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back to article Tesla vs Media AGAIN as Model S craps out on journo - on the highway

Californian electric car maker Tesla Motors - well known for tangling repeatedly with the BBC (and the Register) over coverage of battery vehicles which it did not deem positive enough - is now in a row with the New York Times after one of the paper's journalists wrote a stinging review of its new Model S. Tesla Model S sports …

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Engineering judgement

The boss of SpaceX is a billionnaire who founded Paypal or some oither similar, highly popular company. He does not design the rockets or the cars of Tesla. He backs these ventures using his cash. And he basks in the limelight and the glory. And he also can pull nice looking birds as a result.

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jai
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Re: Engineering judgement

are the birds the result of Space X and Tesla? or just solely the result of his vast piles of cash?

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WARNING - Sexist remark - WARNING

"And he also can pull nice looking birds as a result."

Nothing wrong with that. If you've got it, flaunt it.

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DMH
Facepalm

I don't know about this case, but in the other two cases referenced Tesla was absolutely right to object about the poor press coverage.

The Top Gear episode - they faked the whole thing - the Tesla Roadster didn't run out of charge on the track as depicted.

As for the BBC's experiment with the Mini E: it has a range of 100 miles so I'm not sure what attempting to drive it to Edinburgh was supposed to prove, other than the stupidity of the BBC reporter. It's not a long distance vehicle - it's meant to be used for the 95% of journeys that are well within its range. I was one of the public 'beta testers' and had the car for 6 months during which time I drove over 4,000 miles at a total electricity cost of £52.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but something was definitely a bit fishy about both of those items.

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I just listened back to the original "review" and for Top Gear it is actually pretty complimentary. The controversial bit has a voiceover saying "Although Tesla say that it will do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track it would only do 55 miles." over the crew pushing the car. Now the voiceover never says that it did run out of charge just that if they did run out of charge it would do so after 55 miles.

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In what way

Controversial? Obviously the must have been correct with the 55 miles, because in two court cases tesla couldnt' show otherwise. They only appear to have complained that people may have got confused , but the judge disagreed.

Crew push it, to show what you'd have to do. Not like you could walk up with a little tank of fuel is it?

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Re: In what way

I thought that the report (if you can call anything on Top Gear a report) said there was a problem with the car, not that the car ran out of charge...

And everyone knows that if you are pushing a car around a race track you are not going to get the range you would on the motorway... Petrol or electric!

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Anonymous Coward

@DMH

Funny that you should mention that. I read that NYT article by chance on an IHT (International Herald Tribune) copy that someone had left at a table in Charles de Gaulle (they give them away, even so I would not normally read it) and I though there was something of "let's write an article people will talk about" in there. I could not tell you exactly what gave me that feel, but that is the impression it gave me. Looks like the journo in question managed to achieve his goal.

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So, when you buy a electric vehicle, you need to buy a petrol powered vehicle as well, so you can go more than a hundred miles. Why not just buy the petrol powered vehicle and use that for all your travel, you save thousands of dollars (pounds) in not just the initial purchase but also taxes that the government charges to keep and use that vehicle.

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Re: In what way

Yes, highway milage (similar to racetrack mileage) is usually quite a bit longer than (stop and go) city traffic mileage.

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WTF?

@Michael B.

The voice may not have said that the car ran out of power, but that is what any reasonable person would assume from the video accompanying it. What other reason would they have to be pushing the thing other then a failure?

Put another way:

If I pop a picture of you up on the screen when talking about pedophiles, I think you might (rightly) consider that slander. I wouldn't be CALLING you a pedophile, but any reasonable person would assume that's the message I was intending to convey.

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I believe that some manufacturers are looking to include a petrol engine as an electric generator within their cars, for when the batteries get low. Better than coming to a complete stop!

And shouldn't the Tesla have a back up battery for essential things like electrically controlled handbrakes, etc, in case the main battery pack runs out?

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Anonymous Coward

Somehow I knew this was a Lewis Page article before I scrolled back up and checked the byline... *Yawn*

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Re: In what way

"I thought that the report (if you can call anything on Top Gear a report) said there was a problem with the car,"

Actually Tesla sent them 2 cars. After the first ran out of juice they plugged it in, and continued filming with the other one. When the second ran out of juice they found out that while the first one was charging its brakes had packed up so they couldn't drive it...

But Tesla were silly to dispute the distance claim - after all a Ford GT 4MPG around that track driven hard - the Tesla was always going to look bad range-wise...

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"Somehow I knew..."

He's a popular guy, it seems. He does seem to have garnered a pretty faithful following of (to use the trendy term) 'haters'. I take it he said something you disagreed with? Would you like to offer more accurate information?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Somehow I knew..."

He writes like a conspiracy theorist, and they're usually crazies with an agenda that bears very little relation to reality. Given his previous form on articles related to AGW and 'green' technologies, I simply don't trust what he says in the slightest.

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The BBC article was not about attacking electric vehicles, it was about attacking the UKs electric vehicle infrastructure (ie; the lack of charging stations and charge times). To prove this the writer was trying to do a long distance journey in the electric vehicle. Admittedly the car was only designed to do short city distances, but the article was trying to prove a point.

Electric vehicles are required for the future - but until the infrastructure is sorted out it will never take off!

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Unhappy

People always resist change, and also, never forget, there's a lot of interest that cars like Tesla ( that don't use fossil fuels... ) fail, and are given a bad image.

It's easy to talk bad about something brand new, or experimental, while it hasn't matured. People tend to forget not many years ago, you could drive at around 50 Km/h top speed. Everything has to mature. Electric cars are no exception.

I still think it's great, and if they weren't so damn expensive, i'd proudly own one.

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>...it's meant to be used for the 95% of journeys...

That leaves 5% (1 in 20 or 2-4 times a month?) where it's a spectacular pain in the arse.

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Pint

"Although Tesla say that it will do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track it would only do 55 miles."

Well, my track-car used to do 240 miles to a tank... or about 60 on a track, too. What's the surprise? Drive a car on a race track and you're spending most of each lap either full on the throttle or full on the brakes. Singling out an electric car for being less inefficient in the circumstance is simply fucking stupid. Top Gear deciding to do so given their track experience seems to have been simply a bit of wilful and pointless sniping.

That Top Gear flat-out lied and claimed that they did run out of juice was basically an outright lie, and they were right to have been pulled up on it. Electric cars have their up-sides and down-sides, but there does seem to be a corner of journalism that is enjoying pointing that they can run out of juice *if used pretty inappropriately and incautiously*. I like Top Gear, but sometimes they can be dicks, and the NYT journo seems to have fallen into the same category.

I ask you: If you were driving 200 miles in a normal car IN WINTER, and there was no petrol stations on the way, would you stop the petrol pump when it said you had 240 miles of fuel? No: You'd be a dumb-ass to. What kind of moron would?

If you fuelled your car and then it lost 1/3 of a tank of petrol overnight to the petrol fairies just before a long drive, would you not put more fuel in, or would you think "fuck it, I'm sure it'll be fine"?

It seems to me that the journalist decided that he wanted to write a stand-out article, so managed to pretty much deliberately sabotage the road test for the sake of sensationalism. Crap journalism of course, but pretty typical for the newspapers these days.

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"So, when you buy a electric vehicle, you need to buy a petrol powered vehicle as well, so you can go more than a hundred miles. Why not just buy the petrol powered vehicle..."

Because not everyone makes long road trips? I haven't driven more than a hundred miles in a go for about five years!

In your scenario, if you wanted to go on long trips every so often, it's much more cost effective to just take a train or hire a car for £30 a day.

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Stop

Re: In what way

"Yes, highway milage (similar to racetrack mileage)"

Racetrack milage is about HALF of city milage, mate! If you're lucky!

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Psyx,

Yes it's true that trackday mileage sucks, in a petrol or electric car. There's a huge difference though, that makes the Tesla a lot less use as a trackday car. Do 55 miles in your Tesla, only 10-20 laps, then go home. In a different car. You can't do any more, as you can't charge it up - until tracks have fast chargers. Do the same in a Ford GT, fill up with petrol, carry on. Alternatively, you can manage 4 laps of the Nurburgring - and pray you don't run out on the 4th...

They said it was a nice car, but it was fair to point that out. But Top Gear aren't a consumer program any more, they're entertainment. So they're not going to be nice about it, they're going to be sarky, and funny. It's not lying to show the car being pushed, it's entertainment.

If Tesla couldn't cope with that, they shouldn't have gone on the show. If Top Gear had lied, I'm sure they'd have lost the court case...

Electric cars are brilliant for town mileage. Lovely and efficient, as they do stop-start so well. But they have short ranges, and are impractical for long-distance work in most cases. Until we've got better battery tech, that's the way it's going to stay. I'm not even convinced I've seen a hybrid that's got any better fuel consumption than a decent diesel. The 2 Toyota Prius-es-es-es that I know owners of both only manage 35 mpg. Which you could get from a petrol car of that size, costing half as much. They may just be stupidly heavy-footed, and others do better, 2 instances does not good data make.

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Pint

@Michael B. - BBC's "voiceover" ?

You mean one Jeremy Clarkson? He's a bit famous to be referred to as an anonymous voiceover.

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"Yes it's true that trackday mileage sucks, in a petrol or electric car. There's a huge difference though, that makes the Tesla a lot less use as a trackday car."

Yes. It's a bit of a shit track-day car, unless you have a trailer (and even then... it's still a pretty shit track car!). You'd have to be a bit insane to consider buying one for the track when you could have a Lotus 7 clone for a crap-ton less, which would also cost a crap-ton less to fix when it inevitably got bent or broke.

"It's not lying to show the car being pushed, it's entertainment.

"If Tesla couldn't cope with that, they shouldn't have gone on the show. If Top Gear had lied, I'm sure they'd have lost the court case..."

As someone else pointed out, they've had to change the voice-over, apparently. So, they did lie if they had to change it. As you say: They're an entertainment programme, but sometimes they go a little too far in entertaining at the cost of factuality.

"Electric cars are brilliant for town mileage. Lovely and efficient, as they do stop-start so well. But they have short ranges, and are impractical for long-distance work in most cases. Until we've got better battery tech, that's the way it's going to stay. I'm not even convinced I've seen a hybrid that's got any better fuel consumption than a decent diesel."

Agreed. However, I feel that there is still a place for them if the battery costs can be brought down. Many drivers now are purely urban, and I think that -if we can detach ourself from the 'one car to do everything' idea- there is a place for a one-or-two seat, stylish, city-car commuter vehicle. It's only need a twenty-to-thirty mile urban range, which would drastically reduce costs, too. It would certainly suffice for 95% of my needs, and a hire-car or decent train service (fat chance, but it would be good!) would happily fill the gap, and it'd be economical if the car was priced right.

Currently hybrids are just a wet-blanket for those who want to 'show they care' in a hypocritical manner, and for wealthy people who want the tax breaks and congestion-charge avoidance. They are not 'fit for purpose' and are more of a lifestyle choice. That said: Look at iDevices. If you can make them aspirational enough, then the functionality and sale-volume will come. An engine running at constant RPM charging a small battery should make for a more efficient design, and doesn't require the infrastructure. It's a step in the right direction, and our desire for four-seater, large, pure-petrol vehicles is mainly emotive, rather than rational. As much as I love vast amounts of power and the smell of fuel, I'd probably opt for a second commuter electric or hybrid vehicle if the cost-savings arrived.

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Anonymous Coward

TopGear is the three Stooges

Got to agree, Larry, Mo and Curly are clowns and TopGear hasn't been about cars for years.

However, EV cars do face a real problem. While most people's journeys are short - I do very few that are longer than 5 miles round trips - we all do those long trips that are essential. i.e. visiting the parents etc., and as many people live as far away from their parents as possible this means you have to have a car that can do a ~500 mile round trip without any messing about. Sure you can hire a car for such long journeys but actually it's a pain in the butt and turns out to be more expensive than the savings in petrol you've made ... add in the extortionate purchase premium that EV cars demand and it makes them a really bad idea!

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Anonymous Coward

........cars like Tesla ( that don't use fossil fuels... )

........I must have missed the point in the brochure describing the 1/2 acre PV installation, the 12 Metre wind turbine, or the compact nuclear residential power station that comes with the Tesla.

77% of UK electricity is generated by fossil fuels, and so self-generation is the only way to avoid this.

http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/energy-industry/generating-electricity.html

So next time you reject the building of a nuclear power station, consider the fact that if we all used EV as our personal transport, we double the consumption of electricity, meaning an increase of around 40% of generation capacity (assuming that people can be persuaded to charge their cars between midnight and 4AM, pushing usage up from 37 to 70+ GW, compared to the daytime peak of around 53GW.

http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Demand/Demand8.htm

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exactly, take a car with a quoted 30 mpg range and give it 200 miles worth of fuel. Now hoon it around a race track and you will be lucky to see 100+ miles. Tesla completly over reacted and they are doing it again instead of saying they will work with people they act like a 12 year old.

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Well to be fair at this point in the petrol engine life cycle you also would have needed a few horses...

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Re: TopGear is the three Stooges

"this means you have to have a car that can do a ~500 mile round trip without any messing about. Sure you can hire a car for such long journeys but actually it's a pain in the butt and turns out to be more expensive than the savings in petrol you've made ..."

Pain in the butt, yes. But it doesn't eclipse the fuel costs. Last time I rented, it was thirty quid for the day. That's less than I spend in petrol for the month.

That said, the *ideal* solution would be a little 'Leccy car and then catch a train for longer distances. The problem though is that the trains are atrocious and far more expensive than driving anywhere. If they could make long-distance public transport more viable, it would make short-range vehicles a lot more viable.

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Re: highway milage

For petrol vehicles, yes. For battery powered beasties all the articles I've read say city mileage per charge is higher because you get to stop it more frequently and it can use some of the braking to recharge the battery.

I'll admit I have no experimental data, as it's always sounded entirely too much like a Brooklyn Bridge/Tower of London investment opportunity to me.

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Re: I haven't driven more than a hundred miles in a go for about five years!

And you Brits accuse us 'Merkins of being provincial?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sure you can hire a car for such long journeys

And if electric cars were to become as common as greenunists demand they be, the volume for petrol vehicles will go down and the prices to hire them will sky rocket. So you'd get to see family even less.

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Pint

Re: I haven't driven more than a hundred miles in a go for about five years!

"And you Brits accuse us 'Merkins of being provincial?"

If I want to go any distance, I take a train... so I can get properly pissed!

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In fact it was Tesla's own boffins in California that calculated that 55 mile figure. If you look at the actual material presented you can see that the BBC was entirely in the right and that Tesla's PR people need replacing with people that can actually do the job. Top Gear were making a film, when you have a days shoot and people to pay you don't drive a car round and round for 55 miles just to waste time. No director would ever let that happen.

Surey they should have done some research into what Top Gear was like before they handed them a car to test? Every car gets similar treatment, but usually the toys stay in the pram.

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Re: @Michael B.

If you are a film director with limited time and budget, are you going to waste time driving a car round and round for 55 miles just to show an 8 second clip of it running out of charge, or are you going to use the Tesla supplied data and just go ahead and get the shot you need?

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Top Gear were proved right in court. If you only get 55 miles and run out in the Tesla then you have to get it towed and wait hours before you can refuel it again. In your old track car you just take a jerry can to it and you are on your way. That was the point.

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Re: I haven't driven more than a hundred miles in a go for about five years!

Airport is only 20 miles from home.

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FAIL

The difference...

The difference between this story and the one about the Mini E story on the BBC is the reaction of the manufacturer's PR and Legal departments.

Tesla seem determined to get all pissy and litigious about any negative coverage, and that just fosters the impression of a defensive company with something to hide. Instead, they should take the criticism on the chin, tell the world they'll look into the causes of the issue, and then report the "fix" that they come up with a few weeks/months down the line. Trying to get your retaliation in hard and fast like this just pisses everyone off - it's just really bad PR.

By contrast BMW didn't make such a fuss about the BBC MINI-E article, as they saw it for what it was - a test of the infrastructure more than the car which - surprise surprise - found the vehicle charging infrastructure for the UK to be lacking. BMW have gone on to respond with their upcoming i3 and i8 - which you can bet your bottom dollar will be properly and thoroughly engineered solutions that will not risk damaging the company's hard-won reputation, supported by a competent PR effort.

Tesla - you do not win at PR by starting an argument with the media.

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Re: The difference...

Tesla - you do not win at PR by starting an argument with the media.

Or to paraphrase: "Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel”. It's called Greener's Law, apparently, though I'd always thought it was a Mark Twain coinage...

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Re: In what way

You could walk up with a little Honda generator.

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Perhaps you never make long car journeys?

Perhaps you fly to your holiday destination? Or sometimes use a train? Or already have an ICE car? or are intelligent to work out the costs/benefits for your own lifestyle without some clueless fucknut telling you what to do?

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Devil

"Car is shutting down"

That Space Cadet Feel!

"Driving by a gasoline station and smiling is something everyone should experience.”

Everyone should also experience knowing about energy budgets, storage and generation.

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Fossil fuel costs us more than we think.

Fossil fuel should never be considered as the main source of energy. They are too expensive if we also consider their environmental impacts. Fossil fuel should be used to assist renewable energy source only.

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in much of the world, electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels

Sadly, in much of the world electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels, coal, oil or gas fired electric generating stations, with the added inefficiency of transmission lines, transformers and (most of all) the weight of batteries or fuel cells. And, strictly speaking, nuclear power is not renewable either.

Electric powered vehicles only use renewable energy when the power in the electric mains comes from renewable energy.

So currently only electric cars charged-up the minority of regions where the electric power primarily comes from hydro-electric generating stations are using renewable energy. So not the UK, not California, not New York.

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Re: in much of the world, electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels

"And, strictly speaking, nuclear power is not renewable either."

In the strictest sense, nothing is renewable or sustainable: eventually the Laws of Thermodynamics tend to catch with anything that is done in this universe. Really it is just a matter of determining what the best wasteful method is. And perhaps that is fossil fuels, perhaps it is electric, perhaps it is merely settling for not transporting stuffs halfway around the world without good reason and not travelling hundreds of kilometres a day just to get to work.

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Re: Fossil fuel costs us more than we think.

And where do you suppose all those kilowatt so inefficiently stored in the battery were generated?

Unless you live in France it Switzerland they were most likely generated using coal or gas.

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Re: in much of the world, electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels

"Really it is just a matter of determining what the best wasteful method is. And perhaps that is fossil fuels, perhaps it is electric, perhaps it is merely settling for not transporting stuffs halfway around the world without good reason and not travelling hundreds of kilometres a day just to get to work."

There's working out what's least wasteful - that's always good - but there's also security to be considered. By which I mean the future security of that fuel source. In terms of fossil fuels, they're certainly amongst the most efficient energy sources we have - which is unfortunate, because they're also collectively the dirtiest and the most limited. Estimates of how much oil, coal and gas is left vary wildly - usually depending on the financial or political interests of the body assessing them - but the point is that there is a fixed amount of these substances under the ground, and once they're pulled up and burned, they're gone.

But they do store and release energy most efficiently. Considering that alone, we'd logically go for fossil fuels every time, with the atmosphere being considered a small price to pay. The only viable alternative at the moment in efficiency terms is nuclear fission, and thanks to the media's success in convincing the public that fission power stations are prone to up and explode radiation all over everyone at the first sign of a Tuesday, no politician now is ever seriously going to stake votes on pushing for nuclear.

Fission has had its day, so until fusion comes along (and I'd be surprised if my hypothetical grandchildren lived to see *that* happen), we're stuck with a choice between the efficient-but-limited-and-filthy-and-dangerous fossils, or the clean-and-abundant-but-not-much-actual-use 'renewables', which aren't efficient enough: I'm sure the Reg has already mentioned just how much of the UK would have to be dedicated to turbine farms to make wind power a serious contender.

I think this is one of those moments in human history - or maybe the only one, if I think about it - where we have the opportunity to do what science fiction has been telling us for decades that humans will always be exceptionally good at: use our intelligence to save ourselves from extinction. Personally, I think sci-fi's always been far too optimistic. My hopes on that score are not high at all.

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WTF?

Re: in much of the world, electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels

"strictly speaking, nuclear power is not renewable either."

http://xkcd.com/1162/

Seriously? Neither is solar, by the same absurd measure.

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Re: in much of the world, electric cars would be powered by fossil fuels

Meanwhile in the real world renewables spent last year breaking records around the world for affordability and reliability.

See e.g.

http://about.bnef.com/2013/02/07/renewable-energy-now-cheaper-than-new-fossil-fuels-in-australia/

And that's not counting the fact that fossils are still subsidised with tax money worth around half a trillion a year, globally. Renewable subsidies are a tiny fraction of that.

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