Archives for June 17th, 2013

Worst Thing About The Tesla Model S? Driving Anything Else Afterwards

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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If early ownership experiences are to believed, there’s not a lot wrong with driving a Tesla Model S.

The performance is great, it’s luxurious, quiet, has a great electric range… but there’s still one thing that bugs owners. One thing they wish wasn’t part of the Model S ownership experience.

Yep, that’s right–driving other cars. Model S owners hate it, according to a semi-serious, semi tongue-in-cheek thread on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

Owners regale each other with tales of lacking the performance and the strong regenerative braking effect from their Model S, when forced to drive another car for any reason.

Some don’t like the low-quality feel of other vehicles they’ve driven either, particularly when it’s the occasional rental car.

Amusingly, a few owners even say they’ve nearly run out of gas when driving internal combustion vehicles after the S–since most owners are used to waking up to a fully-charged vehicle, rather than having to fill up the tank every so often.

It seems range anxiety is as much an internal combustion thing as it is a battery thing–and goes to prove that it’s only a problem if you’re not used to it.

Even funnier (though perhaps not so safe) are the tales of owners accidentally leaving hybrids and gasoline vehicles running when they park up–being so used to the Model S turning itself off when you’re not using the car.

These Model S owners aren’t alone, of course–disappointment with internal combustion vehicles is quite a common affliction once one is used to an electric car.

You never quite realise how noisy and unrefined even the smoothest of gasoline vehicles is until you’ve spent some time behind the wheel of an electric equivalent.

In the meantime, electric owners will just have to make the best of the occasional gasoline vehicle they drive–and remind themselves what cars used to be like…

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By Antony Ingram

Romney Slams Tesla, Fisker Again In Final Presidential Debate

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

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The CEOs of Tesla and Fisker may have thought they were home free–but it was not to be.

Both startup electric-car companies were named at the very end of last night’s third and final presidential debate.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney didn’t repeat his charge that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] and Fisker Automotive were ‘loser’ companies–as he said in the first debate on October 3.

Instead, he took the line that government support for specific companies discouraged all investment in U.S. industry.

And some observers felt he moved beyond criticizing such support to conveying his contempt for plug-in electric cars in general.

Debate watchers among electric-car advocates took to Facebook and Twitter to express their shock over Romney’s tone, as the candidate named “car companies like Tesla and…Fisker” that were making–in his words–”electric battery cars.”

The topic of electric-car companies followed a recurring dispute over whether Romney’s November 2008 editorial in The New York Times, entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” promised government support for automakers if they went through a conventional bankruptcy process.

Romney claimed he had advocated for such support; Obama disagreed, saying Romney would have “liquidated” the industry.

After Romney reiterated that he was in favor of government support of industry research, he turned to Tesla, Fisker, and also failed solar-panel maker Solyndra.

According to the complete debate transcript, he said:

I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful. We in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world. And we’re going to.

We’re going to have to have a president, however, that doesn’t think that somehow the government investing in — in car companies like Tesla and — and Fisker, making electric battery cars — this is not research, Mr. President.

These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company. This isn’t basic research. I — I want to invest in research. Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks — great.

But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That’s the wrong way to go.

Technically, the U.S. government has not “invested” in any of the named companies. It does not have an ownership share–unlike its equity holding in General Motors and, previously, Chrysler.

Instead, both car companies received low-interest loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy under its Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, launched in 2008 under the administration of President George W. Bush.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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Romney followed his criticism of Tesla and Fisker by reiterating that he “wanted to make America more competitive” and “do those things that make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow.”

He then said to Obama, “But your investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact it makes it less likely for them to come here.”

President Barack Obama did not respond specifically to the criticism of Tesla and Fisker.

Predictably, electric-car advocates reacted adversely to Romney’s words.

What I don’t get is why, with all of the crazy things our taxpayer dollars get spent on, Romney keeps beating the Tesla drum,” observed Tom Saxton of Plug-In America on Facebook.

In attacking Tesla, he said, the governor is “beating down a company that’s developing new technology, creating American jobs, reinvigorating the American auto industry, and maybe leading us to an opportunity not to be so totally dependent on the world oil market.”

“What I find interesting is he’s alienated a lot of Republicans who support electric cars–and, yes, there are quite a few of them,” commented electric-car advocate and Montclair, New Jersey, restauranteur Tom Moloughney.

I personally know at least 10 people who are Republicans, who didn’t vote for Obama in the last election, but are going to in this one because of Romney’s stance on the issue.”

Neither Tesla nor Fisker arose during the second presidential debate, and Fisker was only indirectly cited in the Ryan-Biden vice-presidential debate.

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By John Voelcker

Future Tesla Models, Company Details, Revealed in IPO Road Show Presentation

Future Tesla Models, Company Details, Revealed in IPO Road Show Presentation

During a presentation for his company’s upcoming Initial Public Offering, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk revealed that Tesla is working on three new models based on the Model S architecture, including a convertible, a van, and a crossover.

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The new models will use the Model S’ underlying platform and powertrain with new bodies on top. Sketches revealed in the Road Show presentation to potential Wall Street investors included a two-door Cabriolet that bears a strong resemblance to the Model S, but with more aggressive styling; a van similar to the Ford Transit Connect; and a crossover that looks like a beefed-up Model S wagon. Tesla is also working on liquid-cooled batteries and electronics for the Model S to boost efficiency and component life.

Along with the Road Show, Tesla’s complete IPO filing with the SEC is available now and reveals some interesting facts about the company and its products. As we learned last week, Tesla has been losing money since its inception, and its IPO shows that the company is heavily dependent on selling carbon credits to other automakers, a $450 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, and the money it hopes to raise in its IPO. The company also receives funds from a deal to supply batteries to Daimler’s Smart brand, but will lose that income when Daimler brings its battery development in-house. Further, the company expects to continue losing money until the Model S actually starts selling in significant quantities.

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The company is also dependent on its unfinished agreement with Toyota to buy a portion of the closed NUMMI plant in California for production of the Model S. Should the deal fail to germinate by December 31, 2011, it is null and void. Even if it goes through, it only covers the building, not the equipment, which Tesla will have to secure on its own.

Tesla’s concerns run deeper than that. As of March 31, the company had only 110 outstanding orders for its Roadster model, of which 1063 had been sold to that date. Most of Tesla’s sales have been fulfilling orders that have been on the books for months or even years. Despite the limited orders, the company has an agreement with Lotus to purchase 2400 Roadster chassis. The company currently has 2200 non-binding reservations for the Model S as well, a car that the company says won’t see production until at least 2012 with deliveries following months later.

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Some experts have questioned that timeline, given that the IPO also notes that the company has only a driveable prototype built at this point, not a production-intent car, and has not selected its suppliers yet. The filing also reveals that Tesla acknowledges having no experience with designing or using a common platform, and design of the Model S platform isn’t even complete yet. Other technical limitations include an admission that no facility yet exists that can swap out the Model S’ battery pack as the company has suggested in the past, and that the company realizes its current Roadster battery pack will lose up to 40 percent of its capacity, and therefore the vehicle’s range, after 100,000 miles, or about seven years.

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On the non-technical side, Tesla also faces pressure from regulators, customers, and competitors. Tesla’s model of company-owned retail outlets and Internet sales is unproven and could run afoul of dealer franchise laws in some U.S. states and European countries. Its service program, with its mobile service technicians, is also unproven. Any new crash, safety or other regulations could slow development of the Model S and its mainstream competitors are better equipped financially to face the burden of developing an all-new car.

If the company has overestimated the market for its expensive, high-end models, it will make it harder to turn a profit and invest in more affordable models. And of course, the company will be without a source of revenue after 2011 when the first-generation Roadster ceases production along with the Lotus Elise it’s based on. Production of a second-generation car won’t begin until after the Model S is on sale.

While Tesla is clearly optimistic as it continues to expand its brick-and-mortar stores and product, there’s no telling how Wall Street will react. The company is hoping to pull in $178 million in its IPO in the next few weeks, but even if it’s successful in that endeavor, it still faces a number of challenges over the next several years as it struggles to reach financial stability on the backs of its products rather than temporary deals like carbon credit swaps.

What do think will happen?

Source: RetailRoadshow

By Scott Evans