Our Transportation Needs: Electric vs Hybrid Vehicles; Ownership vs Subscription

American Cars

’67 Ford Falcon: My first car!

When I was a young kid I had a Ford and then a Plymouth. After my family’s experience with American-made cars, I swore that, as an adult, I would never again own an American car brand. American cars were crap cars–junk that wasn’t innovative or in the least bit reliable.

I kept that promise for decade after decade. I’ve owned a VW (Rabbit diesel), an untold number of Hondas (Accords and the Civic), a Nissan, Acuras, and Lexus. The Japanese cars were all totally reliable, excellent vehicles. But I broke my promise to myself four years ago when we bought a Tesla.

I rationalized that the Tesla was made in California, which was “not really part of the United States.” It’s like its own country and the sixth largest economy in the world. But, truth be told, the Tesla is an American-made car, despite the fact that it was stunningly innovative technology.

Tesla Ownership

Nick, our Tesla, just back from being serviced
Nick, our Tesla, just back from being serviced, again!

Tragically, our Tesla ownership experience has been very typical of the American car ownership experience of my youth. The Tesla lands squarely in the category of a crap car. Yes, it absolutely is a blast to drive! Unquestionably! And yes, Tesla has forced the tipping point for fossil fuel. I’m very glad we were a part of that story by buying our Model S.

But, I actually hate our Tesla ownership experience! I literally hate it, and we have only 25,000 miles on the car. Here is what I hate about the car:

  • It rattles like a bucket of loose bolts. No car in this price range should rattle. It should be totally solid and totally silent!
  • It doesn’t have interior handles above the doors. In this price range those handles should all but be made of gold!
  • The door is too tiny and oddly shaped to make getting in and out of the car easy. You have to contort your body (with no interior handle above the door) to get in and out. You have to lean back uncomfortably to fit your head into the car without hitting your head on the door frame. For a tall person, getting in and out is just utterly miserable.
  • The car has had to go to the shop numerous times for repair and part replacement. We never had any of our Japanese cars require a repair of any kind. Our Tesla is scheduled for yet another repair this week. The tire pressure sensor has stopped working properly, and, as a result, the car continuously insists we immediately pull off the road safely. The tire pressure is fine on all of the tires!
  • Once, the car couldn’t even start until it was repaired. It had to be towed in to the dealership. What the hell?!
  • The seams of the car (like where the hood meets the fender and the bumper) aren’t and have never been lined up properly. No! Not in this price range!
  • The tail light collects and holds water. Seriously?!
  • The car is so low to the ground, getting in and out as an older adult is troublesome.
  • The car is huge. Now, I realize this is a big selling point for most Americans, especially in the southeast. But driving and parking this vehicle on narrow city streets is a real pain! In California the parking spaces are so close together, you all but have to crawl out of the sunroof to get out of the car. Frankly, crawling out of the sunroof would probably be a more comfortable way to exit than the weirdly shaped doors that are so small and low to the ground.
  • Tesla does have a wonderful super charger network. We can go anywhere we need to go with one exception. While I can drive down to and back from my home town in Florida, I can’t drive around while I’m down there. The old homestead’s electrical system is too old to put a Tesla charger on it. If I drive around once I arrive in town, I’ll not have sufficient range to get back to the super charger on my way back home. My home town had 2 public chargers. One is on the beach and is so rusted out from the salt air, I am afraid to plug it in to our car. I’m convinced it would damage our car and/or shock the hell out of/kill me. The other charger has been removed because of construction, even though it shows as still in service. It too is on the salty beach.

So, we have decided to get rid of our American-made crap car, even though we love, and I mean totally love driving it. Our Tesla ownership experience will come to an end soon. Maybe Tesla will get car building right before they go out of business like the majority of American car manufacturers. No longer believing in it, we’ve sold our stock in the company.

EV (Electric Vehicle) Ownership

We love owning electric cars–totally love it! We hate riding on fossils. The responsive torque of the electric engine is unparalleled. And never stopping at a gas station is the very meaning of freedom. I couldn’t even tell you how much gas costs. We haven’t bought gas for years! But driving range is still a problem, and the manufacturers are taking a long time addressing this issue–too long.

Chloe Nissan Leaf Charging with the blink Charger
Where Chloé plugs in with the blink Charger

Our Nissan Leaf, another car we totally love, started with a 100 mile range. The battery is now 8 years old and starting to show signs of age. Its fully charged range, when the weather is not cold, is 63 miles1 . Now, a range of 63 miles is way more than enough for my day-to-day around-town driving. But range anxiety is slowly beginning to creep into my thinking.

Our third car, which stays out in San Francisco, is the Fiat 500e. It has its own issue. When left unused for a little over a week, the 12v battery that powers the internal systems of the car (not the drive train) dies and has to be recharged to start the car. Seriously?! And the drive train battery is plugged in to the wall?! Really!?

Our new Fiat 500e: OJ
Our Fiat 500e: OJ

HVe (Plugin Hybrid Vehicle) Ownership

2019 Toyota Prius Prime (hybrid plugin)

So, as we think about retirement, we are thinking about simplifying our mobility. We will need fewer cars, and we will need cars with range. We are seriously thinking about replacing the Tesla with the 2019 Toyota Prius Prime, a plugin hybrid. We would prefer to stay 100% electric, but we need better range for my Florida trips.

The Toyota plugin hybrid Prius Prime gets 113 MPGe! It has a range of 640 miles! Regrettably, it will only go 23 miles all electric before the gas engine comes on, but 23 miles is more than I need for the vast majority of my day-to-day driving. And the Prius Prime is significantly smaller than the Tesla, not to mention the fact that cars made in Japan are consistently of a superior quality to American-made cars. The Prius Prime can also be ordered with all of the luxury features we’ve come to love in our old age.

Mobility Subscription Services

I think that car ownership, for the masses, is going to become a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. You will always have the uber-wealthy 1%-ers who will drive their gas guzzling high end performance cars, but most people will be driving electric or hybrid vehicles around the world, and they won’t own them.

Already, car companies are talking about creating a Netflix or Spotify type of subscription service for “mobility.” The service will remove all of the pressure points of vehicle ownership: the hassle of dealing with tags and taxes and gas stations, insurance cost, maintenance and repair costs, inner city parking costs, etc. Just hop in or on the vehicle and go: mobility. Mobility is all the Millennials care about. They simply don’t want the hassle and ludicrous expense of car ownership. Who can blame them?!

Join a no-contract plan for 30 days. Cancel at any time. Drive at any time. Trust me, smart people are figuring this all out. This is all in the works now. And, I’ll make you a wager: Because we Americans have become such unrelenting dullards, this will all start in Europe and China first. Americans will be among the last in the world to reap these benefits. In fact, it could start as soon as 2020 in China. Yeah, make ‘merica great again! Woo! Woo! Woo! I need to take a selfie!

  1. When it’s cold, the range starts around 43 miles.