THE COOLEST THING I’VE EVER OWNED

(And It’s Not a Gun?)

Fun in the “Frunk”

Sometimes, new technology is so disruptive that it becomes a magnet for attention, even to those with no actual need or interest in the technology.  Lately, I notice widespread curmudgeonry from some smart and perceptive people in the firearms community on social media.  A startling number of people like us are suspicious of or even hostile to electric vehicles (EVs).  There’s a sense that these newfangled devices are there to steal your personal freedom, and if environmental lunatics like them they must be bad.  It’s usually the rugged individualists who load up the truck and drive 1000 miles in a day, avoiding all the indignities of the TSA and air travel.  While I salute them, I’m about to help guide the electrical “resistors” to a more informed state.  And I think there are lessons for innovators in any industry to learn from the psychology and emotions that come from disruptive technology.

Did Driving a Ludicrous Tesla Scramble my Brain?

Karmen insisted: “Get rid of the two-door, we have two kids who might be heading in different directions for school and events.”  I don’t drive much, and found few options that appealed economically and emotionally more than my 15-year-old BMW that originally cost some sucker $80k.  Karmen said I deserved a nice new luxury car but nothing really appealed (when did people talk seriously about paying $100,000 for a car?!)  But it all came together when a friend who’s a serial Tesla owner decided to upgrade to the latest Plaid and gave me a sweet deal.  I ended up with his 4-year-old Model S that was outfitted exactly like Elon Musk’s was four years ago (the same model Joe Rogan bought at Elon’s suggestion).

I’ve never loved a car so much.  I’ve never loved driving so much.  I’ve never loved any thing so much!  Am I a traitor to solid conservative principles and common sense to jump on the whacko environmentalist bandwagon and go electric?  The existence of a segment of Tesla enthusiasts among our industry (we’re as irritatingly enthusiastic as CrossFit, Amway, and vegans) tells me I’m not crazy.  Judge for yourself:

Here’s What You Need to Know About Why I Love it.

  1. Look for the P on the rear panel.  Performance, Plaid or P100.  I’ve never been a street racer but 2.5 seconds to 60, and knowing that you’re faster off the line than any car on the road besides another Tesla (including Lambos, Ferraris, Porsches) does something to the psychology.  But to sprint off the line with 100% of peak torque and power (mine’s only 750hp) available at 0 mph is, well, ludicrous.  It may as well be infinite power and you simply help yourself to whatever you need.  The other models (S,3,X,Y – another Elon joke) all have their performance variants at a modest upcharge from “long range”).  Note that stomping the throttle won’t get any notice from a nearby traffic cop but literally may generate motion sickness in passengers and first time drivers – squeeze the throttle, don’t stomp – be careful what you ask for.
  2. It’s different. Start with the one-pedal driving, in which the car slows moderately nearly to a near stop when you lift the accelerator.  It’s using your kinetic energy to recharge the battery, and it gets about 80% of the energy back if you’re interrupted by a red light.  It takes a minute to get used to, and then you’ll wonder how people drive cars for a century without this feature.
  3. Looks and image. This is personal, but I like the cool tech edge in a tasteful conservative package that fits an upper-middle-aged professional who sometimes drops kids at the carpool line. Elon first hired the Aston-Martin guy to create the look, and after firing him presumably told the successor to make it look like an A-M.  I like that look even 10 years later.  The interior is more austere like an Apple product, and not like a Hermes handbag.
  4. Quiet even under hard driving.  No head bobbing with gear changes – you don’t realize it until compare the elevator-like smooth gearless acceleration.  It has only one gear and never shifts.  The simple drivetrain leaves immense room for passengers and cargo.  Just a panel of batteries forming the floor between the axles, and a watermelon-sized motor at each axle.  My current favorite comfort feature is being able to leave the AC on when parked in the sun in 100F Dallas summertime.  A fraction of a cent per minute in recharge costs and no need to have ventilated seats or worry about the glass roof. And don’t forget that you can do all that preconditioning in a closed garage at home in perfect safety.
  5. The software updates automatically like your iPhone.  Some days you get in the car and find a new feature.  If they develop a new computer system and display, for a couple percent of the cost of a new car they can swap out the old and give you a current edition computer.  Technology on the road involves the sensors checking motor and wheel position 2000 times a second (every half inch at freeway speed) to ensure that no wheel is slipping and the power is being instantly delivered where needed.  A simple right turn is different as the outside wheels do the work to turn the car sometime like a skid steer.
  6. Self-driving. Too complicated to cover but useful for long trips and for stop-and-go traffic jams.  I like to invoke it when potentially distracted changing to sunglasses or finding a music station.  It’s less graceful than a skilled driver, more like having a very attentive and responsible teen driving the car.  Not popular with passengers.
  7. New cars are expensive to buy, and Tesla will change prices on the fly based on the market.  Fuel is maybe a nickel a mile for supercar performance.  Minimal maintenance cost.  No transmission, no oil changes, no brake jobs (they get minimal use – no brake dust on the wheels either), no radiator flush.  A couple hundred dollars a year for air filters and brake fluid that probably didn’t need changing.  Insurance rates suggest cost to repair is typical.  Service is more like the Apple store, and app based, but not an advantage over the competition.  I’ll add that value is a presumed strength, as you’re not paying for any advertising or dealer network.
  8. Superlative by all measures including in stability, crash avoidance and crash safety.  Nothing but protective crush zone up front – no incompressible engine block.

The Dirty Secrets – Debunked

I’ve always disliked Priuses, and the pious snooty drivers, so I can understand some good healthy automotive bigotry.  Bring it on.  But let me dispel some of the big criticisms of EVs from my friends on the right wing.

“They aren’t perfectly clean!  They burn coal!”

Who cares?  My car is fueled by whatever the free market has determined is the most economical fuel or system to generate electricity at that location and time.  It might even be fueled by my natural gas generator if there’s an extended power outage.  Whatever the fuel, if it’s only 20% the cost per mile, the economic starting point is that it has only 20% of the environmental effect.  The burden is on the critics, and I know that a giant powerplant is far more efficient with fuel and emissions than a portable engine.  And did you notice that nowhere in my list of things I love about my car was “good for the environment”?  I don’t worship at that altar, and trust free market pricing to allocate resources more efficiently.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that the environmental left hates Elon Musk.  Why?  Because he made them irrelevant.

I remember when we were all hoarding incandescent bulbs as the enviro-authoritarians were mandating those awful, sickly, unreliable and poisonous CFL bulbs.  Then LED lights were perfected and it’s all we buy, because free-market technology solved a problem.  I invite skeptics to view electric vehicles that way – just because they please the environmentalists doesn’t mean they aren’t terrific technology worth serious consideration.

“Batteries!”

If you buy a new $50,000 (or $100,000) vehicle and don’t agonize about the potential $15,000 cost to replace a blown engine in a couple hundred thousand miles, don’t think EV buyers worry about batteries needing replacing any time soon.  Range (but not performance) declines slightly over the years, and smart charging and use patterns minimize this.  And there are many competing battery technologies, so no evil nation can cut off our strategic supply, nor are we required to worry about the child slave labor the propagandists pretend is needed for some critical mineral.  Note that the critics don’t worry about the exotic minerals in every other product they buy.  Also, “Lithium” isn’t the bogeyman some think.  It’s a minor ingredient in a battery made largely of boring materials like Nickel.  As far as disposal, a battery pack that’s past its prime for long range driving is still very valuable and useful for other things (like stationary storage for solar installations, or power backup for your computer).  There aren’t disposal costs, there are eager buyers for the packs.

“But I Haul Heavy Stuff and Drive Long Distances.”

Then don’t make all your vehicles electric.  Or any.  But if you live 75 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, and occasionally buy new vehicles, I’ll wager than in 5 years you’ll own one EV, or at least be planning your next purchase to be electric.  I predict that in 5 years the typical two-car suburban family that occasionally buys new cars will have one EV in the garage.

“The Grid!”

Suddenly, everyone’s an expert about the power grid, and worries that my car might limit their ability to cool their home or toast their bread.  Yes, there are grid problems caused by environmental loons and the adults in charge who succumb to them (even here in Texas).  But don’t think it’s a big “own” to point out when EV owners are asked not to charge their cars in a power crisis (probably in California.)  Here’s why the grid isn’t a concern.

First: charging can happen any time, so off-peak charging has no effect on grid capacity.  As needed, minor incentives can motivate charging at times other than summer afternoons and evenings.  Even with rolling blackouts in mismanaged jurisdictions, the car can charge in the hours or minutes when there’s juice.

Second: the grid saviors invariably assume the absurd hypothetical that suddenly everyone buys an EV.  The reality is that adoption is gradual – a couple percent per year.  Far more gradual than the era when residential AC went from rare to widespread.  The grid can keep up as demand grows.

Third: If you worry about fueling all those off-peak power plants due to the added demand, recall that EVs might have 1/5 the fuel cost of ICEs (internal combustion engines).  So most of the fuel they would have burned is not unused.  Five times as much as needed to generate the electricity for the replacement EVs.

“Subsidies! – Not a Free Market”

I’m on your side here.  Congress took a ton of our money and gave it to Elon Musk to do things they wanted him to do.  He did those things, then paid the money back with interest.  The Taxpayer made money off of Tesla (unlike most other automakers who have received bailouts).  There used to be subsidies for purchasers, and now Congress has just passed more needless subsidies including adding charging stations (Tesla’s have doubled in the last two years without taxpayer help).  Congress and the environmental left are like roosters taking credit for the sunrise, and wasting mountains of our money.

I’ll also grant that electrics avoid fuel taxes that pay for roads.  Tesla knows exactly how much I drive, and it would be simple and affordable to pay the penny a mile (more or less) that everyone in normal states pays for roads.

Come Drive!

Just as we invite our open-minded but gun-hesitant friends to try a visit to the range with us, my best advice to anyone weight the matter is to hop in and drive one.  You might have some fun, and if you’re a serious car guy you’ll add to your knowledge base that underlies your own opinions.  If you’re in DFW, maybe come by and take a ride with me!

Meanwhile, next month I’ll try to return to something controversial and provocative, like intellectual property law!

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About the Author: Ben Langlotz

Ben Langlotz is the nation’s leading firearms patent and trademark attorney, and the author of Bulletproof Firearms Business: The Legal Guide to Success Under Fire. He is trusted by more firearms industry companies than any other lawyer or law firm in the nation, and is consistently ranked at the top of all attorneys in securing gun patents and gun trademarks.