It isn’t only the sordid world of politics that the press, the power elite’s grubby middle-management, alter reality to suit their master’s agenda. It happens in the world of cars too. The motoring press, as they like to term their reprinting of car maker’s press releases, ‘tweak’ the information given to them to ensure their car advertising isn’t jeopardised.
The car manufacturers I refer to are the ones deeply troubled by competition from an upstart electric vehicle company that has every chance of offering transportation that cuts car ownership costs drastically.
Tesla Motors is the world’s first all-electric mass-market automaker, the brainchild of the oddly named Elon Musk. Mind you it’s a great name if you’re a yak herder, an even better one if you want your ‘revolutionary’ cars and company to stay in the public mind. Musk is co-founder of Pay-Pal among a few other progressive patents.
The Tesla part is a homage to Nikola Tesla, the Serbian engineer and mechanic who made his name in electrical invention after working for Edison. (Their loathing was mutual.) Tesla was an intense, spiritual man who thought all earthly power ultimately came from God. Thankfully Musk didn’t call his company, Messiah Motors. I digress.
Way back in 1898 a young Ferdinand Porsche put electric hubs on to the rear wheels of a carriage. He had the right idea. Only recently has Porsche announced an all-electric car is on the design table. Why the delay? It’s called the oil company lobby.
Back early last century electric cars were the model of choice. Steam cars took days to fire up, and petrol cars could bust your wrist or fingers winding up the starter handle. They also frightened horses when they backfired. People didn’t go on holidays as they do now, so a car that did 25 mph maximum and offered 60 miles on a charge was the perfect way to get around the city. The modern two-seat Electric Smart Car does 80 mph maximum and offers 80 miles from a single charge, plenty for a week’s daily tootling around town.
You can see why petrol-driven manufacturers have been ultra-slow in developing electric cars. Once someone invented the electric starter (the irony) they were off and running. And the petrol giants were never going to encourage electric vehicles.
How not to welcome innovation
Hardly had Musk got his car company off the ground when it was harassed by scaremongering propaganda from all motoring quarters. ‘Attacked’ is a more accurate description.
The fast and fatuous scaremongering aimed at Preston Tucker decades earlier, a man who dared to take on the might of US car corporations, was similarly dumped on the head of Musk almost before his first car left the factory. The exception was Renault whose boss had set up an all-electric car wing. He “welcomed competition in the new market sector.”
The most vociferous jeering came from lovers of cars, petrolheads, polishing queens, the automotive illiterate, who think anything with an aircraft wing stuck on the back must be super cool. They are about as dog-in-the-manger conservative as you can get when it comes to anything that is innovative, beautifully designed, doesn’t smell like burning rubber, or pollutes the atmosphere, or rip-snorts a racket to tremble your bowels.
The belligerent Jeremy Clarkson and his corpulent laddites got into the deprecating game. To prove electric cars are useless they ran one to the outer edges of Britain to show how the car was guaranteed to stop when it’s batteries ran flat. Well, erm … yes. What did they expect? This is Britain. There were no charging points.
300 miles on a single charge.
Granted, 300 miles of juice won’t get you Edinburgh to London without a stop, but with top up posts at gas stations enroute, and an hour to charge while you wolf your pie and beans lunch and take a toilet break, is there a problem? The cost for that journey is calculated at £14 on todays electricity rates.
Tesla got it in the neck from the get-go. We were warned his cars would only travel to the shops and back; caught fire on start up – brand new Ferrari and Porsche cars have caught fire and they’re full of petrol!; were inordinately expensive and wiped out any saving on running costs; would explode power stations overnight when car owning citizenry plugged in their vehicles at the same time; electric cars will kill pedestrians because, well, they’re silent; and aesthetic crime of the century – the interiors are too minimalist.
That last moan is odd. Cars must have hundreds of buttons to be a real car? The Mercedes limousine I sat in, in the rear, a New York taxi, had 188 buttons, some on the ceiling.
Norway leads the way
Naturally, Norway, that terribly backward nation that has to handle its embarrassing 600 gazillion oil fund, populated its towns and cities with booster points in a month. They love electric cars in Norway. Score: Electric cars 1.
Toyota sent a fleet of electric SUV around California in the late Eighties as an experimental test run. Late one evening they rounded up the lot, bar a few stragglers and scrapped the lot. The political shenanigans behind that little adventure have yet to be fully explained. A car with no moving parts except steering wheel and road wheels? Bin it!
Today, Los Angeles has electric busses. Instead of spending over £600 million on digging up Edinburgh for an old-fashioned tram system, we could have had over 500 electric buses, an electric depot, and change to spend – Green politicians screwed up. Big time.
Germany has announced generous subsidies if you buy an electric car. The UK’s incentives for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles is currently set to go in the opposite direction: to end in March 2018; down to £4 ,500 for cars with a 70-mile-plus range, while cars with a shorter zero-emissions range receive £2500. A price cap was also introduced, with vehicles costing over £60,000 being ineligible for the grant. Isn’t that wonderful?
The first Tesla I saw was a slightly modified Lotus Elise on Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica. One minute the sports car was toddling along in the lane next to the bus I was in, the next it rocketed its two occupants towards the horizon in complete eerie silence.
Tesla motors previewed its third model.
You can buy a Tesla in Edinburgh, that’s how far the company has expanded in double quick time. In an orgy of praise – NOT – the British press got to work on behalf of their normal car advertisers. Tesla doesn’t use press advertising. It’s happy to get press coverage, but has limited it advertising campaign to word of mouth.
If I have a criticism of Tesla it is the styling of their cars is too conventional. Musk wants it that way. He feels his prospective buyers are not enamoured of just-arrived-from-space designs. Better to move one step at a time. Then again, his cars are unquestionably sleek and handsome.
I wish the company success.
A change of capitalist heart
Today, almost ever major manufacturer is developing a sub-brand of electric cars, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, BMW and Renault have their on the market.There are three major companies working on batteries that will hold power for a greater length than today’s electric cars and half the size of today’s lithium battery.
The future looks rosy, the future looks electric. Cue the petrolhead climate deniers and naysers with opinion otherwise….
Tesla announced it will populate the UK gas stations with charging bays. Two Tesla Supercharger bays are now live at South Mimms, with a further six bays located at Oxford Services on the M40 and another six at Hopewood Park. The units recharge 50% of the Model S’s 310-mile range in around 20 minutes.