Andrew Rondeau

Software Developer, Audio Enthusiast

Note: The article made it to the front page of hacker news! Lots of great discussion there.

The software engineering field has controversy over using whiteboard coding in interviews, versus candidates doing take-home coding assignments. This is a false dichotomy, the problem is bad interviews.

Quincy Larson, in his post Why is hiring broken? It starts at the whiteboard, gives some examples of bad whiteboard questions. In his article, he slams the practice as either a form of hazing, or he gives examples of horrible questions that rely on the candidate memorizing arcane algorithms.

Yet, the bad examples that Larson lists are the opposite of what Joel Spolsky recommends in Smart and Gets Things Done. The only thing I can conclude is that Larson is really complaining about bad interviews, not bad technique.

In this post I focus on the tradeoffs between take-home coding questions, and live coding exercises, such as whiteboard coding.

Examples of Bad Take-Home Questions

After I wrote the first draft of this post, I actually walked away from a job opportunity that asked me to do a horrible take home exercise. Here's the assignment, summarized to respect the company's privacy:

This should take a few hours. Create a web-based message board. Use C# and ASP.Net Core, with Angular and Material design. Use a database. When someone adds a message, update all other open browsers in real time. To make it easy for you, you don't need to implement authentication.

This isn't the first time I've walked away from such a situation. Why did I walk away? In both cases, it was the same exact reason.

The exercise was supposed to take "a few hours" according to the hiring manager, but I'm extremely rusty with ASP. I haven't done anything real time since before WebSocket, nor have I used Angular or Material design. I anticipate that such a project would take one of their engineers more than "a few hours" to finish, and take me at least a day to come up to speed with all the various APIs and patterns.

At this point, we've only had one phone screen. The company hasn't invested much time in me, but they expected me to invest a lot of time in them. I hadn't met other members of the team, and I've never seen the product.

I wondered, what if I put a lot of time into this and make a novice mistake? Will some junior engineer reject me? Is this a sign that someone in a leadership role has unreasonable expectations? What if, at the end of this process, I just don't want the job?

Take-home assignments should never have learning curves. There are reasons when it's okay to request an alphabet soup of technologies, which I explain a little later.

Another situation where I've walked away was the "fix a bug in our open source project" task. Onboarding on a complicated piece of source code can take a few days. It can be longer if the source code uses a language or idiom that I'm unfamiliar with.

"Fix a bug in our open source project" always feels like hazing to me, because I just can't compete fairly with someone who's already worked in that codebase. I always worry that I'll put a lot of time into the take-home and not get an interview.

In another case, a hiring manager emailed me a candidates' take-home coding assignment and told me that I needed to interview the candidate, in-person, later that day. The take home question was fine, but the candidate's code was awful! We should have rejected the candidate instead of flying the candidate to the office. Even worse, I suspected that one of my colleagues was rude to the candidate when reviewing the code.

An Example of a Bad Whiteboarding Question

I once interviewed at a company where a young engineer gave me a simple question, which I quickly answered with a straightforward solution. The engineer then spent the rest of the time berating me for not including an insignificant micro-optimization.

The interviewer was just as rude as my colleague was when he reviewed the bad take-home assignment. I remember telling the recruiter that I didn't think I'd like the company.

In another case, I interviewed at a video streaming company where the whiteboard question required that I know a textbook algorithm that I would never use directly. In reality, the question was asked poorly. If they said, "here's the problem and here's the algorithm you need to solve it," it would have been a great question.

But, more importantly, a bad interview can happen with either a take-home assignment or a whiteboard assignment.

The Problem is Bad Interviews

It's always important to remember that an interview is a two-way street. It's just as important to sell the job to the candidate as the candidate must sell themselves to you. Normally, it's extremely hard to find software engineers qualified to show up for an interview, so running bad interviews means that the best candidates will just walk away.

Larson, in his blog post, explains a more disturbing trend:

Whiteboard interviews are akin to a hazing ritual — a rite of passage that one must endure before joining an organization — because everyone else there did. “I went through a battery of whiteboard interviews when I got here, so why shouldn’t this person?”

I suspect companies who haze potential employees have bigger problems, the first of which is that they aren't coaching their interviewers in how to perform a good interview!

No one ever coached me in how to run a good interview. Instead, I had to take the initiative to read "Smart and Gets Things Done." When I've worked for large tech companies, the HR departments knew less about how to interview a software engineer than we, the developers running the interviews, did.

What About Interview Websites? How About The Candidate Brings Their Laptop

Sites like and offer ways to facilitate live and take-home coding questions.

I think these sites are great, especially when they provide a wealth of examples of questions to base an interview on. But, just using a tool won't magically make someone a better interviewer.

I think the biggest value of these tools is that they respect the candidate's time. Before asking a candidate to spend time traveling to your office, you can do the first part of the interview without the candidate investing travel time. This is critical if the candidate needs to fly for the interview, but also respectful for candidates on the other side of town.

I also think a great technique is to ask the candidate to bring a laptop to an on-site interview and then watch the candidate code on-screen. As a candidate, I once plugged my laptop into a projector and fired up my IDE. I personally found it easier than scribbling on a whiteboard.

Tradeoffs Between Whiteboarding vs Take-Home questions

When a company relies on take-home questions, it's low-risk for them to send anyone their take-home question, in contrast, an in-person whiteboard question requires a more time from the company's engineers.

But, a company can send out its take-home interview question indiscriminately and waste candidates' time. (This is why I walk away from time-consuming take-homes, or take-homes that require an alphabet soup of technologies.)

It's possible to cheat on a take-home, because a candidate can send it to a stronger programmer, or sit with another programmer. Cheating on a live coding interview is harder.

But, many engineers prefer to code without an audience and feel more comfortable coding in private. The take-home questions often give bigger insight into the candidate's style and ability to organize a program.

Take-home questions give little insight into how a candidate behaves in the office, or has a technical discussion. They also give little insight into a candidate's intuition, because you only see the finished product, not their working process.

With a whiteboard question, or other live coding techniques, it's easy to see a candidate's biases. These biases can expose someone who's going to struggle in your stack, or just someone who you won't get along with. They also can expose when a candidate has poor "common sense" for the kind of work you're doing.

Another advantage of whiteboard questions is that it's easy to tune them on the fly. You can see where a candidate stumbles, and you can infer a bad question based on a candidate's reactions.

It's much harder to tell when a take-home question is bad. Some candidates might want to impress you and spend an unreasonable time on the question. Other candidates might ghost. (Ghosting means the candidate just stops responding to emails and phone calls.) The feedback loop just isn't there.

As a candidate, when I get a bad whiteboarding question, it's easy for me to just muddle through it. Depending on circumstances, I'll either decline the job or discuss the odd question with someone else in the process. But, when I get a bad take-home question, I'm stuck between either ghosting, (not responding at all,) or providing feedback. I've done both, and I'm not sure which is a better approach. The one case I gave feedback, the hiring manager got defensive, which confirmed my decision to walk away.

So, take-home versus whiteboard (or another live coding technique) isn't a slam-dunk decision. It's more about knowing what's critical and weighing tradeoffs. You can also just let the candidate decide for themselves, but then you have the overhead of planning two different kinds of interviews.

How To Plan a Good Interview Question

In my experience, the purpose of a technical challenge is more than just determining competence. It's also how the interviewer verifies that a candidate has good comprehension of tasks, and can conduct themselves well during a technical discussion. Furthermore, these discussions ensure that the candidate can get along with the team.

A good question requires careful planning.

  1. Focus on 2-4 very high level programming concepts that are critical for the job.
  2. Have an emotional understanding of what "common sense" is for the job. (What kind of intuition should a candidate have?)
  3. Accept that you can't onboard someone in your entire stack in order to screen them
  4. What are specific biases you need to screen out?
  5. Are some concepts better screened in a live exercise or in a take-home assignment?
  6. Make sure that you're screening in people who will succeed in your questions.

Specifically, if you're trying to hire generalists, accept that new hires will have a learning curve. You won't be able to test such candidates on details of your stack because they probably haven't worked with it before.

In contrast, if you're trying to hire someone who can work in your stack from day one, it's okay for questions to require knowledge in your stack. You just need to make sure to only screen candidates who already know your stack. This is useful when screening contractors for short jobs.

Translation: Only ask someone questions about frameworks and libraries if you require direct experience with those technologies. Otherwise, If you're interviewing someone with Postgres experience for a job with Oracle, don't ask Oracle-specific questions or assign Oracle-specific tasks.

You Can Ask the Candidate to Present Code they Wrote.

One recent interview completely avoided a take-home question or a live coding exercise. Instead, they asked me to present some code of my choice. I spent some time going through my github repository finding some interesting work I've done over the past decade, and then we reviewed a fitbit watch face. Ironically, I probably spent 2-3 hours preparing; both in choosing the code to show, and then reviewing the watchface code as I hadn't looked at it in over a year.

The thing that I really like about this technique is that it's reusable. If another company asks me to present code, I'll just propose the fitbit watchface and it'll be fresh in my memory. Saves me time too!

What Makes a Good Take-Home Question

A good take-home question should take 2-3 hours.

It's important to avoid planning fallacy where you think something is simple, but then what you thought should be 2-3 hours really is 15 hours.

What's critical is to avoid pushing a learning curve on a candidate. If your take-home require specific libraries, languages, frameworks, ect, then you should discuss it with the candidate before you send the question. Any framework or tool that you ask the candidate to use should be on the candidate's resume.

Dave Rolsky, in A Technical Hiring Process Revisited, says:

When you come up with a homework exercise you must have at least two (and preferably more) of your existing staff do it, including some people who were not involved in formulating the exercise.

If the homework is in a problem domain that relates to what your company does (and it should be) then you should expect in house to staff to finish it in half the time it will take a candidate.

In my experience, the screenings that I like are "use any language, libraries, and frameworks" and then run in a shell; or verified with unit tests; or present a very basic HTTP API. You can also direct the candidate to use a language that they claim significant experience in.

My favorite assignment was for me to feel my way through a maze that was provided incrementally though a REST API. Another one had me write a RAM database and tests.

When I was desktop client architect at Syncplicity, I occasionally used a coding challenge that had candidates build a document by loading multiple XML documents from a web server. We primarily screened candidates with C# experience for a job in C#, so we asked the candidate to use C#. But, when we interviewed a Mac developer with Objective C experience, we asked the candidate to use Objective C; and if we interviewed someone who needed to learn C# on the job, we'd let the candidate use their most comfortable language. We assumed that candidates could load documents over HTTP and work with XML. Internally, we had a few engineers make sure they could do the exercise in about an hour or so.

We did not require any specific library or framework, but we did suggest two of .Net's built in XML parsers as a hint.

Working on the Syncplicity desktop client often required working with poorly documented APIs, so we deliberately kept a little bit of ambiguity in the instructions. My original version of the challenge was slightly more ambiguous, and I think "more fun" for people who can work with poorly documented APIs.

How To Plan a Good Whiteboard Question

A good whiteboard question requires careful planning. The interviewer, or team, should be able to plan a 1-hour interview in about 1-2 hours, but can re-use the interview for most candidates, and even different (but similar) positions.

  1. Focus on 2-4 very high level programming concepts that are critical for the job.
  2. Have an emotional understanding of what "common sense" is for the job.
  3. Plan coding questions that rely on 10-20 lines of very basic code.
  4. Plan the discussion: How do you give instructions? (What's written and what's verbal?) Assume you're going to have to explain all needed APIs and algorithms.
  5. Plan hints
  6. Anticipate biases that indicate a poor match
  7. Decide if these are true whiteboarding questions, or if the candidate will bring a laptop, or if you'll do these in teleconference with an online coding tool

I personally like to include a question that tests a candidate's listening skills, where the task just requires following instructions. These aren't trick questions, instead, they're meant to ensure that the candidate can participate in design discussions and comprehend assigned tasks.

I also include a very straightforward question where I provide an API and have the candidate transform data from one format to another format. These primarily filter out candidates who don't get certain basic concepts; but I also use these to filter out candidates who's fundamental biases would mean they wouldn't fit in with our team, or demand that we refactor everything because we didn't use their framework or design pattern of choice.

As a candidate, the thing that I love about live coding exercises is that they give me a real good feel for what it's like to work with someone, and what the general team dynamics are. In the case when the interviewer slammed me for not microoptimizing my code, I realized I didn't want to work there. It was more due to their attitude than the desire to microoptimize.

What if it's important that a candidate demonstrate using an algorithm? Actually, that makes a great live coding question. Just make sure that the question involves explaining the algorithm instead of expecting the candidate to know it ahead of time. Or, before the interview, suggest that the candidate review the Wikipedia page about the algorithm.

In Summary: It's about planning a good interview

When I'm a job candidate, I really don't care if a coding question is whiteboard or take-home; nor do I care if it's truly on a whiteboard, or I need to bring my laptop, or we do a teleconference with an interview website. I like the style where I can present some code that I've written, but it's certainly not required for me.

Some candidates have preferences, and if you're in a situation where you want to please everyone, the best thing to do is let the candidate choose between some form of live coding, take home, or presenting existing code. Assuming you don't give the candidate the choice, just look at the tradeoffs and pick what's more important to you.

What's important is that you research how to plan good questions and make sure that everyone involved in the process is also trained in running a good interview.

Take HomeLive (Whiteboarding)
Some candidates feel less pressureOther candidates want team interaction
Can evaluate more complicated codeCan evaluate collaboration and behavioral style
May not get feedback on issues with the questionCan get feedback on the question from body language, tone of voice, and reactions
Candidate can use the tools and environment where they are comfortableCoding on a whiteboard or in an online tool is about discussion
Candidate has little time pressureCandidate has time pressure
You evaluate the finished product as a wholeInsight into the candidate's thought process
All hints have to sent ahead of timeYou can give hints on a case-by-case basis
Can not adjust the question as you goCan adjust the question as you go
Easy to send a take-home to a "maybe" candidateCompany has to invest extra time for each "maybe" candidate
Can waste a "maybe" candidate's timeCompany has to choose wisely before inviting a "maybe" candidate


  • Make sure your sound works within 3 minutes. If there are problems, switch to your phone immediately
  • Your background is more important than what you wear
  • A good computer often sounds better than a cheap headset. What's important is that you're in a quiet space.
  • Use good listening skills when performing tasks
  • If you have a thick accent, hearing issues, or certain learning disabilities, discuss these ahead of time. Otherwise, you may perform poorly over teleconference when you would do well face-to-face
  • Don't cheat

With many offices closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of interviews are moving to teleconference. I've interviewed many candidates through teleconference. Here is what I expected, as a software engineer, interviewing global software engineering candidates.

Other industries, locations, and interviewers, will have different expectations than I do. Finally, take all career advice with a grain of salt and use your best judgement.

Demonstrate that you can use teleconference software

On my team, we conducted all of our meetings through teleconference. This was necessary because we were a global team. It also meant that basic proficiency with teleconference software was a requirement for the job.

Frequently, candidates had difficulties with sound. In these situations, I would always suggest that the candidate call in with their phone. Still, many candidates were inconsiderate and forced me to wait while they debugged their computer.

In a teleconference, it is unprofessional to make someone wait longer than three minutes while you fix sound. Almost all teleconference software will call you on the phone if you have problems. Never make an interviewer wait while you try to fix your sound.

Some people suggest doing a test-run with teleconference software the night before. One staffing firm that we worked with started their teleconferences early so the candidate could fix technical problems before I joined the call.

Another infrequent mistake was a candidate joining the teleconference from their phone, and not having a computer ready. These candidates appeared unprepared. When an interview is by teleconference, assume that you will have to share your screen and perform a basic task, just like on a face-to-face interview.

Don't get obsessed with a headset

A good computer, like a Macbook, works extremely well without a headset. In my experience, the Macbook's speakers and microphone work better than headsets.

Furthermore, a problem with USB and Bluetooth headsets is that the teleconference software now needs to pick which speakers and microphone to use, which can be confusing, especially when a bluetooth headset shows up as “BT 543XYZ.”

In my opinion, the best way to do a teleconference is with a quality laptop, in a quiet room, without a headset.

Pay close attention to what's behind you

Software engineering is a casual field, so I never paid close attention to what candidates wore. What I did pay attention to was what was behind the candidate: Paint colors, furniture, cabinets, views out the window.

Candidates in a video teleconference interview should sit at a desk, with the camera aimed so their face is centered in the camera. Make sure the background is something you'd be comfortable showing a guest.

I've seen advice that candidates should stand for teleconference interviews, or wear a suit. I never saw candidates do that, and I personally think it would be awkward.

Anticipate and discuss teleconference format difficulties ahead of time (Like hearing loss)

Teleconferences are much harder for non-native language speakers, people with heavy accents, people with hearing difficulties, and people with some learning challenges. Someone who might be perfectly fine working in a face-to-face situation may do poorly on a teleconference for any variety of reasons.

In our case, where we worked through teleconference daily, the ability to handle teleconference was a basic requirement. In some cases, we wondered if a candidate who performed poorly would make a great employee in a face-to-face situation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, if you're interviewing for a job that's going to be primarily face-to-face, and the interview is through teleconference; and you have some kind of an issue where the teleconference will work against you, it's best to discuss this with HR before the interview. You might need to make other arrangements so you can "put your best foot forward." The last thing you want to do is lose a golden opportunity because you have a little bit of hearing loss that normally isn't an issue when you're with someone face-to-face.

Use Your Best Listening Skills

When I asked candidates to perform small coding tasks in a teleconference, I would bend over backwards to explain the task:

  • I'd show a written description of the task in the teleconference
  • I'd go through the task point-by-point
  • I'd give the candidate plenty of opportunity for questions
  • I'd paste the task into the chat window

Some candidates would just get stuck in a circular pattern of asking the same clarifications over and over again, as if they couldn't understand the premise of the question. These were the "I can explain it to you [the candidate], but I can't understand it for you [the candidate]" situations.

In most of these cases, the candidate demonstrated exceptionally poor listening skills. I never knew if these candidates were truly capable of doing the job in a face-to-face situation, but merely had trouble understanding me through the teleconference. It didn't matter, in this case, because the job required daily interaction through teleconference.

Now, you might wonder why I didn't give someone who needed a little extra attention a chance. I always did. To put it differently, there's only so many hours in the day. I can either work with one engineer who needs extensive handholding, or eight engineers who can work independently. Demonstrate that you don't need extensive handholding.

Finally: Don't Cheat

When I interviewed a candidate, I tried to fairly assess their ability to do the job.

Once, a candidate gave me a memorized, well-rehearsed answer to one of my questions. Their answer was almost sing-song, as if making it through my interview was a mere formality, or a speech they had to memorize in order to pass a class at school.

I then made up a short question on the spot and the candidate gave me the "this wasn't supposed to be on the test" tone of voice. Then the candidate couldn't answer the question, either because they panicked or just didn't know the answer.

I suspected that someone covertly recorded an interview with me and then sent it to their buddy. We rejected the candidate.

It's not worth cheating: Hires who do well on the interview, but poorly on the job, don't last long. You don't want to be the person on the team who can't do their part.

I’ve had my Telsa Model 3, dual motor, for a year. It’s a great car, and one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. The thing with the Tesla Model 3 is that, because it’s so groundbreaking, it’s hard to find honest discussions about its quirks. Specifically, discussing Tesla and the Model 3’s quirks shows what other automakers can do to gain marketshare back.

Disclaimer: I own a small amount of Tesla stock. I’m a bit of a Tesla fanboy, in addition to my Model 3, I have a Powerwall. And, yes, as a Tesla stock owner, I’d like to see the stock go up.

What Tesla got Right

Before I get into the quirks, it’s important to discuss what Tesla got right. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the details that I like.

Most coverage of the car discusses its performance, so there’s no need to give its performance a lot of space. It’s worth pointing out that the instant torque means that it’s effortless to pass, make left turns, pull into heavy traffic, and merge in tight situations.

The Tesla Model 3, dual motor, is fast enough, handles well enough, and has good enough traction, for all situations on public roads. I can’t say that about any other car that I’ve driven. Our older Leaf came close with its instant torque, but it had some issues with snow. The Model 3 sets a new standard for performance that all automakers will need to meet.

Another obvious detail is range. My Model 3 can go over 300 miles on a charge. This is a touchy subject, because batteries are the most expensive, and heaviest, part of an electric car, and increasing range directly increases cost and weight.

The computer screen in the Model 3 is the easiest car computer I’ve ever used. Every option is intuitively laid out and easy to find. I hope other auto manufacturers copy Tesla’s interface. Furthermore, the general lack of physical buttons leaves the rest of the interior neat and simple.

A minor detail I like is the door handles. I really like the way they’re flush with the doors until I open them. In contrast, I hate the door handles on the Model S. (The Model S’s door handles retract in a non-intuitive way.)

The phone key means that I no longer carry keys around!

The sound system is crystal-clear at all speeds. It also has a very powerful matrix surround-sound processor, so music mixed for surround sound comes from all directions.

The Supercharger network means that I’m able to take my Model 3 on road trips, instead of using my gas car. On one road trip, I charged while I bought groceries, and while I ate lunch. This saved me an additional stop for gas.

Autopilot is an impressive beginning for self-driving cars. One thing many people misunderstand is that it’s more like cruise control and the driver must constantly watch the road. A lot of the reported “problems” with Autopilot are just people avoiding responsibility for not paying attention.

Finally, and I shouldn’t have to say this: It’s not a hybrid. I don’t like handling gas, maintaining a gas motor, the vibrations that come from them, and the noise.

So what are the Quirks of the Tesla Model 3?

In the US, Tesla uses a non-standard charging connector. The Model 3 comes with a dongle for plugging into a standard car charger (J-1227) for 120V or 240V charging. J-1227 and is used on all electric cars and plugin hybrids sold in the US, except for Tesla.

Charging with a J-1227 connector on a 120V or 240V electrical supply can take many hours to fully recharge. Thus, it’s only useful for charging while parked for a long time, such as overnight, at work, or at a destination like an amusement park.

In the US, high-speed DC charging is available, but the story is similar to VHS versus Betamax. There are three high-speed charging standards available in the US: Chademo, CCS, and Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger. Tesla offers an adapter to plug into a Chademo charger, but none for CCS. Without going into much detail, CCS is going to win, Chademo will quickly be forgotten, and everyone will laugh at Tesla’s “Betamax” Supercharger network.

Furthermore: CCS is required by law in the EU, and Tesla committed to CCS in the EU. They are converting their EU Superchargers to CCS, and the EU version of the Model 3 uses a CCS connector without a dongle. I’d happily convert my Model 3 to J-1227 + CCS, and only have to use a dongle for the older Superchargers without CCS.

The automatic windshield wipers work very poorly and are a safety hazard. I honestly don’t understand this. My automatic windshield wipers work flawlessly in my other car. Windshield wipers are a safety feature, yet overriding the automatic windshield wipers is dangerous in the Model 3 because it must be done via the touchscreen instead of by touch on a stalk behind the steering wheel.

When I brought the car in for service, they (Tesla Service) refused to fix the problem with the windshield wipers. Tesla needs to do fix its automatic windshield wipers, even if it has to use a different mechanism for detecting when to run the wipers.

(I suspect the problem is that the windshield wipers are triggered by a video camera placed at the top of the windshield. Less water lands where the camera is, then on the rest of the windshield.)

The glass roof is a poor compromise and horrible execution. There is no pushbutton shade that is common in other luxury cars, instead, the shade is manually installed, which is an extremely awkward process. When I want the true sunroof experience, the glass roof is too tinted to really enjoy. There are some ways to fix this:

  • Make the glass roof completely optional. Perhaps the car will be cheaper, and lighter with a metal roof?
  • Include a power / pushbutton shade
  • Make tinting optional

The car needs a small speedometer in the normal location. Volkswagon’s ID3 concept car, and the Mustang Mach E do this perfectly. Both Ford and Volkswagon copied the large center screen and low dash from the Model 3, and then placed a mobile phone sized display where the traditional speedometer goes.

My phone disconnects from the car when I start driving, requiring that I manually reconnect it. Like the automatic windshield wipers, Tesla Service refuses to fix this problem.

The trunk is very high, resulting in poor visibility out the rear window. Tesla allows viewing through the giant backup camera screen while driving, but the picture is too distorted to clearly see what kind of car is following you.

Advanced autopilot features, like lane change and navigate on Autopilot, are extremely glitchy. At times, autopilot lane change swerves like a drunk driver. When driving with autopilot, the driver really must pay close attention and be ready to take over at any time.

Autopilot needs active driver monitoring, because it is too easy to get distracted by a phone or scenery, or fall asleep. In a normal car, when a driver gets distracted, the gradual drifting onto lane bumps and rumble strips act as a gentle reminder to pay attention. Autopilot rarely never hits a rumble strip or lane bumps.

Autopilot works poorly on winter roads that splash up lots of dirt and muck onto the car.

In my subjective judgement, the turning radius is larger than other cars I’ve owned.

What do avoid when building a Tesla Killer

When I think of a Tesla Killer, it’s not a “better Tesla,” it’s an entire lineup of electric cars that have wider mass market appeal than Tesla’s lineup. A “Tesla Killer” requires understanding what the general consumer wants in a car, thus beating Tesla on the entire car, not on a specific detail. Your entire electric car lineup needs to be on-par with every advantage that a Tesla has, and then improve over all of Tesla’s quirks. Only then will you have a true Tesla Killer.

Don’t get sidetracked by trying to build a car that’s faster than the Tesla. I very rarely drive the car as fast as it can go, and something that’s 90% as fast is still fast enough for me. Remember, most people don’t set out to buy the fastest car they can buy. If your car is faster then the Tesla, but overall sucks, no one is going to buy it.

Another critical thing, when building a Tesla Killer, is to make sure your electric car offers at least 250 miles of range. Yes, the average American might only drive 20-30 miles a day, but the average American also buys cars to take on long road trips. Short range electric cars were a minimum viable product for enthusiasts and early adopters. I suspect that there is a market for cars with less than 250 miles of range, but they may be such a niche that they are only economically viable as the base model.

Some people passionately argue that the average person drives about 30 miles a day, and thus doesn’t need an electric car with a lot of range. This is a poor understanding of how people use cars. The market spoke very loudly, and short range electric cars do not sell. (Look at how the Leaf lost marketshare to the Bolt and entry-level Model 3.) A successful electric car must offer a minimum of 250 miles of range. At this point, there are no model lineups that variants above and below 250 miles of range. Offering both a normal (250 miles) range, and a low (125 miles) range version of an electric car might make the appealing to fleet use.

Do not pretend that a plugin hybrid, range extender, or a hydrogen car is an electric car. It means that you fundamentally misunderstand the advantages of an electric car, and why people buy them. At this point, I see buying fuel, and oil changes, as an outdated chore. This is no different than changing tubes in old TVs, or buying CDs instead of streaming music.

In the EV world, I wake up with a full charge, or get a full charge on a road trip when I stop for a meal or bathroom break. If I need to, I’ll charge while on an errand, like buying groceries, or in the parking lot at a destination. Gasoline or hydrogen mean that I still need to go out of my way to buy fuel. It’s only a matter of time before the general public understands charging while parked is easier than buying fuel at a filling station.

Furthermore, if you want to beat Tesla, you will need to do a better job at educating the general public about things like charging while buying groceries instead of making a separate stop to buy gas.

(In the US) Don’t make me put up with a traditional auto dealer. Everyone knows the American dealer system is just supports useless middlemen who don’t add any value. (The arguments about comparison shopping among multiple dealers for the same manufacturer are absurd.)

Worth noting: A complicated entertainment system won’t make me switch from Tesla. My other car has a very nice entertainment system, but it’s so glitchy I wish I just bought my kids tablets.

In Summary

In Summary, the Tesla Model 3 is one of the best cars on the market today. Because of its drivetrain, the Tesla Model 3 sets the bar high for electric vehicles. The way to beat the car is to be on-par with its drivetrain and general ease-of-use; and then improve on its numerous quirks. A quick, well-handling electric car that also has a standard charger, correctly functioning windshield wipers, normal roof, and a normal speedometer will stand out in this new market.