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 are buying a lightweight compact “Alto” camper trailer with solar panels on the roof and lithium ion batteries for storing and using the energy the panels produce.
At that point our “electric travels” will really start, but already we have 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.
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.
Because batteries are continuously 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 any purpose. The upcoming Tesla Semi (a long distance electric commercial freight truck) will displace traditional trucks, and other EV start-ups are racing to develop and build their own commercial trucks.
It has been over five years since the Tesla Model S went on sale, and other vehicle manufacturers are slowly 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 over a hundred and forty thousand vehicle sales from Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Audi, and other companies. Because of Tesla, GM is now producing the Chevy Bolt, which can go over 230 miles on a charge, BMW is selling the i3 which can travel over 100 miles, the 2018 Nissan Leaf is designed for over 200 miles a charge instead of the paltry 70 miles it started with, and many other companies are planning to produce their own long distance EVs in the next few years.
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”.
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 rocket (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…
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. Photo credit: SpaceX