Tesla is Making EV Range Anxiety its Bit#h, and Other Press Event Reactions

Tesla, as the admitted leader in this segment has attacked range and the concept of “range anxiety” from all angles.  It addressed the problem head-on with the Model S, which can get up to 270 miles on a charge.  Then it struck hard again by developing a network of 400 US charging stations.  It doubled back to the Roadsters and doubled their range via an over the air software update.  Tesla hit range anxiety with a left jab by testing battery swaps, where drivers could swap batteries in the time it took to completely refill a 22-gallon tank of fuel.

Now Tesla is dealing a body blow to range anxiety.  In a press event today, founder Elon Musk announced that via their newest over the air software update (6.2), a new system called Range Assurance will finally defeat range anxiety.

Range assurance, according to Road and Track.com is this:

First improvement: Range Assurance, an application within the car’s navigation system. Always running quietly in the background, even when the navigation system is not in use. The system communicates real-time with Superchargers en route and parking-spot chargers at your destination, disregarding any that are in use, and warning you when you’re about to drive out of range.

 

Over next 12 months, most of Europe, North America, China, Japan, Southern Australia will be Supercharger covered.

 

On Range Assurance, a map shows you the most convenient charging locations, and gives directions to the closest one.

 

The system calculates elevation changes, driving style, and even windspeed, “making it basically impossible for a Model S driver to run out of range unintentionally,” says Musk.

 

“It will be basically impossible to run out of charge unless you do so intentionally,” says Musk. He says you’ll have to “say OK” to the car twice before you can drive the battery completely dead.

 

Another brilliant move by our friends at Tesla.  Range Assurance is a combination of further refinements in GPS and telematics.  It constantly monitors status at nearby and destination chargers and can adjust the route accordingly.  As upcoming charging spaces fill and empty, your route options may change.

Range Assurance is one helluva babysitter for that handful of idiots that choose to treat their car the same way they treat their cellphone.  The last sentence of the quote, “you’ll have to say OK to the car twice before you can drive the battery completely dead” needs a bit of unpacking.  But I think it is safe to say that anyone who installs this update and says the car “just ran out of juice” is pretty much a liar.

In actuality, range anxiety will be defeated for Tesla owners.  For pundits and other people who have little accountability, range anxiety will always exist when they need clickbait, or to sell magazines.

But Range Assurance wasn’t the only revelation during today’s event.  Back to Road and Track.com:

Musk says the upcoming Version 7 sofware will include UI overhaul that enables Automatic Steering. “We’re now almost able to travel from San Francisco to Seattle with the driver barely touching the wheel at all,” he says.

 

Tesla hopes to release Auto Steering feature “within 3 months.”

 

With news that an automated car is right at this moment driving from San Fran to the New York Auto Show, this news simply trumps it.  Depending on the level of self-promotion baked into the statement, this means self-driving cars are either significantly closer.  Or, if you listen to the rest of the automakers, are they?  What has Tesla done that Mercedes, Audi or M City has yet to do?

Beware. Self-driving cars and claims of self-driving cars is the new automotive hype machine for the rest of the decade.

One of the most interesting exchanges during the event was this:

Musk answers a reporter question: “If we wanted to, we could create a 500-mile battery pack right now. But the driver would be carrying around a lot of unused capacity in the pack. The marginal utility of going from 300 to 500 miles is pretty low, and then you’ve got all the cost and weight of that battery pack. There’s a sweet spot around the 250-350 mile range, that’s really ideal.”

 

Again, I’d like to unpack this and comb out any self-promotion.  But if he’s 75% forthcoming, then a 350-375 mile battery isn’t far from the market.  Is this what the Gigafactory is planning to produce on a regular basis?  If so, then what is Tesla doing that the rest of the really smart crowd isn’t?

 

 

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Sebastian James

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