Your top 5 burning questions answered

Last month, Urban Intelligence Managing Director, Lior Rauchberger, took his neighbour’s Tesla for a spin.

Dead quiet, instantly fast and spacious beyond belief, the car had him captivated. And unsurprisingly, he was particularly impressed with the car’s software system that governs the car’s functions – which more closely resembles a large iPad rather than a typical car dashboard.

There’s no denying that Tesla and the futuristic car market is hot on everyone’s lips. So as your ‘go to’ technology consultant, we’ve done our best to answer your most burning questions.

1. Are petrol powered cars a dying breed?

According to Tesla CTO, JB Straubel, petrol cars will be ‘dead in the water’ within the next 10 years.

Straubel argues that with the falling cost of electric car battery packs, electric cars will soon be cheaper to buy and run than traditional vehicles.

But will the change be as rapid as Straubel predicts? Despite significant advances in green and electric vehicle technology, many experts believe that the internal combustion engine is here to stay for the foreseeable future – at least to the end of this century. The process of transforming basic technologies among large populations is typically a very slow process for a multitude of reasons.

So perhaps it’s a matter of when, rather than if?

2. Will I ever get used to ‘charging my car’ at night?

Remember when mobile phones would need to be charged only once every few days? Back then, the notion of charging our phones daily or even twice a day was unthinkable.

But now we tolerate it. Why? Because modern society has decided that today’s nifty smartphone technology outweighs the inconvenience of regular battery recharging. (Thanks for playing, Nokia.)

With the rapid uptake of Telsa’s all-electric cars, are we already accepting the idea of charging our car batteries too? And if so, how likely are we to be stranded with a depleted battery and no access to electricity?

Tesla says that their Model S 60-kwh battery provides a range of up to 373 km – and the 85-kwh battery (a US$10K option) provides range of up to 483 km.

However, the length of time it takes to recharge a depleted battery depends on the number of on-board chargers and the source of the electricity. It could take as long as 52 hours to get from zero to full charge. Or it could take as little as five hours.

Tesla is amid plans to build a nationwide network of charging stations that can deliver 320 km of charge in about half an hour. But with only two charging stations in the whole of Australia so far, perhaps early-adopter Aussies shouldn’t be planning too many long road trips just yet.

3. Are ‘human drivers’ also a dying breed?

Will driving lessons, road rage and car accidents become ancient history? Will a self-driving Tesla or Google car pick you up to go to work one day soon?

Most of us have heard the hype of Google’s vision for the self-driving car market. And earlier this year, the tech-giant began testing its prototype on public roads. But we see no evidence to suggest that Google is any closer to a commercial launch.

Meanwhile, Tesla founder, Elon Musk, stated that self-driving cars are ‘almost a solved problem’ – and that human driving could even be ruled illegal at some point. With the Tesla Model S 85D and 60D already boasting an autonomous can parking system, Elon believes that Tesla will become the world-leader in the autonomous car market.

So the question begs: will Tesla beat Google at its own game?

4. What does the future hold for car ‘ownership’?

Advances in technology and connectivity pose the question of whether one day, it will be necessary to own a car at all. And if so, will lower ownership ease the pain of too many vehicles on the road?

Already, Gen Y’ers appear to place less importance on car ownership than previous generations. They are more open to sharing cars and to the growing number of ‘mobility services’ such as Uber and Lyft.

Car sharing is a prominent example: consumers pay to use vehicles only as needed and forgo the responsibilities – and benefits – of individual ownership. These developments also defy the very notion of a car as a personal, autonomous machine.

In 2013, Swiss-based automotive think tank, Rinspeed, unveiled an ingenious minibus public transit swarm system called the microMAX. The microMax maps its own routes, destinations, traveling speeds, and tracks the occupancy of all vehicles in traffic, all while sharing data. Rinspeed claims that the vehicle also ‘calculates’ potential ride opportunities in real time, and can even determine transfer options. This creates an efficient and flexible transport system— without wait times, prior planning or detours.

However, we would expect the future car-sharing regime to include a variety of vehicle types. Perhaps fleet cars for shared rides – but also high-performance ‘fun’ cars for those who enjoy being behind the wheel for a Sunday drive.

5. How much does it an electric car cost?

Okay, so we’ve established that self-driving cars are far from becoming commonplace. And we suspect that you’re not ready to forgo car ownership just yet. But for those of you who might be considering investing in an electric car in the near future, you may be wondering what it will cost you.

While electric cars cost significantly less to drive than petrol cars, they cost a lot more to buy.

Pricing is certainly at the upper levels of the ‘everyday’ auto world – in the same ballpark as BMW, Audi and Mercedes. But when it comes to performance, Tesla wins. Hands down.

Tesla’s Model S ranges from US$70K to over US$100K. But within a few years, Tesla hopes to produce much more affordable vehicles — including one that costs US$30K to US$35K — with a range similar to that of the Model S.