Archives for June 15th, 2013
In the latest episode of Wide Open Throttle, Frank Markus drives the all-new Tesla Model S while host Jessi Lang takes us to electric automaker’s Northern California factory for a tour and a look at how the Model S is built.
Lang starts with 2012 Tesla Model S specs. The Model S will be available with 40-, 60- and 85-kWh battery capacities, with an estimated range of up to 265 miles. The Model S is powered by a rear AC induction motor producing 362 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque in the base model, and 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque in the performance model.
After Lang hands things off to Markus, he chats with co-founder and CEO Elon Musk and takes the Model S out for a spin in the city, on the highway, and in the twisties.
Check out the latest episode of Wide Open Throttle for yourself below for Markus’ full driving impressions.
In the midst of the furor over New York Times reporter John Broder’s unpleasant experience with a Tesla Model S, and company CEO Elon Musk’s aggressive response, CNN was actually able to drive a Model S from Washington, D.C. to Boston, the original goal of Broder’s test.
CNNMoney reporter Peter Valdes-Dapena writes that the trip was only mildly anxiety-producing. However, despite taking the same route, this was not an identical drive to Broder’s.
“There were some differences with my ride and the one from the New York Times,” Valdes-Dapena writes. “The weather for mine was about 10 degrees warmer. And I did mine in one day; the reviewer from the Times split it into two.”
The CNN reviewer also drove faster. He set his cruise control to between 60 and 65 mph, and kept the temperature at a consistent 72 degrees. Musk and Broder continue to spar over what the Times reviewer did; Broder’s most recent blog post states that he varied both his speed (setting the cruise control to 54 mph for one stretch, but going 65 mph at other times) and the temperature to maximize range.
The two reporters apparently got different advice from Tesla. While Valdes-Dapena kept the cruise control on and kept stops to a minimum, Broder says he was told to avoid cruise control, and to use the Model S’ regenerative brakes to add range.
Broder doesn’t say why he split his trip into two days, although it seems like he had driven a full day by the time he reached Groton, Connecticut, while Valdes-Dapena’s higher speeds and fewer stops may have given the CNN driver more time.
It’s also important to note that CNN’s drive took place in warmer weather. The Times drive was done during a cold snap, with the average temperature hovering in the 30s and occasionally dipping into the single digits. This can really affect a battery’s ability to hold a charge, and this is what Tesla employees told Broder during his trip.
So Valdes-Dapena’s drive can’t solve the dispute between Musk and Broder, but it does show that it is possible to drive a Model S from Washington to Boston without getting too stressed out. That after all, was the point of the New York Times review.
“When Tesla first approached the New York Times about doing this story, it was supposed to be focused on future advancements in our Supercharger technology,” Musk said in a blog post. So what does Valdes-Dapena have to say about the Superchargers?
“The most scary part of the trip: the 200 miles between charging stations in Newark, Delaware, and Milford, Connecticut. That’s not a lot of cushion, especially after I missed an exit adding a few miles to that leg,” he said. However, he made it to Milford with so much extra range that he was able to cruise in the left lane.
Valdes-Dapena suggested putting a Supercharger on the New Jersey Turnpike, and he says Tesla is apparently working on that. In the latest round of the Tesla-Times feud, Broder said Musk had discussed placing Superchargers 60 miles apart after he first heard about the Times reporter’s mishap.
With one test drive ending in failure and another ending as a nearly stress-free success, it’s hard to know what to say. The Model S, and electric cars in general, are still new, so more people have to make long drives like this before anyone can really say which journalist’s drive was a fluke.
Tesla has become the first American car company to go public in 54 years, and has raised some $226 million in the process. The electric vehicle producer is the first automaker since Ford in 1956 to have an initial public offering (IPO).
Initially, Tesla planned on offering 11.1 million shares at $14-$16 each, but later increased that figure to 13.3 million. According to Bloomberg data and a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla also increased the share price to $17 each for a total around $226 million. The company will trade under the symbol TSLA. Tesla CEO Elon Musk rang the NASDAQ Stock Market opening bell today.
Going public may seem like a good way for several Tesla affiliates, as well as Musk — who has reportedly gone broke after spending more than $70 million of his own money — to recoup their losses.
The cash infusion from the IPO comes at a good time for the company yet to turn a profit after seven years. Tesla will use the funds from its IPO along with a $465 million federal loan to buy a factory in which to produce the Model S sedan and put the sedan into production. Toyota and Tesla have already been in talks about reopening the now abandoned New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated plant in Fremont, Calif.
The federal government, however, has put a few measures in place with its loan to ensure that Musk, along with a few other key players, remain Tesla investors. In order for Tesla to secure the loan, Musk and other certain unnamed Tesla affiliates must retain 65 percent of their stock in Tesla for at least one year after completing the Model S project.
As part of the deal to reopen NUMMI, both Tesla and Toyota would produce an electric vehicle there in 2012. Tesla’s plan: a production version of the Model S, as well as possible Model S derivatives and a new Roadster. Toyota’s EV plans for NUMMI, however, remain less clear. In addition to reopening the NUMMI plant together, Tesla and Toyota also came to a deal in which the Japanese giant invested $50 million in the American startup and would later be granted common stock. Following the IPO, Toyota now owns roughly 2 percent of Tesla.
CAPTIONS ON | OFF
Hold onto your Amex Centurion cards, Tesla freaks. Tesla Motors confirms it will push back production of its upcoming Model X until the end of 2014. The news went out a little earlier than Tesla had planned, when the Los Angeles Times leaked Tesla’s 10-K form.
In a statement released by Tesla, the high-end electric vehicle company decided to hold back on the Model X to focus on its wildly popular Model S. Click through to read the official statement.
“Tesla has been intensely focused on Model S, its production and product enhancements and believe there is increased volume potential for Model S. As a result, Tesla has decided to slightly push back the development and timing of Model X to 2014. We do not expect a material impact on our profitability in 2013 or 2014.”
The third model in the successful Tesla lineup, the Model X is the heftier crossover with the face of its sportier sister, the Model S. The Model X was first unveiled at Tesla Studios in February 2012, causing hundreds of Tesla devotees for fork over $5,000 deposits.
The Model X features seating for seven, falcon-winged rear doors, a front and rear trunk, and two touchscreens on the steering wheel. The all-wheel drive version of the Model X also has two motors powering the front and rear.
The wait for this innovative, all-electric crossover will be a little longer, probably 2015 at the earliest. Hopefully, the wait will be worth it.
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What’s New for 2013
After selling out of last year’s limited-edition Signature lineup, the 2013 Tesla Model S returns with base and Performance trims only. The car is pretty much unchanged, though heated seats are now available with both cloth and leather upholstery.
Sleek, seductive, luxurious, powerful and inspiring are all words that you’d expect to hear about the latest European luxury sedan. But in this case, we’re talking about one of America’s latest homegrown electric vehicles, the 2013 Tesla Model S.
The Model S is a huge departure from the typical electric car, with its luxury sedan accommodations and pulse-quickening performance. Thanks to a thoroughly modern interpretation of interior design and a host of advanced technological features, the Model S also serves as a new benchmark for all vehicles, electric or otherwise.
Nor is the Tesla Model S exclusive to the ultra-wealthy. As-new pricing for the base model starts around $60,000, and that’s not including a federal tax credit. That base model’s 40 kWh battery pack means it should travel about 125 miles before needing a charge, which is still quite good for an EV. From here, though, you can opt for a 60 kWh or 85 kWh battery pack, both of which provide considerably more range and power (for a higher price, of course).
Whether you spring for the base model or go all-in for a fully loaded version that exceeds the $100,000 mark, you’re assured to get one of the most noteworthy cars since the introduction of the Model T. Better yet, the Tesla is nearly sacrifice-free, as it rides and drives as well as some of the best luxury cars available. It also benefits from a wealth of utility and convenience with its generous trunk and third-row seating option.
Compared to established, traditional flagship luxury sedans, the Model S does suffer from compromised long-distance capability and unknown reliability. But at least for the time being, one of the most alluring attributes of the 2013 Tesla Model S is its unique standing. There is simply nothing like it, and as far as we can tell, there won’t be for a while.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Tesla Model S is classified as a large sedan and is available in two trim levels: base and Performance.
Standard features for the base Model S include 19-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, full power accessories, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 17-inch touchscreen, cloth/premium vinyl upholstery, heated 12-way power front seats with memory functions, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a seven-speaker sound system with dual USB ports and HD radio.
Besides an increase in power output, the Performance models add the ability to use twin chargers, an active air suspension and leather upholstery.
Since the Model S features mobile Internet connectivity, access to Web-based navigation and maps is possible, but turn-by-turn guidance is only available as part of the optional Tech package. Other Tech package features include xenon headlights, LED foglights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a power rear hatch, full keyless ignition/entry and a high-definition rearview camera. The Sound Studio package includes a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system. Stand-alone options include 21-inch wheels with performance tires, a panoramic sunroof, rear-facing third-row seats, a cargo cover and the twin onboard chargers.
Powertrains and Performance
Four distinct powertrain choices are offered with the 2013 Tesla Model S, each with increasing levels of range and performance. All Model S powertrains are propelled by a single water-cooled electric motor, routing power through a single-speed transmission on its way to the rear wheels. Lithium-ion battery packs are also utilized throughout the lineup.
With the base 40 kWh battery pack, the Model S can produce the equivalent of 235 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The EPA has yet to rate this battery, though we’d expect a cruising range of around 125 miles. Tesla claims a 0-60-mph time of 6.5 seconds, which is comparable to a base midsize luxury sedan.
With the 60 kWh battery, output increases to 302 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. The EPA estimates a range of 208 miles, while Tesla expects it to reach 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. The 85 kWh model makes 362 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque with an estimated 0-60-mph run of 5.6 seconds and an EPA range of 265 miles. Upgrading to the 85 kWh Performance boosts output to 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, still with a range of 265 miles. In Edmunds testing, the Tesla Model S Performance accelerated to 60 mph in a very quick 4.3 seconds, which confirms Tesla’s 4.4-second estimate.
In terms of efficiency, the EPA estimates the Model S with the 85 kWh battery will use 38 kWh city/37 kWh highway and 38 kWh combined per 100 miles driven. (Remember that here, the lower the number, the better.) In miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), that’s 88 mpg city/90 mpg highway and 89 mpg combined.
The Model S can be recharged from all standard 110- and 240-volt household outlets and from various public charging stations using the included Universal Mobile Connector and adapters. Figure around 5 hours of recharging time at 240 volts for the 40 kWh pack and single onboard charger. Naturally, the larger battery packs take longer, with the 60 kWh pack needing about 8 hours and the 85 kWh needing about 12 hours.
The dual-charger system — which needs a 100-amp circuit to operate at full capacity — is an option for the 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery packs. Using it effectively halves the above charging times.
Models equipped with the 60 and 85 kWh batteries can also use a nationwide network of “superchargers” that Tesla is building. Tesla says the industrial-grade, high-speed chargers promise to replenish 160 miles of range in the 85 kWh batteries in about 30 minutes, enabling long-distance travel.
Standard safety features for all 2013 Tesla Model S variants include head, knee and pelvic airbags for the front passengers as well as front and rear side curtain airbags. Also standard on all models are stability and traction control, crash sensors for high-voltage disconnect, antilock disc brakes and a rearview camera.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Model S with optional 21-inch wheels and performance tires came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressive 108 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Tesla Model S features a cabin that is as modern and classy as you’ll find in any segment. Almost all knobs and buttons are absent, replaced by a sleek 17-inch vertical touchscreen that controls almost all onboard systems. It is essentially a big and beautiful iPad. Besides looking good, the system actually functions well, too. Users can configure the placement of audio, navigation and climate controls to their liking on the screen and we experienced few, if any, flaws.
For the directionally challenged, however, we would recommend springing for the expensive Tech package that includes a turn-by-turn navigation system that is more like the units found in conventional cars. The standard system can access online maps for viewing, but that’s about the extent of its function.
In terms of comfort, both front and rear seats offer ample legroom for adults, though taller rear-seat passengers may run out of headroom. The optional rear-facing jump seats, on the other hand, are almost comically small. Only small children are able to sit back there, though they are multipoint child seats, so no added safety seat is needed.
These third-row seats fold flat into the foot well, allowing for a capacious 26.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which is significantly more than other large luxury sedans. Folding the middle row flat expands that space to 58.1 cubes. There’s also a secondary trunk under the hood that offers 5.3 cubic feet of storage.
Materials throughout the cabin are high-quality enough to be comparable to the typical luxury sedan, but those who purchase the range-topping models might expect more than the Model S delivers. The leather upholstery is by no means a disappointment; it’s just not up to premium luxury standards. Elsewhere, the typical window switches and driver controls have been sourced from Mercedes-Benz, making them hard to fault by any measure.
The 2013 Tesla Model S effectively crushes every preconceived notion you may have had about electric cars. Unlike the quirky pod cars, golf carts or even economy car-based EVs, the Tesla drives just like a conventional luxury sedan. Our experience has been limited to the 85 kWh Performance model, and we’re utterly impressed on a number of levels.
Acceleration is both quick and eerily quiet. With all torque being immediately available, it’s like being shot out of a gun barrel — with a silencer. Braking is also praiseworthy, not just because the pedal feels like one from a conventional car, but also because it gets the Model S stopped with authority. The well-tuned steering and suspension further add to the experience, with a sharpness and accuracy not typically found in an EV. Fortunately, the Model S’s sporty capabilities don’t come at the expense of comfort and compliance, as the ride quality is smooth and agreeable.
With news of upcoming expansion plans, Tesla appears to be continuing its journey from just barely surviving to thriving. In a Wired report, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admits the company is planning a BMW X3 fighter as well as a sports car successor to the original Tesla, the Roadster.
Before Tesla can think about launching a midsize crossover and roadster in the 2016 calendar year, however, the company also has the upcoming Model X crossover, not to mention the BMW 3 Series challenger that could arrive in 2015 after the Model X arrives in dealerships early in 2014.
“We’ll do the X3 equivalent and then a Roadster follow-up in parallel,” Musk said to Wired.
Higher-volume models like the midsize crossover and the entry-level four-door — said to carry a base price around $30,000 when it debuts — will help Tesla reach the sales levels necessary to make a profit on its vehicle architecture. Musk notes that the car will have a similar hatchback design as the Model S, perhaps a similar arrangement found between the Fisker Karma and Atlantic models.
While Musk didn’t specify whether the new crossover model will have the Model X’s flashy, outward-opening doors, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them dropped to help the model reach a lower base price. Speaking of price, Musk hints that Tesla’s next sports car may see a price drop compared to the Roadster. In a comparison test involving a Tesla Roadster Sport along with a Porsche Boxster Spyder, we called the Tesla “a genuine car to reckon with on the world stage” but knocked it for having an “extraordinary price” and limited range.
By Zach Gale
2012 Tesla Model S
When you walk into a crowded deli in New York City, you take a number.
Rather than jostle in line and try to elbow (or charm) your way to the front, you take the number from the dispenser on the counter and wait till that number is called. First come, first served. Even among rude, pushy New Yorkers, it works.
When Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] first started taking reservations (with $5,000 deposits) for its all-electric Model S sports sedan nearly four years ago, it put in place a similar system.
Each depositor was assigned a reservation sequence number, which represented the owner’s place in line, and, to a certain extent, his/her status in the pecking order for the award-winning Tesla Model S.
When I put my money down in April 2009, I received number P 717. With the waiting list now approaching 18,000, I’m feeling pretty good about my place in the line to own what by all accounts is a remarkable car.
In addition to the 716 even-earlier-adopters before me, about 1,200 “Signature” customers put down $40,000 deposits for the right to buy special-edition top-of-the-line cars before the standard P cars went into production.
I never begrudged the Signature owners in front of me–they certainly paid dearly for their right to jump the queue.
But now that all Signature cars have been delivered and P cars have been in production for more than a month, it turns out that the Tesla delivery system isn’t working nearly as smoothly as your average New York deli.
The Agony and the Ecstasy
In many cases, production P cars are being delivered way out of order–sometimes astonishingly so.
This naturally results in equal numbers of customers who are giddy at their unexpected early delivery and frustrated at a maddeningly delayed one.
2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]
Count me among the latter.
Just yesterday I saw a post on the Tesla owners’ forum from an ecstatic Model S owner who’d just been notified his delivery would be in the first two weeks of February. That’s essentially the same delivery window I’ve been given.
You know when this guy placed his order? Last August 31! That’s more than three years after I put down my money. He’s number 11,601 in the queue.
“Essentially FIVE MONTHS from order to delivery!” the guy crowed.
He’s not alone. A number of cars with numbers above 5,000 have already been delivered. According to a Tesla Motors Club forum thread, an unofficial online forum, the highest number delivered as of December 31 was P 9935.
Meanwhile, owners with reservation numbers as low as P 631 have not yet received their cars, according to TMC.
“Reservation holders more than 3500 spots below me have gotten their VIN (a final step just before delivery),” moans one owner on the TMC forum. “Extremely frustrated.”
I understand his frustration.
Why should a Johnny-Come-Lately who puts his money down for a few months on a sure thing get his car before a True Believer who gambled $5,000 back when the Model S was a pipe dream and Tesla was a company struggling to even stay alive?
The 85-kWh Advantage
Although there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for many of the out-of-order deliveries, the cause of my delay is clear: I’ve ordered my car with the mid-size 60-kWh battery.
Because all the initial Signature cars had top-of-the-line 85-kWh batteries, Tesla started production of that battery first. When Signature production finished in late November, Tesla wasn’t yet geared up for production of the smaller 60-kWh and 40-kWh battery options.
So it continued to churn out 85-kWh production models, skipping over even low-number 60- and 40-kWh buyers like me.
Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]
Tesla has announced that 60-kWh production will begin this month, and 40-kWh production in March. The company seems to be in no particular hurry to do so, and who can blame them?
They’d prefer to sell as many of the more expensive 85-kWh cars as possible, as they try to overcome the cash crunch of production start-up.
Tesla Motors remains mum about the proportion of the various battery options in the order book, so it’s unknown how many 40- and 60-kWh depositors have been passed over as 85-kWh production continues.
But there have been numerous non-sequential deliveries of 85-kWh P cars as well. The reasons behind this seeming “delivery roulette” are a frustrating mystery for many owners.
Through it all, Tesla has been characteristically obtuse about the reasons for its out-of-order deliveries of production models.
There were similar problems with out-of-order Signature deliveries that spurred much grumbling among impatient owners. At the time, Tesla VP George Blankenship responded with an e-mail explaining that the problem was due to vendor delays and changes or shortages of certain interior decors and options.
“In some weeks,” Blankenship wrote, “it meant we had to reach forward in the sequence order to find cars that were not impacted by a particular decor or option, and in some case the absence of a decor or option pushed cars back.”
In his note to Signature owners, Blankenship acknowledged the importance of the sequence numbers.
“Many Model S reservation holders I have met during the last two years introduce themselves by name and then follow their introduction by giving me their….reservation sequence number,” he wrote. “Their sequence number is…very important to them, and is very important to us.”
Blankenship characterized Tesla’s customer communication on the subject as “weak at best,” and promised to do better.
But so far, Tesla has sent no such explanation to us production owners. (Or at least P 717 has not received one.)
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland
If you’ve followed the news in the past week, you’ve probably seen the battle of wits, statistics, and data between the New York Times and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Earlier in the month, the NYT published a story claiming that Tesla’s all-electric Model S luxury sedan didn’t live up to its 300-mile-per-charge range. Even worse, the story explained how the author was stranded on the side of the road, leaving the car to be hauled away on the back of a flatbed truck.
Now, let’s be honest: a negative review like that from an organization as large at the NYT is a big deal, and Elon Musk knew that. But, rather than issuing an apology, Tesla’s CEO pulled driving data from the review car to disparage and discredit much of the article’s legitimacy. Where the author claimed that the car wasn’t as reliable as he had hoped, Tesla countered by stating that the driver downplayed his aggressive driving and time spent charging the car. So, the question left is this: do you believe the objective penmanship of one of the world’s largest news outlets, or do you believe the data generated by Tesla that proves that the story was embellished?
In an interview with Bloomberg over the weekend, Musk stated that this debacle cost the automaker $100 million in value. “We did actually get a lot of cancellations […]probably a few hundred[…] as a result of the New York Times article,” said Musk in the interview. “It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, to the order of $100 million, so it’s not trivial, [but] I would say that refers more to the valuation of the company.”
Musk claims that the Model S continues to garner more attention and more reservations with each passing quarter. However, it also seems that this media conflict may have put a damper on the startup company’s sales growth.
As we walk away from this duel, there’s one thing we know for sure: both Tesla and the NYT have their reputations at stake here, and neither are particularly excited about biting the bullet. There are certainly questions that have been raised about the newspaper’s integrity, and we now know that Tesla has suffered a financial loss, too. We just hope that everyone can play nice in the sandbox, allowing the Times to continue writing great stories, and Tesla to continue building its very cool, very progressive electric sport sedans.
By Davis Adams