New year, new ride, new tech

by Peter Weinberger |

I fully admit to liking most things electric, kind of an old school techie.

It started with digital cameras, computers, watches, flashlights, iPhones, TVs, cordless vacuums, chargers, laptops, drones, and the list goes on. I don’t care about being an early adopter, but I was with many items.

It wasn’t until I first discovered electric bikes in 2005 that I realized how “e” could change transportation as we know it. Back then there were only a handful of stores that sold e-bikes, less than 10 in Southern California. What I liked was e-bikes, with their small batteries and motors, looked a lot like regular bikes. There would be times I’d pass a serious biker on the road who clearly was dumbfounded as to how I could get up a hill so quickly.

This all changed as e-bikes became more popular and widely used. Now they sit in almost every bicycle shop, usually at high prices ranging up to $5,000. And though some may be surprised to hear this, they remain an excellent way to exercise because of a feature called “adjustable pedal assist.” With this I am able to go farther, faster (and even biked up Mt. Baldy Road to the ski lifts) and still work up a sweat.

Another “e” vehicle that has taken over larger cities and beach communities is the e-scooter. I discovered e-scooters about a decade ago as an easy way to get around cities where my destination was too far to walk, yet easy to scoot. Trips of one to five miles were a breeze. At first, I was able to cruise in bike lanes along the beach because I literally was the only person using one. I have fond memories cruising on smooth, well paved roads with no cars in sight.

But those days are long gone now, since e-scooters have become popular, and more cities have decided they are a way to embrace “green” local transportation. It didn’t take long for e-scooters to clog sidewalks and streets as renters simply left them on the ground when finished.

Some cities — like Claremont — now ban rentals because e-scooters don’t mix well with big SUVs. Not only are they dangerous (some scooters can go 50 mph), but they can also be difficult to maneuver when traveling above 20 mph. Braking is downright scary as the front wheel forces the rider forward. Don’t get me started. E-scooters remain popular, especially in Europe, but if you are over 21 years old, be a bystander. A bad case of road rash is one fall away.


Electric cars, SUVs, trucks

Over time I finally grew up and invested in a Tesla for my main ride. I believe if the driving public would invest a little time to drive one, they would realize electric cars are the next generation of transportation.

The technology is still in the early adoption stage, but more powerful, lighter batteries, coupled with more charging stations are one to two years away. And if you live in California and own a Tesla, there’s no need for range anxiety.

Tesla has simply blown up the transportation market, proving that it’s possible to build an electric car that’s superior to a gas version, while still turning a profit. And it’s a game-changer for going green by impacting the air we breathe, immediately.

Prices continue to drop. When I was shopping, it was clear a Tesla competes from a price standpoint, not even counting savings from gas and maintenance. Talk to a mechanic at Connie & Dick’s Service Center and they will outline all the advantages going Tesla. And they have worked on gas engines most of their careers.

Purchasing a Tesla has also been blown up, now made as easy as shopping online. There’s one price, no salesperson in your face trying to sell at the highest price possible, each model is loaded with the same equipment, the only main price difference is the engine size and range. The car comes with all the extras, so there’s no model $15,000 more if you want heated seats and navigation.

I bought a Model 3 for $42,000 (plus tax and license), get 270 miles range and $9,500 in rebates. I received a fair trade-in value for my Hyundai Elantra, knocking $15,000 off the final price. A new Toyota Prius with the same equipment costs more. My point is the prices for electric cars are coming down. This can be seen with other companies like Hyundai, Ford, and GM. Finally, these cars are just fun to drive.

Are electric cars perfect? Absolutely not. I can only speak for Teslas, with issues totally unique.

Tesla has built a reputation (and stock price) on its full self-driving capabilities (FSC), features Elon Musk promised years ago. It’s basically hands off the wheel and relax while driving. It’s a big add-on for any electric vehicle. For Tesla it’s $12,000.

There’s one slight problem, however. Musk has over-promised this feature so much (likely because it helps keep Tesla’s stock price high) that other companies have passed Tesla. The big problem is not the technology, it’s Musk wants FSC using cameras only. This in an effort to simplify production and save money. Right now this has proved impossible, since other sensors (radar and ultrasound) are needed to help the car completely understand the world around us. This has not only blocked further improvements in FSC, but Tesla is also now a defendant in many lawsuits because of accidents. Right now, hands must always be on the wheel. I only use the emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, which are both common with other manufacturers.

Are Teslas popular? Just drive around Claremont. And even with FSC issues, they have one of the best safety records of any car. The Model 3 is one of them. Like any car, just don’t believe the hype. Charging your car at home is another game-changer. With my short commute, which is 90% of my driving, I just plug my car in at night and it’s fully charged starting each day.

During my one $95 service, my car is plugged into a device that reads the status of every function. Brakes have been known to last the life of the car because of regenerative braking slowing the car to a stop. All my personal settings (down to the steering) are set through an iPhone app also used as the key. The sound and connectivity are state-of-the art. This car does things others simply do not. Improvements in many aspects how the car works and drives are simply handled over the internet. If anyone comes within six feet of the car, multiple cameras start recording sending video to the app, making theft near impossible.

My point is there’s a reason why Teslas sell.

I believe electric vehicles will replace gas. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

As for myself, I’ll still keep my eyes open for new tech. I’m already watching for some new stuff on the horizon.


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