Tesla Model S

A Federal Subsidy: The Tesla Test

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 15, 2013    •    791 Views

The trip in the  $101,000 Tesla Model S along part of the East Coast was supposed to be uneventful. With 2 ultra fast charging stations in Newark, Delaware and Wilton Connecticut, the power was available. For the 1/2 ton lithium battery, a 30 minute “fast charge” generated 150 miles. According to Tesla, the battery’s range was 300 miles and the EPA rating said 265.

NY Times journalist John Broder’s Tesla drive did not quite work out like Tesla expected. Perhaps because of the cold weather or maybe, as Tesla claimed, he neither charged nor drove the car as instructed, the mileage estimator plunged during a final leg of the trip on the first day and he barely made it to the charging station. Even worse, telling him, “Car is shutting down,” the Model S stopped during the second day and they wound up on a flatbed. Both times, Broder says he experienced “range anxiety.”

Fortified with a $465 million government loan, Tesla will be mass producing electric cars and projects a 90 outlet chain of charging stations by the end of this year.

The Tesla story reminded me of an electric car story in the NY Times about Denmark. With gas at $8.50 a gallon, consumers have begun to complement their stable of gasoline powered cars with electric models. Thinking of standardizing charging stations, accepting range challenges, installing household power docks, in Denmark, logistics are somewhat daunting but electric car sales are slowly rising. By contrast in the US, consumers bought 71,000 plug-in hybrids or all electric vehicles–way below estimates. (I’ve read different stats–not sure which are accurate but all are low.)

The Tesla tale starts on the supply side with a government subsidy. In Denmark, its beginning is demand. The endings sound like they will be opposite also. Both, though, are about incentive.

Charging Station in Denmark.

Charging Station in Denmark.

Sources and Resources: John M. Broder’s story of his Testa test ride is a great read. Then, the Washington Post follow-up story and Testla’s response combine to form an interesting part of the debate about government support for electric vehicles. The counterpoint example, for Denmark, is here.

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