Today, TechCrunch published an interview with Elon Musk about range and autonomy in electric cars. It’s a snappy headline, “Elon Musk Says Tesla Cars Will Reach 620 Miles on a Single Charge in 1-2 Years and be Fully Autonomous in 3” but does that make any sense?
To be clear, we can already make an electric vehicle that will go 620 miles on one charge. It’s not cheap, and exceptionally heavy. Outside of fleet buyers, a market for this doesn’t exist (yet). The market of people who need (or want) to drive 620 miles at once is much smaller than the market of people who would like a cheaper electric car with a 300 mile range.
Fortunately, the tech needed to double the range can also be used to keep the same range and cut costs. More efficient motors and accessories or higher power-per-mass batteries would be the biggest contributors. The cars are already very aerodynamically efficient, so that’s unlikely to have a huge effect. I’ve been reading about the battery “gigafactory,” optimistic estimates say the cost of batteries could fall by 60% or more?
Autonomous cars though? I’d buy (or better, buy a timeshare to) one in a heartbeat because that’s killer for consumers. Reclaiming commutes for anything other than operating a 2-ton death machine would be great.