Inside Electric Vehicles - July 12th, 2016

Inside Electric Vehicles (Jul 12th, 2016)

Third Tesla Autopilot mishap, Mercedes throws concept-car gauntlet down, Elon Musk's new "secret plan", EV threat to flamingos, EVs in South Africa.
The third serious accident involving a Tesla in Autopilot mode occurred over the weekend in Montana. There were no injuries, but the bang-up was serious enough that the car lost its front passenger side wheel. Despite this, as well as heightened investigation into the May's first serious Autopilot-related accident, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated the company has no plans to abandon the feature, and is soon to debut an "explanatory blog post" that explains how drivers should use the semi-autonomous system. – CNN

Mercedes plans to reveal its electric sedan sometime this September. The company’s David McCarthy says we should see a concept version in a couple of months, or just before the Paris Motor Show. There are no exact specs yet, but it’s been teased to be “dangerously fast” and a direct rival to the Tesla Model S. - ENGADGET


Germany’s push to subsidize electric cars has led to a spike in sales for BMW’s model. Orders for the new i3 have risen “many times over” according to German newspaper FAS, citing company sources. Total orders for the new version had risen to 5,000 worldwide, about 1,000 of them in Germany. BMW is planning a sportier version of the i3 by 2018 and aims to launch its new electric car in 2021. - REUTERS

Electric cars may pose a threat to flamingos. Their rechargeable batteries contain lithium, which is found in brine deposits under the Atacama salt-flat in northern Chile — which happens to be a nesting place for wild flamingos. Some locals say lithium miners sucking water out of the earth are starving the long-legged birds. - SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN


Uber is teaming up with BMW and Nissan to bring electric cars to South Africa. Called UberGREEN, the initiative allows environmentally-conscious customers to request a Nissan LEAF or a BMW i3 to reach their destinations in Johannesburg. - INSIDE EVS

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas thinks he has a good guess at what Elon Musk's newly teased "secret master plan" for Tesla might be. Jonas' hunch is that Tesla may be about to transition from a car company to a public transport company. He argues that the model of selling cars to private owners may be unsustainable, and that the entire auto industry may be making the change-over to public transportation in the near-future. – CNBC

Big Three automakers and the U.S. Department of Energy are working with an Illinois startup to create better EV batteries. SiNode Systems was awarded a $4 million grant to create prototypes for more affordable, longer-lasting batteries. CEO Samir Mayekar told Midwest Energy News that this technology will also benefit mobile devices, drones and other electronics. - MIDWEST ENERGY NEWS

Could electric cars be a passing fad? Richard Muller from UC Berkeley argues that despite their current trendiness, cars from Tesla and Apple are too expensive and not environmentally friendly enough, especially compared with hybrid vehicles. - FORBES

At Tesla Motors Club, members are talking about Tesla's Autopilot troubles, and the fact that Joshua Brown's family has hired a prominent personal injury law firm to represent them. (Brown is the Autopilot enthusiast who was killed in May in the first major fatality blamed on the feature.) Apacheguy says "I just don't get this. How can Tesla be responsible? The driver is ultimately responsible for the safety of all passengers especially when an enormous truck pulls in front."; Mikeash responds to him: "Tesla's liability would ultimately be decided by twelve people not smart enough to get out of jury duty, that's how."; Keeping the cynical angle going, Alketi writes, "I'm willing to bet that the lawyers called them. Instead of chasing ambulances like the old days, now they're scouring social media or reading Fortune magazine."

At the EV subreddit, users are discussing Mercedes' plans to unveil an EV concept car at a Paris motor show. Sprashoo says "I guess it's good to show EV concepts, but... every time a mainstream automaker announces another 'EV concept' my cynicism grows. That ship has sailed. You can't pose as a progressive, modern automaker by publicizing pie in the sky future concept electric cars. Your competition has been selling them, and good ones, to the public for years now."; MuaddibMcFly is quick to add, "Seriously, unless it's going to be on a dealer's lot less than 3 years, with functionally no design changes, I don't care about your concept cars, EV or otherwise."

Last week, we asked our readers how much they thought “range anxiety” was a factor in their own driving decisions, and in terms of the gas-guzzling culture-at-large’s seeming hesitance to make an EV purchase. We got some great (and, for me at least, surprising) responses from you guys, and here are some of the most memorable:

Mark says, “Range anxiety was created and is kept alive by big oil, traditional auto manufacturers,conservatives, and car dealers. All designed to ensure ICE cars stay in the system.”
Scott finds range anxiety very real and very annoying: “We have a 2014 Leaf and... Range Anxiety is 100% for real. I don’t drive it at all because of the low range. To me - anything less than 200 miles is unacceptable - actual 200 miles with A/C AND driving on freeway … I live in AZ - both are critical. I can’t even consider electric for me until those are a reality.” 
Jacob says, “It wasn't a limiting factor when I pre-ordered my Model 3 as my daily driver. But it's definitely on my mind living in Minnesota with my family being in Iowa. I can get to where I need to go, but often stay in hotels during those family travels and *none* of them have any electrical access... On top of the fact that in the Midwest, the supercharger network adds another hour or more to my travels from any state in the Midwest.”

Dan G. states his personal experience with range anxiety very clearly: “I purchased a Nissan Leaf as my primary vehicle last May, and I've had to worry about its range every single day since then... I've lost a lot of security by buying it... If our pets get injured, the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinarian is at the limits of my car's range, which means I have to keep it charged to 100% at all times without fail, or risk being unable to rush a pet to the vet when needed... I regret purchasing an EV with only 84 miles of range, because it's not enough...”

Derek has his own RA horror stories: “Tesla RA, road trip: As soon as I took the Tesla on a road trip to LA from SFO, it was a nightmare of RA...  a 5 hour diesel trip becomes an 8 hour Tesla trip. Worse - it was marred with constant chimes of interruptions from the car's route planning software about "slow down" or "turn around and go BACK to the supercharger in order to make it to the next one"... Range becomes a constant calculation during the road trip. It gets in your head, and you can't just ignore it.”
Craig writes, “Range anxiety is... a big deal, but it's been mitigated quite a bit by the huge increase in the # of charge stations.”
Dan S. says, “A 200 mile range may be the minimum to eliminate the range issue.  Where I live, there are no charging facilities in my condo basement parking garage.  And the HOA board has yet to get it, though there are a number of EVs parked here now.  If one can charge up at night… anxiety is mitigated by and large.”

Donnie adds, “But it's... just a feeling of being limited that scares people off. I think in general people are just used to the dominant paradigm of petroleum. If the gas stations were as scarce as EV stations and fueling time as long as charging time, petroleum cars would have the same odds against them.”
Reader Lloyd nails the psychology: “Regarding range anxiety, it's simply a matter of education. Most people have no idea of the range of their gas powered cars, they just look at the gauge to see where the needle points between "E" and "F".  With an EV the amount of the charge in miles is often spelled out numerically which makes people anxious. If people had any idea of how many miles they actually drive on a given day, especially locally, then they'd see that an EV with a range of say,  80 miles is more than enough for their typical daily driving usage.”
Johnny sums up how many of our readers feel: “I have a Fiat 500e and range anxiety is indeed an issue. I have to plan all my trips and commutes accordingly. I leased the EV knowing this ahead of time, but I am an early adopter and also want to stick it to the dinosaur fuel burning industries, hence willing to deal with the hassle.”
So it seems "range anxiety" is a very real frustration for EV owners, and also a substantial - if perhaps irrational - reason so many American consumers remain suspicious of the EVs currently on the market. But it sounds like you guys know exactly how to fix the problem, and it's up to the car-makers and state & local legislations to get on the ball. Thanks to everyone who wrote in!
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