Is the auto industry approaching a tipping point?

imgresAs you can tell from the abundance of blog posts about Tesla both on this blog and on the internet at large, many of us are interested in what Tesla has going on. Much of the interest on my part is focused on the new technology that is transforming how we drive. It has become clear recently that the industry is fighting these changes on every front. This seems to be the standard response to new ideas, (think digital music and the fight that nearly killed the music industry).
Not being an expert on the automotive industry I was surprised to find out that several lawsuits have been filed at the state level to block the direct sale of Tesla vehicles by Tesla to consumers. While I never really gave much thought to whom I was really buying a car from, it turns out that it wasn’t directly from the car manufacture, it was from an independent dealer.  A few Google searches later and it was clear that the independent dealership model is protected by state law. While I understand how this law came into existence, is it time for a change?  Tesla seems to think so, are they right? We’ll soon find out!

Tesla unveils battery swapping robot.

imgresTesla has upped the stakes with their announcement of battery swapping robots. The idea is simple, everyone understands how to fill ones car with gas. Now, the concept is applied to electric cars. Just swap out the dead battery for a fully charged one.  According to Tesla it will cost about the same as a tank of gas. I’m not sure at that price point that it will make them any money but it probably will cover their R&D costs. Their characterization of the cost also makes me wonder whether the price will fluctuate like a a tank of gas does… Some of the obvious questions will need to be answered. My list is as follows: Will the swapped battery be as good (cycles, capacity, etc) as the original? Will it be covered under the warranty in the same way the original one would? Or, will it be a bit like what happens when you refill your BBQ propane tanks, your tank is new and shiny but the one that comes back after the swap looks like it has been through a war.  These are the issues that must be figured out before a massive roll out of these swapping robots. If I know Tesla they will do it right.  Tesla has some of the answers already, but I’m sure as this rolls out into the wild, more will arise. In either case I applaud Tesla for their ingenuity and resolve to change the way we drive.

Does an accident in an electric car pose more risk than in its gasoline counterpart?

imgresAfter watching this training video showing first responders how to safely extract occupants from a Tesla Model S without being electrocuted.   I started to think about how EV’s might react in an accident. It became clear that EV’s are nothing like conventional vehicles. A  gasoline powered car crash can be a violent event and one that sometimes ends in fire. However, most fender-benders don’t usually end in a car engulfing fire.  Will the rise of EV’s change the severity of accidents? Meaning, will lower impact speeds cause more loss of life, due to the high voltage, when compared to the same type of crash in a traditional vehicle. When EV’s first entered urban areas, an unexpected side effect was a higher rate of pedestrian accidents. Since there isn’t an engine in the EV, they were much quieter than traditional vehicles. This was an unanticipated but an easily remedied problem.  EV manufacturers added sound back to the vehicles in the form of speakers and digital cars sounds.  Will the rapidly increasing number of electric powered vehicles begin to uncover a new threat posed by this technology? Have the current EV manufacturers tested their vehicles with enough rigor to ensure safety from electric current in accidents and other non-standard conditions? It seems like Tesla has thought about this issue and is taking the initiative to instruct first responders. As with any new technology there are always growing pains and unforeseen issues. As consumers we expect that they are worked out before the products make it into our homes and lives. I guess only time will tell.