The name of this blog comes from our preferred way of traveling — powered by electricity — and our ownership of two electric vehicles which are primarily powered by sustainable energy we generate from our rooftop solar system and fed into a Tesla Powerwall storage battery in our garage. That means free power with zero emissions. In 2018 we bought a lightweight compact “Alto” camper trailer and installed solar panels on the roof along with lithium ion batteries for storing and using the energy the panels produce.
At that point our “electric travels” really started, but already we had driven our Tesla Model S over 62,000 miles on trips all over the western United States. The Tesla Supercharger network makes long distance travel easy! We have not purchased any gasoline since October 2014, when we bought our second Tesla, a Roadster that was originally purchased new in May 2009 by someone in Florida.
Before we bought our Alto trailer, we traded in the Model S for a Model X to tow the trailer. And then we traded in the Roadster for a Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor because it is a much more advanced car than the Roadster and far safer as well.
The Tesla Mission: Revolutionize Transportation
The mission of Tesla Motors is to convert the global transportation system from fossil fuels to sustainable electric transport. A tall order to be sure, but not an impossible one. In just over a decade, starting from nothing but an idea in the minds of three visionaries; Mark Tarpening, Martin Eberhard, and Ian Wright (with Elon Musk as principal investor) Tesla created first the Roadster and then the Model S, demonstrating that EVs were fundamentally better cars than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
In July 2017 Tesla started production of a new vehicle, the Model 3, that will demonstrate that a US$35,000 EV is a better vehicle — and is far cheaper to operate over the lifetime of the vehicle — than a $25,000 gas-powered car. The Model 3 will revolutionize the auto industry and is outselling established high-quality competitors in Europe and America. The Model Y , a mid-size SUV/crossover based on the Model 3, will go into production in 2020 and will likely outsell it in the US because the potential market is even larger for that type of vehicle.
Because batteries are gradually improving in storage capacity and reliability while decreasing in cost, within five years it will be obvious that an EV is a superior car in any price range and for almost any purpose. Rivian is developing a long range electric pickup. Elon Musk has stated that Tesla will be launching a pickup truck. The upcoming Tesla Semi is designed to displace traditional commercial semi-trucks because it will cost significantly less per mile to operate. Other EV start-ups, like Nikola, are racing to develop and build their own commercial trucks. Even Daimler (Mercedes Benz) has announced their own electric trucks.
The Car Industry is Finally Waking Up
It has been about seven years since the Tesla Model S went on sale, and other vehicle manufacturers are finally starting to realize that if they don’t produce compelling long distance EVs they will suffer significant losses in market share. Nothing motivates the capitalist mind like declining revenue! The Model S and X have already taken several hundred thousand vehicle sales from Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Audi, and other companies. Because of Tesla, GM is now producing the Chevy Bolt (range 238 miles), Hyundai offers the Ioniq EV (over 150 miles), Nissan has improved the Leaf (over 200 miles a charge instead of the paltry 70 miles it started with), Kia makes the Niro all electric (over 200 miles), Jaguar has launched the i-Pace EV (but the range can disappoint) , and Audi has finally launched the e-tron. None of those vehicles would be available now without Tesla proving that there is a real market for high-quality, long-range EVs.
None of that would have happened without Tesla becoming a success. That is because the established car manufacturers clearly were not willing to disrupt their existing revenue source (internal combustion engine vehicle sales) to develop a new drivetrain powered by electricity. They have failed to understand what Steve Jobs famously said: “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will”. If a company keeps doing things the same old way and fails to innovate, someone else with a better idea will come along and put them out of business. The iPhone destroyed very successful products like the Nokia flip phone that dominated the cell phone market in the 1990’s. The EV is now set to replace ICE vehicles and it’s all part of Elon Musk’s “Secret Master Plan”.
It’s Not Just About Cars
Telsa doesn’t just build EVs. It has created a complete solution: generate your own emission-free energy to power your emission-free vehicle. The Tesla Energy division builds solar panels, solar roof tiles, residential storage batteries called Powerwalls and commercial storage batteries called Powerpacks which can power grid-scale storage facilities (think megawatts of power) for public utilities and businesses. Such facilities are already in operation, helping public utilities manage their power distribution more efficiently and saving them money.
The goal is to overturn the fossil fuel-based transportation system and enable it to run on the inexhaustible energy supply of the Sun (for the next few billion years anyway). As Elon likes to say, “All modes of transport will eventually become electric, with the ironic exception of rockets.” Ironic because Elon’s primary job is not being CEO of Tesla Motors but CEO of SpaceX, a company he founded in 2002, which currently builds the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy (with a reusable first stage!) for launching earth orbiting satellites and taking supplies and crew to the International Space Station, but whose real mission is to create a self-sustaining human colony on Mars with far larger reusable spacecraft that will lower the cost of space flight to one thousand times below current costs. Yes, nobody dreams bigger than Elon! But that is the topic for another post…
Above: Falcon 9 first stage landing on the deck of the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean, after which it was returned to land and reflown several months later. A truly historic event in the human exploration of space! Below: the two Falcon Heavy side boosters landing nearly simultaneously after the first Falcon Heavy mission, Feb 6, 2018. Photo credits: SpaceX