Tesla didn't invent the idea of the electric car but it's been one of the key players in pushing development and innovation, almost to the point of bankruptcy. Getting electric cars manufactured at scale is no easy task, and the company has relied on angel investors (including Musk) plus investments from Daimler and Toyota to keep going.
Fuel economy is of course a misleading term in this instance, but if we think about the range from a full battery charge (in normal driving you can expect a safe minimum of 190-280 miles depending on the model you choose), plus the low cost of recharging that battery, the Tesla offers unbeatable pence-per-mile costs among cars of its type.
The focus on the new personal car – the 21st century electric Model T – may be leading the EV industry, at least in North America, in the wrong direction. Mass adoption of electric personal vehicles is inhibited by incumbent improvements and the inability to obtain economies of scale that will bring costs to competitive levels and reduce the need for subsidization.
Meanwhile, the EV industry has not moved aggressively into market segments – commercial trucks for example – that seem to offer significant advantages. Others, China in particular, are moving much more rapidly in these areas and may well capture market scale and technological leadership.
In fact, the vehicle world of tomorrow may resemble less the Ford era than the decades before, in the early days of the auto, when steam, electric and internal combustion vehicles of many types, size and purpose all shared roads with a vast array of horse-drawn vehicles.