QOTD: Can You Find Fault in These Calculations?
It’s nice to love the car you own. Feeling that passion and excitement each and every time you slip behind the wheel; experiencing the sheer exhilaration of squeezing every last drop of performance from your magnificent new steed. As a Cruze owner, I know these sensations all too well.
Sometimes, being your car’s biggest fan means becoming a de facto spokesperson for the brand, and with that role comes the need to position your vehicle’s builder above all others. With that in mind, we ask whether you can point out anything wrong with the following Tesla review.
A piece published in Forbes describes 50,000 miles spent in a 2016 Tesla Model S 70D — a vehicle the author very much enjoys driving. That much is made abundantly clear. Hey, an 85-mile round trip to work will make anyone feel like they’ve married their car. We don’t condemn the liking of one’s car.
Author Greg Autry is a fan of looking at total cost of ownership. There’s no oil changes or internal combustion engine repair with a Tesla, of course, and Tesla has the annoying habit of advertising its vehicles with a price that reflects “gas savings.” Because you’re going to drive past every pump you see, why not knock that estimated sum off the advertised retail price? It looks good.
But let’s go back to May of 2016, when Autry was shopping for EVs after putting his Chevrolet Volt out to pasture.
“In shopping for my first electric, I had tested the Ford Fusion EV and found the acceleration so poor that pulling into LA traffic would have been scary. The sales person said ‘electric cars just don’t go fast.'” Autry writes. “No wonder Tesla ate their electric lunch.”
There’s a problem in this statement, as Ford never offered an all-electric Fusion. Does Autry mean a Ford Focus Electric? Possibly, but the Focus Electric didn’t gain a range that could even get Autry from his Yorba Linda, California home to his L.A. workplace and back on a single charge until the 2017 model year, and that model may not have been on sale in the early part of that year. And even then, the jump in range was only from 76 to 100 miles. Maybe he has a charging station at work?
However, if Autry is speaking of the Fusion Energi plug-in, then yes, he’d be limited in range, but acceleration wouldn’t be a problem. The 2016 Ford Fusion Energy accelerates from 0-60 in 7.9 seconds. Not poky, by any means. The 2016 Ford Focus Electric does the run in 9.9 seconds, which isn’t entirely off the scale of acceptability.
The author got this piece off to a good start by misidentifying a rival car he seriously considered, but found lacking. It was so unmemorable, he forgot the model but remembered the dangerously slow acceleration.
What follows in the review, if you can call it that, is a breakdown of how the author believes his $95,000 car ($85,000 after tax credits) cost him “almost nothing.” Interspersed between bouts of cheerleading and the various industry predictions spouted by most Tesla disciples are further calculations. Yes, there’ll be gas savings. Knock those off the purchase price. Oil changes, too. As the author expects his vehicle to last twice as long as an internal combustion car, and during that ultra-long lifespan, there may be other costs.
Or maybe not!
“The Tesla drivetrain has less than a dozen moving parts. Combined with its all-aluminum construction it will last a very long time and could easily travel to 1 million miles with only battery swaps,” Autry asserts. “Some folks have wrongly predicted those swaps will be expensive. With production scaling and new technologies for accessing and recycling critical minerals like lithium and cobalt the cost of Li-ion batteries actually falls year after year. (See chart from Union of Concerned Scientists). The replacement of my batteries at 150,000 + miles will be way cheaper than the engine rebuild and tranny swap an ICE car would need and the demand will drive technology and scientific research forward.”
The author calculates that gas and maintenance savings, plus the estimated retained value of the vehicle (based on a 2018 report) at 150k miles, knocks the cost of ownership down to just over $52k.
“Keeping the Tesla twice as long also means I won’t buy another car, saving me 50% off the purchase price or $47.5k,” he writes. “That’s about what I’d pay for another car after taxes and all. So, my Tesla will cost just $5,060 if driven for 150,000 miles!”
There you have it.
Care to offer up a rebuttal to these enthusiastic calculations?
Speedlaw on Feb 24, 2019
I seriously considered Tesla for my next car. I don't have range issues, I know my day in advance, and have the driveway + electric drop for charging. I liked the actual product. What turned me off were the cast aluminum suspension members cracking and "droopy wheel" syndrome, along with many examples of hard to get parts and repairs. The bears, the "shorts", on Twitter are very entertaining, but in the end, it was the company behind the product that made it a "no". There isn't any aftermarket, or even your local repair shop....I wasn't ready to marry Tesla in a way you don't marry any other car company...I toss all my cars into a grinder, support is required, and the last thing I wanted was a thirty day wait for simple repairs.
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