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By Russ Finley on Aug 20, 2015 with 14 responses

EV Update: Chevy Bolt, Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode, Speed Record


Chevy Bolt

The July announcement from Chevy of its upcoming $38K, 200-mile range Bolt electric car is, in my humble opinion, of similar historical importance to Nissan’s announcement back in 2011 of the Leaf. With 55 test Bolts running around, this looks like the real deal. When it comes to electric cars, it’s all about the battery and for the Bolt that battery is made by LG Chem. The price and range of the Bolt says it all, which is why Nissan is considering a switch to the LG Chem battery as well. Nissan has hinted that the 2017 Leaf may have a 250 mile range.

Interestingly enough, the impending improvement in battery technology is hurting sales for the Leaf and Volt. I can understand why someone in the market for an electric car might wait a year or so for a version with twice the mileage at a similar price. Conventional cars don’t have to deal with major technological leaps that can obsolete all other cars overnight …battery growing pains.

The second generation Volt using the latest LG Chem battery has a third fewer cells than the original model (192/288) and has roughly a 25 % improvement in range. Extrapolating this data I estimate that a 200 mile range Leaf would require about 479 of those cells: 384 – (0.33 x 384 cells ) = 256 cells. ((256 cells/86 miles) x 200 miles)) / 1.25 = 479 cells. All things being equal, the fewer cells a battery management system has to keep track of, the better. The Panasonic battery powered 200 mile range Tesla Model S presently has about 5,000 cells. That’s over ten times as many cells and all of the attendant software and hardware needed to connect, charge, and monitor them.

Tesla announced its “ludicrous mode” which would allow a Tesla to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Ludicrous mode refers to faster than light speed in the Space Balls spoof of Star Wars. In the Next Generation Star Trek series they called it warp drive …engage! Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider was so impressed with ludicrous mode that he wrote an article (complete with photos of ten high-end sports cars) comparing apples to oranges (a $70K electric sports car to much more expensive conventional ones).



White Zombie Photo Via Inside EVs


Student Built Electric Car Photo Via Gizmag

What he should have done was compare the Tesla acceleration to other electric cars like the car built by college students who just broke the record for electric cars (0-60 in 1.72 seconds). Or better yet, compare it to the 1972 electric Datsun 1200 White Zombie built in a guy’s garage (0-60 mph in 1.8 seconds). The acceleration capacity of an electric vehicle is a relatively simple matter of driving a big motor with a big battery, connecting the two through fuses, wires, and a controller designed to handle the current draw …big drill motors on wheels.


Truth be told, too much potential acceleration is dangerous, especially when it’s being done on our roadways by anybody who can swing the payments on a $70K car instead of professional drivers at a race track. In an earlier article I described a Tesla wreck on city streets that split the car in half . The back end of the Tesla was jammed in the doorway of a synagogue maybe 100 feet away from the front end of the car.

Ferrari LaFerrari

Ferrari LaFerrari $1.4 Million Photo Via Car and Driver

Over-hyping  a relatively affordable electric sport car’s capacity to accelerate for marketing purposes may come back to bite Tesla. Compared to the really high-end sports cars, the Tesla is actually pretty cheap so there will be a lot of them on the road by comparison. Tesla sales have passed 80,000.


Wikipedia Photo of Beech S35 Bonanza

The Beech S35 Bonanza earned the nickname “Doctor Killer” because it was a high performance plane being flown by non-professional pilots. Tragically, one recently crashed not far from where we were camping earlier this summer.

  1. By Sam Rai on August 23, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    you “describe a Tesla wreck on city streets that split the car in half” yet fail to mention it was the first serious injury a Tesla driver incurred to that point. You also fail to note that crash was caused by a thief fleeing cops and driving well over 100mph. The only other serious injury/death in a Tesla was by a guy who drove off a cliff in the same location several others (driving gas cars) have also lost their lives.
    The fact remains that statistically you are far less likely to die or be seriously injured in a Tesla than any of it’s gas competitors. Some of this should be added to your article….after all….ending your analysis of Tesla with a pic of the “doctor killer” is very implicit…something misleading when you consider the Model S has proven to be the opposite

    • By Russ Finley on August 28, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Your perspective is a little myopic. From the Tesla Motor Club:

      ALL of us got the same response from different insurance companies: the Tesla Model S has the highest accident rates and the highest cost of repairs and the highest rate of total loss valuations.

      From Update on the Tesla Model S:

      The Tesla is a heavy car for its size, thanks to its batteries (roughly half-a-ton heavier than the Jaguar XF). On July 6th a Tesla (4,600 lbs) rear-ended a 2004 Corolla (2,500 lbs) at high speed, killing one adult and two children. However, largely thanks to the five star crash rating, the Tesla driver had minor injuries.

      • By Sam Rai on August 29, 2015 at 11:19 am

        it’s cute how you edit…conveniently skipping the very next sentence: “none of this has to do with injuries”….it’s also cute how you ignore that most of the forum members disagreed with that guy…and those who did agree all attributed it to higher repair costs (not accident rate or injury rate)….which is what he was saying too.
        It’s true that Tesla cars will be more dangerous to those they hit because of greater weight…similar to SUV’s. However, unlike SUV’s, the Tesla is much better at accident avoidance due to advanced automation software and radar(typical of a luxury car) and it’s far more athletic maneuverability. Oh it can also stop from 60mph in 108ft. Try doing that in a Tahoe

        • By Russ Finley on August 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm

          it’s cute how you edit…conveniently skipping the very next sentence: “none of this has to do with injuries”

          It’s cute how you edit …conveniently skipping this part of the insurance company quote, “… the Tesla Model S has the highest accident rates …”

          it’s also cute how you ignore that most of the forum members disagreed with that guy

          It’s also cute that you did not expect most commenters at a Tesla owner’s forum to defend their choice of status symbol.

          …and those who did agree all attributed it [high premiums] to higher repair costs (not accident rate or injury rate)

          Pretty absurd to argue that a high accident rate would not contribute to an insurance premium. Not real concerned as to why it costs so much to get a $70K+ Tesla repaired. The salient point is that the high accident rate is tantamount to more damage and injuries for those hit by Teslas.

          Yes, I know It’s true that Tesla cars will be more dangerous to those they hit because of greater weight…similar to SUV’s. However, unlike SUV’s, the Tesla accelerates 2.5 times faster than SUVs like the Tahoe, which is why Teslas have a high accident rate.

          …the Tesla is much better at accident avoidance due to advanced automation software and radar(typical of a luxury car) and it’s far more athletic maneuverability.

          Not sure that is helping your argument …even with advanced accident avoidance the Teslas have a high accident rate.

          • By Sam Rai on August 30, 2015 at 1:23 am

            lol….it doesn’t have the highest accident rates. you are simply making that up

            • By Russ Finley on August 30, 2015 at 1:11 pm

              lol …from the same comment you just read by “that guy” (yobigd20) in the Tesla Owner’s forum I linked to:

              I have a perfect driving record, so nothing to do with me personally. many of us thus asked our insurance companies “why the raise?!?!” ALL of us got the same response from different insurance companies: the Tesla Model S has the highest accident rates and the highest cost of repairs and the highest rate of total loss valuations. So, they have to raise rates to make money or else they’ll need to stop insuring Tesla vehicles. It has nothing to do with injuries.

              Comment fields tend to be anonymous liar’s clubs so don’t ever bet your first born on data gleaned from a comment. And a high accident rate, like a high wage, has no meaning until compared with other accident rates/wages.

            • By Sam Rai on August 31, 2015 at 12:47 am

              you’re misreading the comment. He’s not saying Tesla has the highest percentage of accidents. Within the context of the forum conversation it is clear he is talking about accident costs and insurance rates—-and even that is disputed by most on the forum. I agree with your last two sentences….which makes me wonder why you brought the forum quotes in to the conversation in the first place

            • By Russ Finley on September 2, 2015 at 11:34 pm

              you’re misreading the comment. He’s not saying Tesla has the highest percentage of accidents.

              Definition of accident rate (for airplanes):

              The accident rate is defined as the ratio between the number of accidents which happened in a given year and the number of flights conducted during that same year.

              For a car it would be per miles driven.

      • By Forrest on August 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

        Interesting from UM Transport Research Institute. Data accumulated for 15 years during day light savings change. They had graph on light car striking vehicle deaths 325 vs light car being struck 167 deaths. Compare this to truck striking vehicle 29 deaths vs truck being struck 118 deaths. If you have light car, better to be rear ended as you will have 2x better chance to survive. Opposite for the truck, which is what I’ve always understood. The vehicle doing the striking usually safer than the stopped car. By the truck standards 3x safer. My guess the light car has such inferior protection for front end collision and low to ground it’s just a death trap for strapped in passengers. Tesla or plain pickup would have killed your light car occupants and both would have walked away after doing so. I would think a heavy car will transmit more energy to stopped car vs a light car that ends up absorbing the energy. It’s the transmission of energy thing. I’ve noticed the effect when utilizing a heavy hammer for driving force vs light hammer reactionary force. Same muscle energy. The heavy hammer often times will result in less fatigue if sized right.

  2. By Forrest on August 24, 2015 at 8:26 am

    The stats on safer automobiles and ensuing risky driving habits is well defined. Consumers are attracted to high horsepower cars that offset the safety engineered into the vehicle. I think new cars just built better, stronger, better stiffness, better suspension and quieter. Drivers are lured into unsafe driving practices as doing so will usually not result in accident. They acquire a disconnect with natural world of harm. One rare day the laws of physics take over. Having a button to quickly convert car to drag strip quality will kill many. The public doesn’t understand, for example, that driving a motorcycle without helmet will result in a more careful cyclist. They tend to think in terms of accident survivor-ability only. I bet if motorist were required to wear full face helmets more would die.
    Am I missing something here? The MSRB of Chevy Bolt would be $40k as compared to similar Ford Fiesta $14.5k. The cost of the extra investment for Bolt considering obsolescence, depreciation, loss of alternative investments and the rest best be at least 1% per month. That would put the Bolt at $255 per month disadvantage. It would only cost $150/month to fuel the Fiesta.

    • By Forrest on August 29, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Also, all the stats corrupted by cost of fuel and wealth generated by economy. High growth economy floods roadways with many impatient motorist that speed and drive more miles. Lower fuel prices will promote safer SUV sales, but they probably will speed. Recessionary pressures slow down average driver speed and limits trips especially upon unfamiliar roadways, but force more motorist to unsafe econobox cars. Same low income influence upon maintenance of older cars. Stopping distance greatly affected by quality of braking system maintenance. Same with steering and control and tire selection or condition. Cars that have long service life, probably tend to decrease safety by both the quality/ability of driver and mechanical problems. Mercury Marquis has a reputation of long service life and popular with retirees. The car has high accident death rate.

  3. By Forrest on August 29, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Parsing the insurance company and gov’t stats on vehicle accidents, one would quickly notice a few patterns. Heavier vehicle usually safer especially as compared to econobox light and cheaper high mpg cars. Expensive cars usually safer. Sports cars have a bad safety record. Digging deeper with an inference of personal observations of owner driver risk one can pick up on more patterns. First, vehicles commonly utilized within car rental fleet have a high accident rate. Prosperity often a factor of good decision making and life long habit of avoiding risk. Expensive cars that are often bought by this higher than average IQ groups have a low accident rate. Majority of accidents of pickups have no other car involved. A careful and typically conservative family man driving a family friendly minivan has a low accident rate. Young drivers and old retirees often not so good drivers chose the econobox cars. Lower horsepower and high resale Japanese vehicles often preferred by consumers who have a higher than average aversion to risk. Pickups often used by working families that probably live life hard or fast. They are purchased by those in need of work vehicle and may have an aversion to overdoing or not wearing gov’t required safety belts. They would be the one driving to fast on icy roads with 4×4 passing others or indulging in late night over intoxication, just the the opposite for the young family driving minivan. Tesla is proud of projecting image of speed and acceleration. I would put this enthusiast in category of affluent, but sports car risk behavior. Especially, since they have a need to prove a point with accelerator pedal. The car is heavier, but in my opinion the driver personality the major factor of safety. The accident stats are a bellwether of driver ability/quality. Gov’t and citizens often draw some horrendous conclusions from stats especially the fixation on race comparisons.

  4. By Forrest on August 31, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I’ve read the Tesla link a couple times now, as the below discussion utilizing the owner club comments to advance their opposing viewpoints. It’s an interesting discussion and one usually never evaluated when evaluating vehicle economics. I find as a group the owners seem to have little business acuity and seem to make weak justifications of a $100k purchase. Their main concern is avoiding neighborhood class envy once peers discover the purchase price. They’re surprised once damaging the car on cost of repair. They shouldn’t be. It’s a novelty car utilizing non standard material and construction. The manufacturer has no incentive to support repair industry as they would prefer insurance companies give up the option and offer a better path to sales. The discussion of hyper expensive insurance sure should be an eye opener to those attempting to glee over the change saved with fueling costs. Also, this post ludicrous acceleration mode with eventual increase in accidents; who could argue otherwise? Apparently motivated enthusiast will. One must recognize the promotion of Tesla and owners always a factor of acceleration. The weee excitement factor with low center of gravity vehicle thanks to heavy batteries. So, how much experience within motoring public for irritation and anxiety of increased risk taking for this “wee” driver? You know the ones that pass on right, pass with minimum space, cut passing traffic off, zig and zag traffic lanes, shoot the left turn lane, shoot the merging lanes, off ramp to on ramp traffic passing, and travel to close. You know the idiots out their with need to prove cleverness and wisdom of car purchase. The ones most angry if cut off per operator misjudgement of normal span lane travel. The ones promoting motorist rage and accidents. “The elder driver should have seen me shooting past within the last second of travel, the accident is his fault”. Can’t you just see these smug drivers flipping the ludicrous switch and achieving a pass that therefor would have been impossible. Ya, thats the stuff of accident prevention. Review the professional driver advice such as the million mile accident free truck driver or even the made it to end race driver. It’s about consistency, forming good habits, review, and conservative or careful vehicle operation. We should all know at this stage of life, that the only health care concern of major importance is car death. The other threats of life minimal.

    • By Glen McMillian on September 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Fortunately not many young males who drive recklessly will ever be able to afford a Tesla S or any other high performance Tesla. Damned few older and wiser drivers drive in the fashion you mention. Older and wealthier people know they have a lot to lose, including their own life, in the event they cause an accident.

      The Tesla ludicrous mode is a marketing gimmick and hardly anything more, brought about to make sure the public has NO REASON , other than the high price of a premium electric, to buy a conventional car. It’s all about status and bragging rights.

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