Tech Problems Threaten Electric Cars’ Ascendance in America

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Engadget

A Tesla Model S (seen here in 2013) burns after its battery compartment was pierced by a piece of metal.

As the popularity of electric cars increases in America, some faults have begun to show in one of most popular manufacturers, leaving questions about electric’s ability to overtake gas-powered vehicles in the long term.

Electric cars are shooting up in popularity due to the concern for the environment, technology, and performance numbers. Most of these things have been integrated into internal combustion engine cars for the past 20 years. Gas powered cars have their flaws, which have been revealed over millions of miles driven but with the newness of electric cars, will problems that occur now get worse as time passes.

In the last decade, electric cars have skyrocketed in popularity as big auto manufacturers like Tesla and Ford have made electric vehicles more available to the working class consumer. However, concerns exist over the technology of these vehicles because they are so new. 

One of the oldest mass produced electric cars is the original Tesla Model S. One of Tesla’s main selling points is that they are packed with new and innovative tech. So new, in fact that as the vehicle ages, the tech quickly becomes outdated and can make the car nearly unusable. 

Tyler Hoover

In 2018, Youtube influencer Tyler Hoover of Hoovies Garage purchased a 2012 Tesla Model S to add to his collection of cheap, broken cars, which he calls his “hooptie fleet”. The car was only 6 years old at the time and had 107,000 miles on the odometer.

Mileage on a car is the main gauge for how much wear the car has received and how much life is left. On some cars, high mileage is no problem. For example, a 2007 Toyota Tundra, a vehicle known for its reliability, can reach a million miles.

It needs to be well maintained and serviced regularly but there are examples that have reached 1 million miles. On a Chevrolet Silverado from 2007, a similar model to the Tundra, 1,000,000 miles would be extremely difficult to reach without major repairs like swapping the engine or transmission and replacing many other important components.

The  2012 Model S came with retractable door handles that would pop out to greet the driver when they approached the car. Hoover had an earlier experience when he rented a Model S and the door handle retracted into the door and wouldn’t come out again. For the trip, he had to climb over the center console and get out of the passenger’s side door. This was common on early models like Hoover’s, but were corrected overtime. And if the warranty is expired, to replace the door handle costs $1000 each.

 Arguably, the most integral part of any Tesla is the center infotainment screen. It controls the A/C, the music, navigation, the opening of the trunk, and charging/range info. It’s also needed to turn on the car so it is very important and it costs $4,000 to replace if it breaks. 

However, on early Tesla’s with a refurbished system, the infotainment center still operates on a 3g network. This can cause  the graphics to lag and menus to take a  long time to load.  The 3g system can also be glitchy, sometimes not registering the touch of the finger, requiring multiple taps and distracting the driver from the road. The old infotainment screen can also freeze and deny the driver any use of the most integral part of a Tesla. 

The 3g system can also be glitchy, sometimes not registering the touch of the finger, requiring multiple taps and distracting the driver from the road. The old infotainment screen can also freeze and deny the driver any use of the most integral part of a Tesla.”

Screens in gas powered cars are not perfect either. However the screen in a Tesla, and most electric cars, is so important that if it is slow, it could double the length of a commute or road trip.  

Another thing prevalent in Tesla’s especially is their questionable build quality. There are reports of brand new, from the factory cars arriving to dealerships and customers with uneven panels, massive exterior panel gaps, and condensation in the headlights.

In another YouTube video, Hoover notes  how uncomfortable the seats are, saying they’re “rock-hard” and “super, super stiff”. He goes on to say that there is no bolstering to keep the driver in place when speeding up or going around corners. On a car that goes 0-60 mph in around 5.5 seconds, having comfortable seats and good bolstering can be very important to some drivers. 

The problems don’t end with older Teslas. On the brand new 2022 Tesla Model S and Model X, the steering wheel isn’t a wheel. It’s a yoke similar to what might be found on an airplane. This can cause problems when trying to make a U-turn, as half of the steering wheel is not there to grab.

Drivers can adapt to this but the main problem is that the rim of the yoke doesn’t end at the horizontal spokes. It protrudes up about a half inch and creates an opportunity to have clothes snag on it while trying to reach over to the screen to change the temperature or skip to the next song. This is especially hazardous when driving at highway speeds.

Tesla’s popularity is non-arguable. Their best selling models, the Model 3 and the Model Y, have had record sales in the second quarter of 2021 with 204,081 models sold even with the supply chain issues, according to insideevs.com.

Toyota has sold 256,769 Camrys so far in 2021. The Camry is comparable to the Model 3 while the Toyota Highlander, comparable to the Model Y has sold 207,564 models in 2021. Tesla’s have problems but so do many other cars. The cons may not outweigh the pros but with increased competition, will Tesla have to up their game?