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From Autoweek: Adventures in new Technology: Tesla Model S-tranded

Kamil Kaluski December 11, 2012 Friends of Hooniverse 53 Comments

There was a time, not too long ago, when even some new vehicles wouldn’t start in the morning. Fortunately the vehicles were simple and the owners experienced enough to hit the starter with a hammer or push-start it. Open the hood on any modern new car and it’s a safe bet that the starter motor is not even visible.

Dealing with a disabled new electric vehicle is something else altogether. When Autoweek’s Rory Carroll was unable to remove the charging plug from his 2014 Tesla Model S test vehicle, a special Tesla Ranger (no joke) had to flown out to his house to help with the repair. The repair work kept the Tesla was stuck at Carroll’s home for two days and required parts to be shipped over-night from Japan California.

While the repair work was seemingly trivial, it was unlike anything ever performed on conventional car. I cannot recall a fuel hose nozzle ever being stuck in the gas filler, disabling the engine. This makes me think about the long-term costs of repair of electric vehicles. While the amount of maintenance is greatly reduced on EVs (no oil changes, to timing belts), it seems as though it will be the little things that will keep the EVs from moving. Chances are that there will be a lot of those little things too, and none of them will be cheap.


  • His suggestion that Tesla hook up with a national rental chain (not necessarily National(R)) would go far to take this from "CAR LEAVES ME STRANDED" to "Car broke, have loaner for two days while company fixed it". For the money they spent dealing with him, $150 worth of high-end rental car won't appreciably change the cost.

    In other news, a small-volume car from an independent manufacturer using new technology breaks? Not exactly shocking.

    • Shocking! See what you did there.

    • jeepjeff

      It's still one more reason to resist buying an electric vehicle.

      • I understand your reluctance to move into the modern era, but I still think the technology has great potential in spit of these impedances.

      • Scandinavian Flick

        I'd be tempted if I had the money, but I certainly wouldn't have it as a car I needed for transportation. Maybe as a 2nd or 3rd car.

        Charger plug is stuck in the electric car? No problem! Just give the Volvo P1800 in my garage a couple stabs of the throttle before trying to turn it over, since it's been sitting for a few weeks…

        Edit: Derp… I missed a pun thread…. I'll just discharge from it now and save myself further embarrassment.

        • Devin

          It's a natural reaction to get a charge out of someone being negative.

          • Van_Sarockin

            Enough of these awful puns. You're all grounded.

          • Scandinavian Flick

            It was a long day fraught with resistance. I'm glad it's over and it's good to be ohm.

            • owl

              what on earth are you on about…?

              • jeepjeff

                You don't mho what he's talking about? He had run out of juice and his capacitance for recognizing an awful pun thread had completely drained out of him.

      • Dan

        [youtube vypGPc2LVFo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vypGPc2LVFo youtube]

    • "…a small-volume car from an independent manufacturer using new technology breaks? Not exactly shocking."

      The current instance is poles apart, so take care not to introduce faulty parallelism into this series.

      • Dan

        Electric vehicles do seem to be a very polarizing subject. On the positive side, this could mean quite the jump in battery technology. However, some people aren't sure whether or not the technology is quite current enough to be reliable.

        • Vairship

          Being stuck with a broken down car is a negative, I'll admit. But there are a whole battery of reasons why electric cars will be far more current in the future. I for one am quite amped up!

  • Sjalabais

    Very odd problem, yet I hope the Tesla Ranger™ travels by thunder and lightning.

    Regarding EVs I am more concerned about batteries going bad and resale value.

  • jeepjeff

    <img src="http://www.ridelust.com/wp-content/uploads/fail-owned-gas-nozzle-fail.jpg&quot; width=500>

    Quite the opposite on that leaving you stranded.

    • Scandinavian Flick

      Similar situation to the Tesla in this case, but with a more conventional fix.
      "Crap, the nozzle is stuck… Well fuck that, I got places to be!" *peels off*

      • jeepjeff

        Might also be the good ol' "doo-dee-doo Why do people keep flashing their brights at me?"

        • Scandinavian Flick

          Yeah, the Starbucks cup, cell phone and baby carrier already fell off the roof 2 blocks back…

          • POLAЯ

            Who in their right mind would forget their cell phone?

  • Rkw

    Maybe this is more about buying from a niche manufacturer than about electric vs. internal combustion.

    Speaking of complexity, I'd love a Hooniverse special feature on whether forced induction creates problems late in a vehicle's life. I am convinced that the engines can perform great at least through the warranty, but worry about heat, pressure and extra parts to fail at 125 or 150 thousand miles. The VW 2L turbo four and BMW turbo/twin-turbo six are of particular interest.

    • So would I.

      I have the feeling the current crop of forced induction + direct injection motors will be hit-and-miss. I know it's possible to design these systems with 300k mile service lives (see: diesel), but design flaws happen (see: BMW HPFP).

      From the Hooniverse perspective, failure modes, serviceability and replace-ability of parts is probably more relevant and interesting.

    • It's a valid question, and one that I'm looking forward to finding out the answer, specifically in the case of the Audi / VW AEB as fitted to mine. My experience with Diesel Benz engines (esp. OM542) tends to highlight problems with the periferals that govern the turbo rather than the turbo itself. E.G, if the oil-seal fails (common) you end up with damage to the inlet-port shut-off motor and things snowball from there. The only turbos we've replaced have died of oil starvation.

    • craymor

      I don't think it negatively affects the motor, matainance costs may be a bit higher, but my ole' 245TI had over 450K when the body finally failed on it, the motor and turbo were still going quite well, the mounting point for the clutch cable was what finally failed on it.

    • Maymar

      I'm a little skeptical at the prospect of buying any of the batch of new turbo cars, at least used. Not that I don't trust the technology, but I don't trust the push to sell it to the mainstream, that your average owner will take proper care of it.

    • There a reason you still see a ton a Malaise era V-8s on the road. A 165HP 7:1 compression 350 V-8 isn't exactly stressed. The lower rpms that you can use in daily driving the longer a car will last. Basic engineering/physics will tell you that a 8:1 compression ration large displacement V-8 that makes 300HP at 3500 rpm will last longer than a turbo 4 cylinder that makes 300HP at 6000 rpm.

  • One thing that worries me about EV cars is the same thing that troubles me about cars with highly-tuned gas engines. I know at some point I'll pull into a garage and fill up with the wrong grade of electricity.

    • Particularly that weird 220V 50Hz stuff you guys use over there.

      Should be 110V 60Hz, The Way God Intended!

      • Devin

        Fun fact, there's an island off the coast of Newfoundland that's actually a French colony, so they use weird-ass European electricity standards.

        • 1slowvw

          Saint Pierre et Miquelon is what you're going for there, I've never made it out past the Iles de la Madeleine but if they are at all alike then the predominant forms of transportation will be nissans, and scooters.

        • Vairship

          French electrons are unreliable, plus they smoke Gauloises non-stop!

        • pj134
          • Devin

            I actually found out about it from a different thing, but I want to drive to France one day.

  • i would still buy one if i was in the market.

  • e24tony

    After seeing one of these in the flesh, I don't care if it gives me a shock every time I get in the damn thing.

    Looks beautiful.

  • I am going to the factory to pick up a new Model S with a friend. I think I get a factory tour. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll investigate.

    • That factory is halfway between my house and my office.

      I recommend Taqueria Las Vegas (across the street) for the carne asada fries.

      • Just got back from the tour. Had dinner at Las Vegas. I drove the Model S about 20 miles up and down 880. A full write-up will be done, of course.

  • MVEilenstein

    I think Top Gear had it right: electric motors are fine, but batteries are not the future. Hydrogen is where the real advance in technology will happen.

  • Garland

    Anybody know exactly how many of these things have been built/delivered? I saw one the other night (in Virginia) and was literally dumbfounded.

    I don't like electric cars (at all), but it's a striking sight to see one on the road.

    • I see an average of 1/day.

      But the again I live the SF Bay Area and drive by the factory every day on my way to work (so sometimes I see 2-3).

      • SSurfer321

        I'm still dumbfounded that there's a Fisker Karma running around Frankfort, KY. We're not exactly a hot bed of high end exotics, though Cars and Coffee in Lexington always surprises me.

        • Lower cost of living = more money for playthings?

          • bhtooefr

            Keep in mind that there's a ton of money in horses. And where's the first place you think of, when you think of horses?

    • I went to the factory today. They are making 40 per day now. I will have a full write up on Hooniverse soon.

  • Van_Sarockin

    An interesting story, but not particularly surprising. New technology. New car model. You want it all to work perfectly all the time. But there will be glitches to fix. I am curious if the charging cord is using the new industry standard connecter design? It could be that there's a problem that's not just limited to the Tesla. There's also a fair chance that operator error may have been involved.

    • Felis_Concolor

      I recall reading Tesla's connector follows neither industry standard. Yes, that means there are now 3 modern EV plugs out there: Tesla; CHAdeMO; J1772.

  • smokyburnout

    "I cannot recall a fuel hose nozzle ever being stuck in the gas filler, disabling the engine."
    Racing technology for the street! http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id


    Maybe they filled it with Coal electricity instead of Nuclear?

    • Rory Carroll

      What do you think I am, some kind of dope? I'm a coal man through and through!