Forget Selling Teslas in Wisconsin…why not Make them here?

I sent the following message to my WI state senator, assembly representative, and Governor Evers yesterday.

Governor Evers, Senator Bernier, and Representative Summerfield,

I have reached out to you before in regards to a number of subjects, and in particular, about the adoption of BEVs in our state. I still maintain that Tesla needs to be allowed to sell and service their products in Wisconsin just as they already can in virtually every other state in the union.

I have done what I can to get both your attention and Tesla’s, but at this point, I think you have an opportunity to reach out in your official capacity for a chance at bringing excellent jobs to our state:

Tesla eyes Cybertruck Gigafactory location in Central USA


I have mentioned in the past, both to you, and to Elon Musk & Tesla that I think Janesville is a natural fit for such a facility. The past presence of General Motors in that market clearly indicates that we have the talent & infrastructure to support Tesla. I obviously don’t know the specifics of this proposed installation, but their other factories employee tens of thousands of people, and good, well paying manufacturing jobs are hard to find.

In addition, I think you have the chance to engender good will with two different demographic groups with this single item: those that believe in a free market & expanding Wisconsin’s manufacturing base as well as those are feel that sustainable transportation and renewable energy are a necessity that we need to embrace. As it happens, I count myself as a member of both of those demographics, hence my e-mail to you today.

In closing, I urge you to take the initiative in this regard and contact Tesla in an effort to convince them that Wisconsin would be a great place to locate their newest facility. Tesla moves fast, so please don’t delay!

Thanks for your time & consideration,
Bill Korb

I followed my e-mail with a call to the Governor’s office and left a voice mail urging them to act quickly since Tesla rarely dawdles with decisions like this. We’ll see what comes of it.

UPDATE (2020/03/12 18:00 CDT): Well, I got a response e-mail from the Governor’s office! Finally! Happy Day! Except it was all about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. sigh…

Viruses, Oil, Renewables, and BEVs: Are they related?

The global COVID-19 (a.k.a. Corona virus) pandemic is the top news story everywhere you look, and for good reason. The globalization of the world economy means that any disruption in any market anywhere potentially effects all consumers worldwide. Another truism is that the world economy heavily depends on consumer confidence: if customers fear that some existential threat may impact them personally, they may postpone or cancel a significant purchase that contributes to an already concerning economic downturn.

As a result of COVID-19, many industries are already feeling the pain of reduced revenues. Airlines & cruise operators are getting the most press, but a general decrease in travel in the US and abroad has far-reaching consequences. Events that generally attract millions of dollars into local economies are being canceled (e.g. South by Southwest, the Geneva motor show, etc.). The events themselves stand to lose millions of dollars, but think of all the related expenditures that will now not happen: hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gift shops, you name it!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Russia & Saudi Arabia, two of the largest petroleum exporters in the world, have decided that now is a good time to wage a price/production war. It has been widely reported that production expenses favor the Saudis, in that they can turn a profit at any price above $10/barrel. By comparison, Russia needs at least a $20/barrel price, and the US, the required price is closer to $30/barrel (refer to this good introduction to the price and politics of petroleum). However, due to related expenses, a per barrel price above $50 is generally accepted as the preference of the large oil exporters.

Saudi Arabia has all the leverage in this current debate, since they can make money at a much lower price than other producers. The common misconception I’ve heard around office water coolers is “Hey, this is great news! It means the price at the pump will go down!” On the surface, that is true, but if you dig deeper, you will find that much of the US economy relies on a higher price for crude oil.

It is probably obvious that lower prices hurt the petroleum industry itself. The production of petroleum products is very capital intensive, and requires a constant inflow of money to keep the rigs pumping. When prices drop too low, it is no longer cost effective to continue to pump oil from wells with high production costs, so expenditures & employment is reduced. This will have an impact on regional economies that depend on the industry for revenue.

What is less obvious is that other important parts of the US economy depend on a reasonable per-barrel price for crude oil.

Most notably, the banking and investment sector has a lot at stake in this discussion. Petroleum producers take on large amounts of debt to finance the extraction and processing of oil. If the price drops below a level where they can service that debt and turn a profit, it can lead to bankruptcies, a permanent reduction in labor requirements, and the loss of large sums of capital. This in turn can result in a constriction of the amount of capital available from these financial institutions for investment in unrelated industries. A lack of investment capital, in turn, can have a chilling effect on the growth of the US economy.

Over the decades that the US economy has been dependent on oil, a wide variety of good and bad outcomes have arisen.

It is fair to say that over the course of the 20th century, without oil, the US couldn’t have become the world superpower that we are. All aspects of our economic growth can be directly tied to the availability and low cost of oil to literally fuel the increase of all aspects of the US GDP.

It is equally fair to say that many lives have been lost, American or otherwise, in an attempt to keep the gas flowing. Various wars have been fought to keep the spigots open. In some cases (e.g. two US/Iraq wars), the US military has been directly involved, whereas in other cases, wars between oil producing countries have arisen and impacted the world petroleum markets (e.g. the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s) even though the US had no direct involvement in those wars.

Because we have become so heavily dependent on oil, there is a cost paid by every American to keep the production of oil as inexpensive as possible. It is obvious that we pay at the pump (the cost of fuel as well as various per-gallon taxes). A far more significant, and unfamiliar cost, however, is collected from the American taxpayer and sanctioned by our elected representatives.

Whenever a renewable energy program is discussed that would involve public (i.e. tax) money, the press coverage tends to be fairly negative. By contrast, the existing large subsidies paid to fossil fuel producers is rarely deemed newsworthy.

All energy subsidies come at a price, whether for fossil fuels or renewable sources. If we truly wanted market forces to determine prices, we would eliminate all subsidies for all sources of energy and force them to succeed or fail based on their own particular merits.

In fact, even with the aforementioned large subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, the cost of renewable energy production has decreased significantly in the 21st century. These costs have already achieved price parity with fossil fuel energy production, and that doesn’t even include such intangible societal costs as air and water quality. As a result, more and more utilities are installing large solar, wind, and energy storage facilities that result in an overall lower cost of production.

As time marches on, more and more of global energy production will turn to renewables, and fossil fuel power generation will decline. This will be a net positive for the world economy since fossil fuels, while abundant, are not infinite. There is much debate as to the timing of “Peak Oil”, but it is indisputable that at some point, the world economy’s energy requirements will outstrip what fossil fuels can provide.

On the contrary, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and even geothermal energy production will last as long as our Sun keeps burning. The societal and environmental costs of renewable energy production are dramatically lower than those incurred by fossil fuels, so at some point, it becomes obvious that our dependence on them necessarily needs to decrease if humankind wants to continue to progress.

The rapid improvement in the technology of battery storage and electric vehicles further enforces this change. The cost of battery storage dropped dramatically in the last several years, and the vast amount of capital being poured into R & D going forward implies that we’re nowhere near done with increasing the viability of the technology.

Moreover, the global auto industry continues its shift towards Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). As the cost of batteries continues to decline, it will become more and more obvious that the transportation technology of the 21st century will supplant the last remnants of 1900s tech. Just like energy production, the free market will spur the adoption of BEVs as businesses continue to realize the tremendous savings the lower cost of operation implies. As the number of commercial vehicles increases, the resulting economies of scale will make BEVs more attractive to the average consumer.

The upheaval in the financial markets this week has caused consternation for anyone paying attention. It is fair to say, however, that the two most significant factors contributing to that havoc will not last forever. Whether it is due to the eventual containment of COVID-19 or the continuing decrease of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, our economy will recover and stability will return. All of the factors detailed in this post will play a part in this change.

While it is reasonable to conclude that I am an optimist, I think it’s also reasonable to conclude that the more the world changes, one thing stays constant: human beings like to save money. The incessant progress in renewable energy and BEV technology dictates that failing a fundamental change in human nature, the end result is undeniable.

New Year, New Excitement

Well, 2020 is under way, and if the first two and a half weeks are any indication, it should be an exciting year!

SpaceX started the year in earnest on January 6 with the launch of the next batch of 60 Starlink satellites. My friend Ben in Chippewa Falls texted me excitedly on Thursday evening (1/16) that he had seen a “string of pearls” emerge over the horizon in the southwestern sky, about one every ten seconds. Yep, those are what he was seeing. When first launched, they are close together and in a very low orbit – only 350km. Over time, their on-board krypton-fueled ion engines slowly raise them to their final orbit, at about 550km. Once there, they will re-orient their antenna & solar panels to optimize performance.

Much has been written about the possible deleterious effect of thousands of Starlink satellites cluttering the sky, and while those concerns may be overblown, SpaceX is taking them very seriously. In particular, their alignment once in their permanent orbit will be such that their peak reflectivity of sunlight will be shortly before dawn and shortly after sunset (which is indeed when Ben had his sighting – about two hours after sunset). In addition, in the 1/6/2020 batch of 60, one has been treated with a low-reflectivity coating to allow SpaceX to evaluate whether that helps reduce the issue.

SpaceX’s next launch was actually supposed to be this morning, but due to poor weather conditions in the recovery area, had to be postponed. This is the much-anticipated In-Flight Abort test (IFA), in which they will simulate an emergency that requires separation of the Crew Dragon capsule from its Falcon 9 booster during the most dangerous period of a launch, when the rocket is experiencing maximum aerodynamic pressure (a.k.a. “Max Q”). At that moment, they will detach the capsule and fire the eight Super Draco rocket engines built in to the capsule to pull away from the booster.

At that point, the full force of the air stream will strike the now flat top of the booster (with no pointed capsule to gracefully direct the air flow down the sides of the rocket) and in all likelihood, result in a dramatic and catastrophic destruction of the booster. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see someone intentionally blow up their own rocket!

This test is now scheduled for tomorrow, January 19, at about 8AM US/Eastern. It’s a four hour launch window, so plan accordingly if you want to see the fireworks.

Should IFA go as planned, astronauts may launch from American soil to the ISS in as little as two months for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired. This would be huge!

SpaceX’s busy month will continue no less than two days after the IFA. On Tuesday, yet another batch of 60 Starlink satellites are scheduled to launch. As is typically the case at this point, the booster will attempt to land about 350 miles/560km down range on their autonomous drone ship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY). If you’ve never seen them land a booster, it has perhaps become rather routine at this point, but is still amazing, nonetheless.

They are hoping to launch a third batch of Starlink sats before the end of January, but with things slipping as they have, that might well be pushed into early February. In any case, 2020 promises to be a very busy year for SpaceX as they hope to put up additional batches of 60 satellites about twice per month. By the end of the year, they may begin to offer service to customers in the northern US and Canada. I plan to look in to adding it as a second service for QISC, and if it works well, may discontinue our current cable service to take advantage of the higher bandwidth and eventual global coverage that Starlink promises.

One of Elon Musk’s other companies, Tesla, also expects big things in 2020.

The Model Y should begin customer deliveries by mid-year. The Model Y is a crossover SUV built on the same platform as our 2018 Model 3. It’s basically a slightly bigger Model 3 with a hatchback instead of a trunk. Tesla anticipates that it will become their biggest seller in short order since SUVs and crossovers (a.k.a. CUVs) have become much more popular than sedans in recent years, and due to its Model 3 lineage, will be far less expensive then the Model X, which is the SUV introduced in 2014 based on the Model S platform.

You can read all about what the Model Y has to offer on Tesla’s website.

Elon’s third business, The Boring Company, is in the midst of a project in Las Vegas that will link parts of the city’s convention center via underground tunnels. The first phase of the project will only be about a mile long, but depending on how well it turns out, it may eventually be extended to the Las Vegas airport, or even beyond.

Seriously, Elon must never sleep.

Oh, and one last bit of 2019 business in case you haven’t heard. Now that the kids are out of the house, Christmas isn’t quite as big a deal as it once was in the Korb household. We still exchange gifts, but they are often of a much more practical nature, and often are simply large purchases that benefit both Robin and me.

I planned my big surprise present for Robin very carefully this year. She’s the family accountant, after all, so any purchases on our credit card would show up on the statement which she has access to. Given what I had planned, if she saw the vendor and amount of the purchase I had in mind, it would completely spoil the surprise, so I put it off as long as I dared, and didn’t pull the trigger until the evening of December 22nd.

Christmas morning arrived, and she was none the wiser, having been too busy with last-minute preparations of her own to bother with any bookkeeping duties. The surprise was complete. I saved the best present for last, and when she opened it, tears welled up in her eyes. In 35 years of marriage, it’s only the second time a gift I’ve given her has had that effect.

Yep! Robin’s getting her very own Tesla Cybertruck!!! OK, I didn’t buy a truck, per se – I just placed a “pre-order”. It required a $100 fully-refundable deposit, so it was very low risk. I told her that if she didn’t want it, I’d request a refund and she could spend the $100 on any other gift she’d prefer. She said, “Heck no! I want the truck!” 🙂

The moment it rolled out onto the stage, she was intrigued. When she saw the image that included the camping option package, she was absolutely hooked.

Retirement is only a fews years off now, and the cold winter months in Northwestern Wisconsin may well be replaced with driving vacations to warmer climes. With Cybertruck and the camping load-out, the world will be our oyster. It can charge at any RV park that has electrical hookups (i.e., pretty much all of them) and with the built in pop-up tent, inductive cook surface, and various storage areas, it will truly be our home away from home.

We took a family trip from Wisconsin to California and back in 1995 with all five of us plus two dogs (Spaz & Licorice) in our 1986 F-150. Imagine if Cybertruck had been an option back then!

OK, this isn’t part of the excitement for 2020 – not directly, anyway – since customer deliveries won’t start until late 2021 at the earliest. However, I am obsessed with this truck, and think about it almost every day. Yes, Robin, it’s yours, but I plan to enjoy it, too! 😉

Since 250,000 or more orders were placed in front of us, we probably have no chance of seeing ours until 2022 at the earliest, but I’m counting the days!

Living Outside the Box

Love it or hate it, the Tesla Cybertruck can’t help but make an impression. (Image courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard that Tesla and Elon Musk introduced their take on the future of the pickup, the Cybertruck (or Cybrtrk). Cybertruck would be equally at home on the set of a post-apocalyptic scifi film, or on the surface of Mars. But the real question that has yet to be answered is, will it be at home on the roads (and trails) of America – or anywhere on Planet Earth, for that matter?

The debate that has been raging since this newest creation from the Tesla design studio in Hawthorne, CA has centered around the unconventional looks of the truck. The angular, aggressive stance of the vehicle is unlike anything you’ve ever seen come out of Detroit, or anywhere else, for that matter. It looks like what you might have ended up with if a Pontiac Aztek and a DeLorean got together and had a baby. And let’s face it, lots of babies are ugly, but as they grow and mature, many of them become beautiful in the eyes of their families. I think Cybertruck is destined for that same fate.

But if all you’ve taken away from this ground-breaking vehicle from the Tesla Team is its unconventional looks, you’ve completely missed the point: a battery electric vehicle (BEV) can not only be as good as one propelled by an internal combustion engine (ICE), it can be better, and moreover, cheaper.

Beauty is only skin deep, after all, and once you begin to dig deeper what separates Cybertruck’s DNA from all that have come before begins to emerge.

Anytime you talk BEVs with the uninitiated, the first questions are always related to the fuel source: Aren’t you worried about a dead battery? Where can you charge it? How far can you go on a charge?

Cybertruck is no different from any other Tesla in that regard at this point, though Elon mentioned during the unveil event that this may change at some point (for the better, I assume). If you’re charging at home, any electrical outlet will work, though for best results, a 240V 50A NEMA 14-50 outlet – the same that you would use to power an electric range – would be preferable. By charging at home, you can start every day with a “full tank”, and the only time requirement for fueling up is ten seconds to plug and unplug.

More to the point, however, for those that have worried about range anxiety with BEVs, Cybertruck really shines. The top-end configuration boasts of 500+ miles of range on a single charge. As a point of comparison, my last extended cab Ford F150 (a 1986, so admittedly not the latest vintage) covered about 520 miles with the dual-tank option. So Cybertruck checks that box.

And while charging from a standard 110V 15A outlet would literally take days to recharge an empty battery, the ubiquity of such outlets means that you could add a few miles of range anywhere that an electrical outlet is found (that is, just about everywhere) in a pinch. I suppose you could even throw a gasoline fired generator in the truck bed (a.k.a. Vault) if you were really worried about it.

Tesla’s current moat separating them from other BEVs is their Supercharger network. The chargers are found along most major highways, and the network is growing every day. We have used Superchargers on several long-distance road trips in our 2018 Tesla Model 3 sedan, and have never had a problem finding one when we needed it.

The other specs are equally impressive (for the 500+ mile variant):

  • 0-60 mph (0-100 kph) in under 2.9 seconds
  • 14,000lbs towing capacity
  • 3,500lbs cargo capacity
  • 100 cubic feet (2.83 cubic meters) of storage
  • Built-in 110V & 220V outlets in the bed
  • Built-in air compressor
  • Built-in cargo ramp (in the tailgate)
  • Seats six adults comfortably
  • Tesla AutoPilot standard, full self-driving (FSD) optional
  • Active air suspension allowing up to 16″ (0.4m) of ground clearance
  • Three-motor, all wheel drive
  • Approximately 800hp (597 kiloWatts) & 1,000 pound-feet (1,356 Nm) of torque
  • A stainless steel body obviates the need for rust-proofing for those of us that live where winter snow means lots of salt on the road

In its own right, Cybertruck will be a really, really good truck.

Ah, but Teslas are expensive, right? And while you may save money in fuel costs, the purchase price means it will not pay for itself for 5+ years as compared to an ICE truck, right?

Wrong on both counts.

The low end model starts at a jaw-dropping $39,900 (250+ miles range/400km), the mid-range (300+ miles/480km) at $49,900, and the long-range (500+ miles/800km) at $69,900.

Those prices are in line with similarly equipped ICE trucks, and the fuel savings start on Day One. What is even more amazing is that those prices are very close to the same pricing for Tesla’s Model 3 sedan and upcoming Model Y crossover sport utility vehicle. That’s amazing!

Yes, with Cybertruck, Tesla is really thinking outside the box. But after getting the full story, I think it’s fair to say they are also living outside the box. Wow.

The Perils of “Dog Mode”

If you’ve ever ridden in a Tesla Model 3, one thing that you’ll have certainly taken note of is the unconventional dashboard layout. Gone are the typical instrument cluster, knobs, switches, and dials that traditional automobiles use to allow the car’s occupants to control its various functions. In the place of those old-school components Tesla has opted for a dramatic, 15″ touch screen.

model3Dashboard

This display does everything from display the car’s speed & navigation system to allow for control over the radio, climate system, heated seats, and all other essential systems in a 21st century automobile.

One of the other great features of Tesla’s cars is that much of the car is controlled via software, rather than hard-wired discrete components. As such, Tesla can release software updates to address issues or even introduce new, fantastic features via the car’s built-in WiFi connectivity.

Enter Dog Mode.

Tesla introduced this feature at the behest of one of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers. Rumor has it that the dogs pictured in the video linked to in that above Teslarati article are actually Elon’s own, so he’s a dog lover, too (another reason to like the guy!). We did not have dog mode when we took delivery in December, 2018, but within two months, it arrived via WiFi, and I began to make use of it immediately.

Now that our two-legged children have grown up and moved out, our four-legged companions enjoy a rather pampered lifestyle, including frequent trips in our cars. Tasha Yar and Sota Pop have their own little domain in the folded-down back seat of my Model 3, complete with water dish, dog beds, etc. Sota Pop, especially, is always up for going “bye-bye” (simply say those words, and she runs to the back door, eager to be underway).

tosh+sotaPop

(Tasha Yar, top, and Sota Pop)

This sounds great, right? What could possibly be perilous, you ask. When things change, it can take a while for people to catch up, and yesterday afternoon was a case in point for the perils of advancement.

An old college buddy was passing through Minneapolis on the way home to Texas, and Robin & I decided to make the two-hour drive over to the IHOP in Bloomington, across from the Mall of America. Of course, the pups didn’t want to be left behind, so we all made the trek together.

Since IHOP frowns on canine customers, we left them in the car and I engaged Dog Mode with the interior temperature set to 68°F (20°C), put some water in their water dish, and headed inside.

For the next 45 minutes, all was well: we ate our meal, caught up on our respective lives, and just enjoyed our time together. My friend’s brother suddenly stood up and looked out towards the parking lot and said “Someone’s looking at your car…it’s the police!”

I jumped up and ran out to my car. As I approached, the officer asked if this was my car. I assured him that it was. He stated that they had received two phone calls reporting a pair of dogs locked into a hot car…my Model 3!

He was pointing a Fluke temperature sensor at my car, and informed me that the internal temperature of my car was 87°F. I responded telling him that the meter must be in need of calibration, because it was clearly giving him an invalid reading. Incidentally, it was 87°F outside at that point in the day, so I think he was measuring ambient air temperature, not the inside of my car.

At this point, I explained how Dog Mode worked. I pointed to the screen inside the car, which made a bold, unequivocal statement as to the state of affairs inside Tosh & Sota’s comfy little cocoon of Tesla technology:

dogMode

(to be clear, I took this photo this morning, not during the incident, hence the temperature difference)

I offered to open the car so he could get an accurate temperature reading, and he stated that my dogs could be vicious, and that he didn’t want me to let them out. Vicious, right, like, they might lick him to death!

He looked at the screen, and asked why I had mounted an iPad on my dashboard. I then had to explain that Tesla has eschewed traditional controls in favor of this dramatic 15″ touchscreen. He countered with “I don’t know how often you get to Minnesota, but we have recently passed a hands-free law so you can’t use your computer while driving.” I then had to emphasize that all control of my car’s systems is performed through the touchscreen, and that is not a general purpose computer, per se. “Well, then I guess it’s OK as long as you only look at it for a second or two.”

I next offered my business card and suggested that someone from the department give me a call, and I would explain how Dog Mode works, and how Bloomington’s finest could be saved the trouble of calls like this one in the future (that is, the dispatcher should ask the caller the make of the car, and if Tesla, ask them to look inside and see if the screen displays the dog mode information). He said that wasn’t necessary (I beg to differ).

He took my license and returned to his car to run my plates and license. While he was doing so, I opened the car, leashed the dogs, and put them on a sit-stay to await his return. When he came back over, I opened the car door and urged him to touch the interior of the car and feel just how cool and comfortable it was. He grudgingly agreed that it was fine, and with that, asked me to think more carefully about leaving my dogs in the car, and promptly left.

We’ve all heard stories of dogs left to suffer and die in hot cars, and I’m as horrified by such stories as the next guy. However, Tesla has taken measures to make this kind of thing the exception, rather than the rule. But like so many things Tesla, the world has some catching up to do in order to understand that Dog Mode is Man’s Best Friend’s best friend.

A Request for More Information

I heard from Senator Bernier again today, and she asked me some questions about Tesla and their batteries. I did the best I could to answer those questions.

Her questions:

Did you do research on the batteries, how they are made, where and the limit on that resource? Also, how and where they are disposed and/or recycled?

My answers:

Kathy,

Yes, I did do research about Tesla’s batteries. The questions you ask do not lend themselves to short answers, but I’ll try to address them to the best of my abilities. If you guys decide to have a hearing in Madison, I suspect I could contact Tesla and get someone from them to come and give you better answers than I can.

With that said…

Tesla has a partnership with Panasonic to make their batteries. They built a brand new facility in Storey County, NV that they call “Gigafactory 1” (because they will be manufacturing many gWh of battery capacity there). All batteries for Tesla’s cars are currently being made there.

The batteries are Li-ion chemistry (the same as in cell phones, laptops, etc.) and do include limited resources like cobalt. However, Tesla has been working hard to reduce the requirements for those types of limited (and hence, very expensive) resources. The goal is to drive costs down as much as possible since the battery pack itself is the single most expensive component of the car.

As part of that, Tesla has just completed the acquisition of a company called Maxwell Technologies. Tesla plans a “battery and drivetrain investors day” event some time in 3Q or 4Q to explain how they are integrating Maxwell’s tech into their current products. They had a similar event regarding their autonomous (self-driving) features in April that they live streamed on YouTube, and it was fascinating! Some of the information was over my head, but it impressed me enough to buy the full self-driving feature set for my car. It’s nearly four hours long, but I’m such a techno-geek I’ve actually watched it twice. It’s still there if you want to watch it.

I’ve seen a lot of speculation up to now as to what the Maxwell acquisition means, including estimates that they will improve the energy density of their batteries anywhere from 30-100%, thus allowing them to either offer much longer range models, or instead, use fewer batteries to provide the same mileage on a charge as today (my Model 3 has an estimated 260 mile range; the top end Model 3 is 325 miles; their flagship full size sedan, the Model S, is expected to have a 400 mile range before the end of 2019, but no idea whether that includes Maxwell tech or not).

As to battery disposal, they recycle them. In addition to cars, Tesla also makes energy storage products for both utilities and consumers. It has been said that batteries from their cars can be repurposed (not recycled, actually) for those products as the demands on those batteries is not as great as for those in the cars. I’m not sure if they’re doing that now, or they’re just recycling them.

With that said, one of the most common misconceptions of BEVs is that their batteries are like the ones we use in our gas cars, and the every four or five years they will need to be replaced. That is simply not the case.

As it happens, the number of charge/discharge cycles a Tesla battery pack can handle in its useful life can be increased by simply keeping the batteries charged in a range between 20-80% capacity. This lowers the stress on the battery, and current estimates are that the batteries in my car could last as long as 20 years and 300,000-500,000 miles with only a minor decrease in range at maximum charge. For most people, myself included, a 100% charge (and the 260 miles that comes with it) is rarely needed. Most day-to-day driving is only short trips, and as such, a 100% charge is not required.

I plug in every night when I get home and my car charges at 2AM to coincide with the lightest load on the Xcel power grid at that time of day. Note that since you lived on our road, I have installed a 6kW PV array on the roof of our garage, and since my system is grid-tied, I am effectively charging my car using solar power.

korbSolar

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. I think I have answered your questions, for the most part. If you have any others, by all means, let me know.

And if you do, in fact, have any senate hearings to discuss another shot at a bill to open Wisconsin to sales from Tesla and other manufacturers, by all means, let me know, and I’ll do my best to get an engineer from Tesla to come and give you even better answers than I can provide.

Thanks!

Bill

Buying a Tesla in Wisconsin

If you follow Wisconsin state politics (and why would you?), you will have heard that the 2019 budget was approved last week. Normally this would have nothing to do with Tesla.

However, in order to get enough votes to get the budget passed out of the state legislature and sent to Governor Tony Evers for approval, language was added that would have removed Wisconsin from the dwindling number of states that expressly forbid a direct sales model like the one Tesla uses. This was aimed at GOP Senator Chris Kapenga, who has a side business (he refers to it as a hobby) that buys and sells used Telsa cars and parts.

The press coverage of this change was fairly negative, but it was just enough to get the budget passed and sent on to the governor. Tesla fans in WI were encouraged, and many of us contacted the governor’s office to urge him to pass this part of the budget. Governor Evers had other ideas, however, electing to use his line-item veto power to strike this provision from the final bill that he signed.

Electrek published a fairly nice summary of this turn of events.

I don’t know why the governor chose to do this. The Electrek article posits that it may be due to a campaign contribution from the Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealer Association, who were against the legislation. Perhaps so. However, based on his stand on other issues, I think that all he needs is a better understanding of what the implications of a change like this means.

After all, one of his first acts as governor was to suggest that Wisconsin seriously reevaluate its stand on renewable energy production. Clearly, he gets that sustainable energy production is a good thing. All we need to do is get him to understand how EVs in general, and Tesla EVs in particular, are part of the bigger picture, and that outdated legislation that prevents them from selling their product in our state is actually doing Wisconsinites a disservice.

In an attempt to help bring him around to this way of thinking, I sent an e-mail to his office, as well as to our state senator & assembly representative. I then followed up with a phone call. Here’s the e-mail that I sent:

From: William Korb
Subject: It’s time to look ahead

Governor Evers, Senator Bernier, and Representative Summerfield,

I would like to offer thanks and congratulations on passing the 2019 Wisconsin state budget. There are many issues facing our state, and I understand that you all are doing what you think is in the best interest of all Wisconsin residents, and I appreciate that.

However, I believe we missed an opportunity here.

I understand that the provision allowing the sale of Tesla automobiles in Wisconsin was added, in part, to secure the support of Senator Kapenga for the overall budget bill. Much has been reported in the press about the purity (or lack thereof) of his motives due to his business interests being served by this provision.

That may well be, but there is a better reason why this issue should be reconsidered: battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the future, and of those currently on the market, Tesla’s are far and away the best of them.

My wife and I actually purchased a 2018 Tesla Model 3 in December. While we were able to do so, it was a major hassle since Tesla is prohibited from working with Wisconsin customers to ease the process of making a purchase, to the point that they were prevented from even helping us secure financing.

While we were able to purchase the car, it took many hours of my time to contact financial institutions, research the licensing of a car purchased out of state, not to mention 4 hours of driving to and from Eden Prairie, MN to take delivery of the car.

I do not regret for one minute the time I put into this purchase, because frankly, this is the best car I’ve ever driven in the 40 years that I’ve had a driver’s license. Even so, I can’t imagine that other consumers are going to be as dedicated to such a prospect as I was.

Can we please move Wisconsin into the 21st century and consider a dedicated bill to allow for direct sales by automobile manufacturers in Wisconsin?

If any of you have yet to experience a Tesla first-hand, I’d love to drop by and show you mine.

Senator Bernier or Representative Summerfield, I’d be happy to stop by your district office at your convenience to give you a ride (or a even a test drive, if you are interested).

Governor Evers, I don’t get to Madison as often as I once did, but this offer extends to you, too. We could also certainly arrange for a meeting the next time you find yourself in the northwestern part of the state.

Again, I would like to thank you for your tireless efforts to address the needs of your constituents. I believe that opening Wisconsin to businesses such as Tesla is a need that has thus far been unmet, but we could very easily do that and many other great things with a little teamwork.

Sincerely,
William Korb

 

I have not yet heard back from the Governor’s office, but I did receive the following encouraging reply from Senator Bernier’s office:

Dear Mr. Korb,

Thank you for taking the time to contact Sen. Bernier. As your state senator, I know she appreciate the opportunity to learn your views. Thank you also for your offer to experience a Tesla firsthand.

It sounds like you definitely put a lot of effort into obtaining your Tesla and it does seem like most owners are very pleased with their decisions as well. As for a stand-alone bill authorizing direct sales of electric vehicles, one was introduced during the previous legislative session. Senate Bill 605 was authored by Sen. Kapenga and others. More information can be found here: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/sb605 I expect that a similar piece of legislation may be offered again during the current session.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact Sen. Bernier and sharing your thoughts. If you have questions or comments on this or any other state-related issues in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Nathan Duerkop
Chief of Staff
Senator Kathy Bernier
23rd Senate District

 

Since Senators Bernier & Kapenga are both GOP members, it comes as no surprise that they may agree on this. Even so, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue! Moving our state and our country to a sustainable transportation model is crucial as it relates to the current climate crisis we find ourselves in.

I hope that once Governor Evers has all the facts he will understand that this is a prudent move that will benefit all Wisconsinites. I am certain that once more Tesla automobiles appear in our state, it will foster a better understanding of EVs amongst the residents of the state, and will promote the sales of EVs from all manufacturers, not just Tesla.

Sometimes making the right choices is easy. I think this is one of those times.

Please, Governor Evers, let’s move Wisconsin forward into a cleaner, sustainable energy & transportation future.

 

UPDATE, July 8, 2019

No reply from the governor’s office yet, but representative Summerfield’s office replied today.

 

Hi William,

Thank you for reaching out to Representative Summerfield with your concerns over Wisconsin’s ban on direct sales from automobile manufacturers. He truly appreciates hearing from his constituents and asked that I reach back out on his behalf.

Representative Summerfield was saddened to see Governor Evers veto the Tesla measure out of the budget. He has heard similar stories from other constituents about the positive experiences they have had with their vehicles and thought this provision would allow more Wisconsinites the opportunity to see those same benefits. The Representative has been talking with colleagues about potential options moving forward and will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as this process continues.

Thank you again for contacting Representative Summerfield. Please don’t hesitate to reach out in the future with any other thoughts, questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Mitchell Goettl
Legislative Assistant
State Representative Rob Summerfield
67th Assembly District

July 11 follow-up