Tesla’s Insane Innovation
Originally published on CleanTechnica.
By Kyle Field
We spend a lot of time here on CleanTechnica discussing the many benefits of EVs, but there have been a few “hidden” benefits to driving EVs that were nice surprises when we actually started driving one full time. Reminiscent of the early days of the Apple iPhone when Steve Jobs would come out in his signature mock T, we now wait with bated breath for Elon to come down out of the clouds to bestow Tesla’s new innovations upon us, single-handedly changing the way we think about cars and how they work for us… all in a mere 20 minutes. But seriously, EVs have lifted the veil, shirked the shackles, and are transforming vehicles as we knew them, delivering the future that was promised in Back to the Future, Minority Report, and Blade Runner, one keynote at a time.
“Tesla the innovator” has, since its inception, had different ideas about personal transportation and continues to bring it. So have a few other EV manufacturers, but Tesla has led the way. Here’s a sampling of some of the big boys (in terms of innovative benefits from Tesla):
- Not using gas – Okay, I know this is essentially the definition of an EV, but it also may be the biggest thing EVs are bringing to the table. Save you some cash? Sure! Save the planet while you’re at it? Why not! And with long range, Teslas can take you on road trips without great inconvenience.
- Horsepower for days – This may not seem revolutionary now, but it was Tesla that brought the first sporty EV to the scene with the Roadster. In fact, it was the sporty feature that first attracted Elon to the company. He knew that sexy sells and, indeed, that strategy seems to be paying out.
- HUGE batteries – Insane power and ludicrous acceleration need big pools of electricity to drink from, and Tesla had the solution to that equation as well with its 60 (then 70) and 85 (and 90) kWh battery packs. EV drivers were used to just enough miles for their daily needs, but all of the sudden, they can leave the Tesla in the garage without charging if they don’t feel like it. 225 miles to a charge? 275 with the jumbo pack? Crazy! Having said that, these packs are not for the light of pocketbook, with the Telsa Model S sale price averaging $110,000.
- Bioweapon defense mode (aka, don’t suck your neighbor’s exhaust mode) – As we noted in the past, this is a key feature for many cities with less than desirable air quality, and has really raised the bar for luxury vehicles, and I would be shocked if we weren’t seeing this same feature popping up in other high-end cars in the next few years.
- Dual Motors – Slapping another beautiful motor under the front bonnet gives the brains of the car another tool that it can use to equalize the traction and provide full control. When I was driving Tesla’s overly fast P85D, my salesman not only allowed me to pound the pedal to the metal, but encouraged it – and while I was going around a corner. I was impressed when full pedal to the metal Tesla power was put straight to the wheels, while going around a corner.
- Superspledulous windscreens – We covered this over on sister site Gas2, but the windscreen on the Model X really changes the look and feel of the Model X (or so they say — I haven’t driven one yet). Again, this innovation shows that Tesla is really rethinking the driving experience and challenging the way we have done things all these years, and improving upon them.
- Giant touchscreens – Think back to when you first saw this thing. You know you just wanted to play with it and see what it can do. Me too!! So when I was first able to get in a Tesla Model S, the first thing was to play with the screen, to dig around into all the features – and boy, are there features! You can open the charging port, the frunk (front trunk), windows, etc, etc, etc… It controls the climate, the backup camera, the nav map, ludicrous mode, suspension, and on and on and on. It’s the tablet control system that we had all been waiting for… that we never knew we wanted. The smartphone in the car dash that’s not restricted to a mere 6 inches – why not 17? Hah!
- Super Safety – As Elon so eloquently explained in the official Model X unveiling, removing the engine from the front of cars gave Tesla the ability to increase the crumple zone, increasing safety FAR beyond what any other automaker has (or can) with conventional engine layouts and design. Safety isn’t one of those sexy things that’s exciting to go out and pay more money for, but in real life, it is a game-changer when ya need it.
- Autopilot – As many were keen to mention when we brought up auto-braking, many car companies do this already, and it’s true that there are very similar features out there from a variety of manufacturers. But there are a few key differences that set Tesla apart: 1) Tesla pushes updates over the air. Buyers who bought a Model S didn’t have autopilot then… but they do now. And it will get better. It gets smarter as more and more drivers use it. There will be abuses, of course – that’s human nature. Can’t fix stupid, and that’s really what it boils down to. Jumping into the back seat while the car drives itself? Stupid. Crossing your arms while Tesla works it’s magic? Probably not the best idea. People, please. 2) Tesla is rolling this out to each and every Model S that’s capable. Part of that is that these cars are luxury cars and come with high-end features, but the way they’re doing it is breakthrough.
- Supercharging – I see this as a key differentiator between Tesla and the rest of the pack, and not just because it’s free (today). These Superchargers crank the amps and push the watt-hours into their beastly creations, delivering around 200 miles of range in just 30 minutes. Tesla allows buyers to essentially pay for access to this network and has already hinted at future changes to the free model. People are using it to charge up on the way home from work (3 miles down the road) while at the same time hogging a spot that somebody else might actually need to get their home 200 miles away. While the number of superchargers will also increase, as the number of Teslas on the road continues to increase faster and faster, this model will have to change. I foresee Tesla starting to charge a premium when drivers use chargers that are close to home, with the price dropping down to free farther from home. This tiered model would provide just enough incentive to not convenience charge and to wait for home, freeing up spots for folks who actually need them.
- Battery Storage Density – As demand for EVs continues to increase, we are seeing more and more money pouring into battery technology. This benefits EV drivers by driving down the cost, driving up the storage density, making batteries more environmentally friendly (I’m looking at you, LFP) all of which translate into more affordable EVs with higher range and a lower footprint. On top of that, this has a profound affect on renewables, as grid-scale batteries are a key to breaking the shackles of fossil fuel–based electricity and catalyzing a transition to renewables.
I could go on and on, but I’m sure I’ve lost a few of you already (come back, you’re almost there!). EVs are here to stay but they are not staying as they are. They are changing the world, and the way the world gets around.