COMMENTARY | If electric cars like the Tesla Model S ever become mass produced, the experience of owning a car will change dramatically, and not just the fact that one would plug the thing into an outlet rather than pump it full of gas.
Wired Magazine suggests that scheduled maintenance, as drivers know it today, will become a thing of the past.
“The flip side is that without an internal combustion engine, there’s not as much to fix. I’ve written before that a Tesla without its outer shell looks like a cell phone on wheels. It’s basically just a big battery. That means no spark plugs, no air filters, no fuel pumps, no timing belts. In short, Teslas don’t have any of the parts that force you to take your car in for ‘regularly scheduled maintenance’ – services that can cost dearly at the dealer. But it’s hard to charge for an oil change when there’s no oil to be changed.”
To be sure there are some parts that will need replacing from time to time, such as brake pads and windshield wipers. Those big lithium ion batteries will also need swapping out periodically as well as they wear out. But it looks like a lot of maintenance of the electric car of the future will consist of software downloads, just like a home computer or a cell phone. Indeed the car company will have the ability to remotely monitor the car and warn the driver in advance of coming problems.
A number of things still have to happen before this kind of creative destruction hits auto dealerships and car mechanics. First, electric cars have to become available in economy models. The Model S costs about $70,000, a high end price even for a luxury car. Models that cost more like $20,000 will have to become available before Joe Six Pack will be able to cough up for an electric family sedan. This would have to be accompanies by advances in infrastructure, i.e. recharging stations on every corner, and technology, i.e. the ability to charge the car up in minutes rather than hours as well as better range on a single charge.
Still, it is the 21st Century after all and these kinds of technological advances should be expected.