Pretty much the most interesting blog on the Internet.— Prof. Steven Landsburg

Once you get past the title, and the subtitle, and the equations, and the foreign quotes, and the computer code, and the various hapax legomena, a solid 50% English content!—The Proprietor

## Thursday, October 8, 2015

### RUN COAL

The title of this post is the license plate the author is sorely tempted to acquire for the Tesla Model S he has been driving for the last few years.The author of course realizes that in so posting, he’ll cause the hordes of Tesla-driving readers to snap up this plate in all states, thereby frustrating his plan. For that is indeed what his car runs on: coal delivered via high-voltage wires. So the environmental benefits of Teslas are probably non-existent or at least greatly exaggerated.

Moreover, Tesla and its founder Elon Musk have with some justice been criticized for pocketing large subsidies offered by the federal and state governments for electric vehicles. That criticism, while valid, is more properly directed at the politicians for instituting these subsidies, than at Musk for pocketing them.In so far as Musk lobbies for maintenance or extension of these subsidies, he of course bears some contributory guilt. If the government offered large amounts of free cash to the author, he would take it too; as he did, when taking the $7,500 tax credit for Tesla buyers.Some concern has been raised regarding the high cost of fixing dents and scratches on the Model S. That is true because the Model S is mostly made of aluminum, which while stronger and lighter than steel, is also more expensive and harder to repair. But that is a downside that the Model S shares with virtually all cars in its price range. These points notwithstanding, the Tesla Model S is a very, very good car:More objection can be made to the noun than the adjective. Arguably a Tesla Model S is not so much a car, as a giant iPad that can take you places. This, some discussion elsewhere notwithstanding, is high praise. • According to the J.D. Power survey, about 98% of Model S owners would, if they had to replace their car, buy another of the same make. This is the highest reported for any make and very much above the average of 70% for all makes. • The latest all-wheel-drive Model S accelerates to 60 mph in between 2 and 3 seconds. That is about the middle of the pack for Formula F1 racing cars and about twice as fast as most high-performance cars seen on the streets. Indeed the acceleration from a standing start is larger than $$g$$. In other words, hitting the speed pedal will accelerate the driver and passengers faster than jumping off a skyscraper would.Another difference is that the jumper would temporarily feel weightless, while the driver and passengers temporarily experience a 50% increase in weight. • Nevertheless, the Model S received the highest raw scores ever recorded in NHTSA safety tests. Reportedly, when the standard test failed to crush a Model S, the technicians put the crusher into overdrive to see when the Tesla would fail. The result was a damaged crusher and undented Model S. As of yet, nobody has died or suffered a disabling injury in a Model S; this, despite the best efforts of some drivers, like running into concrete walls at high speed while being chased by the police.The driver in that case was not only not seriously injured but successfully evaded the police by running away from the accident. • The Model S, a relatively large car, is even larger on the inside because so much of the space consumed by conventional car components like a large motor (the Tesla’s motor(s) are tiny devices mounted under the seats) or the transmission (the Tesla doesn’t have one) is free. As a consequence, the Model S has two large trunks (front and back) and comfortably seats 5 adults and 2 children. • Tesla sales and service is the best the author has ever encountered from a car maker. The price for each configuration can be easily looked up on Tesla’s web site and everybody pays that price (but see below) without tedious haggling. Annual service consists of a technician visiting one’s home, dropping off a loaner, taking the Tesla for service and government inspections, and delivering it back within the day. • The Tesla’s interface is so simplified (e.g., automatically locking and unlocking itself and extending and retracting door handles as the owner approaches or leaves; automatically engaging and disengaging the hand break as needed) and helpful (e.g., communicating with the driver’s phone when entering the car and immediately offering to navigate to the location of the next appointment; an app that allows the owner to remotely do almost anything he could do in the car—except, as of yet, driving) that the author, when forced to drive another car, now find himself confused about all the levers and buttons their operation seems to require.It is true that this level of software almost inevitably sometimes breaks. Once while he was driving, the main computer of the author’s Model S crashed, disabling all higher functions. Happily, this did not result in a physical crash for all the systems required to keep the car road-worthy are both sufficiently simple and autonomous to continue operating in such conditions. So all that was required was finding a safe spot to pull over by the side of the road, hitting the equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Del, and one was back on the road thirty seconds later. • Aesthetically, the Model S is pleasing to the eyes of many. It resembles not so much the common electric penalty boxes, as a BMW 6 series. And apart from some slight wind noise at high speeds, the Model S is almost completely quiet. This is an advantage to those, like the author, who think that car engines should be felt, not heard. • The Model S’s range is about 200 to 300 miles, depending on the model. As the author rarely drives further than that without recharging the car in his garage in about an hour,And at a cost of about$5 for a full tank at a special low local electric rate for consumption between 1 and 5 AM when wholesale electric prices are very low. this is not much of a concern. Longer trips are possible thanks to Tesla’s network (already covering most densely populated areas of the country and rapidly expanding) of public super-chargers which will recharge the car for free in the time it takes to get and drink a cup of coffee. If Tesla ever deploys its demonstrated battery replacer robots, a recharge will take less time than filling the tank at a conventional gas station.

In short, the author would not trade his Tesla for a car twice the (considerable)Tesla has discontinued its low-end model which cost about $50,000. Today, a Model S starts at about$60,000 or about $70,000 with the most useful options. price.Or rather, being a good rational actor, he would, then re-sell the other car, buy another Model S, and pocket the arbitrage. The author has received no encouragement or remuneration from Tesla for this post. However, Tesla has an unpublicized program offering$2,000 for any buyer who is referred by a current owner (this bounty is split evenly between referrer and buyer in most places, but under Virginia law such a split would turn the author into an unlicensed car salesman, so the entire amount goes to the buyer). Should any gentle reader be so moved, please contact the author.