Archives for June, 2013 - Page 16
Other than range concerns, one of the things that makes consumers most anxious about electric cars is the durability and replacement cost of their spendy battery packs.
Rumor has it that Tesla Motors is working on a solution to that problem: modular battery packs that can be quickly and easily swapped out of a car. Tesla said it was working on this idea in a May 10 filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
On page 38, Tesla addressed consumer concerns that limit EVs’ appeal, including bad press from the 2011 Chevrolet Volt fires, and the concern that battery packs that aren’t properly charged will become unstable and need replacement.
Also on the list was Tesla’s “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 but which we plan to introduce in the near future (emphasis ours).”
How near that future is unclear, though. According to Green Car Reports, Tesla has been discussing a battery-swapping setup for the Model S since 2009, and discussed implementing the technology sometime in 2013 in an annual report filed in March.
Battery swapping is exactly what it sounds like: a depleted battery is switched out for a fully-charged one, just like a pair of AAs in a flashlight, but obviously on a much larger scale.
Better Place has been implementing this idea in Israel since 2008, using Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars and a network of battery swapping stations. Car buyers are primarily buying access to the charging station network, just as cell phone users are primarily buying access to providers’ networks when they purchase a phone.
Under both the Tesla and Better Place schemes, drivers pull their cars into a bay where machines removed the battery pack from underneath a car’s floor and replace it with a new one.
Tesla owners could potentially pay for the service through their Model S’ touch screens, making the whole process fully automated. Unlike Better Place, they may also have to return for their cars’ original battery packs once they are charged up.
This system could not only curb range anxiety by eliminating long charging times, it could also make replacing the most expensive part of an electric car incredibly easy. Imagine removing the engine from a gasoline-powered car in a few minutes and you’ll get an idea of where this is going.
So far, though, battery swapping hasn’t worked out well for Better Place. The company only delivered 518 cars in 2012, with 100 reserved for internal use. Granted, Better Place is only operating in Israel.
Tesla seems to have the magic touch when it comes to electric cars, so we’re eager to see how it implements rapid battery swapping, whenever that happens.
Tesla Model S launch
Tesla Motors said today it would cut the third-quarter production target for its 2012 Model S all-electric sport sedan, according to a stock analyst who follows the company.
A report by Wunderlich Securities analyst Theodore O’Neill notes that Tesla is now saying it would probably only deliver 500 cars through the end of September, down from a previous target of 1,000.
It still expects to deliver about 5,000 cars by the end of 2012, meaning an average of 1,500 cars a month from October through December.
The delays were attributed to unspecified production execution issues.
Green Car Reports has asked Tesla for confirmation of the report, and will update this story if we receive further information.
[UPDATE: In response to a question asking for confirmation of the report, Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks replied, “Tesla’s plan has been and continues to be a focus on quality while ramping up production of Model S. This plan has not changed, and there have been no unexpected challenges or issues.”
That translates to “no comment”; you may draw your own conclusions.]
Tesla delivered its first production Model S in late June, and is now slowly ramping up production of the pioneering electric luxury sedan.
It has said it expects to deliver 15,000 cars during 2013, once its assembly plant in Fremont, California, is up to a steady production rate.
The news caused Wunderlich to downgrade Tesla Motors stock and change its recommendation to Sell, setting a new target price of $28 per share–down from its previous target of $49.
Two other analysts, Jefferies Group and Maxim Group, left their Buy ratings for Tesla stock unchanged.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] stock declined steadily throughout yesterday; today the stock price climbed until about 1 pm and then began to fall.
With a little over two weeks left to go until Tesla finally launch their long-awaited Model S, officials have announced that they will be holding 5,000 test drives, in the 45 days immediately after the car’s June 22nd launch. The test drive, which is part of the 'Get AmpedModel S Tour', will be available for anyone who’s ‘pre-ordered’ a Model S, and it will last for around 8 minutes per customer.
The course of the test drive is specially designed to allow the driver to experience the Model S in a wide range of driving environments, located around Tesla’s Freemont, California factory. Drivers will see how the car behaves during highway driving, while tackling various types of bends and roads of varying smoothness with a dash of in-town driving thrown in as well.
The announcement for the test drive comes along with another official video from Tesla, now showing us their ‘Body Center’, how the various bits of the car’s body come together and how they are welded up by robotic arms as they move along the production line, with the caption at the end of the video reading “They’re coming…”
We think that’s a lot to process in only 8 minutes, and those who have reserved their car may be disappointed that the test drive is so short – we know we would!
❐ Check out the Map of the Model S Test Drive Tour photo gallery
Electric car company Tesla Motors officially revealed on Saturday a “beta” version of its Model S sedan to customers who pre-ordered the long-awaited car, at its factory in Fremont, California. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk also announced the planned production of a faster version of the Model S, which is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 MPH in just 4.5 seconds.
The elite group of customers invited to the event were asked to proselytize the benefits of electric car technology while they wait for their vehicles to be delivered next year. Essentially a start-up car company, Tesla faces incredible odds in competing against far larger and more-established brands, like Chevrolet and Toyota.
Prior to production of the Model S, Tesla had only produced one vehicle, the speedy Tesla Roadster sports car, which sells for around $100,000. With the Roadster, Tesla was able to garner praise within the industry and enthusiasm from electric car early-adopters, but sales of the vehicle have yet to turn a profit for Tesla. The Model S, by comparison, will cost around $57,400. The 6,000-vehicle-strong 2012 production run of the Model S is already sold out.
Tesla will offer the Model S with three different battery options, one with a maximum range of 160-miles-per-charge, one with a 230-mile range and one with a 300-mile range. Musk said that it will also offer the option of custom wheels that reduce drag, and give the car a range of up to 320 miles on a single charge.
The sportier Model S will reportedly include an upgraded powertrain that allows the car to reach 60 MPH in 4.5 seconds, as opposed to the 5.6-second time it takes the current Model S sedan. With that kind of speed, the Model S sports version is faster than a Porche 911 Carrera.
By Andrew Couts
Tesla announced it will start selling its Model S electric car in June, earlier than originally planned. The news, however, was tempered a bit due to the company’s reported first-quarter loss of $89.9 million, almost double the $48.9 million loss reported during the same period last year.
Despite that, Automotive News reports that Tesla is expecting its total revenue for 2012 to be at least $560 million. It originally predicted $550 million in revenue, but boosted the forecast due to the early launch of the Model S. Looking even further ahead, CEO Elon Musk is optimistic that his company will be profitable in 2013, predicting a 25 percent gross margin.
The arrival of the Model S can’t come soon enough for the automaker. Production of the Tesla Roadster ended last year and according to The Detroit News, only a couple hundred Tesla Roadsters remain in Asian and European showrooms. Additionally, Tesla expects it will soon exhaust the $465 million loan it received from the Department of Energy.
Despite the lack of vehicles available for test drives, Tesla says that there has been much interest in the Model S. According to The Detroit News¸ there are at least 10,000 pre-order requests for the upcoming EV, which will be built at Tesla’s assembly plant in Northern California.
Compared to the Tesla Roadster, which carried a price tag that neared six figures, the Model S will be relatively affordable with a base price of $49,000 following tax credits. It will be offered with three battery options that offer ranges between 160 to 300 miles per charge. Additionally, the Model S will have the ability to recharge its battery to 80 percent capacity when plugged into a fast charger. Among its long list of notable features is its rear-facing, third-row seats (boosting passenger capacity to seven) and its 17-inch, touchscreen infotainment display.
Tesla hopes to sell 5000 units by the end of 2012 and plans to produce 20,000 units annually once its plant is running at full speed. The automaker will start selling the Model S after it clears the required crash tests.
“I do not know where we are in the [NHTSA testing] queue, Musk told the Automotive News. “We are very confident that it will be a five-star safety rating, the safest car on the road. We have certain architectural advantages, like a much longer crumple zone in the front because we don’t have to make room for an engine.”
Source: Automotive News (subscription required), The Detroit News
With the difficulty of developing a modular electric car platform behind it, Tesla seems like it’s on a roll with Model S variants. Next up could be a competitor to the BMW 3 Series, followed by an all-electric pickup truck.
So far, Tesla has only produced the Lotus-Elise-based Roadster and Model S large hatchback, but with the latter car’s bespoke platform done, the sky’s the limit. The Model X all-electric sport utility vehicle is already planned with its crazy falcon wing-style door and is slated to start production late in 2013, reaching dealers early in 2014.
We hear from Autocar that Tesla’s follow-up to the Model X will be a mid-size premium sedan, in the vein of the BMW 3 Series. The car would be smaller than the Model S and also have a smaller price tag than the current car’s $49,000 sticker–Tesla design chief Franz Von Holzhausen said that Tesla bosses are shooting for the car to have a $30,000 price tag for a base model.
The addition of a 3 Series-sized car to the Tesla EV range makes immediate sense–it would give Tesla a larger customer base–but what Von Holzhausen said next was a bit more puzzling. “There will be a time and place for us to develop something around a pick-up,” he told Autocar.
At first glance, the idea of Tesla leaving its eco-luxury roots and making a workhorse pickup truck seems odd, but Von Holzhausen did say that the Tesla’s electric powertrain would have suitable torque to make a good pickup truck.
If Tesla could make an all-electric pickup at or near the same $30,000 price point as the upcoming 3 Series fighter, it would be an interesting entrant into the shrinking market of fuel-efficient pickups, especially now that mid-size pickups like the Ram Dakota and Ford Ranger have died in the past year.
The 3 Series rival could bow as early as 2015, with the pickup following some time later.
By Ben Timmins
Tesla has been making news lately with changes designed to make the process of buying and maintaining a Model S as easy as possible, and now the company says it has completely paid off its Department of Energy loan nine years early. The company had nine more years to repay the loan.
Tesla wired $451.8 million to fully repay the loan with interest, and in a release the automaker says it is the only American car company to have fully repaid the government. Then again, Tesla currently only offers one vehicle, the lauded Model S. The larger and delayed Model X is set to arrive next year.
UPDATE: Tesla isn’t actually the only American automaker to pay back government loans. Chrysler points out that, about two years ago, it paid back government loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments in full. For another perspective on this issue, read this Forbes blog.
So far, Tesla has worked with Mercedes and Toyota, and offered the all-electric Lotus-based Roadster, a car the company says had a 30-percent gross margin. More recently, we’ve heard about the Model S’ improved financing terms as well as a resale guarantee and a lenient warranty update. Next week, Tesla will reveal details on a revised supercharger system. Company co-founder Elon Musk hinted at the announcement on Twitter, saying there may soon be a way to recharge a Model S throughout the country faster than you can fill a gas tank.
The Department of Energy loan fit into the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program of which Fisker was also a part. On the original $451.8 million loan, Bloomberg notes that taxpayers will make at least $12 million from the deal. Paying off the loan early was made possible thanks to the roughly $1 billion raised in last week’s new common stock and convertible senior note offerings.
While reaching truly stable financial ground is still anything but a certainty for Tesla, it appears the company is on the right track.
Source: Tesla, Bloomberg
By Zach Gale
Range anxiety is one of the main points against the current crop of EVs, as they simply lack the battery capacity to be used anywhere else, aside from a city environment. However, Tesla set out to change that, by not only offering the highest-capacity battery packs on the market, for their cars, but also through their network of ‘Superchargers’.
There are currently six such stations, all of which are in California, and now open to the public, as well. They are placed at ‘strategic’ points, near malls, restaurants and other places where people gather, and offer an extra 150 miles (240 km), free of charge, for all Tesla owners.
The plan is to cover the entire country with Superchargers, in about two years’ time, with the increase in coverage being guided by the number of Tesla drivers in a particular area of the country. However, with the launch of the Model X and the all-electric 3-Series rival, as well as an increase in the production of the Model S, there will be quite a few of these cars on US roads in coming years – they’d best be prepared.
The “Odyssey of Pioneers” world tour has the Tesla Roadster visiting some 15 major cities and at least 150 smaller towns during the course of its road trip. The electric sports car is in Europe this week where it will be making a historical pit stop in Budapest, Hungary.
What’s the connection? Well, Budapest was one of the many stomping grounds of Tesla’s namesake — Nikola Tesla. Better yet, it’s said that while living in Budapest, Tesla thought up the original design for the alternating current motor — the same type of motor used in the Roadster — during a feverish hallucination.
“Without his vision and brilliance, our car wouldn’t be possible,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “If he were alive today, I’m sure Nikola Tesla would be a very happy Roadster customer and a passionate advocate of electric vehicles.”
Budapest is the fourth stop on the Tesla’s tour. Luke McClure, the EV’s driver, has used standard electric outlets at hotels along the route, a solar panel array, and even a power feed located inside a Swiss barn to keep the roadster fully “fueled.” The Tesla Roadster accomplishes this feat because it’s equipped with its own charging equipment, so there is no need for specialized outlets or charging stations.
Tesla Motor will be hosting a VIP celebration, along with test drives for prospective customers from April 15-16 at the TAG Heuer Boutique in Budapest. The Roadster will then resume the tour to its next stop — Warsaw, Poland. The entire journey is tentatively scheduled to last eight months, and is expected to end come October, when the Tesla is due in Paris.
We’ve already reported on Toyota and Tesla Motors forming a partnership to develop electric vehicles, but now we’ve learned a little more about the program. According to an official release from Toyota, the two are working together to build a fleet of electric RAV4 compact SUVs, which are due to hit the market in the next two years.
The official announcement is billed as the first of several “updates” on the project promised by Toyota Motor Company president Akio Toyoda. According to Toyoda’s statement, the first prototype of the new RAV4 EV has been completed and is currently undergoing a battery (no pun intended) of tests. Ultimately, the prototype will be the crest of a wave as Toyota and Tesla plan on building a fleet of the electric compact SUVs. According to the automaker, the first next-generation RAV4 EV will be pushed into the consumer market in 2012.
Toyota hopes the liason with Tesla, which was formally inked back in May, will help it develop, produce, and manufacture electric vehicles in a short time frame. In a very NUMMI-like twist, Tesla hopes to learn the ways of Toyota’s manufacturing process and gain from its engineering expertise, while Toyota reportedly aims to capitalize on Tesla’s “daring spirit,” along with its EV technology.
As previously reported, the RAV4 EV will utilize a lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Tesla, but officials at both companies have refrained from releasing more details on the new vehicle. Likewise, we haven’t heard any more information surrounding another electric vehicle, which has been reported to be based upon the Lexus RX.
Hopefully, we’ll learn more about the program in Toyota’s next update. Should all go well, look for the second iteration of the RAV4 EV to reach consumers in about two years.