Photo By: Charlie Deets from Unsplash

No, Tesla isn’t as revolutionary as you think. The company remains a perfect example of style over substance.

The electric car brand has wormed its way into the hearts of millions across the world as a model of what the future of automobility will look like, or rather what it should look like. 

Speaking of which, they aren’t the greatest looking cars, are they? They look like the car version of iPhones; an overwhelming attempt to look smooth and sleek at every corner. When I see a Tesla with a white paint job it appears more like a massive bar of soap slipping silently across the road than a car.

They look futuristic, that’s for sure, and they perform futurism even better, ‘look, it can dance,’ ‘it has an iPad in it,’ ‘I can sleep while driving and it probably won’t be dangerous” (just watch out for tractor-trailers). 

Beyond flashy features and the ability to go fast in a short amount of time, they weren’t the first electric cars on the market, though they get credited as if they were because they were one of the first successful production electric cars.

Let’s get one thing clear: electric cars are the way forward, though fewer cars on the road and robust infrastructure initiatives for public transit are ideal in the fight against climate change. We can’t keep using fossil fuels forever, and a switch from gas cars to electric is a step in the right direction. 

However, Tesla isn’t really leading the way in this sense either. The company still participates in production processes that create a large carbon footprint through the mining of rare metals for the lithium-ion batteries they use. There also isn’t much of a plan in place for what to do with these batteries after a Tesla’s gone through its lifespan; they won’t be accepted at landfills so there has to be a place for them to go as Teslas and other green cars continue to be sold. In the grand scheme of things though, it’s less the cars being the issue and more in Tesla being marketed as the cutting edge of transportation. 

Things get more tricky as one looks at Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, and his visions of the future. Keep in mind, Musk is a guy who is convinced we’re in a simulation. He likes to present as a bold visionary, but his ideas, though complex and far-reaching, often boil down to initiatives that only appear futuristic. He’s focussed on the aesthetics of futurism and less on actually solving problems. Like, for example, when Elon (re)discovered subway systems with his Boring Company due to his frustration with city traffic. What they are planning to do, and I am not joking, is to bore holes underground for his cars to pass through. Despite the many immediate problems that arise in your mind when you just hear that idea, now there’s a large number of his devout followers who actually think it’s ingenious. 

Or how about Tesla’s new Cybertruck, which looks like some kind of dystopian tank out of a sci-fi film. It is almost like in designing the Cybertruck, Musk is a little too self-aware of the societal divisions that are being made by things like the polarization of wealth and four decades of corporate union-busting; something Tesla has had a hand in, and is prepping for some kind of all-out class war. Obviously, I’m mostly joking here, but the truck is a little ridiculous when you think about it. 

As I said earlier, Tesla’s cars aren’t that bad in and of themselves. It’s what the brand and its impassioned fan base represent that is the issue. The answer to massively reducing greenhouse gasses and ultimately saving the planet lies in large scale structural changes and the regulation of the oil and automobile industries, not building tanks, exclusive driving tunnels and massive PR stunts like sending a car into space for “the memes”.