Tesla's Parking Lot Demonstrates the Fundamental Problem of the Car: There Are Too Many of Them

CC BY 2.0. Teslas charging in Huntsville, Ontario/ Lloyd Alter

Alex Steffen once wrote that "the answer to the problem of the American car is not under the hood, and we're not going to find a bright green future by looking there." Perhaps the most hilarious proof of his thesis is the parking lot at Tesla headquarters, where the rapidly growing company cannot accommodate all the cars that its employees drive to work.

It is a total mess, with its own Instagram account at teslaparkinglot. Tim Higgins writes in the Wall Street Journal about how Musk worries about this:

“Parking is, like, one of my biggest nightmares—like, where do we park everyone?” said the Tesla Inc. chief executive, on a recent earnings call with analysts who were trying to probe concerns about the electric-car maker’s year ahead.

We have already seen how Musk is so upset about getting stuck in Traffic that he is going to start building tunnels; you would think that he would look out the window at the parking lot and recognize that his cars are part of the problem, not the solution, but there you go.

According to the WSJ article, Tesla is trying to fix things by offering shuttle buses and repainting lines.

Tesla has tried to encourage alternatives to driving, such as biking, public transportation and the shuttle buses provided from around the Bay Area, and the company also tickets the scalawags. Parking offenders at the factory can return to find boots on their tires or their cars towed to a distant overflow lot.

But I really doubt that many of the people who work at Tesla HQ can afford to live within biking distance; the cheapest apartments in Palo Alto cost thousands per month. The office has a walk score of 7. The entire area is car-dependent.

Making all those cars electric wouldn't change a thing in that parking lot; in fact it might make it worse because everyone would want a power outlet so they could not pack in extra cars. And as much as one can admire Elon Musk for what he has done with Tesla, the last word goes to Alex Steffen:

There is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.