Tesla Triumphs: Electric Car Bests the Rest


Since America’s love affair with cars really got rolling after World War II, nothing but a gasoline-burning internal combustion engine would do. Until now.


The gearheads at Motor Trend have named the Tesla Model S the car of the year for 2013—the first time an all-electric vehicle has ever won the honor. “The turning point will be when electric cars become the best product, and that’s the key for mass adoption,” argued Tesla founder Elon Musk at an event to announce the award November 12. The Model S “is just the best car.”

That’s quite an achievement given that Tesla had to learn how to make a car from scratch, starting as a company in 2003 and then, in 2008, offering its first all-electric sports car known as the Roadster. The Model S is the current bid for more affordability, with a price of at least $49,900 (after a federal tax credit, which Musk, for one, would like to see extended). “It’s difficult to create a car company of any kind,” Musk mused. “An electric car adds additional difficulty and the economy didn’t make it any easier.” In fact, in 2008, Tesla nearly ran out of money until Musk stepped in with his personal fortune.

The key to all electric cars, and the Model S is no exception, is the battery. For Tesla, the battery consists of a 40, 60 or 85 kilowatt-hour pack of lithium ion cells, from an unspecified supplier. Layering those heavy cells into Tesla’s patented pack along the bottom of the Model S helped give the car a low-center of gravity and, thus, exceptional stability, as well as the ability to go 265 miles between charges, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And, thanks to the Tesla’s high purchase price, Tesla recharging stations that can recharge 3-hours worth of driving in 30 minutes will “always” be free, Musk not

Written By: David Biello
continue to source article at blogs.scientificamerican.com


  1. Not quite the first all-electric car to win a ‘car of the year’ award. The Nissan Leaf won one in 2011, just not from “motortrend”, but from the “Car of the Year” organisation…

  2. As most of our electrical energy is generated by burning fossil fuels.
    Can someone please tell me again just how much CO2 is produced to generate and transmit the electricity used to run the car? compared to just burning petrol in the car?
    And while you are at it how much to make the car in the first place?

  3. Well, where I live we have hydropower, geothermal power, massive windpower plants, and one nuclear power plant….but mostly hydro and wind.  I have solar panels on my house which feed into the grid.  So, conceivably this car would be very “green” to run here.  Also, I fantasized for years about owning a Tesla Roadster, but they cost around $165,000 so they were clearly out of reach for me.  The Tesla S is a lot more reasonable, and I’ve been considering ordering one.  Glad to see it finally got some recognition, and I hope it sells well.  I’m surrounded by gas-guzzling king-cab dual-wheel pickup trucks and overblown ginormous SUVS continually threatening my tiny car, and I can’t wait till those monsters go the way of the dinosaur.

  4. Just like the days of using a horse to travel came to an end in the early 20th century, the days ofdriving a car as a means of getting to a particular place are clearly numbered. Google has invented the
    first car to drive itself, and more car companies will undoubtedly follow that lead in the not too
    distant future.

    We are not going to continue killing 50K people a year on the highways, just in the USA, forever,
    –to say nothing of not continuing to critically injure another 120K people per year, just in the USA.

    Automotive technology will eventually take the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver, and eventually
    even obviate the need to pool the attendant risk for personal and property damage.

    Imagine—no more drunk driving,—BECAUSE NO ONE’S DRIVING ANYMORE!!!!! Also, no auto
    insurance companies, fewer/no cops and ambulances needed to pick the car and body parts off the road,
    no traffic light manufacturers, no traffic sign manufacturers, or traffic court judges.

    GEEZ—what are all those out of work people gonna DO!!!!! They can’t all be retrained to build bridges,
    can they?????

    At least then I’ll be able to watch Superbowls uninterrupted by ads with the likes of that charming little Gecko
    fella, or the bass voices of the “Good Hands” people. Goodbye Madison Avenue Ad Agency revenue from Auto Insurance Companies.

    Hey-wait a minute—-how’re they gonna pay those NFL players the big Superbowl bonus bucks without
    those advertisers?????

    There’s nothing like staying alive, and waiting for the manifestly obvious human future to come into the present.

  5. The Union of Concerned Scientists had an article in their magazine recently about the relative environmental merits of all-electric vehicles versus hybrids (see graphic here: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/i… ).
    In areas where coal-fired power plants provide most of the electricity, EVs don’t perform as well as hybrids. According to the UCS< about 45% of the US gets power from relatively clean sources, meaning an EV would have an environmental advantage over a hybrid. Luckily for me, I live in a part of the country where a hybrid performs as well as an EV… >whew!<… I just bought a Prius. :-)

  6.  old-toy-boy – “And while you are at it how much to make the car in the first place?”.   For starters petrol cars have similar amounts of embedded carbon in their manufacture, so I cannot see how being electric makes it worse than petrol.  Secondly, being electric the power source can be carbon neutral fossil fuels will never be.  Thirdly power grids often have difficulties storing increasing amounts of power feed into grids from solar systems on suburban rooftops.  Proposals for electrical cars supports a system where your electrical car while plugged in will feed both in and out of the grid acting as a collective battery,  You as owner will be able to via your smart phone or computer set how much power you require and when and the grid uses your battery to even out fluctuations in the mean time. If  20% of  cars are electric then apparently there will be sufficient storage to even out power spikes from renewable (you will hear more about this over coming years).  Fourthly, electric motors are up to 90% efficient the best internal combustion gets is around 20%.  Fifth, many of the worlds geologists working in the fossil fuel exploration believe we have already reached peak oil.  Even if this isn’t true it will come soon.  When this bites if we don’t have options in place then we are frankly screwed.  Sixth, when its it becomes obvious to the majority of people that we need to for the planets sake stop using fossil fuels what are we going to use, it’s companies like this that will have lead the way, good on them.

  7. You’ve got to love Elon Musk’s reference to Mitt Romney’s statements in the debate, “In retrospect he was right about the object of that statement, but not the subject.”

    He’s more eloquent then I am. I would have said, “Who’s the loser now, bitch?”

  8. Memetical–Hell Yeah–THERE WILL BE!!!! Driving for the Thrill of the Ride, or as a Spectator Sport
    is forever—but as a means of merely getting from one place to the other–clearly not forever.

    We didn’t get rid of horses just because they didn’t need to have to pull loads anymore. They
    just got put into more relatively recreational activities like Kiddieland Pony Rides and
    motion pictures and horse racing in the 20th Century.

    The same thing will happen to automobiles in the 21st Century. Hell, if you and a friend want to build, race and grease monkey an old model vette sportscar in the year 2090, you can do it. But why not do it together
    with other interested parties at a place specifically designed for such activities????  You’ll
    just take a self driven “community vehicle”(CV) to visit that place for as long as you’d like.

    I’m not much into NASCAR—I don’t even have any NASCAR OWNER friends like Mittens
    Romney——–but I LOVE demolition derbies!!!!! It must be because I always felt like
    pushing my old clunkers off a cliff when they aged into the need for constant repairs!!!!

    Yours truly,

    The Kid

  9. We are not going to continue killing 50K people a year on the highways, just in the USA, forever,–to say nothing of not continuing to critically injure another 120K people per year, just in the USA.
    Automotive technology will eventually take the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver, and eventuallyeven obviate the need to pool the attendant risk for personal and property damage.

    I wonder what’s worse, 50,000 killed annually on the roads in USA alone, or an automated future that means we might as well all be dead the moment we’re born?

  10. J.U.C.—-“an automated future that means we might as well all be dead the moment we’re born”


    WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT????? What objections do you have to a collectively purposeless recreational divinely human future???? What do you think the human past was supposed to lead up to?????

  11. Kid Chicago,

    Wiki wiki what?

    This is a list of motor vehicle deaths in the United States by year. On average in 2009, 93 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day. (33,968.25 ppy (people per year))The number of deaths – and deaths relative to the total population – have declined over the last two decades. From 1979 to 2005, the number of deaths per year decreased 14.97% while the number of deaths per capita decreased by 35.46%. Traffic fatalities in 2010 were the lowest in 62 years.

    I’m not sure what the rest of your post said, after the 50,000 I just turned off

  12. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT????? What objections do you have to a collectively purposeless recreational divinely human future???? What do you think the human past was supposed to lead up to?????

    It sounds like Heaven! I have every objection!

  13. Look, sorry about the statistical approximates–my figures are a bit older, and perhaps inclusive
    of the rest of North America–the point is, succinctly put, that human ingestion of booze is forever–
    but doing it AS A DRIVER in a car merely to get from one place to another is NOT. ANY of us, whether
    inebriated or not, are statistically likely to cause or have caused to us, personal and/or property
    damage over the course of an adult lifetime of driving. That’s why the auto insurance industry
    exists. When place to place ordinary conveyance goes driverless, you can drink as a passenger
    with no statistical possibility of damage due to the human error factor in driving from place
    to place whether inebriated or not. (Technology will also one day begin to address the dysfunction
    associated with continuous inebriation, but that is another subject for discussion.)

    Any good glass of wine or liquor obviously transcends the ordinary act of driving a vehicle merely
    to get from one place to another. Obviously.

    And 33,968.25 PPY is still that many PPY too many!!!!!!! Seat belts and airbags have helped,
    but they aren’t the “final solution”, so to speak. 

  14. Gee, JUC—-how are you planning to stop Progress from progressing?????? Progress does indeed
    eventually progress———maybe it takes some people there kicking and screaming. Relax,— enjoy
    it. My recommendation to you is a nice glass of red wine. Okay, I should have put the word, divinely in quotation marks. Feel better now????

  15. You can find some of the history of Tesla Motors in “Revenge of the Electric Car” (sequel to “Who Killed the Electric Car?”) They got a big loan ($400m?) from the US government (which interestingly is not mentioned in the article), and moved from a very high end sports car model to something with wider appeal. I hope it works out. Tesla has had some big wobbles. Once the cars have been in use for a year or two without quality problems, I’ll be fully convinced.

    old-toy-boy: The point is that the electricity can be generated renewably (even if it isn’t just now), whilst gasoline never can be. It’s not a panacea, just a big step in the right direction.

  16. I like the fact they will not disclose the provider of the battery technology. I presume to stop a compulsory purchase order being slapped on them so an oil giant can buy out the company and halt the technology…cynic, me? Never!

  17. They are good questions and we have to find answers. Eletric cars are not the ultimate destination – fuel cell powered cars are. In their favour, electric cars do not dump combustion products into the centre of cities like their gasoline-driven cousins. They also don’t have that silly, heavy engine block to carry around! But they do have basically laptop batteries. Never be too impressed by automotive technology. This is the first major shift in 100 years – there are not many industries so short of innovation!

  18. I’m not convinced that an electric sports-car isn’t an oxmoron as far as energy conservation is concerned.

    As far as cleaning up the air in cities goes, I am reminded of the electric double-decker trolley buses I travelled on as a teenager. 
    They could probably out-accelerate most sports cars, so you really had to hold onto the hand rails.
    The main problem with them was the need to stop to switch the points on the overhead cables at road-junctions where routes branched (see picture below) , but modern wi-fi would easily cope with that.

    Within cites they look like a near zero carbon answer, providing the power-generation is not carbon based.  Unlike trains/trams,  they do not need rails or stations and can manoeuvre around obstacles. They were also able to travel slowly for short distances on battery power.


  19. I’ve read somewhere about attempts to include a mini wind turbine into a electric vehicle in order to
    harness wind resistance and remove the need for recharging facilities. I think it’s a German Company,

  20. I’ve read somewhere about attempts to include a mini wind turbine into a electric vehicle in order to harness wind resistance and remove the need for recharging facilities.

    If it is on the move,  I think that sounds like a perpetual motion machine, so it would be impossible, –  although, there have been experiments with wind generators on ships. 

    It would be possible to have some wind generator linked up when parked, but the turbine blades are dangerous anywhere near people.

    There are already systems for charging with solar power, but these are not much use where there are shadows of buildings.

  21. Hmmm, not really. Less metal, less weight therefore less CO2 in general. Rule of thumb for petrol cars – about half the CO2 to build it, half to run it. Which makes fuel cell cheaper by half. It’s not accurate because nobody really knows yet!

  22.  Alternative Carpark,
    But are there any figures to back that up?
    I studied energy in the late seventies, at that time, the energy efficenecy of converting fossil fuel energy to motive power was around 25% with a theoretical maximum 33%, Applies to both a car engine and a boiler/turbine, Then there was a 5% drop converting the turbine motion to electrical. Then another massive 50% transmiting it to one’s home. so that was 25% for petrol car and about  half that for an electric car, OK that was in the seventies. But I have yet to see any other figures.


  23.  I fully accept that id the electricty is generated by renewable energy sources that would be perfect. but until it is I believe it actually produces more CO2 polution.
    Furthermore, One can see from the example of sourcing timber from “sustainable” the trade is open to fraud at many levels.

  24. kidchicago

    Right back at you with another fact

    “In the United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 17,941 people died in 2006 in alcohol-related collisions, representing 40% of total traffic deaths in the US”

    From our friends at wiki. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make about drinking and driving, I don’t think you’ll be able to find anyone to disagree with? But it’s clearly not the only problem….

  25. alaskansee–

    My only point is that human ingestion of alcoholic beverages will go much deeper into the
    human future than our collective need to have to drive(commandeer) a vehicle merely for
    the ordinary, mundane, occupational act of getting from one destination to another. It is part of a larger train of thought that I’m currently attempting to write a book about.

    Of course, the drivered vehicle will always be around in some form for recreational purposes
    such as NASCAR, but not for occupational(work related) purposes. The mundane task of getting
    from point A to point B by driving a vehicle is just too relatively occupational(worklike) an act not to be vulnerable to the winds of change which are driven by technological forces. 

    How much longer do you think telephone poles will be around??? How about snail-mailboxes???
    Corded appliances??? Dining room mechanically turned thermostats???? Printed newspapers and magazines??? All those things are far too vulnerable to the winds of change emanating from technology, as is the role of the drivered vehicle as a means of ordinarily getting from place to place.

    Yeah, there’s a larger principle at work here.

    When my book is completed, I hope to donate most, if not all the proceeds to the RDF. I sure hope I
    get the chance.

  26. I cycled to work this morning and will cycle back up the road before I drive to the river and go dog sledding. The only bit I won’t enjoy is the drive although the heater is good.

    and I promise I won’t let my professional capacity as brewery designer interfere with my driving!

  27. PERSON – No, fuel cells are a form of storage. You still need to put the energy in to run it.

    True, but with “green electricity” and fuel made from water, there is no CO2.

    It is also possible to use CO2 free power to some extent in manufacture.

    For city public transport, the trolley-bus system I described earlier, needs no storage, as it takes its power directly from a city-wide grid of overhead power-lines. – http://richarddawkins.net/news

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