Archives for June 14th, 2013
One of the largest hurdles Tesla has faced is the lack of electric charging points for its electric cars. Now, the company is working to resolve that issue by opening up a network of quick chargers across the country.
Dubbed the Supercharger, Tesla’s new charger not only helps to expand the current network of electric-car charging stations, but it can also help feed electricity back into the current power grid. The Supercharger works as such: the charging station has been designed to create more energy from solar power than will be used by a plugged-in vehicle; the leftover juice is then put back into the current power grid for use at another time. In just 30 minutes, the Supercharger can give a Model S enough power to drive at 60 mph for three hours.
With the announcement of the Supercharger, Tesla revealed that it has already set up six of the stations across California that will allow drivers to travel almost the entirety of the state and parts of Nevada and Arizona. By the end of next year, the company hopes to install Superchargers throughout high-traffic corridors across the country: from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Diego, California; from Miami, Quebec to New York, New York; and from Los Angeles, California to New York, New York. Starting in the second half of next year, Tesla will also begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia.
American electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors has announced that Chris Porritt, Aston Martin’s former chief vehicle engineer, has been appointed as the company’s new vice president of vehicle engineering.
Porritt job at Tesla will be to further develop the Tesla S luxury sedan and work on the upcoming Roadster model. The British engineer will most likely be in charge of the Model X crossover SUV as well.
“Tesla is a hardcore technology company, which means that anyone leading a team of engineers must be an outstanding engineer themself, as well as a good leader,” said Elon Musk, Tesla co-founder and CEO. “Chris demonstrated exactly that in his prior role at Aston Martin, creating in the One-77 what was arguably their best car ever.”
"I look forward to driving new standards for vehicle engineering innovation in the Model S, Model X and future vehicle lines,” Porritt said. "This is an incredible opportunity to bring technologies normally reserved for supercars to the high volume market.”
Chris Porritt started his work at Aston Martin in 1997 and led his team to develop the Vertical Horizontal architecture that underpins the DB9 and the V8 Vantage models. Porritt also helped designing the Aston Martin One-77’s active suspension and aerodynamics.
Before joining the Warwickshire-based manufacturer, Porritt spent ten years with Jaguar.
TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
HI-RES GALLERY: TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
News In Your Inbox
Deliveries for the 2012 Tesla Model S have started, and in case you missed editor John Voelcker’s first drive of the Model S this past week, one point of note was how calm and quiet the cabin remains even when accelerating.
That said, while we’ve spent more time sitting in the Model S than driving it, we haven’t yet spent much time using its sound system. In addition to the Slacker Personal Radio features that already come in the Model S, there’s now another way to be informed or entertained. With TuneIn services, song and track information for streaming radio stations are fully integrated, with the info displayed with album art either in the Model S’s gauge cluster just ahead of the driver, or over on the touch screen.
According to TuneIn, it’s the first direct integration in a vehicle, rather than streaming through a smartphone’s data connection; and it’s the company’s 200th distribution platform. TuneIn is already available as an app for iPhone and Android handsets, as well as for tablets, home entertainment systems, and online.
In the Model S, the huge 17-inch touch-screen system that serves as its interface is already a standout. And with an interface designed in-house at Tesla Motors [NSDQ: TSLA], plus well-integrated streaming, it’s looking like one of the most interesting pieces of infotainment hardware yet.
In part, it’s like a large-screen iPad (with an operating environment that somewhat resembles IOS or Android systems), with a supplemental display that’s part of the gauge cluster just in front of the driver. With dedicated data access—there’s a monthly fee, but Model S buyers should be able to afford that—you get live Google maps, a Web browser, easy access to vehicle settings, and the opportunity to stream audio and use specially designed apps.
With TuneIn there will be no lack of choices. The service offers unlimited listening of more than 70,000 stations (AM, FM, HD, and Internet) from 230 countries and territories, with about two million on-demand programs.
Tesla’s retail store concept
HI-RES GALLERY: Tesla’s retail store concept
Tesla’s retail store concept
If we had to pick one word to describe Tesla Motors, “audacious” would be at the top of the list.
Not only did founder Elon Musk decide to build a car company, which in itself is pretty gutsy. He chose to create a car company that builds nothing but electric cars — pricey, high-end electric cars that hold their own against some of the best luxury models on the market.
Say what you will, the man knows how to make an entrance.
Then again, should we have expected any less from the guy who took on the banking industry by creating PayPal? The man who said, “Space travel? Oh, yeah, I can make that happen.” Musk isn’t known for going with the flow — or for losing.
So it should be no surprise that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] may be single-handedly changing the way that automakers sell cars. Nor should it be a surprise that the competition is miffed.
Showrooms vs. dealerships
Back in July, Bengt Halvorson attended the opening of Tesla’s showroom in Portland, Oregon. He was lucky enough to speak with George Blankenship, the man behind Apple’s hugely successful retail stores and Tesla’s growing chain of showrooms.
Blankenship summed up what makes Tesla’s sales approach so unusual: “The [traditional] model is that they do a bunch of research, hold a bunch of focus groups, and they decide that this is a car we should build; they design that car, they engineer it and manufacture it, and then they sell it to some dealer who then tries to sell it…. That’s just not how we’re doing it.”
Instead, Tesla has created a new kind of showroom. So far, there are 17 of them scattered across 10 states and the District of Columbia. And like Apple stores, they’re often found in shopping malls.
That’s a great way to attract attention and to raise brand awareness, but it may not be such a great way to sell cars — at least, not if Tesla wants to stay on the right side of the law.
The problem, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, is that in 48 states, franchise laws forbid or severely restrict the ability of automakers to sell vehicles directly to the public. The content of those laws vary from state to state, but behind most of them is the rationale that allowing big automakers to operate their own retail outlets stifles competition. As a result, today’s dealerships tend to be independently owned and operated.
And this is where Tesla finds itself in trouble, because Tesla showrooms are owned by Tesla. In fact, as AutoNews reported, in some cases, business documents even list Elon Musk as the showroom owner.
Blankenship insists that Tesla understands the nuances of these franchise laws and operates according to the restrictions of each state. In most places, for example, Tesla showrooms don’t actually sell or even take reservations for vehicles. Instead, they share information about Tesla cars, then refer shoppers to the Tesla website, where they can customize and reserve a vehicle of their own.
Dealers think that’s a load of semantic baloney. They insist that even though Tesla’s showroom workers don’t take money in exchange for vehicles, they’re still part of the sales process. And that puts Tesla in violation of the law.
Tesla’s retail store concept
As we reported earlier this week, Tesla now faces lawsuits in four states, and as the company’s network of showrooms expands, we’d expect to see a few more dealer networks calling up their armies of legal experts.
Ahead of the curve
Tesla and Musk surely understand that they’re pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in these showrooms. After all, being audacious is part of their M.O.
But unlike today’s attention-starved pop stars, Tesla isn’t just pushing boundaries for the sake of being edgy. They’re exploring new ways of communicating with customers, and in doing so, they seem to be part of a larger trend of soft-sells and conversations, rather than old-school, stereotypical car sales techniques.
Think of social networking, think of Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram. This is how a growing number of us get our information and how we communicate with friends, “friends”, businesses, and brands. Successful marketers on social networks aren’t the ones who shout offers at potential customers, Mad Men-style; they’re the ones who share information, engage consumers, give the public a sense of what they’re about, let shoppers peek behind the green curtain.
That, in essence, is what Tesla is doing. Its showrooms are more like information hubs than traditional car lots — that’s why they’re located in malls. The company’s front-line workers are like Apple Geniuses, answering questions and explaining what makes Tesla different from its competitors.
Basically, Tesla has reimagined the auto shopping experience, removing the two things that customers hate most: haggling and buying. Creating a space for the public to window shop for cars, without pressure from sales personnel? That’s pretty smart.
In fact, it’s so smart that Audi recently riffed on the idea with its new Digital City showroom in London. Will Audi run into the same legal problems as Tesla? We’ll know soon: the company plans to add another 19 of its showrooms over the next three years.
There’s little question that Tesla’s showrooms are skating on thin ice when it comes to legal issues. The real question is: are state franchise laws outdated? Are the laws that Tesla is flouting in need of revision?
And just as importantly, will Tesla’s soft-sell sway shoppers?
Let us know your thoughts on Tesla’s unique techniques in the comments below.
By Richard Read
Tesla Model S Inside Line
The 2012 Tesla Model S is the most anticipated all-electric car of 2012, but it is also the most enigmatic.
That’s because even though it launched back in late June, access to — and time behind the wheel of — the Model S has been strictly controlled by Tesla.
Our own 1-hour test-drive proved to us that the Tesla Model S was a viable, impressive car, but because of our location — the busy streets of Manhattan — we were unable to push the luxury sports sedan to its limits.
Edmund’s Inside Line was a little luckier, persuading Tesla to ship a Model S to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California so it could put Tesla’s claimed Model S performance specifications to the test.
With a clear, clean test track, the Model S Performance romped to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, a 0.1 seconds faster than Tesla’s official time.
The $94,350 Model S Performance then went on to 75 mph in 6.1 seconds, posting a quarter mile of 12.6 seconds at 108.3 mph.
Braking was similarly good, with Inside Line’s test driver Mike Monticello reporting consistent, firm braking.
2012 Tesla Model S Signature Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S Signature
On the handling tests, Inside Line reports the Model S managed 0.86g on the skid pad, impressive for a car of its size.
Meanwhile, the full slalom course was handled at a speed of 66.8 mph, illustrating excellent weight distribution and suspension.
LIke us, Inside Line admits it has only had limited time behind the wheel of the 2012 Model S.
But with impressive handling and speed tests confirming Tesla’s own specs, it continues to look as if Tesla’s Model S is a very special electric car.
Of course, with a race driver on staff who’s most eager to get the Model S on a test track, we’d like to offer our own race-track skills to Tesla, just in case it wants a second opinion.
After the New York Times published a critical review of the Model S, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk accused the newspaper of faking the circumstances of the story. Data logged during the drive seemed to give this accusation merit, and Musk went on to accuse Times reporter John Broder of sabotaging the test. Now, Broder is answering the questions brought up by Tesla’s data in a blog post.
The issue at stake is whether the Model S and Tesla’s Supercharger stations underperformed, or, as Musk says, Broder used both improperly.
In his blog post, Broder reiterates that he was in continuous contact with Tesla employees throughout the trip, and followed whatever advice they gave him.
A major point of contention is whether Broder fully charged the car at each of his stops. In particular, Musk accuses Broder of leaving a public (non-Supercharger) station in Norwich, Connecticut with only 32 miles of range, when he needed to drive 61 miles.
Broder says he was following the advice of a Tesla employee. Both Tesla spokeswoman Christine Ra and product planner Ted Merendino said to charge the car for one hour, Broder says, to restore range lost by cold weather. Apparently, the Tesla employees believed the car still had electricity in its batteries that wasn’t being discharged, in which case there wouldn’t have been a need to charge it further.
In between, Broder stopped at the Supercharger station in Milford, Connecticut. The Tesla data shows that he left after charging the battery to 72 percent. Broder says this was intentional, because it should have given him more than enough mileage to complete the next leg of his trip.
Musk also accuses Broder of driving past a public charging station but, again, Broder says no one he talked to at Tesla had told him about it. He notes that he was on his way to another charging station in East Haven, Connecticut when the Model S gave up the ghost in Branford.
Another major point is the way Broder drove the Model S. In his article, Broder said that at one point he had to set the cruise control to 54 mph and lower the cabin temperature to preserve range. Tesla’s data shows average speeds of 65 to 81 mph, and an average temperature of 72 degrees.
Broder says he drove most of the trip at 65 mph, and perhaps hit 81 mph on a downhill stretch. Still, the logs show him going about 60 mph on one stretch where he claims he was doing 45 mph. Broder offers that the car was delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the standard 21-inch wheels and all-season tires, so the data logging equipment may not have been calibrated.
Broder also says that he “raised and lowered the cabin heat in an effort to strike a balance between saving energy and staying somewhat comfortable.”
Musk accuses him of raising the temperature at the precise moment he said he lowered it in the article, but Broder said that was not true.
In his original article, Broder wrote that he “turned the climate control to low” sometime before crossing from New Jersey into New York, but does not give a specific point.
Finally, Musk said Broder drove in circles around the Milford Supercharger, attempting to run the battery down to zero. Broder says it was dark and he had trouble finding the charger because it was not well marked.
In his blog post, Musk says he called to apologize before coming to the conclusion that he’d been “played for a fool.” Broder says Musk also said the Superchargers should have been 60 miles closer together, and offered the Times another test drive after more stations were built.
Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars
As the brand-new owner of a 60-kWh Tesla Model S, I was eager to try out a Supercharger, the ultrafast 90-kilowatt DC fast-charging stations that Tesla is establishing along Interstate highways across the country.
Model S owners–and nobody else–will be able to plug in and grab up to 150 miles of extra range in 30 minutes, about the time it takes to empty their bladders and then eat a fast-food meal and/or check their mobile devices. Astonishingly, the Superchargers are free for Model S owners.
So far, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has installed five Superchargers in California and two along I-95 between Boston and Washington D.C.
Tesla claims it will have more than 100 Supercharger stations by 2015, enabling the Model S to make long cross-country trips just like a gasoline car.
For me, the nearest Supercharger is at the service area on I-95 in Milford, Connecticut, about 85 miles from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Though my car’s EPA range of 208 miles should manage the round trip without a recharge, I figured it would be fun to try out the Supercharger experience.
And it would be my first long trip in the car, a chance to check the accuracy of the “rated range” readout–also called the Guess-O-Meter–that so commands the attention of any electric-car driver.
Hopefully, my fate would be better than that of reporter John Broder of The New York Times, whose Model S famously ended up on a flatbed truck, out of juice, when he attempted a trip to the Milford Supercharger after leaving his Model S unplugged on a very cold night.
Unlike Broder, I started with a full charge. He had unwittingly charged the car in “Standard” mode, which–in the name of long-term battery health–stops charging at 90 percent of battery capaacity.
For my trip, just to be sure, I set the charger on “Max Range”, which takes the charge to the full 100 percent. As I pulled out of my driveway on a cool 40-degree morning, the “rated range” read 198 miles.
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Still new to the car, I drove conservatively, cruising at 60-65 mph on open stretches and accelerating gently on more congested two-lane roads. Under those conditions, the Tesla’s “Guess-O-Meter” was spot on. After about two hours, I pulled into the northbound side of the Milford service area showing 116 miles of range remaining–82 miles less than what I started with.
So far, so good. But where the heck was the Supercharger?
The picture on the Tesla website shows what looks like a four-bay carport, conspicuously Tesla-logoed, and flanked by a 15-foot-high sculpted phallic column of no obvious purpose. (A nod to the SpaceX Falcon 9, perhaps?)
But I could see nothing like that anywhere around.
Eyes swiveling, I drove slowly past the parking area, past the gas pumps, past the restaurant pavilion, finally to the truck ghetto at the far end of the service area.
Tesla Supercharger obelisk
And now, I realized, I was stuck. Traffic flow through the service area is one-way only. There was no going back.
I parked the car and backtracked on foot. After a few minutes of searching, I found the Supercharger station. No carport. No phallus. Just two adjacent spaces in the regular parking lot, each with a gas-pump-like charging station and a miniscule Tesla logo.
I can now understand why John Broder drove around in circles in the parking lot at Milford. Tesla CEO Elon Musk implied that he was trying to run down the battery on purpose; Broder said he just couldn’t find the Supercharger. I can relate to that.
Luckily, both spaces were empty. But of course my car was now at the other end of the service area, marooned by “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs.
If I wanted to charge up, my only legal recourse was to continue north on I-95, get off at the next exit, get back on I-95 southbound, drive to the next exit south, get off, get back on northbound, and return to the service area.
I looked around for cops, saw none, and drove the wrong way back past the gas pumps to the Supercharger, encountering no other cars during my nefarious 20-second dash.
Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 – Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location
There were no instructions on the charger, just a phone number to call in case of problems. The charging plug was the same as the one I use at home.
Click the button on the plug, the charge door pops open. Plug in, and the glowing ring around the charge port turns blue, then green, and begins to pulse rapidly. Just like at home. Nothing to it.
Tesla brags that Superchargers are located at places “you’ll actually want to stop.” Not the Milford service area, a monument to low-rent fast food: McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts. I used the bathroom (clean), grabbed a smoothie and a Danish, and was out of there in 26 minutes.
During that time, the car picked up 62 miles of range, bringing the Guess-O-Meter up to 178 miles, more than double the mileage home.
This fell far short of Tesla’s claimed 150 miles in 30 minutes.
There are, however, two reasons.
First, I was more than half full when I plugged in. The charging rate is very fast for an empty battery, but it slows down as the battery fills up.
Second, I have the mid-size 60-kWh battery, not the big 85-kWh model. With less capacity, my charge rate presumably falls off more quickly. (A Tesla rep on the owners’ hotline could shed no light on 60-kWh vs. 85-kWh charging rates for me.)
With my brain perhaps dulled by a fast-food sugar-and-fat buzz, I had some trouble getting the plug out. With no instructions, I did what I do at home to unplug: squeeze the button on the plug and pull.
But it wouldn’t come out. With rising panic, I fiddled for 5 or 10 seconds, randomly pushing the button and tugging the cord. Nothing.
And then, thank God, it finally popped out, for no apparent reason.
(A Tesla hotline rep later confirmed that it takes longer for the Supercharger to shut down and release the charge cord. Might I suggest it would be nice to let Model S owners know that ahead of time?)
Fat with energy, I drove home at my normal 70 to 75 mph, and didn’t stint on the acceleration. (Nothing crazy, though.) I arrived home with 76 miles remaining, for a net “usage” of 102 miles on the meter to cover the 88 miles home.
After trying out a Supercharger, I can see its potential. But Tesla needs to put the charging stations closer together.
The two Superchargers connecting Washington D.C., and Boston are about 200 miles apart. John Broder notwithstanding, that’s probably okay for an 85-kWh car under most conditions. But it provides little margin for cold weather, fast driving, or Murphy’s Law.
2012 Tesla Model S
And for 60-kWh cars like mine, it just doesn’t work at all.
Okay, if I drive 55 mph and don’t use the heat or air conditioning, I might make it by the skin of my teeth. Maybe. If nothing unexpected happens.
But I’m guessing this kind of razor’s-edge driving is not what Tesla has in mind. It’s certainly not what I have in mind; this weekend I’ll be driving to Baltimore in my trusty Chevy Volt because I’m not willing to risk the 198-mile drive in the Model S from my house to the Supercharger in Newark, Delaware.
According to Broder, Elon Musk conceded that the Superchargers need to be 140 miles apart, not 200.
Speaking for all Supercharger-equipped 60-kWh Model S owners, I concur most heartily.
David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives 60 miles north of New York City.
By David Noland
CAPTIONS ON | OFF
Plenty of thought has gone into developing the current crop of electric vehicles, from the Tesla Model S to the Chevrolet Spark EV. Now, it’s time to concentrate more on the power infrastructure and on realistic needs of likely EV owners.
Because the driving range of nearly all EVs remains limited, they’re being consigned largely to commuter duty. That’s fine, but having a short-range EV then means owning an additional car for longer trips. For millions of cash-strapped families, buying and operating a single vehicle is tough enough. Budgets for the non-affluent simply won’t stretch that far.
Innovation is definitely needed, at least until true long-range EVs are developed and can be produced at affordable prices.
This year’s winner of the European Satellite Navigation Competition, the ebuggy mobility project, promises to be a “long-distance traffic solution for e-vehicles.” The competition was sponsored by the European Space Agency, European GNSS Agency, German Aerospace Centre, Nokia, and others.
The idea could hardly be simpler. An EV owner wishing to take a trip could start out with a full charge, but stop at one or more relay stations along the way. At the first one, the owner could hitch a battery trailer, fully charged, to the car and drive on. Trailers could be exchanged at regular intervals, dropping off the one with the depleted battery and then driving off towing one that’s fully charged.
When approaching one’s destination, the last ebuggy that was used may be dropped off at the final relay station. While at that destination, the EV can be driven using its own battery, charged in the customary way at local charging stations.
A satellite navigation system has been developed to manage such a trailer fleet of the future, monitoring and controlling movement of the battery trailers in “real time.”
Prototypes were constructed with the support of Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Technology and various partners, including Stuttgart University. At some point, ebuggy GmbH plans to develop the ebuggy battery trailer and relay-station network for series production. An international ebuggy network also is planned.
Practical? Perhaps. But a tiny bit tacky, too. Pulling a series of ebuggies would be rather like towing a little U-Haul trailer containing all your stuff.
Though feasible in Europe, this idea might not sell well in the U.S., with its longer distances between cities and points of interest. Yes, the network of public charging stations in the U.S. has been growing impressively, now thought to be topping 5,000 (Ed: The new Tesla Supercharging stations are particularly intriguing). But that leaves an awful lot of road miles across the country with no possible source for recharging.
Several trouble spots come to mind. If your EV has a range no greater than 75 miles or so, how do you arrange a trip if relay stations are, say, 50 miles apart? You’d have to stop at every single one and make an exchange. What if no ebuggies are available at a given station? You can’t just keep on driving. Such issues aren’t so crucial now, when only small numbers of EVs are in operation. But if and when that total grows appreciably, plenty of logistics questions pop into mind.
Still, ebuggy demonstrates the kind of thinking that just might make a difference, even if this particular proposal doesn’t really pan out on a widespread scale–or at all.
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A number of news outlets reported yesterday that the upcoming 2012 Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle would only be offered for fleet sales and not to the general public. Toyota has just released a statement refuting those claims and says the new EV will in fact be open to all.
The automaker didn’t provide an exact date on when we could expect the new all-electric RAV4, but it should arrive in showrooms by 2012. In addition to the RAV4 EV, Toyota will also release an EV version of the upcoming Scion iQ mini car.
The RAV4 EV, which debuted at last year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show, is a product of the collaboration between Toyota and Tesla Motors. Toyota would provide its manufacturing expertise while Tesla would share its experience in EV powertrains and battery technology.
Toyota previously sold an electric version of the first-gen RAV4 more than 14 years ago, but was never a sales hit due to a number of reasons. The upcoming RAV4 should be a more robust EV and should do well in the current push for all things electric. Aside from a revised front fascia and badging, the electric RAV will look nearly identical to its gas-powered counterpart. It will be powered by a lithium metal oxide battery and will weigh 220 pounds more than a RAV4 equipped with the V6 engine, and should have the same 0-60 time, according to Toyota.
It’s nearly December 21, which means we’ll soon know whether the end of days is truly at hand. Before the world does go up in flames from an enormous solar flare or gets sucked into a black hole – as some believe will happen – we feel it’s important for you to experience some of the best automotive creations humanity has to offer. As such, we’ve assembled our top 10 vehicles you must drive before the end of the world.
Below, in no particular order, you’ll find a list of cars, trucks, and SUVs that will provide one last thrill before the Earth’s demise. Click through to read about all 10 picks!
Acura, Features, Ferrari, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla, Top 10 Lists
Front-Drive Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet Bound for U.K. in 2013 – Should We Get It?