Is Tesla playing with fire…literally, or potential glory. That is what many are asking after another Tesla model S caught fire in a garage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is not the first Model S to catch fire, there have been five fires in as many months. Two of those fires were caused by ruptured battery packs from loose debris on the road.
So what is the fuss over this electric car….this Tesla Model S all about? There is a belief, or a desire by investors and the public to see Tesla succeed. Why? Obviously all investors want their products to gain traction and see their shares climb, that is a given. The difference here is twofold. First, Tesla is working with a new technology, so the desire is heightened to see it succeed not only on an economic sense, but on a technological one as well. The second, people want to see Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO with a vision, provide a legitimate alternative to the naturally aspirated gasoline engine. It’s the classic David vs Goliath match-up, like Rocky Balboa driving silently into Detroit in a Tesla Model S and shouting to the manufacturers, “I’m coming for you!”
At the center of the swanky Model S, it is a beautiful car, is the battery pack system. The battery pack may not be the soul of the vehicle, but it is most definitely the heart. Without it, you are walking home. It is that system that is presently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There have been related fires,
There are two methods of rebooting the Tesla Model S when the battery is low. The first option is to recharge the battery at a charging station, Tesla offers “Supercharger” stations that provide half charges in twenty minutes free of charge, no pun intended. There are 75 Supercharger stations in the States and parts of Canada, and 14 in Europe. The number will continue to grow and the stations are placed strategically to allow drivers to hop from station to station on a single charge. They are also placed near amenities so drivers can have a coffee or meal while the car is being charged.
The second option is a battery swap. People that only want to stop for a short time, that do not want to wait to “supercharge” a battery, have the option of a battery pack swap. Tesla claims the swap is faster then filling a regular gas tank. In the video below a battery swap is completed in 01:33.4 minutes, and just to drive the point home, Musk swaps two vehicle battery packs in the same time as one car takes to fill its tank.
As Musk explains, “What this abut is convincing the people that are skeptics. There are some people that take a lot of convincing, and so what we really want to show here is that you can actually be more convenient than a gasoline car. Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future.”
Battery packs have associated problems, and it could be said that Tesla is playing with fire, but they may also be playing with potential glory. They are clearly working at offering a complete experience. From links to equipment installers, to smart phone apps that give charge status reports, to positioning Supercharger stations at convenient locations, to cost calculators, to comprehensive walk-through videos, to four year 80,000 km warranties on the vehicle, and eight year 160,000 km warranties on batteries all add up to a valiant effort. Perhaps the most relevant category though, as talk of fires repeats itself, is the safety category. The Model S has received a 5-Star safety rating in all categories. That is the highest safety rating attainable in the States.
Confidence in the Tesla Model S is at an all time high which was reflected by Tesla stock trading over the $200 mark on Thursday and Friday. It is obvious consumers want to see a happy ending to the Tesla story. With exports to China on the horizon and the new Model X, a svelte SUV, set to hit showroom floors this year, things look good. The one fly in the ointment is the battery pack….and it is a bloody big fly! But all fly’s can be dealt with, and if there is one thing Musk has demonstrated is his “go to” attitude. The battery pack issue has not been resolved, but Tesla wants the consumer to believe it will be, and they offer a convincing argument.
As in all David and Goliath stories, there is more than just a physical victory at play, there is an ideological one too. Green technology vs fossil fuel, new vision vs the past. The Model S epitomizes the gulf between revolutionizing an industry, or maintaining a path of gradual evolution. On one side is a man with a vision, on the other is an established industry with big oil nipping at there heels. Musk refers to the skeptics of the Tesla Model S, and there are always skeptics with new technology, but the key is to persevere and prove them wrong, in which case Tesla is not just playing with fire, they are playing with potential glory.
Editorial by Scott Wilson