Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.
In California, low-income car buyers are subsidizing the top 1% who purchase Tesla electric vehicles.
There’s a new blog on the block with an absolutely brilliant name – Doubting Is Thinking. Its author, Alberto Zaragoza Comendador, is a college student in Madrid. In an e-mail, he told me:
I have no [financial] interest in the car or energy industries, and I stand to gain nothing from this…I don’t even own a car!
After taking a close look at Tesla Motors, he’s written a series of blog posts that make a persuasive case that something’s seriously awry. The short version is that California is awarding Tesla carbon credits, which the automaker then sells to other (allegedly less green) auto companies for cash.
According to Zaragoza Comendador’s calculations, approximately 40% of the credits being collected by Tesla in that state (an estimated $55 million worth) is for a feature that doesn’t actually exist.
When a car requires recharging enroute to its destination, two options are theoretically available. The first involves plugging it in and twiddling your thumbs for the next 20 to 75 minutes at a Tesla-branded “supercharging” station. The second involves swapping in a fresh battery.
Back in June, Tesla attracted heaps of media attention with its announcement that it plans to make 90-second battery swaps available at its service stations. By the end of October, Zaragoza Comendador was reporting:
there are exactly zero stations where you can do a battery swap, and Tesla has been getting battery credits for a year. [italics in original]
But it’s much worse than that. Apparently it isn’t possible to swap batteries quickly on the cars Tesla has manufactured to date. This has led to accusations that the cars used in its June live demo and a flashy video were modified beforehand.
Zaragoza Comendador invites us to visit an online forum, where Tesla owners who’ve experienced a real-life battery swap recount their experiences: Here’s one, dated August 31st:
My battery swap happened this week in Rockville. My [Model S] 85’s battery went bad in the parking lot at Rockville while waiting for other scheduled service, so they had to replace it. The job took 3 hours of mechanic labor, and 7600 units of ethylene glycol, three seals, two dozen bolts, and a replacement cover (I am looking at the 9-page repair order as I write this). When we asked the service tech about why it took so long since they are designed for swapping (we already knew better), he just laughed.
And another, dated September 4th:
My battery also failed (week three) and was replaced. Replacement took a full day: half to troubleshoot the issue, half to replace the battery. Significant disassembly/reassembly was required.
Tesla cars aren’t the sort the average family has a hope of affording. According to AutoGuide.com, the 2013 Tesla Model S “starts at $71,070 but quickly climbs over $100,000 with options you’ll probably want.”
What does all this mean? It means that the government of California is financially rewarding a luxury car manufacturer for a feature that is totally imaginary. It means that other automakers are required, by this same government, to purchase the carbon credits being bestowed on Tesla. In turn, this inflates the price of cars being sold to low and middle-income families in that state.
Money is being transferred from the pockets of lower income earners to the pockets of a luxury automaker. In the name of fighting global warming.
Going green sounds so wonderful. But critical thinking, intellectual rigour, and empathy for the average Joe are frequently absent among people who insist they’re saving the planet. The result is one boondoggle after another.