- When we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us may take the plunge on car ownership.
- It’s going to be easy to buy or lease a gas-powered vehicles, but the time couldn’t be better for checking out an electric car.
- To that end, Tesla should be high on your shopping list.
- But the brand comes with some pros and cons. Here’s a rundown.
In the car business, a debate has broken out. As the US emerges from the coronavirus lockdowns, there’s a chance that consumers will avoid public transit, favoring automobiles instead.
But with gas prices lower than they have been in years, the question is: Will they go for traditional vehicles, or take the plunge on electric cars? No one could be sure, but the landscape favors the gas-burners; there are more of them waiting around to get sold, and the manufacturers and dealers are likely to offer plenty of sweet deals.
But! What about the dramatic improvement in air quality experienced by smoggy cities in even EV-friendly states such as California? Do people really want to squander that, having seen what a pre-car LA, for example, is like? (It’s sublime, by all accounts, and that isn’t taking the emptied-out freeways into consideration.)
Opportunities like this don’t come along very often. If just one or two in 10 new car buyers went electric, it would very much move the needle, almost overnight
There are plenty of EVs in the market. But invariably, a lot of consumers will gravitate toward Tesla. Understandably, as Tesla makes excellent all-electric cars.
But they aren’t without a few drawbacks. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons
PRO: Design. Tesla’s electric-vehicles are currently the best-looking EVs on the market, with an aesthetic that’s both venerable and elegant. You won’t get tired of looking at your car.
PRO: Obviously, your gas-pumping days are history. Teslas don’t require petrol, so you can say goodbye to the filling station, forever.
PRO: Improved air quality. The coronavirus pandemic shutdowns so greatly reduced traffic in smoggy cities like Los Angeles that residents got their first real look at what a post-fossil-fuels future could be like. And it was pretty stunning.
PRO: Performance. The fastest Tesla, a Model S, can outrun Ferraris and Lamborghinis in a sprint from 0 to 60 mph. But even the, ahem, slowest Tesla leaves most gas-electric hybrids in the dust.
PRO: Over-the-air software updates. Tesla routinely upgrades the software in its vehicles. The updates are wirelessly beamed to vehicles, so owners can wake up and literally have an improved car.
PRO: Innovative technology. Tesla’s battery and powertrain systems are impressive from a big-engineering standpoint, but the company even gets the small stuff right. Its smartphone app is just about the only useful one offered by any automaker.
PRO: The Supercharger network. Tesla’s extensive, multinational fast-charging network makes long road trips possible. It’s also an intelligent network, in constant communication with Tesla vehicles so that extended routes can be plotted. It isn’t free — it used to be — but it’s Tesla’s biggest competitive advantage.
PRO: Batteries. Tesla’s battery design was at first considered idiosyncratic — thousands of lithium-ion cells, wired together. But over time, it’s proven itself. Tesla also sells home-energy storage systems, using the same tech found in its cars.
PRO: Autopilot’s potential. Unlike other semi-automated systems, Autopilot has the potential to operate at all speeds on many different types of roads. At the moment, it’s still a work in process and nowhere near being fully autonomous. But it could surpass its competition if the company’s ambitions for Autopilot are realized.
PRO: Elon Musk. He’s the Henry Ford of the EV era. A visionary technologist who has taken Tesla from being a tiny, obscure, struggling startup to a company that’s worth more than GM, Ford, and FCA combined.
CON: Price. Teslas aren’t crazy expensive, but the cheapest Model 3 is still about twice as costly as the least expensive gas-powered sedan you can now buy.
CON: Charging times. There’s no way around it. Teslas have big batteries, and even with fast charging, a “refill” can consume an hour. You can run a gas vehicle to empty and restore it to 400 miles of range with a five-minute refuel.
CON: Lack of dealerships. Tesla operates stores and can sell direct to consumers in some US states. But the lack of traditional dealerships makes the purchase or leasing process more awkward than the traditional method.
CON: Ludicrous Mode. Ludicrous Mode, which takes advantage of powerful batteries and dual electric motors to deliver staggering acceleration, sounds great, and is great — the first few times you do it. But it’s almost too much for Tesla’s sedans and SUVs.
CON: Autopilot’s attention demands. At the moment, Autopilot can’t be used in fully hands-free mode (don’t do what I’m doing in the photo). So, the system pesters you constantly to place you hands on the steering wheel — a good thing, but it’s almost easier to just drive the car yourself.
CON: Home charging. Tesla will sell you a 240-volt, Level 2 home charger for about $500, but you have to arrange for installation. I think Tesla ownership is less fun without this option. But, of course, nobody has to have their own gas station in the garage.
CON: Lack of inventory. Tesla has but one factory in the US, and it tends to sell cars as fast as it makes them. So, buyers don’t have a lot of pre-built inventory to choose from, if they want a car in a hurry. Current delivery times for ordered Model 3s, for instance, are eight to 12 weeks.
CON: Not an ideal road-trip vehicle. I’ve taken two long-ish road trips in Teslas and come up against charging waits both times. My kids, as a result, have banned me from ever using a Tesla for this purpose again.
CON: The federal tax credit has expired for Tesla. The $7,500 federal tax credit was a big incentive to go Tesla, but it has phased out now that the company has sold more than 200,000 vehicles in the US.
CON: Elon Musk. Unpredictable, controversial, outspoken — Musk is the opposite of the careful, diplomatic auto executive. You have to take the good with the not-so-good, when it comes to Tesla’s CEO.