Archives for July 1st, 2013

Tesla Sues Top Gear; CEO Shrugs Off Takeover Talk

Tesla Sues Top Gear; CEO Shrugs Off Takeover Talk

Fans of the British Top Gear television program may remember the controversy surrounding a segment involving the Tesla Roadster.

First aired back on December 14, 2008, the Top Gear episode (season 12, episode 7) infamously depicted the electric sports car being rolled into a garage in an attempt to highlight the plight of using electricity to solely provide a vehicle’s motive force. A purportedly broken brake pedal was also brought to viewer attention, as was an overheated drive motor. Well-recognized host and all-around funnyman Jeremy Clarkson concluded his piece by saying the Roadster won’t work in the real world. Now, Tesla has sued Top Gear and the British Broadcasting Corporation for libel, claiming the show’s Roadster footage was scripted, produced, and shown in bad faith.

First and foremost, Tesla says the lawsuit isn’t about money and they’d like Top Gear and the BBC to set the record straight on the Roadster. Pulling the segment off all official channels would be a start. Given the popularity of the motoring show, Tesla asserts they’ve tried repeatedly to get the BBC to reconsider showing and reshowing the clip, affirming there’s been enough negativity publicity to warrant their actions. They’ve even set up a Web page dedicated to the litigation, viewable HERE. For now, we wait to see how these events will unfold.

Never one to shy from speaking his mind, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also gone on the offensive in a different matter, giving his two cents regarding a recent column that calls Tesla a “prime acquisition target.”

For as long as Tesla has been doing business, there have been deathwatches and critical analyses of the Palo Alto-based automaker. Recently, the Business Insider Web site hosted a column titled, “Why Electric Carmaker Tesla Motors Will Likely Be Acquired,” submitted by two University of Virginia students studying at the McIntire School of Commerce. Though the authors don’t appear to doubt Tesla’s products and ideals, they believe the company itself cannot carry on alone and would be ripe for takeover within the next three to five years.

Tesla boss Musk dismisses the Business Insider column, acknowledging the difficulty of entering the auto business, but stating Tesla can pull it off.

“Their analysis of Tesla is incredibly bad,” said Musk by e-mail to Automotive News. “Tesla is of course a potential takeover target, like almost all public companies. However, I’m also highly confident that we can succeed as an independent company.”

With the Model S in the pipeline and scheduled for full production in 2012, Tesla will need its all-electric family sedan to hit the ground running. Whether there’s a takeover or not, it’s simple really: no sales, no business.

Sources: Tesla, Automotive News (Subscription Required), Business Insider

By Benson Kong

Tesla Roadster to Be Driven Around the World in 80 Days



After having successfully completed a pan-European tour in a Tesla Roadster last year, Spanish-born entrepreneur Rafael de Mestre, whom we met in June of 2011, has already begun a much more challenging ‘adventure’ – to traverse the globe in (insert Jules Verne reference here) 80 days.

The new trip commenced in Barcelona, and de Mestre is already in Tianjin, China, waiting for the toll procedure to finish, so that he can continue his journey by car, after having had it flown in from the US. His goal is to be the first person to take a standard, non-modified EV around the world successfully, and he intends to do so in 80 days. The main goal of his journey is to give people a chance to see a fun and interesting EV in action, as well as changing people's preconceived ideas about cars powered by electricity.

Joining him in his epic trip will be two Frenchmen driving a Citroen C-Zero (rebadged Mitsubishi iMiEV) who have gotten a head start, as they’re already making their way through Malaysia. We wish all adventurers good luck and we hope they complete their trips safely and successfully.

You can check out where Rafael and his Roadster are, via the official site.

By Andrei Nedelea

Is Greater Range Around The Corner For Electric Cars?

2013 Honda Fit EV CAPTIONS ON | OFF

Ordinarily, we don’t accept electric cars for test-drives on our home ground. For good reason, too: Living in an apartment, we have no way to charge a battery-powered vehicle. Neither is there any provision for charging at my office. As a result, only at Preview Drives for new models, and during special media events, have I been able to experience the growing crop of electrics.

Therefore, when offered an opportunity to drive a fully-charged Mitsubishi I (formerly named i-MiEV), delivered in that condition by truck, we immediately said “yes.” Even better, we learned that there’s now a public charging station at a Walgreens drugstore, barely more than a block from home. Even though I’d driven the “I” for several hours at a media program a year earlier, this would be a most helpful trial of real-world electric-car use.

Mitsubishi’s electric car, certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, promises an estimated range of 62 miles – not all that much, but sufficient to get most drivers to work and back without concern. That’s the theme used in electric-car advertising, pointing out that most commuters can easily make a round trip without recharging.

Yet, after starting off with a fully-charged battery pack and driving just 22 miles through light suburban traffic, the indicator showed that only half of the battery’s capacity remained. Had we continued onward, then, we may well have run out of electricity after only about 45 miles – far short of the published range.

Sorry, that just won’t do. Even a confirmed electric-car advocate, such as myself, began to worry as that indicator dropped to the halfway mark, threatening to keep sinking fast. Furthermore, after connecting the Mitsubishi to that 220-volt charger at Walgreens, I ambled across the street for a leisurely coffee. Returning after about 1.3 hours, the charge indicator had risen from the halfway mark to less than three-quarters. Even at 220 volts, it’s a slow process.

Most EVs claim driving ranges well below a hundred miles; and that’s only if driven under light-load conditions. Of the subcompact electrics now on the market, Mitsubishi has the shortest range estimate, but the competitors aren’t much better. The NissanLeaf gets an estimate of 73 miles (Ed. Note: but should improve drastically, soon). The FordFocus Electric promises 76 miles. The new Honda Fit EV manages an 82-mpg estimate.

Heading that small-electric pack is the less-known CODA, with a claimed potential range of up to 125 miles. At the recent Plug-In 2012 Conference, experts determined that a range of at least 120 miles is needed to eliminate “range anxiety” for most people.

The far bigger, costly Tesla S, somewhat surprisingly named Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine, is the only electric passenger car on the market with a range that reaches well into triple digits. Specifically, Tesla claims a range near 300 miles (at a steady 55 miles per hour) for its top-end model, priced at $77,400. Two less-pricey Tesla S sedans, with reduced battery capacity, have claimed ranges of 160 and 230 miles.

Electric cars have been around for more than a century, but all along, range has been the big trouble spot. In order to boost electrics into serious contenders, a big breakthrough has been needed. So far, it hasn’t emerged. Instead, electric-car batteries have been tapping at the window of potential range, when they should have been shattering that barrier and roaring forward.

At least one prominent antique-car collector has suggested that big, early electrics – such as the Baker – could go nearly as far as today’s lightweights.

Digital Trends reports that Toyota is developing a sodium battery with a potential range up to 600 miles. Sounds exciting, but claims of vast battery improvements have been made over and over. In reality, most have resulted in far more modest increases, if they came into existence at all. So, it would be prudent not to get too worked up about Toyota’s research until a lot more data has been acquired.

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Visit theautoMedia.comMitsubishi Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

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By James M. Flammang

Tesla-Engineered Electric Mercedes A-Class Actually Real?



Having previously collaborated on the creation of the electric A-Class E-Cell, a car with a limited production run of 500 units and the Smart ED, according to a Dutch site, the cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and Tesla isn’t over, in fact Tesla are actually working on an unknown EV for the Daimler group, we just don’t know for sure what it is.

It may be an electric version of the recently-released A-Class, which may be launched some time next year as a small scale project. We really don’t have any more information on the matter, but judging by Tesla’s bold claims regarding the range and performance of their new Model S, they would make an excellent partner for Mercedes-Benz, as they seem to currently have some of the best EV tech in the world.

Only time will tell whether this will actually materialize. We honestly hope it does, as the new A-Class would be an appropriate car to house an electric powertrain.

Source: Groen7 via Autoblog

By Andrei Nedelea

2012 Tesla Model S Electric Sedan: 238 Miles Of Range, Says Motor Trend

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

Whether you drive gas, electric or anything else, there are dozens of different factors that affect your car’s efficiency.

That’s why, even though Tesla Motors claims a range of 265 miles for its 85 kWh Model S, we’ve been eager to see how far it can go in realistic day-to-day driving.

Thanks to Motor Trend, we now know. The magazine borrowed Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s own Model S and ran it through a series of tests, culminating in a drive down I-15 and then up the Pacific Coast Highway to measure its range.

Starting with a full charge from the California Speedway, where the team logged performance figures, the car was driven down to San Diego on I-15 in 55-69mph traffic, before heading North again using I-5, where much of the driving was stop-and-go.

The rest of the journey North to Redondo Beach was on the PCH, with plenty of stops at intersections. Overall distance? 240 miles.

With a brief stop to top-up within a few miles of their destination, Motor Trend calculated a total range of 238 miles.

That’s 11 percent short of the claimed 265 miles, and they note that the trip involved fairly careful driving too. A failure, then?

Not necessarily. While the quoted range wasn’t reached, the driver did point out that the trip involved five hours of continuous driving. That’s the sort of distance and time that few drivers would go without needing to stop anyway, regardless of how far their battery or gas tank can take them.

The other figures are equally impressive. The drive depleted 93 percent of the battery’s capacity, or 78.2 kWh of electricity. Using a gasoline energy equivalency of 2.32 gallons, the car achieved 100.7 mpg-equivalent. Their chase car, a BMW 528i, managed 30.1 mpg. And quick though the BMW is, it doesn’t have anything like the potential performance of the Model S.

The 265-mile range may be achievable over long stretches at lower speeds, but even for those drivers not reaching the official target, a range of over 200 miles isn’t to be sniffed at.

And save for a criticism about under-padded seats, the car attracted plenty of praise in other areas too.

You can read our own thoughts on the Model S by clicking on our first drive report. And you can leave us your thoughts on the Tesla’s range in the comments section below.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Motors to Provide Batteries for Freightliner Custom Chassis Electric Van

Tesla Motors to Provide Batteries for Freightliner Custom Chassis Electric Van

Most people don’t think of a boxy step van when they hear “Tesla Motors,” but the electric automaker is supplying its lithium-ion battery packs to a new electric van built by Freightliner Custom Chassis.

Freightliner had previously announced it was partnering with Enova to develop an electric step van, but it hadn’t announced where it would source the vehicle’s batteries. Few details on the battery packs have been revealed, but the company says it will provide a range of 100 miles on a single charge, which takes roughly 6 to 8 hours.

The battery pack powers electric motors with power ratings that range between 121 hp (90 kW) and 323 hp (240 kW). These motors propel vans with gross vehicle weight ratings starting at 14,000 pounds and ranging up to 19,000 pounds, depending on the configuration.

Production of these electric vans should begin in the first quarter of 2011, and will begin testing in major delivery fleets across the U.S. shortly after.

Source: Freightliner Custom Chassis

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Green Cars, Tesla

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By Andrew Peterson

Tesla CEO Gets More Stock Options, Fisker Seeks More Cash

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

Enlarge Photo

We’ve said it many times before, building an auto company from scratch is extremely hard, and expensive.

That’s probably why only two major plug-in car startups have made it to the point of building and selling cars globally: Tesla and Fisker. 

In order to continue, both firms are working every angle to survive

For Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA], that means more stock options for its tech-savvy CEO Elon musk, while Fisker Automotive is looking to raise another $150 million just to break even. 

Yesterday, Tesla Motors filed a regulatory filing indicating that it was giving its co-founder and CEO an option to buy 5.27 million shares as part of a long-term plan to keep him at the company. 

According to Bloomberg, the stock option was granted on August 13, has a 10-year term, and vests in 10 equal installments based on Tesla meeting key milestones. 

These include Tesla reaching a $43.5 billion market capitalization, development and production of both the 2014 Model X crossover SUV and Tesla’s as-yet unnamed 3rd generation electric car. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, demonstrating the Model X third-row seat and falcon doors

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, demonstrating the Model X third-row seat and falcon doors

Enlarge Photo

Musk’s preferential share option price would be $31.17 and mark the first time he has been offered a share option at Tesla since December 2009. 

Already the majority shareholder of the company, Musk’s stock options would result in a substantial increase in the total percentage of ownership he holds.

Currently, Musk draws an annual base salary from Tesla of $33,280. 

Meanwhile, just days after announcing former Volt executive Tony Posawatz as its new CEO, a key investor in Fisker Automotive has disclosed that the firm is looking to raise an additional $150 million in funding. 

2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

Enlarge Photo

According to Reuters, the automaker needs the additional funds for operating expenses and development funds for its next car, the Fisker Atlantic,  despite raising more than $400 million in venture capital in the past 12 months. 

In short, it needs more money to break even.

Part of Fisker’s financial woes stem from it failing to meet key milestones set out by the U.S. DoE in order for it to receive $529 million in low-interest loans under its advanced-technology vehicle manufacturing program. 

In addition, Fisker has been beset by bad luck, including numerous recalls and more recently, investigations following the burning of two of its Karma plug-in hybrids

According to Reuters, Fisker declined to comment on the company’s financial plans, but a key investor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers hinted that the firm may look for more investment funds next year. 

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By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Tesla Motors Reports Positive Cash Flow for Last Week



Having faced numerous setbacks in the last few months, Tesla has had to reduce the expected production output of the Model S, for the rest of the year, and increase the price of each car by $2,500, we weren`t really expecting them to turn a profit any time soon.

However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has now reported that the company actually made money last week, according to Bloomberg, and that their cash flow was positive by a very “narrow” margin. Their main goal now is to increase the production volume for their only offering, in order to achieve their goal of building 20,000 units next year.

They will also begin preparation for the introduction of their all-wheel drive SUV EV, called the Model X, which is set to make its debut at the end of 2013, with deliveries poised to start at the start of 2014. It will be followed by a BMW 3-Series-sized car, which in turn will be followed by a replacement for the Roadster, set to make its debut in 2017.

By Andrei Nedelea