Almost all consumer-level electric vehicles that aren’t Teslas have flaws that aren’t apparent in a 20 minute test drive. Below are a few that I’ve discovered:
BMW i3: Although this car is an incredible value on the used car market ($11-14K for a 2016 model), the adaptive cruise control isn’t great. It uses a camera-based system. (instead of radar + cameras) When the car in front of you stops quickly, the i3 won’t come to a complete stop on its own. Instead, it just beeps at you. The BMW app also takes much longer than the Tesla app to unlock the car.
Kia Niro Electric: No programmable seats. Also, from Consumer Reports: “The Lane Following Assist feature claims to track the vehicle ahead. With both it and Lane Keeping Assist turned on, the Niro struggles to stay in the center of a lane, but at least it stays within the lines on most straight roads. A ‘Driver Attention Warning’ warns the driver if there is too much swaying within the lane. This feature does not work well, and we predict most drivers will likely never use it.”
Hyundai Kona Electric: Instead of automatically opening the charge door like a Tesla does at Superchargers, you have to pry up the bug-spattered shield manually. Then you have to remove two plastic covers. Finally, you can stick the charger in. Four steps instead of one.
Chevy Bolt: No adaptive cruise control. Uncomfortable seats.
Nissan Leaf: No active liquid cooling for the battery pack, so the battery degrades faster, especially when DC fast charging. Also, one owner notes that “the Leaf’s battery heats up while driving such that once you reach a charger your charge is throttled down to sometimes half of the 50kW that Nissan advertises. Time to charge becomes ridiculously long. To make matters worse, the battery heats up even faster during charging session. Since there is no active cooling system one soon (in ~250 miles) ends up in turtle (safe) mode and all you can do is park it overnight to let it cool down.”
Audi e-Tron: Front trunk barely big enough to hold a bag of take-out. To open it, you have to pop the hood, unlatch the hood, then open the frunk. Too many steps. And efficiency is low because it keeps 12% of the battery pack capacity in reserve.
And the big one: Every one of the non-Tesla cars above requires you to deal with the morass of different chargers out there. Many of them are broken, have multiple steps, don’t display charger status on the car’s navigation screen, overcharge you, require monthly payment plans, and most of all, are just plain slow. Finally, third-party chargers by Electrify America cost more – almost 5x as much as Tesla chargers – for slower speeds.
With Tesla, you plug in with one step and you’re charging. It’s the same experience everywhere.
To be fair, even the latest Teslas have a few missing features: Rear cross-traffic alert, ventilated seats, and 360-degree parking view. (Even the Kia has ventilated seats.) It also displays the EPA remaining range, instead of the more accurate range in the trip planner. But Tesla’s Supercharger experience, where you just plug in and walk away, is second to none.