range anxiety), but I was disappointed by the reviews.

My decision was made: I was buying a Tesla Model S. Here are three reasons I made that decision.

1) Maintenance

I hate vehicle maintenance. Although my mechanic is excellent, it’s a major inconvenience. My work week is very tight, so it’s not possible to deal with vehicle operations issues.. I need my car to work. If I don’t have to, or to minimize, the need to bring it in for oil changes, brake adjustments, transmission fluid flushes and coolant checks, I won’t.

An electric vehicle’s design is so simple that it is almost impossible to go wrong. There’s virtually nothing to maintain. Software-based maintenance is the most common. This is almost all that is required. All I have to do before going to sleep is confirm my phone number to update. Regenerative braking requires very little maintenance. They will likely last 150k miles or more since the pads only do a small amount of actual braking. The warranty covers the battery and drive mechanism for 8 years/unlimited miles, as well as 4 years/50,000 mile on all other parts. This means that even if there are any issues it will not be a surprise expense.

Tires are the only maintenance that I need to do, and it’s almost as frequent as an ICE vehicle in terms of frequency and type. However, I’m a person who drives over a nail and gets new tires anyway so there’s nothing I can do until tires that aren’t affected by punctures become commonplace.

2) Technology/Features

I am a geek and love the car’s functionality. I like the way it works (soft buttons instead physical buttons for most things), that it is constantly improving (software updates), and that there are so many options. It is a joy to drive.

3) Cost

Cost savings are not something you would normally hear people use to justify a Model S. But, I will tell you (remember that this is a comparison against Mercedes). There are many factors to consider.

First, I found that the purchase prices of the two vehicles I was looking at were similar. It’s the costs after-purchase that really make the difference.

My 2008 E350 required me to purchase a $200/year Mercedes DVD to update the in-car navigation. This would allow me to access new mapping data. I stopped using the in-car navigation system and switched to my smartphone. Now, I can use in-car navigation that self-updates.

To register my previous car, it cost me about $400/year in Arizona. It also requires emissions testing every two-years. To register my new car for five years, it cost $162. It’s cheaper, has no emissions testing, and I won’t have any problems with it until 2024.

The biggest difference is the cost of operation. My previous car cost 13.6 cents per mile to fuel. Fuel costs now average 2.1 cents per mile. I plug in off-peak hours which cost me between 6.9 and 7.2 cents per Kilowatt hour depending on the season. My driving is mostly for work and my mileage deduction rate of 58 cents/mile saves me 18 cents/mile on taxes, so I am literally getting a return for every mile I drive. 🙂

The vehicle and battery should last for approximately 500k miles so I could have it for quite some time. These are the things I have considered that would convince me to buy a new car (which will likely also be a Model S at this point unless Tesla makes other models that I prefer).

Fully autonomous driving. Although the current autopilot works well, I don’t want to buy a new car with less advanced hardware. If I can be the sole person in the car, and still function as a passenger (i.e. I would be tempted to purchase a new car if I could not focus on the road, use my laptop or sleep, and still function as a passenger. A car that is less functional than this probably wouldn’t work.

Improved Range. The battery I have has a range of 230 miles. My home is in Phoenix, and I drive about 400 miles to Southern California every day. This is something I have done for many years, way before I had an EV. I would break it up into threes.. Stopping at the AZ/CA border to get snacks/gas/bathroom breaks. Then stopping again in Cabazon for the same.

It hasn’t been a problem. The same stops are made. Instead of stopping to get gas, I stop at a supercharger. After I fill up my tank, I must wait 5 minutes to watch my car while I wait. I can plug in my charger and go. It takes longer to charge than filling up gas, but it happens while I am doing other things. This turns a 6.5-hour trip into a seven hour trip at most.

Although I could buy another Model S with a 370-mile range, it will not make much of a difference. While I will be looking for a car with a greater range when I buy one, I don’t believe this would make me want to purchase a new car.

Interior Degradation. Interior Degradation. I know I can keep it for a while, but there is a chance that the interior will start to look dated and not what I want, especially in Phoenix, where everything is destroyed by the sun. I might replace my car if the interior ages faster than the rest.

Battery degrading. Battery Degradation. Currently, Tesla does not offer replacement batteries. Therefore, I would have to replace my entire car.

There are many cool features that will be created in the next 5-10 year that I would love to have in a new vehicle. However, they don’t yet exist so I cannot add them to my wish list.

One thing is certain: I don’t see myself ever using an ICE vehicle again as my primary vehicle. Teslas are comfortable, fast, and fun to drive. This is especially important for long-distance driving. There are way too many moving parts in ICE vehicles. They’ve been on the road for more than 100 years, and it’s amazing to me that they don’t succumb to their own complexity (figuratively speaking).

 

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