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The electric car is happening September 17, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in electric cars.
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The Tesla X in a rather fetching smoky grey.

Thank you Elon for making this happen.

There’s a point where you realize something that was formerly fantasy has crossed a threshold and is really going to happen. The moon shots circa 1967. The internet circa 1994. And today it became clear to me the electric car, circa 2015.

It was the rapid-fire stories on Ars Technica that did it for me. When three major car manufacturers all announce a long-range “Tesla killer” in the same few days, well, what else do you call it? The real, uncompromised e-car has finally arrived.

Yeah, these are still rich kid toys. But they won’t be in 2020. And since our Toyota keeps refusing to die, and that slope is moving ever downward every day, who knows, maybe even a schlub like me will end up in one sooner than later.

Fight!

The Porsche Mission E in white. Looks a lot like a futuristic 911.

The Mission E looks like a futuristic 911.

First up, the Porsche Mission E, a four-seat sports car aimed directly at the Tesla S’s demographic. 600 hp, 310 mile (500 km) range, 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. This is purely a sports car design, as opposed to the Model S’s sports sedan styling, and it has an unmistakable 911-ish quality to it. Pure mid-life-crisis at its worst, but at least the boomers won’t be burning up the planet pretending their hair isn’t falling out. Fast charging on DC gets you 80% in 15 minutes, which is competitive or better than the Supercharger, although they don’t say if they support Supercharger or this is that terrible CHAdeMO standard, the equally horrid SAE version, or even their own. This is purely a concept car, but as the blogosphere has noted, Porsche has a habit of turning a whole lot of its concepts into reality.

The Audi e-tron quattro in electric blue.

Audi e-tron quattro

Next up, the Audi e-tron quattro. Same range as the Porsche, but “only” 429 hp, so it “only” does 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. Recharges in 50 minutes using some sort of DC feed, but they don’t have any details on whether or not it’s Supercharger compatible. And for fun, it has a solar panel on the roof, although that might get you 10 km of range a day, if you’re lucky. Another trick is an induction charging system, so you don’t even have to plug it in when you get home. That won’t get you the quick charging of the DC feed, but perfect for overnight charges in the garage. This too is a concept, but unlike the Porsche, this one is committed to production for the 2018 model year.

Image from 60 Minutes of a car model under tarps, which might just be the Tesla Model 3.

Is this the Model 3?

And let’s not forget the Tesla Model 3 (oh come on, change it back to E!), which is now slated to be officially unveiled in March 2016 and on sale in 2017. This one is arguably the most interesting of all of them, because at a price of $35,000, it’s squarely in the upscale mid-range sedan price point. This is certainly in the range where I start to seriously consider saving up my pennies… because the premium charges will be at least partially offset by the reduction in gas. Of course the various tax write-offs help with that sticker price (which might include them to seem artificially low) but I have a feeling these will disappear once cars like this start appearing.

And then there’s Apple. What do we know about their efforts? Not much, be we do know they’re hiring in droves, that they set up an entire Titan division, that they’re rented land to test self-driving, and that the company is absolutely loaded with talent hired away from Tesla, Mercedes, Ford and others. Apparently they’ve hired away so much of that talent that Tesla is being negatively impacted. Bad for Tesla, but great for us. Apple has manufacturing capability like no company on the planet – at one point they were responsible for 1/3rd of all the li-ion battery production on the planet. The self-driving angle means this is a few years out, but that’s kind of how Apple works, they only jump in once the price/performance ratio starts making sense and they can make a real difference. Of course it’s Apple, which likely means it wouldn’t be cheap, but that means something entirely different in the car market. It’s a total wildcard at this point, but one that everyone is watching.

To be honest I’m not really a car guy, I’m an energy guy, but all of this has got the (old) juices flowing. As these higher-end units start pushing down the price range, the lower-end models like the Leaf and Bolt start looking more attractive as a local runabout while waiting for the next-gen midrange models to arrive.

Exciting times, watching everything change.

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