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Ask HN: What will be the future differentiator in electric vehicles?
78 points by naskwo 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 230 comments
If you buy a mobile phone today, the choice is between Android and iOS, or, more specifically, between Samsung and Android.

[LG's announcement to stop making smartphones is a testament to how the technology and (economy of scale) of Apple and Samsung have evolved to a duopoly of smartphone brands. For most consumers, two choices are enough. Quick: name the third in line: Coca Cola, Pepsi and ...? Or McDonald's, Burger King and ...?)

Will the same happen for electric cars? Ford is already building their EVs on a VW chassis.

For example: whether you buy an electric Kia or electric Porsche, what are the real engineering differences between the car, considering:

- the drivetrain is electric - the center of gravity is lowered in almost all EVs because of the (current state of the art) of battery placement - Many key (security) parts are bought OEM from the same suppliers, including tyres, audio systems and airbags. - The manufacturer with the most driven miles will likely have the least amount of "bugs"

Will car brands go even more the way of fashion brands, where the difference between Porsche and Kia will be like the difference between Balenciaga and Nike: both are functional footwear, but I'd choose the Nikes and save the difference.

Will "internal luxury" and "prestige" take the overtone in marketing and branding for the next 20 years, as opposed to how "clean" a car is and the engineering of their engines? And, of this technology, how will supercar automakers adapt? E.g. why buy a Ferrari if the "soul" (engine) is replaced with an electric drivetrain that is likely less mature in engineering than what would be inside a Tesla S?

56 million cars sold last year. How many do you think were bought because they do not create emissions, or because of any serious consideration of the engineering behind them?

People buy a Toyota Corolla or Prius because it's below the median price, reliable and efficient. They will buy it and then never think about it again because it'll "just work."

People buy a Ford F150 because they either have some real use for a full-sized truck or, as we know is often the case, they want to feel like they are in the "big" vehicle, the "fancy" but "powerful" looking truck.

People buy a Porsche 911 because it's a symbol for having the money to throw at a fun, slightly exotic machine.

People buy a Tesla because it's a symbol of embracing the future, seeing cars as technology, and freeing them from generating exhaust and visiting gas stations.

People buy a Honda CR-V because it can do enough things well that they can just use it, fit people and stuff inside, feel safer when it snows, and so on.

People buy a Kia Soul because it's a little off the beaten path and comes in crazy colors.

Obviously the exact reasons behind each car purchase vary a little per person, but that's kind of the point. People want a car that feels like "them", and has enough practical use to justify their decision.

Automotive maker consolidation isn't new, just like any other industry, and it certainly would leave many unhappy if the options narrowed severely, because there are different use cases and preferences out there. For now, the market is so big that Toyota can have 6 different SUVs that are all slightly different, and you can configure a Ford F150 about a million different ways. (Though with colors converging back on black, white and gray, we're nearly back to the days of "You can have it any color, as long as it is black."

I think several of your categories nailed what the vast majority of car owners are looking for: an transportation appliance. This is where I think EVs will eventually dominate the market, the only thing you will have to worry about is plugging it in. The simplicity of the electric drive train will make them even more reliable (and efficient) than the best gas vehicles today. No more oil changes. No more random fluid leaks on your driveway. No more mornings where you are late for work because your car wouldn't start or you forgot you had to stop and fill up with gas on the way to work.

That last point might still be the case. Forget to plug your car in overnight and suddenly you don't have enough mileage to get to work. Not everyone will have access at home to a fast charger so the option will be to slow charge over a 110V extension cord or go wait at a public charger that might be a little out of the way from your commute.

I'm definitely ready for an EV but my car sits in a parking lot at home (for at least a couple more years) rather than a driveway or garage and my work has no chargers. It seems kind a dumb decision right now to purchase an EV only to rely on availability public charging stations. I guess that's kind of what I do now with regards to filling up on gas, I don't own my own gas pump at home. But, I know where to reliably find fuel that I can pay for. Maybe gas stations can start to offer charging stations for a small fee. They would be competing with grocery stores that offer free charging but I'd imagine the free part will go away quickly once there is major demand for a public charger.

> No more mornings where you are late for work because your car wouldn't start

That sounds very optimistic. Don't forget that these new cars are increasingly powered by software!

That seems to equally be the case for both ICE and electric vehicles, so I don't think you're worse off going electric if that's your concern.

Note: There are actually a few important liquids in a Tesla as noted here: https://forums.tesla.com/discussion/62638/so-what-fluids-are...

Sounds like Apple products.

Thanks for writing what I couldn't figure out how to put into words.

I'll add one more thing: there are enough cars sold that there is enough market to support developing lots of different cars.

What is interesting is seeing the market contract in recent years. After 2008, a lot of car companies killed their performance models or lines off entirely, despite the bull run presumably adding more money in peoples pocket in years since. Car manufactureres are realizing they don't need to develop a lot of cars. That it's a bad business decision to build a 400hp turbocharged mitsubishi lancer and sell it to the tiny market of 30 year olds with money for a $45k car but no children to keep their sense in check, if the average consumer by and large just wants an SUV to go the grocery store. Some manufacturers like Ford don't even really sell sedans anymore, so it goes beyond even just performance cars to anything that isn't a 30mpg $24,000 sport utility box.

There's an ongoing joke about every time a manufacturer announces/releases a new performance car:

Internet car enthusiasts: "What an awesome car! It's RWD, great power, stick shift, awesome handling! It's going to sell amazingly well! I'm definitely going to buy one......."

".....used in five years!"

Meanwhile all the consumers that buy (or more often these days, lease) new cars are snapping up FWD (or FWD biased AWD) 4cylinder automatic CUVs.

Arguably were are already there. Every car on the market gets to the speed limit quick enough and gets about the same MPG, so therefore cars are already in this nike shoe to balenciaga state, since the actual added performance functionality you get in the porsche today is useless, dangerous, and illegal except on private tracks (and maybe 1% of owners will bring their cars to one of these, far more will drive their cars dangerously on public roads).

I think in this light you will have to look and see how luxury cars differentiate, even though a Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and v6 Honda Accord all go very fast today. Luxury brands have fit and finish that isn't found on the similarly speedy v6 Honda accord. If Tesla would like to remain competitive in their price bracket, they will have to start offering an interior and overall fit and finish worthy of standing among other $30k-$40k cars on the market today. IMO from my own personal experiences with Teslas, some base model cars from other manufacturers on the market have less rattly and cheap feeling interiors, and a giant iPad is a poor (distracting) crutch.

I’m glad I’m not the only who felt that the interiors in a Tesla were cheap feeling. I used to be in the camp of “I want to buy a Tesla one day”, but a test drive two years ago burst my bubble. For the price tag, I was expecting a little bit more quality of interiors than what felt like rickety plasticy parts put together.

There were some parts like the window buttons that looked of higher quality, and it turns out, those were manufactured by Mercedes.

Let's not overlook Tesla's acceleration, range, and Supercharger network. Other makers will catch up eventually but for now, those factors make a lot of buyers overlook fit and finish.

Tesla isn't competing against an electric car, though, it's competing against the upper middle class consumer's gas car. Against this car, probably a lexus or 3 series thereabouts, the Tesla is not a good bargain unless you are interested in having an electric car for the sake of that alone.

It being some green choice itself is dubious, considering how much gas and coal is still used in the electric grid and how this car still produces particulate pollution from brake and tire dust, and the fact that you've just brought multiple tons of rare earth materials from around the world together to do the same job the $2000 used corolla that already exists locally at your neighborhood used car lot does, or even a moped for some, only with a higher perceived social standing. The acceleration is on par with the rest of it's class, the range is decent, and the supercharger network is good but still much less convenient than filling up at a gas station, and there's been times on my travels where even the distance between gas stations was dangerously few and far in between.

Imo the worse problem for the car wasn't that we powered it with gas, it was that we insisted on using a vehicle weighing 3000lbs to move our 200lb selves. It doesn't matter how green your energy source is when only 6% of it is used to actually move you, and there are externalities just from the weight alone (the brakes and tires required to stop 3200lbs vs 200lbs e.g. on a bicycle and their associated pollution, the cost to the earth forging these 3000lbs of metal).

I agree with this. Most people looking at say, a Model 3, are not cross shopping it vs. say, a Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf. Seems like they are more cross shopping vs. a BMW 3 series or Benz C class.

Yes but my point was, the range/recharging situation is a differentiator from other electrics for now, and reasonably practical, while acceleration far exceeds most gasoline cars in its price range.

From a quick google, the fastest BMW 3-series is the 330i, at 5.3 seconds 0-60. The M240i xDrive does 4.2 seconds. For a few thousand more, the Model 3 Performance does 3.1.

Tesla's instant response is another fun advantage, and reviews have been very positive on Model 3 handling. The bottom line is, it's a fun car and people like it. It's not just virtue/status signaling and environmentalism.

I was shopping around for the m235i, 330i, x1, x2 and similar vehicles. Was rather disappointed about the configuration options, terrible headlights (worse than a prius), unless you pay for the premium. Zillions of options that really should be standard, things like ski pass thru and folding seats, stock radio that was pretty disappointing, and the nav system/idrive was pretty disappointing, much like a 10+ year old smart phone.

The Tesla options were a pleasure, lr, awd, or performance, interior color, exterior color, size of the wheels, and fsd or not.

Saw quite a few horror stories about the "wonder 4 cylinder", plastic timing chain gears, issues with the high pressure fuel pump, and then BMW halved their CPO warranty. One of the bmw forums mentioned a just out of warranty engine check light, going to the dealer, getting the all clear, having the engine sieze the next day, and a $20k bill. Sure it's just a single story, the next day there were 20 pages of similar stories. I had done the research to buy one of the "good" BMWs (the 6 cyclinder, no HFP issues, and no plastic timing chain gears). But then the model 3P came out, drove quite nicely, nice speech recognition, nice nav, and acceleration that puts a smile on my face every damn time.

Completely agree with that too.

Not to nitpick, but the fastest non-M 3 series is the M340, which has been tested to 3.8s 0-60 and can probably be leased for about the same as a Model 3 Performance. Disclaimer: it's my current daily driver.

The M3 is the more interesting comparison, and Elon specifically had the older one in his crosshairs vs. the Model 3 Performance trim. Based on various Youtube videos, the pre 2021 Model 3P seems to beat or match most of its competitors in various metrics at a significantly lower price. Would be interesting how the post 2021 Model 3P compares against the new hog-nosed BMW M3 and the upcoming 4cyl+electricmotor C63 AMG.

I'm actually scheduled to test drive a Model 3 this weekend so I'm curious how it will feel vs. the M340. I've never driven an EV before.

Be prepared to be impressed. I got myself into a '21 Model 3 LR and the acceleration puts a smile on my face every time I drive it. And this is from someone with a very heavily modded 4-cyl turbo car with a medium frame turbo and 20psi. 340 ft-lb is nothing to scoff at when it's on tap instantaneously. I really want to take a Model 3P for a test drive, I wish I knew someone.

And the Model 3 has been around for 4? years now? The fit and finish I'm guessing has improved greatly, but I really have no idea. I ordered and picked up mine without ever test driving one. I guess I put a lot of faith in it, but I love it. No regrets. Bring on the electrification of all vehicles. Can't wait for an electric pickup truck.

You can just go to a Tesla store and drive one. I did. Wasn’t even accompanied on the drive (thank god - the dude would’ve barfed). Drove it up to skyline and back from Palo Alto. I took out the performance too.

Unlike you, I wasn’t impressed. Acceleration was good but other than that, it doesn’t feel much better than any other cheap car. Definitely worse than a BMW. (I own a BMW and can compare) The body roll is significant. Seats are horrible. (Literally couldn’t stay in seat, no bolstering and very slippery vinyl) Brakes were about the only thing that felt comparable but had this eery feeling that they were going to fade at any moment without any notice. So, I wasn’t really confident in going full send. Some people probably know what I mean...

If all you care about is straight line acceleration then Tesla could be quite good. For me, I like curves more and Tesla has to come out with a specific sport car variant for it to compete on that front.

Oh and I’m used to sound and wind in my hair because I drive convertibles. So, there’s that too. I don’t expect anything like that anytime soon. Too niche for American market.

Not sure if it's specific to my region or if it's because of covid, but they require making a reservation to test drive nowadays.

From what I glean from reviews, it sounds like the Model 3 is actually pretty good from a purely technical handling standpoint, but what people aren't fond of is how it feels doing so.

Apparently a quick google is less reliable than direct experience :)

I'd be curious to see your impressions after your test drive.

Has the playing field leveled between Tesla and all others in terms of an accessible and reliable charging network now? That's still the main reason I would buy a Tesla for anything other than a city commuter but I may be behind the times.

It's better with ElectrifyAmerica in the US, not perfect yet. Give it one or two more years.

It's not at all true all mpg are the same, for starters petrol/diesel/hybrid/electric vary hugely in this respect.

> since the actual added performance functionality you get in the porsche today is useless, dangerous, and illegal except on private tracks (and maybe 1% of owners will bring their cars to one of these, far more will drive their cars dangerously on public roads).

OT but I don't get why 400bhp cars with "race" suspensions are even road-legal. Why are cars not fitted with a speed limiter? Road accidents are a leading cause of death and injury, with 1,500,000 people killed annually (or a jumbo jet going down with 340 passengers every 2h). Yet we allow cars that dramatically increase risks and increase pollution (any car with over ~100bhp/ton really only uses the extra power by breaking the law). At the same time we spend billions in "manual" policing! Such inefficiency.

I think if one were to dig into the statistics of road fatalities, they would probably find 400 HP race-suspended muscle cars are not a major mass murdering menace.

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are on the rise in developed countries, as cars are ever safer for the drivers and more dangerous for the fragile sacks of meat in the street walking about their day.

I think that you can take all of the differentiators that exist for ICE vehicles (price, reliability, status ...) and then add in some new factors:

1) Range anxiety

2) Recharge concerns (plays into range anxiety)

3) Novel technology fears (will my trusted mechanic of twenty years be able to handle this or am I stuck with the dealership?)

4) "Handling" -- will this drive like my old ICE car? Apparently a major irritation factor from some EV adopters I know, who disliked how out of control they felt.

5) Technology settling ... my guess is that the standard voltage systems within these vehicles will eventually settle on a standard between these vehicles, because people will be interested in the "pluggability" of EV options if they are that much simpler. Can I just plug in my dashcam, or do I need a voltage converter? I'm driving over to my friend's place, can I use his charger?

I'm probably missing a few.

#2 (and #1) is really important, even if it shouldn't be. When you buy a car, you're plunking down $40,000 (apparently[0]!) and trying to cover every use case you're going to have over the next 5 years. So that trip you make to the beach once each summer, or visiting grandma on her half-mile dirt lane, or the one time you get caught at work when it's snowing too heavily for the plows to keep up... you need 350 mile range, AWD, all-season tires, 6 seats, massive luggage space, perfect map/navigation integration with your phone...

Given my other comment about the massive variety of cars (not just EVs) that people want to buy, people want choice, and right now you do not get great choices when it comes to charging station networks. I believe that mass adoption will not happen until interchangeable charging stations are ubiquitous, even if more than half of car owners could get by on charging overnight at home 363 days a year.

[0] https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/average-new-car-price-202...

Mostly true for one car households, but with multiple car households you only need to be sure that one of the cars will cover a rare use case.

Re: #3 - handle what? Changing the oil? Replacing the clutch. Dealing with the camshaft gears shredding and destroying engine? Fixing any part of the gear box? Of the automatic gearbox? My belt tensioner isn't. The clutch on my ac is broken. My powersteering hydraulic line came loose and sprayed all over the road. My power steering pump needs replacing (a month after the fluid got dumped). Piston ring blown. Cylinder head gasket needs replacing.

So looking forward not to have to take the car to any kind of mechanic at all except for brakes and wiper fluid. Sure, anything else probably means swapping something out, but if you've ever had your gasoline engine out of your car, you'll know swapping out an electric motor is trivial by comparison.

EVs can potentially be very low maintenance, but they're still machines with parts that will wear out or break eventually if driven far enough: bearings, cv joints, suspension components, electric power steering units, etc... Plus all the little accessories that aren't part of the drivetrain or steering/suspension/brakes but might cause problems if they break, like motorized door handles or flash memory chips that have been written to too many times, or whatever.

Being able to get access to the parts and information necessary to fix things can make a lot of difference when things fail and the warrantee is expired. This is basically the "right to repair" issue. Some people care about it a lot and some people don't.

Other than oil dripping on to the parking lot I haven't had any ICE related problems. Sure the car needs a yearly inspection and oil changes but the costs have been minimal. I've spent more on window repairs, brake pad & discs, tires and broken power steer than on ICE related maintenance.

> So looking forward not to have to take the car to any kind of mechanic at all except for brakes and wiper fluid.

You won't even need to go to a mechanic for brakes.

Regen breaking means your brake pads are rarely actually used and will probably last a million miles.

AFAIK, the only maintenance item you'll likely be taking an EV to is tires.

This just isn't factual. Every part of car will eventually wear out. Go spend some time on the Tesla forums and you'll see they are not even close to maintenance free.

Are you using "maintenance" in this context to refer to repairing parts that might wear out or break, such as perhaps a suspension component, or a door handle breaking?

Because I'm only considering "regular" maintenance that most people do every X miles or Y years. For a Tesla, the only "regular" maintenance is cabin filters, tire-related maintenance, brake fluid, an A/C. The 12V battery also needs replacement periodically.

I strictly use the word "maintenance" to refer to preventative care and replacement of consumables such as tires, filters, and washer fluid. Repairs of failed parts are something else.

What's the point of compartmentalizing it other than to push a misleading "EVs are cheaper" narrative?

If it costs money its adds to the total cost of ownership, whether its preventative maintenance or unscheduled break fix.

The only difference with preventative is its scheduled so you can organize the work to fit your schedule without much inconvenience.

At the end of the day you need to factor in the entire cost of the car over its lifespan and figure out at what distance the cost of ownership crosses over from ICE being cheaper to EV being cheaper.

This includes repairs, fuel/electricity, insurance, opportunity cost of not having the price difference to invest, etc.

"Analysis of real-world maintenance and repair cost data from thousands of CR members shows that BEV and PHEV owners are paying half as much as ICE owners are paying to repair and maintain their vehicles."

- Consumer Reports [1]

[1] https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/wp-content/uploads/2020...

Yeah that document is up there with Gartner research in terms of integrity.

Ignoring the fact they used "predicted five-year residual values" for their real word data, and the fact they compare a telsa model 3 to an BMW/Audi/Lexus rather than a Camry or something in the same actual class, the operational costs are nowhere near "half" in their own table, eg.

A telsa model 3 over "lifetime" is $49,800 whereas a Lexus is $63,200 - significantly less than $99,600.

Oh and thats skipping the insurance and charger costs too.

Its a biased piece of toilet paper.

I would actually be worried about brakes not getting used instead of them getting used and worn out. Having replaced my KIA's breaks due to dragging. After all they are hydraulic system with moving parts that can get stuck if not used enough.

Ironically Teslas have issues with binding brakes due to lack of use.

I hope you didn't get a Tesla as they specify an AC service every two years

Repairability and maintainability is the big one for me. I don't mind buying a disposable car, but then that disposable car better last 10 years (or 150K miles) and cost 15K.

If they are selling cars for 40K, then those cars need to be cheap to maintain and service, so they can stay on the road for 30 years with say, 5K parts costs over those 30 years. Or stay on the road for 40 years with 20K parts costs, etc. There are many Toyotas and Hondas as well as good trucks that last forever -- basically with a lifetime limited by body rust. If you have a 2000 Celica, even if you aren't a mechanic, a brand new retail OEM AC compressor is $700 and you can get it replaced for $100 in labor. Strut replacement will cost you $400 retail parts with maybe $250 labor. 2000 Toyota Celicas drive great, you can pick one up for 2-3K, and maintain it for $500/year, it'll last another 10 years. 20mpg city, 30 mpg highway, handles well, with nice styling. When I start seeing numbers like that for 20 year old Teslas or Leafs, I'll know they are seriously addressing the mass market of ordinary car buyers, as it is the experience of users on the tail end of a car's life that determines the depreciation paid by those who buy the car new - which is the single largest cost of ownership for new car buyers - and so long term repair costs determine the overall value provided by the car for everyone who owns it across its lifecycle, even if they are only rotating through a series of three year leases.

I totally agree with 1 & 2 as being major differentiators in any EV discussion.

I owned a Nissan Leaf gen1 and it was painful. It was about 2.5yo when I purchased it, and it claimed nearly 50mi range according to the range estimator (famously called the guesstimator in leaf community). Within about 6 months it fell to barely 40mi range on a good day. My wife hated to drive it due to range anxiety, and more than once I ended up sitting outside a restaurant using either 120v and a beefy extension cord or when lucky a hotel using their complementary Level 2 charger.

That feeling has completely flipped with our Chevy Volt. We usually last weeks or more on a tank of gasoline, thanks to much more reliable 50mi range of the Volt. Compared to the Nissan Leaf gen1, my Gen2 Volt has a highly accurate range meter. And if I'm at risk of depleting my electric range, I can still drive on gas until I can charge up, with no risk/concern for the EV systems.

I wish 5 was less of a concern than it currently is. While I applaud Tesla for it's initiative concerning wide availability of a charging infrastructure, I wish they wouldn't have created an incompatible charging infrastructure.

For the most part, the North American EV industry has a rather cross-compatible charging port, the SAE J1772. I believe this is equally common in Europe, but I haven't kept up with that. Functionally, the Tesla charger operates very similarly, except they use an auth handshake to enable charging for Tesla vehicles. This means that while Tesla vehicles can take advantage of non-Tesla infrastructure, it's harder for those with non-Tesla vehicles to make use of Tesla infrastructure, though I can understand why they made that choice as a company.

I think the best result we could hope for would be a solid and standardized federal infrastructure with some kind of point-of-use charging system. Ideally, something like a gas station for charging, where you can pay at the pump without need for registration or signup. I've tried once or twice to 'pay at the pump' with these privately owned charging kiosks and each time was unable to get to the point of charging due to network issues and/or being unable to register, which does not help with range anxiety in any way.

Europe has a consistent plug but it is different than what is typical in NA (CCS type 1 vs type 2)

Range anxiety regarding electric vehicles seems to be something that mostly afflicts those who do not have an EV.

I have a 2015 Model S 70D with a range of about 330 km. In the three years and 70 thousand km that I have been driving it I have had only three occasions when I was anxious about the range. Most new EVs have better range than that so most buyers of new EVs from now on should have even less reason to be concerned. And of course most EVs are bought by people who can charge them at home which means that the car is almost always fully 'fuelled' when you need it. It won't be long before 500 km is a normal range for EVs which is comparable to a lot of petrol cars in the US: https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/fact-939-august-22-2016... (2016). The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is almost there.

This might be a Europe vs America thing. In Europe you can drive for an hour and be in another country. In the USA you can drive for an hour and be in the suburbs of the city you just left.

> Range anxiety...

it also affects early buyers who knew it, like our 2014 BMW i3's range, original small battery, is around 70 miles.

I imagine range anxiety is a function of total battery capacity, to your point somewhat. But my 70 miles (or so) range means i have to be very aware where i can recharge.

Yes, in your case you do have to be careful and very range aware.

But those who make the most noise about range always seem to be those who do not have an EV. And also there do not seem to be many accounts of people going back to ICE cars.

i totally agree.

my vacation house is 200 km away and have barely enough electricity to support itself, many other Swedes drive further away and have less electricity available.

I agree that for routine day-to-day driving, visiting friends running errands or even shorter trips, electrical is the way to go but it really depends on you situation.

> my vacation house is 200 km away and have barely enough electricity to support itself,

At least in Norway that is already practical over most of the country with an electric car, especially a Tesla because there are so many chargers.

I have driven from south of Oslo to two hours north of Trondheim and back at least half a dozen times in my Tesla S 70D. without trouble.

It looks like Tesla in Sweden haven't invested in quite so many chargers yet but even there they are typically less than 150 km apart even in the north and of course there are more public chargers being built all the time.

I agree that most other brands of car have had rather shorter range but they are catching up rapidly.

How does it work practically? you stop for a long lunch and hope for a free charger?

I have only ever had to wait at the busiest chargers and they are all in high population density areas, not in the mountains. Even then I have never waited more than 20 minutes.

I have driven and charged my car at Tesla stations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the UK and I think there are only two Tesla chargers that I have had to wait at: Lier South and Lier North, both just north east of Drammen on the E18 on the way to and from Oslo respectively.

The situation is not so rosy if you can't use a Tesla but this is only a problem for me when I visit the UK because of the very uneven distribution of Tesla chargers. However number of chargers, both Tesla and others, is growing rapidly almost everywhere in Europe so the problem is getting less acute.

The differentiator for me is battery weight. Mazda can't make an electric MX-5 Miata with current battery density as it would cease to be a Miata. One of the core improvements (in my opinion) between the 3rd and 4th generation Miatas is the diet it went on, and that was only 110 lbs in the 2.0l model. The Japan-only 1.5l lost over 300 lbs over the 3rd gen.

Consider the Lotus Elise and the original Tesla Roadster. The Elise weighs in around 2,000 lbs. The Roadster is around 2,800 lbs. It's not 4,000 lbs, but it's a good chunk o' change more. I think we'll get closer eventually.

Yes. Cars have steadily gotten heavier and the EV conversion is making this worse.

Are most drivers aware though, or only racing enthusiasts? I think on a daily driver car, the weight increase has been masked since most people drive on smooth paved roads where there's no loss of traction (especially with ABS brakes and some form of traction control being standard). ICEs have improved power and efficiency to compensate.

For most drivers the weight is hidden by 8+ speed gearboxes, powerful fuel efficient engines and sticky tires compared to cars from 20 years ago.

Yup - this. I think for most drivers, they simply don't care unless it noticeably affects them in some way.

Plus the average consumer probably doesn't care at all about handling characteristics.

I feel design has always been a selling feature, and will continue to be so. People have always cared about how their car looks.

My wife has little interest in the driving and performance aspect of cars, and generally isn't into the blingbling aspect either. However she loves Porsche because she thinks they are some of the most beautiful cars in the world.

She is a fashion designer by trade, so her perspective is the opposite of yours - she would choose the Balenciaga because she feels the design is worth the premium despite being functionally the same (if not worse) than the Nike.

Speaking of Porsche, as well as other sporty manufacturers such as say, BMW (let's ignore the oldtimers cries of "BMW has lost its way!" for now), I think they're pushing the aspect of handling and "driving feel" as a differentiator even for their EVs vs. say, Tesla's offerings. Porsche can kinda do this IMHO because of their traditional market position, but other brands might have a harder time.

For example - Mazda. Praised by journalists and auto enthusiasts for having superb handling and driving feel. However most people in the market for a Mazda (Miata being an exception) probably don't care at all about how a car/CUV handles.

If someone can get full self driving and patents it, they’ll have the market. Software is where we are seeing most innovation right now. Self parking, 3D surround cameras, accident avoidance, auto lane change, etc.

I think you’re correct that there will be less appeal from a technical performance perspective to buy an individual brand. All EVs have fast enough acceleration (some dangerously so.) So competition there is not going to continue. The new monstrous Hummer from GM has 0-60 times that rival super cars from a few years back.

There’s still some room for competition on handling, but eventually the skateboards will all have very similar suspensions.

So I believe we’re left with aesthetics, material choices, secondary features, and brand appeal. Are your vegan leather air conditioned seats hand stitched? Are your steerable headlights auto dimming with infrared vision?

I think you can break it down to:

1) Price

2) Reliability

3) Self driving

The first 2 are already standard.

Self driving will be a mix of capability and safety record. The latter being more important I suspect. There will be endless websites reviewing which one is the safest. And when you choose a robot to let you drive that is going to be a massive part of the equation. Even if accidents are extremely rare across all platforms, social media will make accidents feel far more common than they are + they will likely be for stupid 'human avoidable' error. This will drive fear, one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.

I fully expect self driving to be regulated to the point where it's more or less adaptive cruise control. At which point it will be as ho hum on the feature list as cruise control today. Because lets be honest, this is mission critical software being written by bleary eyed, sleep deprived kids fresh out of school, ultimately, and these companies would prefer to keep it this way in order to "move fast and break things" and maximize profit. In this case, I'd rather not be the one broken. Someone else can beta test your for profit software and be the unfortunate name in the next tragic newspaper article.

As self driving becomes commonplace we will see deaths go up both actual, and the coverage around deaths as you note. Building safer software that receives input from a chaotic, random, ever changing, heterogeneous world is a much harder problem than a lawmaker stepping up to regulate self driving and becoming the public hero of the story in the process. Personally, I also think there are more important problems for these engineering minds to be working on.

All EVs have fast enough acceleration (some dangerously so.) So competition there is not going to continue.

I'm less sure about that. I think it will remain a distinctive feature that people will actively choose for or against, at least.

The new Mini EV from BMW (and which is replacing the i3 as BMW's 'flagship' EV) has only 0-60 in 7s which is not very interesting at all. But they're not aiming at the performance crowd (plus it can only do about 150 miles on a charge). Meanwhile Tesla can boast sub 5s 0-60 in almost every vehicle so anyone who wants that "slammed into the seat"/"first away from the lights" experience will still lean towards them.

A sub 5s 0-60 will be a selling point for me when it's time to go electric. If I must go electric, I want some dopamine-inducing benefit for it, and beating the remaining petrol cars off the lights will be a big selling point for me even if I'm buying a 7 seater SUV or whatever ;-)

Your point is true, except that you will go electric, whether you do it for dopamine hit or not. The technology is strongly pointing to the complete and utter obsolescence of gasoline in a matter of only a few more years. Arguably gasoline is already obsolete and riding the very long tail of awareness of transition. Gasoline is still dominating in the cheapest sectors (of American auto sales, not true in China), but as cheaper electric models arrive and the used market continues to swell with good used electrics, that sector too will fall, and gasoline will be relegated to the old and the unusual.

So if you want to be beating people off the line, you better get into electric now, because the roads are filling up with 'em and quick!

Do you seriously think is 0-60 matter for average buyer? Charging equipment at home should be the primary concern that should be solved.

From what I understand(I could be mistaken) BMW reused the i3 drivetrain in the Mini. While its impressive that they squeezed it into a smaller car, it shows their lack of seriousness that they reused 2013-ish technology in their newest EV. Given this, is it any surprise that the range, acceleration and other metrics are lacking compared to what else is on the market?

My father has a 2015 i3, and it's more than fast enough off the line- my Bolt is the same way even though they are both 6+ sec 0-60. EVs have instant torque and in fact are a bit scary to me as both the i3 and Bolt have small wheels.

Some people think 6+ is "more than fast enough" and others want the thrill of 3.5 seconds. There are enough people in the second group to keep manufacturers making cars for them.

Most people won't fork over an extra 10k for a 2s faster 0 - 60 i guess.

I don't have the numbers to hand, but when marques like BMW and Mercedes offer higher trim levels with bigger engines and more performance, they seem to sell better than you'd expect given how much you're paying for a slight performance boost.

Will a company be able to claim a carte blanche patent over self-driving?

Maybe, but probably not. Most auto manufactures are doing a partnership. So you might see the Ford self driving car that locks out GM, but Ford is already known to be working with VW on self driving cars: in this case Ford and VW would both have self driving cars at about the same time using that patent. Ford and VW both have interest in a number of other companies as well that we can expect to be brought into this partnership quickly.

Cross licensing is fairly common in cases like this as well. Every car company has enough R&D as to produce some interesting patents. Want our more comfortable seats in your luxury car - give us good terms for your patent and we will give you good terms.

It isn't unheard of for companies to automatically freely license safety related patents. (someone who doesn't die in a competitors car might buy your car next time) So there is another option that might happen.

The above assumes there actually is a breakthrough that is patentable. If all we need is a large enough machine learning data set - those are easy enough to create (just very tedious), and so there are not patents to take out. If your system depends on some sensor - there are lots of different ways to make a sensor and work around the patent.

The idea of self driving has been around for long enough that you can't patent it. There is plenty of prior work to cite. Companies have been known to be working on it long enough that any idea patents would have expired before now.

It will probably just stay the same as now. People will buy based on a perception of brand quality based on reliability, coupled with how the car looks on the inside and outside.

> People will buy based on a perception of a perception of brand quality based on perception of a perception of reliability

Fixed that for you.

Consumers are fickle.

Found On Road Dead, FORD, coming to a new generation of automobile consumers!

My point for trying start a HN discussion on this topic is exactly this: I think that "perception" will be more narrow than it is now, as all cars look more and more alike, and the quantifiable differences such as:

- range - safety features - audio system - etc - acceleration

Will be more difficult for high-end brands (Range Roger, Porsche) to use as discerning factors if the "heart" of the vehicle is largely identical between a Kia and a Porsche.

Will luxury car makers go to the way of Vertu vs. iPhone, or Omega vs. Apple Watch?

People still buy Omega and Rolex even if they don’t wear them every day. My dad uses a Fitbit instead of an Apple Watch so he can wear his nice watch and still get the data.

In the car market, the “heart” has been the same for a long time. The Honda Accord has about as luxurious (at least 90%, you get leather, great driving sensors, strong V6, etc.) of any luxury sedan under 100k, but people still buy those. Those brands mean something to people.

This is a super interesting topic to me - I basically don't consider buying anything other than a Civic. A new car is a HUGE expense to me (that I have never made in my life yet), but the more I think about it, the more ridiculous the inflation on a BMW 3-series (for example) becomes. People are genuinely paying an extra $20,000 for the badge. At least in the US, where parts, labor, and all associated costs are also more expensive on OEM imports.

The mental coping mechanism is also the fact that Honda/Toyota make a ridiculous amounts of civics/corollas/accords/camrys, so they have to have efficiencies of scale going for them more so than other company's line ups.

Once charging is widely available/reliable and the luxury makers can compete on range, it will be the same playing field as it is for non-EVs.

Yeah I was going to ask a similar question, which is for the average family sedan, I wonder how much the average person cares about anything beyond creature comforts/saftey that would also be differentiable in an EV. I doubt families are making decisions around the powertrain beyond MPGs/efficiency, which would also be differentiable by way of range

Well, there is the performance crowd who cares about RPM and dropping the clutch, but my understanding is that they are such a tiny % that companies only care for them for being able to associate good qualities of the "sports" cars with their main line.

Do you want an answer or do you just want lunchroom discussion? You may as well be asking for stock tips or tonight's lotto numbers. You won't find an answer that's accurate and reliable enough to be actionable here or anywhere.

If anyone could do more than idly speculate (probably dressed up with some tropes that play to the audience's confirmation bias to maximize virtue points) OEMs wouldn't be paying millions of dollars per year for the continued existence of their market and customer research teams.

The answers you're asking for don't yet exist. They are so many yet undetermined variables involved in predicting the future at the range you're asking about they're all just possibilities at this point.

One of the best way to prepare for the future is to discuss with others what is possible, then make a probability map of those potential outcomes and act accordingly. Of course we don't know the answers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask and prepare.

OP may well be interested in HN crowd comments and points of view and that seems acceptable to me. At the end of the day, this is HN, not S.O. Be well! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ◉‿◉

Clearly nobody here is claiming to be 100% accurate in their predictions. It's still a fun exercise to think about what the future will look like.

I think it will be more of the same.

Cars are already mostly sold on image. Image is the main differentiator already.

Here is what I think most people think about when buying a car: will be affordable (if you are not wealthy), the type of car (SVU, minivan, cross over, sedan, etc.), performance oriented (Mazda Zoom Zoom, or a Shelby, Mustang), whether it is ultra green/granola (Prius), Luxury (Audi, BMW, Lexus), or whether it is a high end status symbol (Porche), it is viewed as highly reliable (Toyota), and what is the resale value (Toyota.)

This will likely continue.

Even amongst cars that are very similar, image is a huge factor IMHO.

Even if someone is cross-shopping between several generic midsized family sedans (a genre that is arguably the epitome of "cars-as-a-generic-transportation-appliance"), other than significant price differences, people will probably choose the model that looks best to them.


Plus, dominance is not indefinite. One car maker will innovate, leading to better quality and/or lower prices, and will ride a wave of outsized market share, until its competitors catch up, and so on.

Damn, I'm going to miss the $15 refurbished slightly-obsolete LG smartphones that I buy from TracFone.

For me, a car is an appliance. It's a nuisance when it costs money. It's a nuisance when it breaks. It's good when it sits there and does nothing (other than taking up space), or gets me from A to B.

If I could get the equivalent of the $15 refurbished LG phone, in an electric car, I'd buy it. It has to be big enough to carry a double bass, no bigger.

Let's see what the younger generation thinks. I have two kids in college. They are both mostly ambivalent about cars. The car makers may be in a kind of last gasp, trying to appeal to those of us who can afford a new car before we're too old to drive.

From my standpoint, it will be interesting to see how things shake out when decent reliability data become available.

Consider the question a fashion vs function question. We've seen this in multiple industries, even the current automobile industry, and I suspect this will continue.

I'm surprised how many people don't realize that a VW Passat is a dressed down Audi (A/S/RS)6 is dressed up as Porsche Panamera.

Why do people spend hundreds of dollars on a brand of jeans, when they can buy levi's for 50 bucks (or other brands even cheaper).

The same can be said for many industries. Why did you buy the computer or keyboard you're currently typing on. Much of it may have been due to signaling, or it appealing to your tribe.

So will there be a "killer feature" for a car in the future? I suspect there isn't a killer feature today, and I don't suspect that change.

That's called badge engineering and the brands Lexus, Acura, and Infinity were created for the purpose of selling previously cheaper Japanese cars up market. If consumers were more astute they wouldn't even exist.

This is why economic models based on high-information, rational consumers fall short. You and I may put more thought into purchasing a vehicle, but cars have been sold because it was featured in a movie or a myriad of other reasons we might consider superficial.

I'm not denying that I purchased my car on many superficial measurements.

Re: Badge engineering, it's called that in automotive circles, but I'm not sure about other industries. The point I was trying to make is that this isn't specific to cars.

The futurologists think that most people would just stop buying cars altogether.

Once there is a self-driving (electric) car that you can order from your phone and that will — cheaply! — take you from point A to point B, the need in owning a car will (mostly) disappear.

The people would stop being car buyers. Instead, robo-taxi companies will buy most of the cars. For these, there would be no need in brands or marketing; some of them would just assemble and service their own fleets from readily-available parts, similar to how Amazon/Google/Microsoft self-assemble their own cloud servers (instead of buying them from Dell/HP).

Some people would still want to own their cars, like today some people own horses. They would be a negligible minority. There, it's likely that at least some of the manufacturers would be those who still don't exist today; they would disregard the no-longer-relevant mechanics (internal combustion engine, gearbox, etc.) and focus on overall end-user experience while utilizing readily-available parts.

I own a car, but I live my life as if I didn't to be honest, so I think the futurologists' claims might be actually here.

When I need a car, I rent it by the minute, $.17 for one minute, minimum fee of around $2. It's electric, it's usually filled (or if I do the filling for free I get a lot of points that I can use to get the car for a day), they're scattered all around the city and have parking paid with the municipality; they're insured and you just hop on and hop off where you need.

For when I need to make a road trip or something, I just rent out a larger truck from a rental company, and for how often I make them (a couple of times per year), it's really not such a big bang for my buck. I can get a small car for like $5 / day, or a larger one starting at $10.

So... I really don't see the benefit of owning my car at this point, it takes up real estate space, mental space, and it's outdated compared to what I usually drive.

Speaking only for the US, the elephant in the room is that these services will only cover dense urban environments for a long time. While ~80% of our population are in "urban" areas according to the Census Bureau, there's a big difference between Los Angeles and Greensboro. I don't see private businesses expanding to the exurbs until the Government makes them.

I think this is only true for people living in densly populated areas. If you live somewhere where it takes the car more than x minutes to pick you up, people still have to own their own car.

That's where the majority of today's cars could end up :)

> some of them would just assemble and service their own fleets from readily-available parts, similar to how Amazon/Google/Microsoft self-assemble their own cloud servers (instead of buying them from Dell/HP).

Amazon/Google/Microsoft don't assembly their own servers, rather than they buy servers directly from OEMs who were previously selling to Dell/HP

That puts a double burden on infrastructure. Every car trip becomes 2 trips - one to your house, then one to your destination. It's hard to imagine that winning over car ownership, without some other powerful force involved.

That car can be Smart-sized: half as long. But imagine no parking space would be needed anymore.

Roads are still roads though. And they get pretty full now. Imagine rush hour with twice the traffic.

A massive robo-taxi company is well prepared to put several people going to a same place in a single taxi. I expect the full robo-traffic to actually be less than the traffic of vehicles occupied by owner alone.

It'll sure take lots of tricks like that to mitigate the huge downside. At some point it just becomes a bus route.

I wish I could say I'll choose an electric car that is built on FOSS so I can actually have the source code to the thing I own.

I don't see that being terribly likely, but the next best thing would be one with software that isn't openly hostile to me. I don't want my car phoning home or being updated without my permission. I don't want my car lying to me, hiding, or refusing to disclose the status of sensors. I don't want an entertainment or navigation system I can't rip out and replace with one of my own choosing.

That's one of the reasons I'm working on an EV conversion right now; I can choose whatever motor/controller/charger/battery/battery management system I like as long as they're basically compatible, and each part just does what it needs to do. There's nothing that phones home, and no reason to have anything like that.

I'd prefer fully open-source hardware/software, and there are projects in that direction, but I'm also okay with using proprietary black boxes that each do their job and can be configured by the end user and can be replaced by an equivalent component from any of a variety of vendors.

Doing a conversion is obviously a lot of work and not for everyone. I wish there was an easier way to get an easily customizable car. There is at least a fair bit of knowledge now about how Tesla and Leaf components work, to the point that people are swapping Leaf motors and Tesla drive units and used battery modules into conversion cars and getting it to work.

It'd be completely fair to say that, and I'd join you in saying it. I'm unlikely to want to be a car owner or user, but if & when riding in them, it'd be nice to be in a software environment that's fully customizable and has passengers' interests, comfort and safety in mind to a verifiable degree - with a guarantee that those values won't change along with the board seats at the manufacturer.

> What will be the future differentiator in electric vehicles?

I'm afraid there will be none.

Hull shape, and the battery size is pretty much the only thing existing EVs differ from each other.

Mechanically, they are all very, very simple. Simpler than any IC car.

Compact wishbone suspension is used on pretty much every one of them, since all EVs are city cars, and you want as much space for batteries as possible, and as lower centre of mass as possible

And since all EVs are very heavy, you don't have much innovations in body design either, it just needs to be very strong, and very rigid to securely accommodate the battery pack.

This way the vision of "White Label, off the shelf cars" produced by some Foxconn like maker swallowing the market is very much real.

>Hull shape, and the battery size is pretty much the only thing existing EVs differ from each other.

That seems like a strange thing to say.

We see front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive electric vehicles on the road today, driven by 1, 2 or 3 motors. We've seen designs (I don't think any of them are in production yet) with 4 motors - one for each wheel.

There's about an order of magnitude difference between the horsepower in a Renault Zoe and a top-of-the-line Tesla Model S.

Not all EVs use the same suspension either - Tesla's S and X use an air suspension, and Jaguar offers air suspension on the I-Pace as well.

I certainly agree that taking the ICE out of the vehicle takes away one of the big differentiators between car brands, but I think expecting there to be no differentiators between EVs seems pretty silly. There will always be cheaper, simpler models and more expensive, extravagant models. There will always be innovators trying new features, some of which will succeed and trickle down to other cars, and some of which will be expensive curiosities.

> We see front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive electric vehicles on the road today, driven by 1, 2 or 3 motors. We've seen designs (I don't think any of them are in production yet) with 4 motors - one for each wheel.

This differentiation is superfluous with EVs, and I believe we will not see this living much longer.

There is not much differentiation besides linear cost/performance progression.

Motors? Suspension? Horsepower? All basically more money for bigger motor, hp, and performance.

> This differentiation is superfluous with EVs, and I believe we will not see this living much longer.

Am I understanding your statement correctly? Are you implying that FWD/RWD/AWD doesn't matter for an EV? Because from a handling and safety perspective, it matters just as much in an EV as it does in an ICE.

Yes, EVs are predominantly city cars. Very heavy, and low-central centre of gravity.

Nobody will be racing them, otherwise the stability provided by weight should be very good.

However, I don't see a real reason for FWD electric cars other than those being retrofit models.

Okay, this is only true if you live in a warm and dry climate and don't have a lead foot.

> However, I don't see a real reason for FWD electric cars other than those being retrofit models.

FWD cars are far more stable than RWD. This is important when driving in the rain as it helps lessen the likelihood of hydroplaning. Non-performance cars aren't just FWD because it's cheaper than RWD to make, but because they're safer.

And if you live in a climate with a lot of snow, you'll definitely want AWD.

> However, I don't see a real reason for FWD electric cars other than those being retrofit models.

As I said, safety. Yes, the traction control in an EV works amazing, arguably better than an ICE, but even better is a drivetrain setup that reduces the need for it entirely.

> FWD cars are far more stable than RWD. This is important when driving in the rain as it helps lessen the likelihood of hydroplaning. Non-performance cars aren't just FWD because it's cheaper than RWD to make, but because they're safer.

No, when your centre of mass is not that engine block you don't get any of those benefits. FWD vehicles would otherwise be less stable than RWD because of having to fight the pendulum effect.

Remember, economic FWD only became possible thanks to computers both for nailing the best dynamic characteristics on design stage, and helping with dynamic control. That's why FWD were much more crashier before early-mid-nineties.

If there was an option to disable all safety electronics on a modern FWD car, most people would've decided against them in an instant after the first test drive.

Maybe, but I feel like you could say the same about ICE cars. In general, throw more money at the car, get a bigger, more powerful engine.

There's probably still room for different approaches. Dodge seems to be known for cheap power - you can get a Challenger with a ton of horsepower for way less than say, a Porsche with equivalent horsepower. The Challenger is still based on the Challenger that was released in 2008 (Dodge gets more for their design money by using designs longer) and won't be appointed with interior materials that feel as nice.

Future Dodge might do the same - "let's make the most powerful electric coupe we can for $40k!" as opposed to something like "let's make a nice, comfortable, safe, well-rounded car for $40k".

I don't know a ton about electric vehicles, but I do know you can go a long way without a technological differentiator. Variations in materials, design, name brand, and marketing have sustained the fashion industry for quite a while. What's the difference between two pairs or shoes, or two pairs of pants? One isn't fundamentally more advanced then the other, yet there are winners and losers in that industry.

What is happening to EVs now will not stay constrained to the vehicle itself. We're seeing innovations in terms of integrations - with CarPlay/AndroidAuto, Phone-as-key, wifi APs, surveillance, etc. All of these things are new and have little to do with what is beneath the sheet metal and plastic body panels.

There are also interesting innovations that become more possible as more and more vehicles become "smart" and connected - imagine a metro area that is influencing smart vehicles +/- a few kph to smooth traffic, or route vehicular traffic like networking traffic around outages/problems.

The differentiator(s) won't be ways to make tires spin around an axle differently.

> There are also interesting innovations that become more possible as more and more vehicles become "smart" and connected - imagine a metro area that is influencing smart vehicles +/- a few kph to smooth traffic, or route vehicular traffic like networking traffic around outages/problems.

And this "differentiation" will be easily retrofitted to every other vehicle since there is nothing inherent to vehicle construction that is required for that.

Well, the idea itself is not bad, and I'd see this being as the one, and only way any form of "self" driving will appear — as some kind of centralised "air traffic control" for car traffic, instead of each car doing the very fragile SLAM based navigation, and complex sensor suite based driving, which is one dirt splat away from the crash all the time.

Not necessarily - think Waze GPS. That was pretty unique and innovative. Traffic data + crowd sourced real-time inputs let Waze uniquely route your path.

Imagine a Tesla cuts your average commute from 30 to 10 minutes, while you AFK and enjoy your coffee, vs the Ford vehicles that can let you AFK and enjoy your coffee, but you're still getting there 30 minutes on average. These kinds of "fringe" innovations are going to explode I think and even if they aren't innovative, they will help differentiate.

Even with ICEs we kinda are there already. Surprisingly many cars are mostly same underneath, but hull, interior etc. are different. I don't see why same won't apply to EVs.

What about improved battery tech, Weight distribution, Software updates, Safety equipment, internal computers, in car entertainment, in-wheel motors, drive-train connections to electronic towing, theft deterrence ?

> What about improved battery tech?

We haven't seem much improvement on the market since second gen ternary hit. All coming improvements will be very gradual.

Cars on the market already hit possible upper/lower weight, and size limits for the battery pack.

> Weight distribution

Any other than low, and centre?

> Software updates

Do you want to play videogames on your car? Will you pay few thousand dollars more for a UI skin update once a year?

> in-wheel motors

May be, but that will only work towards killing the differentiation even more, at least in the low end.

Rather than debate each of these, you have agreed that there is a difference just nothing that you specifically care about.

> Will you pay few thousand dollars more for a UI skin update once a year?

What ? no.. I never said that these were paid updates, I said this was differentiator. Do you want security updates ? Or just to have the software abandoned once it ships.

> Electric Porsche

Porsche and certain other manufacturers will always be handling kings. (even if the lower center of gravity, means that all electric cars kind of handle well)

> Manufacturing consistency and quality

We see Tesla struggle with this, But, Toyota and Honda have this down to a science like no other manufacturer. There is a reason the Civic/Corolla/Camry/Accord quadrilateral is impenetrable.

Excellence in manufacturing also saves a lot of money.

I am not a fan of Elon's more exotic behaviors but I think Tesla is as committed to excellence in manufacturing as Toyota or Honda. They are just at an earlier growth stage where they have to stand up processes from scratch.

Toyota and Honda have a reputation for reliability, but it is by no means a given. Toyota had to low key rebuild a division after the unintended acceleration scandal. Honda has had persistent issues with their transmissions. It's a never ending battle and there is a limited number of employees who understand how to build the culture necessary for it. If someone manages to poach them or somehow impede your global operations (all automakers have intercontinental supply chains), you're in trouble.

Toyota and Honda, being Japanese companies, also treat their older employees as indispensable, and keep them on typically for a lifetime. The institutional knowledge that these employees have is beyond invaluable. Having experienced older employees on the floor and the lab allows them to sidestep a lot of what might be called "obvious issues at a glance that can be fixed in an hour" to an older employee, that would otherwise be a reverse-engineering nightmare plaguing a newbie for a month.

These same older employees will be less effective if "poached" into another company though, since so much of the experience they have gained is with proprietary tech. Institutional knowledge is very real, and Tesla has only just started accumulating lifers with whom they can leverage that knowledge.

I think it works from the other side too. Many Japanese employees have come to expect a system of lifetime employment and do not tend to jump ship as easily or often as say, American employees. Even if this means lower compensation, the stability is considered to be a better factor.

Except for some of the earliest employees who are literally invested into the company, will Tesla really have "lifers"? Even amongst these, I think most of them will act in a much more mercenary way (both in terms of compensation, as well as career ambitions) than their analogues at Toyota or Honda.

On the opposite side, I don't think many of the non-Japanese employees and executives at a Toyota or Honda expect their gig to be lifetime employment either.

> We see Tesla struggle with this, But, Toyota and Honda have this down to a science like no other manufacturer

A lot of us overestimate what can be done in a year, underestimate what can be done in five and can't even guess what can be done in a decade.

I've heard the exact same sentiment said about the Detroit automakers when compared against a Datsun - unquestionable dominance (or Nokia or Ericsson).

Not to say Tesla will be the winner here. But it only takes another oil crisis for this to snowball in a new direction.

If you want a close enough comparison on how dominance can hurt you, compare what's going on with Harleys in the last 5 years vs what an Indian Scout or a Husky EE 5 looks likes inside & out.

Market dominance and true expertise through strongly enforced company culture is hard to counteract. I say this as someone who verkd for H0nd@ as a mechEngg and witnessed the culture on the inside.

Nokia and Detroit automaker's collapse was tied to a certain lethargy and dysfunction in these companies. The economic downturn was the metal straw that broke the camel's back.

Tesla will undoubtedly keep growing, but I find it unlikely that their margins will ever justify their stock price.

At least in the next decade people are going to care about range, charge speed (measured in miles per hour, in part a measure of efficiency) and software quality.

So called super car brands will pivot to market on subjective qualities like “handling” since they can no longer complete on performance.

It seems to me that the Taycan is competing quite favorably on performance and don’t see a reason to think that will go away by virtue of everyday $35K electrics having that same level of performance.


“they were surprised to learn that Superchargers could not be used to fill up their Taycan.”

Sounds about right.

I think EU-spec Teslas use CCS so they would actually plug in (though you can't actually use them). You can also use Tesla destination chargers even in the US on any EV so I feel it's not totally unreasonable to be surprised by this.

EDIT: I incorrectly said CHAdeMO

EU Teslas use CCS, not CHAdeMO. Which makes the fact that in the US Tesla sells a CHAdeMO adaptor but not a CCS adaptor seem very strange.

Taycan is not price competitive with Model S and won’t be performance competitive when the S plaid ships this quarter.

Supercar brands have never been about being price-competitive (in some cases, they are even Veblen Goods). Very few people cross-shop Ferraris and Hondas.

I look forward to seeing the new Tesla's Nürburgring-Nordschleife time. The progress that performance EVs are making is impressive.

No doubt but they derive much of their prestige from their performance reputation which is why you see them marketing the Taycan’s 0-60 repeatability. As things progress the marketing department will increasingly struggle to come up with reasons why the electric incarnation of the brand lives up to its historical position as a prestigious good.

Maybe true for Ferrari, but Porsche's reputations isn't come from just 0-60.

The new Corvette is as fast as the 911 for half the price but that's not stopping people from buying 911s

Another data point: Tesla Model 3 Performance version will go 0-60 in 3.1 seconds (not quite as fast as the Corvette's 2.9) for $52k; about $10k less than the Corvette.

Just a small correction, Model 3 performance starts at $56k. I don't like that Tesla lists price with $4.3k in "fuel savings" subtracted out, we have to call them out on that.

Comparing something closer, the Model 3 Performance is significantly cheaper than the BMW M3.

I recall the old (pre2021 facelift) Model 3 Performance either beat or performed very competitively to its various petrol competitors (M3, C63, RS5, Guilia QF, etc.) while being significantly less expensive.

Would be interesting how the facelifted Model 3 Performance fares against the new hog-nose G80 BMW M3/4. Or the upcoming 4cylinder+electricmotor C63AMG.

Now people complain that the Model 3 doesn't have the "soul" to be a true driver's car of course.

Good point. I forgot to click the "actual price" button.

Range could be less of an issue if charge speed is fast enough.

Range needs to be a few hundred miles regardless. Nobody wants to stop and recharge every 90 minutes.

Range, charging speed, and availability of rapid charging points that is close to the availability of gas stations are all essential.

> Range needs to be a few hundred miles regardless

No way. Who drives that much day to day? A little electric vehicle for commuting / errands doesn't need that kind of range if it can charge fast enough. Sure, some people need more than that, but if you're taking a handful of long trips per year, you can just rent a car with longer range for those purposes.

Yeah that is why I think Aptera is kind of interesting they are concentrating on maximizing range through maximizing efficiency and when you pass a certain efficiency threshold integrated solar charging becomes viable. If they make it to production I can see them being successful with people who don’t need a larger car and live in places where they can’t install a dedicated charger in their parking spot.

I have a 30 year old diesel camper van which we use once every few weeks. Being a mechanically injected diesel Toyota so it's pretty reliable, the only thing that lets it down is the battery, especially over the winter when it gets used even less frequently.

The obvious solution to this is a small solar panel to keep the battery topped up.

It had never occurred that I'd have to be very careful to park the van in an area where it has good direct sunlight (it's only a 10w panel so anything less than direct sunlight means it's barely producing enough to support the charge controller). The street in which I usually park is south facing but has tallish buildings on both sides.

The upshot of this is I can can't imagine how frustrating it would be if I was counting on the solar panels on the car contributing to its range.

In the long run, range could be less of an issue if we had electrified roads that allow the cars to charge while moving at freeway speeds.

(This isn't needed for all roads, just the major highways and interstates, since those are the roads where people typically are driving long distance.)

In the last Elon/Rogan podcast, he talked about range and said that at a certain point it really doesnt matter, because most people just end up carrying around the extra range and never using it. That number is probably around 400 miles

That depends on if I can recharge. I have driving ICE cars with 150 mile ranges, and ICE cars with 600 miles ranges - either way I just filled the tank when the gauge got down to about 1/4. This works because fast refueling exists everywhere I can think of. So long as EV chargers are rare (and sometimes broken) I need a lot of extra range to ensure I can refuel before running dry.

Of course with both of the ICE cars above I had a particular station that I mostly refueled at, because I learned who had a good price that wasn't too far out of my way. On the long trips I could just fill anywhere and so I didn't think about where I could fuel while planning a trip. EVs are easy to fill in my personal garage, but if you are going on a long trip you better plan fuel stops in advance.

Superchargers are rarer than gas stations but plentiful enough (in the US) for long trips if you mostly stick to interstates. Non-Tesla networks are also rapidly increasing in number.

Also you cannot refuel your ICE car at home or at your hotel while you sleep. This is a huge benefit to EVs that makes ICE range comparisons hard to quantify in simplistic terms.

The problem is I don't always stick to interstates. Even when I am on an interstate, there is a big difference between being able to stop every 20 miles and every 200 miles. The first means I sometimes refuel because we are at half a tank and someone needs a bathroom, while the later forces me to stop like it or not when I get to a charger.

Refueling at home is nice for when I'm home - 95% of the time. That last 5% is the topic here. Most hotels don't have a charger, and even those that do you can't be sure you can park in that spot.

presumably as more people buy electric cars (teslas), they will have to add more chargers to their network. I just drove from 5K miles down the east coast and back through middle of america in a M3 and i can attest it is very easy to filter out hotels that have chargers, and a lot more hotels have tesla chargers than I thought. I only paid $37 from NYC -> Jacksonville (via PA) because of hotel chargers.

For years now, you could buy a VW Touareg, Audi Q7, or Porsche Cayenne all built on a common platform. The three vehicles are still readily distinguishable in the market and driving experience.

Haven't driven anything on that tier, but I've driven the Macan and Q5 family. Despite being on the same platform, they drive quite differently. The Macan could probably shame a lot of so-called "sports cars".

The next generation Macan is supposed to be entirely EV. I'm interested what Porsche will do to make it enjoyable to drive. As it stands my next car (this year) will probably be a Tesla Model 3 of some trim, but we'd probably be giving an EV Macan a serious look as the replacement to our CUV.

It's kind of a moot point because we still don't really have the infrastructure (read: charging stations) to support EVs. At that point, the most competitive EVs will be whatever integrates with the infrastructure the best. Even if some luxury brands that attempt vendor lock-in are still around cough Tesla cough, they'll probably have to make some offering that most people can use to remain competitive.

But until that point, it's all based on luxury status and branding (imho).

Just like real estate is "location, location, location," the real inflection point of EV adoption will be "price, price, price." As long as they're priced in the luxury range, sales will be restricted. As soon as you can buy a decent new or used EV for $10-15,000, or less, you will see mass adoption. And by "decent," I don't mean golf cart style, I mean a useful, roomy, sedan or hatchback with good range that will appeal to the middle class.

I feel one of Tesla's greatest "innovations" is their aesthetic design.

Prior to the Model 3, nearly all EVs were weird looking "futuristic" (usually in a bad tacky way) dwarf mutant hatchbacks that looked rather cheap - like a ICE car that cost half its MSRP.

The Model 3 introduced a (relatively) affordable EV that actually looks "normal", even desirable and premium.

I see the comparison you're trying to make with the recent LG news, but here's why I think it's not fair to compare smart phones and cars in terms of commoditization. Smart phones in terms of styling are all basically a black glass slab at this point, styling barely comes into play. And it's not that phone manufacturers haven't tried, it's that people don't value smart phone styling as much. With cars on the other hand, styling is a _major_ differentiator, and it's not easy to get right either. Then you have the "utility" factor of different shapes of vehicles, 2-seater roadster vs. quad cab truck vs. 18-wheeler, etc... This simply isn't a thing in the smart phone market. There's many other differentiators as well in terms of perceived reliability, customer service, interior styling quality, fit and finish, etc... which are simply not present in the smartphone market. Then you have the price. Smart phones are viewed as disposable, but cars are a major investment which people pay to upkeep for as long as possible. When your smartphone dies, it's a minor inconvenience. When your car dies, you're effectively immobilized until it's fixed.

Exceptionally worked styling: the Apple logo

...which is then always covered up by some ugly case

Range, acceleration, cornering ability, safety features, cargo space, presence or absence of "smart car" so-called technology, how long any needed software updates are available, presence or absence of self-driving features, availability of maintenance information and replacement parts, how the drivetrain is configured, whether individual components can be replaced with aftermarket parts without the car's computer freaking out, how many watt-hours per mile it consumes, what charging standards it complies with, how fast it can be charged, presence or absence of tiny hard-to-replace components that can brick the car if they fail, what it looks like, how heavy it is, how comfortable it is to drive or ride in, how long it is expected to last before falling apart.

I think it would be a shame if all EVs ended up being essentially clones of each other. Maybe as the technology matures we'll start to see more variety of vehicles like pickup trucks (whether the cybertruck or just an ordinary pickup), off-road vehicles, and so on. I'd love to see someone start making EVs with manual transmissions, for people who actually like driving stickshift, but that seems to be an unpopular opinion.

Just a little side rant on “soul” since you mentioned it in a negative sense for EVs.

The “soul” term is marketing BS like the soul patch mustang logo Ford decided to sticker on to the chin of its EV.

If you ever see one, look at the front. It’s totally got a soul patch. Eww.

As far as engine noise or rumble and that wonderful visceral feeling of the pistons and crankshaft throwing their weight around, I would agree there is something utterly cool about that. As there is of the clip-clop of a cantering horse as well. But again, calling it “soul” is just clever deceptive words that marketing came up with.

If any car has soul, it’s one where the founder poured his passion for years, nearly went bankrupt, persevered, redefined the limits, led a workforce that did the effort of a lifetime to help make the company survive and push out its most successful product that continues to be unmatched, all driven by a mission... now THAT is a story of soul.

The gas car companies want to claim the word for themselves though, just because they have a nice rumble and some fire and smoke, but more because they realize they are in trouble. Fire and smoke are romantic, no doubt, but you can’t replace that with a soul patch.

You're completely wrong on this one. You chalk a vehicle's engine-as-soul up to marketing, even though it's something that can be felt without knowing anything about the vehicle or its history. Yet you think some backstory about how it's made defines it's soul? That screams marketing. Half of the mass produced things I buy have a blurb about the backstory and passion that the founders had on the box.

I've had motorcycle engines with the following configurations (among many others): - 200cc single cylinder - 250cc single cylinder - 650cc single cylinder - 250cc two-stroke single - 500cc two-stroke single - 300cc parallel twin - 800cc parallel twin - 650cc v-twin - 1200cc opposed twin - 900cc inline triple - 650cc inline four - 1000c inline four

Every one is completely unique in how it feels, sounds, rides, and performs.

Add to that the almost innumerable number of other ancillary configurations to the above such as:

- balance shaft (or lack thereof...) - valve timing - firing order - cylinder bank angle - carbeurator vs fuel injection - diesel vs gas - naturally aspirated vs supercharger vs turbocharger - nonstandard engine types like rotary, V5, W configurations, V4 - compression ratio - two vs four cycle operation - low end torque, midrange power, top end power.

If the difference between electric motor personalities is a gap in the sidewalk, the difference between ICE engine personalities is the grand canyon.

I've never had a vehicle with more soul than a high power two stroke with a well tuned exhaust. You can't ever convince me that an exhaust with a resonant chamber tuned like a musical instrument to harness sound waves for forced induction has no soul. I've felt it. This [2] is a good animation of how the two-stroke works. No valves, powered by explosions, and a truly musical exhaust note. There's nothing else like it on the planet, and when put in a soulful body like a dirt bike it lets you know immediately.

While I disagree that the engine is the soul of he vehicle, it is definitely a huge part of it. Beigemobile econoboxes are intentionally designed to suppress the soul of the vehicle, despite how marketing likes to advertise them. Nobody's offroading or tracking their crossovers even though every commercial implies as much. The buyers of those vehicles are largely (and the commenters in this thread say as much) looking for the most generic and unsurprising vehicle possible. They are designed as much as possible to make you forget that you're in a vehicle. Even 'interesting' vehicles are being regulated into this generic future. See: Fake engine sounds being played through speakers [1].

The most different electric motors will still feel largely the same, while two mostly similar gas motors can feel completely different. Call it soul, personality, or anything else, but the future of vehicles is going to be much more bland, even if they go faster on paper.

You can't ride a motorcycle and say with a straight face that gas engines have no soul. They embrace it, they don't hide from it. There's still cars out there with souls, but they are forced to blend in for fear of losing theirs as well.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I get that the metaphysical is frowned upon around these parts. But it definitely exists, even if we can't precisely define or measure it.

Electric is better in pretty much every metric that can be measured. And disastrous for the things that can't. Someone mentioned in this thread mentioned that vehicles are probably going to become white labeled from foxconn as electric gains traction, and I can't help but see that as the future myself. That's what it means to sell your soul.

[1] https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/a7923/the-rise-of-the-...

[2] https://i.stack.imgur.com/Qk44Y.gif

I enjoyed your post and the rich imagery of how you described the machines. Agree with a lot of what you said (except the part where you said I was wrong, lol).

I get that “soul” is a good word for the sounds and rumbles of the machinery and the sense of something alive that anyone feels when exposed to such things. And EVs lack that particular flavor of soul... just not other flavors. I agree we don’t have to mix this up with the supernatural notions of soul.

One key point is I’m the one —not Tesla marketing — saying Tesla (unnamed in my comment, but I think it was clear) has soul. Tesla is not saying any such thing as far as I know. Yeah not the visceral rumbling kind, but a different kind. (Not asking you to agree with me. Good thing, huh?)

Ford, on the other hand, is trying to say their EV has the “Soul of a Mustang” which I suspect both of us would agree is not really sensible as anything other than a marketing gimmick.

> I've had motorcycle engines with the following configurations (among many others): - 200cc single cylinder - 250cc single cylinder - 650cc single cylinder - 250cc two-stroke single - 500cc two-stroke single - 300cc parallel twin - 800cc parallel twin - 650cc v-twin - 1200cc opposed twin - 900cc inline triple - 650cc inline four - 1000c inline four

But have you had one with FOUR TURBOS?


Economically, important competitive factors will be: Access to resources required to build batteries (e.g. mining rights), battery manufacturing capacity, location of manufacturing plants (as regulation on energy footprint is sensitive to the energy mix used in manufacturing and shipping). In terms of business success, making the right decisions on these strategic factors will likely matter just as much as designing appealing products and implementing them well.

Geopolitics will matter: People and their governments will find further regulation appealing also because it can be a tool to drive local employment in manufacturing and related business. If a car manufactured in China, or using batteries manufactured in China, has an inherently worse CO2 footprint for a European consumer (because of the coal-heavy energy mix in China and the energy footprint of shipping to Europe) and this is penalized by regulations, you get factories in Europe as a result. This build-out will take some decades to settle, and there may yet be new tech surprises along the way that change the game.

As for car tech itself becoming a commodity - this has been the case for a long time already, even with ICE technology. Automotive supply chains are famously broad, long and overlapping between OEMs. Bob Lutz (GM, BMW, Chrysler, ...) said in 2015 "There are no bad cars anymore, only bad designs".

There's still tech competition for sure, and it's fun to follow - the Mercedes EQS will outdo the Model S in most respects and raise the bar of what's possible with an EV, heating things up a bit at the top end. Progress continues, egged on by regulations if nothing else, and by consumers seeking the best value for their money. But if you don't sweat the details, the good-enough options are plentiful.

I think a lot of the “it’s already commodified” comments are belied by the differences of reliability and cost of ownership across brands. That’s a differentiator and may continue into the EV future, as you can see how different they are just in the reviews and characteristics of current EV models. Range, weight and electronics do produce pretty different products.. it’s not just motors and batteries and over-the-air updates.

I don't think you're wrong, but I think there's at least some hope that differences in reliability will shrink as a result of the electrification as well.

It's a simpler power train with fewer moving parts, requiring less maintenance and replacing of parts. Recuperative breaking means less break pad wear, etc.

Of course there's other stuff emerging, like costly screen replacements and we're yet to fully appreciate how the batteries will age, and what the second-hand market will be like at scale.

There's probably first interesting data on the Tesla and other EV fleets and the maintenance averages for their customers ...

Beyond this of course you can't cheat physics. Structural engineering stays the same, material wear still happens and some car designs (or even form factors) are simply less sound than others in terms of their effects on the expected usable lifetime of a car. With EVs that matters significantly, because of the high upfront energy cost to manufacturing them - you have to drive them for a while for them to really make sense.

I guess we can conclude that automotive will probably stay as interesting as any other business. Cars are a choke-point of doing high-tech yet industrially manufacturing at scale, the baked-in conflicts make it an interesting challenge.

>belied by the differences of reliability and cost of ownership across brands.

But these differences are razor thin compared to consumer perceptions of them.

For every fanboy on Reddit screeching about muh million mile 4Runner he leased for 36k there's a fleet manager who just spent an afternoon reviewing records and crunching numbers before confirming that yes we are going to buy another round of Pacificas as our current ones hit the "old enough it's not the image we want to project" threshold.

Compare the lap times of boring commuter sedans and compacts to the "sporty" and "good handling" sedans and compacts if you really want to see slim differences.

I mean, what are the differentiators for gasoline-powered cars?

Off the top of my head: brand reputation, looks, reliability, quality/roominess/aesthetics of the interior, misc. features, fuel efficiency, and obviously price.

For electric vehicles, all those same things still apply, with fuel efficiency being replaced by the range/energy density of the battery and efficiency of the motors to get more range from that battery.

Apparently here in China you get free power (charging network access) for life when you buy certain new EVs for ~USD$30K. I think personal transport in developed markets globally has clearly begun moving to a service rather than ownership model because the overheads associated with driving (license, parking, maintenance, vehicular ownership transaction regulatory and process overhead, depreciation, sobriety, cleaning, etc.) are just not worth vs. aging populations, shrinking family units, increasing urban densities, services like grocery delivery and a generally more mobile and connected workforce.

Given this model shift, what differentiators exist? In a service world, it's all about timeliness, fitness for purpose, driver professionalism and cost. Nobody gives a shit about which hardware widget the manufacturer stuffed in the body anymore. It's literally irrelevant. They've lost the customer to the service provider, in the same way that telcos lost their customers to mobile device manufacturers. Telco data was commodified and SMS and phone use nosedived, just as vehicles are now commodified and demand for abnormal features is surely dwindling. Smart manufacturers will become the service provider, thereby vertically integrating to gain maximum profit, at the same time removing old customer-facing assumptions around vehicle maintenance and related logistics paths to minimize downtime and cut costs. Driving, at least in cities, will be seen as something poor people do to earn/save money. Fully autonomous EV fleet maintenance stations by 2035.

Here's a perspective I see little of in the news: In the globally warmed future the big differentiator will be low carbon cost to manufacture the car and low carbon cost to operate it. So tiny cheap EV's that cover 95% of most peoples use of a car will predominate. Low carbon impact will translate to low cost and basic functionality with "luxury" or "prestige" being negative selling points for cars, phones, everything. The future is not going to look like America does today. There will be no unboxing videos because the box will be simply functional or nonexistent to reduce trash. People will focus on product quality because they need it to last a long time. Disposable anything will disappear. It's predicted there will be 9 billion people on Earth in 2050, they can't possibly all have everything that some of the wealthier people have now. Infrastructure such as roads will shrink (smaller roads, fewer of them). Otherwise the future is endless war for everyone because there won't be enough of anything. Just imagine everyone in the world having a car and the simple math makes this conclusion inevitable. The role of marketing will shift from hyping features to creating convincing arguments about product durability and quality.

I think differentiator will be in modularity and repairability. Like PC has independent parts (PSU, memory, ssd, graphic card), electric cars could be modular in the same way.

I believe low-cost "city shopping bag" is the future of electric cars and biggest market. And if some sort of modular platform emerges, it will dominate the market. It may even be required by law (like EU requires USB chargers on phones).

I am from EU, but I believe China, India, Russia markets are similar. Look at Dacia Spring or Citroen AMI for examples.


One big thing is that they are closed ecosystems and you can't really modify or work on your car. In some cases, it seems that they make it intentionally difficult to fix it modify the vehicle, like Tesla.

I think options are another big thing that falls under this. They do have a bunch of options, but there aren't any stripes down versions. I get that the margins are low so they have to offer higher end, more expensive vehicles. I just want a simple work truck...

Oh, and physical buttons/switches for vehicle controls.

The coming sea change in electrifying transportation will include roads just as much as cars. Right now we are just barely off the bottom of the 'S' curve of transitioning from ICE to electric. But in about fifteen years we'll be near the middle of that curve and that's when we'll realize roads could be much better if the ICE cars where banned.

With only electric vehicles the air will cease to be continually poisoned by emissions and then roads and streets will start to move indoors. Covered roads will become practical with electric only vehicles and the majority of those e-vehicles will be a lot smaller than the current average ICE car because electric technologies make smaller vehicles much more practical. The current boom in e-bikes is just the beginning of a major trend to electric smaller vehicles.

A lot more quickly than you expect ICE vehicles will be restricted to the highways and periphery of towns and cities because they'll be too big, heavy and poisonous. In a word they'll become unsafe for urban transport and our cities will become much more healthy and livable.

Whatever happens, I hope charging infrastructure could be better standardized, particularly for "fast charging". There are basically three competing fast charging standards right now: SAE/CCS, used by most North American and European EVs, CHAdeMO used by Japanese EVs, and Tesla Supercharger. If your EV has fast charging capability, it will have support for one of these. Supercharger is the fastest of all of them, but it is only useable by Teslas. They've made a significant investment dotting the country with these things. SAE/CCS and CHAdeMO chargers are pretty rare, and even when you find a place with them, they often only have one, so if someone else is there, you've got to wait. Also, the interface is really clunky and confusing, and doesn't "just work" all the time. And sometimes they're simply out of service.

Hopefully Biden's infrastructure push will help the industry consolidate into a standard that works as well as Supercharger, but for all EVs. Going on a road trip in a non-Tesla EV requires a lot of planning and a little bit of luck, since you've got to make sure you can find Level 3 chargers along the way and hope they're actually operational. IMO one of the goals should be to put good L3 chargers pretty much everywhere a gas station is today. The fact that this isn't already happening suggests that this simply isn't profitable (not enough demand, expense of installation).

Range, charging stations, self-driving, self-parking, accident-avoidance, voice-recognition interface, 5g bandwidth, work-from-car-mode, face-recognition to start vehicle, automatic police recording, insurance-integration, { any software thing you can think of }

Food for thought: https://newatlas.com/ree-modular-mobility-platform/60486/

Here's What The World's Cheapest Electric Car Is Like To Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GG1RC7GV0Y

You can already order one of these golf-kart like cars from China for less than $5,000 shipped. An easy to mass produce skateboard platform is bound to emerge, so basically who ever has the cheapest reasonably good batteries and marketing wins.

> basically who ever has the cheapest reasonably good batteries and marketing wins

wins... the market for "cheap golf-kart like cars". But the market for "cars" extends way beyond that very narrow definition of a car.

Also interesting to note that the skateboard platform idea has been floating around for a couple decades now. GM planned a potential one when they dabbled with hydrogen fuel cell EVs back in 2002.

[0] https://www.autoblog.com/2010/09/24/forgotten-concept-2002-g...

Funny you should mention GM, they had: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MagneRide

Bosch had electromagnetic car suspensions figured out 20 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KPYIaks1UY

The car industry is a perfect example of "worst is better".

The point about the cheap golf-kart car from China is about how little in terms of material costs actually goes into it. It is $5,000 shipped. In actuality it is about $2000 in parts.

The skateboard platform I linked to is already developed, they are supposedly going public this year, not just a concept.

If they can get them to pack flat (or flat-ish), they can ship quite a lot of them around the world for peanuts. Add whatever cab, wheels and branding you want to finish it off.

All of this stuff is about to become a commodity. The most, and basically only, expensive part is the battery.

Support and maintenance. We are already seeing electric cars equipped with unwanted sensors doing unwanted recording and being used to lock down potential opportunities for user service while integrating vehicle function with financing and billing status. Lots of people have been locked out of their hybrids when the batteries failed or were drained. Selling electric vehicles that have limited tracking and the fullest possible user empowerment including niceties like opening the doors without needing the batteries will bring a premium.

Snow and cold weather performance is critical where I live. The game changer will be if I can start an EV at -20F after it’s been sitting out all night and safely drive it through a blizzard.

I hope the distinctions will be of short term relevance. Car ownership and usage seems very inefficient. Think of how many hours one is actually used compared to the material and space it takes up. Dense cities should continue increasing transportation infrastructure (roads, autonomous vehicles, bikeways, and walkways) both in scale and quality so that everyone uses it by default. Then these distinctions matter as much as what brand/model of train I take.

There will be no single differentiator because the auto market is very diverse. Everyone sees their car like potential energy, what could it do for me? For some people, they need to get from point A to point B slowly, others love speed; some need to haul gravel and logs, others want interior storage; parents may want to have 4 children in the vehicle, singles may want just their partner.

Thus, there will always be a diverse set of EVs to choose from, catering to different market segments.

Manufacturers are converging and doing more platform sharing than ever, due to the massive and increasing costs of engineering a platform. So yes I think that in the future the difference between a lot of brands will be mostly be marketing.

What might be interesting is that currently new engines are a huge investment because of all the emissions compliance work, but that doesn’t seem to exist with electric drivetrains, so there might be a lot of interesting quick iteration there.

For almost everyone out there, they don't care if it's gas or electric or how many MPG it gets. They care about the look, how it feels to drive, and what features are offered inside.

If everything goes fully electric, we'll just be back into pre-2000 territory, where every car was ICE and they differentiated on handling, interior features, styling, and engine power.

> For almost everyone out there, they don't care if it's gas or electric or how many MPG it gets

What? MPG is one of the things people care about most! At least in the UK.

Probably truer of the US market than most other countries. Unless you're really living close to poverty or a pennypincher, I feel most people in the US don't care about minor MPG differences.

Sure, they'll care about the MPG difference between Tiny3CylSubcompactHatchback and GiantThreeSeatV8SUV, but not between two GenericMidsized4cylOrV6FamilyCUVs.

Which is why you'd see something like 4cylinder BMW 5 or 7 series in Europe a long while back, but in the US until relatively recently a 4cyl 5series would have been seen as a joke for an expensive luxury car.

Even now I don't think the smallest engine size tier of vehicles get imported into the US - we get (at least) one level up as our "entry" trim.

That's because you guys have reasonable gas taxes that discourage driving. But in the US gas is so cheap it doesn't matter to most people middle class and above.

That's a stereotype; it's true of some people, but not everyone. Probably not even most. In fact, I have a hard time believing there are many people out there buying cars that don't care at all whether the car they get is gas or electric.

Sure, appearance matters. Most people don't want to drive around in an ugly car. But functionality is pretty important too. Fuel economy. Safety. How many people or how much stuff fits inside. How much gas does it use per mile (if it's a gas car). How easy is it get parts. Is it expensive to maintain.

Software, charging networks, brands, and design.

What about new form factors? I'm still waiting for the enclosed two-wheeled self-balancing motorcycle.


I am surprised we haven't seen more two seater vehicles - and I don't mean roadster sports cars.

The most common use case for cars for many (most?) people is driving alone or with just one passenger. Back seat is often treated as misc. cargo space.

Something like the old BMW Z3 Coupe (AKA "The Clown Shoe"). Essentially a two seater hatchback.

Far from my field of expertise, but I'd guess more than just one and they would move closer and closer to the source of the wave. Put the differentiator right there in the break or whatever the component might be.

Creates a neater interface for various subsystems as well. Rather than centralizing all the signals and doing it there.

I believe what you are asking here is the fundamental question marketing and branding have trying to solve since well the invention of economic choice of products. (Coke or Pepsi)

The advertising industry has made billions and billions trying to convince very similar products are the unique and different.

Do Coke and Pepsi really compete? They seem to be content with running ads reminding people that they still exist, but I don't see any targeted against each other. Seems they are willing to co-exist as the two "leading" brands that people think of interchangeably.

Brands used to (and sometimes still do) attack each other in ads, or at least do something like "in a blind taste test" to demonstrate they were superior. Perhaps newer research has shown this to be ineffective, so it might be less common now. (Just last month Intel was doing Intel PC vs Mac ads, and Microsoft has been doing PC vs Mac ads lately.)

Of course they compete. I'm sure the CEO of each respective company would like to increase their fat bonuses.

Comparing one product vs. another is a certain type of advertising. It's a type of advertising that targets a certain type of demographic, basically negative advertising. (don't know enough to know which group.)

While type a response... it occurred to me and slightly off topic. Where else do they use negative advertising? Political advertising maybe?

And there you have it... a whole another topic of discussion that would be pretty interesting.

I think a significant factor will be offering good ICE car trade ins. At some point the second hand market for ICE vehicles is going to tank. Maybe there will be government schemes/subsidies for giving up ICE vehicles, but otherwise it could be a factor.

One differentiator: somebody other than Porsche might, perhaps accidentally, make an electric car that isn't ugly. That's rare enough with ICE cars, but electrics seem to have embraced ugliness as a crucially important feature.

Hopefully there will be at least one company that will offer a hackable car. I'd hate to be locked into doing only the things the designers want me to do with a thing I own.

I doubt that it will be by design, cars carry too much legal liabilities for that. But even now you can hack your car's suspension, engine or exhaust system sometimes at the cost of loosing your new car guarantee.

I could hope that the hackability could at least extend to changing behaviors not related to safety, but I'd imagine there would be some justification for just about anything being about safety.

> Quick: name the third in line: Coca Cola, Pepsi and ...? Or McDonald's, Burger King and ...?)

RC and Wendy's immediately came to mind.

if we can hit 500-600mi range per charge for a sub $45k vehicle, I'm sold

basically being able to make a 6-7 hour drive without stopping would be great for beach trips without having to worry about finding a charger halfway through your trip.

charge before you go, charge after you get to your destination would be ideal

probably the same things that are differentiators now, right? performance/efficiency, durability, look, price. The combustion engine doesn't really play into this much today, except in as much as it affects performance, efficiency and durability.

Modularity. Nobody wants to spend $3,000+ to replace a battery. Until it's possible for the average consumer to replace a battery module nobody is going to trust electric vehicles.

It's probably accurate that given the choice not spending $3000 to replace a battery and... spending $3000 to replace a battery, people would choose the former. But if you drive your car 200,000 miles and lost too much range to continue driving your car, but it only costs $3000 to get the battery to an "as new" state? Yeah, they'll spend it.

Just for some frame of reference, lots and lots of people replace internal combustion engines in their cars, either to restore a vehicle, or to upgrade it. Spoiler - they often cost more than $3000 (before factoring in labor)!

[0] https://www.gmperformancemotor.com/category/SB.html

Well, obviously some people already trust electric vehicles that don't have batteries that the average consumer isn't meant to replace. So "nobody" is an exaggeration. But replaceable, modular batteries would be a nice improvement. Especially if a particular kind of battery fit in a wide range of vehicles and were available from multiple vendors. And if cars were designed to accept upgrade batteries with different electrical characteristics than the originals and have it just work.

Whether they can run on hydrogen.

Range, comfort, paint and style.

Battery and charging technology. It sucks. On many fronts.

Let's me take a step back in time and talk about a different domain.

I've been flying electric powered RC planes and helicopters since the early 80's. Back then it was very rare to see people at flying fields with electrics. I was usually the only one at a field with 20 to 30 flyers. In fact, I used to design and manufacture motor controllers because the available ESC's were shit. The point is, it was "the early years".

All we could use back then was Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) cells. They could deliver the necessary current, yet imposed a size and weight penalty. My most powerful plane used a pack consisting of 27 NiCd cells. It was a rocketship and could go straight up at an impressive rate, but the thing was heavy (don't remember, I think it was about 8 lbs).

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMh) came along and looked promising but didn't really make a huge difference, certainly not for high current, high performance applications --which is most of what I was interested in.

And then we got Lithium-Polymer (LiPo). This was a technology that delivered (just guessing) twice the volumetric energy density, which meant a battery half the volume and half the weight of the old NiCd pack delivered substantially more energy while being able to supply high currents. This is when my planes went from 27 NiCd cells to a LiPo pack with just six cells. My helicopters use one or two of the same packs. And, of course, LiPo's made drones possible due to the same energy/weight ratio.

Back to cars.

This is it. Energy storage technology with twice the volumetric energy density is where the inflection point will be. Same metrics, half the battery pack volume and mass, two to four times the energy storage capacity.

And yet it doesn't end there. There are two more factors. Cost and charging.

Cost should be self-evident. The battery pack represents a massive portion of the COGS of an electric vehicle. This needs to be cut in half and, eventually, half again.

Charging is the elephant in the room. This is particularly evident during emergencies. I still remember when fires here in CA caused massive problems for electric vehicle owners. One of the worse things one could face as a parent is having an emergency and realizing that your vehicles are range limited and impossible to charge.

And so this key differentiator is both an internal and external factor.

I think the external is portion is easy to understand: The installed based of gas stations dwarfs the installed base of electric charging stations. Not only that, even if we had the same number of available electric stations, the realities of charging are not in favor of electric vehicles. This, once again, has two elements to it.

First, batteries take a long time to charge. If we establish this at 10x fuel filling time (3 minutes for gasoline, 30 minutes for charging), this means you need 10x the charging systems per station in order to service the same number of vehicles per unit time when compared to a typical gas station. In most places this is impossible.

Even if you could install 10x the charging systems in order to be able to service the same number of vehicles, you now face the next --and very serious-- problem: Energy demand.

Stated in the simplest possible terms: A rapid charging network with enough capacity to service a non-trivial number of electric vehicles would require an equally non-trivial amount of energy production capacity increase.

The only way I see a path to deliver this would be nuclear energy. In a place like the US you would probably have to build somewhere in the order of twenty new nuclear power plants distributed across the nation. Each country in Europe would likely need a few. Asia, a bunch of them.

Here's where the electric equation collides with reality: Transition to electric vehicles today, with current technology, and face the reality that we might actually produce far more pollution due to the massive step change in energy requirement.

Distributed solar network? Beyond massive, whatever that means. What's the energy, pollution and CO2 footprint of what it would take to manufacture, I don't know, 10x the solar panels we make today? Not to mention the resource utilization, mining and environmental damage this might cause. Likely not a solution. I think nuclear is the only solution. And, at least in the US, it could take thirty years to build just one nuclear plant; with twenty being almost unimaginable. If we started today the energy infrastructure would not be there until 2050. We should have gotten serious about nuclear energy a few decades ago.

This simple analysis tells me that the key differentiator (and the missing link to achieve mass transition to electric vehicles) has got to be something fundamentally different from the battery technology we use today. I think this means some kind of a fuel cell-type technology where recharging can be delivered in a few minutes through the exchange or replacement of a consumable/recyclable/rechargeable liquid.

I am not sure what else would make sense.

And, of course, all of this has to be evaluated on the basis of whether or not we are actually making the world a better place. It is easy to think that electrics make things better while not realizing that electrics at scale --done wrong-- could actually bring forth an ecological disaster the likes of which we have not seen yet.

Again, think 1.4 billion electric vehicles, don't think about your Tesla on your driveway. You have the ability to have that vehicle on your driveway because the source and nature of the energy it requires to operate doesn't quite move the needle, in terms of local or global scale. Also, the origins and source of that energy can remain, shall we say, conveniently ignored.

I am NOT down on electrics. We were ready to buy a couple of Teslas a few years back. When the California fires happened and we saw what was going on with Teslas we had to think things through. Living in fire and earthquake country you have to be aware of these things. We ultimately decided to wait until the infrastructure matured. Not the vehicles, the infrastructure. We want electric vehicles, but they cannot impose restrictions we don't currently have on their usage. That's our metric. Others are free to develop their own.

Which brings me to what I do not think is a key differentiator/technology for electrics to be successful: Self driving.

In my opinion this is a solution looking for a problem.

The evidence is simple: There are somewhere in the order of 1.4 billion cars on the road. People are driving them around every day. No problem to fix. For us this represents exactly 0% of the many variables involved in making a purchasing decision. It isn't important to most people (1.4 billion vehicles without it) and I don't think this is what will compel mass transition to a technology that currently has serious infrastructure issues.

Heh, I came to just the opposite conclusion. With serious weather/fires/disasters even the local gas stations may be inoperable (they do need power) or just swamped.

Having a go bag and a fully charged charge was quite reassuring. Doubly so because Tesla's are really efficient, so you get the rated EPA range at 65 mph or so, but you can get double that at half the speed. They also do exceedingly well in heavy traffic (stop and go), relative to gas vehicles.

It's easy to underestimate the number of chargers around, in my city there's quite a few more charging stations than gas stations. Granted many are much slower than the superchargers, but any port in a storm, right?

I couldn't really foresee any scenario with a big fire in central California where I couldn't just get on 80 or 5 and head north/south/east/west to safety and not worry about the charging infrastructure until after I was safe ... even if that meant all the way to Nevada.

BTW, I do have the luxury of a garage with power, but I've seen an increasingly large number of Tesla owners parking in driveways, and even street parking with long extension cords.

The possibility that one should not ignore is the idea of (a) not having a full charge and (b) not being anywhere close to your home or a supercharger you can actually use.

Quick google search, in the US:

  115,000 gas stations
  908 Tesla charging stations
The probability of being within driving range of a gasoline station is 100 to 1, and likely better. I say this because to do the actual math you'd have to calculate distance from wherever one might be at the time of need.

I think my point stands. The electric vehicle infrastructure in the US is inadequate for mass electric vehicle adoption. This includes power generation capacity. Tesla owners currently enjoy the luxury of charge energy requirements not pushing any limits (at least none anyone is screaming about). And as I said, conveniently ignoring where energy might be coming from. Hint: It isn't all "clean".

As the fleet of electric vehicles grows and energy demands increase I fully expect charging costs to go way up. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if charging costs start approximating the cost of gasoline or diesel. This, among other things, would solve one of the biggest items of concern for our politicians, the erosion of the gasoline-based tax revenue.

The evolution of this ecosystem will be interesting to watch over the next few years. Before making the decision to wait I built a 13 kW solar array to charge the Teslas we were going to buy by using as much solar as possible. I can easily double the array size at any time. For now it powers the Haas VF2 CNC milling machine in my garage (solar powered CNC!).

Garages are not for cars. C'mon! :)

I believe cars are way less important than people think. Ride sharing and WFH goes a long way. The elephant in the room is Augmented Reality. We're not talking enough about the consequences of AR for the economy.

If I have a normal car, and I'm wearing AR, I can re-skin it with unreal engine. The most interesting technologies aren't about transportation -- they're about human augmentation, transhumanism. A car is just too big to be a great augment. If I were CEO of Apple I would take a hard pass on "Apple Car" project and focus the company on AR.

Plus, cars are expensive. Not always a great investment, or necessary

> "cars are not a necessity"

This is only potentially true in dense urban environments. Its not true in suburban and rural areas, at least in the US. The rural-to-urban transition won't occur fast enough for this to not be true for a few decades at very least.

Well, you're describing how things are today but not necessarily how they could be.

I agree with the OP's sentiment that cars are mostly not needed. We've just been hoodwinked into building in car-friendly ways instead of people-friendly ways, and so we have these spread-out, fragile, suburban areas that depend entirely on cheap oil to function (if not the gas itself, the manufacturing, maintenance, and support of cars and car infrastructure).

Instead of building too dense (skyscrapers - opposite end of the problem spectrum) or not dense enough (suburbs) we could have built mixed-use walkable neighborhoods and towns and really reduced the need to spend money on cars. But hey, Ford, GM, and Chrysler had great lobbyists back in the day, and the threat of nuclear war with the Soviets meant that getting tanks and troops from one place to another necessitated the construction of extensive highway and freeway infrastructure. Win-win for a segment of the population with specific beliefs. Now we're so used to it that we find it hard to imagine living without it.

It infuriates me whenever I talk to people and they're like "wow Europe is so walkable! You can just go to the cafe down the street." or somewhere like Mackinac Island (aside from the horse poo) where people go to vacation - it's like yea we could just build like that everywhere if we wanted to. But we're dumb and we don't think and construction and automotive jobs need subsidies to keep the economy growing.

Sure, but you can't just close a milk bottle and expect the spilled milk to come back. Good or not, we have suburbs and rural infrastructure that won't just disappear in a decade.

I do live in a suburban / rural area without a car for the last 2 years. To shop I jog or bike to the store, or order from Amazon or the grocery store...and it's been fine. Sometimes I use Uber or ride with a friend. Yeah, I'd love to have a Toyota Tacoma, but insurance/maintenance/depreciation/gas is tens of thousands of dollars I can dedicate to other things instead.

Entertainment will be one differentiator. When cars are autonomous, and even now for passengers, people will want a car that has the best systems for watching movies, playing games, and passing time in general. Tesla's are leading in this segment right now. They already got many popular games ported to their system, and the new Model S/X will run games such as Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077.

The lack of differentiation between two EV brands will not be the major disruption to the car industry. It will be the ownership. In 3 to 5 years we should see autonomous vehicles that are offered by robot taxi networks. The same car can offer transport services to 5 families or more and still each family will be able to use the car to similar levels they are currently used to. Customers will no longer have to worry about maintenance, charging, insurance, parking, cleaning,... They will pay less and get more. The outcome will be that the number of cars sold will be a lot less than today. Car companies will not be able to make any margin on maintenance because EVs need a lot less maintenance and can soon drive a million kilometres. Only very few companies can create/train the self-driving technology, e.g. Tesla, Google,... The outcome will be that we will see a lot less car companies.

> In 3 to 5 years we should see autonomous vehicles

I've heard this before... ah yes. Five years ago[0].

Now, I'm not saying this won't happen. But predicting timelines on something that does not yet exist is tricky.

More to your point though... right now a lot of people value having "their" car despite all the drawbacks you listed. It can certainly vary (i.e. city vs suburbs vs rural) but people like just leaving stuff in their car, hopping in it the moment they are ready to leave, rather than trying to gather their kids, stuff, pets, etc. while waiting an unpredictable time for a summoned vehicle to arrive, and then going through the loading process, and then making sure nothing gets left behind.

I think it's possible we'll see a divergence, where people that begrudgingly own a car today will happily move into the future you envision, but quite a large portion of car owners will still want to own cars pretty far into the future.

[0] https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2016/04/29/...

Slight tangent, but I've noticed there are two types of Tesla fans. They intersect somewhat, but also have big areas of disagreement.

The first are car enthusiasts. They like the cars Tesla is producing.

The second are robotaxi/FSD evangelists. They want Tesla to spearhead the movement of ultimately eliminating (or significantly reducing) car ownership in favor of the robotaxi network. In fact, some of them even want Tesla to stop selling cars to the general public in favor of retaining them for the robotaxi fleet.

The autonomous thing should help increase VMT significantly

Possibly drastically and fatally

But not unexpectedly

We need a carbon tax stat

There are a few people who use a car rarely enough that a taxi is cheaper than owning, and if self driving cars eliminate the driver and thus drive down costs a few more people will join that number. However these people generally live someplace where local public transit is good, and parking is expensive.

For the vast majority of suburb dwellers, buying a car will be more cost effective. Most of the costs are the same either way, but you have no need for a profit margin, and you don't pay as much fuel (electrons are still fuel!) to run around empty getting to the next passenger. By owning your own car you can in turn leave your stuff in it just in case. By owning your car you ensure it is there when you want to go as opposed to waiting for one to arrive.

> It will be the ownership. In 3 to 5 years we should see autonomous vehicles that are offered by robot taxi networks.

We already see autonomous vehicles offered by non-robot taxi networks... And... what so?

> Customers will no longer have to worry about maintenance, charging, insurance, parking, cleaning,...

It's called taxi...

> Only very few companies can create/train the self-driving technology, e.g. Tesla, Google,... The outcome will be that we will see a lot less car companies.

There is no dramatic differentiation to current "AI" driving systems what-so-ever, they are all quite dumb, and have to act on the lowest margin of caution, just like all "self-driving" attempts working on the same principle in the last 30 years.

Uber and Lyft do this today except for the robot/autonomous part. Hasn't significantly dented car ownership that I can see. From my experience, the biggest benefit is that it makes it easier to be a tourist without renting a car.

Will these robot taxi cars require a vaccine passport to operate?

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