Tesla Dead Ahead! The Automobile's Energy-Lean and Speed-Restricted Future

Stein X Leikanger
by Stein X Leikanger
tesla dead ahead the automobiles energy lean and speed restricted future

Word, Excel, Acrobat Reader, Photoshop, Powerpoint… The computer programs you depend on are filled with bloat: unused features that hog your hard disk, crowd the CPU and drain your laptop’s battery– without adding to the action on the screen. Ditto SUVs. They are extraordinarily capable vehicles whose unused features guzzle gas, add weight and drain oil from the ground. In both cases, slimming down has few downsides– save the psychological. And therein lies the tale.

Just as there’s a cadre of computer users who know how to pip a file in CP/M, there’s a small slice of SUV/CUV/pickup owners who use their vehicles to their fullest. Clearly, obviously, most don’t. Instead they defend their vehicular choices by citing seldom-seen scenarios: towing equipment they don’t own, forging through storms they know they’ll avoid, and surviving crashes that have yet to occur.

Thankfully, drivers are wising up. Whether their change of heart’s been stimulated by the rising price of gas or environmental consciousness, they’re figuring out that sitting on several tons of metal to move a couple of humans from points A to B is silly. That’s why they’re looking for alternatives. Which is also why I’m disappointed with the Tesla Roadster.

In a world crying out for energy efficient transportation solutions, Tesla’s battery-powered sports car is a dead end. The Tesla is a toy that tries to combine the benefits of megapowered supercars with a warm ecofriendly buzz. This does not compute. The future of automobiles (self-movers) is energy-lean and speed-restrictive.

To perform adequately, all current electric vehicles (EVs) rely upon a light-weight frame. By using a featherweight Lotus as a donor and reducing its heft with carbon fiber, the Tesla Roadster attempts to maximize speed, acceleration and range. Even with no luggage or extra passenger space, it still illustrates the old saying, ”Fast, good and cheap. You can’t have all three.”

At the same time, the Roadster’s mass x velocity function makes the EV a pretty dangerous place to be should you experience sudden, involuntary deceleration (think early 1960s Formula 1 racer). Yes, Tesla is trying to work around those "challenges.” But the end result won’t change: a ludicrously expensive (if fast) EV with serious range and safety issues.

Maybe the work on the Tesla Roadster can create spin-off benefits for more energy efficient EVs. Tesla is already shopping their batteries around to other EV manufacturers (probably looking to share their high development costs). If that makes you think the future is filled with EVs zipping around silently at Roadster speeds, you can banish the thought.

There are far better ways of using stored energy than driving Hell for leather in a lithium-ion equipped Tesla Roadster powered by a consumer electric grid.

The other day the French pushed a TGV (a.k.a. bullet train) to 574 km/h (357 mph). I heard the news about the French train speed record while automobiling (self-moving) behind a tram. A poster on the rear of the tram said ”I can replace 1.5 km of cars.” We can fight for unrestricted travel as much as we want, but our assumed right to be part of that 1.5 km long line is about to be seriously restricted.

If nothing else, global warming is a political reality. Most automobile companies realize that the legislative move to reduce cars’ carbon footprint will have– is already having– a dramatic impact on what we drive, how we drive, and where we will be allowed to drive it. As the French prepare to cover Europe with TGVs, and the European Union considers legislation imposing mandatory carbon offsets for air travelers, it’s naive to believe that cars will continue to represent untrammeled freedom.

A period is coming where self-moving will again be considered a privilege, not a right. Where the cost of self-moving will have to be paid for on the spot, as a function of energy efficiency and estimated long term environmental impact. Available energy will be channeled to where it will deliver the most work per unit. You’ll be charged accordingly for less efficient energy use.

In other words, the days when you paid Southwest Airlines or Ryan Air prices to move will soon be a thing of the past. Which only makes sense. The party's over. We’re running out of oil. Both society and the individuals enjoying its protection must wake up to the throbbing skull reality of this situation, and face a new dawn.

Despite California Governor Schwarzenegger's pronouncement that "We don't have to take away the Hummers or the SUVs or anything like this," there is no Tesla-like cake-and-eat-it-too solution. Developing technology won't let you drive a fundamentally inefficient vehicle the same way you do now using alternative propulsion. Everyone in the energy food chain– from energy producers to daily commuters– must take on the challenge of using energy with the skill of rocket scientists, accounting for every calorie. The end result will be spectacular, and effective.

Join the conversation
2 of 104 comments
  • Dane Dane on Apr 26, 2007

    Do anyone know the dimensions of the batterypack?

  • Jbertuzz Jbertuzz on Apr 30, 2007

    1. The Global warming debate: I love how people either think that global warming is with out a doubt happening, or it is just a Chicken Little cry and that “technology” is going to take care of any problems we face. The fact is that “technology” is part of 150 year experiment called capitalism, a minuet period of time in the history of the world. Debating whether or not global warming is happening or whether we have 20 or 80 years of copper left is childish. It like two five year olds arguing who’s smarter. None of you or anyone for that matter knows how much natural resources we have left, but there are two facts: The rate that the global human society is plummeting the earth of its natural capital is a phenomenon that has never occurred in the history of the earth; and the natural ecological system that humans evolved in to was completely flawless at sustaining life, one which has taken millions of years in the making. These two facts should/is scaring people in to morphing the current system in to one that takes after nature’s perfection; this is called bio-mimicry. This goes way beyond putting up solar cells or driving electric cars, but the explanation is to long of an explanation for this blog. It is all in Paul Hawkins “Ecology of Commerce” the bible of the new industrial revolution. Read It. For anyone to claim that world is coming to an end or that technology will bail us out is mere proof of the arrogance of man thinking that he can predict or control the very thing that created him. 2. The future of cars debate: This one is a little more up in the air, but my bets are on EC and ill tell you why. As of now there are basically four options. 1. Continue to run our cars on gas. 2. Hydrogen fuel cells. 3. Ethanol/biofuels or 4.Electric cars. The first option is probably the most likely until market forces/ governmental forces make it other wise but when that happens, and it certainly will happen whether its in 2 years or 100, the other three options remain. Really it all comes down to infrastructure. I don’t know how much it will cost to build hydrogen fueling stations across the US, put the fact is that for hydrogen cars to replace gasoline cars this will eventually have to happen. The way I see its not going to happen. Anyone who thinks that it can, I encourage you to make me think otherwise, I would love to drink water from my car. In terms of biofuels you have a similar infrastructure problem as hydrogen although not as extreme, I think that they will play a vital role in the change of this country put will pale in comparison to the electric car. And here’s why: the Infrastructure is virtually already here. electricity is everywhere in the US, building any additional infrastructure to cater to an American fleet of electric cars would be a fraction of what anything else would cost. The one thing holding the electric car back is the storage, but I have a feeling that market forces will take care of this when the potential is realized. This paragraph unlike the other one is more based on opinion than facts, so please those who disagree with me tell me why you think im wrong.

  • StormEagle 400 miles range
  • Inside Looking Out Enforcing laws? It is so yesterday! Welcome to California!
  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.
  • Buickman I won't own one and I'll be happy!