Tesla has been a leader in the electric vehicle industry for the last decade. Its success is largely due to one major innovation: the solution of 'range anxiety', or the fear that your EV may run out of power mid-trip. Elon Musk’s automaker sold a seductive notion that EVs were a one-to-1 replacement for gasoline-powered cars by adding more batteries to its cars and establishing a rapid-charging system. Tesla's claim of superior range was a lie. We only learned this now after building our fleet decarbonization strategy around the goal to make EVs resistant to range anxiety. The report reveals that Tesla managed to close the gap by rigging their software for range estimation, manipulating dashboards, and even creating a "diversion team" to suppress customer complaints. This picture does more than just shatter Tesla's image of technological superiority. Tesla's vision, even before Elon Musk joined the company, was to put enough lithium-ion battery power into a vehicle for it to have a high performance and incredibly long range. The result was a product designed to appeal to the new tech elite. It promised that through technological innovation and scale, the high price of the car would magically be reduced. It's not surprising that Tesla exaggerated its long-range vision for electric cars. The problem is not just that Tesla misled customers, regulators, and investors about the real-world range of its vehicles, a similar act to the VW Dieselgate scandal. Tesla's leadership has led consumers to buy the largest battery EVs possible, believing that they are saving the environment when in fact they are hoarding unused EV batteries to ward of their own range anxiety. Tesla's range figures are overkill, as Americans drive an average of 40 miles per day and 95 percent are less than 30 miles. This is a problem for the battery supply chain, which has only recently begun to show signs. The number of pedestrians who die is at an all-time high. There's nothing 'accidental' about it.
Tesla's "big-battery" approach is based on a lie that EVs will replace gas cars directly without any behavioral changes from consumers. No matter how desperately the public and legislators want to believe it--it'd be nice! --it is simply not true: Internal combustion vehicles and battery-electric vehicles are fundamentally separate technologies with different strengths. We should not follow Tesla and get into an arms race over battery size that will only make future cars more expensive, oversized and dangerous. Instead, we must accept that the market needs to change. Government policy should not focus on giving incentives for the largest batteries but instead electrify the vast majority daily trips that start and end at the home, and can be easily handled by vehicles of 100 miles or less range. This means that consumers should be encouraged to use the smallest batteries possible for their regular trips and not just the road trips which make up only a small percentage of all trips. It's not surprising, when you consider how misguided we are with our battery EV obsession, which is based on the fundamental fallacy that battery and internal combustion engines can be interchangeable. The company that has created this misconception allegedly lied about its own range. We don't think that the legal and regulatory consequences for Tesla will be the end of the story. Tesla's deception about range has been allowed to continue for so long, because we believed it. Musk has a lot of stories that revolve around this desire. Musk has convinced us of a wide range of quick solutions to some of the most complex problems in the world. From cars that drive themselves, to smaller tunnels that will'solve' traffic to the idea a brain-interface will cure all diseases. Musk is the living embodiment H.L. Mencken said that "for every complex issue, there is a simple, neat and wrong solution." It's time we stop thinking that building a future as good as Elon Musk will be easy.