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Monday, July 10, 2017

On an electric road trip to Montreal and back, I choke on those gas-guzzling SUVs

WHO DOESN'T LIKE FREE? Returning to New Jersey from Canada last week, I stopped to charge my all-electric Tesla Model S at one of the automaker's free Superchargers in a Queensbury, N.Y., shopping center, where we also had lunch, above. 
MORE FREE JUICE: We stopped for more free juice at the Colonie Center in Colonie, N.Y., near Albany. My 2015 Tesla Model S 60, which has a maximum range of 208 miles, came with free Supercharging for as long as I own the car. 



Reports of an electric-car revolution are wildly exaggerated.

Thanks to a great deal of pushback and disinformation from the news media and stock analysts, Tesla and other makers of all-electric cars have had only limited success in the United States.

On a road trip to the International Jazz Festival in Montreal and back in my Tesla Model S, I saw only a handful of other all-electric cars, mostly at the company's dedicated network of fast electric chargers.

In Montreal, I saw my first Model S and Model X taxis, plus a handful of privately owned all-electric Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s.

But the New York State Thruway and other highways still are dominated by big SUVs -- those noxious, gas-guzzling road hogs that are usually driven aggressively, and 15 mph to 20 mph over the speed limit.

MONOTONOUS: The New York State Thruway and the Adirondack Northway are beautiful but monotonous, and I used my Tesla's self-driving functions -- Autopilot and Autosteer -- on several occasions.

Tesla Motors

Tesla's success in selling premium all-electric cars, which start at $69,500, is widely attributed to the California-based company being the only one to provide a dedicated network of Superchargers all across the country for owners who take road trips or have unusually long commutes.

At home, I charge my car in the garage overnight, using a special 240-volt outlet, in the same way as I charge my cellphone.

My charging costs are reduced further by the rooftop solar panels I had installed on my home in 2009 and again in 2012.

The first, larger set of panels, which I own, generate Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or credits I can sell to my utility through a middleman, as I did on Sunday (six SRECS netted me $1,311). 

12 SUPERCHARGERS, NO WAITING: Outside Montreal, I charged my Tesla Model S in a parking structure opposite Adonis, a large Middle Eastern supermarket (300 Boulevard Thimens, St. Laurent, Quebec; 1-514-904-6789). 

Media and Tesla

Coverage of Tesla has been largely negative, because the company sells its cars directly to the public, cutting out the middleman, and doesn't advertise.

That means newspapers, magazines and websites that depend on ad revenue to survive face the prospect of praising Tesla and biting the hand that feeds them hundreds of millions of dollars -- dealers selling competitive models, the domestic and foreign companies that make them, and Big Oil. 

Although the Model S is often described as "expensive," I've never seen the same said about such competitors as the Mercedes-Benz S Class, BMW 7-series and various annoyingly loud Maseratis -- all of which are outsold by Tesla's large, four-door hatchback.

The media also sow confusion by referring to gas-electric hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt as "electric" or "electrified." 

More hype

Just last week on Page 1 of the New York edition, The New York Times reported a Volvo announcement under this headline:

"Going electric: 
Volvo declares gas is the past"

But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Volvo isn't banning the internal-combustion engine, so the mighty Times seems to be kowtowing to an advertiser.

The Swedish carmaker, now owned by a Chinese company, said it will offer an electric motor in all new models, starting in 2019, "marking the historic end of cars that only use an internal-combustion engine."

Gas-electric hybrids

That would be about 20 years after both Honda and Toyota brought the first gas-electric hybrids to the United States in 1999 and 2000, respectively. 

And most of those new Volvo models will be hybrids that use batteries and electric motors to supplement a gas engine, falling short of achieving the zero emissions needed to slow climate change.

Volvo did pledge to introduce five all-electric models between 2019 and 2021 -- that's seven years behind the zero-emissions Tesla Model S. 

The move by Volvo is welcome, but this small carmaker is hardly going to change the world with its hybrid and all-electric lineup.

Model X and Model 3

Tesla supplemented the Model S with the Model X, a 7-seat SUV, and this month, began production of the Model 3 sedan, with a base price of $35,000 and a range of 215 miles on a full charge.

When Tesla unveiled the Model 3 in March 2016, CEO Elon Musk said he hoped the mainstream sedan would accelerate the transition to "sustainable transportation."

And he noted all-electric vehicles are more important than ever in view of the 53,000 premature deaths a year from auto emissions in the United States.

That environmental message found its way into only a handful of articles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted this unsteady photo of the fist Model 3 off the production line at the company's California factory, once a joint venture between GM and Toyota.

Biggest launch ever

More than 400,000 people around the world have placed a $1,000 deposit on the Model 3.

The first Model 3, in black, was delivered last weekend to Musk -- one 0f 30 scheduled to built in July.

Another 100 cars are scheduled for August, and 1,500 are to be produced in September.

According to the Gas2 blogMusk projects Tesla will be building 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of December.

When Tesla starts producing the Model 3 in even larger numbers, it may be time to declare the electric-car revolution has finally arrived.

For related items, see:

PEACE AND QUIET: I visited Greenbrook Sanctuary in Tenafly on Saturday, one of the few places in North Jersey where you can escape traffic noise and fumes.
LOCK AND KEY: The 165-acre woodland preserve between the Hudson River and Palisades Interstate Parkway is open to members only.