Judging from recent news reports, it's all too easy to focus on the limitations on electric cars—range, recharge speeds, and most recently, their cold weather performance.
Some things, though, electric cars can do that others can't. Take Tesla's new Dog Mode, announced by CEO Elon Musk on Twitter on Wednesday. The new feature, being pushed out to cars via an over-the-air update, will keep the air conditioner running on hot days to keep dogs safe inside the car, even when it's turned off.
In his tweet announcing the feature, Musk expressed confidence that Teslas have big enough batteries to keep the cabin cool and still have enough range to continue driving without triggering range anxiety.
To assuage the anxiety of passersby, often conditioned to react to seeing dogs locked in a car by calling authorities, the Tesla's center screen will display the ambient temperature inside the car along with a message: "My owner will be back soon."
Although some luxury gas cars have retained-heat mode for up to half an hour, few can run the air conditioning compressor with the engine off. (And most of those are hybrids that wouldn't have the battery capacity to run the AC for long.)
AAA recently released a report showing that electric cars can lose more than 40 percent of their range when driving with the heater on in weather below 20 degrees.
Running the air-conditioner, however, was much less costly, cutting only 17 percent from the range in the AAA study. That makes it relatively affordable from a range standpoint to keep dogs cool in the car while it's parked for a short errand or a few.
For those who don't have a dog guarding their Tesla, the company also pushed out a new Sentry Mode that turns on the cars' external cameras when parked to provide live video of anyone attempting to break into, steal, or vandalize the car. It will also set off an alarm, blare the stereo, and alert the owner's cell phone if the situation escalates.