Tesla's demon-haunted cars in Irma's path get a temporary battery-life boost


So much this. Power doesn’t come for free. It’s not like in the old days where you just slap on a better air intake and bigger exhaust and easily unlock some extra HP. Try that on a modern car and you’ll pretty quickly get a CEL and go into “limp mode” because the many sensors working in concert with the ECU start throwing unexpected values. Tuning the ECU with or without any other modifications can definitely unlock better performance, but it’s also at a cost. From worse fuel economy and emissions, to premature wear on engine and drivetrain components.

Of course there’s also the warranty aspect. I know on Subarus, they have a log that tracks every time the ECU is flashed or reset to factory, so they definitely know when the it’s been tampered with. They definitely have the discretion to deny a warranty claim for anything drivetrain related based on this. I can only assume every other automaker has the same.

If you don’t care about things like warranty, then go crazy, but know the risks and costs.


We’re at an early (re)introduction stage for electric vehicles. At a comparable stage during the introduction of internal combustion vehicles, some people could reach gas stations, and people living in the country installed their own gas tanks, while people in the city were still riding horses and dealing with the vast amount of smelly sewage they created.


I love the way USians dismiss vehicles which most of the world regards as perfectly adequate in size as “noddy cars”. That there is a (small) part of the reason that the US has invaded countries in the Middle East; the fuel consumption of the average US car is nearly twice that of the average EU or Japanese one. Had the US achieved European levels of passenger kilometres and tonne kilometres for trucks, there would have been no need to import oil.


I’m actually a Canuck. But you make a good point. I don’t mind small cars. It is the styling of the Bolt that makes it a “noddy car” in my mind.I don’t count the Golf as a “noddy car” but it has low range. I remain bewildered by the glacial pace of major auto manufacturers in terms of adopting electric vehicle strategies.

If we already had electric cars, and someone came up with the ICE, they’d never get permission to build or run them, and no-one would want them. Too noisy, too slow, what’s that stinky pipe on the back? And what do you mean I can’t refuel at home?.


I apologise profusely. At least I do know what happened between 1812 and 1814.

It’s basically a typical Euromobile/Korean in appearance. The US tends not to see our ordinary cars. The shape is surprisingly low drag. I suspect that its largest volumes in the long term will be in Europe/Asia.

Batteries, batteries, batteries.

But we’re where we are today. There’s a vast amount of nearly invisible infrastructure with any form of transport other than, perhaps, a wood sailing boat, and that’s the other problem.
As an example, look at LED lighting. It’s being made for 110V and 230VAC because nobody wants the expense of rewiring their house lighting circuits for the 48VDC bus that would make an awful lot of sense for LED lights, computers, and chargers for everything from phones to power tools.
It’s worth pointing out too that if the ICE had never been developed, it’s unlikely that electric cars would be fast. Tesla had to find a reason for people to buy expensive, heavy, limited range vehicles. They focussed on the US obsession with 0-60 acceleration which makes traffic merging a kind of war zone. In Europe few people care though most cars have much longer 0-60 times. Would the same have happened in the US?
It’s even possible that in this alternate reality some Musk II would look at how electricity was mostly generated - LNG by now perhaps - and, after a series of blackouts due to overloaded distribution systems, suggest moving the power plant to the vehicle, making it more self contained. Thus the fuel cell would replace the battery - as may yet happen.


My smart car is getting long in the tooth, and I was wondering if I could hold out long enough for a model 3, but I’m not entirely sure I want to.

Part of me wants to do anything possible to hasten self-driving, but this is a good reminder of the power Tesla holds over its cars and our lack of recourse or even ownership in some degree.



Yep, but where’s the investment? Musk’s gigafactory is pocket change to the big guys.

An excellent point. 100% agree. Musk had to make electric vehicles cool. He had to get some prestige associated with them. People tend to prefer paying more for luxury products. A Tesla is perhaps even a Veblen good. The Model 3 will leverage the brand, but it remains to be seen whether this diminishes the appeal of the high-end models. By providing big batteries and the Supercharger network, Tesla has tangibly, and not just psychologically, somewhat mitigated the range limitation.

That is only as likely as there not being enough gas stations, gas pumps and tankers to support the current model. That is, the infrastructure investment would have matched the demand.

Personally, I’m not seeing it. Electrical distribution is reasonably efficient and allows home refuelling with a gradually upgraded existing infrastructure. I think people will get used to hardly ever having to stop for fuel. I might be wrong…


“Noddy car” isn’t n expression you’re likely to hear in the States. What does it mean?


At least to a Brit, it means this:


Nobody in their right senses is going to invest heavily in making the current generation of lithium batteries except for products with a short life, like phones.
The factories would probably be obsolete before they were finished.


Well that makes it hard, doesn’t it? We’re also told that “battery technology has been stalled for decades” and that “the battery breakthrough needed has never arrived”. Can it be both? Rapid obsolescence in a technology that isn’t meaningfully developing?


It’s from a book and tv series about two friends Noddy and Big Ears. Noddy is in the blue hat. They had a car. It was small and cute.


Depends who you listen to.

As an obvious example, phone batteries. For a given case size they’ve increased capacity by about two times since 2010. Cell sizes are steadily increasing. The basic chemistry may not have changed in decades, but the technology certainly has, just as IC engine technology hasn’t changed much, but we now have engines of no more than one litre that produce more horsepower than the original 5 litre hemi, with more than twice the thermal efficiency.


As I said, I think that is correct. Nevertheless, it is also true that ICE cars have become much faster as well and that has nothing to do with Musk. A middling BMW 3-series small family sedan is now much faster than was a mid-eighties Porsche Turbo (which was at the time just about the fastest accelerating road car you could buy).

We traded ICE technological development for power and speed, rather than for economy. We achieved some environmental benefits through emissions controls and efficiency, but average consumption is stalled or going backwards in the US and Canada as we choose to drive pickups and SUVs the size of a Parisian apartment.


Yes, my quoted claims about the technology being stalled were a sort of straw man. But you seem to be saying that this technology continues to evolve so fast that profiting from it through investment in manufacturing is so difficult/unlikely as to be irrational to attempt. There, we disagree.


That is really noticeable. To be fair US cars were always huge compared to European ones but US cars seem to have got bigger and bigger while European ones haven’t grown to the same extent and there are far more small cars in the perfectly normal mid-range.

Exceptions apply: this is not a ‘mini’:


It isn’t, it’s a small BMW made, I think, in Austria and with a styling job. It’s as big as my small Toyota estate.

Very true. In fact the last model of the original Porsche with the 2 litre engine would be made to look very stupid on a racetrack by the current generation Smart Brabus.


No, not really. Look at what has happened with Renault and Nissan. One bet wrong on battery technology, and so the other one gets to be used for the new joint platform.
I get the impression that batteries are like a swimming pool that’s slowly being heated, and the manufacturers are all standing around watching to see how other people get on when they jump in. Nobody wants to be last, but nobody wants to jump into a cold pool (i.e. get stuck with models which cost too much to make or which have inadequate range). And nobody is sure what will be the comfortable temperature. So they hold back, put a toe in the water.


Thank you, @L0ki & @winkybber! Seems very reminiscent of Johnny Gruelle.

We’d say “Mickey Mouse car” in equivalent circumstances.


Oil companies have actively interfered to make those statements true, as has General Motors. That’s not a “conspiracy theory” since it’s not a theory - it’s objective truth that you can independently verify. Check out how Chevron screwed Stan Ovshinsky, for example.

That’s why Musk said “screw it, I’ll use laptop batteries”. Because that particular cat had already escaped the bag, and the extreme fire hazard was already arguably being managed reasonably well on laptops.

I have electric and hybrid vehicles based on various technologies; my tractor is more than 40 years old and runs on huge, ponderously heavy lead-acid batteries. Range and recharge time are both pretty terrible, but other than that it is a great machine.