MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Tesla's New Base Model S 70D Is a Bargain
All things considered, even at $76,200USD, this reviewer considers the 70D a 'bargain' well worth the extra $5,000 Tesla added to the base sticker price.
EV Worldwire 16 Apr 2015
"Given that the new car also has improved performance, a longer driving range, and extra standard features, the 70D's price tag is actually a bargain," writes Automobile magazine in its review of Tesla's new entry level replacement for the S 60.
How improved, you ask? Those ten extra kilowatt hours energy storage comfortably makes the 70D a 200+ mile range EV. Where the 2014 S 60 was rated at 208 miles of range, the 70D now promises 240. Acceleration, courtesy of its dual front and rear electric motors, rated at 329 hp, is a brisk 5.4 seconds, 5/10th of a second quicker than the S 60. Top speed has also be upped from 120 mph to 140 mph: either way, that's serious speeding citation country.
For this you'll pay an extra $5K over the model it's replacing. The new base sticker price is now $76,200USD. As Automobile points out, you'd pay that extra five grand just for the daul motor option.
Interestingly, there may be some very brilliant strategizing behind this move on Tesla's part, as Siddharth Dalal conjectures on Seeking Alpha. In an article entitled, "Genius Of The Tesla 70D: Sell More Cars, Use Fewer Batteries," he theorizes that Tesla's decision to terminate the 60kWh model, replacing it with the 70D actually allows them to free up more batteries for use in either more cars or in even more profitable home energy storage units sold by Solar City.
Dalal reasons that buyers who might have opted for the 85kWh model may decide that the added range and performance of the 70 over the 60 meets their needs and at a lower price point. He developed a table to show how shifting percentages of buyers impact battery availability. The more buyers shift to the 70, the more batteries become available for other models or uses. Additionally, the Model X will likely use the same 70kWh pack so that it can stay above Tesla's self-imposed minimum range of 200 miles per charge for all its models.
The Model S 70D is available now for order, assuming, of course, you're in the top 10 percent of income earners.
Defying the Law: Minnesota Tesla Owners Offer Test Drives In Iowa
Tesla owners from Minnesota are voluntarily offering test drive in Iowa after that state's car dealers compelled the DOT to shut down the last day of test drives.
Business Insider 29 Oct 2014
Suppose auto dealers in a neighboring state pressured their DoT to make Tesla Motors stop giving test drives of its Model S electric car--the same kind it now offers in more than a dozen other states.
What would you do?
If you were you a group of Tesla owners in Minnesota, you might just take matters into your own hands.
You might, in fact, drive your cars to Iowa to offer test drives to interested buyers.
And that's exactly what Tesla owners from Minnesota did this past weekend: They drove south down Interstate 35 to Urbandale, Iowa, just outside Des Moines.
The volunteer-run test drive event was a response to the state's dealers success last month in getting the state Department of Transportation to shut down the last day of a Tesla demonstration drive.
Tesla owner and volunteer Eric Jackson of Hastings, Minnesota, explains the impetus for this weekend's event:
"A group of passionate Tesla owners from Minnesota who heard that their Iowa neighbors were being denied the chance to experience the [Model S] due to the DMV's interpretation of laws that shield auto dealers from competition," he wrote, "are opening up their doors and letting you hop inside their own Tesla vehicles."
Jackson set out from home early Saturday morning with a group of several other Tesla drivers.
In Urbandale, they were joined by local electric-car enthusiasts who brought their own vehicles, including a handful of converted and homebrew cars.
"This isn't us fighting anything," says Joseph, a local Tesla owner, in a video report by station KCCI 8 in Des Moines.
"I think everyone here understands that this is really just about sharing new technology. I mean, this to me looks just like any other car rally except for the lack of sound and smell."
Crowd reaction was largely positive, according to both Jackson and the video news report.
Iowan Dale Boom applauded the effort: "It's unreal. I think it's a good thing that they're doing it ... get it out there a little bit more."
The news report concludes by noting that Arizona, Maryland, and Texas have also banned Tesla events and sales--but points out that Iowa residents can still buy a Tesla online.
What it doesn't explicitly say is that, like Texans living under a similar ban, they'll have to take delivery of their cars outside Iowa borders before registering them in their home state.
What led Jackson and his compatriots to give up their weekend and undertake this journey?
"The dealer business model is archaic and is not in the best interest of the consumer," he wrote to Green Car Reports.
"Tesla's direct sales business model is a game changer in the auto industry, and will forever change how we all purchase our vehicles."
And, he concludes, presumably to car dealers in Iowa and elsewhere: "Welcome to the 21st Century."
Tesla's New P85D Model S Sports 'Staggering' 691 HP Electric Drive
The top-of-the-line P85D version of the the Model S retains its 470-hp rear motor and adds a 221-horse front motor, giving 0-60 mpg acceleration of 3.2 seconds.
Car and Driver 16 Oct 2014
Tesla's Model S is certainly a unique product in the luxury-sedan space, but it still competes against like-size four-doors that offer four-wheel drive. With the new D option—which stands for Dual Motor—every Model S gets the option of all-wheel drive. The D system will also be in the upcoming Model X crossover that is promised for sale early next year.
Adding front-wheel traction requires adding an electric motor to the front axle. That motor sends power to the front wheels as needed and in concert with the rear-located motor. In the top-of-the-line P85D version, the Model S retains its 470-hp rear motor and adds a 221-horse front motor. Power goes from today’s 470 horsepower to a staggering 691 combined horsepower and 687 lb-ft of torque. Tesla says the additional traction will enable the P85D to whiz from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds. We rode along and found the acceleration positively shocking, even though we were expecting and ready for it. Top speed rises from a governed 130 mph to an equally governed 155 mph.
On the P85, getting D’d costs $14,600 and includes the Technology package, air suspension, and 21-inch wheels; deliveries of this model will begin in December. With the D package, Tesla’s claimed range at 65 mph is reduced by 10 miles, to 275 miles. The extra motor and equipment add about 290 pounds, for a curb weight of 4936 pounds. Tesla claims that the extra mass is largely offset by being able to spread the power-efficiency curve across the two motors.
The Model S 85 and 60 also get the option of four-wheel drive, but in those models the D version gets a different rear motor. The 85D and 60D both pack front motors and less powerful rear motors each good for 188 horsepower; combined output is then 376 horsepower. Rear-drive versions of the 60 and 85 have 370 horsepower for 2015. Tesla claims the 60D and the 85D will cut 0-to-60 times by 0.2 second, to 5.7 and 5.2. Top speed goes from 120 mph to 125 in the 60, while the 85 now tops out at 155 mph, up from 125. And despite the extra acceleration and a 176-pound weight gain, the dual-motor setup increases range in the 60D and 85D by 10 miles thanks to the aforementioned efficiency gains of the two motors. Selecting D will be a $4000 stand-alone option on the 60 and the 85; customers can expect to receive these cars next February.
Tesla also showed off its new Autopilot equipment, which is now included in the Technology bundle. Already part of the production process for cars built in the past two weeks, the system incorporates a collision-warning system, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and dynamic cruise control. Like many competitive systems, Autopilot can control the speed of the car and will even keep it within the lane of traffic. Unlike some other systems, the Model S will be able to read speed-limit signs and adjust the set cruise speed accordingly, and it can also automatically change lanes without driver intervention if you signal with the cruise set. The system is a major step toward total vehicle autonomy, something that CEO Elon Musk now sees happening in the next five to six years.
Tesla's New Dual-Motor Model S Will Upend Your Electric Car Expectations
In addition to its awesome driving performance, it is also "revolutionary for non-performance reasons."
Think Progress 16 Oct 2014
Tesla unveiled an all-wheel drive version of its Model-S on Thursday. The new car is an improvement over the two-wheel-drive version in almost every way, with increased efficiency, range, acceleration, top speed, and a slew of futuristic auto-pilot features.
Until now, all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles were less efficient and slower than rear-wheel drives due to the added mass of a second motor. This is not the case for the new Model S’s dual motor system, which makes for a more efficient and powerful car than its two-wheel-drive predecessor. While many Tesla owners currently reside in warm weather states, the ability to power all four wheels is likely to expand Tesla’s customer base to the snowy East and Midwest.
Remarkably, the added power does not mean a shorter range. In fact, the efficiency of the digital dual motor system guarantees both a higher speed and a longer driving distance. “The D”, as Tesla CEO Ellon Musk called it, can drive for 275 miles on a single charge, 10 miles more than its single-motor cousin. It also has significantly more acceleration. Musk said his goal was to meet the acceleration of the iconic Maclaren F1. The new Model-S meets this target, going from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds, with a top speed of 155 miles per hour, 35 miles faster than its predecessor. The car will reportedly have three option settings: normal, sport, and insane. In the unveiling ceremony Musk equated it to “having your own personal roller-coaster.”
Tesla’s digital dual motor system responds much faster than regular mechanical dual motor systems, adjusting power from the front to rear at a millisecond rate. The result is that the car always functions at the highest efficiency point, canceling out the mass of the additional motor.
The new model is also revolutionary for non-performance reasons. A front-facing camera recognizes stop signs, speed limits, and traffic lights, directing the car to respond accordingly. The car will also have 360-degree awareness of the world around it, which not only allows it to respond to obstacles, but also self-drive, to a limited extent. Musk says it will self-parallel-park and change lanes safely when turn signals are activated. Model S owners will be able to leave the car when they get home, and have it park itself in their garage. They will also be able to summon the car, as long as they do it on private property.
This marks a new chapter in Tesla’s effort to break the stigma that electric cars are slow and impractical. The Palo Alto-based company will also be releasing its first SUV, the Model X, in 2015.
The Key Features of Tesla's P85D Model S Electric Car
Christopher Morris lists everything you need to know about the Tesla Model S dual-drive P85D.
Valuewalk 16 Oct 2014
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been expected to reveal the details of some new vehicles for quite some time. Top of the priority list from the electric car manufacturer is the almost mythical Tesla Model D. No-one was quite certain what the D even stood for, we now know a great deal more about this important electric vehicle.
The CEO of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), Elon Musk, appeared at a special event on Thursday, at Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles, and Musk put an end to the mystery of the D by confirming that it stands for ‘dual’, as in dual-motor. This particular feature of the vehicle will enable it to reach pretty impressive speeds, but there was a large amount of other information disseminated during the LA event.
Musk is known to be one of the more charismatic and extroverted CEOs out there, and he certainly wasn’t pulling any punches when describing the capabilities of the vehicle. Musk was quoted as stating at the announcement event that “this car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck. It’s just bananas.” He also likened the Model D to a “personal roller coaster”, indicating that the acceleration it produces is “intense”. Can the vehicle live up to such hyperbole?
Well, what can be said objectively for starters is that the Tesla Model D has been fitted with an extremely powerful engine. The appearance of the vehicle is strikingly similar to the previously released Model S, but this particular electric car certainly packs punch in the power department. The powerful dual-motor engine included in the vehicle enables the Model D to accelerate from 0-60 mph in a mere 3.2 seconds. This is significantly faster than its cousin the Model S. It can also reach speeds of around 155 mph (250 kmh), an increase of 25 mph (40 kmh) from previous vehicles.
In short, this is the fastest car that Tesla has ever produced, and in fact one of the fastest sedan vehicles that has ever been manufactured. To put its acceleration incapabilities into perspective, it has been asserted that it is superior to a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 in this department; a very impressive technical achievement.
Tesla has also ensured that the Model D is loaded with safety features as well as power. There are a raft of innovative features included in the vehicle intended to ensure that all drivers and passengers have added protection while riding in it.
Thus, the Tesla Model D will include a radar which enables the vehicle to see through fog and snow, an image recognition camera which is capable of seeing and understanding traffic signs, lights and pedestrians, and a full 360-degree ultrasonic sonar system. Additionally, the Tesla Model D is an extremely intelligent vehicle, and incorporates a smart system which is able to combine all information is received from sensors with real-time GPS, navigation and traffic systems. This makes the Tesla Model be a particularly safe car to drive, but also an intuitive one.
However, impressive though the safety features are, unquestionably the standout function of the car is its autopilot capability. According to Musk, this feature will also be included in future Model S vehicles from Tesla, but the Model D is effectively the prototype for this revolutionary function.
Tesla Model D
The car is, of course, not yet ready to pilot itself on open roads. Not only is the system included in the vehicle unable to do that at present, but also regulations will not allow this. However, the autopilot does do some pretty impressive things. Tesla themselves have dubbed this feature the Model ’s brain, and it is not too fanciful to suggest this.
Radar and Sensors
The autopilot system utilizes a forward-mounted radar, along with a camera and system of twelve sensors. This gives the vehicle a sight range of 16 feet, and the overarching autopilot system is connected to steering, brakes and GPS. The intention is to improve safety, but also to enhance driver experience.
As a result of all this impressive technology, the car is able to detect and avoid pedestrians and will also brake the vehicle in order to avoid collisions with vehicles in front of you. According to Musk, the Model D is capable of sensing small children or dogs even when driven at its fastest speed.
Additionally, when the driver initiates a turn signal, the car is capable of changing lanes of its own volition, while if the driver is drifting outside of his or her lane of traffic, the Model D autopilot will automatically steer the vehicle back to the straight and narrow. Finally, the sensors in the Model D are capable of reading speed limit signs, and adjusting the vehicle accordingly.
The Model D possesses an extremely impressive skill set, even if for the old-fashioned among us it may seem slightly surreal!
Aside from the autopilot features, Model D drivers who don’t relish parallel parking and the three-point turn can confine parking to the past. If you get out of the Model D car in front of your own home, the vehicle will automatically pull in all on its own.
Aside from all of the impressive features already discussed, the Model D also boasts a longer battery life. The vehicle will go ten miles further on a single charge than previous vehicles, owing its four-wheel drive setup.
Price and Release Date
The Tesla Model D will go on sale in December, with the most expensive P85D Model casting just over $120,000. More affordable 60kWh and 85kWh battery models will follow in February next year, with prices starting at $75,070 for the 60D and $85,070 for the 85D. If the vehicle is as good as it sounds and receives good reviews then Tesla may be well on its way to releasing the most successful vehicle in its history.
Elon Musk's 'Something Else' Is Autopilot System
Tesla Motor's website crashed last night as the world tried to get in on the live feed announcing two new developments at the electric car maker. Here's what we know this morning.
EV Worldwire 10 Oct 2014
Last night, Tesla Motor's web site crashed! Apparently it couldn't handle the traffic of people wanting to find out what the company was planning to announce during prime time on the U.S. West Coast. It's back up this morning, but not much more illuminating that the live Twitter feed The Street.com provided while covering the live event in Hawthorne, California.
Once Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, arrived -- fashionable late I gather from the Twitter feed -- we learned that the 'D' in his tweet a week ago is as was suspected: a new dual-drive system that incorporates both front and rear electric motors, effectively giving the car all-wheel drive (AWD). Previous Model S's offered only rear-wheel drive. Adding the second motor in the front should improve the car's handling with a better fore-and-aft weight distribution. It likely also will improve frontal zone crash survivability - not that anyone yet has been killed in a Model S despite being involved in some truly horrific accidents. The cars are that well engineered. Last year NHTSA gave it a five star crash rating.
The all-wheel drive option also should appeal to drivers in regions with snow-packed and icy roads, giving them better road-gripping capability. The AWD option will be available starting in February 2015, according to the website.
Musk's "and something else" tweet turns out to be Tesla's evolving Autopilot system. Again, there's not a lot of information available at this point other than it combines a forward looking camera, radar and 360 degree ultrasonic sensors, as illustrated by the screen captured image below.
From a vague caption on the company website, it sounds like the system isn't fully capable of automated driving just yet. To quote:
"Progressive software updates over time will enable sophisticated convenience and safety features that use these sensors to respond to real world conditions. These features will ultimately give Model S Autopilot capability on the highway from on-ramp to off-ramp."
In effect, what this sounds like is Tesla is going to use its customer's cars as its autopilot test fleet, collecting data from cars with the system installed and using it to gradually improve its reliability through a steady stream of software changes and upgrades. It's an interesting approach, if that's what is planned. I am not sure how the Feds or insurance companies will view it. Time will tell.
And what's all this exciting new technology going to cost? Sorry, but no pricing information was available at the time of publication, at least not that was obvious.
Tesla's Future Said to be 'Charged with Uncertainty'
Morningstar senior analyst David Whiston thinks the fate of Tesla is closely linked to the future of Elon Musk.
Morningstar.com 24 Sep 2014
Tesla Motors (TSLA) has the momentum and charging infrastructure to be the dominant electric vehicle firm, but we do not see it having mass-market volume for at least another decade. Tesla's product plans for now do not mean an EV for every consumer who wants one, because the price points are too high. We think the Model X crossover due in 2015 will start somewhere between $55,000 and $70,000, but will average higher as consumers add options. The Model 3 sedan will start at about $35,000, according to an interview with CEO Elon Musk earlier this year, and will start selling in 2017 or 2018. This price is before any tax credits, but the $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit only applies to the first 200,000 vehicles Tesla produces starting Jan. 1, 2010.
Tesla has said that when its gigafactory--a lithium-ion battery plant under construction in Nevada--is fully operational by 2020, it will be able to produce 500,000 vehicles a year at its sole assembly plant in Fremont, California. Without the gigafactory, Musk said on the July earnings call that the firm can make 200,000 vehicles "if you really push it." Even if demand exists for these vehicles, this quantity is quite small relative to total global auto production, which is likely to reach 100 million units in the next few years. Therefore, we think global mass adoption of pure electric vehicles is still a long way off. In the meantime, Tesla will have growing pains and perhaps more than one or two recessions to fight through before reaching mass-market volume. Even if industry forecasts of sub-1% market share for EVs prove far too conservative, it is important to keep the hype about Tesla in perspective relative to the company's very limited production capacity. Tesla's mission is to make EVs increasingly more affordable in order to bring electric mobility to the world, which means more assembly plants must come on line to achieve annual unit delivery volume in the millions. This expansion will cost billions a year in capital spending and research and development and will need to be done even during downturns in the economic cycle.
Growth Runway Lucrative, but Value Destruction Possible
We do not see an economic moat yet because Tesla is still early in its life cycle. This dynamic creates huge uncertainty as to whether the firm will succeed in continuing to make great product at an affordable price and whether enough consumers will make the switch from internal combustion engine and hybrid vehicles. There is evidence suggesting Tesla will succeed, but if not, Tesla will remain an automaker for the wealthy. In a January Automotive News interview, Musk said in regard to Tesla making it, "I think we will, but this is not a bold assertion we unequivocally will. There is a possibility we may not."
Tesla's growth runway looks very lucrative, but this growth also requires constant substantial reinvestment in platforms, the gigafactory--for which Tesla is only spending about 40% of the cost while suppliers pay the rest--and annual assembly capacity, since the current plant in Fremont will eventually be limited to about 500,000 units. During this growth phase there will almost certainly be a recession or two. In times of economic uncertainty, it is difficult to say what Tesla's sales volume will be or what access, if any, the firm will have to capital markets.
For a narrow moat rating, a company must have excess normalized returns more likely than not be positive 10 years from today, and there must not be any substantial threat of major value destruction. All three of our valuation scenarios have returns on invested capital good enough for a moat, with the metric averaging above our weighted average cost of capital of 9.5%, but we also see risk of major value destruction should EV adoption flop or occur much slower than any of our three 10-year forecast periods assume. For that reason, we wait for now to award Tesla a moat, but we see a positive moat trend as a result of the strengthening of the firm's brand and its cost structure.
Although we stress the uncertainty in investing in Tesla today, the company's competitive position is better than some may expect from a tech startup that makes automobiles. Looking at our five moat sources, we see a case for brand (intangibles) and cost advantage as sources of a moat in the future. Some may argue for efficient scale, claiming that Tesla is the dominant pure EV firm. Although Tesla's long range gives it a huge advantage over pure EVs on the market (265 miles EPA range for the 85 kWh battery versus 84 miles for the Nissan LEAF and 76 miles for the Ford Focus), we consider Tesla's competition to be the entire auto industry rather than just EVs. There are far too many automakers all over the world for us to claim that Tesla's market is effectively served by a small number of players.
Musk's own words do not support efficient scale. He wrote in a June 12 blog post announcing that Tesla would not sue companies that use its patented technology in good faith: "Given that annual new-vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world's factories every day."
Outlook Uncertain for Electric Vehicles
Investing in Tesla comes with tremendous uncertainties due to the future of electric vehicles and energy storage. Until the Model 3 goes on sale, there is no way to know for sure if consumers in large volume are willing to switch to an EV and deal with range anxiety and longer charging times compared with using a gas station. Tesla is fighting a state-by-state battle to keep its stores factory-owned rather than franchised, which raises legal risk for Tesla and could one day stall growth. The energy storage market for solar does not exist today, so there is very high uncertainty as to whether Tesla's plans will succeed. If the company's growth ever stalls or reverses, we would expect a severe decline in the stock price because current expectations for Tesla are immense, in our opinion. With a young, growing company, there is always more risk of diluting shareholders or taking on too much debt to fund growth. Tesla also has customer concentration risk, with the U.S., Norway, and China constituting about 77% of first-half 2014 revenue.
We see Tesla's fate closely linked to Musk's actions, so should he leave the company we would not be surprised to see the stock fall dramatically. Also, Musk has more than 10 million Tesla shares as collateral for personal debt. Selling this block of shares quickly would cause a rapid fall in Tesla's stock price. Musk has also said that Tesla's stock price looks high and the short-term outlook on it is not clear. Given the many uncertainties regarding investing in Tesla today, our fair value uncertainty rating will remain very high for some time.
The Future of Electric Cars From a Tesla Short-Seller's Perspective
Sean Williams doesn't see any significant uptake of electric cars unless or until range increases, battery costs decline, and infrastructure spreads more widely.
Motley Fool 11 Sep 2014
Life is tough if you're a Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) short-seller. I should know -- I am one.
By all indications, Tesla has the pedal to the metal, and it's presumably leaving all traditional carmakers in its dust and nonexistent fumes. Tesla shares hit an all-time high weeks ago, topping out at a market value of $33 billion shortly after another market-thumping earnings report that saw the company deliver a record 7,579 Model S electric vehicles in the second quarter and earn $16 million in net income on an adjusted basis.
Yet the buzz that provided the ultimate spark that pulled Tesla to a new high last week was an upgrade from Deutsche Bank to buy based on its view that the electric-vehicle manufacturer would hit or exceed 1 million units in annual production by 2025.
This upgrade from Deutsche Bank got me wondering what the auto landscape would look like if other electric vehicle manufacturers were able to grow their production at a 32% compounded annual growth rate as Deutsche Bank's projections have implied for Tesla.
With that in mind, I attempted to calculate what percentage of global market production would belong to EVs by 2025. The results were a bit shocking.
This technological shift may not be as impressive as you think
According to figures from IHS Automotive, global auto sales in 2013 hit 82.84 million, topping the 80 million mark for the first time on record. This represented an increase of 4.2% over the previous year and implies that middle-class consumers in emerging-market economies, as well as in China, are beginning to taste the luxury of owning their own vehicle for the first time.
Since 2010, global auto sales have grown by nearly 10 million, but looking ahead, IHS anticipates that growth from the developing BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- could push worldwide sales over the 100 million mark by 2018. Assuming a global growth rate of 3% through 2025, and 100 million global units sold in 2018, we'd be looking at 123 million autos sold in 2025.
By comparison, global all-electric vehicles (not including hybrids) saw unit sales rise to 111,718 in 2013 based on data from EVObesssion, including a 229% increase in the United States.
Assuming all existing electric-vehicle manufacturers (Tesla, Nissan, General Motors, and so on) grow production at the same compound annual rate Deutsche Bank predicts Tesla will grow its production (i.e., 32%), there would be approximately 3.1 million all-electric vehicles being produced annually by 2025.
Another way to look at this is that just 2.5% of the world's auto production is on pace to be 100% electric by 2025 if all other automakers grow their production capacity in line with Tesla's. Obviously, that's a nice improvement from the 0.13% of the market that all-electric vehicles currently make up based on EVObsession's data, but it's a far cry from the dominance that Wall Street and alternative energy enthusiasts have been lauding from this industry. California, for example, adopted a mandate last year to have 15.4% of all vehicles on its roads by 2025 be EVs.
What's holding EVs back?
The way I see it, EVs have plenty of opportunity to gain market share on traditional gas-powered autos but there are three primary reasons why I suspect they'll only garner a small percentage of global sales.
First, pricing is a big hurdle. Within the U.S. there are a number of tax credits that EV car-buyers benefit from, which they can claim on their tax returns at year's end and which effectively reduce the price of their purchase. However, the truth of the matter is that EVs may not be very affordable when compared to traditional gas-burning vehicles. In many cases, the cost-savings associated with purchasing an EV will only begin to take effect after many years and tens of thousands of miles.
For example, UC Davis in California set up a website allowing users to simulate their commute in an electric vehicle compared to a gas-powered vehicle. This "EV Explorer" project, as EcoWatch noted this month, shows that a 50-mile round-trip commute over the course of a year could save a 2014 Chevy Volt owner about $1,000 in fuel costs compared to driving a gasoline-powered 2014 Ford Focus. However, the base model price for the 2014 Ford Focus is less than $17,000, while the base model 2014 Chevy Volt will set consumers back more than $34,000. In this hypothetical scenario, it'd take the Volt owner more than 17 years to recoup the added costs of buying an EV.
In other words, unless you plan to hold on to the vehicle for a long period of time, an EV may not make sense.
More along the same lines, even if an electric-vehicle buyer hits the point at which the costs to charge their vehicle versus filling up at the pump sways in favor of buying an EV, the costs to replace a battery cell in today's EVs often runs in the thousands of dollars.
Nissan, for instance, suggests that owners of its Leaf will have about 80% of their battery capacity left after five years and 70% after 10 years. The cost to replace the battery core, and retrofit a previous-model Leaf when that time comes, is about $5,500, the same cost as replacing an engine in a number of comparable gas-powered small cars.. Of course, I'd be misleading you if I didn't mention that things like oil and fluid changes in a traditional engine cost money, too; though few repairs appear ready to wallop consumers in one lump sum as much as an EV battery cell replacement.
Driving radius constraints
Secondly, it's an issue of driving radius. With improved gas- and diesel-engine technology, it's not uncommon for gas- or diesel-powered vehicles to get upward of 30, 40, or close to 50 MPG. By comparison, electric vehicles achieve an MPG-equivalent of between 76 and 121 based on EPA fuel economy estimates found on the Department of Energy's website. However, EVs rarely have the capability to go too far outside of a given mileage radius.
The Tesla Model S is the benchmark for driving range, with its 85 kWH pack allowing the user on a full charge to drive 265 miles, according to EPA ratings. This is one of the primary reasons the Model S has sold well despite its blistering $70,000-plus price tag. Other all-EV automakers boast considerably weaker driving ranges, just 62 miles in the case of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and 84 miles for the Nissan Leaf, which make them practical only for city-limit driving. That is, of course, unless EV infrastructure becomes widespread enough to make any talk of mileage ranges obsolete.
Where's the EV infrastructure?
Finally, EV infrastructure is a big problem. The world today caters to gas-powered vehicles. Rolling out charging stations and making plug-ins accessible outside a person's home is an enormous expense to undertake. We're slowly seeing it occur in some of the most advanced countries of the world, such as the U.S. and throughout Western Europe. However, emerging market economies, where auto growth is expected to soar in the coming decade, aren't as equipped to implement EV infrastructure.
Even within the United States, the infrastructure to support EVs is thin. Tesla is trying to change this by building a nationwide Supercharger network that'd allow an owner to get half a charge on their battery pack within 20 minutes. The other option is merely a battery swap for a price that'd be similar to that of filling up your car with a tank of fuel at the gas station. But as of mid-August, just 106 of these stations existed throughout the entire U.S. Not to mention, plug-ins can be difficult to come by for people who live in apartments or condos, effectively removing these consumers as potential buyers.
Reality, meet perception
I'd suggest the lesson both for investors looking to take advantage of the coming EV boom and for consumers who expect alternative-energy vehicles to rule the road sooner rather than later is to keep your expectations well in check. Until we see marked improvements in battery capacity to increase driving range, battery production to make EVs more cost-competitive with gasoline-powered cars, and more geographically diverse EV infrastructure, the likelihood of EVs representing more than a small fraction of the global auto market over the next decade is slim at best.
Sean Williams is short shares of Tesla Motors, but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article.
The Smarter Cars Get, The More Electric Car Buyers Need to Know
Iain Dooley discovers that in the case of high-tech cars like the Tesla Model S, dealerships are going to have spend more time explaining how to get the most from the car.
Times of Malta/Malta 26 Aug 2014
Without wishing to sound smug, I’ve been extremely fortunate of late to have spent some quality time with some very clever cars. Granted, it’s part of the job, but to fully appreciate the various experiences it helps if you’re also genuinely interested in the technology that’s increasingly underpinning the latest crop of new models.
Luckily, I am something of a technology anorak, which makes embracing new concepts and getting the most out of the various experiences easy. But I’ve also come to realise that this new era of progress isn’t going to be a smooth ride for everyone.
Tesla’s Model S electric car is an impressive feat of engineering, but if you already struggle getting the most out of your smartphone, you’re not going to like Tesla’s decision to group access to almost all the car’s controls through an oversize touchscreen.
You’re in a similar boat with the increasing number of electric and hybrid cars offering remote monitoring via a smartphone app. If you opt for such a car, there’s a chance you’re reasonably switched on, but the fact remains that modern car ownership is no longer a case of simply getting in and driving away – certainly if you want to fully exploit a car’s many features.
This is where the handover process at the dealership becomes increasingly important. No longer a 10-minute job, having talked to a few people familiar with the process, it can now take a few hours depending on the new owner’s level of interest and underlying knowledge.
But what about the process leading up to that marathon session at the dealership? Buying a new car should never be taken lightly, and while lengthy advice used to centre on securing the best financing deal, it now focuses on the best hybrid power system to best suit your commuting needs.
Should you choose pure electric, petrol-electric or diesel electric or an electric car with a range extender? If you need those descriptions deciphered, then maybe an eco-car isn’t for you…
Even if you do know what I’m talking about, a heavy session with a calculator is still required to determine the most cost-effective choice for your particular lifestyle.
And while a mechanical engineering degree isn’t essential, a modest understanding of the basic technology is recommended, at least so you can understand the limitations of the different power options.
Long, varied journeys don’t suit many pure electric cars, while you might find that you don’t fully exploit the potential of a plug-in hybrid purchase if you fail to take into account the shortcomings of the technology.
The current crop of hi-tech hybrids still form a very small number of the cars on sale today, but their numbers will grow as increasingly lower emissions are demanded by law makers.
With the march of technology, it’s clear that cars are becoming more like the smartphone in our pockets: indispensible, expensive to repair, packed with features that only a fraction will be used by their owners.
I’ll let you decide if this is progress or not.
Consumer Reports' Tesla Model S Raises Reliability Concerns After 16,000 Miles
Over the course of a year and some 15,700+ miles of driving, Tesla technicians had to make a number of hardware and software repairs and replacements to CR's Model S test vehicle.
Consumer Reports 13 Aug 2014
A revolutionary car from an innovative automaker, the Tesla Model S has garnered much attention for its accomplishments as a ground-breaking, 21st-century car. For its impressive performance in our tests, strong safety marks, and decent reliability so far, the Model S earned Consumer Reports’ recommendation. But over the last 15,743 miles, our test car has developed many minor problems that merit some reflection.
Our car has now been driven at some length by many staff members, many of whom aren’t involved in car testing. Car nut or not, EV fan or not, everyone has raved about this car, impressed with its smoothness, effortless glide, and clever, elegant simplicity. In that time, it’s also displayed a few quirks—some unique to Tesla. For instance, we had a problem with the automatic-retracting door handles, which were occasionally reluctant to emerge from the coachwork so we could open the driver’s door. Tesla fixed that with an over-the-air programming update beamed to the car.
One of the cool things about this car is that when it does need to be serviced by a mechanic, a company rep comes with a trailer and picks it up, delivering it back when the work is done—all free. Ordinary customers get a loaner, but with a fleet of test cars at our disposal, we forgo that privilege.
Just before the car went in for its annual service, at a little over 12,000 miles, the center screen went blank, eliminating access to just about every function of the car, including popping open the charge port. The shop, a newly opened service center in Milford, Conn., performed a “hard reset” that restored the car’s functions. It also fixed a creak emanating from the passenger side roof-pillar area, disassembling and refitting some trim panels.
While it was at it, the shop took care of some additional odds and ends, all covered by warranty. One of the buckles for the third row had broken. The shop simply replaced the whole third row with a new, upgraded version. It also replaced the front bumper carrier hardware. On its own initiative, the shop replaced our 12-volt battery, the HVAC filter housing, and the powertrain battery’s coolant pump.
The maintenance service, done at the same time, includes topping off fluids, cabin filter replacement, key fob batteries, and a tire rotation. All told, we paid $636.90 with tax.
Then at about 15,700 miles, we found that the front trunk lid wasn’t responding to the release, which is a virtual button on the central screen. We also had the Tesla-supplied adapter for non-Tesla EV chargers come apart. This had no safety implications, because the exposed high-voltage prongs aren’t energized without a successful “handshake” between the charger and the car. Again, the car went in to the service center for two days and got its front trunk latch replaced, a new charging adapter was thrown in, and the latest firmware 5.12 was downloaded. Unlike other ones, this update actually was not sent over the air. Since everything here fell under warranty, we weren’t charged at all for this visit.
Based on last year’s big auto-reliability survey, we gave the Tesla Model S a score of average, based on input from 637 owners of 2012 and 2013 models. By September, Consumer Reports will be analyzing this year’s reliability survey, which will also include the 2014 models. It will be interesting to see how the Model S will score after we tabulate the new data.
Given the number of bits and pieces Tesla has replaced on our car, it might be tempting to guess that its reliability score will go down. The reality is, it might—depending on the frequency and severity of problems reported by our subscribers and whether they show that reliability is below average.
Bear in mind that the experiences with our test cars are purely anecdotal and never factor into our reliability ratings. After all, it's a sample size of one.
Along with the rest of the motoring world, we anxiously await the conclusions of our latest reliability analysis due this fall.
SHOOTOUT: Porsche Panamera SE Hybrid Versus Tesla Model S
Hybrid Cars.com compares the equally expensive Porsche Panamera SE electric hybrid to Tesla's award-winning Model S and concludes that it really is an apple v. orange problem.
Hybrid Cars 11 Aug 2014
Unlike misbegotten comparos between barely similar plug-in cars pitted together mainly because they run on grid power, a Porsche vs. Tesla shootout is almost valid.
The rear-wheel-driven standard 85-kwh Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid both target similar demographics with comparable curb weight, dimensions, 0-60 time, and glamor. Given one’s an EV, however, and the other a PHEV, they’re otherwise worlds apart.
Therefore this is yet another apple-to-orange matchup. With nary a compromise as endured by lesser EVs, the Model S remains in a category of one and people have noticed.
This year Tesla sold an estimated 9,400 through June in the U.S. versus 544 S E-Hybrids. But not to single out Porsche, the Model S is handily walking all over other German, U.S., and Asian upscale luxury performance sedans in that most important arena: the sales race.
Considering this plus the Model S is a nearly pure expression of a maverick vision, Tesla clearly wins. Or does it? Obviously some disagree and a prominent UK publication this year did name the Porsche the winner.
To each his own. What one prefers could reveal good taste and clear judgment – or biases and misinformation. We’ll not speculate who exhibits what, but will venture to compare as long as it’s understood these cars are as dissimilar as much as they are similar.
Proud German Heritage
Porsche’s S E-Hybrid was the biggest news during last fall’s otherwise subtle mid-cycle refresh for its Panamera line now boasting 10 variants, with the most-dear fetching maybe $300,000 if you go crazy with options.
The $99,000-plus four-seater replaced the Panamera S Hybrid after only two years on the market and got a 9.4-kwh battery, charge port, and doubly sized 95 horsepower, 229-pound-feet electric motor for part-time EV capability.
Blurring the green vision however is a gas engine. In this case, a 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 adds to a total system power of 416 horsepower, 435 pounds-feet torque.
Now that dust has settled from press releases touting the Porsche-with-a-plug’s up to “22 miles” electric range and fuel efficiency up to 84 mpg during a European Porsche-staged mileage contest, federally enforced reality has set in.
The Porsche is EPA rated at 50 MPGe – well below 89 MPGe for Tesla’s 85-kwh Model S, and the 60-kwh version’s 98 MPGe. It’s also less than the 37-mile-range Cadillac ELR’s 82 MPGe. Porsche’s EPA-estimated electric range is 15 miles, or 16 “Elec+Gas.”
In regular hybrid mode, once battery capacity one-ninth that of the Tesla 85's runs out, the S E-Hybrid is rated at 25 mpg combined – respectable for a 4,600-4,900 pound car, but not astonishing.
Proud American Mold Breaker
The Model S we review here with thanks to its owner is not the quickest P85+, but rather the regular 85 kwh.
The approximately 4,800-pound car is rated at 362 horsepower (270 kwh) from 6,000-9,500 rpm. Torque is 325 pounds-feet (440 Nm) – less than the Porsche, but full torque is from 0-5,800 rpm.
Its floor-mounted battery centers the weight low, and can take advantage of a growing free-access Supercharger network to complement its 265-mile-range.
Outside and in the Model S is simplicity exemplified. It seats five adults and optionally two more kids in rear-facing jump seats. The clean-sheet design is a thesis statement in space utilization.
And so far the formula is working for the gas-free gambit from a company with a point to prove. Not hurting things is the cult of personality surrounding the every day hip billionaire Elon Musk who’s crusading to benefit the world – if not also to make his life story required reading for future history classes into perpetuity.
Tesla’s Model S is actually a range of configurations based on the 60-kwh or 85-kwh battery and costs from $72,000 to low 130s for a packed P85+.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid starts at $99,000, and per Porsche practice, the bottom line engorges at an alarming rate with options.
Cars we sampled were just shy of $90,000 for the Tesla, with base price of $81,070, and the Porsche as equipped was $131,000.
Design-wise, Porsche’s family sedan has upset purists with the elongated profile that borrows the 911's front end, and like many Americans, has grown to bulbous proportions it attempts to hide. Aesthetically, it does have some nice angles, but Porsche fans have said cars like the Panamera and Cayenne SUV help pay for the truly focused drivers’ cars from Stuttgart.
The Model S appropriated design elements from other vehicles to conglomerate a high-end sedan for a start-up with finite funds. Its rear clip is borrowed from a Jaguar XF, but its closed-grille sleekness cuts a 0.24 coefficient of drag and most consider it more attractive, if not a bit generic.
Power-wise, the Model S flicks to 60 in an estimated 5.4 seconds, though some have seen it match the Porsche’s estimated 5.2. Top speed is a different matter. The single-speed Model S is limited to 125 mph for this configuration. The 8-speed Porsche is limited to 167 mph. Tesla likes to tout its simplicity, but it also saved engineering and production costs.
Efficiency wise, Tesla wins 10 out of 10 green car points – and a chocolate macadamia nut cookie from mom, a gold star from the teacher, and a pat on the back from Barack Obama.
On the flip side, some have postulated Porsche – and now Mercedes – has it backwards. As GM has shown with the Volt and ELR, and BMW with the i8, more power could come from the electric motor(s), and the gas engine could be smaller.
Frankly, the powertrain formula Porsche and other plug-in hybrids use do create ostensible bragging rights, but a jaundiced eye could see greenwashed ringers fabricated to ace a test – the EPA’s.
It’s all well and good when the battery is charged, and a zero-emission, zero-mpg electric motor does the heavy lifting. But the finite energy ends too soon, and what you’re left with is a hybrid that gets 25 mpg if used like a Camry, but if used like the Porsche it is, mileage sinks to the low 20s to low teens.
But the Tesla doesn’t run for free either – unless you plug into a Supercharger or solar. And in any case, it can sap efficiency and range if driven like you stole it.
Some have observed the point of having a high-performance sedan is so that it may … highly perform.
Bottom line: either car may be nursed to maximum mileage but hard use wastes energy in the name of fun.
That the Tesla emits nothing and is thriftier with the kilowatts is a huge plus. Additionally, electricity when it is paid for is generally cheaper. The EPA pegs Model S cost per mile at 4.5 cents versus 10.8 cents for the Panamera S E-Hybrid assuming charged battery and averaged fuel pricing, or 15.5 cents if it isn’t charged. Estimated energy costs for 15,000 miles per year are $700 for the Tesla, or $1,900 for the Porsche.
But the Porsche does still costs less to fuel than average internal combustion cars. Considering the demographic these vehicles cater to, the not-insubstantial $100 Teslas save per month might be valued as much for its satisfaction on principle, and buyers of neither car need fear suffering want for all the expense.
Further, aside from the tranny delete, Tesla saves itself money in ways that are not necessarily better. Its simple interior does display what others might call de-contenting, whereas the Porsche packs accoutrements, nice little touches, and does it up right, German style. The Model S doesn’t even so much as come with door pockets or center console, but this is part of Tesla’s contrarian stance. And, Tesla does offer an industry best 17-inch touch screen that controls most functions. Plus, Tesla can download software updates from time to time, so the car can evolve to a point. Pretty clever.
In the final analysis however, the Porsche comes across a step above on the luxury scale, though some may disagree. Undeniable is Porsche builds on a legacy of a company that is tops in its game and no one can accuse it of trying to bluff its way into the big leagues.
If Tesla did not exist, the Panamera S E-Hybrid would be more clearly seen as a pinnacle among alternative tech. Its appeal is primarily a multi-legged stool held up by 1) Porsche’s reputation, 2) much higher performance than a Prius plug-in or Chevy Volt, 4) ability to run over a dozen miles with zero gas, 4) styling and techno-gee-whiz factor, 5) extremely nice build quality, attention to detail (see number 1).
The fact that it sells like a Cadillac ELR has rarely been noticed because, well, it is a Porsche, not a perceived wanna-be as critics say when mercilessly pouncing on the Volt-based ELR – and as some have even said of self-promoting Tesla.
Tesla and others call the whole ownership enchilada the “experience.” This cliché du jour already sounds tired to our ears, but characteristic of trite over-used expressions, it does summarize truth.
In this case, both cars are a pleasure to drive, but in different ways. Both make you feel special; both have a presence to them; both are smooth, comfortable, fast when desired.
The intangible extra Tesla abundantly delivers is the knowledge that it is uses no gasoline, emits no hydrocarbons. It represents a societal movement in the face of the entrenched establishment as much as it is a means of transportation.
When owners feel their purchase is actually symbiotic support of the greater good, their zeal can become passionate among the more noble – or rabid among some.
With empathy for the cause, we’ll observe the Tesla does out-do the Porsche in sustainability, environmental friendliness, energy security, and it paves the way for more-affordable cars as soon as feasible. Further, any luxury carmaker would envy Tesla’s quiet ride interrupted only by wide grippy tires making themselves heard on the tarmac.
What the Porsche offers is zero range anxiety, high performance, comfort, style, part-time EV capability that may be enough for some. And, it barters the fact that this is an established brand that sends cars to Le Mans and many other racing events. Porsche’s heritage is competition, and for decades it’s been in the business of making testicular road dominators with few if any perceived compromises.
That said, ride quality coupled with handling manners are superb for both – considering their heft. Remember. These are family sedans we’re talking about. Yes they preen with sporty intentions, and can back a lot of that posturing up, but race cars they are not.
Our Porsche did come with extra sticky wide upgraded 911-spec tires and wheels. The Model S has a super low center of gravity, and while the battery in the floor is advantageous, it can only work with the laws of physics, not defy them.
From a pure performance car standpoint, both are portly at around 4,800 pounds. They manage their bulk well but probably would make Lotus’ Colin Chapman cringe for the extra 1,500 pounds they carry compared to a real sports car like a Corvette Stingray (or possibly the 3,300-3,400-pound BMW i8).
Further, Teslas pushed on tracks have overheated their batteries, sending them into a sort of limp-home mode. Here, at least the Porsche could at up to 42 mph faster, which may partly explain why Porsche didn’t overly depart from the engine/transmission formula.
In sum, both cars have an element of lifestyle accessory to them. Priced as they are, they’re not bought only to save fuel or the environment. Where they couldn’t be any less alike is Porche represents the old guard. While maybe not an “amphibian,” as Elon Musk calls hybrids, in the eyes of some plug-in enthusiasts it looks like a dinosaur trying not to go extinct.
The Model S by contrast is an all-or-nothing experiment daring the world. No one, however, has ever seen a decade-old Model S. Will it age like Paul Newman – or a classic air-cooled Porsche 911 – or will more issues than have already been discovered here and there begin to crop up?
If you like the Porsche, like who makes it, can live with its finite energy storage, and like that it can run without needing a recharge, it’s not a bad choice. Helping things along is – compared to a Volt or Prius – it’s is a more effective road weapon and a snazzier commuter.
If however you’re attune to what’s trending, and also love what Tesla is all about, clearly it is the winner.
But again, this is apple versus and orange. When someone other than Tesla produces a large all-electric sedan with similar range and performance, that will be the day a truly even comparison to the Model S can be drawn.
In the meantime, the upstart is crushing it in the sales wars and plowing the way for others to follow. This it’s doing while established players regroup, react, and make forward-looking statements to grapple with Tesla’s effrontery, not to mention government mandates that will make everyone clean up sooner or later.
Here's Telsa's Perspective on Its Drive Train Replacement Issue
Daniel Sparks provides some insights into the issue of replacing drive units in the Model S, reporting on Elon Musk's take in the problem.
Motley Fool 11 Aug 2014
Reports from owners of Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA ) Model S were making the rounds a few weeks ago regarding the frequent need to replace drive units. Some investors wondered: Could one of 2013's most decorated cars end up facing a major recall because of the drive unit? Or, worse yet: Is Tesla's reputation on the line?
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk soothed concerns during Tesla's second-quarter earnings call on July 31 when he shared his perspective on the drive unit replacements. Since then, the problem has faded into the past and shares have soared more than 10%. Here is what you need to know about Tesla's drive unit replacements.
Where the concerns started
Concerns about Tesla's drive unit replacements initially began mounting in July, when Edmunds.com detailed a list of problems it had with its Model S, including rapidly wearing tires, a battery that had to be replaced, a broken sunroof, and a drive unit that was replaced a whopping four times. Then, after a user posted the Edmunds story to Tesla's forums, customers began to talk about the issue. Sure enough, other drivers reported needing multiple drive unit swaps, too.
Considering that Tesla boasts a low maintenance profile for its Model S, the company is held to high standards when it comes to maintenance. Tesla has made some bold claims about the maintenance and service profile of its cars, including this excerpt from one of its blog posts:
Model S is by design a low-maintenance vehicle. There are no spark plugs, timing belts or oil filters to replace. Model S will never need a smog check or a typical oil change. In fact, the only oil needing to be changed is in the gearbox, which on average needs replacement once every twelve years.
Model S has at least a thousand fewer moving parts than a traditional car -- no internal combustion engine, no transmission, no mufflers or catalytic converters -- thereby lowering the chances of things breaking down or wearing out. Thanks to regenerative braking, even brake pads will last longer on Model S than on other cars.
But a faulty drive unit could bring into question Tesla's claims about its vehicles having a low maintenance profile. So, it made sense that there was some concern among investors.
Tesla had plenty to say about drive unit problems during the recent earnings call. Fortunately, the added perspective makes the chances of a recall due to the drive unit look incredibly unlikely.
Broadly, Musk acknowledged that "we definitely had some quality control issues in the beginning for the early serial number cars" as we were "basically figuring out how to make the Model S," but he insists that the company has now addressed the vast majority of these issues in current production cars.
With a nod to the drive unit reports, Musk said the frequent replacements have largely been a function of either replacing drive units that didn't need to be replaced because the problem was misdiagnosed, or replacing drive units for the sake of expediency instead of repairing them.
Musk gave an example during the call of early drive unit problems that were misdiagnosed:
And we had one particular case where there was vibration, and it was due to ... a cable detaching itself and touching the drive unit assembly and causing vibration to be transmitted to the body of the car. And it was somewhat pernicious because if the cable moved a little bit and so that it didn't provide a conductive path, then ... the vibration would go away. If you replace the drive unit, you temporarily tuck the cable back and think the problem was solved -- and it was. But then the cable would vibrate itself down and transmit the energy. So, I mean that, you know, the cable thing takes us like -- it's nothing to fix it. It's like, virtually, it's like a $3 cable tie to solve it.
"There are a bunch of things like that," Musk explained during the call. But Tesla says that experience is helping the company get better at diagnosing what's wrong.
Still, "a fair number of drive trains will need to be serviced," Musk said. But the particular problem he was referring to will be easy to fix, Musk insisted. It will simply consist of the insertion of a $0.50 shim by a technician.
Further, Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel contends that the replacements aren't a business concern at all, anyway. In fact, it's more of a reflection of Tesla's efforts to provide rapid service, according to Straubel:
If I might add one thing on the drive unit replacements as well, I think it's important to note that the drive unit is a very complicated sort of assembly of different components, and the pieces that have needed service and failed internal to the drive unit are relatively not very expensive. And they're being replaced in order for expedience, so they get the car back on the road for the customer in the minimum time.
To Tesla's credit, actions like this simply aren't economical for internal combustion vehicles. Imagine replacing an internal combustion engine every time something small went wrong.
"But our optimization was customer happiness," Musk said during the call. So, instead of making customers wait for a drive unit to be repaired, the company just replaces it -- because Tesla can and because it can do it expediently. Comparing the replacement of an internal combustion engine to the replacement of an electric motor simply isn't comparing apples to apples.
Further, the cost to Tesla for replacing these drive units is nothing for investors to be concerned about.
"Just to add, from a cost perspective -- since these are not significant -- the overall impact on our warranty reserves has not been significant," explained Tesla chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja during the call.
But drive unit replacements may not even be needed to emphasize expediency in the future, Straubel explained during the call. "[G]oing forward, we're looking at ways to repair them and give people back their same drive unit very, very quickly, in about the same amount of time [as it takes us to replace them].
But what about the Edmunds car?
Tesla acknowledged that there were "definitely some genuine issues" with Edmunds' car, but Musk reminded investors during the call that it was "one of our early production units, and, in fact, most of the problems that they have encountered are not present in current cars." Also, the misdiagnosed drive unit issue that was really just a cable happened to the Edmunds car twice, Musk explained.
Further, Tesla said they were replacing parts with the Edmunds car sometimes "just on the off-chance something could go wrong." Being ultraproactive with the Edmunds car, however, may have resulted in being counterproductive, Musk said.
The downside of Tesla's proactive service mentality is that service frequency may remain high. But Model S owners, who gave the vehicle a 99 out of 100 rating in a Consumer Reports survey, don't seem to mind. Consumer Reports says this is the highest score of any owner survey in years. Perhaps the headache of service is soothed by the fully loaded loaner cars offered while a car is serviced, and Tesla's efforts to approach service in the fashion of a Formula One pit crew, or even the occasional elf-like sneakiness of those repairs that sometimes take place without an owner even having to drive their car to a service center.
Regarding the drive unit replacement concerns and the Edmunds' Model S maintenance, Tesla spokesperson Alexis Georgeson provided The Motley Fool with this statement:
Tesla considers service a top priority, and we err on the side of being proactive to ensure the best driving experience possible. That means we are particularly attentive in addressing potential issues, even if those issues appear to be very minor or have a low likelihood of causing any future problems. We take these actions with the customer's convenience and satisfaction top of mind and strive to go above and beyond the expected level of service. In addition and as we would with any owner, we also paid an unusual amount of servicing attention to the Edmunds car because it was under warranty, meaning we were able to make the improvements and deliver a high level of service to the customer at no extra cost.
Tesla will undoubtedly be working out the kinks of new technologies for some time. So, expect more bumps in the road. Further, the company's customer-focused approach to service is going to look far different than what owners with internal combustion vehicles are used to. But one thing is clear: Tesla is dead set on revolutionizing vehicle service -- and owner satisfaction seems to suggest that the new approaches Tesla is taking are working.
Tesla is confident that the low maintenance profile will shine through over time. After adding perspective about the drive unit replacements during the call, Musk boldly asserted, "[W]e're going to be at it hard core until that car is 10x better than any other car on the road."
So, should investors worry about drive unit replacements, maintenance, or service for Tesla vehicles? Not at all. In fact, these areas look poised to be aspects in which Tesla could potentially set the golden standard and build out competitive advantages.
Tesla Still Needs to Solve Energy Density Problem with Lithium Batteries
Jennifer Zhang sees the relatively low energy density of Tesla's battery cells compared to other fuel options as its 'crippling weakness.'
Stocks.org 01 Aug 2014
Despite all of the successes and milestones Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) has achieved, there still remains one problem for the electric car marker to conquer. That is the issue of energy density.
Basically, energy density is defined as the amount of potential energy in a fuel source or energy source. It is Tesla’s crippling weakness right now.
Tesla vehicles currently use modern rechargeable lithium ion batteries. These batteries have an energy density between 0.9 megajoules and 2.63 megajoules per kilogram. This means that for each kilogram of energy in a lithium battery, it is capable of storing the equivalent of 0.252 to 0.736 hours of electricity in kilowatts.
Gasoline, in contrast, has an energy density of 34.2 megajoules per liter, which is equal to 9.57 kilowatts hours of electricity. What this means is that gasoline’s energy density is nine times that of rechargeable lithium battery. This is why a car that runs on gasoline fuel is able to run much further on a tank of gas that a Tesla can go on a charge of electricity.
Energy Density Explains The Lack of A Commercial Market For Tesla
There is no place in the commercial vehicle market for the electric auto maker precisely because of lack of energy density. Commercial vehicles would be forced to carry hundreds of pounds of lithium batteries to be able to go the same distance it could go on a tank of gasoline or diesel. It is this extra weight that prevents Tesla’s electric vehicles from entering the commercial vehicle business.
Specifically, companies like the United States Parcel Service (NASDAQ: UPS) will not be investing in electric vans anytime in the near future. An electric van would carry far fewer packages than a van that runs on gasoline. However, the company is using alternative fuel choices, including propane and liquefied natural gas (also known as LNG).
LNG has an energy density of 22.2 megajoules in a liter, or 6.2 kilowatt hours of electricity. A liter of propane has 25.3 as its energy density, which is equal to 7 kilowatt hours of electricity. Though these gases are not as energy dense as diesel, they are several times more energy dense than lithium ion batteries. For the sake of comparison, diesel fuel’s energy density is 37 megajoules, or 10.36 kilowatts of electricity.
The Challenge Of Fuel Cell Vehicles
Tesla faces major competition from Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM) and Honda Motor Company (NYSE: HMC), both of which will begin marketing fuel cell vehicles in California and overseas in Japan next year. The most recent fuel cell vehicles operate on compressed hydrogen, a gas that has an energy density of 5.6 megajoules a liter, which is the same as 1.57 kilowatts of energy. In other words, fuel cell vehicles have the same, perhaps a slightly greater, energy density of Tesla’s electric car.
The key point about fuel cell vehicles is that they emit no pollution. These cars use a chemical reaction, rather than an engine, to make electricity. Instead of smog, this reaction releases heat and water vapor. How could Tesla ever hope to compete with a vehicle that runs on a more energy dense fuel than an electric car does?
To add to the challenge, Toyota and Honda have the funds to spend on developing fuel cell vehicles – much more than Tesla can afford to spend on improving its lithium ion technology. Last quarter, Toyota reported $1.82 billion in free cash flow. That figure is almost as large as Tesla’s current revenue. Toyota’s TTM revenue is $256.26 billion, which is over 100 times Tesla’s revenue.
Honda’s revenue was $118.09 billion last quarter, with a negative cash flow of $1.9 billion. Both companies have enough funds available so that it can afford to invest in fuel cell technology without taking any significant financial risks.
Tesla clearly still has much to work on to be able to overcome the challenges ahead of it. When considering its energy density issues and its financial challenges, it’s not unlikely that Tesla shareholders will want out of the company.
Tesla Model S: Maybe Not Quite the Perfect Automobile
Some potentially serious mechanical issues have reportedly started to crop up in the Tesla Model S, at least for the folks at Edmunds.com.
Motley Fool 21 Jul 2014
On June 22, 2012, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) delivered its first Model S, and since then, the car has received high praise and numerous accolades -- Consumer Reports even rated the Model S at a near perfect score of 99 out of 100. What's more, Tesla Motors' stock has risen precipitously since 2012, and as of this writing, it sits at $215.40 a share. That's the good news.
The bad news is that after being road-tested for the past few years, the Model S is starting to show some major flaws, and that could have a direct impact on Tesla Motors' stock price. Here's what you need to know.
Edmunds.com's Long-term road test
In February, 2013, Edmunds.com purchased a 2013 Tesla Model S Performance for the sole purpose of being able to test the car for an extended period of time. For the first 5,000 miles, everything was relatively exceptional, except for a few minor issues. However, over the subsequent months, Edmunds.com journalists detailed their experiences with the Model S, and the results were not what one would hope for, or expect.
By 18,822 miles, the Model S had experienced myriad problems, including prematurely worn tires, a broken sunroof, the battery had to be replaced, and the drive unit had to be replaced -- twice.
By 30,160 miles, the problems with the Model S had only increased, and when Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com, took the Model S in to be serviced, the technician informed him that the noise he heard was what's known as a "milling sound," and indicated that the drive unit needed to be replaced... again.
Also, while Montoya believes that early Model S drivers are "essentially beta-testing the car" and thus are less likely to be "scared off by all the repairs," he admits that Tesla Motors needs to "get these quality issues under control," and that for someone who just wants a "stylish EV to replace a luxury sedan," the maintenance requirements for the Model S are off-putting.
Considering that Tesla Motors' site claims: "With just one moving piece in the motor, compared to hundreds in a gas engine, there are fewer things that can go wrong. That translates to less maintenance and service over time," the road test results above aren't the best news.
Not a unique problem
If Edmunds.com's problems with its Model S were an outlier, it'd be easy to say this singular car is a "lemon." Unfortunately, when MotorTrend.com also tested the Model S, it too had to have the drivetrain replaced. Plus, as insideevs.com points out, the technician who diagnosed the problem did so by ear after only a block and a half of driving. And, when one reads the comments on the Edmunds.com article, or TeslaMotors.com's forums, it's clear that numerous Model S owners are experiencing the same problem with the drive unit, meaning that the issue is not unique, nor is it limited to the Performance model.
Furthermore, autoguide.com reports that Consumer Reports downgraded the 2013 Model S's reliability score to "below average," due to owners reporting more problems (the combined score from the 2012 and 2013 models years is "average"), and TrueDelta.com also reports that Model S owners are reporting "high repair frequencies." In fact, Michael Karesh, TrueDelta.com's founder, stated that the Model S "requires three times as much service as the typical vehicle in his survey," according to autoguide.com.
What this means
When it comes to drive unit problems, there are a number of concerns, but four seem especially important for investors.
First, it could be argued that Tesla Motors is simply experiencing growing pains, and that it'll get its drive unit issues sorted out. However, Tesla Motors stock is especially volatile when it comes to issues with its vehicles -- as was seen with the sell-offs after battery fires were reported -- and a drive unit that only lasts around 10,000 miles is a big issue (cleantechnica.com estimates that the out-of-warranty replacement cost for consumers is around $15,000).
Second, because a number of Model S owners are reporting that the drive unit needs to be replaced around the 10,000-mile mark, that could indicate a design flaw, and not simply a manufacturing issue. If that's the case, a Model S recall would likely be needed, which could prove quite costly to Tesla Motors.
Third, Tesla Motors' guarantees the resale value of the Model S when it's financed through one of Tesla Motors' specified commercial banking partners. For the first quarter of 2014, that guarantee was given to "an additional 1,181 Model S deliverers," and it's expected to increase in the future. If the reliability of the Model S continues to decline, that could have a direct impact on resale value. If that happens, there could be a significant uptake on this program, and according to Tesla Motors, that "could have a significant adverse impact on our near term GAAP revenues and operating results."
Finally, while warranty costs are something every vehicle manufacturer has to deal with, because Tesla Motors is currently only manufacturing one vehicle, a rapid increase in claims on the Model S could have a more pronounced impact on its bottom line, especially as it's failed to be profitable on a GAAP basis (except for the first quarter of 2013), and its non-GAAP EPS for Q1 2014 was $0.12. Consequently, Tesla Motors' drive unit issue is something to watch.
Tesla Model S Ends This Minnesotan's Gasoline Dependency
Star Tribune profiles Minnesotan Shaw Otto and his Tesla Model S electric car whose license plate reads: NOT GAS.
Star Tribune/USA 25 Jun 2014
The license plate on Shawn Otto’s Tesla Model S reads: NOT GAS.
He blasted air conditioning and music from his electric vehicle at the entrance of the Stone Arch Bridge on Tuesday, showing off its touch-screen navigation center and its roominess, unencumbered by engines. He calls it Car 2.0.
“It’s hard to imagine that electric vehicles will not completely revolutionize transportation over the next decade,” Otto said at an event that pushed the benefits of emissionless cars, such as his, sponsored by the climate-advocacy group Environment Minnesota.
Electric vehicles are becoming hot commodities nationwide. More than 190,000 electric vehicles have hit U.S. roads, and sales have spiked 500 percent in past two years, according to Environment Minnesota.
According to the Electric Power Research Institute, the state had about 2,400 electric plug-in vehicles as of 2013. Per capita, Minnesota is among the top 10 states with the highest numbers of electric vehicles in the country.
Minneapolis is making things even easier for electric-car owners: In May, the city finished installing 36 charging stalls downtown, totaling 39 stalls near downtown parking ramps. Drivers pay parking rates and for using the electricity — about $. 80 an hour. To fully charge a vehicle takes about four hours, or $3.20 in electricity, the city said.
In May, Minnesota became the first state in the country to mandate investor-owned utilities give discounts to customers who charge their vehicles in off-peak hours, which will start in 2015. These utilities must also offer an option for only renewable energy charging, said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for advocacy group Fresh Energy.
“This law is a win-win-win,” Hamilton said. “It’s a significant savings to customers, an extraordinary market opportunity for electric utilities and timely action for Minnesota.”
Stillwater resident John Patterson said he was inspired to purchase an electric car after seeing Otto’s Tesla at a picnic. He bought a Chevy Volt, which is the bestselling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
So far, he’s satisfied, but owning an electric vehicle has required adjustments. The car can’t accelerate quickly, Patterson said, and drives best when recharging as it brakes.
The Volt switches to gas for extra energy if the temperature is under 35 degrees; in January, Patterson said he averaged 42 miles per gallon.
It gets better mileage in the summer, Patterson said, adding that he’s driven 1,200 miles on it for five gallons of gas.
“It makes it really an ideal car for the city,” he said. “It just loves traffic.”
Innovations and challenges
Tesla — perhaps the most famous name in electric cars today — is outside many people’s price range, with cars beginning at $69,900. The Chevy Volt starts at $34,185, and the Nissan Leaf starts at $28,980.
But Otto, who lives near Marine on St. Croix, said the high price is worth it for a vehicle with no fuel costs and no oil changes.
To combat the fear of running out of electricity on the road, Tesla introduced superchargers — gas station-like charging centers — for free recharges for Model S owners across the country. It takes about 20 minutes to recharge a car at 50 percent, Otto said. There are 98 supercharger stations in North America, including stations in Albert Lea and Worthington.
Otto said his Tesla can go for 250 to 300 miles before it needs a charge.
“You can actually travel right now coast to coast for free driving a Tesla,” he said.
Otto now spends $40 to charge his car in off-peak hours, vs. the $450 a month he used to spend on gas. He held up a car battery the size of a pinkie finger, 7,000 of which are under the car.
He has computerized his car to charge automatically at 8 p.m., giving him a full tank every morning. At about noon on Tuesday, Otto’s car was 81 percent charged.
Owners also noted that the tax breaks from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on battery costs and weight, can help offset prices.
“Over a 10-year window, this is actually very, very competitive with an ordinary car that is not a high-performance car,” Otto said.
Three Reasons For Critics to Hate Tesla This Week
Tamara Rutter, who owns shares of Tesla Motors, takes tongue-in-cheek delight in noting three key business developments that positively impacted the company this week.
Motley Fool 19 Jun 2014
It isn't even hump day yet but the market is abuzz with Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) news. Tesla's stock surged nearly 9% on Monday, and is up another 3% today in afternoon trading. However, with shares of the electric-car maker now trading around $233 apiece, Tesla's ballooning valuation has many analysts scratching their heads. Here are three developments that are fueling the Tesla fire this week, much to the dismay of its critics.
The Model X is actually happening
That's right... Tesla will begin deliveries of its long promised all-electric crossover vehicle, Model X, in "early 2015". The company sent an email to Model X reservation holders on Monday confirming the plans. This should be welcome news to the hundreds of Tesla customers who pre-ordered the Model X when it first debuted in 2012. The company has delayed production of its zero-emissions SUV more than a few times.
On top of this, Tesla's Model X could be a bigger hit than we initially thought. Earlier this month at Tesla's annual shareholder event, chief executive Elon Musk promised onlookers that the Model X would exceed expectations. "At Tesla whenever we show off a car as a demonstration item, the actual production car will always be better than what people saw," Musk said. Moreover, if he is accurate in saying that the Model X will "completely blow people away," it could be yet another catalyst for this stock down the road.
A potential collaboration for Tesla's Supercharger network
You've probably heard by now that Tesla is taking an open source approach to its patents in hopes of accelerating electric vehicle adoption. However, perhaps more exciting is news that Tesla is in talks with major automakers to standardize the way EVs are recharged. As fellow Fool Daniel Sparks points out, Nissan and BMW are two of the big automakers that are reportedly in talks with Tesla to simplify the way electric cars are charged.
As it stands, Tesla's Superchargers are currently the fastest charging stations on the planet. Tesla recently expanded its U.S. Supercharger network from coast to coast, enabling Model S drivers to drive across the country without ever needing gas. There are now 97 Supercharging stations in the U.S. However, teaming up with BMW and other traditional automakers could significantly speed development of the Supercharger network going forward.
New Jersey wants Tesla back
The Garden State is giving Tesla Motors a second chance. The state's General Assembly approved a bill this week that would allow Tesla to sell its cars directly to New Jersey consumers. If you remember, the EV maker was forced to stop selling its vehicles in the state on April 1, after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission passed a rule banning direct auto sales. If the bill can avoid gridlock in the state Senate then Tesla would be able to get back to work selling its gas-free cars to New Jersey folk.
Importantly, this could act as a precedent for other states hoping to bully Tesla into submission.
Should you test-drive the stock here?
Despite these catalysts, Tesla's stock looks expensive, with a price-to-sales ratio of 12.39. This means that Tesla investors are paying roughly $12.39 for every $1 of sales today. Therefore, if you don't already own shares of Tesla Motors you may want to wait for another pullback before taking a position.
Tamara Rutter owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors.
RUMORED: Tesla to Use Better Place's Charging Infrastructure in Israel to Test Driverless Car
Tesla has partnered with Israel-based Mobileye to develop 'driverless' car and its speculated that the companies will make use of Better Place's charging infrastructure.
Green Prophet 24 Apr 2014
In the aftermath of the demise of Shai Agassi’s Better Place electric car network company, EV car purchasers in Israel feared they might become stranded due to not being able to recharge or exchange their car’s lithium batteries. Will Tesla, who said they wouldn’t, swoop in?
Rumors have circulated that Tesla Motors, manufacturers of high priced electric sports cars, might soon be introducing their cars into Israel to take advantage of the electric car infrastructure already set up by Better Place.
This rumor became ever stronger due to a partnership between California based Tesla Motors and the Israeli Mobileye company to produce the world’s first “driverless” car.
Using robotic technology to program and steer a car while the driver does something else was once a concept only found in science fiction. But due to technology developed by Mobileye, this fiction may soon become at least partial reality. In an interview at the Marker business section, Mobileye’s co-founder Amnon Shashua tried to set matters straight regarding how “driverless” his company’s system will actually be.
He said: “It’s not automatic driving in which the driver puts an address in and goes to sleep. The system permits control to be transferred to it for a limited time. You can read a text message or switch radio stations and temporarily turn over control.”
Tesla Motors was founded by South African entrepreneur Elon Musk; and named after one of the world’s most innovative electronics geniuses, Nikola Tesla.The cars start in price in the USA at nearly $60,000, with a new 2015 Tesla Motors “Falcon Wing” Model X CUV model expected to sell upwards from $70,000.
Some Tesla models are said to have a driving range of up to 425 kilometers. This positive factor is still not enough to sell Tesla cars to the mass market, as these prices put them out of reach of most car buyers, especially in countries like Israel.
As it looks now, the appearance of a Tesla electric sports car in Israel will be for driverless testing purposes only.
Republicans Now Singing A Different Tune About Electric Car Maker
Once reviled by conservative politicians, now the likes of Texas Governor Rick Perry and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are 'singing' Tesla Motors' praise.
San Francisco Chronicle 18 Apr 2014
For years, Tesla Motors could get no love from the GOP.
The electric automaker neatly embodied two things many Republicans hated: green technology and federal stimulus loans. Conservative commentators railed that Tesla used $465 million in taxpayer money to build novelty cars for the rich. Sarah Palin cited Tesla as an example of "crony capitalism." Even Mitt Romney, who based his presidential campaign on business smarts, called the company a "loser."
Now, quite suddenly, Republicans, who have been struggling to appeal to a wider swath of voters, are singing the company's praises.
In recent weeks, Tesla has won support from such figures as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly.
"Everybody on the planet should be rooting for Tesla," O'Reilly said on his March 31 show. "I mean everybody, even the traditional car companies that will have to compete."
Perry and Rubio want to ditch state laws that prevent Tesla from selling directly to consumers, rather than through traditional franchise dealerships. For Tesla, which has been fighting auto dealers in state after state, no issue is more important.
Way to update party image
Backing the company in its fight with dealerships could offer Republicans a way to update their image as a pro-business party, and possibly make inroads in the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley, analysts say.
"This is an issue where the libertarian ethos of Silicon Valley may match up well with the libertarian ethos in the Republican Party," said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "This could be, for either party, a pillar for a very appealing story on economic change."
Tesla has had prominent Republican backers before.
Based in Palo Alto, Tesla was founded in 2003, a time when green technology was not considered particularly political. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, bragged about Tesla as an example of the state's technological leadership and even bought one of the company's low-slung Roadsters. (He reportedly returned the car later on, after finding it too difficult to climb into and out of.)
But Republican support for clean tech started to wane after President Obama made green jobs a key part of his economic stimulus package. It faded further as GOP doubts about the reality of climate change hardened into outright rejection.
Then in 2011, solar startup Solyndra went bankrupt after receiving $528 million in stimulus loans to build a factory in Fremont. As a result, government loans to green companies became a favorite campaign issue for Republicans nationwide.
Tesla, which won $465 million in federal loans to reopen a shuttered auto plant a mile away from Solyndra, got dragged into the fight. Hence the "loser" comments from Romney and Palin.
Success changes minds
But success can change people's minds. In 2013, Tesla paid back the loan in full, nine years early. Despite a sell-off during the last two months, the company's stock still regularly trades above $200 per share, and Model S sedans are selling as fast as Tesla can make them.
Perry wants Tesla to build its planned $5 billion battery factory in his state. He and Rubio, both considered presidential contenders in 2016, also may want to distinguish themselves from their mutual rival, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Christie recently sided with his state's auto dealers against Tesla, drawing public complaints from the company.
"I think it's time for Texans to have an open conversation about this, the pros and the cons," Perry said in a recent interview on Fox Business. "I'm going to think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons."
More broadly, some conservatives see Tesla's fight against the dealers as a way to illustrate their core beliefs in free markets- that government regulation hampers innovation. Rubio, speaking on CNBC, cited both Tesla and car service Uber, which is battling regulations that govern taxi companies.
"Innovation - doing something no one else is doing - is the way you can explosively grow an economy," Rubio said. "Regulations are an impediment to innovation. ... Regulations should never be used as a defensive weapon by an established industry or an established company to keep out competition."
Tesla's rock-star image can help broadcast that message to voters beyond the GOP's traditional base, analysts say.
"You have smart politicians on their side who see Tesla as symbolic of what our country should be doing," said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. "You're attaching yourself to an emerging but already iconic brand that in many ways stands for American entrepreneurship. It was created here, built here, and it's changing the world. And it's consistent with a Republican ethos that says you should have the ability to create a business like that."
GOP base may not be moved
Some Democrats doubt, however, that the GOP as a whole will embrace Tesla and clean tech anytime soon. Wade Randlett, a Silicon Valley executive and major Democratic fundraiser, noted the Republican Party's deep ties to the oil industry - the companies most threatened by electric cars. It may be easier, he said, for Republicans to support Uber's effort to disrupt the taxi business than Tesla's long-term goal of breaking our dependence on oil.
"Oil does not want to be disrupted," Randlett said. "When Republicans take that disruption principle and apply it to people who are challenging the party's financial backers, I'll be much more impressed than I am today."
REVIEW: Tesla Model S P85
Where 'P' stands for shoves-you-in-the-seat 'performance' of zero-to-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds and 85 delivers driving range up to 500+ km.
IDG/Norway 06 Apr 2014
If you think electric cars are boring, it's time to reconsider. New Tesla S P85 (Performance 85 kWh) really stands out from the crowd. Not only because it is a stylish and sporty green car. It also offers a whole new mindset when it comes to user interfaces and infotainment systems. Tesla Motors challenge the traditional car manufacturers in several ways.
If you think electric cars are boring, it's time to reconsider. New Tesla S P85 (Performance 85 kWh) really stands out from the crowd. Not only because it is a stylish and sporty green car. It also offers a whole new mindset when it comes to user interfaces and infotainment systems. Tesla Motors challenge the traditional car manufacturers in several ways.
7,000 battery cells are fitted below the passenger compartment and promise a range up to 502 kilometer -- and a powerful engine performance. This car does 0--100 km/h in 4.4 seconds, and when we push the pedal to the metal we're thrown back in the driver's seat.
Not only is the motor extremely powerful, the car also responds very quickly. The delay we have become accustomed to with combustion engines simply doesn't exist.
Because of the battery pack, the height of the car is relatively low, but on the other hand you get dual luggage compartments where you can fit a lot. And one advantage of the low-mounted batteries is that the car's center of gravity is very low, which allows for sporty driving.
You can adjust the steering in three modes (Comfort, Normal or Sport) and you sit like a king in the comfortable, if somewhat poorly contoured, front seats.
And the exterior really looks astonishing, apart from the anonymous grill. Tesla Model S is designed for lowest possible air resistance, and that gives it a really smooth look.
A huge touch screen
The most eye-catching when it comes to the cars interior is undoubtedly the giant touch screen in the center console. It measures a full 17 inches and you use it to control virtually everything. On the upper part, you choose which or what views you want to activate. For example, the upper part of the screen can display the map while the lower display the browser. Or you can maximize any window so that it covers the entire screen surface. The feeling when we pull up Google Maps in full screen mode and select Satellite View is unbeatable.
In fact, the only physical buttons found in the car's center panel is the button to open the glove box and a manual button that activates your hazard lights. Everything else you control through the touch screen. For better or worse. Accessing the climate system for example to turn on the fan is more cumbersome than in most cars. Many interesting features are hidden under the control screen, but because it is an overlay pop-up screen, it takes two extra clicks every time you need to go here.
The navigator is somewhat different from what we are used to with an integrated GPS. Google Maps has driving instructions, but you don't get the traditional 3D view of the entire map, only the bird's-eye view. We also don't get speed limit signs, speed camera detection and an easy way to find nearby waypoints. When we start typing into the search field, we get results from all around the world. When driving, you're more interested in quickly finding a restaurant or perhaps an accommodation nearby, rather than exploring the whole world. But we appreciate that the sharp touch screen supports multi-touch and has a good response. It's a lot like a giant iPad.
The browser is initially really cool. Until we begin to surf heavier pages. Then we quickly realize that it is incredibly time-consuming to both load and navigate sites. We end up picking up our smartphone instead. Also it's a bit strange that the car allows us to surf the web, pair Bluetooth devices and activate the rear view camera even when are running at a high speed. Most car manufacturers tend to block the functions for safety reasons.
The Media tab lets you tune in radio stations, analog or digital, and listen to Internet radio stations, or connect to your own device via Bluetooth or USB. The interface is neat, but unfortunately the integrated 3G-link doesn't always deliver a steady stream of digital music from the web. The sound however is absolutely amazing.
Tesla calls the sound system Ultra High Fidelity and it uses 12 built-in speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer. And the sound emanating from them is incredibly good. It is clean and clear even when we're pumping up the volume, and it's never hard on the ears. It works as well for airy acoustic music as for guitar-based rock. And it features a three-band equalizer and a really cool feature where you control the sound balance of the vehicle by sliding your finger over an image, to place the audio center exactly where you want it. Awesome!
If you're worried that the power won't last the entire trip, there is of course a separate tab to keep track of battery consumption, and a diagram shows how efficiently you are driving.
On paper Tesla can run up to 502 kilometers on one charge, but it's a very optimistic figure. When we tried to run it as gentle as we could we still got only around 300 kilometers. Even during highway driving we found it hard to squeeze out 500 kilometers before it was time to recharge. And charging the batteries in a standard wall socket takes time -- approximately 30 hours (using a 220 volts and 13 amps outlet). In other words, be sure to get a more powerful outlet at home, if you don't already have it. A clever feature of the car is that you can time when you want the car to be recharged, and set a maximum of how many amps it can use.
If you are considering a Tesla Model S, first you should think through your driving habits. Will you be at max 250--300 kilometers per day, and do you have the appropriate charging sockets at your fingertips? Visiting distant relatives will simply require a bit more planning than before, and at least one overnight stay.
While Tesla Model S P85 is impressive with its huge screen and some very cool features, it lacks other features that traditional automakers like Volvo, Audi, BMW and others are offering. For example, automatic parallel parking, blind spot warning, lane assist, cameras that keep track of road signs and good voice control. Tesla Motors has clearly done a lot right with the Model S, and it is arguably the coolest electric car you can buy right now. But it is also a little ahead of its time, and the high price combined with the lack of charging stations in Sweden makes for a high purchase threshold.
+Powerful electric engine
+The sound system
- Lacks some safety features
- Slow browser
- No Superchargers in Sweden yet
Tesla Model S is extremely fun to drive and the manufacturer sets a new standard for user interfaces in cars. This is clearly a car that shows a glimpse of the future.
Driving characteristics 10
Feeling / comfort 10
Technical features 8
My First Year and 15,000 Miles with Tesla's Model S Electric Car
Tesla Model S owner David Noland writes about his experiences owning and operating what might be the best car 'in the entire freakin' universe.'
Green Car Reports 12 Mar 2014
It’s now been a year since I took delivery of my dark green 2013 Tesla Model S with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery.
After almost four years of waiting, those first days after delivery were euphoric. As I recall, the words “greatest freaking car in the entire freaking Universe” (or thereabouts) passed my lips on several occasions during the honeymoon period.
But my view has become, shall we say, more nuanced after 365 days and 15,243 miles of of blizzards, bird droppings, heat, cold, glitches, groceries, dogs, road trips, drag races, Superchargers, traffic jams, service visits, vampire draw, software updates, and “Check Tire Pressure Monitoring System” warnings.
First, some numbers.
“Fuel” efficiency and cost
To cover 15,243 miles, I used 5,074 kWh of electricity, for an average of 333 watt-hours per mile. That’s a bit better than the car’s EPA-rated efficiency of 350 Wh/mi, and converts to precisely 3 miles per kWh.
I used about 1,275 kWh of free Supercharger power on three long road trips totaling about 4,000 miles. So about 3,800 kWh of the 5,074-kWh total came through my electric meter.
At my local utility’s rate of 14 cents/kWh, that works out to a total fuel cost for the year of $530, or about 3.4 cents/mile. Contrast that to about $3,000 and 20 cents/mile for a comparable car like the Mercedes S Class.
But the Model S actually used more electricity than the 5,074 kWh on the car’s energy meter.
For one thing, the charging process is only about 85 percent efficient. Which means that for every 85 kWh used by the car, 100 kWh came through my electric meter. In reality, that 5,074-kWh number is actually more like 5,700 kWh.
In addition, my car’s “vampire” power draw while parked and shut down averaged about 4.5 kWh per day for the first 10 months, and then about 1 kWh per day after a software update two months ago. I estimate the vampire draw sucked up an additional 1,400 kWh or so.
That brings total actual energy usage for the year: about 7,100 kWh–putting efficiency at about 466 Wh/mile, or about 2.1 miles/kWh.
The vampire and charging losses bumped the year’s real fuel cost up to $820, or about 5.3 cents per mile. Which is still barely a quarter of the fuel cost of a comparable gasoline car.
Winter vs summer
As with all electric cars, my efficiency was much lower in cold weather. For the April-to-October period, I averaged 301 Wh/mi, compared to 371 Wh/mi for November to February.
Although I didn’t measure month by month, these numbers imply that energy usage in July–the hottest month–was probably in the range of 290 Wh/mi, while January’s was close to 400 Wh/mi.
Earlier this winter, during my first January with the car–which was followed by the coldest February in recent history around these parts–I found that my energy usage nearly doubled for the short local trips that I usually take.
Time after time, I’d come home from a run to the grocery store or the chiropractor with an average consumption of well over 500 Wh/mile. (That’s before counting vampire and charging losses.)
2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station on NY-to-FL road trip [photo: David Noland]
These short trips are particularly hard on overall efficiency, because the huge initial surge of power required to heat up the battery and cabin can’t be amortized over a large number of miles.
On longer trips during cold weather, the average energy usage would steadily decline after the initial peak readings, eventually settling into the 370-to-380 Wh/mi range.
I had no major problems during the year. A few minor glitches were quickly corrected under warranty by my local service center in White Plains, New York. Among those glitches:
The 12-Volt battery was replaced. This was apparently a common problem with early-production cars.
A button cover fell off the key fob, exposing the button and triggering a couple of inadvertent unlock and windows-down commands when the key jostled in my pocket. Annoyingly, to get a new key fob required a trip to the service center and a 4-hour reprogramming process. When the button cover on the new key fob fell off a few months later, I decided I could live with it.
The cover for the charge-cord button that opens the charge port on the car also fell off. (Clearly, Tesla needs to fire its head of Button-Cover Quality Control.) Tesla sent me a replacement charge cord overnight via FedEx. Although the button cover on the new cord has stayed on, the button itself has now become intermittent. It’s a minor annoyance that I haven’t gotten around to having fixed yet.
The right-rear door handle malfunctioned and was replaced.
I get an occasional dashboard warning to check the tire-pressure monitoring system. When I reported this to the service center, I was told to ignore it. I have.
The side mirrors don’t adjust when I shift into reverse, as they are supposed to do. I’ll have it looked at next time I’m in for service.
Swapping the battery
Frustrated by my 60-kWh car’s lack of range between the few-and-far-between East Coast Superchargers at Interstate speeds in cold weather, I upgraded my 60-kWh battery to an 85-kWh pack in December.
At first, I was told by the factory that such a thing wasn’t possible. But the service guys at White Plains found a way. After just two days in the shop, I had my upgraded car back, complete with its discreet chrome “85? emblem.
I’m delighted with the result.
A 2,500-mile Supercharger road trip to Florida and back was a breeze, rather than the white-knuckle freeze-in-the-slow-lane ordeal of previous road trips with the smaller battery.
Five Favorite Things About the Model S
1. The Acceleration. Sure, the zero-to-60-mph number (5.4 seconds) is impressive. But it’s the quality of the acceleration that’s so transformative: instantaneous, seamless, silent, effortless. It’s what separates this car from all others. After a year, I still get giddy every time I stomp on the pedal.
2. The Deceleration. At first I was a skeptic about strong regenerative braking, a feature of electric cars that slows the car by turning the motor into a generator to charge the battery in the process. Now I love the sporty, responsive feel of strong “engine braking” when I back off the accelerator. I virtually never touch the brake pedal any more.
Unfortunately, the car’s strong regenerative braking makes my wife carsick. Fortunately, the Model S has two regen settings: the sporty “high” setting that I like, and a “low” setting that simulates the gentle engine braking of a normal car.
Ah, marital bliss.
3. The “Fuel Economy” To get the equivalent of almost 100 mpg while driving a car this big and fast is a surreal, mind-boggling experience. And then to make a 2,500-mile road trip via the Supercharger network at a total fuel cost of $0.00–well, it’s so great it feels illegal.
4. The Service Program Getting my 12-Volt battery replaced was the single most positive automobile-service experience of my life. It started when I got a phone call out of the blue from the White Plains service center. Carla said they’d just gotten an e-mail from Tesla engineering in California.
It seems I was having problems with my 12-Volt battery. Frankly, I was unaware that I even had a 12-Volt battery, much less a problem with it. But Tesla’s system of remote monitoring had detected a problem with mine. Would I mind if two Tesla Service Rangers came out to my house that morning to replace it?
Three hours after being informed of a problem I didn’t even know I had, it was fixed in my driveway, at no cost or inconvenience to me. How can car service possibly be any better than that?
5. The Style I know it’s shallow, but looks are important to me in a car. I’m very unlikely to buy an ugly or even plain-looking automobile, no matter how practical it might be.
To my eye, the Model S is gorgeous, in a classic way that won’t fade with time. A year later, I still look back at it every time I walk away from it in a parking lot.
Five Least Favorite Things About the Model S
1. The Limitations on Long Trips This is more a criticism of Tesla’s limited Supercharger network in the Northeast than of the car itself. But the fact is, after a year of ownership, I still can’t reasonably drive the Model S to visit friends in Maine, Vermont, and upstate New York, nor to three of the colleges my daughter has applied to for next year.
My fingers are crossed that this problem will go away one of these days. Or years.
2. The Vampire It’s not the money spent on wasted electricity over the year–maybe $200–that bothers me so much. It’s the idea that the supposed best car in the world has a basic flaw that hasn’t been totally fixed in far more than a year.
While a recent software update reduced the vampire draw substantially, I still lose anywhere from 3 to 10 miles of range every single day. My Volt has no vampire losses whatsoever. In fact, no other electric car has vampire losses, as far as I know.
Why can’t Tesla fix this?
Again, fingers crossed.
3. Getting In and Out This one’s not going to get fixed. The inevitable price of swoopy good looks and sleek aerodynamics is a low-slung driver’s door. For a tall (6-foot-2), creaky guy like me, it requires some serious contortions and, depending on the state of my lower back, occasional pain. Maybe I’ll try a test drive of a Model X when it arrives.
4. Winter Like all electric cars, the Model S suffers a significant loss of efficiency in the winter. But in the name of battery longevity, when the temperature drops, the Model S also undergoes a personality change that emasculates the No. 1 and No. 2 items on my list of favorite things about the car.
For the first 10 to 20 miles of driving on a cold day, the Model S limits its power delivery–and completely disables the regenerative braking. Power and regen gradually return as the battery warms up, but on many of my local trips in winter, I never have both full power and full regen.
To make the winter woes worse, I’ve found that the traction in snow and ice is mediocre–at least with my halfway-worn all-season tires. I’m sure winter tires would would improve traction considerably, but at $4,000 per set, I’ve decided to live without Tesla’s winter tire/wheel package. When I inquired last fall, it was back-ordered anyhow.
5. The Ergonomics of the Touch Screen Yes, it’s beautiful and mesmerizing. But with no physical buttons, the driver’s eye must guide the hand all the way to the precise spot on the screen to adjust the climate control or audio system. It’s both a visual and cognitive distraction.
That means the driver’s eyes are off the road for a bit longer than usual. On a couple of occasions during the past year, that extra half-second has triggered some situations that were, if not dangerous, at least attention-getting for me.
Worse, my occasionally numb screen sometimes requires multiple stabs of the finger, which multiplies the distraction.
Still the one
Complaints aside, after a year of living with the Tesla Model S in all sorts of conditions, I can report that not once have I ever looked out the windshield and said to myself, “Gee, I wish I were driving that car instead of this one.”
I’ll happily second the conclusion of Consumer Reports that this is the best car in the U.S. Or the world.
Maybe even in the entire freakin’ universe.
Protests Seek to Thwart Washington State Laws Preventing Local Tesla Sales
Tesla supporters rally in Olympia, the state capital, to protest attempts to restrict the sale of its electric cars in the state by franchise dealers and lawmakers.
My Northwest/USA 18 Feb 2014
Washington likes to think of itself as a green economy: we're into solar, we love electric cars.
But one electric car company is worried Washington might shut down its business. Tesla has been selling high-performance all-electric cars in 22 states - with sales in Washington second only to California.
But the company doesn't sell through local dealerships. It sells directly from company-owned showrooms, which appears to run afoul of a Washington law that prohibits manufacturers from competing with local dealers.
Diarmuid O'Connell is Tesla's vice president of development, and he said the reason Tesla doesn't sell through local dealers is that it takes a long time to educate customers about the advantages of the car - and no local dealer is going to put in that kind of time.
"We're certainly trying to create a direct and intimate connection between the company and the customers in the larger interest of making sure electric vehicles, ours and others, flourish in the marketplace over time," said O'Connell.
According to O'Connell, the dealer's association has brought on two more lobbying firms to focus on the legislation that would attempt to prevent Tesla from directly selling its own vehicles.
"The issue is far from dead," he said.
O'Connell said the Washington State Auto Dealers Association has strong connections in the state legislature.
"When we hear about these things, we (Tesla) have the opportunity to come to town to talk to legislatures, and talk to the media, and talk to customers and the general public and to hear about the fundamental unfairness about what's happening," said O'Connell. "It really starts to stimulate a reaction to the dealer's moves and clarifies what's going on."
That's part of the motivation behind a rally Monday in Olympia, to protest any attempt to stop Tesla from selling its cars in Washington.
He said similar legislation is playing out across the country. Washington is only one of the places dealers are trying to shut the company down, and O'Connell believes the fight is far from over.
As for whether the relatively small number of Teslas sold in Washington state constitutes unfair competition, O'Connell said it's only a competitive threat to the extent that BMW sells against Mercedes in the marketplace.
"You could argue that we're taking shares, that we're competing within the segment vehicles [...] premium sedans, but that's just normal course competition in the free market. An innovator comes in with a new product and challenges the incumbents and that makes everybody better. That dynamic, however, is what the dealers would basically have us shut down."
Hear the full interview with Diarmuid O'Connell, vice president of development at Tesla, on this week's edition of the ROSSFIRE podcast with Dave Ross.
Respected Investor Heaps High Praise on Tesla Model S
Jeremy Grantham, the Co-founder and Chief Investment Strategist of GMO, drove a colleague's Model S from NYC to Boston and returned, saying it was his '#1 car experience.'
Business Insider 07 Feb 2014
GMO's Jeremy Grantham just put out his latest quarterly newsletter to GMO clients. And in it he has some high praise for Tesla.
In a section titled "Fossil Fuels: Is Tesla a Tease or a Triumph?" he writes that he recently took a drive in a Tesla and it was his "#1 car experience ever."
"I recently took a drive in a GMO colleague’s Tesla from New York to Boston. Now, I am about as far from a car freak as you will easily find. I just turned in a 12-year-old Volvo that unfortunately had been sideswiped, for otherwise it was good for years more. But I have to say that my recent Tesla journey was my #1 car experience ever.
"Three years ago I test drove a Tesla in Boston and it was a tinny, rattly, super-expensive toy. Its battery alone cost $50,000! Last month, its chief engineers suggested its cost today is $22,000. In three years they and other experts are confident that the battery will be less than $15,000 and probably its weight will have fallen also. The Tesla feels like the $75,000 vehicle it is and not simply adjusting for the fact that it is electric, but on its own merit.
"Many of you will know that this vehicle has a range of 150 to 270 miles depending on battery size and that it received two prestigious car of the year awards along with being given the highest crash ratings of any vehicle ever! Consumer Reports gave it the co-equal highest ratings in the magazine’s 77 years! Even more importantly for me, there was this series of what I can only describe as my first iPad moment: “Wow, that’s cool!” And cool it was as the extreme acceleration pushed me back into the passenger seat for the first time in my life, aided, it must be said, by an exuberant new owner at the wheel. We had enough charge to reach Boston easily, but out of curiosity and in need of a coffee break, we stopped to charge the battery at the one and only charging station halfway home. Twenty-five minutes later, we were back on the road, fully charged up. And for free! (Full disclosure: I regrettably have owned no shares in Tesla."
Elon Musk should be pleased with that.
Tesla Ranks Fifth in Consumer Reports Brand Perception Survey
Premium electric car maker moves ahead of Mercedes-Benz and BMW in American brand perception.
Mashable 06 Feb 2014
Already a hit with geeks and technology moguls, electric car manufacturer Tesla reached a new milestone on Wednesday: finally penetrating the mainstream consciousness, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.
Tesla, the company created by SpaceX founder Elon Musk (pictured above), now ranks at number five on Consumer Reports’ Car-Brand Perception Survey, just behind traditional automakers such as Chevrolet, Honda, Ford and Toyota, which snagged the number one slot.
This jump up to fifth place is a huge leap for the company, which was ranked way back in tenth place in 2013. Consumer Reports’ survey polled 1,578 U.S. car owners in the U.S. in December, focusing on getting the respondents to list their top car brands in terms of performance, value, safety, quality, design and technology.
But for electric car skeptics, the most surprising news will be that the survey also asked respondents to list their top choices in terms of fuel economy. The fact that Tesla is now ahead of the likes of Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac in the overall rankings Tesla is now ahead of the likes of Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac in the overall rankings indicates a serious change in the public’s perception of electric-powered cars as a viable means of transport.
The shift in how the U.S. public perceives Tesla is no small issue. Around this time last year, following a poor review of the Tesla Model S in the New York Times, Musk speculated that the negative review may have cost the company around $100 million.
Of course, this limited survey won’t necessarily result in an automatic uptick in new orders for the company. For that to happen, the company will likely need to conduct a few more demonstrations showing off how the electric car can travel from coast to coast
Consumer Reports: A Year With the Tesla Model S
One year on and CR finds their 85kWh electric car loses a bit of driving range in winter and if left unplugged; they also feel the air conditioning system could be better.
Consumer Reports 29 Dec 2013
With a year of Tesla Model S ownership under our belt and 11,380 satisfying miles under its tires, we continue to be impressed, despite a few mild irritations.
Those who follow our car Ratings will remember that last spring the Model S earned a road-test score of 99 on our 100-point scale, making it the highest-rated car we’ve tested in the last five years.
Adding to the accolades, it got highest-ever marks in owner satisfaction in our latest annual auto survey, and it landed an Average reliability score based on the experiences of 637 CR subscribers who own one. That’s pretty darn good for an early production niche luxury vehicle from a California start-up company.
Tesla’s thoroughly rewarding driving experience, rocketlike launch feel, and supreme quietness might make you want to overlook any drawbacks, but a couple of notable quirks have emerged:
All the range. Despite a cruising range that’s close to a gas-powered car, which is one of the Tesla’s major drawing cards, we’ve been a little disappointed with our top-spec 85 kWh version. The company initially bragged that the Tesla had a 300-mile range, but it turned out that it wasn’t what you could expect every day. When charged normally, as opposed to the “max range,” which the maker advices against doing too frequently, the most we get is about 225 miles. That’s still a lot (relatively)—much more than any other EVs get—but it’s even less than the 245 miles the EPA calculated.
As with every other electric car, the indicated range drops in freezing weather, which here in Northeast region is a fact of life. Sometimes when driving along in weather that's
30-something degrees and you've got the cabin heat is on, the remaining-miles calculator tends to drop 3 miles for every mile that you actually travel. That really gets your attention. It's also confusing to figure out which of the displays you should depend on, the one in the instrument panel or the one in the center iPad-like touch screen.
We previously reported that the range indicator tended to drop 10 to 15 miles while the car was parked outside overnight. The company has supposedly beamed a software update to all Model S Teslas that’s supposed to reduce those “vampire” losses. We still see a drop of 5 to 10 miles when the car is left off the charger for 24 hours.
Running cold and hot. If freezing temps can shake your faith, then blistering hot summer days can leave you in a sweat. In mid-summer we found that the air conditioning fell a bit short of what we consider to be the comfort zone. And it doesn’t help that the panoramic sunroof has no retractable shade to keep the rays at bay.
Long-distance runaround. Here at our test track in Connecticut, we benefitted from easy access to two of Tesla’s Supercharger stations, which let us top up the battery halfway (about 120 miles worth) in 30 minutes. Superchargers greatly reduce range anxiety as long as you’re planning a trip along the routes where they're located.
Those Supercharger stations also made it possible to drive from our headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., to our satellite office in Washington, D.C., and back without stress. Our D.C. staff found the Tesla to be a wonderful commuter car, driving in and out of suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia during rush hours. During the day it was partly recharged at a public parking garage using the Chargepoint network for what amounted to peanuts compared with gas money.
Updates via cloud. A few weeks ago our car received its latest software update, designated version 5.8. (These enhancements arrive like software updates on your PC.) Among other things, the new software added a few upgrades to the multimedia system, and the ability to tether a mobile device and connect to a Wi-Fi source.
After three accidents in which Teslas caught fire when road debris penetrated the battery pack from below, the company said that it would readjust the car's ride height through a software update. Post-update we measured our car’s ride height at 5.25 inches, which was actually a quarter-inch lower than our previous measurement. But supposedly the car will now ride higher than it used to at highway speeds, making encounters with road debris less likely.
After a year with the Model S, everyone at CR who drives this car is still impressed by the quiet glide, instant and irresistible power, serene ride, agile handling, and well-done, ultramodern interior. The short list of shortcomings hasn’t dampened our spirits yet.
Was Tesla's Battery Swap Demostration a Hoax?
Electric car critic Alberto Zaragoza Comendador contends that the Tesla battery swap demonstration earlier this year was not just a public relations stunt, but hoax to gain additional ZEV credits for its Model S.
Watts Up With That? 26 Dec 2013
By Alberto Zaragoza Comendador
I didn’t create this essay because I dislike electric vehicles. While I’m skeptical of their potential, I have nothing against EVs per se.
Sure, electric cars enjoy a laundry list of incentives. I totally disagree with these policies, but a bajillion people have already pointed out why electric car subsidies are dumb. I cannot add much value there, and EV advocates will argue they’re doing nothing illegal anyway.
The fundamental reason this blog exists is to tell the world about the fraud Tesla is committing. This has resulted in tens of millions dollars’ worth of fraudulent carbon credits being received by the company, and if nothing is done the tally will get into the hundreds of millions. This blog exists not to tell people about EV incentives, but about the illegal incentives a particular EV company is getting. I covered much of the same ground in my first post, but here I’ll give California’s own regulations as sources.
You don’t have to take my word for it.
Click here and go to slide 13. It shows how many Zero Emission Vehicle credits a car gets. ZEVs are divided into seven categories:
- Type 0: less than 50 miles, 1 credit
- Type I: 50-75 miles, 2 credits
- Type I.5: 75-100 miles, 2.5 credits
- Type II: 100-200 miles, 3 credits
- Type III: 200+ miles, 4 credits. (Also: 100+ miles with fast refuelling).<
- Type IV: 200+ miles with fast refuelling, 5 credits
- Type V: 300+ miles with fast refuelling, 7 credits
This system is regulated by the California Air Resources Board. And by “fast refuelling” they mean refuelling to 95% of capacity within 10 minutes (Type III) or 15 minutes (Types IV and V). This is impossible for batteries, so it could only be done with hydrogen. Indeed, you’ll hear complaints that the regulations are designed to favor hydrogen over batteries. Well, tell California.
The Model S is clearly a Type III vehicle: it gets between 200 and 300 miles, but even in the fastest Superchargers it needs about one hour to reach 95% of battery capacity. Tesla itself quotes 75 minutes for 100% charging. So it gets 4 credits per car…or at least it should. Let’s go back to 2012.
As of June 15, the 85KWh version (called S3 here) was considered a Type III vehicle. But by October 12 it had morphed into a Type V. So the upgrade happened at some point between these two dates. Presumably, the 60KWh version was also upgraded in the same time frame. Here is a December 20 confirmation that both versions had been upgraded, showing how the 60KWh model went from Type III to Type IV. And here is an restatement in April 2013 of basically the same things, but including the cancelled 40KWh version. (CARB doesn’t seem very well organized).
In any case, production of the Model S only ramped up in the last quarter of 2012, so the vast majority of them qualified under the new classification. The real question is, why the upgrade?
Because of the battery swap. If the car can exchange batteries in 90 seconds, then it’s totally crushing the 15-minute requirement established by the California Air Resources Board. Notice that, even in this case, the 85KWh version still doesn’t meet the range requirement to be a Type V vehicle, as it’s rated by the EPA at 265 miles. So it would be stuck at 5 credits. It seems CARB bent the rules a little, or perhaps they concluded that the superb refuelling time “offset” a deficiency in range. In any case it’s no reason for alarm.
What is a reason for alarm is that CARB gave Tesla these extra credits before any battery swap station had been built. In fact, it happened about nine months before the feature was publicly demonstrated (June 2013). I’ve emailed CARB officials and Tesla twice, to find out more about this issue. Did Tesla demo the battery swap to CARB officials? If so, when and where? Did Tesla bring its own car, or does CARB have one for testing purposes? Did CARB officials check and drive the car before, during and after the swap?
They haven’t answered.
By May, the battery swap was becoming a problem: CARB openly discussed removing it from the fast refuelling category. Perhaps other carmakers were complaining to CARB that Tesla was getting credits for a feature nobody could use. In any case, the agency deferred a decision to October.
In June, after weeks of teasing, Tesla demonstrated the 90-second, fully automated battery swap in public. It was their biggest event this year. Or ever: I can’t remember any other Tesla event with such a level of media coverage.
And guess what, the company brought its own cars and didn’t let anybody near them. The official video doesn’t even show what’s happening under the car.
By August, Tesla forum users were openly calling the feature a stunt. You see, some Model S owners have already put their battery warranties to use, and the battery change takes three or four hours, and a few workers. It’s impossible to automate it, let alone to do so in 90 seconds. This somehow went unnoticed for the Internet.
The company itself hasn’t made a statement about the swap feature for several months. And looking at their SEC filings, there is exactly one reference to this swapping thing.
our capability to rapidly swap out the Model S battery pack and the development of specialized public facilities to perform such swapping, which do not currently exist;
I won’t give you a link, because the exact same sentence has been appearing in every earnings report for a couple years. No estimates of how much the swap stations could cost, or when they could open, or what areas they could serve, or any meaningful information.
The writing was in the wall all this time. Tesla never intended to build the “specialized public facilities to perform such swapping”.
October came, CARB met, and the same issue came up: does a battery swap qualify as fast refuelling? See slide 12:
Some [battery electric vehicles] have been qualifying under the fast refueling definition by means of battery exchange. However, it has not been publically demonstrated that battery exchanges have occurred on the vehicles earning credits. Though staff does recognize the potential for a battery exchange to help market the vehicle, other vehicles earning Type IV and V ZEV credit depend on fast refueling for vehicle operation and success. Staff is proposing to remove battery exchange from qualifying under the fast refueling definition, starting in 2015 model year.
Translation: we know Tesla is a scammer, but we don’t want them to go bankrupt so we’ll let them milk the battery swap cow for another couple years.
As it happens, starting in 2018 all ZEV credits will be awarded on range alone, not on refuelling time (see slide 66). This means the battery swap will no longer give Tesla any extra credits. So if CARB actually takes action in 2015, Tesla could only exploit this loophole for two or three years, out of five in total. Maybe the scam could stop before reaching $200 million. Phew! Good to see those regulators doing their job.
Tesla has reported sales of the 85KWh version at 70-90% of the total. Remember this version was upgraded from four ZEV credits to seven, and the other version from four to five. If that’s the case, then 35-40% of all ZEV credits they earn in California come because of the battery swap. Only Tesla knows how much they’ve made off these credits, but over the last four quarters their ZEV revenue has been $170M. Do the math.
And that doesn’t include figures for the current quarter. Or credits they have earned but haven’t sold yet. If you check the document I just linked to, but in slide 68, you’ll see that all credits can be “banked” (stockpiled) without penalty. Presumably, this could only change starting in 2018 when the ZEV program will revamped. So even if the market is weak one quarter, they can make it up the next.
Here you can see the transfers of ZEV credits among carmakers. It seems Tesla has sold 1,311.52 “credits” from October 2012 to September 2013, which is precisely the period we’re interested in, and they still have 276.080 left. But this is a different measure of credits (grams per mile of non-methane organic gases, and I don’t understand it either). To arrive at the ZEV number, you have to divide them by the number that appears at the bottom of the website, which for this period is 0.035. So Tesla has sold 37,472 credits, and they still have 7,888 in balance. This suggests their total ZEV credits earned for the period were 45,360, so they’ve sold 82% and kept the rest.
Note: this is not an audit. There is surely something I’m missing – credits transferred among states, carried over from previous periods, etc. So this is only an approximation. I suspect their credit generation in California was greater (it has provided 40-50% of their car sales), but they transferred those credits to other states. Also: the number of ZEV credits “generated” by other electric cars cannot be reliably calculated, because the big carmakers sell a lot of low-emission vehicles and they can also generate ZEV credits with those.
Still, we’re probably looking at $150 million in sales of California credits over this period, of which $60 million correspond to the battery swap. Including credits they haven’t sold yet, the respective figures grow by $30 and $12 million.
The bottom line is that ZEV credits are a key source of “revenue” for Tesla. Pure profit, in fact. And they will remain so for the foreseeable future.
And this has serious implications for entire ZEV program. Tesla “produced” about 45,000 ZEV credits in the state from October 12 to September 13. (For calendar 2013, the figure would be higher). Of this amount, about 18,000 (40%) were fraudulent. The only other electric car selling in decent amounts is the Nissan Leaf, but it only gets three credits per car and sells less than the Tesla. Everybody else is a rounding error, and the system as a whole probably produced less than 60,000 credits.
So if 40% of the credits Tesla gets are fraudulent, that’s 30% of the entire California market. In fact, it’s probably more than 20% of the entire US market. And that’s assuming the rest of the system is clean.
In short, the ZEV mandate is a joke.
So here we are, fifteen months after Tesla started getting carbon credits for the battery swap. The company has already cashed out, probably for more than $60 million. Without building a single swap station, or demonstrating the feature in consumer cars, or bothering to provide any sort of explanation.
I have emailed them, written on their Facebook page, posted in their forum. Their only “reaction” was to kinda make the battery swap disappear from their website. It’s impossible to get an actual response from the company.
Tesla intends to shut up its way out of this mess.
The question is, how could a scam so brazen go unnoticed for so long? I think other carmakers probably don’t want to get into trouble with California officials. So they’ve been lobbying to put an end to the special treatment Tesla gets, but they haven’t publicly denounced the situation or filed a lawsuit.
And for industry outsiders, well, the idea that the whole battery swap thing could be a fake is just surreal. How could Tesla sink that low?
The Tesla battery swap is the hoax of the year.
Sacramento-to-Portland Via Tesla Supercharger Network
George Parrott recounts his road trip from West Sacramento, California to Portland, Oregon and back by the family's new Model S.
EV Worldwire 16 Dec 2013
There is the equivalent of approximately 34,000 watt hours of electrical power in a gallon of gasoline. I want you to remember that number when you read George Parrott's account of he and his wife's trip up Interstate 5 recently, especially the part where he talks about the energy the car consumed in their 9 hour road trip, not counting stops at the various Tesla Supercharger stations along the way.
Parrot and his wife set off for Portland at 5:30 AM from their home in West Sacramento, California, stopping along the way to recharge the car, have a hearty breakfast, later lunch, potty stops, and then dinner, all done while fast recharging the car. They arrived at their Portland hotel at 7 PM. Fighting headwinds most of the way and rain, they still managed to use just 200 kWh of electric. Several days later, on the return trip, the winds were even stronger and it took 212 kWh. Also by then, Tesla had also issued its over-the-air update raising the suspension of the car after the two Model S fires that occurred when drivers hit metal objects in the road that punctured the battery pack. NHTSA is investigating both. Parrott figures that also reduced their range a bit.
A quick calculation turns that 200 kWh of energy into something the rest of us can understand: miles per gallon. Based on that assumption of 34kWh of energy per gallon of gasoline, the Model S consumed the equivalent of 5.88 gallons of gasoline to drive 600 miles. That's an amazing 102 MPGe (e for equivalent). Try that in your Lexus, hybrid or not.
And the Parrotts weren't piddling along either. They were doing the legal speed limit, at times up to 70 mph, but usually around 65 mph.
What they did discover is headwinds hurt. From Grants Pass, Oregon to Springfield, the longest segment of the trip between Superchargers, which can recharge the car in 30 minutes time, the estimated battery range of 175 miles actually turned out to be 140 miles. They arrived with 30 miles of range to spare.
Parrott sums up their trip this way:
Over our trip of a bit more than 1,200 miles in four days, we didn't spend a dime on electricity. And for that: Thanks, Tesla!
Five Model S Road Trips That Cost Tesla Owners Nothing
Angelo Young, writing for International Business Times, looked at several other road trips like the one the Parrotts took and came up with the following five:
Here are five round-trip, free-fuel road trips that are possible right now. These road trips assume you’re starting with a fully charged Model S with the extended 265-mile range, sticking to main routes. The Supercharger network is still too small in most cases for owners to completely rely on free charging, but these road trips would be technically possible without using any electricity except what is provided by a Tesla Supercharger.
Seattle to Los Angeles, 2,200 miles round trip
This is by far the easiest road trip to take relying solely on the Tesla Supercharger network. There are 15 charging stations all along the West Coast, which gives drivers the greatest amount of latitude to take scenic side trips and still get back to a Supercharger for a free top-off.
Minneapolis to Chicago, 818 miles round trip
There isn’t a Supercharger in Minneapolis yet, but thanks to the one that opened last week in Mauston, Wis., 198 miles away, a Model S can make the trip to Chi-Town and back, though in the 60 kWh Model S (which has a 208-mile range), that trip to and from the nearest station from Minneapolis would be a gamble.
New York City to Raleigh, 1,000 miles round trip
There are six active Supercharger stations between Darien, Conn., 46 miles north of New York City, and Charlotte, N.C. But getting to Charlotte, North Carolina’s southernmost city, is just out of reach for a return to the Supercharger station in Rocky Mount, N.C. But Raleigh and back is 118 miles, leaving more than enough power to get back.
Jacksonville to Miami, 690 miles round trip
Florida has three Supercharger stations, according to Tesla’s latest quick-charger map, enough to traverse much of the East Coast of the Sunshine State. The Supercharger station in Port St. Lucie connects Miami to the state’s border with South Carolina. The station in Fort Meyers on the state’s southern Gulf Coast allows free travel across the peninsula north of Lake Okeechobee.
The Texas Triangle, 710 miles
Five strategically placed Texas Supercharger stations in Waco, Corsicana, Huntsville, San Marcos and Columbus allows easy travel from Dallas to San Antonio to Houston and back to Dallas, covering most of the state’s largest cities. Free-fuel long distance travel is possible around this geographic triangle.
So how much would it cost to drive these 5,418 miles in a gasoline burner? In a Lexus LS -- a comparable gas burning full-sized luxury sedan – it would cost $1,288 worth of fuel, according to the latest estimate of regional average fuel prices by the American Automobile Association.
For Tesla Investors, Are Best Days Now Behind It?
James Brumley certainly believes the company has seen its best days as an investment, saying there is no 'happy ending for the TSLA saga.'
Investor Place 22 Nov 2013
If we didn’t know it to be true, the Tesla Motors (TSLA) saga that has taken shape over the past year or so almost reads like a movie script:
Overcoming many doubters, Tesla CEO Elon Musk successfully launched a zero-emissions electric vehicle that performed as well as a traditional combustion vehicle, and the TSLA automobile didn’t cost an arm and a leg to own. Shares of the company were up as much as 470% at one point this year, driven by sales of more than 19,000 of Tesla’s Model S electric vehicle in just a few quarters. The success not only vindicated Musk, but rewarded investors who believed in Tesla all along.
It was, in literary terms, a textbook example of a story’s exposition … the proverbial beginning of a tale.
The next part of any good fiction plot line is the so-called complication, and right on cue, a few too many fires under the hoods of the Model S vehicle (and the subsequent government investigation) has provided plenty of complication for the TSLA tale.
Tesla stock has plunged 34% in less than two months, and the very idea of a high-powered EV is being called into question.
Unlike most Hollywood-scripted stories, however, Tesla might not ultimately be headed for a happy ending, even though we may see a glimmer of hope in the near future.
What’s Next for TSLA?
First and foremost, any current or prospective shareholders need to understand there’s something of a disconnect between Tesla stock and the company’s value right now. No big deal — it happens all the time, actually.
But, if you’re not aware of it happening, it’s easy to get led into an errant assumption. See, the emotions and opinions driving the stock’s price right now (1) can be fabricated, and (2) can stop and turn on a dime.
With that warning in place, TSLA shares are apt to find a near-term bottom and hint at a reversal right around $111. That’s a near-perfect 50% retracement of this year’s big rally from the stock, and it’s where Tesla stock will encounter the all-important 200-day moving average (green). Point being, don’t be surprised if it looks like the buyers are wading back into the waters there.
Just don’t count on that bounce rekindling the red-hot trend we witnessed over the course of the first three quarters of 2013.
Chart made using TradeStation
Brace yourself if you’re a fan or shareholder: Tesla’s best days are behind it.
That’s not to say the company or Tesla stock won’t have good days in the future, but the Tesla-mania bubble has popped, and like any other bubble, this one can’t be repaired.
Brewing Pressure on TSLA
The great part about story stocks is that their rallies are self-perpetuating. The higher they move, the more prevalent the story becomes, drawing in new buyers, pushing the stock even higher, making the story even bigger, etc.
Does George Clooney Really 'Hate' Electric Cars?
John Voelcker weighs in on the spate of reports that actor/producer George Clooney is unhappy with electric cars and has been 'trash talking' them of late.
Green Car Reports 17 Nov 2013
There it was, on the always-factual pages of the New York Post: George Clooney hates Teslas.
On Monday, the tabloid published an article focusing on Clooney's comment at the very end of a recent Esquire interview that he'd been "on the side of the road a while" in his Tesla Roadster.
Clooney owned not only one of the first Tesla owners--he reportedly sold his Roadster, serial number 0008, last year--but has also bragged in the past about owning a Tango, a tandem two-seat electric car that's only half as wide as a conventional car.
With characteristic understatement, the Post writer noted that Clooney's remarks "seem to have had little effect" on the stock price of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].
We reached out to someone we know who's familiar with many Hollywood stars and their cars.
Because of the confidential nature of the relationships with some of those celebrities, this person asked not to be named.
But from the vantage point of having assisted stars with a variety of rare, expensive, or otherwise unusual cars, here's the real deal.
"That Post article is way overblown. Clooney was one of a bunch of celebs and others who got early cars for the novelty of it, then rarely used them.
"I do know of one instance of him having an issue with the car on the road. It wasn't that technically significant, but he had a very early car, and you know what they can be like).
"I'm sure it may have been a pain for Clooney on the day it happened--but it wasn't 'always stuck on the f***ing side of the road' at all.
"But his people whined to Tesla that they'd lost confidence in the car, so the company not only picked it up for a thorough inspection and kept it for a few weeks to make sure any issues were shaken out, they went back on a regular basis, picked up the car, put some miles on it, delivered it back, etc.
"That was just to make sure it was perfect any time he did feel like driving it. Of course, he never really did drive it much, largely because he was rarely in town.
"I think it had 2,000 miles or less when he sold it.
"From knowing his people, it sounds more like the Tango was the one that gave him the impression all electric cars were unreliable. Apparently he had more actual issues with that car--so by the time he got the Roadster, one issue was all it took. "
You may draw your own conclusions about movie stars and their car views from our anonymous close-to-the-celebs source. As for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, he reacted to Clooney's remarks with humor, tweeting, "In other news, George Clooney reports that his iPhone 1 had a bug back in '07."
We're eagerly waiting for the Star and the National Observer to weigh in.
Right-Hand Drive Model S Coming in Q2 2014
Tesla CEO Elon Musk makes announcement of late March 2014 availability during a technology meeting in Dublin, Ireland.
Gigaom.com 03 Nov 2013
Tesla founder Elon Musk, days after announcing the company would open a store in London, predicted that a version of the electric car would be ready for the roads of England and Ireland by late March.
Speaking with the Irish Prime Minister at a technology gathering in Dublin, Musk added that the key to the early success of the Model S has been overcoming perception that electric cars are go-karts.
“If you say electric car, people don’t have good associations. In order to be successful, we had to have sex appeal, great handling and long range.”
Despite early acclaim for the Model S from Consumer Reports, Musk acknowledged that the number of electric cars on the roads remains tiny and that, even if every new car sold is electric, it would still take 20 years to totally transform the fleet.
Invited to compare the Tesla Model S to Apple’s iPhone, Musk stressed the importance of design.
“Steve Jobs was ultra-product-focused, down to little details. He and people at Apple tried to have these likable things — the product just made you happy. We’re trying to do that with the Model S.”
Musk also addressed what places like Ireland can do to succeed tech centers. He said the key is a concentration of talent, but the focus of the talent must be on a particular area – much like a company does.
Model S: The Coolest Electric Car
Richard Rescigno thinks Telsa's Model S is a 'a legitimate alternative to the BMW 535i and the Audi S6 in terms of on-road dynamics.'
Wall Street Journal 01 Nov 2013
For drivers who like hurtling along wide-open Montana interstates or Bavarian autobahns, but worry about befouling the Earth with tailpipe emissions, the Tesla Model S provides both sin and absolution.
The shapely sedan, which Penta drove for a few hours around San Francisco, lately, has been the source of controversy over whether its stated range is accurate. But regardless of how this contretemps plays out, the Model S is indisputably the first electric vehicle that is a legitimate alternative to the BMW 535i and the Audi S6 in terms of on-road dynamics. It's a blast to drive.
Penta sampled a top-of-the-line Performance model; it included a panoramic glass sunroof, 21-inch wheels, and a killer sound system. The top goodie of all: its drivetrain. That's a 416-horsepower, electric drive inverter with gobs of torque. Powered by an 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-battery pack, it can push this 4,647-pound beast to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds -- faster than a base Porsche Carrera -- even though it uses essentially a one-gear transmission.
Stomp on the accelerator, and the Tesla -- with no long train of mechanical components to actuate -- leaps ahead like a cheetah spotting a gazelle. There's no direct pollution; what's produced at the plant that supplies the electricity for charging the batteries is another matter.
The rear-wheel-drive Tesla, which the feds say gets the electric equivalent of 89 miles per gallon in overall driving, features an interior dominated by a 17-inch touch screen that controls functions with ease. Want your car to crawl ahead in traffic when you take your foot off the brake? Just select a setting. Don't want that? Jab the screen, and it turns off. You can even adjust the degree to which the regenerative brakes, which put power back into the batteries when applied, will slow the car once your foot is off the accelerator. Pretty neat, if you're into that sort of thing.
The five-passenger Tesla, about four inches longer than a Lexus GS 350, also offers more passenger space than any other sedan in its class. The battery pack is located beneath the Model S' flat floor, which gives the car a very low center of gravity that aids handling while also providing 26.3 cubic feet of luggage space when the rear seat is up. And a 5.3-cubic-foot trunk is under the hood. The sedan can even accommodate two optional, small rear-facing jump seats -- perfect for squirmy children, pets, and adults you don't like.
Other charms in our silver tester were door handles that pop out from their body-flush enclosures when you approach with the electronic key in your pocket. The downer: rotten rear visibility, owing to the passenger compartment's slope. But that slope adds to the car's racy looks.
None of this comes cheap. The Performance model lists at $94,900. With options, it climbs north of $100,000, before a tax credit of $7,500 from Uncle Sam. The base price for a standard 85-kWh model runs to $79,900; a 60-kWh car can be had for $69,900; a not-yet-in-production 40-kWh version has been priced at $59,900. The two models with the largest power packs have an advertised range of 265 miles; the 60-kWh and 40-kWh batteries claim 230 and 160 miles, respectively. Since we tested the Model S for only 100 miles or so, we can't weigh in on the debate between Tesla and the New York Times reporter who says a Model S ran out of juice prematurely on a long test drive. Tesla has accused him of inaccuracy; reporters from other media outlets subsequently Tesla-ed successfully over the same Washington-to-Boston route.
Whatever the true range is, electric-car makers, to be viable, must make motorists confident they can take long trips, hassle-free. With that in mind, Tesla is building a string of "supercharger" stations in populous areas of the country. In a half-hour, these can pour enough electricity into a Tesla to let it travel 150 miles. That's terrific in electric-car terms, but compared with a five-minute gas-up at a service station, which might let a conventional auto cover 300 or 400 miles, that's still pretty lame. There also are public areas, in parks or near government buildings, to charge electric cars, but finding them isn't always stress-free, although online aids can help, including the U.S. Energy Department's alternative-fueling-station locator. And they juice up the car more slowly.
Price is also an issue. In a rich market like the U.S., Tesla will be able to find 10,000 or maybe 20,000 buyers -- the firm's current production rate for the Model S -- for an expensive electric car. But the challenge for Tesla Motors, especially with other luxury-car makers planning to join the electric fray, is to build more than a curio. It must come up with an affordable model with decent range for the mass market. George Blankenship, Tesla's vice president of sales and marketing, says the company aims to produce just such a car, about the size of a BMW 3 Series, with comparable driving dynamics, and selling for around $30,000, as soon as 2017. (Sorry, Nissan, the Leaf doesn't fill this bill.)
That's a tall order, particularly for a fragile start-up like Tesla Motors that still isn't profitable. Last month, Tesla reported a fourth-quarter loss of 65 cents a share, excluding options expenses, versus the consensus estimate of a 53-cent deficit. But Tesla still beat the Street revenue forecast and predicted that it would turn profitable in the current quarter.
But who knows? Maybe Tesla can launch a $30,000 model, just as it's done what seemed unlikely a few years ago: sell an electric car that auto enthusiasts really want to drive.
Filmmaker Reviews His New Tesla Model S
Shawn Lawrence Otto just took delivery of his Tesla Model S and pens the following article/essay on whether the it's the right car for you.
Huffington Post 02 Oct 2013
Nikola Tesla was the inventor of the alternating current (AC) that powers our homes today, as well as many other revolutionary breakthroughs in our command of electromagnetism. Tesla was a bit like Iron Man, a somewhat touched but brilliant inventor and a talented showman, and his magical displays of what electricity could do dazzled the public with a world of new possibilities.
The new Tesla Model S, like its namesake, presents us with an equally revolutionary breakthrough, a car literally unlike any other in the last 100 years. It is a complete game-changer, a reengineering of the automobile and the personal transportation industry from the ground up. Suddenly, it is possible to drive normally without polluting the air or adding to climate change, and to do it for one-tenth of the cost of using gas, all while getting incredible G-force speed and handling second to none. It's enough to make a boy say my God, where have you been?
The Tesla business concept: what some stock analysts are missing
To understand just how revolutionary the car is, consider the stock. Tesla's stock has had an incredible run this year, and is up by around 500 percent. Stock analysts, however, have spent the last four months saying it is overvalued, then adjusting their forecasts upward. The reason is because people are having a hard time appraising something so out of the box. We carry with us a lifetime of assumptions about cars, and those assumptions can limit our perception of new opportunities. The stock analysts believed the car is too expensive, and its market is limited to coastal one-percenters. I live in Minnesota. I got my Model S a few days ago, and it is by far the most expensive car I have ever owned. I would have never spent this much for an ordinary car of any kind. But after test driving one, I realized that this is more than a car; it is a top quality transportation service, and that is where doubters of both the car and the stock get blinded by their old assumptions. Tesla is a descendant of the portable computing revolution, not of the Detroit automakers, and it is to cars, car dealerships and gas stations what Amazon is to books and bookstores, and what iTunes is the the record industry. People who value Tesla's stock like that of an automobile manufacturer are missing the concept in a similar way to the analysts who at first valued Amazon stock like that of a bookstore. Borders went bankrupt.
Why Tesla is different: a vast new market
I first heard about Elon Musk, the CEO and design architect of Tesla (who has also been compared to Iron Man) from my friend the physicist Lawrence Krauss. I was looking for donors for the non-profit ScienceDebate.org, the producer of the US presidential science debates, and Krauss connected me with Musk, who became a supporter. I started following Tesla and Musk's other company, SpaceX, and the more I learned about Tesla's new Model S electric car, the more excited I became. As Arthur C. Clark pointed out all sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and that is true for the Model S. Its value proposition is that you can drive with incredible performance and without destroying the environment. That's a powerfully hopeful feeling for Americans who, for a generation, have been feeling increasingly hopeless and guilty as climate change, ocean pollution, mountaintop mining, and hordes of other environmental and geopolitical effects of our consumer culture and energy use have come home to roost. A company that can tap into that deep anxiety and relieve it without demanding personal sacrifice will find an immense, untapped market a generation deep and of all political persuasions. That is precisely what Tesla has done, and it has done it while delivering performance, art and style, and that is what is driving the car and the stock skyward.
The big car companies are missing this market opportunity because they aren't relieving the anxiety without the sacrifice. Their electric cars are more expensive than gas cars and have less power and more limited range; ie, they demand sacrifice. It's a failed value proposition for most people, and the car companies take it as confirmation that there is no market. They could not be more wrong. The market is huge; they have just failed to mine it because they have been unable to abandon an internal combustion mentality, and so seem to have ceased innovating outside of that dusty, crusty 100-year-old box. Such confirmation bias is one of the fundamental fallacies of logic.
Reengineering the personal transportation experience
Mental and institutional blocks of this sort present massive opportunities for disruptive entrepreneurs to rethink the whole game, which is what Tesla has done. Why can't an electric car go 300 miles on a charge? It can if you start with seven thousand stock lithium-ion batteries and figure out how to control them. Why do we need to worry about running out of juice? We don't--Tesla's cars can be 50 percent recharged in 20 minutes and 80 percent recharged in 40. Tesla is erecting a proprietary network of superchargers along the U.S. interstate system, allowing Model S owners to recharge for free in the time it takes for a potty break and a cup of coffee. They expect to cover 80 percent of the U.S. population by next year, and 98 percent by 2015. Musk and his wife and five kids are planning a cross country trip from Los Angeles to New York in the coming months to show how easy it is. These two factors--long range and rapid recharge--are covered by some 140 Tesla patents, with more in process, protecting Tesla's superior battery technology's lead for some time.
Why do we need to have local "gas stations" at all? Most of the time, we won't. Aside from the cross-country holiday trip, most people's daily driving happens well within the single-charge range of the car. In that case, drivers can simply charge at home in their garage, usually at off-peak rates, using electricity that would have often been dumped into a heat sink anyway, and never again have to worry about filling up on the way to work. And why do we need car dealerships? We don't if people can order from home over the internet with greater ease and less unpleasantness. Why does an EV have to be slow, weak and frumpy? It doesn't--with the torque of electromagnetism a Tesla gets more speed, power and efficiency than a gas engine; it simply smokes many of the best gas sports cars. But don't Americans like big cars and SUVs for their seating and storage? The Model S can seat seven because there is no space wasted by a drive train, exhaust system, gas tank and heat shield. And with no engine, you have room for luggage in the front trunk, or "frunk," freeing up the back. Plus, with all the weight in the floor where the batteries are, the car's center of gravity is extremely low, making it extremely safe and letting it corner like a race car. Mental block after block is falling, in some cases threatening to disrupt entire industries, including car dealerships and corner gas stations, and that's why the Tesla Model S is such a game changer, and why Tesla stock is the best performing stock of the year. As the car has blown away nay-sayers, the investment has forced analysts to revise their estimates higher and then revise them higher and higher yet again. Deutsche Bank, for example, raised their price target for Tesla stock from $35 to $50 in May, then to $160 in July then to $200 in September, and some financial bloggers who closely follow the company think that if Tesla continues its excellent execution the stock price, which currently values the company at around $22 billion, could go many multiples higher.
Why I sprang for the most expensive car I've ever bought
For me, buying a Tesla was motivated by a combination of three things: integrity, value, and excitement.
I am a filmmaker, but I am also known as a science writer and science advocate. In that role, I write and speak a lot about climate change, and I see much of the same data that leading climate scientists look at. Like them, I am concerned about my son's future and the future of my nieces and nephews because of climate change's accelerating effects. It truly is our greatest challenge. In addition to working to get the candidates for president to talk about science-related policy issues like this, I'm doing everything I can personally to model change and inform and inspire others. That kind of personal communication effort is necessary if we're going to solve this problem. I live in a wind-powered, super insulated, geothermal, passive solar home I designed and built with my own hands. It's environmentally advanced, but it's also beautiful and without significant sacrifice, which is the same philosophy of Tesla. We give tours of the house, and up until now I have driven a hybrid, but with an 88-97 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) the Tesla will have that beat by multiples. The car's battery and motor use no rare earth minerals, and the car frame and body, being made out of aluminum, are highly recyclable. Knowing what I know, buying the car became a matter of integrity and morality, even if it will cost more than I've ever before dedicated to transportation. Let's say I'm re-internalizing the true cost of my transport.
Some critics however, including some at Climate Central, argue that electric vehicles are worse than hybrids in several states because they have a larger manufacturing carbon footprint due to the carbon-intensive processes used to make the batteries, and because of the coal mix in electricity generation in various states. In my opinion these criticisms are based on faulty assumptions.
First they assume, without a very strong foundation, that the battery pack will be exhausted in 100,000 miles. But these analyses miss the burgeoning market in battery repurposing post-traction pack use. Tesla guarantees my battery pack for 8 years and unlimited miles (obviously, Tesla believes they have found a way to manage the battery to extend its life). But if you take a non-Tesla "exhausted" battery pack out of an EV after 100,000 miles it will still have, it's estimated, 60-80 percent of its capacity left. It may not be very useful for transportation because its range is reduced at that point, but it's still excellent for home and business use. There is a growing aftermarket for these packs in static energy storage applications, and people who work in the energy space are anticipating that storage will be the key to an advanced 100 percent renewable energy system known as the "smart grid." Already, crashed Leafs (Leaves?) and Volts are being scavenged for batteries that are then repurposed for other uses in the static storage market, such as home storage for solar PV systems. With one or two 18-36 KWh storage batteries and a sufficiently-sized solar array, you can tell the power company to come cut the line. Or you can charge your home battery pack off peak, then sell your stored power (which would otherwise have been wasted by the utility) back out to the grid during peak hours, doubling your money and smoothing the grid's demand curve, reducing the need for additional future generating capacity. In such low demand applications as powering home appliances, some experts estimate used EV traction packs could last an additional 10 to 20 years, after which they can finally be sent off to be recycled. Retriev Technologies in Ohio (formerly known as Toxco), has received ARRA money to develop a program for recycling lithium ion battery packs. Also, as new regulations, technologies and EV car demands improve the grid and motivate a switch from coal to natural gas, and then to renewable sources, the grid will continue to get greener and greener, while gas won't.
Second, they assume that people will charge at any given hour, at full retail prices. In fact, most drivers are home over night, and if one has to make a base assumption absent data, it is most logical to assume that that is when the majority of recharging will occur. Many utilities offer half-price or in some cases free electricity during these off-peak hours, because they can't simply shut down their turbines when demand falls at night, so much of the unsold electricity they generate then is wasted by being dumped into heat sinks. The Model S can be easily set to charge only during off-peak times, taking full advantage of the lowest possible rate, and to assume drivers would not use half-price or free energy if it is available runs counter to all known economic science.
So, all in all, Teslas appear to actually have a much lower (and sinking) carbon impact over the vehicle's life cycle than a hybrid, and to provide a beneficial driving force for a cleaner grid. A good recent critical review of many of these analyses is a diary post by statistician Assaf Oron, posted on Daily Kos. If you are concerned about climate change like I am, and you can stretch to afford it, you should seriously consider getting a Tesla Model S.
Value (and some insane quality ratings)
The Model S value proposition is both ethical and financial, as describe above. Because of the much higher efficiency of electric drive, my fuel cost has gone from $15 per day to roughly $1.15-$1.35 per day, with the several-thousand-dollar-a-year savings offsetting some of the extra cost of this extraordinary car. My car is charged up and ready to go every morning. Forget stopping for gas.
My wife and I generate much of our own electricity with a 15KW Jacobs wind generator but it's no longer enough to power our geothermal unit and the Tesla in addition to our household use, so we also buy from the utility. My utility uses coal, natural gas, waste to energy, wind and hydro. We buy extra wind to offset the coal and gas and remain effectively carbon neutral. Plus I charge the car off peak so I'm using electricity that is normally wasted anyway, and I'm charging at half the normal retail rate. In this way, my driving has a net carbon sink effect.
The car has only one fluid to regularly service: washer fluid, and it has just six regular maintenance parts: four tires and two wiper blades. The tires should wear faster than normal because the car is 4,600 lbs and because the tires are always under duress, either by acceleration or deceleration as the very strong regenerative braking kicks in when I step off the "gas," putting energy back into the battery pack. On the up side, I may never have to replace my brake pads because I only have to tap my breaks for the last foot before coming to a complete stop.
There are no oil changes to worry about, very little maintenance, but Tesla sells an annual maintenance plan for $600 which covers everything except tires. I will probably buy this but I think it should be cheaper. If I buy a four-year plan in advance, I can get it for 25 percent off, but that's more cash up front. The body and frame are aluminum so there will be no rust. The car has as much storage as some SUVs, and much fewer moving parts to break or maintain.
The battery pack is powerful enough to go 300 miles if I drive like my wife drives her Prius, which is unlikely. EPA rates it at 265 in a combined average, which I suspect will more likely reflect my use. I've never been able to perfect hypermiling. The Model S is the first electric car that meets the range requirements of my lifestyle, and that of most other people.
Consumer Reports gave the Model S a 99/100 rating, their best rating ever. The car is Motor Trend's car of the year, and it rates as the safest car ever tested by the NHTSA (in fact, it broke their testing equipment). See what I mean about the old Tesla magic? All this is from a zero-emission car.
If there is any sacrifice, it's in the cost, which is a budget stretcher for most people. New Telsas bought outright start at $63,570 base price for a car with a 60KW battery pack and a 208 mile EPA-rated range, and $73,570 for an 85KW battery pack and a 265 mile EPA-rated range, and they peak out at $125,570 fully loaded with performance packages and all options.
Financed, it can become more affordable. After my down payment it will cost me a little over $1,000 a month at 1.99 percent interest for 60 months in Tesla's arranged Wells Fargo financing, unless I pay it off sooner. The Tesla financing plan also gives me the option to trade it back or sell it back for roughly half its new car price at 36-39 months, which gives me some protection against depreciation. And the $7,500 federal tax credit helps stretch my budget.
The options are incredible. If you're an audiophile, Tesla's premium sound system is the best OEM sound I've ever heard. The all-glass panoramic sunroof is fantastic, as is the Tech Package, which turns the car into something out of the movies. Numerous other option are available to juice your performance and enrich your experience.
I gotta say, I have never been this excited about buying a car before, which I have usually regarded as a necessary evil. The whole experience of owning and driving the Tesla Model S is different from any other car I've ever been in.
Because the weight is in the batteries, which are below the floor, the center of gravity is very low, making the car extremely unlikely to roll over, and making it handle like a dream. Plus, 0-60 in between 4.2 and 5.6 seconds depending on purchased options makes it faster than almost every unmodified, street legal car out there. With electric motors you have 100 percent torque available from 0 mph. Keep it away from your teens, because the car can do a burnout at 30 mph. My father in law was a fighter jet pilot and he's coming to visit soon. I can't wait to show him the G-force of this car, which plasters the "Tesla grin" on your face.
The technology and controls all run through a 17-inch touchscreen in the front dash, which is connected to 3G at all times, and it doesn't have one of those irritating legal screens you have to click "I agree" to every time you drive the car. This is a car for adults. Responsibility is assumed. The 3G connection allows all sorts of cool things, like Slacker radio and updates pushed from Tesla that upgrade your experience and give you new options. The car is almost completely customizable through preference settings on the screen, from the feel of the steering and suspension (comfort, standard, and sport settings) to whether or not the car creeps forward when in drive like a gas car (EVs don't need to creep). To open the panoramic sunroof, which stretches over both the front and back seats, you swipe the sunroof image on the touch screen and it opens as far as you have swiped. Everything is intuitive and easy like that.
The key fob is shaped like a small Model S. Pushing the front opens the frunk, the back opens the hatch, and the roof locks and unlocks. But there is a cooler feature: with the key fob in your pocket, you don't have to push anything. When you're done driving you simply get out and walk away and the car shuts down and locks up for you. When you return, the car senses you approaching and extends its lighted door handles and powers up, then the handles retract once you are seated inside.
You can also control the car from upstairs or from hundreds of miles away with an app for iPhone and Android that lets you control the charging, warm the car up or cool it down before you get there, honk the horn or flash the lights, open and close the sunroof, find the car on a map, and other functions. And the car cannot be operated without the key fob, so it is very hard to steal.
The future versus the past
For those who can't justify the Model S on size, Tesla is next coming out with the Model X, an SUV crossover expected to roll out in early 2015, and for those who can't justify it on price, Tesla plans to release the Model E, a 200-300 mile range EV expected to be priced at a more economical $35,000 with many of the great features of the Model S, planned for as early as 2016. After the $7,500 federal EV tax credit, that brings the Model E within range of many more people, especially when you consider the estimated $13,000 in fuel cost savings over a 100,000 miles of driving.
For me, because of what I do and what I know, it was important to adopt this technology now, even knowing that my pricey payment is funding some of Tesla's Model E research and development. Because the biggest payoff for me is the way the car is challenging the thinking of everyone, and I mean everyone, from the stock analysts to the executives at the big old automakers who are suddenly scrambling to catch up to Tesla, to policymakers and drivers who can now see a brighter future where transportation is not a major cause of climate change and getting from point A to point B does not have to harm the environment.
That's priceless, and I will support it any way I can. And so far, I'm having a hell of a fun time doing it.
Shawn Lawrence Otto is an award-winning science writer, filmmaker, novelist, and the co-founder of ScienceDebate.org, the home of the US presidential science debates. His new book is Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. He lives in a wind-powered, passive solar, superinsulated geothermal home he designed and built with his own hands. Visit him at www.shawnotto.com and like him on Facebook. Join ScienceDebate.org to get candidates to debate science.
Even Crash Dummies Prefer Electric Cars
The Union of Concerned Scientists' Josh Goldman writes, tongue-in-cheek, about the recent crash test ratings of the Tesla Model S.
Mother Nature Network 13 Sep 2013
You are probably aware that electric vehicles are clean, cheap to fuel, and an important part of our plan to reduce projected oil consumption by half within 20 years. You may not be aware, however, that you can now add another important feature to the list of electric vehicle benefits: safety.
Recently, Tesla announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Tesla Model S a five-star safety rating — and, the vehicle earned the best overall test score of any vehicle NHTSA tested. While a five-star score has been attained by other vehicles, the 2013 Model S achieved an overall vehicle safety score of 0.42. This is the lowest score — and in this case lower is better — of any vehicle that NHTSA has tested under a new rating system that began in the 2011 model-year.
It's no wonder Tesla couldn't help but boast: the machine designed to test how much weight a car's roof can withstand broke after applying more than four times the force of gravity to the Model S. That's like stacking four Model S's on top of the test model without breaking the roof.
The Model S, and other electric vehicles, perform well in crash tests for a variety of reasons. First, electric vehicles don't have big engines that can slam into passengers during a frontal collision. With the electric motor in back and a trunk in the front (also known as a "frunk"), the Model S and similarly designed electric vehicles have large, frontal crash-protection crumple zones.
Also, while the weight of an electric vehicle's battery is a challenge for engineers trying to extend driving range, batteries make such vehicles more stable on the road. The Model S's 1,000-pound battery, for example, sits under the floor of the car, giving it a low center of gravity that makes it exceptionally difficult to roll over. According to Tesla, the Model S's rollover risk was rated at just 5.7 percent, and the vehicle refused to turn over via normal methods; special means were needed to induce the car to roll during testing.
And thanks to a "double bumper," car also tested well in the rear crash test: the crash-test dummies showed people would survive without permanent, disabling injury — even in the vehicle's optional, rear-facing, third row.
We've come a long way since an electric taxi caused the first automobile fatality in Central Park on a late summer evening in 1899. Safety improvements like seat belts, airbags, and accident-avoidance computers have greatly reduced traffic fatalities even as vehicle miles have risen. Modern electric vehicles may continue this trend even further, putting another arrow in the quiver of reasons why driving on electricity is a critical part of a Half the Oil future.
Josh Goldman is a policy analyst for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) where he leads legislative and regulatory campaigns to reduce U.S. oil consumption.This article was adapted from "This Just In: Crash Test Dummies Prefer Electric Vehicles"on the UCS blog the Equation.
This Loverboy Loves His Telsa Model S
Loverboy lead guitarist Paul Dean thinks the Model S electric car is is better than a 'Vette or Porsche 928.
Vancouver Sun/Canada 01 Sep 2013
Amid all the cutting-edge propulsion technology, the massive dashmounted touchscreen and the otherworldly cabin design, one of the coolest aspects of the Tesla Model S is its stereo.
It goes to 11.
In a move that puts the audio in audacity, the California-based carmaker borrowed a line straight out of popular culture and placed it squarely in the all-too square realm of car design. Imagine a German engineer pitching to his button-down bosses that he wanted to calibrate their sound system with a nod to the movie Spinal Tap. Gunther will show you the door.
To Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean, the whimsical reference is just another reason to fall in love with the Model S we’re taking for a spin. Thing is, five minutes into the drive from his North Vancouver home en route to the top of Cypress Bowl Road in West Vancouver, he’s already smitten.
“This car is incredible,” Dean enthuses as he grips the meaty sport steering wheel. “The torque in this thing. … This reminds me of a ride I went for in a friend’s Viper. I had a fast ’Vette and a fast (Porsche) 928, but nothing like this.”
Dean, the lead guitarist and songwriter for the Canadian rock group that ruled the airwaves of the ’80s, is a self-confessed car freak with an ownership track record to prove it. Porsches, Bimmers, ’Vettes, Mustangs, you name a performance machine and the rock star has either owned it or driven it.
But as a young lad growing up in the wilds of Invermere, his tastes ran a little humbler.
“The very first car that I wanted was a 1952 Triumph TR2 I’d found for sale,” he says with a laugh, noting the nearest place to get it serviced was either Calgary or Cranbrook. “Fortunately my dad talked me out of it. He said ‘over my dead body.’
“As a 16-year old who just got his licence, all my buddies from Calgary would drive their sports cars — just drove me crazy. So I had it in my mind that I had to have a two-seater British sports car.”
That dream, like the one of musical stardom, would be realized, but would have to wait awhile for the Vancouver-born rocker.
The all-electric car that Dean is piloting on our drive is also a dream come true, though in its case the dreamer is Silicon Valley wunderkind Elon Musk, who founded Tesla Motors in 2003 with a vision of mass-producing electric performance cars.
Skeptics abounded, and still do, but Musk has proven them wrong time and again.
The company employs almost 3,000 full-time workers, and is involved in a number of joint ventures with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Freightliner.
Model S sales reached 12,700 units in June since going on sale late last year, and it has garnered a number of awards, including 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year, Time magazine’s Best 25 Inventions of 2012 and Automobile Magazine’s 2013 Car of the Year.
Silently zipping up Cypress Bowl Road and carving the sport sedan into a tight switchback, Dean is far from a skeptic — his eyes, despite being shielded by sunglasses, show all indications of an all-too willing convert.
But surely a guy who’s spent a great deal of his life standing mere metres away from Marshall amp stacks misses the burble and bark of a performance machine’s exhaust note?
“I don’t miss it at all,” he offers matter-of-factly. “The other extreme is the 1965 Corvette Stingray, 327 four-speed fastback with Lakers (exhaust pipes) I owned for a while. I ended up getting rid of it ’cause I was tired driving with my knees.”
Driving with his knees?
“Like this,” he says, cupping both hands over his ears. “That car was way too loud.”
The only discernible sound in the cabin is some road noise from the low profile tires, but once Dean gets his hands, more pointedly, his finger, on the sound system via the steering wheel controls, the speakers take care of that aural distraction.
There is, however, an issue with the Tesla that is making the lanky Dean squirm a bit in the well-bolstered driving seat.
“It’s something I really appreciate, and something this car doesn’t have,” he says of the fault. “When I drive I rest my right knee on the console, and if its got a rounded curve I’m a happy guy. If it’s square — like this one — I’m always moving around and I can’t relax.”
He’s also got an issue with the dead pedal: “It’s in the way so I can’t stretch out my left leg.
“And those are always deal breakers.”
He recalls a Porsche 928 he owned, remarking, “it was like sitting in your living room. The most amazing car.”
However, it also had a fault.
“It’s didn’t have ABS, and was scary in the rain and snow. I slid through so many intersections in West Van in that car when it was raining.”
Speaking of rain, it’s starting to drizzle a little outside as we’re making our way back down the snaking mountain road, and the descent gives Dean the opportunity to experience the regenerative braking of the Model S, which slows the car without the driver applying any brake.
“It takes some getting used to, as there is no gliding when you take your foot off the gas,” he observes, recalling he once got 100,000 kilometres out of a set of brakes on his BMW. “You really don’t even have to use the brakes really.”
Arriving at Ambleside Beach and awaiting the Sun photographer, we have a chance to poke around the Model S, and Dean approaches it as an experienced showroom shopper.
“Just as a general rule, with all my cars I never go with a lower profile than 55 for the ride quality, but this profile is a 35. I can’t believe the ride is so good with such a low profile tire; the suspension is amazing. We hit a couple of potholes and they just melted like butter. I can’t remember a better ride, ever, than this car.”
Popping the rear hatch and contemplating the cargo space with the 60/40 split rear seats folded flat, he nods with approval: “I could get my big Marshall stack in there.”
The particular Model S we’re testing is the P85+, the top-of-the line model with all the performance add-ons and the biggest battery pack available (the 85 refers to the 85 KW-h lithium-ion battery pack, good for an estimated full charge range of 426 km). Other models include the 65, the 85 and the P85.
After the photo shoot, we head back to Dean’s home in a quiet North Van neighbourhood, and he’s still jazzed about driving the Tesla. Clearly, his many years of driving performance cars have not diminished his joy in discovering something new.
He also still loves performing, and Loverboy has half-a–dozen shows still to do in 2013, including three in Vancouver — this coming Labour Day Monday to close out the PNE and a couple of corporate gigs at the Commodore and the Red Robinson Theatre.
There’s also a new studio album coming out soon, one that features unreleased songs spanning some three decades.
“I had 220 tapes that I’d been hauling around forever, and I got them digitized and started going through them,” Dean says of the new record’s genesis.
“The first tune was written before we had a record deal, in 1979, and the last tune was written when we didn’t have a deal, in 2007.”
Dean identified 25 potential songs for the new album, and the band has since whittled that down to 10 that have made the cut.
Dean is also part of a new Streetheart live album that is due out soon, recorded in Winnipeg in 1993 during a reunion of the band famous for their cover of the Stones’ Under My Thumb, along with a handful of hits of their own.
“The bottom line for me is are we playing together? Are we cooking? Is everybody in the bubble, in the moment? Is it amazing, or are we just going through the motions, struggling with technical problems, fatigue, attitude?
“But when it all comes together, and all five of us are in the bubble for an hour-and-a-half, nothing can touch it.”
Sort of like turning it up to 11.
2013 Tesla Model S P85
Style: All-electric four-door hatchback sports sedan
Engine: Three phase, four pole AC induction motor
Transmission: Single speed gearbox
Fuel economy (Le/100km): 2.7 city; 2.6 hwy.
Full-charge range: 426 kilometres
Price (base/as tested): $103,000/$122,620
Options as tested: Performance Plus ($6,950); 21-inch Grey Performance Plus wheels with high performance tires ($4,900); panoramic roof ($1,600); Tech package ($4,000); Sound Studio package ($1,000).
Five Ways Tesla Is Changing How We Drive
Bill Roberson ticks of the five ways he sees Tesla's pacesetting Model S is transforming the way we think about and interact with an electric car.
Digital Trends 22 Aug 2013
The hottest electric car on the market, the Tesla Model S, is changing people’s minds about driving an electric vehicle. Sure, it’s expensive, but we all know that the innovations in the Model S will eventually trickle down to less expensive cars and into the EV gene pool in general. Here are five properties of the Model S that signal big changes in the way we drive.
1. Smoothness counts more than ever
Smoothness is key to driving a Tesla in order to squeeze the maximum number of miles out of the battery. Since there’s no gas motor to rescue you if you run out of juice, drivers of the Model S have begun to adopt certain driving habits that preserve the car’s range – or extend it – in several ways. The first is by being smooth on the controls. Sure, it a gas (pun intended) to stomp on the Model S’ accelerator and crush that snob in the Viper with a 4.2-second 0-60 time that also pins you to your seat as a wave of torque propels the car ever faster, but smart drivers know those kind of hijinks are also range and battery power killers, so most owners have adopted a light-on-the-pedal approach to maximize range with a little fun mixed in when warranted. This is actually common for owners of most all electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
Additionally, planning stops ahead becomes an art for the sake of science. Coasting up to that stoplight and returning 100 percent of the regeneration power to the battery instead of inefficiently heating up the brake rotors gives Model S drivers more range, and if you can ride in regeneration mode down a big hill (counterintuitive, I know), your battery becomes very happy. Plus, you’re now a better, smoother driver that looks farther down the road.
2. Enjoy the silence
Get into the driver’s seat of a Tesla, turn off the audio system, put it in Drive, tap the accelerator and the Tesla moves forward – in total silence. A higher speeds, road noise comes through but the sound level continues to be lower since there’s no engine or transmission churning away, no exhaust pipes and very little wind noise. The car is so quiet it can sometimes “sneak up” on pedestrians in parking lots or crosswalks, so feel free to toot the horn a bit to give everyone a heads up if you’re at the wheel.
Get into most any gas-powered car after driving the Tesla and the vibration, noise and comparative crudeness of gas-powered transportation is immediately apparent. Automakers looking to compete with the Tesla have their work cut out for them in making their cars more quiet, and from that we will all benefit.
3. It’s a smarter smart car
When going for a drive in the Tesla, there are no doors to unlock, keys to turn or Start buttons to push as long as you have the key fob on your person. Just sit down and drive, there’s no warming up or other delays. While driving, every iota of information you could desire including navigation, audio, the real Internet, car settings, driving dynamics, energy recapture and more is either on the central 17-inch vertical touchscreen or on the LCD screens flanking the central speedometer. There are almost no buttons in the car. Once done with driving, put it in Park, get out and walk away. The door handles retract and the car turns itself off and locks down until you return. There are stories of Tesla owners who, after driving their Model S sedans for a while, drive gas powered cars and after parking, get out and walk away – leaving the car running in place.
4. You get more with less
As refined as they are today, gas-powered cars are extremely complicated. They have an engine with hundreds of moving parts, many of which wear out over time or can break, a transmission with hundreds more parts again as well as driveshafts, differentials and more, all of which can also wear out over time. The Model S has a simple watermelon-sized electric motor with relatively few moving parts and it has a one-gear “transmission” which is really just a simple gear to connect the rear wheel axles to the motor. Beyond that it has shock absorbers and a steering system. There is no exhaust system to rust out, no oil change schedule to follow, no DEQ inspections to suffer through and pay for and no tuneups needed outside of occasional tech checkups to make sure all is well. All that adds up to less complexity, less cost, less to go wrong and simpler fixes when they do.
5. It’s hard to buy gas after learning to drive without it
Electric vehicles like the Tesla still have to deal with where and when to charge up. But while it may take a Model S about 20 minutes to get an 80 percent recharge from a Tesla Supercharger (and that’s free, by the way), it’s a whole lot cheaper than dropping $50 to $100 on a tank of liquid dinosaur. Every week.
Many Tesla owners are happy to take a 20 or 30 minute break after driving 200 or so miles anyway. And with Tesla due to roll out a gas-station-like battery-swap option that takes 90 seconds to complete, they’ve kind of answered the recharge time question as well.
Tesla Aces U.S. Crash Tests
The safety test news sent Tesla's stock up 3.2 percent to $149.58 in Tuesday's trading.
Mercury News 22 Aug 2013
Tesla Motors (TSLA) says its all-electric Model S sedan has received the highest crash test ratings of any car ever tested by federal regulators. Not only that: Tesla says it was nearly impossible to roll the Model S over during the tests, and that a machine used to crush roofs in another test broke because the Model S is so strong.
Nathan Naylor, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed Tuesday that Tesla got five stars but stressed that the federal agency does not rank autos against each other, leaving it unclear whether the NHTSA agrees with Tesla that the Model S received the highest crash test ratings ever.
However, Naylor confirmed that the Model S got five-star ratings in every category set by the safety agency.
The top safety ratings are a huge honor for the Palo Alto-based company and CEO Elon Musk, who takes pride in the fact that, to date, there have been no reported Model S or Tesla Roadster occupant fatalities.
"Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants," Tesla said in a statement released late Monday. "While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents."
The NHTSA estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2012, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2011.
Theo O'Neill, an analyst with Litchfield Hills Research, said a segment of the population will find the safety ratings a compelling reason to buy the Model S, which has a base price of $70,000.
"As Tesla Motors Model S sedans line up by a new "Supercharger" station at their factory in Fremont, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) (ANDA CHU)
a father, I find this will make it easier to convince my wife that we should buy one of these beauties," O'Neill said.
One reason Tesla offered for the high safety ratings of the Model S is that its front end contains a storage space it calls a "frunk" rather than a gasoline engine, creating a longer "crumple zone" to absorb the impact of any high speed crash. Also, if Model S owners order a third-row seat for children, Tesla installs a double bumper to protect against any rear crashes.
During testing by the NHTSA, the Model S "refused to turn over via the normal methods," Tesla said, because of the car's very low center of gravity. And during a roof crush protection test, it said, the testing machine failed rather than the roof.
"During validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 gs," Tesla said. "While the exact number is uncertain due to the Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner's car without the roof caving in."
The safety test news sent Tesla's stock up 3.2 percent to $149.58 in Tuesday's trading. The company's shares have increased more than fourfold so far this year.
Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book said Tesla continues to impress.
"The Model S isn't just about cutting-edge drivetrain technology or sleek styling or capable performance or premium interior features or unrivaled occupant safety," said Brauer. "It's all of those things in one compelling design package."
Consumer Reports Tests East Coast Supercharger Network
Eric Evarts takes Tesla Model S for drive from his home in Connecticut to Consumer Report's Washington, D.C. office and learns important lessons.
Consumer Reports 11 Aug 2013
We have been itching to take our Tesla Model S on a long trip, and the opportunity finally arrived when it became our Washington, D.C., office’s turn to experience the car.
Last time we brought a car down for the Consumer’s Union advocates to experience green-car living, we had to trailer our Nissan Leaf. This time was much different: we simply drove.
The Tesla, with its 200-plus mile range and (so-far small) network of Supercharger DC fast-charge stations along highways is the first electric capable of making such a trip. And, to be honest, we’d been skeptical of reports of other media having trouble making the trip between the necessary Supercharger stops, so we wanted to try it ourselves. Along the way, we learned a little more about living with an electric car. (Read our complete Tesla Model S road test.)
Even as capable as the Tesla is, making such a long trip—285 miles—requires more planning and preparation than driving a "normal" car. For starters, there’s covering that extra 85 miles. As I was combining the delivery trip with a visit to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, I had a 2 p.m. deadline to arrive in Washington. To accomplish this goal, I had to arrive at Tesla’s Newark, Del., Supercharger station early enough to allow replenishing the battery pack and complete the trip.
The problem is that Supercharger is 192 miles from my house. A full charge in our Tesla Model S lately has been showing about 232 miles. That doesn’t sound like a problem in theory, but I know from driving it that I usually go through an additional 20 percent as I’m driving the car at highway speeds, whether its from going over hills, running the air conditioner, or just keeping up with traffic. Adding 20 percent to the 192 mile trip put me right at 230 miles, which felt way too close for comfort with my deadline. I could try setting the cruise control at 60 mph and staying in the right lane for the whole trip, but even that didn’t seem like it would guarantee I’d make it.
Fortunately, Tesla recently opened another Supercharger station about 30 miles from my house, in Darien, Conn. So I planned to drive to Darien and charge up, even though I’d still have a good 200 miles showing on the battery and it would take me on a circuitous route using New York City’s Cross Bronx Expressway—not my preference.
Another problem is that DC fast chargers only work at maximum speed when the battery is below about ¾ full. So I didn’t know how long it would really take me to replenish the 30 miles I’d driven to get to Darien, or how long I’d need to charge in Delaware. So I started my adventure at 5 a.m. to give me enough time.
The drive to Darien took about 20 miles of range and got me 23 miles closer to Washington. Charging back up took 13 minutes – just long enough to grab breakfast.
With a full battery, I didn’t worry about mileage. I drove through New York and the length of New Jersey keeping up with traffic, driving normally. Surrounded by cars, it was shocking to think about all the gasoline the cars around me were burning.
I arrived in Newark, Del., with 47 miles to spare. That may sound like plenty, but without the extra (free) charge in Darien, I might have had less than 20 miles left – that’s cutting it too close even for even a gas car! I wondered how hard it would be to find the Superchargers in a big rest area, but the navigation system took me right to the spot. I topped up again in Delaware, taking on 185 miles in about an hour and 10 minutes.
Completing the journey was simple, and I was able to leave the Washington staff with plenty of extra miles—helpful since they don’t have access to a high-powered connector.
Lessons from the trip?
When driving an electric car, top up the charge at every reasonable opportunity –they don’t come along often. Should something unexpected occur, like traffic congestion or a construction detour, you don’t want to stress over being stranded. And leave early to allow extra time for charging, although perhaps not as early as I left.
Other than that, we only had one other issue we wish Tesla would address: Unlike in California, the trip from New York to Washington is thick with tolls, and our New York E-Z Pass can’t be read through the windshield. (It gets tiresome holding the pass out the window for every toll.) This quirk has caught numerous staffers unaware, as our stack of toll invoices proves.
Electric-car travel is getting easier. It is hard to believe that just a couple years ago we towed the Leaf, and now the only practical inconvenience is that we had to pause a couple times on our trip, as we would anyhow for meals and a pit stop.
As long as your travel takes you along the right routes, it’s about as easy as a gas car—and a lot cheaper!
Tesla Acquires Land for Test Track
Electric carmaker acquires 35 acre track from Union Pacific Railroad adjacent to Fremont, California manufacturing facility.
Mercury News 21 Jul 2013 FREMONT -- Tesla Motors (TSLA) has gobbled up a 35-acre site in Fremont near its automotive factory, apparently to build a test track for its all-electric automobiles.
"The land is attached to the Tesla factory property," said Shanna Hendriks, a spokeswoman for Tesla. "We will use it as we expand our use of the facilities."
Although Tesla didn't provide details about precisely how the land would be used, analysts say it would allow the company to expand an old test track that was built when General Motors and Toyota made cars and pickups there.
"It's a really good idea for Tesla to take over the test track," said Theodore O'Neill, an analyst with Litchfield Hills Research, an investment firm. "Having a big test track will improve the ability of engineers to work out the kinks in new vehicles."
Tesla bought the land Wednesday, Alameda County property records show. The seller was Union Pacific Railroad. Terms weren't disclosed.
The land purchase underscores the momentum that Tesla appears to have captured as the company pushes ahead with its electric vehicle program.
"I'm very bullish on Tesla," Colin Rusch, an analyst with Northland Capital Markets, said in an interview with this newspaper Friday.
Rusch has set a price target of $230 a share for Tesla stock, which closed Friday at $119.68.
"We believe Tesla has demonstrated its ability to manufacture vehicles in an efficient manner," Rusch wrote in a research note Monday. "With additional investment, its current facility could potentially accommodate a run rate of as many as 500,000 vehicles a year."
Tesla's shares have climbed throughout 2013 and have more than quadrupled their value since a previous low point for the stock on Oct. 15. Since the trough of mid-October, the company's stock is up 338 percent.
"I have a lot of confidence in Tesla's ability to execute and confidence in the prowess of their engineers," said Craig Irwin, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.
The big challenge for Tesla, analysts said, is market acceptance of its vehicles.
"Tesla has to convince people to buy a completely different technology as their primary mode of transportation," Irwin said.
Tesla's 'Bizarre' Battery Swap Business Model
Better Place car driver Brian Blum compares his experiences in Israel with Tesla's recent demonstration and pronouncements about its battery swap business model.
Green Prophet 24 Jun 2013
Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced the “latest” in electric car technology – battery pack swapping for the company’s Model S – to a gushing crowd and an even more fawning press. “Really, it’s one of those things you need to see,” wrote Chris Velazco in TechCrunch before linking to a video of Thursday’s event complete with flashing lights and space age music.
I guess Valazco never saw the now-bankrupt Israeli electric car company Better Place do pretty much the same thing. Nor must have the crowd, which whooped it up like they were at a particularly skillful gymnastics exhibition.
Looking more carefully at the demonstration, though, the numbers are a bit deceiving and the business model seems as convoluted as Better Place’s.
One of the centerpieces of the just announced Tesla system is that battery swapping can be done in 90 seconds (at first blush, far less the 5 minutes or so it takes at a Better Place swapping station). A digital clock timed the Tesla on-stage swap, then a second car pulled up and clocked in at even less time. A video showed someone pumping gas and not finishing before the two Tesla’s pulled away.
All very impressive until you factor in what Tesla wasn’t showing – namely, the set up process.
As a Better Place car owner in Israel, I can tell you that the actual time that it takes to physically swap a battery is not that much more than 90 seconds. Most of the time is spent while the system is identifying the car as it arrives, moving the vehicle into place, preparing the battery, and then double checking its math before opening the gate. All we saw at the Tesla show was the swap itself. And the battery was probably pretty close by – when a robot has to pick a battery from several dozen waiting in the station, that may also go slower.
Better Place had been criticized for having an unsustainable business model – charging a monthly subscription, like a cell phone, for charging, whether at home or at a swap station. And it’s true that Better Place was completely reliant on battery swaps while Tesla plans to offer that in addition to supercharging.
But Tesla’s model is, if anything, even more bizarre.
When you buy a Tesla Model S, you own the battery, so your swap is really just a “loaner.” You have to return the battery back to the station on your return journey and/or pay an as yet unspecified “transport fee.” If the new battery has more juice, you can choose to keep it and make up the difference by credit card. And the swap itself will be the equivalent of 15-16 gallons of gas ($60-$80), Musk said. (Supercharging will remain free for Model S owners; the stations will be co-located, Musk said.) With all those options, the Better Place monthly fee and charge or swap anywhere approach looks surprisingly simple by comparison.
Musk said that stations will cost about $500,000 to build. Unless Tesla sells a whole lot of cars (and keeps its price high, in the current range of two to three times that of the Renault Fluence Z.E. that Better Place markets), or raises a whole lot more money, it’s going to take a long time before the US is blanketed with swap stations. And a limited number of stations means that drivers will have to plan their routes accordingly, which may be different than what they really want. That’s part of what I wrote previously plagued Better Place. It will trip up Tesla too. Even with its longer battery range than Better Place, Tesla hasn’t exactly reinvented swapping technology. They’ve just created a better dog and pony show…for now.
I’m not against the battery swap solution – I bought a Better Place car and learned to live with and ultimately even love the limitations. Battery swap is all we have for the moment…and it could be a fairly lengthy moment until fast charging gets down to 90 seconds. But even the high flying Tesla won’t solve the inherent problems with electric cars this way. It makes for good media. Getting consumers to buy in will be an entirely different matter.
Brian Blum, owner of a Better Place car, is a guest poster on Green Prophet
Battery Swapping is Dead! Long Live Battery Swapping!
IEEE's Bill Sweet consider's Tesla's recent 90-second battery exchange and its implications, as well as the impact of states trying to block sale of their luxury electric cars.
Spectrum 23 Jun 2013
Less than a month after Better Place's bankruptcy filing—which seemed to be the kiss of death for the vision of an automotive future in which owners of electric cars would switch out their batteries rather than recharge them—high-flying Tesla Motors has revived the idea. In a press event Thursday evening, Tesla's somewhat oddly attired Elon Musk showed how the the company's Tesla S luxury sedan could be recharged in just 90 seconds, hovering over a robotic setup in which the battery would be automatically located, unbolted, removed, and replaced. (In the above photo from the presentation, a person is seen filling up a car with regular gasoline (left), while the Tesla (right) is having its battery switched out in less time.)
Is battery swapping really dead? Tell us what you think. Take this month's ePoll on EV World's home page.
In the video, Musk wears a highly styled tuxedo jacket over a black T-shirt, a nod perhaps to the class of consumers who can actually afford to buy the Tesla S. Which brings us straight to the completely obvious question of why Tesla, which appeals to a tiny, elite class of consumers, would succeed where Better Place, backed by a global mass-market car maker, failed.
Perhaps part of the answer, if there is a good answer, is to be found in comments made in our earlier post concerning the Better Place bankruptcy. Regarding Better Place's support from Renault and its famous CEO Carlos Ghosn, one reader observed that Renault in fact "had already all but abandoned Better Place to their fate, as can be seen by the non-inclusion of their technology on the [company's all-electric] ZOE [model]." As for Better Place's trials in what I had called "tech-savvy" Israel and Denmark, another caustic reader suggested that sure, they might have succeeded in those tiny places, but that "the number of batteries and stations would go up by the power of 2 in countries or markets with larger areas" because of all the extra batteries and stations needed to service a single car.
Extrapolating from that thought, perhaps Tesla assumes it can limit its robotic charging stations to the highly defined geographic areas within which prestige-conscious individuals rich enough to consider buying a car like the S drive to and from work. Having demonstrated the battery swapping principle those places, then perhaps Tesla can go on to bigger things.
This is not to say, by the way, that Tesla is only interested in those big concentrations of affluent buyers. As readers of the Wall Street Journal will have noted this week, North Carolina legislators are thinking of barring Tesla from making direct online sales to customers in the state, by-passing distributorships. If you are tempted to immediately compare this with the state's legislative action seeking to protect real estate owners from talk of sea level rise, beware: The Tesla action is not quite as ludicrous as it may appear. Many U.S. states have laws dating from the early days of the automobile designed to protect the big companies' franchised dealers from the companies themselves. Tesla has been arguing that such laws do not apply, with mixed success.
Tesla Model S: Practically Perfect
Will Oremus reports for Slate on his road trip with Tesla's Model S find it 'practically perfect'... and this was before Tesla demonstrated its 90-second battery swapping system on June 20, 2013
Slate 21 Jun 2013
The conventional wisdom on the Tesla Model S—the most hyped, decorated, and controversial new car in memory—is that it’s a technological marvel, but prohibitively expensive and ultimately impractical, especially for road trips. For all the accolades (Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Automobile of the Year, the highest rating in Consumer Reports history), the review that sticks most in people’s minds is the one by the New York Times’ John M. Broder. You know, the one where the car ran out of batteries on the freeway and had to be towed to a charging station.
Lots of adverse factors conspired to create the Times’ road trip from hell, including cold weather, poor planning, and driver error. But the image of a shiny-red Model S strapped to a mechanic’s wrecker was indelible. Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed it led “hundreds” of buyers to cancel their orders. Even after CNN and others retraced Broder’s route from Washington, D.C. to Boston without incident, the taint lingered, because it seemed to confirm what skeptics had suspected all along: The Tesla hype was too good to be true. An electric car might make for a snazzy toy, but if you want a workhorse to get you from point A to point B, you’d better stick with pistons and gasoline.
But when I took the Model S for a weekend road trip recently, I found I didn’t miss the internal combustion engine one bit. The Tesla wasn’t just the smoothest, fastest, and most technologically advanced car I’ve ever driven. It was among the most comfortable and practical. And it was—counter to everything you’ve heard—ideally suited to a road trip.
The car makes things easy on you before you even get inside. There’s no key to speak of: Just approach the driver’s-side door with the Tesla-shaped key in your pocket, and the car wakes up automatically, its retractable door handles sliding out to greet your hand. Inside there are no knobs or dials, just a massive, 17-inch central touch screen and a smaller driver’s-side display controlled by buttons on the steering wheel.* Unlike in most other cars, the touch screen remains fully functional while you’re driving, so you can adjust your route on Google Maps, check out the view from the rear-facing camera, or even browse the Internet while you’re cruising down I-95. Should anyone do such things while driving? Of course not—but a passenger can. Tesla may be risking a lawsuit by allowing this, but it comes in handy on a long drive.
Once you’re in the car, you don’t have to turn it on—just put it in drive and go. Neither do you turn it off—just put it in park and get out. The interior is spacious and minimalist, the fit and finish as sound as you’d expect in a luxury sedan. There are a couple of minor annoyances. The Daimler-made turn-signal stalk is unusually low, practically enforcing a 9-and-3 hand position. The voice-command system doesn’t work particularly well. And the lack of “creep”—the car acts like it’s in neutral rather than in drive when your foot is off the gas—can be unnerving at first if you’re used to an automatic transmission. Tesla has addressed this last complaint by adding an optional “creep” mode via software update—a testament to the wisdom of controlling a car via software rather than having everything hard-wired.
The ride itself is flawless. My fiancée and I picked up the Model S at a Tesla Store in Manhattan on a Saturday morning, threw a couple of bags in its cavernous trunk, and headed northeast to a friend’s house in New Haven, Conn.—about 80 miles away. As in my first brief Model S test-drive last year, I was awed by the quality of the handling, the suspension, and the acceleration. If you’ve always driven fossil-fuel-guzzlers, it’s a ghostly feeling the first time you floor it in a Tesla. With no transmission and no engine noise, you’re simply pinned to your seat as the scenery flashes by. My co-pilot reached for a Star Trek analogy: “It’s like warp drive.”
The car’s virtues aside, it was a typical weekend jaunt, only with more friendly gawkers involved. Teslas are becoming a common sight in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but they’re still a novelty on the East Coast. We smiled and waved as fellow motorists craned their heads and flashed thumbs-up signs. A big tattooed guy in a vintage BMW M5 rolled down his window and actually began applauding as we passed him on I-95. A kid in a backward baseball cap and a Dodge Stratus R/T tried to out-accelerate us. He failed.
Over the course of the weekend—which involved driving to breakfast, driving to dinner, driving to an Ikea, driving to the top of a hill, and driving back to Manhattan, all with the climate-control on and the Internet radio playing—we charged the car exactly once, for a grand total of 20 minutes: just long enough to stretch our legs, use the bathroom, and grab some food at a rest stop in Milford, Conn. We returned the car with some 70 miles of battery power to spare. Not for one moment did we feel a hint of range anxiety.
Here’s the trick: We didn’t set out, as the Times’ Broder did (with Tesla’s encouragement), to test the limits of the car’s range. We just set out, like any normal driver, to reach a reasonable destination without any danger of running out of juice. You might say that 160 miles is a short road trip, and I’d agree with you. You might point out that you can go almost anywhere in the United States in an internal-combustion car without having to worry about running out of juice, and I’d agree with you again. That’s not a function of the car itself, though. The Tesla goes almost as far on a charge—upward of 265 miles—as a BMW M5 does on a full tank of gas. The real difference is the vast network of gas stations that sprouted up around the nation in the decades following the introduction of the first commercially viable gas-powered car.
Tesla is just beginning the huge undertaking of dotting the country’s highways with its Supercharger stations, which can replenish a Model S battery in about 45 minutes. Right now it has just eight: two on the East Coast and six in California. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced last month that there will be 27 by the end of this summer and enough to enable a coast-to-coast Tesla road trip by the end of this year. Meanwhile, he’s aiming to reduce the charging time to more like 25 minutes.
That’s still a pretty long stopover if you’re on your way to work, which is why Tesla owners are better off charging their cars in their garage on weeknights. But it’s not very long in the scheme of a road trip—just swap out the McDonald’s drive-through for a sit-down lunch. The best part: It’s free. Unlimited supercharging is included in the price of the car if you buy a top-of-the-line Model S, or you can get it as a $2,000 option on the base version. Either way, once you have it, you have it—so you can leave the “gas money” out of your road-trip budget entirely.
Nor should you anticipate a lot of trips to the repair shop. There is no oil to change, and there are few moving parts to wear out or break down. As I’ve pointed out in the past, we won’t know for a while whether the Model S is reliable in the long term, but so far its most significant mechanical problem has been a weaker-than-intended left-hand latch on the second-row seat. In typical Tesla fashion, the company is offering to come to owners’ houses to pick up their cars for the recall and return them within a few hours.
I’m not the only one who’s beginning to think that Tesla’s “road-trip problem” isn’t such a problem after all. “A lot of the owners I talk to are quickly realizing this is not just their urban-commuter car,” Edward Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend, told me. “They’re finding out that with the range and the network of Superchargers, they can do that long trip to San Francisco, and it’s not only feasible, it’s really comfortable.”
None of this is to say that the Model S is an affordable vehicle. The sticker price remains a serious barrier, not only to the average car-buyer but to the company’s long-term success. Tesla ’s goal is to follow up the Roadster and the Model S with a mass-market electric sedan in the $35,000 range, but it won’t be easy. One big reason Tesla’s vehicles are so much better than other electric cars is that they run on big, state-of-the-art batteries that cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce. That price will have to come down for Tesla to make good on its promise. Musk’s latest timetable for that long-rumored vehicle is “three to four years.” In the meantime the company is readying a crossover SUV built on the Model S frame for release later this year.
As for Tesla’s road-trip limitations, another solution may be on the horizon that doesn’t involve plugging in at all. Musk tweeted on Tuesday that he’s planning a demonstration of Tesla’s new “battery-swapping” technology, which would allow drivers to switch to a fully charged battery in less time than it takes to fill up a tank with gas. How exactly this will work is not yet clear—a Tesla battery weighs on the order of half a ton. It may require Tesla to develop a network of battery-swapping stations alongside its Superchargers, which would take time, money, and commitment. But as long as people keep lining up to buy the Model S, the company has all three.
Tesla Model S: More Philosophy Than Car
Tom Keane finds the Model an 'electrifying ride' and although, like most of us, can afford to buy one, he sees much the way we saw early and very expensive computers, the start of a trend that lead to affordable computers for everyone.
Boston Globe/USA 22 May 2013
I’M RIDING in a red Tesla Model S, the stunning all-electric vehicle from PayPal founder Elon Musk, and realize that this is less a car than a piece of philosophy. In a world beset by environmental pessimism, where many believe we must lower our expectations, downsize our lives, and adjust to the notion that tomorrow will be worse off than today, Tesla offers a rip-roaring, 120-mph riposte. It turns out we can have it all.
Automobiles have been praised and cursed as everything from a manifestation of freedom and individual choice to the source of community destruction and the shredding of social bonds. But one thing is certain: The internal combustion engines that power them consume gasoline or diesel, and for every gallon they consume, about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates transportation is responsible for 29 percent of all manmade CO2 emissions. Magically eliminate that, and you’d go an awful long way to solving the problem of global climate change.
The electric car is potentially that magic. Some naysayers argue electric propulsion just pushes the problem upstream: If the power plants used to make electricity burn oil, then there’s no real environmental benefit at all. But most states have a mix of energy sources, many far less polluting. In Massachusetts, for instance, where about 54 percent of electricity comes from natural gas, an electric car driven 40 miles would in effect emit 14.8 pounds of CO2. A conventional car emits 35.3 pounds. And if we were someday to move entirely to renewable sources, of course, the electric car would account for no CO2 whatsoever.
Hence the interest in electric vehicles and their enthusiastic support from many, including the Obama administration. Nevertheless, the first models to be rolled out, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, were disappointing. With a small range (about 75 miles on a charge) and cramped interiors, they couldn’t be counted on as the principal family car. They felt uninspired and a little bleak.
The Tesla, however, is thrilling. It looks like a sports car, screams luxury, and is outfitted with a myriad of gee-whiz features, including an enormous touch screen that eliminates almost all buttons and knobs. The interior is spacious, holding five adults easily and, with an optional rear-facing seat, another two children — seven passengers in all. Pop the hood and instead of an engine — there is none, since it uses no gasoline — there’s just space for luggage. The performance blows away other cars: from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. It also has a range of up to 300 miles and can be recharged in about an hour.
How good is it really? Consumer Reports gave the Model S a score of 99 out of 100 — saying it was “not only the best electric car we’ve tested, it’s now our top-rated model overall.” It was also named by Motor Trend as Car of the Year for 2013. Ignore the environmental benefits and it’s still the best car in the world.
On the other hand, it costs anywhere from $62,400 to $87,400 — and that’s after a federal tax credit of $7,500. So I’m not buying it. My guess is, neither are you.
So why the enthusiasm for something priced so far out of the reach of almost every American? Maybe for the same reason that the first computers were so exciting. The original IBM PC, using an operating system developed by a little-known company called Microsoft, sold for $1,565 in 1982 — over $4,400 in today’s dollars. That price was also ridiculously high. But the potential of that technology launched a revolution, one that eventually made computers affordable to almost everyone. Today, for instance, a vastly superior machine — the Chromebook — can be had for under $200.
Last quarter Tesla only sold 4,750 cars — a trivial amount compared to the entire automobile industry. Yet as I sit in the Tesla S, the ride whisper-quiet, the car effortlessly gliding around sharp turns, I’m reminded of that first PC. Tesla may well be about to spark a revolution of its own.
Consumer Reports Gives Tesla Model S Near-Perfect Score
The score of 99 out of 100 puts the Model S far ahead of other electric and gas-powered rivals, as company share values surges on news of first ever quarterly profit.
Globe and Mail/Canada 09 May 2013
Consumer Reports magazine awarded a near-perfect score to Tesla Motors Co.’s Model S, citing the electric car’s power, “pinpoint” handling and quiet, well-crafted interior.
The score of 99 out of 100 puts the Model S far ahead of other electric and gas-powered rivals, including the Porsche Panamera sports car and the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid.
Consumer Reports last gave a near-perfect score six years ago to the Lexus LS 460L luxury sedan made by Toyota Motor Corp., according to the magazine, which has more than 8 million subscribers.
The positive review comes on the heels of Tesla reporting its first quarterly profit in its 10-year history. Chief executive officer Elon Musk is attempting to reach a broader group of buyers with the Model S electric sedan.
Consumer Reports said a Model S equipped with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery was able to get 200 miles (320 kilometres) between electric charges. Range varied between 180 miles on cold winter days to about 225 miles in more-moderate temperatures.
The main drawbacks of the Model S include its limited range when compared to conventional gas-powered cars. The car also takes 12 hours to charge on a 240-volt electric-car charger.
“When it’s left unplugged, we noted a parasitic loss of energy that amounts to 12 to 15 miles of range per day,” the magazine said. “That could be a concern if, say, the car is parked at an airport for an extended period. Tesla has promised a fix for that.”
The Model S starts at around $70,000 (U.S.) with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery before a federal tax credit. A sedan equipped with a larger, 85-kilowatt-hour battery starts at around $80,000. Consumer Reports recommended buying the sedan with the larger battery.
Tesla Talking to Google About Driveless Car Technologies
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are early investors in Tesla; it is Google that is leading research in autonomous vehicle technology.
Bloomberg 08 May 2013
Elon Musk, the California billionaire who leads Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) (TSLA), said the electric-car maker is considering adding driverless technology to its vehicles and discussing the prospects for such systems with Google Inc.
Musk, 41, said technologies that can take over for drivers are a logical step in the evolution of cars. He has talked with Google about the self-driving technology it’s been developing, though he prefers to think of applications that are more like an airplane’s autopilot system.
“I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self- driving,” Musk said in an interview. “Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.”
Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, is considering such technology as regulators and long-established automakers grapple with when and how it can be used to increase safety and driver convenience. Global automakers such as Nissan Motor Co. and government officials say fully autonomous vehicles may not reach dealer showrooms for a decade, twice as long as Google expects.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both investors in Tesla before its 2010 initial public offering, have been proponents, with their Mountain View, California-based company demonstrating a driverless fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids equipped with laser-radar devices mounted on the roofs.
Google’s approach builds on a push for the driverless-car technology long pursued by the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which held vehicle competitions for carmakers and research labs. Anthony Levandowski, product manager for Google’s self-driving car project, has said the company expects to release the technology within five years.
“The problem with Google’s current approach is that the sensor system is too expensive,” Musk said. “It’s better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what’s going on just by looking at things.”
Musk is determined to bring the cost of Tesla’s cars down so that the company can sell to mainstream consumers. Tesla’s Model S sedan has a $69,900 base price, and Musk says the company still intends to squeeze expenses to offer a model for about $30,000 within a few years. The Roadster, the company’s first offering, started at $109,000.
Tesla slid 6.7 percent to $55.51 at the close in New York, the biggest one-day decline since April 3. The shares have soared 64 percent this year, outpacing the 14 percent rise in the Russell 1000 Index. Tesla has said it will report its first profit from sales of all-electric Model S sedans when the company releases first-quarter results tomorrow.
Google, in an e-mailed statement, declined to comment on Musk’s comments.
Google’s driverless technology is guided by Sebastian Thrun, former head of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Thrun led the Stanford team that won a $2 million prize in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge of autonomous vehicles, finishing with the best time on a rugged 132-mile (212 kilometer) course in the Mojave Desert.
“We’ve had some technical discussions with Google” about its Light Detection and Ranging, or Lidar, laser tracking system, Musk said last week, noting that it’s an expensive approach that may not prove feasible, Musk said.
“I think Tesla will most likely develop its own autopilot system for the car, as I think it should be camera-based, not Lidar-based,” Musk said yesterday in an e-mail. “However, it is also possible that we do something jointly with Google.”
Musk wrote a follow-up post on Twitter about Google.
“Am a fan of Larry, Sergey & Google in general, but self- driving cars comments to Bloomberg were just off-the-cuff,” Musk wrote. “No big announcement here.”
Musk, who has developed a reputation for speaking freely through Twitter and in interviews, said it’s possible Tesla could be acquired at some point in the future.
“That’s one of the possible outcomes, I suppose,” he said, adding such a development isn’t likely soon.
“I’d guess it would come from outside the auto industry,” Musk said. “It would be a buyer with a very large cash position,” he said, without elaborating.
Musk said in the same interview that the company’s volatile share price results from “a very polarized opinion about Tesla. We’ve got a huge short position against Tesla. I mean it’s truly enormous. We’re typically within the top five most shorted stocks on the market.”
Currently, investors have a short interest in 46 percent of Tesla’s floating shares, the fifth-highest short interest as a percentage of float in the Nasdaq, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
While crash-avoidance systems that can alert a driver or apply brakes in advance of a wreck are coming to cars now, David Strickland, head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has said autonomous vehicles “are a long way off.”
“Self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do,” Musk said.
Google’s self-driving cars are currently allowed on public roads for testing purposes in Nevada, California and Florida.
Toyota Motor Corp (7203)., also a Tesla investor, in January showed a driverless test vehicle in Las Vegas equipped with a Lidar device, radar and cameras and sensors -- something more like the approach that Musk suggests.
Likewise, Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, wants to create a virtual “co-pilot” that helps drivers avoid accidents, rather than self-driving cars and trucks. Tesla isn’t discussing driverless-car technology with either Toyota or Daimler AG, which is also a shareholder, Musk said. Self-driving vehicles aren’t a top priority at the moment.
“We’re not focused on autopilot right now; we will be in the future,” Musk said. “Autopilot is not as important as accelerating the transition to electric cars, or to sustainable transport.”
Musk made a similar comment on Twitter.
“Creating an autopilot for cars at Tesla is an important, but not yet top priority,” Musk wrote. “Still a few years from production.”
Tesla Model S: A Real American Luxury Car
Mihnea Radu finds that rather than struggling for 'survival and recognition,' Tesla is playing the 'big leagues.'
29 Apr 2013
Deep within my subconscious, a shocking idea has been steadily growing, developing from a from a couple of bits of information to a terabyte of invasive ideas . You see, for a long time now I’ve been thinking that some carmakers are not connected with what people really want. It’s why the Chevy Impala isn’t selling in the millions any more, why 16YOs don’t like Mustangs, why Saab went under and why the Chinese like the American dream more than… Americans. And it’s a Silicon Valley-type company that showed us what people really want: iPhones on wheels.
During the first quarter of 2013, Tesla managed to do something I thought was going to take at least another decade. They delivered 4,750 Model S electric sedans, not only more than the much less expensive Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf EVs, but also more than all the flagship models from from established luxury brands.
We’re talking about Mercedes, who sold 3,077 S-Class examples during Q1, Lexus who managed 2,860 LS sedans, followed by BMW with 2,338 7 Series and Audi 1,462 cars during the same three months in the US. Maybe the Model S is cheaper, and maybe tax rebates have something to do with it, but these cars are benchmarks, hugely expensive to develop and very well marketed, not to mention their names have been famous for decades.
When I found that out, I immediately went “Really? How is that possible?”. But then I learned the Nissan Leaf is being showcased in the SimCity video game. That’s it! People have accepted electric cars, and there’s no turning back now!
Consider this. The automobile has been around for over 100 years. Designers will try to make it look different, engineers will make it more efficient and marketing people will wrap it all up in video footage and clever words. But the fact of the mater is transportation isn’t that cool any more, not when you consider Google Eye, smartphones and the billions of apps to go with them.
Tesla should be a new brand fighting for survival and recognition, considering it targets two difficult segments – luxury and electric vehicles. They should be struggling, but instead they’re already playing in the big leagues and everybody knows their achievements.
Speaking of achievements, we have to mention two of them: performance and infotainment. Firstly, the top Signature Performance version of the EV has over 400 horsepower going to the rear wheels. It gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has been known to shame some sportscars at the drag strip. This makes it a sort of people’s champion, exuding a character way beyond the real-world performance.
Secondly, the Model S is hugely entertaining, like a gigantic gaming console you sit inside rater than next to. You sit smack bang in front of a huge digital display that shows you your speed and range, and the center console is dominated by a 17-inch color display that controls everything from the boot opening to the temperature inside the car. Tesla are the very first to do things like this, and since the Model S arrived, Cadillac and Lincoln followed them with semi-buttonless systems of their own.
I never like the idea of not being able to click anything without taking our eyes of the road. After all, not even an Xbox controller works without buttons. Every Mercedes and Audi I get into has beautifully weighted buttons, all built with the uniform texture and resistance, like miniature piano keys. But not everybody these days gets that and this sort of fingertip craftsmanship might already be obsolete.
You see, your typical Audi buyer who earned six figures a decade ago could have been a building architect, a business consultant or construction business developer. But in 2013, he could just as well be an app architect, software consultant or website developer. For these buyers at least, being seen in an S-Class is like playing on an actual Monopoly board or with a real yoyo.
I’m no saying the S-Class is obsolete, just that the Tesla Model S is the real star of the American auto scene, an electric guitar to our acoustic ears, a PS4 to our old-school building blocks. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to everything Tesla does!
New Mercedes B-Class Electric Propelled By Tesla e-Motor
135-horsepower electric motor can propel B-Class Electric to an electronically-limited top speed of 100 mph.
Benz Insider 31 Mar 2013
Mercedes-Benz has enlisted the aid of Tesla Motors, the electric car and electric powertrain designer and manufacturer based in Silicon Valley, to provide the 135-horsepower electric motor of the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, which was announced at the New York Auto Show this past week.
The car is expected to be out on the US market sometime in early 2014. Aside from the motor, the charging system and the car’s batteries are also supplied by Tesla, which has been working with Mercedes-Benz’s parent company Daimler since 2007, supplying the Li-Ion battery packs and charging systems used on the first thousand smart cars. Daimler also owns a minor stake in publicly traded Tesla.
The Electric Drive’s range is pegged at up to 115 miles for a 7-hour charge. There’s also a quick-charging feature that gets the car up to a 60-mile run in just 2 hours of charging time via a 240v connection.
“While others are still talking about electric cars, we are building them and selling them,” said Mercedes-Benz Cars executive VP Joachim Schmidt. He added that the company remains true to its commitment to providing emissions-free driving coupled with Mercedes-Benz comfort and quality.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will start being available in the US in a few states only starting next year, but the long-term goal is wide availability within the country. Europe is set to follow later on.
Elon Musk: Tesla Plans to Repay Gov't Loan Earlier Than Scheduled
With SEC quiet period now over, Tesla's CEO explains the company's financial position.
Tesla 01 Mar 2013
The following is Tesla CEO Elon Musk's official statement from his blog, clarifying the company's financial position and intention to repay federal loan in five years, instead of scheduled ten.
Now that our financing round is complete, I would like to clear up some misconceptions that arose last week as a result of our filing a public market financial prospectus. SEC rules rightly limit interaction with the press during a financing round to prevent companies from promoting stock. Unfortunately, this made it difficult for me to respond properly when some journalists gained the wrong impression.
Public company financing documents are fundamentally about ensuring investors are informed about every possible risk, even those that are highly improbable, and one has to describe those risks using language that is discomforting at best. Consistent with those principles, we described a relatively pessimistic scenario for Tesla, which was incorrectly interpreted by some to be what we thought was the most likely scenario.
Most importantly, what did not come across well was that we raised the funds simply for risk reduction. Barring any disasters internally or with suppliers, Tesla is actually on the verge of becoming cash flow positive and will not have to spend any of the money raised, at least until we embark upon a major new vehicle program. In the public call with investors, I tried to make this point, but perhaps should have emphasized it more: we expect Tesla to become cash flow positive at the end of next month.
However, given that we do have a global supply chain and that floods, fires, hurricanes or earthquakes can cause supply chain interruptions and halt production, we thought it would make sense to raise capital to protect against such an event. In fact, an important consideration in doing this financing round was that we went through just such a crisis recently with a supplier that had a flood in their factory. This caused a shortfall in shipments and delayed production until we could find another solution.
As for the reduced vehicle delivery guidance in Q3 and Q4 of this year, it is unfortunate that we are at the steepest portion of our production ramp. This gives the appearance of being much further behind than we actually are. Our production rate in the last week of September was roughly 100 vehicles, four times greater than our production in the first week of September as we overcame supply constraints. If the calendar were simply shifted a few weeks to the right, Tesla would have exceeded the 500 vehicle delivery target for the third quarter. In fact, I am pleased to report that we completed production of 359 vehicles last quarter (delivering over 250 of those to customers) and have already made our 500th vehicle body. While we are indeed a few weeks later than we would like, this is perhaps not a terrible outcome for a product as advanced and complex as the Model S, particularly given that Tesla is doing manufacturing of full vehicles for the first time with a new team and new suppliers.
Finally, there are two important points that should be clarified regarding the loan that Tesla has from the Department of Energy, which only constitutes a third of our capital raised to date:
1. In discussions with the DOE, Tesla has never asked for or even hinted at postponing repayment of the loan. We did suggest that holding nine months worth of principal payments in *advance* in a reserved account was a bit extreme and, moreover, was never part of our original loan agreement. The DOE agreed and reduced the advance payment reserve account to six months. At the risk of being repetitive: Tesla has always made its DOE payments on time and has never asked to delay repayment ever. I don't know how to state this more clearly.
2. The DOE's desire for advance payment of the overall loan stems from a concern that is the complete opposite of what many assume. The DOE believes Tesla will be highly successful and accumulate a large amount of cash, but that we may then choose not to pay off the loan any sooner than is currently required. Far from being worried about our survival, the DOE is highly bullish about our future and doesn't want us to delay early repayment of the loan if we have the cash on hand to do so.
The DOE has simply asked if we would be willing to repay the loan early if we have excess cash. The answer is unequivocally yes and I am happy to announce that we will be initiating an advance payment today to prefund the principal payment that is due in March 2013. The purpose of the DOE Advanced Technology Manufacturing Program was to serve as a catalyst for accelerating sustainable transport technology, which is in the best interests of all Americans and ultimately people throughout the world. In the case of Tesla, the result has been a resurgence in American manufacturing ability and the creation of over 3500 high quality jobs. Nonetheless, we have a duty at Tesla, having accepted this loan as a portion of our capital, to repay it at the earliest opportunity. We will do exactly that.
Guess What? Gas Cars Are Niche Vehicles, Too
Part one of series by Mark Rogowsky in which he argues that there is no such thing as a all-purpose automobile. All have their limitations, just like electric cars.
Forbes/USA 19 Feb 2013
In the battle between the New York Times and Tesla over just how far you can drive in the electric-vehicle maker’s Model S, one thing in the multitude of articles really caught my attention. It was right here at Forbes, where Joann Muller wrote: “Until the price of electric vehicles falls dramatically and there is a national network of charging stations as prevalent and easy to access as today’s gas stations, electric cars will be nothing more than niche vehicles.”
The Times-Tesla dust-up didn’t do anything to dispel the notion that a Model S can travel 200 or more miles in luxury that’s been favorably compared to an Audi A8 or BMW 7-series. But it did make clear how in the rush to compare something new — an electric car capable of getting on a freeway and going somewhere – with something familiar — a gasoline-powered car that has always done that — we find ourselves drawing the frame of reference in a way to tell whatever story we want. Over the next few days, I’ll ask you to look at the story through a slightly different lens. In this installment, I’ll examine what it really means to be a “niche vehicle”, and how your current car probably fits the definition a lot better than you realize.
This seems like it ought to be obvious right? We ask them to get us where we want to go. But it turns out, we don’t often want to go very far. In fact, according to data gathered by the Department of Transportation, 97% of vehicle trips are less than 50 miles and 88% of them are under 20. In other words, even a Nissan Leaf (with a 73-mile range) could comfortably get you there and back without recharging for about 9 in every 10 automobile trips taken in the entire country.
But Teslas are different from the Leaf and electric versions of the Ford Focus, Honda Fit, et al. They are supposed to be cars you live with if not all the time, pretty much all the time. To that end, the company’s smallest battery offering is expected to power the Model S for around 150 miles (final EPA figures are not available yet) and the model tested by the Times — indeed the first one available — can get north of 265 miles of range. While the DOT data doesn’t get quite granular enough to tell us just how many trips you can’t make in the largest-range Tesla, we know it’s something significantly under the 3% of trips that are 50+ mile. Almost certainly under 1% in fact.
What can’t your car do?
I drive a compact SUV that can reasonably hold 5 adults and take them pretty much anywhere, from a night out to a weekend away. It’s exceptionally versatile, tolerably thrifty on fuel (mid 20s MPG on the freeway), and even drives decently well for an upright vehicle. My car is multi-talented, but it isn’t as good as the Miami Heat’s LeBron James at doing pretty much everything. Some things it can’t do:
Take the soccer team out for pizza: It’s said LeBron can carry the team on his shoulders, but that’s a figure of speech. For that I’d need something like a minivan, which many a suburban family knows all-too well. The third row of seating and the sliding side doors are absolutely compelling for situations like that. But as much as those suburban parents love the convenience of the minivan when it’s loaded with kids, it’s pretty much the last car they grab the keys for when they are just going out for a quick errand or — if the opportunity allows — a drive.
Bring home a sofa from Costco: James is so skilled, he can defend the opponent’s big man at times, but my car can’t fake it like the Heat star. Over the weekend we watched as a couple loaded multiple huge boxes of a sectional into a full-size pickup. They rented the truck from U-Haul (an experience similar to one we’d had last year when we needed to cart off a bunch of old electronic gear for a big donation we were making) and doubtless returned it the same day. I can’t speak to their experience but I feel like I can make use of a full-size pickup about twice a year. What I wouldn’t want to do is have one as my everyday vehicle. It might be able to get me the 360 miles to Los Angeles, but it wouldn’t be an especially enjoyable or efficient way to do it. And parking one? No thanks.
Truly serve as an efficient commuter car: In the NBA, one of the “advanced statistics” they talk about these days is player efficiency rating and, of course, LeBron’s is fantastic. My little SUV does alright, but it’s nothing like the most popular vehicle in California: Toyota’s Prius. While many of you think the Prius is popular because we’re all a bunch of granola-eating hippies, the reality is it gets great mileage, especially in traffic — which we have a lot of. For people who do have to commute 40-60 miles a day, the Prius is pretty compelling. But it’s not a lot of fun to drive, can’t carry home a serious Home Depot run (unlike my SUV), and is less comfortable for a bunch of full-size humans than a larger car.
What’s the point of this? It should be clear by now: There is no LeBron James of cars that does everything really well. Your car fulfills your needs the vast majority of the time. If you’re fortunate enough to be a two-car (or more) household, you are sometimes able to fill more niches from your own garage (kind of like having Chris Bosh around makes Miami more versatile). But even out in suburbia, we sometimes need to rent a U-Haul. And city dwellers will often choose an easy-to-park subcompact that isn’t the car of their dreams otherwise. Tesla’s Model S certainly is no exception to the “nothing is perfect” rule. What’s exceptional about the Tesla isn’t that it falls short on interior space, comfort or performance, but rather that it can’t go everywhere with a bunch of 5-minute fill-ups at any of thousands of gas stations. That’s new and unfamiliar.
Tesla Model S Owners Disprove NY Times Article
Group of Tesla Model S owners replicate controversial road trip by NY Times reporter John Broder, without running out of charge.
All Things D 18 Feb 2013
A group of Tesla Model S owners, charged up over a recent New York Times column that challenged the reliability of the electric vehicle, hit the road this weekend to replicate the same drive the Times reporter made.
One of the Tesla S Road Trip cars, at a charging station in Milford, Conn.
The group, which started out with nine cars, drove the 353 miles from Rockville, Md. to Groton, Conn., live-tweeting telemetry updates and color commentary throughout the trip.
But not all of the starting nine completed the entire drive, for varying reasons.
I happened to cross paths with them today at a highway rest stop in Milford, Conn., where I saw the Teslas charging and found the owners sitting inside at a Dunkin’ Donuts. They were on their way back home.
At the rest stop, Tesla owner Aaron Schildkraut told me they had followed the same route the Times’ John Broder did, making pit stops in Newark, Del., and again in Milford, to super-charge their electric vehicles.
In case you haven’t been following the saga and are curious as to why these people would want to spend President’s Day weekend hanging out at rest stops: On Feb. 8, the New York Times ran a column titled “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway”, that recounted a less-than-positive experience with the Tesla Model S, an award-winning electric vehicle that claims a 256-mile-per-charge estimated range. Broder’s car battery died during the test drive.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to call the Times piece a “fake,” and followed up with a blog post that his supporters said backed up his assertion. Then Broder responded with a blog post of his own. Short version: If you’re a big Tesla fan, you don’t believe the Times. Lots of other people do.
The “Tesla Road Trip” folks aren’t the first to jump at the opportunity to mimic Broder’s drive. Last week, a reporter from CNN made the drive from Washington, D.C., to Boston without needing the help of a flatbed truck, although, as the reporter wrote, the trip was not anxiety-free.
The Tesla Road Trip drivers, hanging out inside the rest stop while they wait for their cars to finish charging.
None of the Tesla Road Trip cars have run out of juice, the group said. But the trip was not without incident: One driver’s Tesla S stopped working at the Delaware charging station, due to what they believe was faulty circuitry. The owner called Tesla support, the group said, and a software update was pushed to his car remotely, allowing him to drive it to Milford.
Tesla has not yet responded to a request for comment about that vehicle’s troubles.
In total, only four of the original nine Tesla S drivers stuck it out for the whole trip, from Rockville to Groton and back south. Some opted out early on, in Delaware. Another driver, during the first leg of the trip, chose to stay in New York City and see a Broadway play.
“We were going 65 [miles per hour] pretty much the whole trip,” Schildkraut said, noting that they slowed down when they drove through New York City and when they encountered snowy weather.
“I think Broder’s biggest problem was that he didn’t charge his car fully,” one of the drivers, Dante Richardson, opined. “You wouldn’t fill up your car with gas for 50 miles if you were taking a 100-mile road trip.”
The group said their trip was not commissioned or sponsored by Tesla, although they said Tesla vice president of sales George Blankenship contacted them after hearing about the mission.
“We FaceTimed with him during the drive,” said driver Lanny Hartmann, who spearheaded most of the group’s social media efforts.
Telsa vs NY Times Fight Focusing On Wrong Issue
Grist's David Roberts argues that instead of obsessing over 'widget' solutions to our energy and transportation problems, we need to rethink the entire system.
Grist 18 Feb 2013
Last week, reporter John Broder of The New York Times wrote an account of his road trip from Washington, D.C., to Milford, Conn., in Tesla’s new all-electric Model S sedan, using the two Superchargers that the company has set up along the route. Broder says he got less range than advertised, lost a bunch of range overnight inexplicably, and ran out of power on his last leg. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, published a response to the story, effectively accusing Broder of journalistic malpractice.
Broder responded to Musk, and then responded again. Rebecca Greenfield at the Atlantic Wire also responded, charging that Musk hadn’t established his case against Broder. TechCrunch weighed in. Twice. Also GigaOm. Also Boing Boing. Even Gawker piped up. And of course our own Philip Bump.
This seems like an awful lot of attention devoted to the precise performance characteristics of this particular vehicle on this particular trip. The Tesla S has been extensively and mostly positively reviewed in lots of other outlets (including the NYT itself). It’s pretty well-established what it can and can’t do. What really seems to be behind this, yet again, is a proxy argument over electric cars in general.
Kevin Bullis has the wisest comment on this dust-up, which is that it’s dumb for an electric car to compete in the “drive a really long way without stopping much” category, precisely the place where gas cars currently retain an advantage. Broder made a bunch of mistakes, in retrospect. He could have done the drive without trouble if he’d planned better, been more careful, and gotten better advice from Tesla personnel. But American drivers are not accustomed to low speeds or careful planning in their long-distance driving and it will take time for those habits to change. It would make more sense to highlight the car’s performance in applications where it shines, like commuting, which constitutes the vast bulk of Americans’ actual travel.
Lurking in the background is the notion that the “promise of electric cars” is false until an electric car can plop down in America’s current transportation system and do everything an internal-combustion-engine car can do. Broder encourages this way of thinking, but then, so does Musk, and so even does Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
It’s a dumb notion, though, a classic example of our obsession with widgets over systems. It is probably true that electric cars will never be able to replace gas cars, if the cars themselves — the widgets — are the only thing we replace. The entire system was designed and built around ICE cars. Turns out it’s difficult to build a luxurious, two-ton armored tank that can travel 300 miles on a quick-charging battery pack.
The problem, however, is not merely that our cars consume too much oil. It’s that our transportation system consumes too much oil. A better system won’t merely involve better cars, it will involve driving less, telecommuting more, using more public transportation, sharing cars, making cars smarter, and building more and better electrical infrastructure.
There are a lot of chicken-and-egg problems in there. It’s hard to change behavior without the tech in place, it’s hard to develop the tech without supportive public policy, and it’s hard to get supportive public policy when the tech and behaviors aren’t there yet. Changing one part of the system without changing a bunch of other parts simultaneously is challenging and can often, at least temporarily, look like a step backward. (Don’t reduce my range, bro!) System change is difficult, halting, and messy.
The reason the conservative movement relentlessly attacks electric cars is not that they dispute particular performance characteristics in particular circumstances. It’s that they don’t want to change the system. They like the oil/SUV/sprawl set-up and are quite overt about it.
The status quo bias displayed by journalists like Broder, by contrast, more often manifests as narrow, widget-focused thinking, on which basis he’s been an an electric car naysayer for some time now. (See also The New York Times’ Matt Wald on clean energy.)
Of course Broder and Musk should both tell the truth. Battle it out on tech blogs all day! But the resolution of this dispute says roughly nothing about the need for, or the promise of, systemic changes in U.S. transportation. Electric vehicles are one piece of a complex puzzle. They may not “fulfill their promise” until other parts are in place. All those pieces will coevolve in unpredictable ways.
The baseline question, though, is whether the current system is sustainable, and if it isn’t, how it can be made so. Widget-based proxy arguments don’t do much to illuminate that question.
Tesla, NY Times Feud Misses Point of Electric Cars
Electric cars need to be thought of more as an efficient way to get from A to B in our daily commutes, not as long-range travel machines, writes Bryan Walsh.
Time 15 Feb 2013
Over at Techland, Matt Peckham has a nice rundown on the ongoing feud between the electric car company Tesla and the New York Times. Short version: Times reporter John Broder took an East Coast road trip in a Tesla Model S sedan, driving between two fast-charging electric stations in Delaware and Connecticut. The idea—for Tesla, at least—was to prove that fast-charging stations can help alleviate the range anxiety associated with electric cars, allowing drivers to go long distances, just as they can with conventional gasoline-powered cars.
According to Broder, though, things didn’t quite work out that way. Broder’s Feb. 10 was nothing short of scathing, reporting that the Tesla Model S seemed to lose charge much faster than it should have, forcing him to drive slowly and turn down the heat despite the cold winter weather (which likely impacted the battery life of the car as well). In the end the car ran out of charge, forcing him to spend some of his journey in the cab of a flatbed tow truck on the way to another charging station. If the Times’ test drive had been meant to show that Tesla drivers no longer needed to worry about “range anxiety,” it was a total disaster.
But Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk didn’t take the article lying down. He accused Border of essentially faking the article, and promised to release data logs from the test drive that would prove it. You can find a Tesla post from Musk elaborating those claims here—essentially he argues that Broder purposefully ignored guidelines from Tesla staff in an effort to drive the car into the ground, all to support a story that would make Tesla and electric cars in general look bad. Musk noted that Broder had written earlier articles skeptical of the viability of electric cars, and suggested Broder was willing to bend the facts on his test drive to prove that he was right:
When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.
The New York Times is doing just that—Broder tweeted that he was working on a point-by-point response to Musk’s own point-by-point critique. Meanwhile sides are already being taken on Twitter, mostly along the lines of what people believed about electric cars (and perhaps the mainstream media) in the first place.
Who’s right? Considering I don’t have access to the raw data from Tesla—which they have not yet released, despite calls to do so—and I wasn’t in the passenger seat with Broder during his test drive, I can’t really say. A post at the Atlantic by Rebecca Greenfield made what seems to be a pretty strong case that Tesla’s data doesn’t match its accusations of journalistic fraud. Her conclusion:
Not all of Musk’s data is entirely convincing and the parts that are don’t point to a malicious plot. In the end, it looks like Broder made some compromises to get from the Newark charging station to the Milford one, in both speed and temperature. Broder may not have used Musk’s car the way Musk would like, but Musk is, for now, overhyping his case for a breach of journalism ethics.
It’s also worth noting that the blog Jalopnik tracked down the tow truck company that picked up Broder’s Tesla, and they report—contra Musk’s own blog post—that the Tesla was essentially out of juice when the tow truck showed up. Though even that’s not as simple as it appears—a commenter at Jalopnik notes that the car might have still had some power, but that the battery powering the accessories and electronics seemed drained. When Broder shut down the car—not a surprising thing to do if it seemed to be out of juice—the parking brake locked and he was stuck.
I suspect this back and forth will continue going…back and forth for some time. But the argument over the details of exactly how Broder drove and what he wrote misses the larger point. Even if Tesla is mostly right that Broder didn’t operate his Tesla S for maximum efficiency, the reality is that electric cars—even ones that can supposedly get 300 miles to a charge—aren’t ready to drive long distances. The infrastructure that would support long-distance driving—rapid charging stations that are almost as common as gas stations—isn’t even close to being there. In a gasoline-powered world, it’s not reasonable today to expect an electric car to operate in the same way as a gasoline-powered car—just as it’s not reasonable for Tesla to expect drivers to change their behavior to fit a new technology. Broder made it clear to me at least in his review that he was trying to test out his Tesla S in real-world conditions—and real world drivers won’t always follow the rules to the letter. Think of all the work tech companies like Apple have put into making their gadgets essentially idiot-proof. Tesla doesn’t seem to be there yet.
And maybe it doesn’t have to be. Barring major leaps in either battery capacity or charging speed, electric cars will always lag behind gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to long-distance travel. That’s because gasoline is, for all its negative environmental consequences, a really, really efficient way to store energy—much more so than an electric battery. It’s also much easier to store, and of course, we already have nearly a century’s worth of gas stations and other fueling infrastructure built up in the U.S.
But most of us don’t spend much of our time driving up and down the Eastern seaboard. (Which, if you have experienced the sclerotic, Sbarros-ridden wonder that is I-95, is something you should be very, very grateful for.) The average American drives about 37 miles a day—well within the range of electric cars that are much cheaper and less advanced than the Tesla S. All-electric cars will serve a different function than gasoline-powered vehicles. Shorter drives, brief commutes, urban travel—not long distances. And that’s where electrics can have an advantage over gas cars, especially if more cities follow New York’s example and create special parking spots for battery-powered cars. Electrics need to be thought of less as a “car”—because that promises performance it can’t always deliver—than a new and often more efficient way of getting from most of the point As and point Bs of our lives.
Of course, the Tesla S costs at least $50,000—and that’s with the $7,500 federal tax credit—which makes it a very expensive way to get from A to B. Especially if part of that trip is on the back of a flatbed truck.
Driving Tesla's Model S In the Real World
Chris Ziegler borrows a Model S for road trip around the California and finds its a very special car that convinced him this might be the future of transportation.
The Verge 14 Feb 2013
It’s difficult to get comfortable in the driver’s seat of a $100,000 car that isn’t yours.
The particular Model S I flew to Los Angeles to sample last week was a Signature Performance model. That means that it was one of the first 1,000 to roll off the assembly line (indicated by the “Signature” designation) and is fitted with a high-output electric inverter that can propel the car from 0 to 60 in just 4.4 seconds, a key metric that slots it in with some of the fastest production sedans in the world. It’s a stat I would come to test on numerous occasions over the following 36 hours — within the bounds of the “no street racing” clause I agreed to upon taking delivery, of course.
But I arrived in LA fully expecting to hate this modern marvel of a car. I was raised in Detroit, the son of a woman who has worked at General Motors for nearly half a century. Tesla’s emergence was, perhaps, a little uncomfortable for someone who’d grown up surrounded by the infallible Big Three. I felt a little bit like former Palm CEO Ed Colligan in his infamous (and ill-fated) takedown of the iPhone: “they’re not just going to walk in,” I thought. The regulatory and financial hurdles are enormous just to make a single terrible car, let alone a good one that people will actually want to buy.
This is the same market that has chewed up and spit out pillars of the industry like Saab. It has bankrupted GM and Chrysler, sent Ford to the brink. Fisker Automotive — a Tesla competitor with similar ambitions — is on the ropes, desperately seeking a buyer and a cash infusion. How can billionaire Elon Musk’s venture possibly amass the money, know-how, ingenuity, and quality to shake up the automotive world? And just as importantly, do it profitably?
Those aren’t easy questions to answer. Tesla hopes for its first quarter of black ink this year after a decade of operation, but make no mistake, it’s still in the throes of startupdom. Much of its working capital has come from nearly half a billion dollars in low-interest rate government loans. It has just a few dozen dealers around the world. Even Tesla’s choice of Palo Alto for its headquarters — some 2,000 miles from the Motor City — is a little audacious. This isn’t your granddad’s car company, it’s a child of the Valley.
The design studio
But I wasn’t in Palo Alto. I started my journey in Los Angeles because that’s where Tesla’s design studio is located, a corrugated metal hangar just steps from the single-runway Hawthorne Municipal Airport where military contractor Northrop once designed and built iconic aircraft like the T-38 Talon. Next door, Musk’s other big venture, SpaceX, occupies a giant ex-Northrop building. As I pull into the corporate park driveway that the two companies share, I see what appears to be a space capsule peeking through an open cargo door. Musk himself is very actively involved in both companies; a Tesla spokesperson tells me that he switches between the two on a daily schedule, traveling constantly between facilities in Northern and Southern California. I like to imagine him flying directly into Hawthorne rather than LAX about ten minutes away, perhaps in a futuristic aircraft or spacecraft of his own design.
Inside the lobby of the cavernous Tesla hangar, a tall wall keeps prying eyes out of the studio area, where loud whirring sounds give the impression of a staff hard at top-secret work — most likely on the upcoming Model X SUV, which Tesla wants to launch next year. There’s a concept Model X sitting in the lobby, but it’s obviously not a driving prototype; the interior appears to be a mockup carved out of foam.
Apart from the Model X and a few paint samples for prospective buyers to peruse, there isn’t much for the public to see at the design studio (that’s one thing Tesla has in common with the Old Guard car companies it’s trying to displace: R&D secrecy). Out front, a prototype Supercharging station serves as the reference for Tesla’s vision of a nationwide network of ultra-fast chargers that can give its cars half a charge in about 30 minutes — and more importantly, do it on renewable power alone. It doesn’t look much different than a typical gas station, except that you won’t find any attendants or payment systems here — the chargers are free — and, of course, there’s no gas available. It’s open to Model S owners, who occasionally pull up, plug in, and hang out with other owners and Tesla employees in the lobby for a few minutes while they’re waiting for the battery to top off.
It’s here that I meet Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer and an auto industry veteran who has prolific stints at Volkswagen Group, Mazda, and General Motors under his belt.
"I think that’s one of the things that sets us apart a little bit […] we’re very much designing for production," he tells me. "We’re designing with a vision of getting this product to the road and into people’s hands as fast as possible. Our concepts are always with the idea of making it to the road." That includes the SUV’s exotic "falcon wings," which open straight up to make it easier to get in and out.
The First Impression
Eventually, von Holzhausen bids us a pleasant trip, and we get down to the nitty gritty of strategizing a cross-country stint in a vehicle that can’t take gasoline. Our plan was to meander up the Pacific coast from LA to San Francisco, stopping to recharge both the car and our bodies in Morro Bay, a sleepy village on the ocean known for its giant rock. Morro Bay lacks one of Tesla’s ultra-fast Superchargers, but it does have a so-called Level 2 charger; it takes a lot longer to top off the battery with a Level 2, but if we let it sit there overnight, we figured it should be good by morning. For comparison’s sake, you couldn’t make the trip from LA to the Bay Area on a single tank of gas in most cars, but finding a gas station is very rarely a problem. There are a number of apps like PlugShare that help EV owners track down available chargers, but the Model S itself doesn’t yet include a built-in charger directory.
With that, we set out onto Interstate 405 to meet up with US Route 101, which we’ll end up taking most of the way from Southern to Northern California. Though Tesla had given me a comprehensive walkthrough of the car in preparation for the journey, this is the first time that I’m actually behind the wheel and in motion. It’s a trip, both literally and figuratively.
Once you’re rolling, the Model S quickly seduces you. It’s the accelerator: it responds instantaneously, smoothly, and effortlessly, as if you have nearly limitless power at your disposal. Someday, humans will all drive electric vehicles and this bizarre, science-fiction sensation will be completely normal. For those of us who’ve driven cars powered by controlled explosions of fossil fuel their whole lives, though, mashing the pedal of the Model S is an eye-opening sensation that takes some getting used to. Before long, I was rocketing down El Camino Real with no real sense of speed, only astonishment that electric motors and a battery pack alone could propel this 4,600-pound vehicle at a rate that made everyone around me look like chumps.
To be clear, the kind of white-knuckle acceleration offered by this vehicle doesn’t come cheap. Though a base Model S can be had for as little as $52,400 after a $7,500 federal tax credit — still more money than most of us have ever paid for a car — the Performance model starts at a sobering $87,400. Fully equipped, the price can climb just north of $100,000. At that point, you’re dancing with supercar territory.
As the curb weight suggests, this is not a small car. At 196 inches long, the Model S is only 3.8 inches shorter than BMW’s stately 7 Series (in standard wheelbase trim). It’s deeply handsome from every angle but doesn’t stand out in a crowd; if you squint your eyes, it could look like anything from a $25,000 Toyota Camry to a $200,000 Aston Martin Rapide. Even Tesla’s relatively muted color choices for the car — there are no fluorescent yellows or oranges available like on the old Roadster — tell the story that it wanted to make something that regular people would feel okay buying. "I felt it was really important to make sure that the first product, or the first few products, were desirable right out of the gate. Not quirky, not unique, not strange," von Holzhausen told me.
And yet the Model S doesn’t actually blend in at all. What struck me throughout our entire trip was how many random passers-by — how bloody many — would stop us to ask about the car. What is it? Is it Italian? Is it for sale yet? Can my son sit in it? It’s electric? Some would drive by on the highway, grinning ear to ear with a thumbs-up and an approving honk.
The Touch Screen
Settling in for the 200-mile drive to Morro Bay (with plenty of stops in between for lunch in Santa Barbara, coffee, and gratuitous video and photo ops), I realized that I finally had to contend with the Model S’s unprecedented driver controls.
Or rather, driver control, singular: in place of an average car’s array of buttons, knobs, and small displays, the Model S has an enormous 17-inch capacitive touchscreen mounted vertically down the middle of the dashboard, angled slightly toward the driver for viewability and ease of reach. Perhaps more than the newfangled electric drivetrain, nothing worried me more about the Model S — nothing brought out more of the curmudgeonly "get off my lawn" mentality — than this touchscreen. Nearly every component in a modern car is designed to enhance safety and keep drivers better focused on the task of driving; traditional knobs and buttons help drivers keep their eyes on the road because they instinctively come to know where things are. They can feel out a volume control here, a temperature control there without having to look down.
I challenged von Holzhausen on why he went with this configuration. He’s prepared for it, pointing out that the car can evolve over time because it’s not locked into physical controls: as Tesla rolls out software updates — which are downloaded over the air, just like a smartphone — the UI can get better and offer more features. Knobs can’t. "We actually built into the UI in the whole development process this idea of muscle memory, too," he continued. "It was important that we kept, in some areas, some easy to reach and persistent pushes." He noted that things like temperature controls and music volume are permanently docked in the same location at the bottom of the screen.
The gadget nerd in me wanted to love this giant glowing rectangle in the dash, obviously, but the driver in me wanted it gone and replaced with more traditional controls. To be fair, the display is undeniably cool: Tesla clearly put a good deal of thought into the Nvidia Tegra 3-powered user interface, which includes a strip of functions along the top that can be dragged into either of two panels (each of which is still larger than an average high-tech car’s display). That means you can show, say, navigation and music controls at the same time. Or a graph of energy consumption and a live view of your rear-view camera. Or a web browser.
Yes, the Model S has a web browser. But it shouldn’t. It doesn’t even lock you out while driving, a design decision I cursed when my Reddit-addicted video producer seated next to me started browsing "Malicious Advice Mallards" uncontrollably while I was flying down the 101. Tesla insisted to me that it thinks drivers should be responsible enough to decide when and how to use the controls of their vehicles, but the temptation for a news junkie to load up, say, CNN at 80 miles per hour could be far too great. And you think texting while driving is distracting?
I was actually surprised that existing US or European regulations don’t prevent something like a giant touchscreen with a full web browser in a dashboard from being sold in the first place, but I think the Model S is a case where private industry has simply run circles around the molasses-esque bureaucracy of our government: in three, five, or ten years, I would be shocked if this kind of hardware and software configuration was legal. I don’t want a web browser in my car, and more importantly, I don’t want the drivers around me to have one.
Pulling into scenic Santa Barbara for lunch, I noticed a few touches that will freak out drivers experiencing the Model S for the first time. For instance, there’s quite literally no ignition, nor one of those start-stop buttons that have become popular in recent years. There’s no power switch at all. As long as the key fob — shaped like a Model S — is on you, you just get in and start driving. When you’re done, you just get out. It’s a weird thing to get used to, because you feel like you’re missing a step somewhere.
The key fob has some other tricks up its sleeve, too. Walking away automatically locks the car, which causes all four door handles to retract flush with the body — it made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie every single time it happened. When you walk back up to the car, the handles extend. But these aren’t mechanical handles: pulling on them detects your touch, which triggers a motorized latch and allows the door to be opened. Besides being wicked cool, the motorized handles give the Model S an ever-so-slight aerodynamic advantage when it’s in motion.
The Near Disaster
After lunch, we returned to the car and set out for Morro Bay. We intentionally didn’t seek out a charger in Santa Barbara because we wanted to push the Model S’s battery to its limits: the Performance model is rated for 265 miles, it’s about 200 from LA to Morro Bay, and Tesla warned us that we’d lose a little range with a car full of equipment and people, perhaps getting 250 miles out of it. Also, we were being generous with the accelerator and running up and down some fairly hilly terrain, another knock on our total range.
By the time we passed San Luis Obispo on the highway, it was no longer clear whether we’d actually make it the next dozen-odd miles to Morro Bay, and I needed to make a call on whether we’d chance it or cry uncle and find a charger in town. I kept going, partly out of stubbornness — I’d set out earlier in the day running the numbers and never doubting that we’d be able to make it all the way — and partly out of the masochistic belief that running out of power would make for a good story. Admittedly, I hadn’t really thought through the drama and strife that could come from being stranded on the side of Highway 1 with a dead Tesla.
There were some tense moments on that final stretch, culminating in a painfully long hill leading into Morro Bay that I was almost certain would do us in. The estimated range on my instrument panel at that point was one mile. I needed a charger immediately. I turned off the radio and climate control to save power, fogging the windows to the point that I nearly couldn’t see.
Fortunately, we had one of those strokes of luck on that chilly evening in Morro Bay, and our chase car rooted out the location of the one charger in town before our $100,000 toy died. But had we needed even another five minutes to find it, we could’ve been in a world of hurt. Pushing a two and a half-ton car up a hill doesn’t sound fun.
Out of a rated 265 miles of range, we got well under 250 from an effectively full charge provided by the Supercharger in LA to empty. I can't say that the battery was charged precisely to 100 percent capacity when we departed LA — and we spent plenty of time messing around in Santa Barbara along the way — but if not, it was close. We'd been plugged into that Supercharger for a long time. It's reminiscent of The New York Times' somewhat controversial experience with range anxiety, and a reminder that a built-out network of Superchargers are going to be crucial to making cross-country travel a practical reality for the Model S.
Because this was an industry-standard Level 2 charger that we'd arrived upon in Morro Bay, not a Tesla Supercharger, we needed to use an adapter which is supplied with the car to connect. We knew it’d take several hours to fill the enormous 85kWh battery with enough juice to make it to our next destination the following morning, Tesla’s Supercharging station in Gilroy (by comparison, Chevy’s Volt launched with just a 16kWh pack). The company supplied us with an iPod touch loaded with its iOS app that can monitor the car’s charging status, so we grabbed it and headed to our hotel several blocks away.
The app is cool: it gives you a precise map of your car’s location — convenient for parking in the vast tarmac expanse of a megamall — and lets you honk the horn, change charging modes, and see how long you’ve got to a full charge. It takes advantage of the Model S’s built-in 3G connection that uses AT&T’s network; you pay Tesla a monthly fee to use it, and it lets the car download software updates, connect to the web, use Slacker, and so on. If you’re a Model S owner, it’s an ongoing expense that you’re going to want to pay.
We woke up the next morning, checked the Tesla app, and discovered that our ride was nearly topped off. We thought we had more than enough in the metaphorical tank to make it to Gilroy, but we’d said the same thing the day prior and nearly had heart attacks trying to get to Morro Bay, so it was really anyone’s guess whether we’d actually survive the mountainous 160-mile journey along the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway.
Cruising along this beautiful stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur is incredible in any car, much less an electrified one capable of doing fairly stupid things on long stretches of straight, empty, flawless asphalt. It was here that I really felt that I’d become one with the Model S’s suspension and drivetrain: the motor all but defies the car, which weighs nearly a ton more than the sprightly Roadster that preceded it. The battery pack is mounted at the lowest point, below the axles, which contributes to an extraordinarily low center of gravity (CG), which makes the Model S feel glued to the road no matter how many Big Sur twisties you take at high speed. The height of the suspension can be adjusted (through settings on the big touchscreen, of course) to accommodate steep driveways and other obstacles, but at speed, it automatically sinks to a fierce stance that further contributes to a low CG. Rear-wheel drive — the preferred drivetrain of many driving fanatics — also helps to tear up curves, though it’s a problem in snowier climes than California. There’s no all-wheel drive configuration available yet, though it’s coming on the Model X next year.
As we drove deeper and deeper into the wilderness, our phones stopped working one by one. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of miles along the California coast that are essentially untouched, which makes cellular signals hard to come by. Problem is, the Model S’s navigation system relies on its 3G connection to download Google Maps. 95 percent of the time — when you’re within shouting distance of civilization — that’s a good thing, because it means your maps are always up to date. But when you get out in the sticks, thing start to fail. The basemap started turning solid gray so we couldn’t see where we were or where we were going. When we pulled over to shoot some pictures, our preprogrammed navigation route to Gilroy was gone and we couldn’t bring it back without a signal. It seemed like a strange oversight that the car wouldn’t cache the map and the route for situations like this; fortunately, there’s only one Pacific Coast Highway, so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost.
Back to the beginning
We made it to Gilroy with about 20 miles of range left, low enough to feel a pang of concern but not outright panic. Calling Tesla’s Supercharging station here a "station" is being a little generous: it’s really just four chargers mounted in the far corner of a strip mall’s parking lot, a few feet away from a pair of Level 2 chargers that were being used by a plug-in Toyota Prius and a beautiful white Fisker Karma. I was surprised to discover that three of the four Supercharger units were in use, two by brand new cars that hadn’t yet gotten license plates and a third by a black Tesla-owned vehicle with "PROTOTYPE CAR" labeled across the side. We slid into the fourth spot and paid a visit to a nearby In-N-Out. And that’s exactly what Tesla expected us to do: "Superchargers are located at places you’ll actually want to stop, like roadside diners, cafes, and shopping centers. So pull in, plug in, and grab a bite to eat. Model S will be ready when you get back," reads the company’s Supercharging site.
We expected to spend about half an hour charging; it’s only about 90 miles from Gilroy to our final destination in San Francisco, so we didn’t need to top it off, which would’ve taken a couple hours. But when we returned to the car, we met up with Mark, an engineer from San Diego who’d just picked up his Model S from Tesla’s Fremont factory after joining the waiting list in August of 2011 and was charging in preparation for the trip home. We spent a few minutes chatting, during which several other owners pulled up, waited for an open charger, and plugged in as they freed up. I was fascinated to see how many people were already taking advantage of these stations — which can only be used by a single car model from a single manufacturer — and we’re just a few months into production. By the time the Model X is on the road, Tesla could need significantly more of these to keep up with demand, lest we end up with huge crowds of nearly-dead EVs queued up at strip malls around the country. The company is currently planning to deploy around 100 of the stations by 2015, which should lessen (but not entirely eliminate) the need to carefully plan cross-country EV journeys like we did.
But after an hour, we were back on the road with about 200 miles of range back in the battery; it’s remarkable how much faster these Superchargers are than the Level 2 system we’d used in Morro Bay. My drive to San Francisco was bittersweet, knowing that I was just a couple hours away from relinquishing a very special car that I can’t afford — and even if I could, I’d be staring down the barrel of a multi-year waiting list with a $5,000 deposit.
No road trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ceremonial drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and that’s where we wrapped our shoot: on the scenic turnout, surrounded by tourists taking in the magnificent view. Maybe a decade from now, all these parked cars could be electric, I think to myself. Maybe not. It hinges on a lot of money, a lot of infrastructure, and the ability of firms like Tesla to succeed in the face of a brutal auto industry that has a reputation for eating businesses alive.
The Model S isn’t perfect. Far from it — and I think that Elon Musk would be the first to admit it. But for a company only ten years old to produce an automobile good enough to convince a Detroit native that this might be the future of transportation? Well, that’s pretty amazing.
Tesla Chief Calls NY Times Model S Test Drive 'Fake'
Elon Musk tells CNBC that he believes John Broder's failed test drive from Washington to Boston a 'set up and is unreasonable.'
ABC News/USA 13 Feb 2013
Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., lashed out at a New York Times reviewer who wrote about a nail-biting tale of woe trying to take one of the $100,000 vehicles on an extended motor trip.
On CNBC Monday, Musk called the review a “fake” and said the reviewer didn’t fully charge the Tesla Model S and took a detour during the test. ”NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake,” Musk later tweeted.
NYT reviewer John Broder wrote: “I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.”
The reason, he said, was during the cold weather conditions, the car’s batteries didn’t deliver nearly the stated range and the only two charging stations between New York and Boston were too far apart to reach. He wrote that he needed to have the car towed to a charging station after the battery quit.
In a statement responding to Musk’s comments, the newspaper said the review was “completely factual, describing the trip as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue.” And, “There was no unreported detour.”
The review touched a nerve that is at the heart of the unwillingness of many drivers to embrace electric cars: The fear of getting stuck without power and long recharge times limiting extended road trips. The Tesla has a special fast-charging battery (less than an hour) that can be filled at charging stations under construction across the country.
Tesla claims the Model S has a range of up to 300 miles per charge, although the NYT reviewer said in his tests it was less than half that and he was forced to throttle the heater to save power.
“Essentially, we think the article is a bit of a set up and is unreasonable,” Musk said on CNBC.
Tesla is closely watched by investors because it’s one of the few publicly traded electric car companies. The 10-year-old, Silicon Valley-based company received $465 million in funding from the U.S. government and $10 million from the state of California.
Tesla Model S Test Drive on Wintery East Coast Ends On Back of Tow Truck
John Broder finds himself stalled short of a charging station in Connecticut in his first cross-country drive of a Tesla Model S.
NY Times 11 Feb 2013
Washington — Having established a fast-charging foothold in California for its electric cars, Tesla Motors has brought its formula east, opening two ultrafast charging stations in December that would, in theory, allow a speedy electric-car road trip between here and Boston.
But as I discovered on a recent test drive of the company’s high-performance Model S sedan, theory can be trumped by reality, especially when Northeast temperatures plunge.
Tesla, the electric-car manufacturer run by Elon Musk, the billionaire behind PayPal and SpaceX, offered a high-performance Model S sedan for a trip along the newly electrified stretch of Interstate 95. It seemed an ideal bookend to The Times’s encouraging test drive last September on the West Coast.
The new charging points, at service plazas in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn., are some 200 miles apart. That is well within the Model S’s 265-mile estimated range, as rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, for the version with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery that I drove — and even more comfortably within Tesla’s claim of 300 miles of range under ideal conditions. Of course, mileage may vary.
The 480-volt Supercharger stations deliver enough power for 150 miles of travel in 30 minutes, and a full charge in about an hour, for the 85 kilowatt-hour Model S. (Adding the fast-charge option to cars with the midlevel 60 kilowatt-hour battery costs $2,000.) That’s quite a bit longer than it takes to pump 15 gallons of gasoline, but at Supercharger stations Tesla pays for the electricity, which seems a reasonable trade for fast, silent and emissions-free driving. Besides, what’s Sbarro for?
The car is a technological wonder, with luminous paint on aluminum bodywork, a spacious and ultrahip cabin, a 17-inch touch screen to control functions from suspension height to the Google-driven navigation system. Feeding the 416 horsepower motor of the top-of-the-line Model S Performance edition is a half-ton lithium-ion battery pack slung beneath the cockpit; that combination is capable of flinging this $101,000 luxury car through the quarter mile as quickly as vaunted sport sedans like the Cadillac CTS-V.
The Model S has won multiple car-of-the-year awards and is, many reviews would have you believe, the coolest car on the planet.
What fun, no? Well, no.
Setting out on a sunny 30-degree day two weeks ago, my trip started well enough. A Tesla agent brought the car to me in suburban Washington with a full charge, and driving at normal highway speeds I reached the Delaware charging dock with the battery still having roughly half its energy remaining. I went off for lunch at the service plaza, checking occasionally on the car’s progress. After 49 minutes, the display read “charge complete,” and the estimated available driving distance was 242 miles.
Fat city; no attendant and no cost.
As I crossed into New Jersey some 15 miles later, I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating. At 68 miles since recharging, the range had dropped by 85 miles, and a little mental math told me that reaching Milford would be a stretch.
I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low — the temperature was still in the 30s — and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65). Buicks and 18-wheelers flew past, their drivers staring at the nail-polish-red wondercar with California dealer plates.
Nearing New York, I made the first of several calls to Tesla officials about my creeping range anxiety. The woman who had delivered the car told me to turn off the cruise control; company executives later told me that advice was wrong. All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.
After a short break in Manhattan, the range readout said 79 miles; the Milford charging station was 73 miles away. About 20 miles from Milford, less than 10 miles of range remained. I called Tesla again, and Ted Merendino, a product planner, told me that even when the display reached zero there would still be a few miles of cushion.
At that point, the car informed me it was shutting off the heater, and it ordered me, in vivid red letters, to “Recharge Now.”
I drove into the service plaza, hooked up the Supercharger and warmed my hands on a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
If this is Tesla’s vision of long-distance travel in America’s future, I thought, and the solution to what the company calls the “road trip problem,” it needs some work.
The federal government has invested in the effort to find a solution. Three years ago, Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and secretary of energy, proudly announced a $465 million loan to Tesla as part of an advanced vehicles program intended to cut fossil fuel use and address global warming.
The loan to Tesla would “begin laying the foundation for American leadership in the growing electric vehicles industry,” Dr. Chu said.
At the time, Tesla set a target of producing 20,000 Model S cars by the end of 2013. Some 13,000 eager buyers have reserved 2013 models at prices from about $61,000 to more than $100,000. To give those cars family-vacation capability, the company plans to have 90 Supercharger stations built across the country by the end of 2013.
At the Washington Auto Show last month, Dr. Chu, who has since announced his plan to leave office in the next few weeks, discussed the Energy Department’s goal of making electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids as cheap and convenient as comparable gasoline-powered cars.
He continued: “We can’t say this everywhere in America yet, but driving by a gasoline station and smiling is something everyone should experience.”
I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.
Instead, I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons from the hitching post. When I continued my drive, the display read 185 miles, well beyond the distance I intended to cover before returning to the station the next morning for a recharge and returning to Manhattan.
I drove, slowly, to Stonington, Conn., for dinner and spent the night in Groton, a total distance of 79 miles. When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked.
I called Tesla in California, and the official I woke up said I needed to “condition” the battery pack to restore the lost energy. That meant sitting in the car for half an hour with the heat on a low setting. (There is now a mobile application for warming the battery remotely; it was not available at the time of my test drive.)
After completing the battery conditioning process, the estimated range reading was 19 miles; no way would I make it back to Milford.
The Tesla people found an E.V. charging facility that Norwich Public Utilities had recently installed. Norwich, an old mill town on the Thames River, was only 11 miles away, though in the opposite direction from Milford.
After making arrangements to recharge at the Norwich station, I located the proper adapter in the trunk, plugged in and walked to the only warm place nearby, Butch’s Luncheonette and Breakfast Club, an establishment (smoking allowed) where only members can buy a cup of coffee or a plate of eggs. But the owners let me wait there while the Model S drank its juice. Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford.
Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away.
But the Model S had other ideas. “Car is shutting down,” the computer informed me. I was able to coast down an exit ramp in Branford, Conn., before the car made good on its threat.
Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, found a towing service in Milford that sent a skilled and very patient driver, Rick Ibsen, to rescue me with a flatbed truck. Not so quick: the car’s electrically actuated parking brake would not release without battery power, and hooking the car’s 12-volt charging post behind the front grille to the tow truck’s portable charger would not release the brake. So he had to drag it onto the flatbed, a painstaking process that took 45 minutes. Fortunately, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.
At 2:40 p.m., we pulled into the Milford rest stop, five hours after I had left Groton on a trip that should have taken less than an hour. Mr. Ibsen carefully maneuvered the flatbed close to the charging kiosk, and 25 minutes later, with the battery sufficiently charged to release the parking brake and drive off the truck, the car was back on the ground. A Model S owner who had taken delivery the previous day watched with interest.
Tesla’s chief technology officer, J B Straubel, acknowledged that the two East Coast charging stations were at the mileage limit of the Model S’s real-world range. Making matters worse, cold weather inflicts about a 10 percent range penalty, he said, and running the heater draws yet more energy. He added that some range-related software problems still needed to be sorted out.
“It’s disappointing to me when things don’t work smoothly,” Mr. Straubel said in a post-mortem of my test drive. “It takes more planning than a typical gasoline car, no way around it.
“Hopefully you’ll give us a little slack in that we put in the East Coast stations just a month ago,” he said. “It’s a good lesson.”
After 80 minutes of charging in Milford, the battery registered an estimated 216 miles of range. The trip to the Tesla dealership in Manhattan was an uneventful 71 miles. When I pulled in, the battery had an estimated 124 miles remaining.
I trust that the next driver savored those miles — and dressed warmly, just in case.
Tesla Electric Cars Bring Out the Competitor, 'Inner Ed Begley'
Indiana native Dan St. John owns a pair of Tesla electric cars: a Roadster for the 'fun' of it and a Model S for the inner environmentalist.
Journal Courier 24 Dec 2012
Christmas commercials flicker across our television screens, showing a luxury car with a giant bow on its hood or roof parked in a snowy driveway of a posh neighborhood.
But if you’re like most people, there isn’t going to be a shiny new car — luxury or otherwise — parked in the drive Tuesday morning.
But on the remote chance someone’s been very, very good, and a car made the Christmas list, Dan St. John recommends Santa bring them a Tesla — an American-made, all-electric, high-performance automobile manufactured in California.
“Mid-life crisis presents,” not Christmas presents is how St. John described his decision to purchase two of the electric cars.
Pointing to a small, red, two-seater roadster, he said, “I’ve been eyeing this one at the auto show for a couple of years, and I finally went up … in 2009 and took a test drive, mainly to see if I could fit in the thing. It’s a little bit of a tight fit … getting in and out.”
But that test drive was all the convincing he needed to pull the trigger.
“This one I bought for the performance,” he said of the roadster. “The electric was kind of a novelty thing, but it was mainly because it is bat-out-of-hell fast. Fun car. The electric was almost an afterthought.
“Once you’ve driven one, it’s hard to go back to paying for gas and all the downsides of a gas vehicle.”
Everywhere he drives, the roadster is a conversation starter.
“You can’t go anywhere without somebody stopping you and talking to you about the car,” he said.
“They actually have a term for it: Tesla time. You factor that into the time you’re going somewhere to talk to people,” he said. “Most people in Indiana, they either know everything about it or they know never heard of them. There’s no middle ground.
“Their customers sell all of their cars for them. They don’t advertise. They probably don’t need to.”
His roadster arrived in early 2010, and six months later, St. John put a deposit down on his second Tesla, the Model S, a stylish, high-performance sedan. It arrived in September, two years after making the deposit.
“The second one, maybe I’ve uncovered my inner Ed Begley Jr.,” he joked, invoking the name of the Hollywood actor and green activist.
Tesla automobiles are a little like dining at a fancy restaurant where prices are omitted from the menus. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
St. John shied away from specifics, but he noted that the Model S, Tesla’s first original car, has a base price of $49,900 and it goes up from there. He sheepishly said the roadster, which has a Lotus-designed body and frame, was probably double the price of the Model S.
Shanna Hendricks, communicaton manager with Tesla Motors, said six Model S automobiles have been delivered to Indiana.
Lately, the internal-combustion-engine crowd has seemed giddy as gasoline prices dipped to around $3 a gallon, but St. John pays only slightly more than that for a full charge and nearly 300 miles of road time.
“I actually took our company car to Chicago last weekend and had to buy gas. I thought, I’m standing here five minutes at this pump. Then it’s like $70,” St. John said, bluntly expressing his anger over the inconvenience of gassing up. “It bugs me the hell out of me to buy gas now.”
St. John, who doesn’t even have a gasoline lawnmower, dislikes buying gas.
“The fact that every time I go to the gas station, I’m not sending money to the Middle East. For me, that’s a big factor,” he said. .
He had a Chevy Tahoe and the Tesla roadster for a while, but he rarely drove the Tahoe after buying the electric car, so he got rid of it.
“You can charge that up for five bucks, or you can fill the Tahoe for $80.”
Charging the Teslas are as easy as plugging in a cellphone in the evening and unplugging it in the morning, he said. Of course longer road trips take a little bit of planning, but chargers for electric cars are becoming more common at hotels, parking garages and other travel pit-stop sites.
Charging a low battery back to full takes a 220-volt outlet and about four hours, but super chargers can juice a battery back to half full in about 30 minutes. A full charge carries St. John nearly 300 miles and costs about $9 — less than the price of three gallons of gasoline.
The roadster handles pretty well in small snows, but St. John doesn’t take it out much in those road conditions for fear of what some other driver might do. The Model S gets its winter testing this year.
St. John and Hendricks said the weight of the battery packs, which run the length of the car below the floor, should give the Model S traction and weight in the snow.
And should the worst happen and there’s an accident, extricating a person from a Tesla — or any electric vehicle — isn’t as simple as firing up the jaws of life and ripping through metal. There’s a cable rescuers must cut first so they don’t electrocute themselves in a rescue attempt. First responders are trained on that, St. John said.
Tesla Motors is producing about 200 of the Model S cars each week, Hendricks said. By the end of the year, the company wants to be ramped up to making 400 a week, which will put it on track to make its goal of 20,000 cars in 2013.
“Demand (for the cars) is really not a problem,” Hendricks said. “We’ve had great success with our retail locations.”
Note that she said retail locations, not dealerships. These locations are at high-traffic shopping malls, and would-be Tesla owners can place an order there or online — or even on the phone, Hendricks said.
While Tesla automobiles might be out of most people’s reach, St. John encouraged people to consider a more affordable electric car, especially in families that have two cars.
“For most people with two cars, I think it’s absolutely practical to have an electric car for around town,” he said. “It’s probably one day out of 10 that I drive more than 40 or 50 miles in that car. If you have two cars and you’re just knocking around town in one of them, it makes a lot of sense.”
“For most people (with one car), it wouldn’t be practical to have just an electric vehicle. But I’m kind of at the point in my life, if I want to take a long trip in that car, I can, and I can take my time. Or I can rent a car if I want to drive across country for something.”
While he never says “never,” St. John has sworn off traditional cars.
“I’ll never own another internal-combustion-engine car. The advantages (of the electric car) far outweigh the disadvantages.”
Tesla Model S Blows Away the Competition
From Consumer Reports to Motor Trend, all-electric luxury sedan is earning accolades from reviewers and the motoring press.
Christian Science Monitor 05 Dec 2012
As year-end automobile awards arrive, the vehicle that's revving ahead of the pack is a car that can't rev at all. The all-electric Tesla Model S won "car of the year" from Motor Trend magazine, Automobile Magazine, and Yahoo Autos – as well as Popular Mechanics' award for technical innovation.
"We've driven almost every electric car made, and tested most, but the Tesla Model S comes as a revelation," writes Consumer Reports, which, as of press time, had not named its car of the year. "These guys are serious about demolishing every obstacle that stands in the way of the electric car."
Worried that all-electrics can't keep up with your lifestyle? The American-made Model S can travel 140 to 265 miles on a single charge, depending on the size of its battery pack.
Concerned that they take too long to charge? The Model S works with 110- and 240-volt outlets, with the latter fully charging a battery in four to six hours, according to Motor Trend. Tesla also built its own fill-up stations – currently all in California – that will pump in enough electrons in 30 minutes for an extra 150 miles of range. (So that drivers have something to do to pass the time, most charging stations are near malls.)
Assume that high-efficiency vehicles have no kick? This luxury car races from zero to 60 in less than five seconds.
Certain that electric cars cost too much? Depending on the family, you might be right. The baseline Model S costs $57,400, minus a $7,500 federal tax credit. However, that's not the car that won all of the awards. Motor Trend tested a $107,350 version.
This heap of accolades came at a dark moment for Tesla. In September, the company reported that its Model S factory would produce 3,000 vehicles this year, not the 5,000 that it expected. During two presidential debates in October, Republican nominee Mitt Romney attacked the Obama administration for lending Tesla $465 million. Supporting "losers" such as Tesla and the failed solar-energy start-up Solyndra "is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure," Mr. Romney said.
Motor Trend took a different view.
"The mere fact the Tesla Model S exists at all is a testament to innovation and entrepreneurship, the very qualities that once made the American automobile industry the largest, richest, and most powerful in the world," writes Angus MacKenzie, editor at large of Motor Trend. "America can still make things. Great things."
Tesla Model S Shatters All Electric Car Myths
Consumer Reports praises Tesla's Model S all-electric car.
Consumer Reports 16 Nov 2012
We've driven almost every electric car made, and tested most, but the Tesla Model S comes as a revelation. We've been taking turns driving a Signature Performance version on loan to us from Tesla for about a week now and everyone has come out of it impressed.
This is a large, heavy, luxury car that's wicked quick and agile, stretch-out roomy, and whisper quiet. And besides being a hoot to drive, this is the first electric car we've experienced that has a decent range—a realistic 200 miles per charge in our borrowed high-end version. (See our hybrid/EV buying guide and Ratings.)
Having visited Tesla, met several of its employees, and now driven the Model S, you get a very strong impression: These guys are serious about demolishing every obstacle that stands in the way of the electric car.
• Range anxiety? Gone. A large (optional) 85-kWh battery realistically yields 200 plus miles with no pampering.
• Slow charging times? Gone. A 10-kWh onboard charger or optional twin chargers (20 kWh), shorten charging times dramatically. A Tesla dedicated high-power charging station can funnel power quickly. Tesla is in the midst of setting up "supercharger" stations at rest areas along some interstate corridors to charge compatible versions of the car to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes.
• Slow acceleration? Gone. We clocked a zero to 60 mph sprint in 4.6 seconds.
• Tight accommodations? Gone. The interior feels as roomy as a large luxury sedan, such as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, with a flat floor and plenty of cargo room.
Equipped with the largest (85 kWh) of the three battery packs Tesla offers, our car's range indicator has been predicting around 245 miles on a full charge, and that's during an unusually cold early November. (Tesla claims 300 miles, the EPA pegs it at 265.) We've been getting about 200 miles of mixed driving—including expressways—without babying the car at all.
Using a loaned ($1,200) Tesla High-Power Wall Connector charging station, which resembles a parking meter with a garden-hose of a power cord, it's been taking only 4.5 to 5 hours to recharge. For context, consider that putting 75 or so miles of go juice into our 2010 Nissan Leaf EV using one of our 240-volt charging stations takes six hours. So for the much larger Tesla to get more than twice the distance in less time, well, that's a huge accomplishment.
Treating the Model S like any other car, I had no problem covering my 160-mile round-trip daily commute with heat, seat heaters, and lights blazing, plus I arrived back at the office with enough leftover range for ample peace of mind. And that's without even counting the extra 70 miles I managed to eke from "opportunity charging" at my house, on 120 volts, and at a public charging pole (240 volts) courtesy of the town of Fairfield, CT, while doing errands.
Takeoff from a standing start is smooth and effortless; 416 horsepower never felt so cultured. You feel drawn in as the landscape zooms by with just a muted whine in the background. Acceleration stats put it in Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911 territory, but the sensation makes it feel faster absent the engine and exhaust noise.
Despite the car's hefty 4,700-pound curb weight, it is agile, tied down, and light on its feet. Having no engine over the front axle is a pure benefit here. The ride is firm yet supple, even with the optional 21-inch summer tires—not quite Mercedes E-Class plush, but more compliant than a Porsche Panamera.
The center of the dash console is dominated by a stunningly large 17-inch touch-screen display. Picture a supersized iPad built into the dash, with vivid graphics and Google maps. Navigation, audio, phone and most other controls are operated through that command center. Although the potential for distraction is there, categories are well organized and delineated, with large landing areas for your fingers and quick response. The car also allows Internet connectivity (including web-based radio) while on the go, but even if your passenger is the one interacting with it, the distracting temptation is there for the driver.
The retractable door handles impressed everyone, but there are moments when you want them to be more readily available, especially when it's cold outside. The cabin is well finished and nicely detailed, especially the dash and door trim. The electronic shifter, stalks and window switches are sourced from Mercedes-Benz.
Thanks to the flat floor and no center tunnel intrusion there is ample rear leg room. The front cabin has lots of storage but, oddly, there are no map pockets anywhere. (Tesla did this intentionally for a clean interior look, but it's still nice to have places for stuff). There are two trunks, one beneath the rear hatch and what Tesla calls the "frunk" under the hood.
There's a lot about this car that says "Silicon Valley," and specifically Apple. From its unique plug-in connector to the large iPad-like screen, the Tesla instills an Apple-esque aura. Fittingly, Tesla showrooms are located in shopping malls, like Apple stores, rather than gasoline-alley dealerships. Some may view all this as a plus, others as a turn-off. But no doubt it's a fresh and innovative approach.
The base Model S, with a 160-mile battery, starts $57,400. As configured, our borrowed Model S exceeded $100,000—at least you get to subtract a $7,500 tax credit from that sum. But the most significant takeaway here is that this homegrown EV makes no excuses or compromises for being an electric car. In fact, in terms of the driving experience, it would make a completely viable alternative to an Audi A7 or Porsche Panamera. We can't wait until we buy our own Model S to formally test.
Tesla Model S Wows Bloomberg Reviewer
If I had $102,000 for my latest luxury ride, I’d take a chance on it, concludes Jason Harper.
Bloomberg 01 Nov 2012
The Tesla (TSLA) Model S is an all-electric car with incredible range. That may be the least interesting thing about it.
I stepped into the $92,000, battery-powered sedan with low expectations. By the time I exited, I was pretty sure I’d just experienced the future of the automobile.
Tesla and its chief executive officer, Elon Musk, are constant sources of hyperbole. I just didn’t expect to be spreading it.
This is the Palo Alto-based company’s second car. It was a stretch to even call the first model, the $100,000-plus Roadster, a true production car since it began life as a Lotus convertible. Tesla turned it into an electric vehicle (EV), but it looked like a Frankenstein-like kit car, and the build quality was terrible.
The Roadster had one very neat trick -- it rocketed from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds, silently. The Model S has more tricks than a Criss Angel-David Blaine double act.
The fundamentals: the base starts at $57,400, with the price increasing with the size of the lithium-ion battery pack, which in turn determines range and quickness.
The Performance model I drove starts at $92,400 and was $102,270 with add-ons. It has the top-end, 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack and an EPA estimated range of 265 miles. (Tesla says 300 miles.)
It can recharge in as little as four hours. The electric motor makes 416 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. Sixty miles per hour comes in 4.4 seconds. Those numbers are compelling.
The Model S is a full-size car, and it’s big, seating five adults comfortably. The exterior is subdued, with little indication that it’s something special except for the closed front grill and low hood, which doesn’t need to fit a mechanical engine. (The electric motor is in the rear.)
It’s hard to know where to begin when describing all of its tricks.
Approach the locked car and you’ll find that the door handles are sunk into the metal. Press the center of the car- shaped key fob and the car handles slide out silkily.
Slip inside and you’re confronted with a simple steering wheel, a driver’s digital screen and a shockingly large (17- inch) touch screen hanging from the center console. The screens are already on.
Except for controls on the steering wheel and its three stalks (gear shift, blinker and wipers), there are no other physically-evident controls. Coupled with chic wood inserts and fine leather, all perfectly fit together, the interior is a marriage of shiny tech and elegance.
The entire floor of the car is flat. There’s no center tunnel obstructing the area between driver and passenger (a gift of an EV’s unique engineering), and I marveled at the stuff you could put there. A backpack, a year’s worth of National Geographics, a sack of basketballs. A hoarder’s dream.
There is no ignition or start button. Put your foot on the brake pedal and the car silently turns on. Disconcerting, and Disneyland-cool. An early announcement that this is not business as usual.
Then, go ahead. Jam on the pedal. If there’s a carryover from the Tesla Roadster, it’s speed. The Model S’s electric motor delivers all of its full torque instantly. The initial moment of acceleration is as good as any supercar I’ve recently driven, outside of the $2.5-million Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.
My test car had optional 21-inch performance tires and the sound of them skimming on asphalt was the only noise as I bounded down a two-lane road in Michigan back country, yellow leaves swirling in a vortex behind me.
Then, an upcoming wicked right-hand turn. I didn’t want to break my shiny new toy. Would it manage that crook in the road at this speed?
Easily. The heavy batteries line the bottom of the car, keeping the center of gravity low. The S ducked into the turn, exited cleanly and I was back on the accelerator. The steering is eerily good and the brakes (which recapture energy) are predicable.
Which brings me to the rest of the controls, which are manipulated via the biggest, sharpest touch screen I’ve ever seen. The top half of the screen manages everything from opening the optional panoramic glass roof to turning off the car. The bottom half is dedicated to the Internet -- giving full-color web pages.
Compared to other touch screens I’ve used recently (and complained about), this thing is generations better. Like a HD TV versus a black-and-white TV with bunny ears.
The icons are big, uncluttered and clear, and take just a brush of the fingers. I easily operated it on the move, only briefly taking my eyes off the road.
Which brings me to my only caveat. All of the technology is so new, so bold, that I’ve got to wonder how well it will work week after week, year after year. What happens if the screen freezes and it’s raining and you can’t shut the roof?
Tesla is charging customers $600 a year for a mandatory service plan. And the company potentially still has hard financial times ahead of it.
Still, something this good, this forward-thinking, will surely attract buyers who are equally bold. If I had $102,000 for my latest luxury ride, I’d take a chance on it.
Only Problem with Tesla Model S, Not Designed In Britain
Mirror's Quentin Wilson finds the all-electric Model S might even woo Jaguar XF, Merc E-Class and BMW 5-Series buyers, given that its kick-off price is a relatively reasonable £50k.
Mirror/UK 28 Oct 2012
There’s now an electric car that’s as fast as a BMW M5. The slinky new 416bhp Tesla Model S can hum to 60 in an astonishing 4.4 seconds.
Brainchild of PayPal creator Elon Musk (he bet his billions on this car), it’s one of the most usable and exciting electric vehicles in the world.
Made from lightweight aluminium with batteries developed by electronics giant Pioneer, top models can do 300 miles on one charge and seat seven.
And unlike other EVs, it looks deliciously horny.
There’s air suspension, eight air bags, a 17-inch touchscreen (the biggest in any production car) that dominates the cabin, air-con and sat-nav powered by Google Earth.
Testers have described the acceleration as “immensely quick”, and at the limited top speed of 130mph all you hear is tyre and wind noise.
The centrally located batteries, front double-wishbone and multi-link rear suspension give crisp, fast handling, and you can even change the steering setting between Comfort, Normal and Sport at the touch of a button.
And with the longest range of any electric car on the market, the Model S could even woo Jaguar XF, Merc E-Class and BMW 5-Series buyers, given that its kick-off price is a relatively reasonable £50k. And that’s why the Californian firm has already taken 13,000 orders and is ready to churn out 20,000 cars every year when the S goes into full production in 2013.
With zero road tax, a potential of over 200mpg and generous company car tax incentives, this is one luxury barge that defies convention, costing literally pennies to run.
Those 300 miles will set you back a piffling £2 in electricity.
We get it next autumn.
The only bad thing I can find to say about the car is that it wasn’t designed and made in Britain. That’s a shame.
A Motley Fool Takes Model S for a Spin
Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore thinks the company will 'have greater success in the electric vehicle space than Ford, General Motors...'
Daily Finance 13 Oct 2012
Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore is just back from a visit to the Tesla Motors (NAS: TSLA) showroom in Washington, D.C., where he was able to test drive the exciting new Model S sedan.
On some levels, the Model S competes with the Nissan Leaf, Ford (NYS: F) Focus Electric, Honda (NYS: HMC) Fit Electric and, of course, hybrids like the Toyota (NYS: TM) Prius and General Motors' (NYS: GM) Chevy Volt. But those vehicles address the "lower end" of the electric and hybrid market. Tesla's roomy sedan, on the other hand, does zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, is packed with luxury features, and the fit and finish is outstanding. It is, therefore, really competing with luxury vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi -- as its $50,000 to $90,000 price tag would suggest.
Tesla's stock price recently took a hit when management lowered its revenue forecast because of a slower-than-expected ramp-up for the Model S. Bears also point to other issues, such as how drivers will negotiate long road trips if their cars only have a range of 100 to 300 miles, depending on the model.
But, because we're in the extreme early phases of the electric car revolution, Rex says that's just short-term noise for long-term investors. As far as any early production problems for the Model S, founder and CEO Elon Musk says he has intentionally slowed down production until a number of minor issues are resolved, such as the fit of certain interior items. After that, Musk says production will ramp up and hit at least 20,000 units in 2013, with a gross margin exceeding 25%. In addressing the range issues, Tesla is taking a cue from Clean Energy Fuels, which is rolling out a nationwide network of refueling stations for natural-gas-powered vehicles. Tesla has already opened up a network of recharging stations between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and you can expect more stations across the country.
Rex says Tesla -- designed from the ground up as a different kind of automaker -- will have greater success in the electric vehicle space than Ford, General Motors, and the other big names that have long-established and deeply entrenched ways of producing vehicles. This is especially the case with more expensive, higher-margin cars.
With projections of cash-flow breakeven by the end of the year, Rex says this small, $3 billion company seems very well positioned for investors with a long time horizon -- and he's backing his opinion with a thumbs-up CAPScall.
Is the Model S a car you should consider buying? In part three of this series, Rex talks with Tesla's Will Nicholas about the ideal owner of these technologic marvels.
Tesla CEO Criticizes Fisker Karma 'Mediocre Product'
Two electric-drive companies, both based in California, have been sparring and suing each other for years.
Autoblog 19 Aug 2012
It is official: the gloves are off in the war of words between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Fisker Automotive chief Henrik Fisker.
Most of the verbal barbs came from Musk, who sat down to gossip with Automobile Magazine about archrival Fisker. The bad blood goes back a few years to when Tesla unsuccessfully sued Henrik Fisker for developing the Karma while under contract for the design of the Model S – basically paying someone to design his own car.
Another, more newsworthy zinger was when Musk called out Fisker as a smart designer but one who does not understand the underlying technology problem. Musk said:
The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker – he is a designer or stylist... he thinks the reason we don't have electric cars is for lack of styling. This is not the reason. It's fundamentally a technology problem. At the same time, you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you're going to have an impaired product. But just making something look like an electric car does not make it an electric car.
Fisker has been scrambling to deal with fires and recalls connected to its A123 Systems partnership. Musk's biggest jab was directed at the flagship Karma: "It's a mediocre product at a high price."
So what did Henrik Fisker have to say? In a written response to Automobile Magazine, Fisker stayed friendly, but did throw down the competitive gauntlet: range anxiety. "Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range," he wrote. Zing!
Fisker thanked Musk for giving a nod to the good-looking Karma, which won Automobile's 2012 Design of the Year. He also made a statement to clear up the legal wrangle: Fisker won in court. A judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker.
Both companies have borrowed existing tech to bring their plug-ins to market. Karma needed Quantum Technologies to provide the plug-in hybrid drivetrain and used a General Motors-sourced 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder engine. Tesla used the Lotus Elise to develop its first car, the Roadster. That said, the sparring judges would probably send more points to Tesla Motors, which sells its battery system and EV powertrain technology to companies like Toyota.
Is Tesla Model S Most Important Car of This Century?
Vanity Fair's Brett Berk find the Model S has 'growling good looks, a high-performance power train, and plenty of room and range...'
Vanity Fair 06 Aug 2012
When claims are made about something “re-inventing” a genre or category, we tend toward dubiety. Sure, the Dark Knight trilogy is a mumblier take on the typical superhero story; yes, Doom succeeded in making a game of viewing gory acts of animated violence firsthand; and those squeezable tubes certainly expedited the delivery of over-sweetened yogurt into the gullets of grinning tweens. But none of these inventions truly broke convention—they simply repackaged the same old content.
This is not the case with the Tesla Model S, which radically revises the sport sedan, and which, after a brief test-drive, has us more juiced up than a busload of Bulgarian weight-lifters.
The undercurrent underpinning our interest is just that: the car’s electric motivation, which lies in a yogic plank of laptop batteries sandwiched into the S’s floorboards. This may not seem that different from some of the other electric vehicles we’ve driven recently, but where those commuter pods can travel maybe 70 miles on a charge, the most potent version of the Model S hoards enough buzz to voyage nearly four times that far—with an E.P.A. rated range of 265 miles—and potentially even farther under real-life conditions. That is, if you’re able to modulate how deep you stick your foot into it, which, with acceleration that’s on par with a Corvette, we found rather difficult.
Since we were unable to participate in the first wave of quickie test-drives for journalists earlier this summer in California and were too busy luxuriating in a borrowed Rolls-Royce to accept another drive opportunity in New York, we made Tesla host us at a consumer event last week. This confab was held at the Sheraton Mahwah, a vitreous L-shaped icon of 80s bunker architecture, located at the intersection of every major highway in all of northern New Jersey and surrounded by what might be the world’s second-largest circular parking lot.
Being sporting and creative types, we used this location to our advantage during our 20 minutes with the S, developing and partaking in a Suburban Driving Heptathlon. The events here included: Instantaneous Merging, Cross-Interstate Hurtling, Onramp/Offramp/Onramp Relay, Cell-Phone Rapid-Response Pit Stop, Navigational Javelin, Three Lefts Make a Right, and the dreaded 4,000-Meter Lot Circumnavigation. We are pleased to announce that, with its unexpected combination of poise, power, and precision, the Tesla medaled in every event.
Its advanced interior only enhances the driving experience. We’re not typically fans of the kind of bachelor-pad minimalism that consists only of a polished-concrete floor, a black-leather Le Corbusier chaise, and a grotesquely oversize flat-screen TV. But here in the Model S, this aesthetic somehow works. Perhaps this is because, scaled down, such a style looks elegant and spare instead of posturing and pathetic. And unlike other recent efforts at rethinking automotive interiors, we think it successfully conjures an updated version of the sleek, analog future of Godard’s Alphaville, rather than the ditzy fatuousness of speculative trifles like Star Wars.
In fact, with these Spartan yet accommodating furnishings, drive-train packaging that affords room for five adults and two kids (in the optional rear-facing jump seats), commodious storage beneath the slanting rear hatch and ostensible hood (devoid of an engine, this forward hollow is known as the “frunk”), and fully Web-enabled instrumentation that finally makes good on the digital promises we’ve been suffering since the cathode-ray-tube dashboard of the 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, the Tesla is most radical in what it un-does: four decades of wrong-minded attempts, freaky over-reaches, and dampened half-steps at creating a new kind of advanced and efficient American car.
With a cost toward the upper end of the five-figure range for a full-tilt version like the one we describe here, the Model S is positioned competitively against such similarly sized, like-featured, and comparatively handsome Stick Shift favorites as the Audi A7, Jaguar XJ, or even the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. But its plug-in power and silently whisking operation have an allure these gas-powered siblings don’t. And with lower-cost, lower-range versions available starting at under 50 grand (after $7,500 federal alternative-energy tax credit), Tesla seems intent on bringing electric luxury to the cakey donut that orbits around, well, the hole that is the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMiEV, and the Toyota RAV-4 EV.
The technology is new and unproven, and our time in the car was revealing yet perfunctory, so we’ll have to reserve true judgment until we (and a bunch of consumers) have better access to the vehicle. But with its growling good looks, a high-performance power train, and plenty of room and range, consider our interest officially amped, jouled, and ohmed.
CNN Reviews Tesla Model S Electric Sedan
Apparently Peter Valdes-Dapena was expecting a golf car when he drove the Model S.
CNN 31 Jul 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- I was never that impressed with the Tesla Roadster, the $100,000 two-seat sports car that so many people saw as the beginning of an electric car revolution.
The Roadster was a deft parlor trick, I figured. It's easy to make an exciting long-range electric car if you don't bother to making it affordable or practical.
Now comes Tesla's next trick. The Model S sedan, available with seating for up to seven, is now on sale. Once it's in full production, prices will range from $50,000 to roughly $100,000.
I have driven the $100,000 version of the car, albeit it briefly, and I'm amazed. The car would seem worth the price, or maybe more, if it were powered by a gasoline engine. (Cheaper versions will be largely the same but with shorter driving ranges.) If there's sleight of hand here, I haven't been able to find it yet.
I'd been in the Model S before -- Tesla (TSLA) chief executive Elon Musk took me on a test ride through lower Manhattan back in November -- but, even so, the view from the driver's seat was striking. Wherever possible, knobs and physical gauges have been replaced by computer screens.
There isn't even a "Start" button. If you have the Tesla's car-shaped key fob in your pocket and your butt is in the driver's seat the car -- quite reasonably -- assumes you want it to turn on. So it does.
It runs in "Accessory" mode, allowing you to use the computer screens and listen to the stereo, until you push down the brake pedal. Then the speedometer and other driving gauges appear and the car is ready to roll.
Move the gear selector stalk to Drive and off you go in near silence. (If the gear selector stalk seems familiar, that's because Tesla got it straight from Mercedes-Benz.)
At slow speeds the Model S feels disappointingly like a hefty, battery-laden electric car. With a light foot on the accelerator, it shuffles from stop sign to stop sign with all the eagerness of a fat man asked to change seats on an airliner. You can almost hear it sigh.
Then you get out on the open road and really step on the "gas" and.... Yowzah! It turns out that, when asked to, this car can move with astonishing speed. Fortunately, for me, the brake pedal works just as well as the accelerator nicely preventing me from rear-ending cars ahead after each startling burst of speed.
The Model S's steering feel and response are adjustable using touch screen "buttons." The steering can be changed from heavy and quick, like a sports car, to easy and slow, like an old Cadillac. The car's ride height can likewise be changed up and down to the wonderment of bystanders.
Inside the Tesla Model S
One thing our test drive route -- which included Manhattan back streets and a long stretch of the West Side Highway -- didn't include was any high speed curves, which was a shame.
The Model S's heavy battery packs are in the form of a flat sheet that takes up most of the underfloor of the car. That gives the car a very roomy interior as well as a very low center of gravity. Turns are accomplished (or so I'm told) with hardly any body lean and with alacrity that puts other performance sedans to shame. We'll have to see but, for now, it seems believable.
So now Tesla faces the mundane challenges of producing the car profitably in relatively high volumes while preventing quality problems that could damage the brand name. At the same time, Tesla is already preparing to sell its next vehicle, the Model X crossover SUV.
There's still a lot of work for Tesla ahead but, so far, the car itself looks good.
Tesla To Begin Repaying Federal Loans
Company will begin repaying loan starting in December 2012.
Reuters 26 Jul 2012
Tesla Motors said on Wednesday it plans to begin repaying by December more than $400 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The California-based electric-car maker also said it could boost annual production of its recently introduced Model S sedan to 30,000 cars or more to meet higher-than-anticipated demand.
Tesla posted a net loss in the second quarter widened as it wound down sales of its first model, the $110,900 Roadster, and began ramping up deliveries of the new Model S.
Revenue of $26.7 million was down 54 percent from $58.2 million a year earlier.
Tesla's loss was $105.6 million, or $1.00 per share, compared with a net loss of $58.9 million or $0.60 per share a year ago.
Analysts had expected a per-share loss of $0.94 and revenue of $30.9 million.
The fledgling car maker, based in Palo Alto, California, in June began selling premium versions of the four-door Model S, at prices ranging up to $105,400.
CEO Elon Musk, in a conference call with analysts late Wednesday, said Tesla delivered 10 Model S sedans to customers in the quarter. The top-of-the-line Model S Signature Series, he said, has been "sold out for months," and there is a waiting list of 10-11 months for other variations of the car.
A lower-priced version of the Model S, starting at $57,400, will be added this fall.
Musk said the company still expects to sell 5,000 Model S sedans by year-end and at least 20,000 next year, with provisions to add a second shift and increase annual production capacity to 30,000 to meet demand.
"That won't require a significant capital investment" to increase the production rate, Musk said.
However, the company is considering raising "a small amount of money" to use as a cash cushion and to help fund development of new models, including the Model X crossover utility vehicle in 2014 and a smaller sedan code-named Gen III in 2015.
In the meantime, Tesla continues to phase out the older Roadster, which now is only offered outside the United States. The company said it sold 89 Roadsters in the second quarter, with about unsold 140 cars left in inventory, and expects to close out sales by the end of the year.
Tesla said automotive sales in the second quarter totaled $22 million, with another $5 million in revenue from development services, primarily for Daimler AG. Tesla is supplying batteries for Daimler's Smart Elecric Drive, and helped develop Toyota Motor Corp's RAV4 EV.
Tesla, which was backed initially by a group of Silicon Valley venture capital firms, raised $226.1 million in an initial public offering two years ago. Its stock closed Wednesday at $28.95, down 2.98 percent.
In addition, Tesla qualified three years ago for $465 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. On Wednesday, the company said it drew down $71 million from the DOE loan facility in the second quarter and intends to draw the remaining $33 million "in the next few months."
Tesla on Wednesday maintained its full-year revenue guidance of $560 million to $600 million, well above analysts' consensus estimates of $480 million.
Tesla Model S: The New Narcotic
Dan Neill shares his impressions of Tesla Model S that sets a new standard for all-electric sedans in 'I am Silent, Hear Me Roar.'
Market Watch 08 Jul 2012
This Tesla Model S thing you've heard so much about? You know, all-electric sedan, Silicon Valley, that guy from SpaceX? This is one amazing car. I mean, hard-core amazing. But first and foremost, gentle reader, it goes like the very stink of hell. Fifty-to-100-mph acceleration in the $97,900 Signature Performance model I drove is positively Lambo-like and…wait, let's stop right there:
People who like fast cars are sensualists. And screaming up through the gears of an Italian sports car—getting that flit and loft in the belly, tasting the saliva of speed—is a pleasurable and addictive sensation. They don't call it dopamine for nothing.
Unfortunately, in a car like a Lambo, other people can hear you being stupid for miles around. At full tilt, those cars are like civil-defense sirens, if civil-defense sirens alerted you to the presence of awful men in gold watches and track suits. It's embarrassing.
But in the dreamily quiet Tesla Model S, when you hit fast-forward, the film speeds up but the soundtrack doesn't really get much louder. The pitch of the electric whine goes up, the suspension sinks down, but compared with an internal-combustion sports car—quaint thing that it is now—this car slips silently as a dagger into triple-digit speed. You can cut traffic to bits in this thing and never draw the jealous ire of your fellow motorists.
New vocabulary needed
The Signature Performance model is powered by a 416-horsepower AC synchronous electric motor producing 443 pound-feet of torque between zero and 5,100 rpm, with a zero-to-60-mph acceleration of 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile elapsed time of 12.6 seconds. The SP package is equipped with a high-capacity drive inverter and twin 10-kilowatt-hour charging inverters for rapid recharge (about four hours). It should come equipped with a lawyer. You're going to need one.
The Model S—indeed, high-performance electric vehicles in general—will take some getting used to, even a new vocabulary. We currently don't have a good term for EVs' distinctive concentration of mass, with batteries slung low as possible and centroid to the vehicle. While traction batteries are heavy, and mass is bad for acceleration and agility, the lower center-of-gravity often compensates with higher levels of cornering, especially when a car wears rubber like the Signature Performance edition's sticky 21-inch summer tires. How about “corner-levering mass”?
Whatever, the Tesla's got it in spades. The car's flat, floorpan-mounted battery pack (85 kWh) accounts for about 30% of the significant total vehicle weight, 4,642 pounds. And yet, with a C-of-G comparable to that of a Ford GT supercar, the Tesla corners like it's tethered with magic. What do you call that?
I’m not going to dwell much on the back story. Elon Musk, creator of PayPal and chief executive of civilian rocketry firm SpaceX, took over Tesla in 2008 and proceeded to promise the moon and the stars for the Model S, an all-electric premium full-size sedan with up to seven seats, a claimed 300-mile range, and a base price, counting the federal $7,500 EV tax credit, of $49,900.
At the time, Tesla was building, rather badly, small numbers of the all-electric Roadster, which was based on a modified Lotus chassis, and losing money like mad. In terms of mass-production car building, Tesla didn’t have a stick in the ground three years ago. And here we now are, looking at the Model S, which, if everything works as advertised—something I couldn’t discern in an hour-plus test drive in Los Angeles last week—would rank among the world’s best cars.
‘The car is dope’
Tesla had a little luck along the way. The 2009 acquisition of the Toyota/General Motors joint venture plant in Fremont, Calif., came with a very nice paint shop, idle stamping machines and many other production resources. It also helped that at the time the domestic car business was holding a yard sale on manufacturing equipment.
Still, the uniquely un-sourceable Model S has obliged Tesla to do much of the car’s subassembly in-house, including all of the aluminum body and chassis stampings, most of the injection-molded plastic, the traction motor, battery pack, and more. These folks are casting their own aluminum chassis nodes, for heaven’s sake.
The outcome of Mr. Musk’s grand experiment in vertical integration is far from certain. But the car is dope.
At 196 inches in length, the Model S is a large car that exploits the benefits of purpose-built EV design. The hood is sleekly low—no internal-combustion engine to conceal—and the cabin floor is flat, thanks to the rear-mounted electric motor. Without an IC engine up front, the Model S doesn’t have to accommodate a big radiator. The car’s sultry front clip conceals three small heat exchangers to cool the battery/power electronics and two condensers. The lateral lower grille intakes feature active shutters to close when extra cooling isn’t needed.
Stylistically, the Model S has something of the sinuous, languid form of a Jaguar XF, one left in the sun too long. Note the brilliant bow of brightwork around the window openings and chrome spear between the taillights. At the bidding of the Model S’s key fob, the door handles pop out from the bodywork and then retract flush with the bodywork when everyone’s aboard. The car’s B-pillars are trimmed with black-glass panels that look stunning when paired with the panoramic glass roof, and taken as a whole, seen in the California sun, the Model S is a glowing, glassine tranche of well-heeled wickedness.
Useful, too. The front section of the car—the abandoned engine bay, if you will—provides a 5.3-cubic-foot stowage area, which Tesla calls the “frunk.” The rear hatch encloses a relatively vast 26.3 cubic feet or more than 50 cubes with the seats down. The Model S also offers optional and quite novel kids’ jump seats, for seven-passenger seating, though about that I remain dubious.
With a structural monocoque almost entirely of riveted, extruded or cast aluminum—with a sprinkling of high-strength steel—the Model S’s lightweight construction is in line with and not radically different than high-end car makers such as Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. Uniquely, the Tesla’s battery pack, less than 5 inches thick and the size of a coffee table, bolts to the bottom of the car, increasing structural rigidity and forming the car’s aero-optimized flat underbody. Tesla believes the Model S is the most aerodynamic road car in the world, with a 0.24 coefficient of drag, and has the most rigid car chassis in the world. Nice bit of engineering, that.
Out on the street, suspended with the speed-adaptive air suspension, the Model S has an utterly unshakable, gantry-like vibe to it, even with the big meats in the wheel wells. And yet, given the constraints of our test drive, I can’t really describe the car’s handling. I’ll need at least three months to be sure.
The Model S offers a choice of three battery packs: 40, 60 and 85 kWh capacity, corresponding to a highway range/acceleration of 160 miles/6.5 seconds, 230/5.9 seconds, and 300/5.6 seconds, respectively. The Signature Performance edition couples the biggest battery with those twin power inverters and hotter software.
The Tesla’s battery pack (more than 7,000 Panasonic nickel-cathode lithium-ion 18650 cells) are warrantied for eight years and 100,000, 125,000 or unlimited miles, depending on pack size.
The other inimitable flourish is the car’s huge, 17-inch capacitive touch-screen console, a glass-panel interface handling vehicle, climate, audio and vehicle functions. It’s the attack of the iPhone, if you like. This is the one stumble in the Model S’s draftsmanship. While this panel works beautifully—the navigation map display is especially nice—the display is embedded rather gracelessly into the leather-and-carbon trim dash.
So, fittingly, it’s a spaceship. The Model S is the most impressive feat of American industrial engineering since a couple of months ago, when Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched and recovered a spacecraft that rendezvoused with the international space station.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m prepared for disappointment. The thing could burst into flames or be found to cause cancer of the nether regions. But right now, I have to say, I’m fairly fond of it.
Deep Pockets Required to Own Tesla Model S 'Limited Edition'
First 1000 Model S will sell for $95,000 before tax credit. Price to eventually drop to $57,000 before $7,500 credit.
Slate 21 Jun 2012
Ten years ago, Tesla set out to prove that the future of cars was electric. For its first trick, it built the Roadster, a sleek and blazingly fast sports car that showed electric cars could be high-performance cars. With only two seats and a base price of $109,000, the Roadster was never meant to be a big seller. Production was capped at 2,500, and ended in the United States last year. But it succeeded in its mission of making electric cars cool again.
Now comes the real test: Building a car that ordinary people will actually buy. This week, Tesla will begin shipping its second model, a luxury sedan called the Model S. Built by Tesla at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif., the Model S theoretically offers all the features of a mid-range BMW or Lexus. And with an advertised price of $49,900, it’s theoretically affordable to non-millionaires, especially when you consider the savings on gas. Has the era of the affordable electric car arrived?
Not quite, unfortunately. It’s when you start getting into the practicalities of this practical luxury sedan that it starts to look either a little less practical or a little less luxurious.
For one thing, the base Model S will actually cost $57,400. The lower figure is the net cost after a $7,500 tax credit. But the bigger hitch is that you can’t actually buy it yet at that price. The first 1,000 Model S’s will be designated “limited edition” and sell for upwards of $95,000 before the tax credit. For that price premium, you’ll get some nice specs: an 85 kWh battery with a 300-mile range, and a snappy 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds (or 4.4 seconds for the top-of-the-line version, which will cost six figures). Those numbers—300 miles and 5.6 seconds—are the ones that Tesla highlights on its website.
To buy one for under $60,000, though, you’ll have to wait until winter. And, in what feels a bit like a bait and switch, the cheaper models will have less power and a much more limited range than the first ones off the line.
The lowest-priced version will have a 40 KwH battery, with an advertised range of 160 miles if you keep the speedometer pegged to 55. Speed up or slow down, as drivers are wont to do, and the range will likely fall significantly. Just how significantly, we don’t know: Tesla hasn’t let any reviewers drive the car for more than 10 minutes. (A company rep tells me that will change Friday.)
The range should still be sufficient to keep you from getting stranded on your daily commute, but you probably wouldn’t want to risk a road trip. So if you want to take the family to the lake for the weekend, you’ll probably need to use your other luxury sedan.
Tesla’s solution to the road trip problem—a planned network of “supercharger” stations that can replenish a battery in just half an hour—will only be available for the higher-end models.
To be fair, Tesla CEO Elon Musk never claimed that the Model S would be cheap. He has long planned on using it as an intermediate step between the exclusive Roadster and a third, as-yet-unnamed model that will truly be for the masses. A company spokesperson informs me the Generation 3 models probably won’t appear until at least 2015.
All this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy a Model S if you’ve got the money. By all accounts, it’s a sleek and attractively designed car, and it seems like a serious step up from the other all-electric on the market. Whereas the Model S was built as an electric car from the ground up, Nissan’s slow-selling LEAF, at $35,000, is basically a spiffed-up, electrified Nissan Versa at three times the price. (Its range has been rated at just 73 miles by the EPA.)
Of course, if you’re trading in a gas-guzzler for either car, you’ll be doing a lot of good for the environment. But rather than proving that the era of the electric car is at hand, the Model S shows just how much work remains to be done.
Tesla Model S Exceeds Driving Range Expectations
Tesla new sedan achieved an EPA 2-cycle range of 320 miles and a 5-cycle range of 265.
Tesla Motors 18 May 2012
As we near first customer deliveries of Model S it is an exciting time here inside of Tesla Motors! One of the most important and impressive performance aspects of Model S is its remarkable efficiency and range. It has a range that far exceeds any other production EV ever built, including our own Tesla Roadster! We are, needless to say, very proud of this and are excited to share more details here of how the Model S has come together through the final phases of efficiency tuning and optimization. We have exceeded our initial engineering targets and are confident that as a customer you will be delighted with the result.
Back in 2008, JB wrote a similar blog about the efficiency and range of our Tesla Roadster. At that time, we had recently completed tests demonstrating 244 miles of range on the Roadster. This was based on the 2-cycle EPA test procedure that incorporated a blend of highway and city driving cycles (55% city cycle driving and 45% highway cycle driving specifically). That blog is recommended background reading even for a Model S customer since most of the details and physics that affect range are the same in both vehicles and all electric vehicles for that matter. It also gives a description of what you as a driver can do to affect range positively and negatively relative to the EPA test procedure results. As with all EPA estimates, actual cruising range will vary with options, driving conditions, driving habits and vehicle condition. At Tesla we pride ourselves on transparency with customers and feel that range is a topic where this is particularly important. There is not a single fixed range for any given vehicle or battery. The simple reality is that driving range can and will vary by a large amount depending on how you operate the vehicle and external factors such as wind and elevation change. The goal of providing this information is so that the driver/customer has a more complete picture of what can affect his/her range and are in a better position to predict and control the outcome.
With the 85 kWh Model S battery we set a goal of delivering a range greater than 300 miles using the 2-cycle EPA test procedure that we used with the Roadster. This is a goal that no EV in history had ever achieved. We are thrilled to say that we exceeded this goal.
As we have done in the past, we also want to share more data and a complete picture with you. As many drivers of our Roadster (and other EVs) have experienced, it is possible to get range that is different than the 2-cycle EPA procedure (both higher or lower). We have some customers that have even driven Roadsters more than 300 miles on a single charge under ideal conditions. Other drivers might get less than 200 miles by driving at higher speeds or with heavy use of cabin air conditioning or heat.
Vehicle speed is by far the largest variable in the range you can achieve. In order to help customers plan and predict this we will share a computer model used to simulate how far a Model S is predicted to travel under the following conditions:
- Constant speed (such as using cruise control)
- Flat ground, no wind
- Climate control OFF or using vent only (no heat or air conditioning)
- 300 lbs of vehicle load (driver plus passenger or cargo)
- Windows up, sunroof closed
- Tires inflated to recommended pressures
- New battery pack (<1 year, <25,000 miles)
One quick takeaway from this graph is that the 85 kWh Model S is expected to achieve 350-250 miles of range during constant-speed highway driving at 50-70 mph with the conditions listed above. This is a most impressive result and represents many extensive improvements in powertrain and vehicle technology over the Tesla Roadster. We have applied years of engineering effort and lessons learned from thousands of Roadsters in dozens of countries to make these improvements. These results are more compelling than those achieved by any other EV.
You can also see that at slower speeds it could even be possible to exceed 400 miles in a Model S under the conditions above. We haven’t internally demonstrated that yet and we are planning a prize for the first customer that actually drives over 400 miles on a single charge. :)
One of the points that we feel represents a useful summary of this data is the range at a constant 55 mph under the conditions above. For the 85 kWh Model S this is slightly greater than 300 miles.
The improvements over Roadster range are clear from the comparison of curves. This is due in part to the larger battery capacity in the 85kWh Model S (versus about 55kWh in Roadster) but also due to substantial vehicle platform efficiency improvements in the Model S.
Even though the Model S is a much larger and heavier car than Roadster with ridiculously more cargo capacity the total battery energy consumption on the highway is only about 10% more than for the Roadster! This is quite amazing and results largely from the Model S having the best aerodynamics of any sedan in its class with a Cd of approximately 0.24. Model S aerodynamics are so optimized that the total aerodynamic drag force experienced by the car – which is significantly larger in frontal area – is almost the same as a Roadster for a given speed.
Many variables affect the actual range experienced by our drivers. Here is a summary of how a small selection of these factors affects vehicle range and their relative impacts.
Sustained high speeds have the most dramatic effect on driving range, as the first graph above clearly shows. This is because aerodynamic resistance increases with the square of speed, requiring higher forces to push the air out of the way. In contrast slower city driving speeds are more efficient and electric vehicles have a unique benefit in stop and go, low-speed driving due to regenerative braking. If you are ever in doubt about reaching your destination, driving more slowly is the best way to stretch your range. Relative to range at a steady 55mph you can see a 50% increase or 50% decrease in range due to vehicle speed decrease or increase.
Climate Control and Outside Temperature
Climate Control energy usage is related to keeping the cabin at a comfortable temperature. Maintaining a desired temperature in the cabin requires energy draw from the battery, which affects range. It is challenging to generalize how much the use of climate control will affect your range. It depends predominantly on how different the cabin temperature is from the outside temperature, if there is a large heat load from the sun, and how long you operate the climate control system. If you are driving slowly for a very long time and operating climate control continually it will have the largest percentage impact on your range. In very hot or cold operating conditions with typical usage of climate control and driving at speeds around 55 mph you may see a 10-15% reduction in range.
New EPA Rating Procedures: 5-cycle vs. 2-cycle
When the Tesla Roadster was certified, the EPA only used a 2-cycle test that was carried out under conditions of 75 degrees Fahrenheit ambient temperature and with varying acceleration rates and driving speeds for both city and highway tests topping out at 60 mph. Recently, the EPA incorporated three additional cycles into their tests that push vehicles to greater limits. The additional cycles added as part of the new “5-cycle test” include a cold driving cycle that requires heater use, a hot weather cycle with air conditioning operation, and a high-speed cycle (reaching 80mph) with rapid accelerations.
We are very pleased to report that Model S has exceeded our initial range expectations by about 20 miles and has achieved a Roadster equivalent 2-cycle range of 320 miles and a 5-cycle range of 265 miles. This sets a new record for electric vehicle range!
To explain energy usage vs. driving style even more clearly, we’ve been rolling out the Go Electric Digital Experience in our Tesla Retail Stores to help customers visualize the EV energy needed to accommodate their individual driving and life style. The Go Electric Experience will be hitting teslamotors.com later this summer. We highly recommend you check it out.
The Model S sets a new benchmark as a high-performance premium sedan that is fun to drive and goes further than ever thought possible with an electric car. We are looking forward to rolling out Model S to our customers this quarter and are always interested to hear back from you about your EV experience.
Tesla to Develop Electric Powertrain for Mercedes
For the new Mercedes model, Tesla will provide battery packs, motor, gearbox, inverter and all related software.
LA Times 17 Feb 2012
Electric car company Tesla Motors Inc. announced that it has a deal to provide the powertrain for a new Mercedes-Benz vehicle, even as it moves closer to manufacturing its own vehicles later this year.
The Palo Alto automaker also said Wednesday that it expected revenue to roughly triple this year, when it will begin selling the Tesla Model S sedan, its first ground-up design. The company is about to launch production of the Model S at its factory in Fremont, Calif.
For the new Mercedes model, Tesla will provide battery packs, motor, gearbox, inverter and all related software. It will start to record sales for the contract starting in the second quarter. Mercedes has not released details about the new vehicle. Tesla has previously provided Daimler with battery packs and chargers for its experiments with electric car production.
As expected, Tesla has continued to pile up losses as it readies to begin producing the Model S, the first vehicle it will make in any volume. Telsa posted a net loss of $81.5 million in the fourth quarter and $254.4 million for the year. Fourth-quarter revenue rose 9% from the same period a year earlier to $39 million. Full-year revenue in 2011 rose 75% to $204 million.
Tesla also said it was developing a growing backlog of business. It has 8,000 pre-orders for the Model S orders and has already logged 500 reservations for a Model X crossover announced just last week.
With an expected delivery of 5,000 Model S cars this year, growing powertrain sales and the sell-down of the last of the Tesla Roadster sports cars that it developed with British automaker Lotus, Tesla expects to collect $550 million to $600 million in revenue this year. Most of that will come in during the second half of 2011, the company said.
Tesla Debuts Model S Beta
VentureBeat gets early look at car that can seat 5 adults and two children.
Venture Beat 10 Nov 2011
Electric car-maker Tesla’s second vehicle, the Model S, won’t be available until next summer, but the company is taking a version of its new electric sedan out for a little publicity spin with a North American tour.
VentureBeat was among the very first to take the new Tesla Model S Beta for an early test drive, and we can report that it’s a beast. We’ve got photos from our plant visit below, and we’ll be uploading a video soon.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Model S is already sold out for 2012, thanks to 6,500 pre-orders. And after spending some time with the vehicle in person, it’s easy to see why. This car is dead sexy, with all the features to make gadget boy or girl’s heart melt. Yet unlike the earlier Tesla Roadster, it’s actually got room for your friends and family.
With seating for seven (five full-sized adults and two kids in the back), it’s not a vehicle to park in your living room and admire. This is a moving sculpture that expects to be driven.
It handles the hill roads of Palo Alto with the power of a rally car, and the grace of prancing gazelle. Best of all, it’s muscle you can feel good about. The electric engine is releasing zero emissions as it burns down the road.
What else makes the Model S Beta special? This prototype is in its final stages before the car goes into production, and the Model S will be Tesla’s first mass-produced vehicle. Starting at $49,000, the Model S is the follow-up to the company’s first car, the Tesla Roadster. It will be available in a 160-, 230- or 300-mile range option, and the company says it can charge using any regular electrical outlet.
The Model S Beta has a 17-inch connected touchscreen, developed in-house, that’s equipped with 3G wireless for easy navigation, web and media access, and the ability to run applications.
What we saw was still early, but the Tesla team sees cars as the new app marketplace. That means you can expect someone in the near future to be creating a customized, steampunk-styled interface for someone’s Model S control panel. Even without apps, this giant, luminous screen is responsible for all car functions, and the only physical buttons on the car’s console are the federally-mandated “hazard” blinker, and another button to pop open the glove box. Everything else, from driving directions, to air conditioning, is controlled with the touch screen.
Suffice it to say, no detail was overlooked on the driving experience, the interior or the techy goodness.
BBC Reporter Gets Beat By Tesla Roadster
Incensed by BBC's reporting, British EV fan David Peilow borrows a Roadster, arrives in Edinburgh ahead of Mini-E.
Automobile Magazine 14 Jan 2011
Electric vehicles have a bad rap for their limited range, but one enthusiast set out to show things are not be quite as bad as they seem. After the BBC set out on a journey from London to Scotland to illustrate an EV’s limited range, a Tesla Roadster, departing two days later, actually beat the Mini E to its destination.
The [BBC's] story, currently airing on English television, shows journalist Brian Milligan’s drive from London to Edinburgh, a journey of roughly 484 miles. Sounds simple, you say, but considering the Mini E has a range of only 100 miles on a single charge and needs roughly ten hours to recharge, the trip quickly turns from trivial to tricky.
Milligan was forced to stop at least once a day over the four-day span to recharge. BMW/Mini has said the cars have roughly 100 miles of range, but driving habits, traffic conditions, and ambient temperatures can have an effect on its range, and potentially whittle that figure down to 60 miles. Further, Milligan was forced to search for one of the few charging stations sprinkled throughout England, and wait for hours before continuing his drive.
After Milligan published his frustrations on both his blog and Twitter feed, EV advocates started to cry foul. British EV fan David Peilow was so incensed, he arranged a publicity stunt with Tesla Motors to counter the BBC’s story. Borrowing a new Roadster Sport and leaving after Milligan had a two-day lead, Peilow set out to beat the BBC to Edinburgh.
Remarkably, he did just that. The Roadster, equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack offering roughly 245 miles of range (and, importantly, a 3.5-hour recharge time on a 240-volt charger), managed to make the trek in a single day. Pielow needed to stop only twice, and, having left in the wee hours of the morning, managed to sneak into Edinburgh hours before Milligan did.
The BBC is crying foul, noting the sporty Roadster’s range is nearly twice that of the “practical” Mini E, but Pielow did work towards quashing a stereotype. Many EVs do have a limited range and charging points are occasionally few and far between, but that isn’t necessarily the case in every scenario.
Tesla Test Drives Seen as Way to Spark Interest in Electric Cars
15 to 20 Arizonans are Tesla owners, and five have signed up to buy since Tesla began offering test drives in the state.
Arizona Star 27 Dec 2010
Alex Frank is used to getting more than just long looks when he zips around in his all-electric Tesla Roadster.
"I've had people follow me several miles out of their way and accost me" to ask about the car, said Frank, who as market-development representative for Tesla Motors drives a Roadster daily.
But you don't have to accost Frank to get a closer look at the "fusion red" Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5 convertible he drives - just call or write him to test-drive the latest model of the electric supercar.
Frank has been scheduling test-drives for Arizona residents since late October.
Before then, those who wanted to drive a Tesla Roadster had to go to one of the company's stores, such as the one in L.A., or catch one of Tesla's special test-drive events.
Frank said 15 to 20 Arizonans are Tesla owners, and five have signed up to buy since Tesla began offering test drives in the state.
The Tesla rep is based in Phoenix but is periodically scheduling test-drives in Tucson. Frank was in town last week doing test drives from the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.
At base prices of $109,000 for the standard model and $128,500 for the Sport 2.5, the Tesla Roadster isn't for everyone (though a $7,500 federal tax credit eases the final cost a bit).
Tesla Motors - named for electric-power pioneer Nikola Tesla - is aiming the Roadster at affluent, environmentally conscious "thought leaders" who can help foster the market for electrics.
At that, the company is selling its Roadster essentially at cost, Frank said, to fulfill the company's goal of driving next-generation electric car technologies into the mainstream.
Those technologies include an advanced, high-density lithium-ion battery pack, a three-phase A/C direct-drive motor with regenerative engine braking, advanced power and charge controls and a carbon-fiber body.
"The goal of this car is to set the stage for the electric vehicle," Frank said.
The company's next car is more family- and wallet-friendly.
The Tesla Model S is a four-door sedan (seating five in the main cabin with space for two child-size jump seats in the hatch area) with a base price tag of $49,000. Though slower than the Roadster, the Model S will have a range of up to 300 miles per charge with an upgraded battery pack.
Deliveries of the Model S are expected to start in 2012.
Because of its hefty price, the Tesla attracts mainly affluent buyers.
But in addition to wealthy car buffs, Tesla buyers include scientists and engineers - just the kind of early adopters Tesla is looking for to help charge up the electric-car market, Frank said.
Will Tesla Whitestar Emulate GM Volt?
Green Tech blogger Michael Kanellos speculates that follow-on electric car may use range-extending strategy similar to GM's Volt.
CNET News 07 Dec 2007
Tesla Motors helped bring the concept of the all-electric vehicle back from the dead, but it appears they also have gas on their minds.
Speaking at the ThinkGreen conference in San Francisco, vice president of finance Mike Taylor told an audience that the GM Volt is "a really good way" of extending the range on electric sedans in a cost-effective way.
The Volt, planned to come out around 2010, contains a gas engine and an electric motor. The car runs on the electric motor and the gas engine recharges the battery. These sorts of vehicles, called range-extended electric vehicles, cost less than pure electric vehicles because the battery, one of the most expensive components in an electric car, is comparatively small. The Volt's battery will only carry a car 40 miles before it needs a recharge. Because it uses onboard recharging, though, the car can go about 600 miles on the freeway. It is expected to cost less than $30,000.
All-electric cars only go 130 to 250 miles before conking out and cost $70,000 to $98,000.
In the hallway, Taylor told me that the Volt is a "really elegant design." Taylor wouldn't confirm whether or not Tesla was actively working on a range-assisted electric vehicle with a gas engine for recharging, but he said that the company "will look at all options."
Tesla will release its first car, the Tesla Roadster, in 2008. It will cost $98,000 and be aimed at sports car owners. The company hopes to come out with a sedan, code-named Whitestar, in 2010. Established car companies, including Nissan, will have electric town cars and sedans out in the 2010-2012 time frame. Although these large companies started on their electric car concepts later than Tesla, they have advantages because of their size and experience. Competing against established manufacturers, particularly when it comes to cost, is a big problem for the plethora of electric car start-ups.
Tesla has said that Whitestar will cost $50,000 to $70,000 but will have a range that is less than 200 miles. The company then hopes to follow up with a less expensive car. Designing these cars around a range-assisted concept would allow the company to drop the price and extend the range. Taylor was vague, but his comments tend to show that the company isn't being doctrinaire in its thinking.
Taylor joined the company a few months ago as part of a reorganization aimed at stemming some of the delays.
Tesla Roadster Pumps Fun Into Electric Vehicles
The sleek carbon-bodied sports car is, by my reckoning, the first plausible electric automobile of the 21st century. And, without electrics, the 22nd century is going to be very rocky indeed, write LA Times Dan Neil.
The Peninsula/Qatar 30 Jul 2006
When Tesla, the upstart auto company based in Silicon Valley, unveiled its all-electric Roadster in Santa Monica, California, last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped in for a surprise visit.
The event — where Tesla was offering its first 100 "signature edition" cars for $100,000 apiece — felt like automotive history, and I have the feeling that one day I'm going to be very glad I bothered to attend.
The sleek carbon-bodied sports car is, by my reckoning, the first plausible electric automobile of the 21st century. And, without electrics, the 22nd century is going to be very rocky indeed. To appreciate the Tesla, it helps to compare it to the much-lamented EV1, GM's electric car that was, in the mid-1990s, the most advanced vehicle of its kind.
The Tesla Roadster has a range of 250 miles, says the company. The EV1, with the best nickel metal hydride batteries, could go about 150 miles under ideal conditions. A full charge of the EV1 could take eight hours. The Tesla's lithium-ion batteries can be raised from the dead to a full charge in 3 1/2 hours and, unlike the EV1, the Tesla will come with its own portable charging pack so it won't be range-tethered to its home charging station.
The Tesla is a toothsome sports car. The EV1, um, wasn't. Perhaps most important and most unlike the EV1, the Tesla offers something beyond virtue as a reward to its buyers: fun, in large, hair-raising voltages. The company claims 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 4 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. Big brakes, racy suspension, optional leather and navigation system, air conditioning, heated seats. There's even room for golf clubs. With the Tesla, the electric car seems poised to move past its groovy-granola beginnings.
"Most electric cars were designed for people who didn't even like cars," Tesla's founder and chief executive Martin Eberhard says.
This approach — this appeal to civic virtue instead of driving pleasure — limited electric cars' appeal to a small albeit enthusiastic group of environmentalists. "I wanted to build a car that I wanted to drive," Eberhard says. "And I like fast cars."
Tesla isn't the only bolt of battery-powered lightning out there. A Monaco-based company called Venturi has a production-ready electric sports car, the Fetish, which is nearly identical to the Tesla in size, weight, power, range and performance. The big difference is price: Compared with the $600,000-plus Venturi, the production Tesla (about $85,000, due on sale in late 2007) might as well be sold at Best Buy.
The Wrightspeed X1 prototype, the work of another Silicon Valley start-up, is based on the lattice-frame, open-wheel Ariel Atom built in England. It's even quicker: 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 11.5 seconds.
There's also the Tango commuter car, an oddly shaped four-wheel electric car-cum-motorcycle (sold as a kit car) whose most famous owner certainly is actor George Clooney. With its two motors serving up more than 1,000 pound-feet of combined torque, the Tango's acceleration is "like getting shot out of a cannon," says Tango president Rick Woodbury.
During a summer when a popular documentary asks, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" the electric car seems to be contrarily alive and well.
"There's a big market for green," says Chris Paine, EV advocate and director of "Who Killed the Electric Car',' "but not as big as the market for something more primal. Speed and power have always sold cars."
"We want to do something about global warming," says Elon Musk, Tesla chairman and its principal investor. "But you can't achieve your philanthropic objective unless the company works."
Its sexy Roadster project, Musk says, will allow the company to sell a four-door sedan, to be built in the United States, with a price of less than $50,000, by 2008. "Selling an electric sports car creates an opportunity to fundamentally change the way America drives," Musk says.
In terms of car culture, the Tesla is catching a larger wave, in which green technology — previously considered the antidote to fun — is being marketed as a performance enhancement. Just this month, Lexus entered a GS450h sport sedan hybrid in the Tokachi 24-Hour Race in Japan. Audi's Le Mans-winning R10 diesel race program, say company execs, shows clean diesel can also deliver high performance.
Some environmentalists have been queasy about this trend — accusing manufacturers of green washing — while others see it as a necessary step in mainstreaming clean-car technologies.
"I don't know too much about the Tesla," says Roland Hwang, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, "but two-thirds less greenhouse gases and 0 to 60 in 4 seconds? Who could be against that?"
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