Monday, December 08, 2008

Plug it in where, Tesla? A few urbanite questions about that snazzy all-electric car that maybe you California lifestyle dudes haven’t thought about.

Hey, I’m glad you Tesla electric car guys in San Carlos, CA, are introducing a $100,000-plus all-electric automobile.

Sounds great for all those Silicon Valley millionaires you have for neighbors.

So I can’t blame you for hitting up the Feds for part of that automotive bailout money. I hear you want it to help you sell your car to people like me, the next time I happen to have a spare $100,000 or so rattling around in my pocket.

But I’m a big city apartment dweller who has accepted the notion of building up, not out, to conserve space, land, energy and other resources. My fellow apartment dwellers and I seem to have a problem, even if we have the money to spend on your car.

Fortunately, here to solve our problems and answer our questions is Dr. Zzazapmore Watts, Professor of Carbon Footprint Studies at the Institute for Unintended Consequences. Welcome, Dr. Watts.

Dr. Watts: The pleasure’s all mine. I get a big charge out of being here. Who has the first question?

Q: Dr. Watts, where am I supposed to plug in my car?

Dr. Watts: Why, in your garage, of course.

Q: But I live in Manhattan and park on the street.

Dr. Watts: Can’t you rent garage space?

Q: Lots of people in New York do, at around $600 a month. But these are big garages, like the kind you might find in downtown San Jose, near you. They don’t have outlets at every parking spot. What am I supposed to do?

Dr. Watts: Keep a very, very long extension cord in your trunk.

Q: But even if I have an extension cord long enough, there typically aren’t enough outlets in most commercial garages for all the parkers to plug in.

Dr. Watts: Get a bunch of power trees. Plug one tree into the outlet. Plug the next five trees into the first tree's outlets. Plug the next twenty-five trees into...

Q: But that would put me in violation of the electrical and fire codes.

Dr. Watts: Then commercial garages will simply have to rewire.

Q: That’ll take years and another small fortune.

Dr. Watts: Maybe we could have a federal garage bailout. What do you a need a car for anyway if you live in the city?

Q: To get away and drive to my country home on weekends.

Dr. Watts: Then why don’t you just plug your car in when you get to your country home?

Q: I could. But the round trip from my city home is more miles than the range of your car’s battery charge capacity. I’d be able to charge up in the country, drive home to the city, and then start back for the country the following weekend. But I’d run out of electricity in the middle of the highway during Friday night rush hour.

Dr. Watts: You could leave your car in the country and take public transportation home. Isn’t there a bus or a railroad to where you have your country home?

Q: Both. But then I’d have to take a gasoline taxi either from the train station to my country home or from the bus stop to my country home. Oh, and the bus uses carbon-based diesel fuel, tool.

Dr. Watts: Maybe you could ride a bicycle home from the bus stop.

Q: After dark? On a busy highway?

Dr. Watts: You’re implying…?

Q: That I’d get killed.

Dr. Watts: Well, you certainly won’t need to plug in after that.

Q: By the way, I heard that in the chi-chi beach-and-weekend-house town of Southampton, New York, they recently modified a hastily passed town regulation that, for the sake of eco-friendliness, all swimming pools will eventually have to be powered by solar heat systems. Why did they back off?

Dr. Watts: They found out that in order for the solar cells to work, they’d have to chop down all the shade trees around the houses. And houses on less than a half acre would have solar panels so big that they’d have to remove the houses. Fortunately, they did manage top pass a complicated regulation mandating solar panels on very big properties after one of the councilwomen insisted that “The eyes of the world are on Southampton Town.”

Q: Sounds a bit overblown to me.

Dr. Watts: Some would say narcissistic. On the other hand, one of the other councilwomen said, “Shame on me for voting for this.”

Q: So where does that leave us, Dr. Watts?

Dr. Watts: Fill ‘er up with the high test.


Wait a second, wait a second! In what is clearly a conspiracy to show up the New York Crank and make me look stupid, Tom Friedman's column in the December 10th New York Times revealed what Dr. Watts failed to:

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.
Got it! Instead of driving into the service station and saying, "Fill 'er up with the high test," I drive to my battery station and say, "Fill 'er up with the lithium."

Okay then. Just as soon as we have "battery-exchange stations all over the respective country," you can bet your bottom gas guzzler I'm going to save up $100,000 and get me a Tesla.

Of course, there's no point having battery exchange stations all over the place until everyone has Teslas. (Or Chevvy Volts.) And there's no point in having a Tesla or a Volt until we have the battery stations.

Gentlemen, bring out the chickens and the eggs.

No comments: