Monday, April 27, 2015

Imagine how much quieter our cities and highways will be when EVs rule the road

Tesla's Model S blends the styling of a race car with the luxury and utility of a four-door hatchback.


"Quiet" doesn't begin to describe the experience of owning and driving an all-electric car, especially one with the heft of a Tesla Model S.

Wind noise, tire noise and the sound of hitting irregularities in the road are just about all you'll hear -- unless you're listening to your favorite jazz or public radio station.

The Model S has a one-speed transmission, so gathering speed is seamless and effortless.

The absence of mechanical noises is truly remarkable -- and just about everything else on the road seems so old fashioned.

Model S drivers are making a splash, not making noise.

Their cars don't smell like all those other vehicles that depend on the antiquated internal combustion engine for locomotion.

The store at Garden State Plaza, a shopping center in Paramus, N.J., can once again sell the Model S directly to the public.

Laughable SUVs

If you want a good laugh when the light changes, put some distance between your Model S and that lead-footed driver in an elephantine SUV trying vainly and noisily to keep up with you.

When EVs rule the road, our cities and highways will be so much quieter than now, and the air will be so much cleaner.

Bad press

For such a revolutionary car, the Model S gets a surprising amount of bad press.

Much of it appears to be generated by media upset that California-based Tesla Motors doesn't advertise, denying them many millions of dollars in revenue.

Other automakers inflate the prices of their vehicles to cover their considerable marketing and advertising budgets, including all those dealer ads that appear in newspapers.

And every time gas falls below $3 a gallon, writers fall all over themselves warning consumers that gas-electric hybrids and EVs aren't worth the extra cost.

But what they always ignore is how green cars benefit the environment, and the pure pleasure of owning one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

With pure EVs widely available, buying a new car has become a political statement

Tesla Motors' Model S 60 looks great in red.


Did you hear about the cramped C-Class sedan from Mercedes-Benz you can get packed with a 503-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8?

Who needs 503 horsepower in the congested New Jersey-New York metropolitan area?

The AMG C63 S has an MSRP of $71,900, and you'll probably have to visit a gas station every week to satisfy this monster with premium fuel for its 18-gallon tank.

The mileage ratings aren't listed on the company's Web site.

That's $2,000 more than the base price of my roomier, more luxurious Tesla Model S 60, which I brought home last week.

Climate change

Mercedes-Benz isn't the only carmaker engaged in a mindless horsepower race, which aggravates climate change and deadly air pollution.

Today, with a range of all-electric vehicles that can fit any budget, buying a car that still uses gasoline is irresponsible.

Supporting the oil industry has become political now that the Koch brothers are using their billions in a bid to buy Congress and the White House for conservative Republicans.

Fast and quiet

My Model S 60 does 0-60 in 5.9 seconds -- quietly and effortlessly -- fast enough to engage in stop-light grand prix starts with gas guzzlers from Mercedes and other manufacturers.

The car's electric motor is blessed with instant torque, so I love to see them fading in my rear-view mirror. 

Now, let's hope the internal-combustion engine fades into history.

Once you own a Model S, just about every other car on the road seems so, well, ordinary. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You may have spent a lot to bring home Tesla's Model S, but then you save a lot

With dramatically flared front fenders and oval grille, my new Tesla Model S looks like a crouching tiger in the garage.


Boy, I really saved a lot of money when I picked up my new Tesla Model S 60 on Tuesday, but won't realize much of that for a year or more.

Immediately, I saved more than $5,678 in sales tax, which New Jersey forgives on purchases of the all-electric luxury hatchback.

I also received a $7,500 federal tax credit to use next year and next year only. 

If I don't have to pay $7,500 in federal taxes next April 15, I can only use part of it and will lose the rest.

The sticker on the car says "you save $7,750 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle," according to the EPA and DOT.

My Model S 60 is classified as a large car that is rated at 95 MPGe.

With more than 60 solar panels on the roof of my home, I will spend much less to charge my Model S than other owners.

I usually pay nothing for electricity five or six months a year, and earn money by selling solar credits to my utility, Public Service Electric and Gas Co., through a middleman.

When plugged into a special 240-volt outlet, 29 miles of range is added each hour. To remove the charging cable, car must be unlocked. I admit I pulled and pulled before calling Tesla service to learn that simple secret.

Base  model with options

My Model S 60 was the base model (succeeded by the Model S 70D) with an MSRP of $69,900.

With options -- including $1,500 for red multi-coat paint, $2,000 for supercharging, $1,500 for tan leather seats and $800 for carbon-fiber decor accents -- total vehicle price was $81,120.

That includes destination and regulatory document fees of $1,170 and $4,250 for the Tech Package with Autopilot.

The special 240-outlet in my detached garage cost about $2,000 to install.

Inside, the door pull and handle are elegantly designed.

The Model S 60 has a government-certified range of 208 miles on a full charge.

As I left the Tesla Showroom and Service Center in Paramus, N.J., in my new Model S on Tuesday afternoon, a trucker was unloading more Teslas.

Styling and performance

When I looked at my new Tesla in the garage and driveway, I saw styling cues from Ferrari, Aston Martin, Corvette and other cars, new and old.

But overall the Model S, which debuted in mid-2012, still looks fresh and like nothing else on the road.

And though it is billed as a premium car, the firm suspension, adjustable steering effort and all that torque from the electric motor puts it firmly in the category of a performance car.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

This soon-to-be Tesla owner wouldn't be caught dead in a luxury car from Germany

An all-electric Tesla Model S on display at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.


Does any American really need a 155-mph luxury car?

More than 15 years after the introduction of gas-electric hybrids to the U.S., German car makers offer only a handful of green cars.

Their luxury car lines still are filled with gas-guzzling sedans and SUVs that merely aggravate air pollution and hasten climate change. 

Some, like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, score low on reliability surveys.

Mindless media 

The automotive media are responsible for portraying German cars with hundreds of horsepower from dirty internal combustion engines as viable alternatives to Tesla Motors' revolutionary Model S and other all-electric vehicles.

For example, Car and Driver's blog interviewed Diamler Chairman Dieter Zetsche, who sports a walrus mustache (Diamler A.G. is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz).

One of the loaded questions was posed this way:

"And electric vehicles? Buyers seem unconvinced."

No one said you had to have brains to get a job at a car magazine or a blog like Gas2, which ran the interview recently.

Of course, "buyers" of electric vehicles must have been convinced or why would they have spent $30,000 to $70,000 and more for an all-electric car? 

Tesla Motors is selling about 50,000 Model S luxury hatchbacks annually from a single factory in California.

No ad revenue

The media's hostility toward Tesla might have something to do with the company's no-advertising policy. 

No ads mean no advertising revenue for struggling print and electronic media.

Elon Musk, the genius behind Tesla, didn't even bother showing his new model this week at the New York International Auto Show in Manhattan.

Model S 70D

This week, Tesla announced a new base model, the 70D, which costs $75,000 and has all-wheel drive and slightly more range, 240 miles v. 208 miles for the discontinued Model S 60.

The Associated Press story I saw in my morning paper reported the electric car maker "is going after mainstream luxury car buyers" with the new model.

The story didn't explain why the $70,000 Model S 60 -- which has a 380-horsepower electric motor and can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds -- didn't compete against "mainstream" luxury cars.

The new 70D trims only .7 seconds off that 0-60 time, even though it has a motor with 124 more horsepower.

My Model S

I am scheduled to pick up my new Model S 60 next week.

I am sure it will be the best car I have ever owned, and with free updates from Tesla will remain fresh and more advanced than just about anything else on the road.

The only cars we've had for more than a decade are Toyota Prius hybrids, and we have more than 60 solar panels on the roof of our home.

The Model S 60 will be a perfect fit, especially in view of the limited driving I do as a senior.

German cars

In the last few years, I've worked part time for fleet-management companies in New Jersey that supply new cars to the media and VIPs.

I've driven just about every Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Porsche, occasionally as a chauffeur during Fashion Week or other special event.

Some of them have switches and controls that are so hopelessly complicated I had to consult the owner's manual to figure them out.

I couldn't wait to jump back into my 2010 Prius.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Random images from inside and around the New York International Auto Show

On Wednesday, I saw this rambunctious pair in the cab of one of the many car carriers lining 12th Avenue behind the Javits Center in Manhattan, below, where the New York International Auto Show press preview was underway.


Racing from one tightly scheduled press conference to another proved exhausting on Wednesday, when the 2015 New York International Auto Show opened to the media.

After a press breakfast from 7:15 a.m. to 9 a.m., 14 manufacturers unveiled new vehicles and concepts, but none was revolutionary. 

Lexus kicked things off at 9:10 and a Rolls-Royce reception was scheduled to cap off the day at 4:20 p.m. 

Food service was disappointing, compared to last year. See:

Automakers woo media with free food and drink

On Wednesday, I left before 1 to catch the ferry back to New Jersey.

No mystery here. On Wednesday, Jaguar, above, and Subaru, below, readied media introductions of cars with powerful internal-combustion engines that are sure to aggravate air pollution wherever they are sold.

Subaru showed an "STI Performance Concept." The media's reward was box lunches containing a vegetable or turkey wrap, bag of chips and a cookie, according to one server.

The Lexus Press Event, above and below, included loud music, strobe lights and the unveiling of two news models. What really surprised me was how many members of the world automotive media stood up and applauded when the wraps came off. What exactly were they applauding?

General Motors President Dan Amman gave the keynote address in his pronounced New Zealand accent. Here, he looks like he is praying no one in the audience asks him what he has to say to the families of drivers killed by Chevrolet's cheap ignition switches.

I heard this man say he is a member of the BMW board. Big deal.

This sleek machine reportedly has an MSRP of $2.3 million.

Only invitees holding a black card were admitted into Porsche's hospitality lounge.

Fancy tail lights aren't enough to elevate the body of the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell sedan above the ordinary.

In the United States, Toyota will sell only 3,000 Mirais from the fourth quarter of 2015 through 2017, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday, citing the limited places to refuel the car with hydrogen.

The Volkswagen e-Golf and other purely electric cars from Ford and Mitsubishi look like kitchen appliances when compared to Tesla Motors' luxurious Model S, which has more than twice to three times their range on a full charge.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

World's automakers unveil their latest ideas for hastening climate change

Instead of showing a production model of the next-generation Prius hybrid, Toyota unveiled the Mirai fuel-cell sedan at the New York International Auto Show press preview today. Only 3,000 will be available in the U.S. from the last quarter of this year through 2017, a spokeswoman said.

The interior and exterior of the Mirai are underwhelming -- too reminiscent of the Camry. The electric-drive sedan will have a range of 300 miles on a fill-up of hydrogen.


Only a small fraction of the hundreds of vehicles on display at the New York International Auto Show in Manhattan can be considered environmentally friendly.

At today's press preview in the Javits Center, I saw a handful of purely electric cars, maybe a dozen gas-electric hybrids and Toyota's hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, which is going on sale later this year in very limited numbers.

After all, the show is produced by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, not the Environmental Protection Agency.

At the opening press breakfast this morning, dealer association President Mark Schienberg emphasized that performance is the leading factor driving new-car sales -- followed by technology and fuel efficiency.

In other words, don't look for a great many new products later this year and in 2016 that are aimed at slowing climate change.

The show opens to the public on Friday.

The Toyota Mirai's electric motor (rated at 153 horsepower), fuel cells and hydrogen tank, front to rear. The midsize, four-passenger Mirai will have an MSRP of $57,500.

The Ford Focus Electric.

Volkswagen's all-electric e-Golf.

Mitsubishi's all-electric, hard-to-pronounce i-MiEV.

The low-slung BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car has an MSRP of $137,450, but that doesn't include treatments from a chiropractor.

The new Ford GT, reminiscent of the race car that won Le Mans from 1966 to 1969, is going on sale next year.

Mazda's new MX-5 Miata.

Lincoln unveiled a limousine-like Continental Concept, which is expected to be produced for the 2017 model year. The announcer said the car will have soft-closing doors, which reminded be of the Toto toilet seat.

Automobile writers packed one of the first press conferences of the day, for the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, which is being billed as finally competitive with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in the scrappy midsize-sedan segment. A gas-electric hybrid version also will be available.
Platters of fruit and cheese were typical of the fare offered to members of the automotive media at the 115th edition of the New York International Auto Show. Subaru gave out box lunches with vegetable or turkey wraps. Espresso bars were common, but Porsche restricted its lounge to invitees holding a black card. In general, the automakers seem to be cutting back on food service compared to last year's press preview.