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A backyard mechanic who is taking on Tesla (bostonglobe.com)
257 points by lelf 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 242 comments





A Tesla representative, in a statement to the Globe, said “there are significant safety concerns when salvaged Teslas are repaired improperly or when Tesla parts are used outside of their original design intent, as these vehicles could pose a danger to both the mechanic and other drivers on the road.”

It seems Tesla is deliberately ignoring or trying to squash the aftermarket/custom-car culture which has basically existed since cars existed... and in contrast, Chrysler/Ford/GM are happy to sell you parts like engines and transmissions without caring whether they'll even be used in a car, and have been doing so for literally decades, so obviously they're aware of and not worried about any legal liability issues.


As someone who both tinkers with cars and bikes, and has designed and tested drives for various kinds of electric motors (brushless, AC,...):

- The perception that people have of how dangerous gasoline is, is greatly over exaggerated.

- The perception that people have of how dangerous high voltage drives and lithium batteries are, is greatly under exaggerated.

With 15 minutes I can give you enoguh pointers to have you tinkering your gas engine safely.

No such confort exists if you are going to tinker with your EV


You're basically sitting on top of a giant bomb in an EV when it's fully charged. Shoot a bullet through a full gas tank, and nothing will happen. Shoot a bullet through an EV battery pack and it will burn to the ground. Liquid electrolytes are the real problem here, not battery tech as a whole. Fortunately solid state batteries are only a few years out, and that will totally change the safety equation.

I'm not sure that bomb is the right analogy. Maybe thermite would be a better analog? EVs will burn long and hot (though not as hot as some imagine), but do not tend to be explosive.

They may not explode but contacting a 400V bus that can dump ~1200 amps produces a similar effect on the human body.

A demonstration of the safety benefits of solid-state batteries:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9-cNNYb1Ik


You do realise the safety profile of a large tank of petrol right?

It's actually much better than Hollywood would have you believe: a shot fuel tank will not explode.

http://prometheus-fs.co.uk/articles/hollywood-lies-to-you/


I agree with you in principle, but I hope that things will change as people develop an awareness of things.

There are several dozen other companies that manufacture electric cars, and they will sell you shop manuals to service things, including the main battery pack.

As an intellectual exercise, searching for "leaf evb pdf" might lead to manufacturer procedures for diagnosing and servicing an electric vehicle battery system (with safety recommendations).

I know this isn't tinkering per se, but maybe tesla will someday do the same.


I’m not saying the’re unserviceable, just that the amount of training and safety concerns are a whole other level.

Even well trained engineers get zapped sometimes with capacitors that should be discharged by actually aren’t.

Power electronics can be very unintuitive because most people are used to tinker first with low voltage electronics like PCs, arduinos and things like that.


I do agree with you.

And I would go further to mention magnetism. I think the model S with its ac motor might not rely on magnets, but the model 3 and other cars probably have powerful permanent magnets that require a completely different kind of caution.

I just hope we can forge a path now rather than later. We need future scientists and engineers to be safe but creative.


Yes, and safety protocols have existed for a long time. My Prius has a nastily powerful battery inside it, and I can work on it all by myself, since I don't open the pack, usually, and I know how to disconnect it. It's remarkably easy.

"Chrysler/Ford/GM are happy to sell you parts like engines and transmissions without caring whether they'll even be used in a car"

Ancedata says some of the big 3 do care. A guy down the road from me ordered 500 engines from Ford. They followed up on the order and when he explained they were for airplanes, they cancelled it, saying they didn't want to be liable for an automotive engine in a plane.

His plan to turn his custom plane into a kit stopped at a beautiful one-off that sits in his museum when he isn't flying it.

If he was going to put the engines in a tractor, I bet they would have sold them, but they didn't want to be liable for something in a plane.

*Edit - it was 1000 engines, not 500. Also found a link some might find interesting: http://stonehengeairmuseum.org/1992-montaniar


The regulations around airplane engines are nuts (for good reason). I would've been wary as well

If he was building an experimental amateur-built (E-AB) category airplane, then there was likely no regulatory issue. Just lawsuit-scared lawyers. Not passing judgment--If I had lawyers I would want them to be conservative and cautious too.

You can put pretty much any engine you want in an airplane you build yourself, as long as you comply with the (reasonably light) homebuilt regulations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homebuilt_aircraft


    If he was building an experimental amateur-built (E-AB) category airplane,
    then there was likely no regulatory issue.
I have no idea how much these particular engines cost, but even at $100 a pop buying hundreds of them at once puts the applicability of "amateur" under some strain (or that of "experimental", TBH).

OTOH, something about this story doesn't entirely make sense: who would get to the point they were ready to drop six figures on buying engines without, y'know, checking the regulations?


The story is that they would be sold as kits. I agree with you that this makes the story strange, though.

While his plan involved extensive modification to the engine and resale, the easiest workaround is to have the customer order the engine and freight it to him for modification. It would be expensive, but I do not see how it would have been impossible. This kind of aircraft would have been expensive in any case.

It sounds like other issues may have been just as big of a factor here as Ford's lack of interest.


"who would get to the point they were ready to drop six figures on buying engines..."

Right, what kind of guy is this? The kind who built a full size, accurate working Stonehenge just for fun.


Working Stonehenge? Is it possible to have an accurate but not working Stonehenge?

Those won’t open portals to the ancient alien homeworld, they just sit on the ground on Earth and look cool.

For people on mobile, the quoted section is:

> If he was building an experimental amateur-built (E-AB) category airplane, then there was likely no regulatory issue.


> If I had lawyers I would want them to be conservative and cautious too.

For good reason. I imagine if a few people dies because the engine as sold didn't perform well/stalled under certain aeronautical conditions (upside down, low air pressure, etc) then it wouldn't take long for the lawyer hired by the kit maker to start pointing at the big auto maker at every chance they got, even if it ultimately was something the kit maker did.


They are nuts when you carry passengers for hire. Experimental planes have less regulation.

What I wonder is how well all the various car engines work upside down :)


There was a weird time in the 80s when lawyers figured out they could sue light aircraft manufacturers after a plane crash, and almost killed general aviation.

> they cancelled it, saying they didn't want to be liable for an automotive engine in a plane.

Honda is working with some small aircraft makers on fitting their automotive engines for air uses, if your neighbour is still looking.


Flat six Subaru engines are also popular in experimental aviation.

So are Chevy Corvair engines (from the 60's)

Never heard of this project. I would think it was influential on the development of the Falconer V-12 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconer_V-12 for the Thunder Mustang https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_51_Thunder_Mustang

This is kind of an extreme case, to be fair it doesn't really disprove the statement which was about normal aftermarket car part markets.

A very extreme case indeed, aviation is so highly regulated that any mention of it outside of the usual context is going to ring alarm bells. But I bet if he was putting them in custom racecars or such, they wouldn't mind --- because that's the whole reason they're selling those engines in the first place.

Since this whole Tesla parts thing came up, I've always found it ironic that you can easily buy an entire powertrain based on the stereotypical half-century-old American V8 design and put it into a not-so-safe hot-rod, register it and drive it on the road (not that I'm saying that's a bad thing --- I'm a car enthusiast myself), but Tesla will refuse to sell you even minor cosmetic parts and quote "safety" as one of the reasons (and meanwhile, their misleading advertising for "autopilot" continues to generate deaths.)


It is extreme, but Ford cares about liability in all cases, but most cases don't cross wherever line their lawyers have drawn. The idea that they don't care is all I was going for. That and it is a story someone would enjoy.

That sounds reasonable. If a company knows their engines aren't reliable enough for airplanes I think it is most ethical for them to refuse to sell them to people they know will use them in airplanes. I definitely wouldn't want to fly in an airplane with a car engine at least.

Why not sell the kit sans engine, and include specifications on which engine to buy?

If he was going to sell the plane as a kit why not simply sell it sans engine for the buyer to order individually? Beautiful plane by the way.

edit: I see someone else had the exact same question with almost the exact same word choice too!


My understanding is that Subaru engines are the most popular auto engine used in custom small aircraft. Maybe he can knock on their door.

>It seems Tesla is deliberately ignoring or trying to squash the aftermarket/custom-car culture which has basically existed since cars existed...

Plenty of people are willing to aid them. Go on Reddit and you'll find that it's impossible to have an adult discussion of repairs or modifications more involved than parts swapping without being drowned out by people screaming "hurr durr, muh public safety" or just down-voted into oblivion. You'll find no shortage of people willing to tell you that industry standard modifications (like lengthening truck frames), repairs (like welding cracks in steel wheels) or anything that modifies how a vehicle handles compared to stock configuration (like a lift kit on a Jeep) are fundamentally a danger to the public.

Edit: I dunno why I was optimistic that HN would be any better.


Why be optimistic, in this thread a poster insults blue collar workers. The poster is classist, elitist, and ignorant. Its not surprising to see appeals to authority, it is surprising to see the post not downvoted and the poster called out for what he is, an asshole.

When the "right to repair" comes up, for cars or farm machinery, or the Magnuson-Moss act, or the costs of code scanners for most vehicles, the manufacturers are universally hated.

But this is Tesla and Tesla doesn't have the same rules.


For any other kind of machine that can kill people, you are solely responsible for any accidents that could have been caused by your modification. I don't think that it's so unreasonable to want to apply this to cars too.

Being responsible if you screw something up is how the world normally works. Just because something can be unsafe if done wrong doesn't mean the thing you are doing is fundamentally unsafe when done properly. Many people don't seem to understand this.

But that's exactly the reason why there is a lot of regulation of potentially hazardous activity. The likelihood of "when done wrong" is implied to be higher for backyard mechanics than for licensed mechanics in a garage.

Like most things in life there's a wide range of skill even in licensed mechanics. Add to that the current trend of paying auto techs by the job instead of hourly in many dealerships and you have licensed techs rushing through jobs or low-dollar jobs done by apprentices.

That's how you get wheels falling off from not being torqued, bearing failing prematurely, brakes improperly adjusted or pads popping out, and the list goes on.

Unless you have a tech you know and trust (preferably an independent garage) do not rely on the fact they are licensed to guarantee safety. I could spend the next hour listing off instances of shoddy or incomplete work by licensed folks.


> But that's exactly the reason why there is a lot of regulation of potentially hazardous activity.

Almost all of this as applied to hobbyists is corruption.

The amount of danger you can put yourself or others in without any involvement of automobiles is immense.

If you build an electrical device improperly it may catch fire and burn down your house and your neighbor's house and spread from there.

If you mix the wrong chemicals together you can cause an explosion, or produce poison gas, or create a large volume of something difficult to safely dispose of. These chemicals include things like propane and household cleaners that are available to anyone.

If you maintain unsanitary conditions where you live you can contract diseases that are communicable to others.

What prevents this from being more common is by and large not regulations and inspections of private citizens. It's the fact that people don't want uncontrolled fires or poison gas or staphylococcus and are generally cautious when doing things that are potentially dangerous.

And people don't want to destroy their $30,000 car or kill anyone either.


Common sense you say? We can't have that ruining our government-corporate oligopolies!

Maybe, maybe not. There's plenty of horror stories about mechanics. There are some things on my car I wouldn't trust other people to do, even if they were licensed, certified, trained, etc. I just want to be able to be picky about each little thing, and know it's done right.

I honestly have found the opposite. There have been times when I've taken my truck to a "licensed mechanic" and they failed to even torque my wheels to spec.

That doesn't preclude people from responsibly modifying cars or building their own planes or whatever.

> That doesn't preclude people from responsibly modifying cars or building their own planes or whatever.

That's the point.


I don't know about other things, but using a lift kit is more dangerous to pedestrians that might be hit. This stems from pedestrians being hit closer to the center of their body as opposed to their legs.

The people who raise up their cars also seem to never make the corresponding adjustments to the headlights, and end up blinding other drivers.

Times have changed. Nowadays, when you talk to a random person about car repair, you're probably talking to someone who has never so much as changed their own oil or brake pads! They see auto repair as arcane wizardry that only government-licensed professionals can do safely.

I trust myself (or the average DIY enthusiast who elects to perform the task) to correctly change their oil or brakes than I do a randomly selected ASE-certified technician. I know me, my wife, and my kids are going to be riding in that car and it's not coming off the jack until it's right.

The real scary part is when you only sometimes work on your car. You get to see all the mistakes the "pros" made. Missing bolts, over/under torqued lugs, and my current pain: replacing the battery 3 times when there's clearly a parasitic load that needs diagnosis.

That's nothing. I once had a "pro" put my (clearly-marked asymmetric) tires on backward. That was a hella wobbly ride away from the shop. Another "pro" once inflated my tires to 80 PSI.

Tires are always done by the most junior guy in the shop. I always double check those.

When you modify a truck lifting it, it's bumpers no longer "mate" to car bumpers and may not trigger an airbag system or worse, intrude into the cabin of a sedan. It's selfish and ridiculous.

Light truck bumpers do not 'mate' to car bumpers at stock ride height. No lifting required.

Why do you believe that Tesla’s assessment (One guy in his garage without any specific training might not have proper quality controls) isn’t authentic?

Well, their attempt to stop owner-conducted maintenance and aftermarket repair is authentic!

Assuming their assessment is correct, that a non-Tesla employed mechanic doesn’t have the training or quality controls, then my response to Tesla would be: “Document these quality controls and release sufficient information to allow a mechanic to become trained and qualified.”

In my view making this kind of information available should be required by law for any product.


> In my view making this kind of information available should be required by law for any product.

AFAIK in the case of automobiles, it is already required by U.S. law. It is my understanding that they are obligated to make the same materials available to third party mechanics that they do to their own.


Tesla does a few things in regards to these laws.

One, they have an online parts catalog. Except, where pricing and purchase information are supposed to be listed, they say "Contact Tesla". For everything. Down to the most inane of bolts and nuts.

So you could "Contact Tesla". Who will tell you that you are unable to order any of those parts. Down to the most inane of bolts and nuts.

Or you could go to MA, where they are required to provide servicing information. How does that work?

You call ahead, and make an appointment. You also pay a fee which, the last time I heard, was $295.

When your appointment arrives you show up at the location and are lead into a room. You are not allowed: a cell phone, a camera, or a laptop, any "audio and/or video recording device". Handwritten notes only. And you have a time limit.

That's Tesla's "commitment to corporate transparency" (the same one they quoted when they bailed out of an NTSB investigation), and their "approach to third party repair" in a nutshell.


Well, I think most people buying a Tesla know it's the Apple of cars. Repairs you can make to an iPhone are pretty limited too, and you certainly don't expect it to be useful in 10 years.

How else are we going to save the environment if we don't switch to cars that are as disposable as smartphones?


If that were the case, why would there be multiple "Right to Repair" initiatives? I don't think that documentation and tooling is required to be provided currently by federal law.

> I don't think that documentation and tooling is required to be provided currently by federal law.

It is, but they can charge some amount for it (not prohibitively though). The biggest problems in R2R generally in the U.S. seem to stem from misuse of the DMCA as a mechanism to prevent modification of physical goods by making those goods rely on what they can argue are copyright protection devices (and thus difficult to legally circumvent).


On the surface, Tesla's statement is authentic. It's just that Tesla has a financial incentive to be disingenuous about this... and it's hard to ignore the profit motive.

They could easily sell training for more than it costs them. Maintenance is annoying, and often a cost centre; labelling professionals allow them to offer a better service and guarantee the value of their cars.

> It seems Tesla is deliberately ignoring or trying to squash the aftermarket/custom-car culture

This culture ("F your emissions controls," "I the lay blue collar know better than the committes of degreed engineers who designed the thing") has never cared about safety, nor has the aftermarket ("fitness for purpose, engineering, warranty... to hell with all that, the only requirement for our product is that some idiot should buy it")

Improperly repaired and modified cars are a detriment to the safety of others on the road, but wishing the problem away like Tesla is doing is not going to help anything, they need to publish and make accessible the documentation like the real car makers do.


>Improperly repaired and modified cars are a detriment to the safety of others on the road

Mechanical failure is a fart in a hurricane compared to human factors (distraction, alcohol, run of the mill stupidity) when it comes to dangerous things on the road. Regulating mechanical condition is exponentially less effective once you start caring about more than the most basic things (e.g. heavy trucks with bald tires). That's why a handful of states have created then scrapped vehicle inspection programs. I get that it bothers people but mechanical failure is a tiny edge case compared to everything else. Why bother, there's other better things to spend our resources regulating if road safety is the goal. If mechanical condition mattered more than trivially this would be reflected in insurance rated between states with/without regulation covering this (inspection programs).

In my experience shitboxes with mufflers falling off and rust holes are more likely to damage community image than anything else.


In the US, yea, inspections aren't universal, but the only inspection program I know of that has been scrapped was Florida's. I think there are more operating inspection regimes than defunct ones, even if you can cheat some of them. This also seems to be an anomaly among developed countries.

Rust that's more than superficial can lead to structural failure, and improper crash repairs can cause this. These are definitely situations that leave the vehicle in a lesser state of crashworthiness.

A compromised exhaust frequently leads to more exhaust entering the cabin.

This gets into the roots of my socialist beliefs as caring for our injured comrades brings us all down. There are always better things to send effort and resources to than dealing with the loss of productivity, the costs to deal with whatever damage, and misery of loved ones.


Indiana used to have safety inspections, scrapped several decades ago.

Part of the reason is probably that cars (even in rust prone areas) don't rust nearly as quickly as they used to, and everything else on the vehicle, e.g. tires, brakes, suspension are much better and (in the case of suspension components at least) require much less regular maintenance. There's just no low-hanging fruit any more. GP is right, resources are better spent elsewhere.


California had an inspections program and they got rid of it.

When did California have a safety inspection program? I only know of the emissions inspection program, which still exists, but for most vehicles is simply does OBD-II say everything is fine, and is it not making visible smoke.

I think I am wrong,

https://repository.uchastings.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?articl...

Says vehicle inspections were considered and repeatedly rejected.


Utah recently got rid of safety inspections.

"This gets into the roots of my socialist beliefs"

Regulation is not socialism. And being in favor of regulation or socialism shouldn't mean that you are against intelligent regulations that take into account costs and benefits.


It's common for favoring socialism and being in favor of intelligent regulation to be mutually exclusive.

I don't believe there is anybody who believes the government does useful things and wants it to be stupid.

> Improperly repaired and modified cars are a detriment to the safety of others on the road

I'll take streets full of gearheads tinkering with their cars over soccer moms ignoring grinding brakes until the rotor disc completely separates from the hat/hub any day.


It frustrates me too that for every tuner that gets too excited with their camber there are a hundred shitboxes with bald tires and janky emission systems that stopped being effective sometime in the Clinton administration, yet for some reason the tuners are the ones commonly vilified.

I'm excited about EVs improving this situation.

With ICEs it's somewhat necessary to become more obnoxious in pursuit of greater performance. Faster ICE-powered cars tend to be noisier and stinkier, it's somewhat inherent.

Gearheads in the EV-era will be a lot less visible. You won't know who has upgraded their batteries, controllers, and motors. I wish Tesla would take a different stance on this and instead embrace and support the grassroots motorsports scene. GM Performance has already announced an EV crate motor, so it looks like GM might be taking the lead here.


You have a point.

The gearheads just have their cars sitting there in non-running condition while they tinker. The soccer moms are driving around with noisy distractions in the back seat.

(Only halfway joking. I have 4 kids.)


It's much worse than you think. Some states don't require regular safety inspections. I've seen some scary stuff on the road in those states.

If those states were measurably less safe wouldn't that be reflected in insurance premiums? Mechanical failure is inconsequential compared to boring old human factors (distractions, alcohol, bad decisions) when it comes to dangers on the road.

The problem is that there are confounding factors.

States with regular inspections tend to have more expensive cars, higher wealth, higher traffic density and so on. Those factors are going to drive insurance rates up as well.


This is how every industry progresses as software replaces hardware. I don't think it's fair to blame Tesla for it. A modern car is much less accessible to the home tinkerer than a car from the 80s, because it's a chip controlling the fuel/air mixture and not a valve on a spring, and so on. As a side effect these machines are much cleaner and safer than before, so I'm willing to accept the tradeoff.

An EV is supposed to be much, much simpler than even a decades old ICE car. Aside from the tech inside the batteries, it should be pretty easy to tinker with.

E-cars are nowhere near a car culture, because of the significant innovations in every ecar that have no history, nobody you can collaborate with to learn. It may someday be a culture, but not yet. Its something new under the sun. Maybe its sensible to go slowly.

Some of the very first automobiles were electric vehicles. And Tesla's vehicles inherit a lot from the existing automobile industry. The fact that Tesla is trying to kill aftermarket/modder culture around their vehicles is just a sign of how strong that culture is.

> E-cars are nowhere near a car culture, because of the significant innovations in every ecar that have no history, nobody you can collaborate with to learn. It may someday be a culture, but not yet. Its something new under the sun. Maybe its sensible to go slowly.

People have been building electric cars independently for a long time, but it is a smaller culture since some of the parts (particularly the motors) are not commodities yet.


Should we count old lead-acid carts? There hasn't been a century of ecar culture; there is a very small current population with any expertise.

Let's not be pedantic - the ICE culture is millions strong, and generations old.


I imagine batteries are much more dangerous to handle than mechanical car parts, and software is much more important in a Tesla on the road... This is just like the "NO WARRANTY IMPLIED OR EXPRESS" that comes with basically every piece of software (open source or commercial) these days.

> I imagine batteries are much more dangerous to handle than mechanical car parts

If you imagine batteries are much more dangerous to handle than mechanical car parts containing gasoline, you are not sufficiently familiar with gasoline.

> and software is much more important in a Tesla on the road

Doing things in software doesn't make them more dangerous than doing them mechanically. Removing the speed governor or modifications that increase power output have the same consequences whether they are implemented in software or hardware.


Doing things in software doesn't make them more dangerous than doing them mechanically

I wish I could find you a reference right now, but the FDA would strongly disagree with you.


Gasoline is relatively harmless unless you light it up. Batteries contain acid and can combust spontaneously.

Gasoline is a flammable liquid carcinogen that evaporates into a highly explosive vapor with an ignition temperature lower than the operating temperature of many exhaust system components.

Lithium batteries typically don't contain acid.


They only contain Lithium composites, that are highly reactive with oxigen (i.e. they combust spontaneously) and are fairly toxic.

If your modified gas engine seems to work, you are quite safe. If your modified Tesla seems to work, it might well explode the next second..


"If your modified gas engine seems to work, you are quite safe"

I think you are overstating your case. I have seen cars on fire by the side of the road...although it is possible it started with an electrical fault.

I believe that it's not that rare for a model of car I own to have a leak develop in the fuel lines and drip fuel onto a hot manifold and start a fire.


They only contain Lithium composites, that are highly reactive with oxigen (i.e. they combust spontaneously)

You're making the classic mistake of assuming lithium-ion batteries contain metallic lithium --- it's called lithium-ion for a reason. Primary lithium cells, which are basically never used for EVs, do contain metallic lithium; but lion cells contain lithium salts and a dissolved solution of lithium ions in the electrolyte.

The electrolyte is a flammable organic solvent, but not more so than petrol. Lion batteries catch fire because the massive energy they store is released when damaged, and that ignites the electrolyte.


When you put out a gas fire, it's done. Try that with a lithium battery fire.

When you put out a gas fire, there is still gasoline everywhere, spreading and evaporating until it reaches another heat source above its relatively low ignition temperature, which frequently exist in the vicinity as a result of the recent collision and fire. This can also cause the fire to spread, since the gasoline can flow into a wider area before it reignites. And if enough of the gasoline has evaporated, the reignition can take the form of an explosion.

Battery fires can be hard to put out, but it's a solid component designed to keep the fire from spreading outside of it. If gasoline reignites you better hope you didn't get any on you.


This kind of bullshit is why I’m solidly in the “fuck Tesla” camp. The battles over auto repair and nonsense “safety” excuses were fought 100 years ago and shouldn’t need to be fought again, only in this dysfunctional era of American government is it possible for Tesla to even exist.

Like any big company, they demonstrate every day why it’s so important to have independent service. As a company, they are too incompetent to run retail outlets, unable to supply spare parts for cars that are mostly unchanged year to to year, and unable to actually repair cars in the handful of service centers that exist.

Hopefully the successor company that buys them out doesn’t go down this path.


I think it's more than repairs. The model to which this is converging is the abandonment of ownership. You do want to get YOUR car repaired but if it's not your car in the first place, you can't. I think the narrative is slowly building towards that. You're licensed to drive the car, you bought the license, not the car. It doesn't matter if you are in physical possession of the metal parts as long as the software running them is updated automatically and you're not allowed to repair them.

https://www.teslarati.com/do-you-own-a-tesla-or-does-a-tesla...

John Deere managed to do this https://www.wired.com/2015/04/dmca-ownership-john-deere/ so it's all the history repeating. And I agree with you, the dysfunctional anticonsumer regulatory environment enabled this.


This recently happened to a Kobo e-reader I bought in 2013 and have been using happily. On March 1, the company announced some firmware upgrade that I was required to install to continue even using the device. This was not a security patch and wasn't related to the ereader's core functionality. We're talking about a $50 ereader that only connects to my laptop once in a blue moon to transfer EPUB files.

Can't use it anymore without installing a firmware upgrade now. Turns out, I have a license to use the device, just not to own it.


My opinion is a company that does that should be if you so desire, required to buy the device back from you at retail and pay for shipping.

How did they stop you from using the device? Does it connect to the internet? This seems like they preplanned this "feature".

Slightly offtopic, but I recently bought a kindle paperwhite and jailbroke it. The process was a bit challenging but definitely worth it and makes it impossible for Amazon to mess with it.


I know you're saying it like a bad thing... but what if it's actually a good thing, we just don't know it yet?

I mean, none of us actually want to own a bus or a train, we just get on them and get off again when it's convenient for us. I have no interest in thinking about maintenance or service intervals or age of replacement or even how to actually 'drive' one.

What if that's the direction cars are going?

I understand that currently personal car ownership is deeply, deeply ingrained in the American psyche, but I do believe there can be a future where we don't own a car each, but rather just get in and out of them as they drive around autonomously. Why deal with paying for tires and brake pads if you don't have to?

I mean, I'm a car guy, and I'll probably always want to own some kind of "fun to drive car", but then again, I'm a dinosaur at 37, and to be honest if I'm just going into a city with mind-numbing driving I'd rather take public transit anyway. The stats on how few people under 30 don't even have (or want) a license clearly points to some changes coming.


Oh, I agree with you on that part. It's probably a good thing. But why am I paying the full price for the car if I don't own it? Because it seems like I'm renting an apartment for which I need to pay for repairs.

Because this is a transition phase, and things will be a little wonky for a while until everything falls into place.

If you don't want to be part of it, just don't buy one and wait until the transition is complete.


Nah... everything will fall into place indeed but that 'place' will be heavily skewed in favor of the entity making the rules of the game. And it's not the consumer making them.

I'm inclined to agree with you. But I do think Teslas are different from cars of yesteryear in a few important ways:

1. They have massive 375 volt batteries that could absolutely kill you if you're a little bit careless.

2. They have that "autopilot" mode. And that feature receives OTA updates from Tesla. I could see improper service causing problems with autopilot that would put other people (drivers and pedestrians) at risk.

Maybe a solution is to separate some of the software features of a car (like autopilot) from the mechanical aspects. If you repair your car yourself, maybe losing out on autopilot and the like is a fair deal.


> 1. They have massive 375 volt batteries that could absolutely kill you if you're a little bit careless.

Homes have electricity. It can easily kill you if you're careless.

> 2. They have that "autopilot" mode. And that feature receives OTA updates from Tesla. I could see improper service causing problems with autopilot that would put other people (drivers and pedestrians) at risk.

Then the autopilot system is inadequate. Not tightening your lug nuts could cause your tire to come off at highway speeds. What's you're point?


> What's you're point?

I'm pretty sure the point is that designing software to run in specific conditions is different than designing software capable of running in all conditions. This isn't just about the driver, it's about other people on the road and pedestrians. Just because the autopilot is sufficient to drive the car under the constraints the car ships with doesn't mean it's sufficient if the motors are putting out significantly more or less power, and its ability to detect this if it exists is somehow compromised.

Tightening your lug nuts is fairly straightforward and easy. Verifying physical functionality of an AI driving system is not. The only safe way to react if it can detect the system is not as it should be is to disable itself and require manual driving. It should do this in the case of standard components operating outside of acceptable specifications as well.


Tesla is hardly the only company that makes a car with lane following and adaptive cruise control. How do the other manufacturers deal with this issue?

Honestly, autopilot software should have checks and balances already in place to prevent use if the system is compromised. Regardless if it was compromised by human hands or general use / wear & tear

My sentiments exactly.

> Homes have electricity. It can easily kill you if you're careless

Unless you're playing on the input side of the meter-box, it's extremely unlikely you'll be killed in any kind of modern building with a mandated-by-law earth leakage device.


Open up your circuit breaker box and touch the bus bar... or touch a live 30A circuit, and I think you'd disprove that one.

Not saying I agree or disagree with the line of reasoning here, but there is plenty of current even in a North American 2-phase house's wiring to kill someone pretty quickly, no matter how well grounded the system is.


Small nitpick. North-American domestic power isn't 2-phase. It's 1 phase, center-tapped.

Those "mandated-by-law earth leakage device[s]" are only mandated for those circuits where you might most easily electrocute yourself, locations where water is present (bathrooms and kitchens), in basements with concrete floors, and exterior receptacles.

The rest of the circuits are not mandated to have GFCI (the correct acronym for those "earth leakage device[s]") interrupters, and so those circuits /could/ kill you if you were not careful. Yes, it becomes marginally more difficult without easy access to water or a concrete floor, but is still quite possible.


In Australia they're law for the entire house, have been for decades.

Ah, then Australia is one up on the USA in that respect, where they are only required for the areas I listed, and even then the requirement is only for new construction or renovations.

Of course, we're talking in the context of performing repairs on a dangerous thing (Tesla), so if someone is doing their own renovations or repair, it doesn't matter what safety features are present as they might be defeated by the homeowner.

Somehow, however, we manage just fine.


So on the 375V battery: the car already should be designed so that Tesla mechanics can work on it. It already needs to be safe to work on, or their own employees are going to sue them. Anyway, so at the very least connectors and modules with high voltage have to be designed so that the high voltage is not exposed.

On autopilot mode: if it doesn't have a self test of the sensors it depends on, there is a big problem already. Actually conventional cars have electric power steering which you could argue has similar risks.

There are more dangerous consumer goods. For example, microwave ovens have 3000 V power supplies at significant current: this is the voltage level used for executions. One mistake and you're dead.


Worse yet, their latest announcement regarding shuttering retail stores also indicates that their solution to their service problem is to deploy a fleet of 'come to you' trucks. EG, they're going to want to dispatch and repair/replace components in your driveway or on the street, which is prohibited in many places.

This is incorrect. They are closing retail stores, but those are usually not the same as the service centers, even if they share a building. An analogy would be a dealership shuttering their sales department but keeping the service department.

I would expect that this is mostly limited to software-related problems or really small stuff (wipers and window washing fluid) and for everything else they will just tow your car away.

Tow it to where, precisely? Additionally, are you going to get a free loaner that pretty much every other major brand gives you for warranty work?

If you break down on the side of the highway, what then? Where does the car get towed?


There are service centers completely separate from the retail locations. They have never done service at their showrooms.

They absolutely have ways to book appointments at their service centers and provide loaner cars.


> They absolutely have ways to book appointments at their service centers and provide loaner cars.

I can barely put 100k € in cash on the table and leave their place with a car and you tell me they have loaners like nothing standing around?

And for the whole of Germany there are 10 service centers listed on their website. That will be a long trip for a repair.


I don't know and frankly I'm not sure that Tesla does either yet.

But what are they going to do? Carry around whole drivetrains in their "Service Car Model X" that comes to your house? Even if so, you need specialized equipment, hydraulic lifts etc. to repair things like that.

So what will their options be if they do not have their own (service) shops anymore except than picking up your car, bringing it to _whereever_ and fixing it there?

I don't see any and I think this can and will probably fire back on them.


You just assume Tesla has no way to provide service to hundreds of thousands of cars they have on the road? This is just FUD...

They are not closing their service centers. They are closing the showrooms. They are totally separate locations. The showrooms are usually located in malls.


Where's the proof the have the capacity to service 100's of thousands of cars? Do they have a service center in every state? Every major metro area? Currently, they don't have a facility in every state.

I think people are right to be skeptical, buying an automobile is a major financial decision for most folks, and warranty/repair is a very important part of that story.


Exactly, I agree. It's going to be a boondoggle.

> boondoggle

Learned a new word today. Thanks. :-D


I hope that hornswoggle makes your day even better :)

Amazing! :-D

I'd strongly recommend checking out Rich's youtube channel (0). It's a great mix of humor, geeky details and good tesla-rant every now and then.

Rich is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to start his own shop, which I am not to sure about. So far they have invested in wheel balancers and alignment equipment, which has nothing to do with EV's, that's just car maintenance.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfV0_wbjG8KJADuZT2ct4SA


Particularly the episode where 'Daisy' catches fire. This being some Disney themed car that is made of wood and came with lead acid batteries.

The dramatic fire happens after the Tesla batteries go in. Luckily some quick thinking saved the day and no buildings were burned to the ground.

Regarding his ambitions for a shop, I think that there is demand for the services of someone who knows the innards of the Tesla and happens to have a lot of spare parts. If a Tesla owner is going to have their car in repair for months and they have the choice of someone else having a look at it, to maybe fix it for less than what Tesla would charge then there is a niche there.

The crowdfunding is also about publicity. Sadly banks don't invest in businesses as a general rule, hence the crowdfunding option beckons for many people who should be able to go to the bank with a business plan, borrow the money at today's low interest rates and pay it off.

With crowdfunding you have to pay the funders something or be begging on a charitable basis. With the bank it should be a straightforward business proposition.

Anyway, I wish Rich the best of success and his willingness to show incidents such as the fire.


I agree: his channel is highly entertaining and quite a an eye opener on the state of the market.

I work for a major parts supplier; probably the most well known in America; and I am still very curious how the company will adapt to an EV future. Simple look at the components listing of an EV reveals that outside of the parts most cars share; suspension components, brakes components, some fluids, filters, lights, compressors (think HVAC), and frills, there is little in common among the brands that third party service centers can work on.

I haven't seen really any commonality among packs or even motor designs. I am sure with sufficient volume the motors will eventually be a part that can be rebuilt, replaced, and such, but unless there is an industry move towards a standardized pack design its pretty much going to be full replacement and at the behest of the manufacturer.

Owning a TM3 my only real fear is an accident that requires replacement parts. My auto insurance is slightly higher than normal as my agent stated its flagged as difficult to repair and costly. The cost factor includes length of rental reimbursement.

People like to put EV adoption solely on range anxiety and some point to charging but long term it is also come down to ease of service and that must include choice of who does that.


>> People like to put EV adoption solely on range anxiety...

This is a term that irritates me every time I see it. EVs have a range problem. You can't drive them long distances without running into charging issues and doing careful planning around it. Telsa has longer range and their network of charging stations, but it still requires planning to deal with. This is an issue with the cars, and to call it "range anxiety" feels like making it some kind of perceptual issue with the driver. Like hey dude, get over it. In my mind this is a subtle way to blame shift from the technology to the would-be customers. Tesla being the one company taking it the most seriously and providing good range and a network of fairly quick chargers. But still, cars don't have anxiety - people do and the problem here is the cars don't meet peoples expectations.


That is because you are rational and thinking about the problem rationally.

Have you met the types that compare EVs with 250+ mile range to the batteries in their electric weed eater? And act like an electric car will never work, because it could just konk out on you without warning? These aren't real things that happen.

Range problems (extra time taken, lack of chargers in certain parts of the country, etc) is a very different and also perfectly rational concern.

It doesn't help that people often conflate the two.


Range anxiety absolutely exists. It's the fear that you'll run out of power on your trip. It's the same anxiety you get when you're low on gas an unsure if you can make it to a gas station.

You do get over it. It takes a while to realize that you generally will have a full charge every day and you stop looking at the gauge.


>> Range anxiety absolutely exists.

But it's still a problem with the vehicle. Go ahead, take your EV on a cross country trip.

I worked on the Focus Electric and realized I couldn't even use it as a daily commuter without paying extra attention. Most days it would be more than adequate, but if for some reason I wanted to make a detour from my daily drive - like up to our motor manufacturing plant - it would not make it on the overnight charge. Granted, that car has fairly short range. A Tesla (or Rivian) should go all day in local driving, so they punt the range problem down the road to mostly long trips. But it's still a problem compared to ICE vehicles.

My problem with the wording is this: The shortcomings of EVs rightly cause anxiety in people. But lets stop focusing on the anxiety in the humans and start talking about the issues with EVs. Until companies change that attitude, they'll make things like the Focus, Leaf, Volt. Yeah, I think the Volt was a mistake but some people love it and feel that it addressed the range issue nicely. It did address the issues head on, just not in a way that I like.


Why was the Volt a mistake? I was genuinely looking forward to purchasing one until they decided to discontinue it. It seems to me like series hybrids could be the fastest way to drastic reduction of emissions short of massive government intervention. Judging by the way things have gone with the EPA under Trump, I'm doubting that's going to be happening soon.

I think there is a difference between gas and batteries in the uncertainty that you are equating.

If my car always gets 25 mpg or more, and it's got a gallon left, I could have some uncertainty about how far it is to the gas station, or exactly how much fuel I have, but I'm confident that my remaining range is going to be very close to 25 mpg x gallons left. Summer or winter, it's not going to be that different.

On the other hand, if I had an electric car that says I have 25 miles left, based on all my experience with batteries, I presume that is based on a complicated model that may be way off in accuracy with no warning. It also may decline in a very nonlinear and unexpected way. Particularly in extreme weather.


Yeah, you just summed it up pretty well. In reality, my gas car varies from ~34 mpg to ~26 MPG depending upon its driving profile. That is ~30% variance. Everything that I have seen of the Model 3 indicates similar variance on your "25 miles left" scenario. The causes are different (eg, the Model 3 will not be affected by city driving to the same degree as a typical gas car), but the quantity of variation is very similar.

Of course, in reality my gas car stops reporting a miles remaining # when it gets to ~20 miles, for these reasons as well. It turns out that my experience with gas cars is that its based on a non-complicated model that may be way off in accuracy with some warning. :) Interestingly, it also declines in nonlinear and unexpected ways sometimes, though I haven't correlated it to weather.


You start by endorsing my comment, but my point was how different batteries are from gas.

Upside variation is not equivalent to downside variation. It seems to me like sophistry to say, well, it's tolerable for a battery to have 30% unexpected downside because a gas car has 30% upside when you go on the interstate (which would never be a surprise anyway).

If I have a car that gets 26 mpg in "city" driving, then I feel secure that it will not get significantly less at the worst possible moment, unless there is a major engine problem.


I don't understand this "upside" variation vs "downside" variation. It seems like the same thing to me. My gas car gets stuck in traffic sometimes and will vary regardless of the roads. In fact, that variance described was on the exact same commute, due to differences in time of day, traffic, and weather. Often it gets over 30, sometimes well under it. It really isn't so different from electrics in practical terms.

Collectively, we do need to get over it. There are all kinds of tradeoffs in life and society, and we can't keep using ICEs. It's the same reason we no longer use uranium oxide in ceramic glazing[0], even though it makes for very lovely, bright colours.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiesta_(dinnerware)#Radioactiv...


I think the market will rise to meet the need for alternative to manufacturer parts. Look at the availability of iPhone spares, for example. Whole screen, touch digitiser, front camera : $20.

That said, I think the automotive parts industry is an incredible achievement and I’m constantly blown away by the availability of stuff.

Btw I run howacarworks.com and I’m working on a parts-based startup. I’d love to pick your brains. Drop me an email: alex@howacarworks.com.


> Whole screen, touch digitiser, front camera

Usually cheap after market replacement parts in phones really act according to their price. I haven't seen a quality replacement part for these prices. Nothing close to the original anyway. As anecdata, every case I know where an iPhone screen was replaced with a cheap AM part it ended up being replaced again later with an official one. I'm not talking about Apple induced issues but problems with colors, banding, viewing angles, glare, touch response, thickness, etc. These are random articles I found while looking for pictures that highlight these issues [0] [1]. I'm sure this can very well extend to batteries or cameras.

This may be acceptable for a phone (even in the $1000 range) but in a car it poses a genuine safety risk. Also it undermines the premise of the original expenditure with the car. If you invest $50.000 in a car you may have an incentive to not use a low quality battery pack for example.

[0] https://discdepotstandrews.co.uk/copy-iphone-screens-vs-orig...

[1] https://www.hotshot.repair/mo/columbia/office-banter/lets-ta...


> If you invest $50.000 in a car you may have an incentive to not use a low quality battery pack for example.

And if you have a phone which is worth the investment, you'll likely pay more for the better replacement part. Maybe take it to the Apple store rather than the shady kiosk on the corner.

Likewise, there are a range of quality/price options for replacement auto parts. If I'm working on a car that cost me $1800 and is on its last legs, the aftermarket part for half the price of OEM is fine, even if it's only expected to last half as long.

People are perfectly capable of making those judgements calls and weighing the tradeoffs, as proven by the market for both phone parts and auto parts.

The battery itself /may/ be something of an exception. I'd imagine as they become more commoditized that concern will become less applicable.


My point was that you may be more lax when talking about things order(s) of magnitude cheaper. But overall yes, cheaping out on parts savotges the entire expenditure.

> If you invest $50.000 in a car

You spent $50K on a car, you don't invest in a car, outside of some of very specific cases (some classic cars and some exotics that are reasonably expected to increase in value).


That is an assumption since I didn’t go into the topic. And it’s semantics anyway. A car can very well be an investment, which doesn’t mean it should increase in value, simply that it produces value (carrying stuff for money can bring back more than the car is worth). Which is when taking care of it is more critical, to come back to my point.

Those prices certainly look suspiciously low. $20 will just barely cover a disposable screen protector, let alone an actual iPhone replacement screen and camera.

Range and service are the two big reasons why I can only sit on the sidelines and watch what happens with EVs. There isn't a super charger within 3 hours of me and the nearest service center is over 500 miles away! (Ok, one might be a bit closer, but it is in another country and that has its own set of issues.)

Obviously, not everyone has that problem, but distance to a dealer is on my mind, even for my ICE vehicles and it is "only" an hour away. I wouldn't want to go any farther than that.


Anecdata: I had a friend have his Model 3 get sideswiped badly while parked outside his house 2 days after he took delivery back in early December and he just finally got it back this past weekend. Kinda puts a damper on that new car exuberance.

Personally, I think the economics will keep EVs in a growing niche category.

People in general are poorer than they were 20 years ago, and that trend isn’t going away. Outside of the cohorts if folks who buy cars every 3 years, I think the values of EVs will crater as the novelty fades and repairs are a big question mark.


People aren’t poorer than they were 20 years ago, they just have an expectation of more things in their life. 20 years ago we barely had mobile phones let alone smartphones. Far fewer people had internet access. Many people didn’t even have a computer of any type.

We’re probably drinking more coffee, buying and consuming more passive entertainment, games, flat screen TVs, and disposable everything.


And my apologies for forgetting to mention the single largest increase in expenditure—health care. We can cure more diseases and fix more injuries than ever before, which means that there's more health services worth paying for than ever before.

In summary, if you want to live like someone in the 1920s, with 1920s technology, 1920s mobility, 1920s education and 1920s health care, all while defending your country with a 1920s military, you'd probably struggle to know how to spend your inordinate wealth.


The real per capita income in my area is $60k, up 1.6% from 10 years earlier. Inflation is about 1.6% per year

Right, so people have more money than before just as sjwright said.

Real income is, by definition, after inflation.


There's an inordinate amount of data at this point demonstrating that real average wages in America have been flat -- actually, falling slightly -- for decades.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-... https://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/ https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/the-uncomforta... https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/15/for-t...

I'm honestly a little dumbfounded this is even a subject that people seem to be debating here. It's not a matter of "people in 2019 just have so much more darn stuff to buy than people in 1979 did."


There's debate because depending on how you slice the data, you get different views, many(most?) of which show very small gains in real wages. As an example, the first link you provided shows generally increasing real wages over the last two decades despite your claim of falling slightly.

Your second link shows cohorts other than the bottom 10th percentile showing real wage gains as well (see figure 3 both charted series and figure 4 2 out of 3 of the series).

Spooky23 introduced data to show a modest increase in real wages in the last 10 years.


How much has the cost of healthcare, rent, and college tuition gone up on the past 10 years?

It's great that I can get a decent laptop for $400, instead of $1,600, but that's barely a blip on my spending.


Housing and food seem to have inflated about the rate of overall inflation. Tuition and healthcare more, while most consumer goods, software, white goods, home furnishings, and cars significantly less.

It should be no surprise that some categories have increased more than the average and others less.

Reference: http://2oqz471sa19h3vbwa53m33yj-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-c...


I assume EU will mandate EV cars in a couple of decades. It wouldn't surprise me if california would do the same.

An alternative scenario is synthetic fuels or hydrogen. But so far EV seems to most established solution.


No way.

Auto dealers will lose alot of revenue to EV. Every media outlet in every major and minor metro areas is dependent on auto dealers, and their message will get out. Every local politician knows the local auto dealers. Automotive is like 5% of private sector employment. The backlash will be huge for anything threatening to kill the golden goose. Nobody has an interest to care about carbon emissions.

EVs don't work for lots and lots of people as well. Half the people on my block don't have driveways. Millions of people live in apartments. Those folks are stuck as second class EV citizens. It will take a long time to build out charging infrastructure, and you'll have alot of resistance from citizens to EV mandates.

My guess is that you'll see EVs slowly climb up and stall out from a growth POV in the US until you see disruptive fuel cost increases.


I love EVs, in fact, I own one. But I think we will be using internal combustion engines 100 years from now. We keep finding more and more oil, and more ways to extract oil, that we will probably be OK for centuries. And the energy density of Gasoline and Diesel is fantastic, and will probably remain superior to batteries for a long time.

From a German point of view I don't see this.

Executives of automobile manufacturers are stuck so deep in the backs of our politicians that you can see them once they open their mouth.

After everything that happened around VW and "Dieselgate" nothing happened or changed. It's just depressing to see how this crisis is dealt with by doing nothing because manufacturers threaten with loss of workforce in Wolfsburg etc.


What changed is that diesel is now 'toxic'. For quite a number of years, car manufactures tries to sell diesel as cool. And now that's gone.

At the same time, the world outside Germany is not sitting still. If German manufactures do not make electric cars, companies in other countries will.

There is no reason to expect German car companies to lead in EV cars. But once demand and infrastructure is there, they simply have to provide EV models in a large part of the world or risk becoming obsolete.

So my estimate is that within one decade, most car companies will have quite a few EV models. Then there may even be an incentive to kill off support for car IC engines. I.e. maintaining one platform (for EV cars) is cheaper than maintaining one for EV and one for IC.


I'm not really sure German manufacturers will still play the role they are playing now in a decade, once EVs really get going. All of their efforts feel rather half-serious which really wonders me because I think it shows that they do not really take this topic serious. Just like the Diesel scandal.

With the budgets companies like Mercedes, BMW or VW have, all they can deliver is the "I got money to burn"-i8, an electric smart at ridiculous prices or some concept studies like the GLC-based electric vehicle that Mercedes is planning to build. (Didn't have a closer look into the eGolf, maybe that one is solid, but as VW did what it did, I think it's dead, at least for me.)

So much money, so little innovation. I don't really get that. They all know how to build solid cars, but they fail, on purpose (?!?) so badly at EVs.

The next car I will buy, or will have provided by my company, will surely be an electric one. Maybe a KIA, Hyundai, or Renault, not sure yet. But I don't see any "German car" really up for comparison with things like the Zoe, Niro, Kona.


"all they can deliver is the "I got money to burn"-i8"

Well, I'm not saying it's a fantastic car, but given the existence of the i3, I think you are overstating your case.


I had a look at the i3 and it's just so off from the rest of their models. I'd loved if they had just taken their series 2 station wagon model and put batteries in that. Just like Mercedes did (still do? thought it was discontinued) with their B class.

There’s a great Motherboard episode about him: https://youtu.be/NuAMczraBIM

This should be the top comment. Motherboard did all the research and work to show this guy to the world.

This chap is very impressive, and pretty crazy - spending tens (hundreds?) of thousands of $ on apparently unserviceable cars, then opening up the high voltage systems on them with no help from the manufacturer.

His YouTube channel is here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfV0_wbjG8KJADuZT2ct4SA


>spending tens (hundreds?) of thousands of $ on apparently unserviceable cars, then opening up the high voltage systems on them with no help from the manufacturer.

Once you get to the level at which you're comfortable working on any one of the subsystems alone there's a snowball effect. Rebuilding a flooded car isn't fundamentally harder than any individual repair. It's just a bigger job. It's mostly a question of available resources (space and cash flow being the two most common bottlenecks) and motivation.


Fair point

>pending tens (hundreds?) of thousands of $ on apparently unserviceable cars

If you read the article, his net cost for the one Tesla he drives was $6500. This is because he bought two junked cars for about $30k, assembled the one "Good" car out of the combined parts, then was able to resell the remaining duplicate good parts for the difference.


That's great, but at the start he had no idea if he would ever and up with a working car or recoup any cost at all. I don't know how rich I'd need to be to bet $30k on a broken car.

It's a fine line between

> bet $30k on a broken car

and spending $30k on your "hobby". I think it's just a shift in mindset.


If you've been following him for a while on YouTube then you'd know he's bought more than just taking the risk on the two Teslas mentioned in the article, including a $70,000 Model X.

There's another guy that bought a chiped frame Audi TT and reworked it. It was a bit impressive, also his soldering + reinforcement didn't inspire confidence.

going to go out on a limb as I might not know what I'm talking about - a tesla is blurring the lines between mechanics and software to an even greater degree than most/all other conusmer-level cars on the road. IIUC, Chrysler/Ford/GM/Toyota etc. don't give consumers any ability to mess with the electronics or software in these cars. I can see how Tesla engineers would be uncomfortable with hobbyists putting the cars together themselves. The Teslas are really super different than any other car I've driven (I've driven a few).

That said I absolutely support what this guy is doing, I'm just saying allowing your highly computerized car to also be hackable without adding new safety risks adds a lot of engineering expense to it and I can see why Tesla doesn't want to allow that. I don't want people messing with the source code of my libraries that I release and then suing me when they unsuccessfully tried using it to calculate how much fuel their plane has left.


I'm afraid you do not understand correctly.

When I started to become concerned about the mass weaponization of autonomous systems I looked into what was actually happening in the field. Tesla is by far the safest out of any consumer-car company with respect to cybersecurity. (Waymo is safer, but their cars aren't in the possession of consumers yet.)

There are some other car companies (e.g., Audi) that are better than others, but many of them are downright disasters. Because many large car manufacturers refused to sell tools to engage the software that is used in cars, but mechanics want to interact with it anyway, what they've resorted to doing is relying on third party diagnostic tools. Most of the times these tools are running some horrible out of date version of linux or, if they're lucky, an Arduino.

Many of the components within automotives are vulnerable. Ironically, some that tried to take safety seriously often bought into promises from vendors that didn't work out as expected. For example, QNX was damn vulnerable (broken SRNG, admin password backdoor, etc) and it's in countless subcomponents of vehicles of many types, including cars, but also military tanks and freight trucks. (I've even heard that it's been used in scarier stuff, like nuclear power plants, but that's third hand.)

Anyway, I don't have all the answers or information, but at least as things stand right now, I'm with Tesla on this one. The last thing we want for our computerized cars is Joe programmer teaming up with Jane mechanic thinking they know what they're doing when they don't.


i was responding to the notion that "all car companies allow their cars to be hackable" and how that is not really true. I know very well that the software in modern cars is really insecure, buggy, and sometimes even willfully lawbreaking. Opening it up to consumers should be done but how to do it without introducing the risk of hobbyists driving dangerous cars on the road that endangers others is an unsolved problem. Asking Tesla to do this and not any of the other manufacturers else wouldn't be fair to them, it should be across the board.

Longer term I think driving on public roads should itself be illegal once things are autonomous, but even then, allowing hacked autonomous cars on the road are still a problem. It points towards a future where self-owned cars just aren't allowed on roads anymore. If you traveled in time 300 years and landed on the spot a major highway existed in the present, what would be there?


As soon as you disallow self-modified cars, where is the line drawn? These kinds of regulations give big companies that can acquire “car-making licenses” lots of power and take away a valid and perfectly legal hobby from millions of people.

> As soon as you disallow self-modified cars, where is the line drawn?

the road :) that's your line. a hundred years from now.


> IIUC, Chrysler/Ford/GM/Toyota etc. don't give consumers any ability to mess with the electronics or software in these cars.

I think they just don't want the hassle, AFAIK they keep the ECU mostly a black box even to first-party mechanics as well (because in the U.S. if they show it to their first party mechanics, they are generally obligated to sell it to third parties at a reasonable price as well). Third party, and even open source, ECUs do work well though (emissions control being a bit more difficult to get right, mind you, and some of these projects are mostly abandoned by now); I don't think it's really that hard to swap it out, the sensors are mostly passive components.


There is, in fact, a thriving chip industry for automotive ECUs, so that's not true. Yes- they are black boxes, but they've almost all been cracked and modified to some extent. At least for cars that people care about.

Honestly, I believe Tesla is not lying. They may profit from not having a backmarket.. but as of now, people doing part swap on cars is super terrible. It's also pretty easy to imagine that if anything happens on a Tesla, the company will be blamed no matter what. Some people might even sue.

So we're supposed to treat these Teslas that are 'good' for the environment like an old iPhone and toss them in the landfill when they stop working? Not try to repair them? What a joke.

Larry Ellison can shove it. People are going to figure out how to repair their own vehicle no matter what. You can't hide DIY information like that, someone will eventually figure it out and document it.


The next Haynes.

Larry Ellison?


Fantastic story! That's what America is all about!

To lawmakers - the "Right to Repair" law clearly has a loophole. What is to stop other auto manufacturers from going to an online only sales model in order to bypass the law? Might wanna fix that.


No company is under any obligation to sell parts to anyone in particular. The law worked in this case (perhaps by accident). He was able to swap parts from one car to another, which is something that car manufacturers don't want in some cases. You may find replacing electronic components on one vehicle with those from another doesn't work - it's in the name of theft prevention, but that's at odds with right to repair. That didn't happen here, the only obstacles he really had were availability of information and parts.

If you have an inalienable right to repair/rebuild/modify your Tesla do you also have the right to do the same to your future level 5, fully-autonomous self driving car?

Rich is a true engineering rock star for pulling off what he did with the Tesla. And I fully support his right to do so and think Tesla should be more supportive to the backyard mechanics. But if he was trying to do the same thing by kludging together a couple of broken, fully-autonomous cars? I think that is where I would draw the line.


If you have an inalienable right to repair/rebuild/modify your Tesla do you also have the right to do the same to your future level 5, fully-autonomous self driving car?

Absolutely you do. I expect there to be a certain amount of certification and oversight in safety critical systems - perhaps similar to how the FAA regulates repair and maintenance for general aviation.


Would it then be OK for the autonomous car DIYer to modify the software to drive a bit more aggressively? Or to always favor passenger survival over pedestrian/bicyclist survival in an emergency situation? Or maybe he just wants to use a less expensive LIDAR than the the one car was originally equipped with and wants to mount it in a different place?

For that matter, would you be OK with Tesla open sourcing their existing lane keeping/auto pilot system so current owners could hack it however they want?


Even the FAA has an experimental aircraft category where people are allowed to work on their own aircraft and systems with some, but less limited regulation.

How is that different than the folks who run an after market engine management system, or a custom fuel map on the OEM board? Car manufacturers tried to shut down after-market companies doing this with the same line of argument as well back in the day and lost. We are all still waiting for the car-pocalypse it would cause if permitted to go on.

The reality is level 5 is a pipe-dream except for a few situations and I don't expect to ever see it widespread until they resolve the situation where the road is snow-covered, ditch is full of snow so can not be easily identified, it's snowing moderately heavy and there's oncoming traffic, while driving at night. Oh, and it's in a rural area so maps are somewhat lacking in accuracy. When that happens I'll believe it.


You forgot deer at the side of the road, preparing to run in front of the car ;-)

What if Tesla goes bankrupt? Are we allowed to repair then?

Maybe they won't try to sue you for distributing the documentation and software, then :)

This guy is amazing. I love his Boston accent and his total DGAF attitude. A true hacker.

You know how its all over the news everytime a Tesla has a crash?

EVs are an unknown quantity for most people, if someone repaired their Tesla badly and something happened, all that would be reported is 'Tesla catches fire', but you wouldn't see 'petrol powered Ford catches fire'.

So I think its understandable that Tesla would want to be protective. That's not to say that I think they should be allowed to do it though. One would hope that there's an independent testing regime to check that the car is actually roadworthy.


I find it odd that people are fine with Musk drawing attention with his antics but then aren't happy with disproportionate media coverage. Tesla as a company feeds on that coverage and it is not surprising that there is some bad mixed in with the good.

to be fair: Tesla is selling you the battery, Ford isn't selling you the petrol

Is that a correct metaphor?

Surely the battery is a petrol tank, and electricity, petrol.


I think the point the parent comment is trying to make is that a Ford tank cannot burn, but a battery can.

The metaphor barely works either way and breaks down entirely once you factor in home solar.

Home solar would be a nodding donkey on the patio.

There isn't a metaphor in my post. Does the electricity burn? Or the battery?

Ok comparison then.

Something burns releasing energy. An empty battery will release less energy than a full one, just like a burning fuel tank.

https://www.quora.com/Are-Lithium-Ion-batteries-more-flammab...


fair enough, but an empty battery has more potential energy than an empty gas tank

Rich brought to light recently how much of a mess the used Tesla experience (no longer CPO) is as well. There are two more videos, the situation is resolved after many months and Tesla execs intervening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgMTx_xFezM&t=4s

Wife and I were seriously considering a used Model S but there is no chance we'd go through what he did to buy a used car.


The notion that a "backyard" mechanic cannot repair or modify a Tesla or most anything else is bullshit.

So is the notion they can.

What's truly at stake here is the right to try.


Love his YouTube channel and also that we can see the innards of Teslas and how they work at such a detailed level.

No need to disparage tree huggers, but this is a great story.

You can hug a tree with any car, be it a Tesla, Corvette or Porsche. Once.

Cool fact: Porsche 930 is nicknamed "Widowmaker" because it had a tendency to steer rear-first into trees back in the day.

Cool stuff. Love people who are passionate enough to embark on a tenuous DIY journey!

LOL. I Love this!

There's a genuine risk in this case, the car was flooded, and so were the batteries. Who knows if the frame are still in place or if the wires are still connected to the right place.

Imagine a "mechanic" who duct-tapes it, then charge it, the person can put everything on fire and injure people. Then others will sue Tesla. I haven't heard of mechanic setting regular cars on fire when repairing them though.

I understand the right of owners to repair their propriety, especially in a time where we consume too much stuff, but a Tesla is just to dangerous for people to work with.


As others have stated, this is irrelevant.

There are plenty of ways to get cars with gasoline engines to catch fire, and any attempts to sue every other manufacturer over the poor work of shade-tree mechanics is already something that has been dealt with for decades.

Moreover there are other manufacturers that are long as annoying to deal with as Tesla, particularly exotics -- they're just that, annoying -- that do things by the book, no worse than any certified manufacturer mechanic.

Hell, some independents are invaluable. My personal mechanic has had to have video calls with Porsche Classic (in Stuttgart) to tell them how Porsche badly did work (at great expense) on cars like the 959, that he then had to do right, because Porsche's official Classic restoration shop effed it up. He's functionally restoring lost knowledge at Porsche because the domain knowledge of those cars was lost -- and you'll find independent mechanics for Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren, etc. that are also equally invaluable to keep classics running and dead reliable, and helping the manufacturers out by providing training, and ensuring there's a (very profitable) customer base with an interest for the old metal.

I buy and repair/flip lots of popular used commodity cars -- including hybrids -- as a hobby. Hybrids are increasingly popular for me because there's demand, and most mechanics haven't bothered with them yet, so it's a pretty easy $1800 - $2500 to turn around a Prius that needed a rebuilt battery from a reliable battery re-manufacturer that stands by 6-year warranties on their battery packs.

I've met Rich a few times at car shows. He's not a knucklehead, and Teslas aren't rocket surgery. Those battery packs are a different beast than the 40-50kg packs in a hybrid, but if you can remove a rear subframe with the engine, transaxle and rear suspension from a mid-or-rear engine sports car with a 6-to-12 cylinder, you're ready for a Tesla battery pack replacement.


> if you can remove a rear subframe with the engine, transaxle and rear suspension from a mid-or-rear engine sports car with a 6-to-12 cylinder, you're ready for a Tesla battery pack replacement.

I think the problem might be that a lot of people will assume replacing the battery in a Tesla isn't much different from replacing the battery in their 1998 Toyota.

Electric cars are kind of new, and it will take a while for our culture to catch up.


So Tesla should, as they are expected to, by law, provide training and repair manuals to third parties.

> I haven't heard of mechanic setting regular cars on fire when repairing them though.

You clearly haven't been around many repair shops or performed your own auto maintenance. It's not that hard and does happen from time to time.

Another thing to think about is how many times have I heard of stories where a mechanic or oil change tech forgets to tighten something, oil or fuel leaks, drips onto the hot exhaust manifold and starts an engine fire... while driving.


>Another thing to think about is how many times have I heard of stories where a mechanic or oil change tech forgets to tighten something, oil or fuel leaks, drips onto the hot exhaust manifold and starts an engine fire... while driving.

The properties that make engine oil last thousands of miles without breaking down in the conditions you find inside an engine also make it very hard to ignite if not mixed with something more flammable (trust me, I've tried, it won't stay lit on its own). Fluid based vehicle fires are usually the result of transmission fluid or power steering fluid which are more flammable. Fuel based fires are pretty rare (for how flammable gasoline is) because safety standards all but require OEMs to over-build the fuel systems. Also due to the nature of engine designs (you kind of need the exhaust ports on the head so the manifold goes somewhere therabouts) it's quite rare to have a situation where it's possible for an engine oil leak to reach exhaust system parts in any appreciable volume. Remember, if you're losing that much oil the car will likely stop for other reasons long before it catches fire.


It can, however, create so much smoke, that you won't be able to see much in front of you as the smoke pours out from under the hood, and leaves an oily film all over your windscreen.

My brake callipers pinched and caused a fire, a bone-headed mechanic or DIYer could cause this problem with a bad brake job. There are so many, many ways a car can go wrong and kill someone, battery-tech or otherwise.

If there is a right to repair all of this does not matter. Tesla has - or should have - the obligation to sell the parts, and probably to also inform of the risks.

A bad repair is not on tesla, it's on the mechanic doing the work.


That has yet to be decided. That's the problem. In a reasonable society, of course, no one would question this. However, while driving down the road, a shoddy repair has an effect on another system which interferes with the lane change sensor and allows you to drift into a semi while checking you iPhone, that is Tesla's fault (or so you'll argue in court). Things get into grey areas quickly. Also, if you have a lawyer that's worth his/her salt, they'll try to suppress the fact that you had a repair on an unrelated system by an unlicensed shop.

This already has been decided, and the decision was against the automakers trying to hold a monopoly on aftermarket repairs. They're not allowed to restrict parts or knowledge from third party mechanics.

I am curious. So you are saying there have been no cases filed in last 50 years where car manufacturers have sold parts but mechanic repairs were shoddy causing an accident?

Well, that would be easy to find out and fix.

With the degree of autonomy that cars like Tesla come with, there are whole new battlefields which courts will have to figure out first.


One of the popular modifications done here is modifying petrol engines to be able to run on natural gas. And if you see some news about a car catching fire on the street you can bet it had this modification done.

> After more than a year of tinkering and of challenge after challenge, Benoit had proudly restored Delores nearly back to showroom quality, and in video #61, she passed state inspection.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. There regulations for what you can and can't drive on the road. If you're talking about someone setting fire to their car and hurting themselves or others, they'd be liable.




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