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Monday, May 26, 2014

Part 5: The New Math

As the weather turned cooler and the leaves started to turn, we faced the looming Winter with a lot on our minds.  Having vetted the Tesla idea as thoroughly as we could (and better than most could, thanks to Jake), there remained just a few barriers left between us and ownership.  Two, to be exact.

They were not small ones.

Since my first encounter with Tesla there were still two major shortcomings I was wrestling with. Surprisingly to some, the cost was never one of them directly.  In fact, the second question everyone asks when they first see a Tesla is "how much does it cost?"  The first question is usually "you mean, it really uses no gas?" or "it is really electric?"  The question of cost is no small matter.

When you look at Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) the Tesla is basically comparable to a new car of about $40,000.  I won't go into the details now, but the math is sound.  That's still a lot more than the used cars we'd been buying, but not much more than what we'd casually shopped for the prior Summer (Ford Flex Ecoboost) and certainly not extravagant-- a new Ford Fusion can stretch into that territory!  Consider that the Tesla is much safer, much larger and with performance that is more comparable to $100,000+ sedans and the cost begins to look less unreasonable than it does at first blush.  Ongoing costs of electricity are like buying gas for 40 cents a gallon (for a mind-bending read on the math, CLICK HERE)-- and completely FREE from Superchargers when on roadtrips.

Then comes the knockout punch.

Think of all the cars you've ever had and why you got rid of them.  You'll surely find in that list of reasons things like: it rusted out, the engine became expensive to maintain/or outright failed, the transmission became expensive to maintain/or outright failed, the performance degraded, the gas mileage degraded/or newer cars improved their gas mileage, etc.   How does the Tesla deal with those issues?  All aluminum = no rust, electric motor is more durable and also easily swapped (less than an hour), no transmission, performance never degrades, battery range might degrade but also easily swapped if ever a problem.  In fact, the 2 major motive parts of the car can both be swapped in relatively no time at all (in the unlikely event they failed in the first place) and you'd essentially have a brand new car again.

UPDATE:  I updated my Tesla Math after some ownership time.  Tesla liked it so much they published a version on their website-- but here's the deeper dive into the the numbers:  http://teslapittsburgh.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-tesla-math-how-heck-does-this-make.html
  Look how small the motor is!
Throw all that into the big pot of pricing, mix it around, and you'll stir up the potential to have a LOT of car for what long-term works out to be much less money.  It could even be a "permanent car" that you hand down through the family rather than ever sell and you can read more along those lines here: Permanent-Car.  Basically the comparison I make is that it's the same long-term thinking that you do when choosing to buy a house versus rent one.  It costs more at the beginning but your ongoing costs are far less over time.  Tesla has a great explainer on their own website for most of the other questions about how it works:  GoElectric.

My remaining concerns were a lot harder to address.

Winter driving is a strong component of my work life. Due to the off-hours I work, I'm frequently spending cold snowy nights driving home long after the snow plows have bedded down for the night. I'd committed mentally to only buy all wheel drive vehicles (we are on our second Subaru already and they are absolute snow tanks) and the Model S didn't offer AWD-- nor was it likely to soon.  Since the cars had just started rolling out in volume that Spring, there were few accounts of how the car did in real world inclement weather because the majority of owners had not yet owned the car through a Winter yet!  Figuring it was a no-lose move to make, we put a deposit down on a Model X (number 6005) and waited to see how the growing fleet of Model S would fare in the upcoming Winter.  The Model X would have AWD and be closer to the size/room we'd previously shopped for on the Ford Flex Ecoboost.  Alas, even at the time we knew that a Model X would be YEARS from rolling into our driveway...  but what else was there to do??
Finally, knowing Tesla was new to large-scale production and doing something completely new, I was worried about getting the car repaired.  Pittsburgh did not have any official Tesla presence of any kind.  No store.  No gallery.  No service center.  Taking on a car I wasn't sure how I'd get serviced, or how quickly (more importantly)-- I couldn't quite make peace with that.  While Jake's experiences with the Ranger service were satisfactory, he works from home!   We needed two working cars at all times... which I interpreted to mean that we needed a service center close by.  So we would wait for one to be built and probably take delivery of our Model X from it in a few years.

But then everything changed.

To be continued...  Click HERE for Part 6.   Or go back to Part 1.

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