Happy Larger Year Number Day (Not really a post), and electric car questions.

Happy Larger Year Number Day! 2014 was an idiot, apart from some nice space stuff that happened. Let's hope 2015 spends less time being completely horrible. Already, things are looking up, as I can definitely recall one year ago venturing out into my yard at least twice on New Year's Day to clear my driveway of Way Too Much Snow and wishing I had a domestic flame thrower in my garage to just set the whole shebang on fire and be done with it. Or, I could just set myself on fire and make slush angels in the driveway.

This week, after a month of surprisingly enjoyable Decemberness, it became Properly Cold in Chicago. Like single-digit cold. Also, I've been seeing a lot of Tesla Model Esses on the road. Did a bunch of people get them for HannuChristmaKwaanzaDon? The noticeable popularity of Teslas leads me to wonder some very pointed questions at electric cars in general, and the news and reviews that talk about them do not seem to address my questions, as far as I can tell.

Disclaimer: Electric cars sound good to me. I would love one, when they meet my needs some day. Electric motors are super torquey, so there's no reason they have to be boring "transportation appliances". If I had a choice, The Tesla looks like a good choice. It's not as dorky looking as the Nissan Leaf, but it costs more than twice as much. However, here are some things you may want to consider before you run out and buy any green luxo-barge of your own:

Cost. Duh. This one's a no-brainer. Electric cars are still pretty new. Battery technology has to catch up to the demands of the everyday driver. Only a few electric/hybrid cars can hit the magic mark of 300 miles on a charge without drinking any dead dinosaurs.

Cold-weather performance. Batteries don't like being cold, and their performance drops precipitously as the ambient temperature also nosedives. This little sticking point doesn't get mentioned in the news much, but an electric car's range is seriously reduced in the cold. See this Forbes article

No free heat. Internal combustion engines (you know, the kind that run on gasoline) produce plenty of heat as a by-product of their basic functioning. Any engineer will tell you that this, of course, a symptom of an inherent lack of efficiency. Any heat you didn't specifically ask your machine to produce is a sign of energy wasted. It's a bummer in the summer, but in the winter, getting all the free heat you want is pretty sweet while you drive around in six degree cold. This is not the case with electric cars. If you want to be warm, you'll be running the heater off the battery, further reducing the car's driveable range.

Dead batteries. No battery lives forever. What's the warranty coverage on the car's battery? They cost a few thousand dollars to replace. Ten years from now, the battery technology required to make a car work won't be as cutting-edge, so hopefully they'll be cheaper by then. Current info says that Tesla's battery is warrantied for eight years. Are you prepared to write a huge check to replace your car's battery pack when the time comes to sell it on? I wouldn't buy a second hand electromobile with an eight-year-old battery.

Nibbler, the design inspiration
for the nose of the Tesla Model S.
But then there's the look of the Tesla. It's a good-looking car, generally. I, for one, hate the nose. An electric car doesn't really need a grille (whose job it is to let air in and cool the motor). But because people are afraid of change,Tesla's designers more or less painted one on in black plastic... presumably so timid buyers wouldn't be put off by how unconventional it looks. I think it looks really stupid. That's not a grille. That's a black dot on the front of the car. Fix it! There is a horrible trend right now in automotive design: lots of fake intakes and giant dump-truck grilles that are more than 50% blocked by a structural member called "the bumper". Cleverly, designers wrap the bumper in black plastic, hoping you're easily fooled into thinking it's a grille. I'm not. Guys, either make it a grille or make it a bumper, but it can't be both. Bumper-obviously-through-grille syndrome as a rampant disease and it needs to die, die, die.

This Audi and Hyundai are just two of the many many examples of bumper-obviously-through-grille syndrome that plague our planet's roads. Also notice the pretend intakes down at the corners of the front fascia on each car. Fake macho cheesiness like this is very popular among among the eight-year-old boy customer segment. These cars will be nicely improved by a head-on collision.

Well done, guys. I can hardly tell there's a bumper blocking 60% of the area of your grill, there. But, at least you've got that dump truck look that's so very popular.
So how do you do it right? Easy. Just don't do it. Bumper in the middle, neatly smoothed into the rest of the nose, and grilles above and below. VW's entire product lineup suffered from B.O.T.G. syndrome until about six years ago. Then they fixed it. Same with the Ford Fusion. In ford's case, they just stole the nose from Aston Martin and used it for their car. No shame there. Astons have always been pretty. Both the Ford and the VW still have the dopey pretend intakes at the corners, as if the brakes need that much cooling. Maybe we can look forward to that being fixed soon?

So anyway. Happy Larger Year Number Day. Here's to a brand new Arbitrary Compartmentalized Bunch of Time. May it bring you prosperity, fully charged batteries, and no fake intakes.


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