The One Reason Tesla Motors, Inc. and Electric Vehicles Will Dethrone Gas-Powered Vehicles

If you're following the race among alternative-fuel vehicles to dethrone today's king of the road, the internal combustion engine vehicle, you know there are pluses and minuses associated with each type of vehicle. This includes the hybrid electric vehicle; the purely electric vehicle, much in the news these days thanks to Tesla Motors ; and the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. They all have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to various factors, such as cost, convenience, environmental- and human-health impact, and so on. Of course, those strengths and weaknesses are largely quite subjective -- they vary based upon whom you ask, as well as who paid for whatever study is being quoted.

My take is that many of the specifics don't matter that much, and that which type of vehicle should win and which one will win could, perhaps, be two different things.

I believe there is one reason it is highly likely that EVs -- with Tesla leading the way -- will take the passenger-vehicle mantle from ICE vehicles: convenience. (Down the road, perhaps, EVs might be dethroned, and it would be terrific for us all if it were by solar-powered vehicles, but that's a long way a-comin.')


The U.S. is a "convenience society"
I realize boiling this big issue down to one key factor seems overly simplistic. However, what the consumer wants, the consumer usually gets -- and what the U.S. consumer, in general, most craves is convenience, in my opinion.

The U.S. is a convenience society. We have drive-through everythings; Netflix kicked Blockbuster to the curb largely because of the convenience factor; Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' Keurig has been phenomenally successful mainly because it's ultra-convenient; and McDonald's and the entire fast-food concept enjoy amazing success largely because of the ease factor.

Let's not forget the poster child of convenience: online shopping. Amazon.com's massive empire was built on convenience. And what's the latest competitive space in that realm? Same-day delivery. Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Google, among others, see huge dollar signs in their corporate eyes in delivering even more convenience into consumers' lives. Otherwise, would Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos be looking into using drones for short-distance same-day delivery? There are surely huge costs involved in getting that enterprise up and running. Google, likewise, apparently plans to spare no expense in capturing the convenience dollars up for grabs. It's been widely speculated, including by The New York Times, that one reason Google's been building up its massive robotics army -- it bought eight robotics companies last year -- is to use them in its retail delivery service.

Electric vehicles are largely "convenience vehicles" for many
EVs allow for the bulk of "fueling" to be done at the driver's home, while he or she is sleeping away. And, when away from home, the driver will largely be able to plug in and charge up while parked at work, a restaurant, a shopping center, and so on. No need to go out of one's way -- even if it's only a few blocks -- to a gas station. Many people like this idea, and I'd venture to say that most of those same people likely don't want to have to make pit stops at hydrogen fueling stations, either.

Additionally, EVs require less regular maintenance and likely fewer repairs than ICE vehicles -- and who wouldn't like that idea? This is a biggie with respect to both cost and convenience. 

Now, EVs might not be considered convenient for some folks because of their range. However, I think the "range anxiety" issue is largely blown out of proportion when it comes to Tesla's vehicles.

The Model S with the 85 kW-h battery has a 265-mile range. Let's somewhat arbitrarily even lop off 15% during poor driving conditions. That's 225 miles.

Americans who drive passenger vehicles drive an average of 12,000 to 13,500 miles per year. That equates to 230 to 260 miles per week. We're talking one or two charges per week, which, for those with a garage, or select other parking facilities, can be done overnight.

Sure, extended drives will mean stopping at a Tesla Supercharger station. I'd guess most people -- especially those with kids -- stop after a few hours on the road to eat and/or use restrooms, anyway. A 20-minute break allows a Model S to get enough juice at a Supercharger station for an additional 130 miles, while a 30-minute break will provide power for about 200 miles. Granted, these sites aren't conveniently located for everyone yet. So it should go without saying that EVs aren't currently a good fit for some. And for some consumers, such as those whose jobs involve regular long-distance driving, even a 265-mile-range vehicle might not ever be convenient.

As to Supercharger stations, Tesla is aggressively expanding its charging network. By 2015, 98% of the U.S. population (and parts of Canada) will live within the Model S rated-range of a station, per the company.

Down the road, EVs should become even more convenient, as battery and charging technology will almost surely improve, so ranges will increase and charging time will decrease.

Foolish final thoughts
Investors might consider asking themselves this question when considering investing in companies that make consumer goods: Will, or do, a good number of consumers largely view this product as adding convenience to their lives? Tesla's EVs pass that test, in my opinion. 

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The article The One Reason Tesla Motors, Inc. and Electric Vehicles Will Dethrone Gas-Powered Vehicles originally appeared on Fool.com.

Beth McKenna has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Google, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, McDonald's, Netflix, and Tesla Motors and owns shares of Amazon.com, Google, McDonald's, Netflix, and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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6 Comments

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Thomas Earle Moore

Convenience is important but nowhere near as important as suggested here.
Electrical fires are a far smaller risk than fuel fires, and hence irrelevant.
Lack of emissions is also important. But the key advantage is "wired" into the basic physics. Internal combustion wastes 80% of the energy supplied as heat, and electric motors do not. Even fuel cells waste about 50% of the energy. Nothing we know of comes close to the efficiency of the induction motor invented by Nikola Tesla. Those who fulminate about the cleanliness or efficiency of electric power plants should learn the serenity prayer and recite it often.

March 03 2014 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JP White

Great article. Tesla do have a very convenient motoring experience, just a little too rich for most. The shorter range EV's such as my LEAF can be less convenient than a ICE. But as EV ranges extend over time all EV's will become more convenient and cheaper to operate to boot.

February 16 2014 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jim5437532

The Tesla model S. have some very good attributes. It's acceleration is phenomenal and it's range is very good for an EV. It doesn't look particularly special, but with it's great acceleration it is a good "sleeper" car. However it is very expensive, way overhyped and has made a few dangerous compromises on safety. There has been at least five significant Tesla related fires. Tesla has been dragging its feet on safety and the recall

The most recent Tesla garage fire to hit the news was in Toronto. The car supposedly wasn't even plugged in, so the charging system isn't likely to be a source. I'm hoping to hear reports from the fire departments investigation, because I don't trust Tesla's "fire investigations", which seem more like coverups.

There has been at least five Tesla fires. Two Teslas caught on fire after only running over road debris. One Tesla caught on fire and exploded after being in an accident in Mexico. There was a Tesla fire in a California garage, that the Tesla charger connection was ruled as a possible source of the fire by the fire department. Recently there was a Tesla garage fire in Toronto, that so far I haven't heard the fire department give a ruling. Arguably there has been scores, possibly hundreds of minor Tesla fires. There has been a plethora of Tesla charge connectors that have overheated, melted and burned. Though many Tesla shills will argue that they are not fire. Categorically and scientifically they are often classified as fire. Rapid oxidation or rapid decomposition is often classified as fire. Like the metaphor; where there is smoke, there is fire.

A few months ago there was a Tesla related garage fire in California that the fire department ruled that the Tesla charging system was a possible source of the fire. The suspect portion of the Tesla charging system that the fire department in California determined was a possible source of the California garage fire, is also suspected in many other Tesla charger reported cases that Tesla charge connections have overheated, melted and burned. Tesla issued a software "fix", however Tesla charge connectors have continued to overheat, melt and burn despite the so-called "fix".

The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a fire hazard. Tesla charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning. Tesla batteries are poorly located and poorly protected. Tesla is Junk.

On 1/9/2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later Tesla customers have still not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall.

February 15 2014 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jim5437532

Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. Tesla is a greedy corporation that has a disregard for safety. The Tesla model S. is an E-Pinto.

Tesla manufactures more excuses, then cars.

February 15 2014 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jim5437532's comment
jh65536

Please provide any source to your statement "Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors."

p.s. - same comment of yours posed to all Tesla articles?

February 16 2014 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Albertico Perez

ICE vehicles are like Dinosaurs, they might as well be extinct. Within the next 10 years we will see a drastic shift in transportation and the primary energy source of the same. EVs are largely convenient and very cheap to maintain or "fill" up.

Hydrogen vehicles seem like the most green future option, but you would still have to go to a "hydrogen" station to fill up and pay fuel costs comparable to filling up your gas guzzler.

Both have their ups and downs, but both are an improvement over ICE. There is absolutely 0 performance advantage in using an ICE vehicle over these future options.

February 15 2014 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply