Originally published on CleanTechnica.
The Simplification of Vehicle Ownership
Vehicle ownership is a piece of life that many people have come to accept as a necessary evil. Not many people enjoy getting a tune-up, having the oil changed, or filling the car up with gas … that’s just the way we’ve always done it. Until now. EVs are bringing with them a rEVolution unlike anything we’ve seen in personal transportation since the Model T was first introduced.
Conventional auto manufacturers are building EVs, but it’s obvious that it’s only because they have to, not because they see EVs as the future … with one big exception — Tesla. Tesla took the best that modern conventional cars have to offer, blended it up with all of the benefits of EVs, then kicked things up a notch with a shot of simplification. The result is an EV that raised the bar for the entire industry.
I unpacked the impressive array of innovations that Tesla brought to the EV ownership experience in an earlier article from before I bought my Model S. Having actually owned and lived with a Tesla for a few months now, including the infrequent utilization of several other EVs and gasmobiles, I’ve come to appreciate some of the more subtle but impactful aspects of the car.
Having had keyless entry and startup in both my 2010 Toyota Prius and 2014 Nissan Leaf, the fact that my wife’s 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric requires the buttons to be pushed to unlock the car and to start it felt like a bit of a bad joke. Tesla takes even the Prius and Leaf experience up to the next level. For starters, there’s no start button (heh). Getting into the Tesla, a quick tap of the brakes wakes the car up and it’s ready to go. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Conversely, putting the car in park and closing the doors turns the vehicle off. It’s brilliant, but Tesla doesn’t stop there….
The door handles also magically detect your presence and come out to say hi when you walk up. Granted, most cars don’t have handles that retract, so it’s not as relevant, but the ability to retract and extend improves the aerodynamics of the car, which acts to extend the already massive range.
Tesla iced the keyless cake with one of my favorite features — the car locks itself when the driver walks away. So, basically, the end-to-end experience is essentially just walking up to the car, getting in, and driving. When you’re done, you just get out and leave. No unnecessary turning the car off and on … no silly locking and unlocking of the car. Simplification of a non-value-add process is a beautiful thing and is truly one of my favorite aspects of world-class design.
The reason these things stand out so much is that I recently had the “opportunity” to drive a gasmobile again (aka downgrade). I walked up to the car and it was locked (the nerve!), so I unlocked it. When I left the car, I literally left it running, with the keys in it, unlocked (not joking). [Editor’s Note: I’ve read notes from several Tesla owners that they have done the same thing when renting a gasmobile.] It serves as a great reminder of just how much I have adapted to the Tesla experience and just how far ahead they are in just about every area.
Current Charging Stations in Navigation
While there may be opportunities in the Tesla navigation system, the way the EV charging stations are built into the navigation and are updated in realtime is amazing. For instance, if you’re driving cross country, you can just plug in the final destination (i.e., navigate to X) and the car will take you to the next Supercharger along the route.
In the photo above, you can see that the stations that are within the current range of the vehicle are in full color whereas those that are out of range are greyed out red. On top of that, there are hundreds of Tesla-specific destination chargers that show up in a darker grey that can be utilized. Tesla thought through the full use case of the car and brought simplification to what is typically a death-defying “pull out the smartphone while driving” balancing act that’s just not safe.
The way the charging network is integrated into the navigation doesn’t exist in other EVs. You may say, “hey, other EVs have chargers built into the navigation,” and while that is true, they are not built into the fabric of the navigation itself.
This is both a function of Tesla completing the end-to-end experience from the car to the nav to the chargers as well as the data connection that allows for continuous updates as the Supercharging and Destination Charging networks continue to expand. Older navigation systems came with a fixed set of maps that couldn’t update and most EVs that come with integrated chargers are the same, with a fixed list that quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant.
EVs pack lots of power, with the most important metric being torque — which dictates how fast cars accelerate. With EVs, all of the torque they pack is available from the get-go. We often talk about the torquey feel of EVs, the snappy response of the throttle, and the like, and this is where the rubber hits the road … which presents a challenge when it comes to traction.
The average internal combustion vehicle doesn’t have this problem because torque peaks at higher RPMs, meaning it takes a few seconds for them to spool up before full torque is available. In the real world, this means that it’s harder to spin the tires in an internal combustion vehicle. While this instant torque may turn a normal drive into a more exhilarating drive, it also makes the drive less safe as more traction = more control over the vehicle.
Even in smaller EVs like the Chevy Spark, pounding the accelerator to the metal can result in a loss of traction, especially around corners. In my case, driving my wife’s Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive often results in me screeching the tires because of a huge differentiator in my Model S — traction control. Tesla has implemented traction control such that it is nearly impossible to get the tires to screech (even around corners).
With traction control on, I’ve successfully screeched the tires a few times, but only around corners and that’s from really pushing it. The proof of how important and successful the traction control is becomes immediately evident when it’s manually turned off. With no controls in place, I can go from a complete stop to burning rubber around a corner. I can bust out donuts for days (I did this in the name of science … or journalism … or something) until the tires fall off (haven’t tried it, but it seems like the natural conclusion of such an activity).
Not having to think about how fast you step on the pedal is one less thing to worry about and, for me, I can use all the simplification I can get my hands on in life. The car intelligently maximizes the driving experience while also providing the option to override the default behavior if you just wanna to get crazy.
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