Cars and their stories

Why I’m not all charged up about the Tesla Model S

tesla model sUndoubtedly, if you’re a car nut like me, then you’ve seen the drag race between a  Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Tesla Model S P85D, and you know the results. But let me first posit to you that that was a comparison of apples to oranges. The Challenger is a performance coupe that sells for $60k. The P85D is a sport sedan that sells for $128k.

Let’s list of some of Tesla’s true competitor cars (mid-luxury $100-150k, sport sedans):
Mercedes AMG S63
BMW Alpina B7
Audi RS7
Cadillac CTS-V

Jaguar XJR
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (proper sedan version of the Hellcat, still not a luxury vehicle)
Nissan GT-R (not a sedan, but has the same price range and performance)

You’ll probably first notice with your research that these cars don’t produce 691 hp like the Tesla, but then Tesla doesn’t break the 155 mph barrier which these all easily do. Some say that that’s just an electronic governor. In reality this is an electrical engineering issue of  heat dissipation. [And yes the newer iteration does have a reported 762 hp, but that’s technically a new 90 kWh battery making it a P90D, which still doesn’t resolve the heat issue.]

Super Charging Stations and Infrastructure

Here’s another big hurdle that Elon Musk has had to jump — Electric charging stations. Everywhere you go in a gasoline or diesel engine car you can stop by the local filling station. has an interactive map that shows you where the local charging station is in case you’re away from home and not in your car (that giant, center console screen can’t be legal.)

Here’s the kicker; I often travel from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Spokane, Washington. I’m a Montanan at heart and enjoy travelling through Big Sky country often. My road trip takes me from I-15 to I-90 and vice versa. Along the route there is a charging station at Tremonton, UT, and the next at Butte, MT, at a distance of 340 miles. The Tesla only has a range of 253 miles. See the problem?

“Well, you can plug it into a 110V socket.” According to the Tesla website it takes 8.5 hours to get a full charge using a high-output, specially installed home charger and 48 hours using a standard 110V outlet. Yeah, you’re going to be staying the night somewhere while you car charges. Now a Supercharging station using 120kW output can charge a vehicle in 75 minutes, and it’s free for Tesla owners on Elon’s dime. Or your dime, if you consider the vehicle cost as the investment. Eventually this business model will change, and you will have to pay to recharge.

Not a road trip car

253 miles at steady highway speed limits is quickly accomplished in 3 hours and 22 minutes at 75 mph. Now spend another hour and 15 minutes waiting to recharge. In a gasoline engined sedan, the 724 miles from the SLC charging station to downtown Spokane (which doesn’t have a station) would take 10 hours plus one gasoline fuel stop (approximately 15 minutes).

Now in a Tesla, this same trip would take 10 hours plus two full charging stops, an additional two and half hours. But wait! You can’t go through Montana; you have to take the longer route through Pendleton, Oregon. That’s an 11 hour drive with three full charging stops; total time is nearly 15 hours! The additional charging stop accounts for mountain passes and potential freezing weather which decreases driving range. You also don’t have a charging station right when you get to empty. You charge up when you can before the battery dies.

Quick vs Fast

The battery charge significantly drops when using LUDICROUS mode. Admit it. That’s what you want when you get this car. At best this is a track day car. Because we all take a sedan to a racetrack. Consider again the battery capacity. You have at most 2 hours of track time, because you do have to drive home.  If you bought this car to drag race, there are faster drag cars you can build for $128k.

Let’s talk motors. The Model S has a Dual motors option (front and rear) providing 259 + 503 = 762 hp. This is the equivalent of adding twin turbos or a supercharger to a V8 engine. Consider Chevrolet’s LT1 (found in the 2016 Camaro) and LT4 (2015 Corvette) horsepower ratings, 455 and 640 hp respectively. The only difference is the added supercharger. Or consider the dual system of the McLaren P1. Their front electric motor puts 177 hp to the front wheels while a turboed V8 provides 727 hp to the rear, totaling 904 hp. Not exactly a novel concept. Granted the P1 is a million dollar car, but let’s not digress into Tesla’s financial woes.

155 mph top speed, really? That’s it? The Charger Hellcat does 204 mph! No one really explained this better than in a review of the two rival cars by Jonny Lieberman at Motor Trend. Please note his comment at the finale (roughly 15:25 mark) of the new drag race. One car length more and the Hellcat would have won… and then left it in the dust! That’s the difference between quick and fast.

If you still can’t wrap your head around that concept, then there’s the 1 mile drag race of the McLaren F1 vs. the Bugatti Veyron from Top Gear.

What do we learn?

The P85D is quick, but in a race other than the 1/4 mile drag– It’s gonna LOSE.

You’ll never see the Tesla at LeMans.

You’ll never see the Tesla at NASCAR.
Can you imagine the Daytona 500 with a Tesla going in for a pit stop?

The P85D is the extreme trim.

Often we look at the ‘top of the line trim’ to see a vehicles value, but the smart shopper knows that the baseline product is where the true evaluation begins before all the add-ons.

Base Model Tesla Model S 70 Dodge Challenger SXT
Engine / Power source 70 kWh battery 3.6L V6
Mileage range 230 540 (30 mpg)
0 – 60 mph 5.5 6.2
Standing ¼ mile (secs) 13.8 14.8
Horsepower 315 305
Torque 325 268
Top speed 140 120 (limited)
MSRP $80,000 $28,000

Does this mean I hate the Model S?

No! This is a technological achievement. Both of these rivals are American made! How often do we get to say that? Electric, self driving cars are the coming way of herding the masses to their daily destinations. Genuinely, I’d love to get the uneducated, lousy drivers out of the driver seat, and this is the way to do it. Transitioning from horses and carriages to the automobile took time, and we still commemorate those days by racing horses. We’ll continue to commemorate the V8 and its siblings with genuine auto racing.

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