Monday, August 22, 2016

With no humans or batteries, self-driving cars will hurt both economy, environment

No. That isn't the biggest, roof-mounted boom box you've ever seen. That's an autonomous Ford Fusion with a human back-up driver Uber will use to pick up passengers in Pittsburgh. Once the self-driving car is perfected, Uber likely will fire tens of thousands of drivers. This photo is from The Associated Press.


GM, Ford, Volvo, Uber, Google and other companies are investing billions of dollars in the race to develop self-driving cars.

But I've seen little discussion of whether they will be gasoline powered, hybrids or all-electric.

Only an all-electric self-driving car makes sense, given climate change and the 53,000 deaths each year from auto emissions.

And when Uber perfects a self-driving car, you can bet the unemployment lines will swell with tens of thousands of drivers let go by the anti-labor, ride-hailing monstrosity.

Only Google has said its self-driving cars will be "mainly electric."

BMW, Nissan lag

The media have been spending so much time reporting on the development of autonomous cars they've neglected to ask BMW and Nissan when they are going to market EVs with a range of at least 200 miles.

Only California-based Tesla Motors has achieved the magic combination of a minimum of 200 miles of range and free juice at the automaker's nationwide network of free Superchargers.

That's why Tesla outsells other EVs, even those that cost half the price.

The Model S and Model X SUV already have Autopilot and Autosteer for highway cruising, and the luxury four-door hatchbacks also park themselves and back out of your garage.

Chevrolet is expected to start selling the Bolt next year with a range of 200 miles on a full charge, but has refused to say whether free charging will be available to owners on road trips.

The Maybach 6 all-electric concept from Mercedes-Benz will have a range of only 200 miles on a full charge and an MSRP I'm guessing will easily top $200,000, if and when it is produced in four to five years.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Automakers who can't compete with Tesla hone the art of blowing smoke at buyers

The BMW i8 has been called "jaw dropping," but if you're a woman, don't try getting in or out of the plug-in hybrid in a skirt. MSRP starts at $147,700.


The Olympics in Rio continue and so do all of those idiotic car ads.

As BMW struggles to build a car that can match the speed or 200-mile-plus range of a Tesla Model S, the German automaker tries to deceive consumers into settling for second-best gas-electric hybrids.

The i8 with "scissor doors" is the most advanced BMW ever built, the company's TV ad boasts.

Of course, it's also one of the noisiest. 

A car that uses gasoline isn't advanced at all. You'll still be poisoning the environment with almost every mile you drive.

You also can buy gas-electric hybrid sedans and SUVs from BMW. Big deal.

You want fancy-schmancy doors? Tesla's Model X has them and zero emissions, too. BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche can't say that.

Tesla lowers prices

Meanwhile, Tesla now offers the purely electric Model S with a range of 210 miles from a 60kWh battery, starting at $66,000, a lower price than before.

The Model X SUV, which has falcon rear doors, starts at $74,000 with the 60kWh battery, a range of 200 miles and all-wheel drive.

You can buy his and her Teslas for the price of a single BMW i8.

And if you buy a Tesla, charging your car on the road is free for life, something no other automaker offers.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On an electric road trip to the Jersey shore to sample sea scallops and salt water taffy

ELECTRIC ROAD TRIP: A rare all-electric Tesla Roadster in the parking lot of the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank, below, where the automaker hosted a reception on Friday afternoon to thank owners for their loyalty. Tesla sold about 2,450 Roadsters in more than 30 countries from 2008-12.

JERSEY STYLE: Tesla Motors served shore specialties, including hero sandwiches with sausage and peppers, pizza and salt water taffy.

A MEETING ROOM WITH A VIEW: Tesla owners met with company employees to discuss the Model S and Model X, and any concerns, including Autopilot and Autosteer, two self-driving features.

STOPPING FOR JUICE AND COFFEE: In the morning, I drove about 114 miles to have lunch in Barnegat Light, a fishing port on the Atlantic Ocean. On the way back to Red Bank, I stopped to add range to my Tesla Model S at a free Supercharger in an outlet mall in Tinton Falls. Me and my wife had coffee while adding about 130 miles of range in about 30 minutes.

IN FOCUS: This photo of the northbound Garden State Parkway was taken with an iPhone while my Model S was on Autopilot and Autosteer, below.

SEA SCALLOPS: My box lunch of fried sea scallops, which were greaseless, at Viking Fresh Off the Hook, a seafood takeout shack in Barnegat Light, photos below.

SCALLOPS REPLACE LOBSTERS: The takeout shack is part of historic Viking Village, which began as a lobster fishing co-op founded in the 1920s by Norwegians.

SHORE TRAFFIC: An accident backed up traffic on Route 72 as we were heading for the bridge to Long Beach Island and Barnegat Light.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Treating your Tesla to TLC in Montreal, then taking a straight shot home to N.J.

DEBUGGED: My 2015 Tesla Model S after a mini detailing at Auto Bella, a hand car wash in the garage under the Hyatt Regency hotel and the Complexe Desjardins mall in Montreal, below.


MONTREAL -- Chinatown, Old Montreal and other attractions are an easy walk from my hotel, and the city has a great subway and bus system to cover longer distances.

So, this year, as in the past, I parked my Tesla Model S in the garage under the Hyatt Regency, where I stayed for nine nights during the International Jazz Festival. 

That gave me a chance to have my car washed and waxed, and the interior deodorized at Auto Bella on level P3 of the parking garage (a mini detailing cost $65 Canadian or about $45.50 U.S., plus a gratuity).

Though employees speak English, the menu of services is in French.

Auto Bella is open Mondays to Fridays (1-514-889-6225).

CHARGE IT: On July 4, we shopped at two Costco Wholesale warehouses in Montreal and then drove over to the Tesla dealer to charge my Model S for the trip home last Thursday, below.

FRUIT SMOOTHIES AND MORE: You'll find a pleasant cafe called Java U across the street from Tesla Montreal, which is at 5350 Rue Ferrier (1-514-908-3827).
VIVE LA AMERICA: Traffic in Montreal was more horrendous than usual on July 4, when Americans are said to flood across the U.S.-Canadian border to visit the French-speaking city. 

Driving home

On the way to Montreal, we detoured into Vermont to use the free Tesla Superchargers in South Burlington, where we had something to eat at Healthy Living, an independently owned organic and natural foods market.

On the way home, we decided to try newly installed Superchargers in a Plattsburgh, N.Y., shopping center.

This is travel in the slow lane:

We spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes at each of the two stops to and from Montreal in order to get a full charge of about 200 miles.

A related benefit is that Tesla Superchargers often are located near slow food, such as you'd find in Whole Foods, Healthy Living and Starbucks.

PLATTSBURGH SUPERCHARGER: Eight Tesla Superchargers are behind the Target in the Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh, N.Y., photos below. For slow food, the only option is a Starbucks Cafe in the Target store. 

STORMY THURSDAY: The straight-shot drive to northern New Jersey from Montreal takes you through the scenic Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Last Thursday, we encountered thunderstorms, and saw an accident that ended with a new Honda sedan T-boned by a tractor-trailer.

FIVE TESLAS: Our second stop on the way home was a shopping center in Colonie, N.Y., outside Albany.

BIG DEAL ON WILD FISH: By the time I got to the Whole Foods Market in the Colonie Center mall late Thursday afternoon, the wild salmon at less than half the usual price had run out, and I was offered a rain check. In New Jersey on Friday, my wife found fresh wild sockeye fillets for $9.99 a pound at the Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

SLOW FOOD: I was tempted by these Sweet Potato Quinoa Cranberry Cakes on the Whole Foods salad bar ($8.99 a pound), but had a 16-ounce container of Vegetarian Pea Soup ($5.99) and coffee instead.

GRASS-FED BEEF: My wife paid $11 for a grass-fed hamburger with a side of sweet potato fries at Whole Foods. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Using Supercharger in scenic Vermont, Montreal is hop, skip and jump from N.J.

If you own a Tesla Model S, live in New Jersey and are going to Montreal, one of the benefits of detouring to use a Supercharger in South Burlington, Vt., is driving over lightly traveled two-lane roads through farmland and small towns, with the state's Green Mountains in the distance.

Four Model S luxury hatchbacks stopped for big gulps of free juice on Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, Vt.


MONTREAL -- The opening of a Tesla Supercharger in Plattsburgh, N.Y., this month allows Model S owners in the New Jersey-New York metro area to reach Montreal in two relatively quick stops.

That's two stops without a detour into Vermont, which boasts winding roads through farmland, and Superchargers in the parking lot of a natural foods market.

Our destination was Montreal's International Jazz Festival, which began today and runs through July 9.

On Tuesday, we drove from northern New Jersey to a shopping center in Colonie, N.Y., where we charged our 2015 Tesla Model S 60 for free not far from a Whole Foods Market.

We spent about 40 minutes there, enjoying a bowl of Whole Foods soup and a cup of coffee, and sandwiches we brought from home.

We then set our navigation system for South Burlington, Vt., and the parking lot of Healthy Living, which like Whole Foods sells natural and organic food, and has a cafe offering prepared food, soup and coffee.

After 40 minutes there, we had enough range to easily reach Montreal about 90 miles away.

The French-Canadian island city boasts the biggest Tesla dealer in North America.

Besides Superchargers, the dealer offers Tesla merchandise that apparently costs less because of the U.S. dollar's favorable exchange rate.

Last year, I enjoyed an espresso in the customer lounge while charging my Model S for the trip home. 

Contrast all of this with travel on gasoline -- tearing into a highway service area, racing to the bathroom with a bursting bladder, downing crappy food and running back to the car to set another record for vacation travel.

And traveling to Canada in our Toyota Prius two years ago meant having to stop before the border to fill our tank so we could avoid the high price of gas in Montreal.

That final stop was in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

On Tuesday afternoon, customers were lining up inside Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, Vt., for the privilege of buying Heady Topper Beer, described as an American Double India Pale Ale that gives you "wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate."

Four pint cans of Heady Topper Beer were $12.99 plus tax.

One of the prepared dishes available for $9.75 a pound was Duck & White Bean Cassoulet, front.

Healthy Living Market is at 222 Dorset St. in South Burlington, Vt.

Even a veteran of New Jersey and New York City congestion like me found late Tuesday afternoon rush-hour traffic in South Burlington, Vt., a trying experience, despite the politeness shown by other drivers and the absence of angry horn blowing.

That's kilometers, not miles per hour, after we crossed the Canadian boarder.

Two lanes merging into one on a freeway near Montreal.

No waiting for a Tesla Supercharger at the Colonie Center mall in Colonie, N.Y.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What's old is new as Tesla Motors brings back the Model S 60 and cuts price, too

The new version of Model S 60 has a revised nose and grille, and a longer range than the version that was replaced in April 2015 by the Model S 70.

Editor's note: I've revised the ranges of the Model S with 60kWh, 75kWh and 90kWh batteries, having relied on conflicting information from the Tesla Motors website and in an email to owners.


Tesla Motors has brought back the Model S 60 at a lower price that includes free Supercharging, which was a $2,000 option in April 2015.

The base price of $66,000 is $3,900 less than the previous version.

The new base model comes standard with a 60kWh battery and rear-wheel drive, and has a range of 210 miles at 65 mph, compared to 208 miles for the original.

Upgrade to a 75kWh battery with a range of 249 miles for $8,000.

The Model S four-door luxury hatchback also is available with all-wheel drive, as well as bigger 75 kWh and 90kWh batteries with a range of 249 miles and 294 miles, respectively.

The 70kWh and 85kWh batteries have been dropped.

The P90D, an all-wheel-drive performance version, has a range of 270 miles.

In the Model S 60, Autopilot, Autosteer and Summon -- autonomous driving and parking functions -- are a $2,500 option with free over-the-air updates. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

EV owners in N.J. would pay $150 more annually, if governor OKs higher gas tax

How this for tortured reasoning? If New Jersey raises the gas tax about 23 cents a gallon to fund the state's transportation network, owners of the Tesla Model S, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf and other EVs would be hit for an extra $150 each year "to offset lost gas-tax revenue," according to news reports.


New Jersey officials have been sending mixed messages to owners of all-electric cars.

As an incentive, the state waives the 7% sales tax on EV purchases. That's a $5,600 savings on an $80,000 Tesla Model S 60.

And last year, Governor Christie signed a bill that allows Tesla to sell its revolutionary cars directly to consumers.

Now, Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature are trying to convince the governor to approve a higher gas tax to save the Transportation Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money in about two weeks.

As part of the deal, the legislative leaders have offered to phase out the state's estate tax in three years, and boost to $75,000 the amount a retiree may exclude from income taxes.

$150 fee on EVs

And EV owners would be required to pay $150 extra every time they renew their registrations "to offset lost gas-tax revenue," The Record of Woodland Park reports today.

New Jersey car owners are required to register annually.

There are about 2,500 EVs among the 5.7 million registered vehicles in New Jersey -- far fewer than in New York State (12,000), Massachusetts (5,500) and even Connecticut (3,000).

The $150 penalty doesn't make sense, given how zero-emission EVs benefit the environment.

In unveiling the Model 3 on March 31, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted record high carbon-dioxide levels, and said 53,000 people are killed every year by auto emissions.

So, maybe the $150 fee should be levied on any car using gasoline -- not on EVs.