Tesla has got me thinking

I wouldn’t hate the “freemium” concept applied to range and performance of an electric vehicle.

Imagine you could purchase a good looking, fun to drive, practical vehicle at a reasonable price. Let’s say for the sake of argument, a 20 thousand dollar hatchback, because I like hatchbacks. You can plug this car in at home, and charge it up to say a 100 mile range for nothing more than the cost of the electrons. You can now drive to and from work, drop the kids off at school, get your groceries, with the performance and driving dynamics of a base model VW golf. We’ll call this Monday-Friday mode.


Maybe on the weekends you like to drive out into the country for some wine tasting with the wife, or take the kids on a road trip to grandma’s house. You plug in, and pony up twenty or thirty bucks to boost your range up to a few hundred miles. This could be done through the charging app on the infotainment system. We’ll call this weekend mode. Once that range is exhausted, you can go back to your free M-F mode.

Maybe next weekend you want to enjoy an afternoon of carving up some back roads. You pony up again for weekend mode, but this time also purchase a 24 hour performance package. Let’s say another twenty bucks stiffens up the suspension and unlocks some extra torques and horses. You could even have a virtual “boost” button that could charge you a nominal fee by the second for temporary bursts of insane power. You could of course choose to never take advantage of these features and still have an economical, environmentally friendly “cheap and cheerful” car.


People seem to be upset that Tesla is selling a detuned version of the same car at a lower price, but we already buy cars that are intentionally limited for one reason or another. As enthusiasts we currently have to jump through hoops an potentially void warranties to get our existing hardware to perform more like we want it to. I think it’s smart of Tesla to keep this option “in house”. Why pay for range you might not need?

I see lots of potential benefits in a scenario like this. You would have fewer people dangerously abusing the power of their performance vehicles in day to day commuter scenarios unless they wanted to pay to have all the power all the time. Your car would stay fun longer as you would never get too used to an unchanging driving dynamic. Money you spent on range and performance would go back to the manufacturer rather than oil companies, providing a revenue stream for further software development and new models. Insurance companies could use this data to provide a more fair price structure based on how you actin use your car rather than its potential risks.


I realize this is some serious fantasy at this point, but a few years down the road? Maybe not so much. I also realize I’m not the first person to broach this subject. What Tesla is doing now works because their cars are still high end luxury items for most people, but I really believe this concept could be an interesting facet of enthusiast driving of the future, and I think I would be on board for something like this. Thoughts?

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