Archives for July 7th, 2013

EPA Rates Tesla Model S at 89 MPGe

With one day left to go before the official launch of the Tesla Model S, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rated the eagerly anticipated EV. The numbers are from the top-spec car, equipped with the largest, 85 kWh battery pack.

The car has been rated at 89MPGe (equivalent to 2.6 l/100km), meaning that the car can travel 89 miles (142 Km) on the equivalent energy stored in one gallon of gasoline. Why don’t they just invent something new, like miles/kW or something people can fathom. However, since all EVs are currently rated like this, they can be easily compared.

The Model S’ 89 MPGe put it ahead of the Coda Sedan (73 MPGe), but behind the Nissan Leaf (99 MPGe), Ford Focus Electric (105 MPGe) and the Mitsubishi iMiEV (112 MPGe). However, the Tesla is by far the most powerful car of the bunch, with as much as 350 hp.

Its range has also been rated, and the car with the largest battery pack can easily top 424 Km (265 miles), setting it comfortably ahead of anything else on the market. In fact, we’ve got nothing to compare it to, and we may have to wait a while before anything matching it comes along, as nothing of the sort is currently planned.

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By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Model S: The Real American Luxury Car

Deep within my subconscious, a shocking idea has been steadily growing, developing from a couple of bits of information to a terabyte of invasive ideas . You see, for a long time now I’ve been thinking that some carmakers are not connected with what people really want. It’s why the Chevy Impala isn’t selling in the millions any more, why 16YOs don’t like Mustangs, why Saab went under and why the Chinese like the American dream more than… Americans. And it’s a Silicon Valley-type company that showed us what people really want: iPhones on wheels.

During the first quarter of 2013, Tesla managed to do something I thought was going to take at least another decade. They delivered 4,750 Model S electric sedans, not only more than the much less expensive Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf EVs, but also more than all the flagship models from from established luxury brands.

We’re talking about Mercedes, who sold 3,077 S-Class examples during Q1, Lexus who managed 2,860 LS sedans, followed by BMW with 2,338 7 Series and Audi 1,462 cars during the same three months in the US. Maybe the Model S is cheaper, and maybe tax rebates have something to do with it, but these cars are benchmarks, hugely expensive to develop and very well marketed, not to mention their names have been famous for decades.

When I found that out, I immediately went “Really? How is that possible?”. But then I learned the Nissan Leaf is being showcased in the SimCity video game. That’s it! People have accepted electric cars, and there’s no turning back now!

Consider this. The automobile has been around for over 100 years. Designers will try to make it look different, engineers will make it more efficient and marketing people will wrap it all up in video footage and clever words. But the fact of the mater is transportation isn’t that cool any more, not when you consider Google Eye, smartphones and the billions of apps to go with them.

Tesla should be a new brand fighting for survival and recognition, considering it targets two difficult segments – luxury and electric vehicles. They should be struggling, but instead they’re already playing in the big leagues and everybody knows their achievements.

Speaking of achievements, we have to mention two of them: performance and infotainment. Firstly, the top Signature Performance version of the EV has over 400 horsepower going to the rear wheels. It gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has been known to shame some sportscars at the drag strip. This makes it a sort of people’s champion, exuding a character way beyond the real-world performance.

Secondly, the Model S is hugely entertaining, like a gigantic gaming console you sit inside rater than next to. You sit smack bang in front of a huge digital display that shows you your speed and range, and the center console is dominated by a 17-inch color display that controls everything from the boot opening to the temperature inside the car. Tesla are the very first to do things like this, and since the Model S arrived, Cadillac and Lincoln followed them with semi-buttonless systems of their own.

I never like the idea of not being able to click anything without taking our eyes of the road. After all, not even an Xbox controller works without buttons. Every Mercedes and Audi I get into has beautifully weighted buttons, all built with the uniform texture and resistance, like miniature piano keys. But not everybody these days gets that and this sort of fingertip craftsmanship might already be obsolete.

You see, your typical Audi buyer who earned six figures a decade ago could have been a building architect, a business consultant or construction business developer. But in 2013, he could just as well be an app architect, software consultant or website developer. For these buyers at least, being seen in an S-Class is like playing on an actual Monopoly board or with a real yoyo.

I’m no saying the S-Class is obsolete, just that the Tesla Model S is the real star of the American auto scene, an electric guitar to our acoustic ears, a PS4 to our old-school building blocks. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to everything Tesla does!

By Mihnea Radu

Toyota Chooses Canada for RAV4 EV Production

Toyota Chooses Canada for RAV4 EV Production

Toyota will build the upcoming electric-powered RAV4 alongside the gasoline-powered variant at its Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc. (TMMC) in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. Production is slated to begin in 2012.

Many plants were being considered for RAV4 EV production, including the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. Tesla Motors, which has been assisting in the development of the electric-powered SUV, will build its 2012 Model S family sedan at NUMMI. Toyota says building the electric version of the RAV4 alongside the gasoline version will “maximize production efficiencies and quality control.”

“The Tesla-Toyota joint development team has agreed that building the vehicle at the Woodstock plant on the same line as the gasoline-powered RAV4, will streamline and simplify the production process and guarantee the highest level of quality control,” said Ray Tanguay, TMMC Chairman, in a press release. “This is a great example of Toyota’s determination to collaborate with companies with leading edge technology.”

Toyota will pay Tesla $100 million for the RAV4 EV’s electric powertrain, which includes the battery module, electric motor, gearbox, and electronic components. Tesla will gain insight into Toyota’s manufacturing and engineering processes.

Tesla will build RAV4 EV powertrains at a smaller plant in Palo Alto, California, and then ship them to TMMC for installation in the compact SUVs. Tesla is busy retooling the NUMMI plant preparing for Model S production.

Toyota will announce volume and pricing of the RAV4 EV at a later time.

Source: Toyota

By Jason Udy

Getting In Gear: 2009 Tesla Roadster

2009 Tesla Roadster Front Three Quarter View

2009 Tesla Roadster Front Three Quarter View

2009 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

2009 Tesla Roadster Side View

See All 12 Photos

2009 Tesla Roadster Front Three Quarter View

The Tesla Roadster was beginning to look like vaporware. Silicon Valley failed to deliver its first car on time. The traditional auto industry was sniggering. But let’s cut Tesla some slack. Does Motown always get its stuff onto the showroom floor dead on schedule? Especially its paradigm-shift products? Of course not.

And now the Roadster is here. Orders are being fulfilled, which is just as well as recent retrenchment by the company shows they need all the revenue they can get.

The car we drive today has the final single-speed transmission. Earlier press testers used a two-speed unit, often locked in second because it had durability issues. The single-speed finally realizes the dream of the electric car: absolutely progressive, smooth, transparent acceleration.

And boy does it deliver. The powertrain is now so intuitive that I seldom thought about it. Repeat for emphasis: I’ve driven a car with performance better than a Corvette Z51, and I hardly thought about the propulsion. The performance is an extension of your brain: the amount you’ve squeezed your foot is directly related to the proportion of its surge the motor delivers. No need to make sure you’re on boost or on the cam, or in the correct gear. Nothing to think about. All to enjoy.

2009 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

And it’s not just accurate and progressive, it’s instant: as fast as you can stretch your foot, this thing delivers. So don’t floor it until there’s clear air in front of you. Lots of clear air.

Doing without a transmission of any kind has other advantages over combustion-engined machines. Compared with a manual there’s no clutch to burn, no interruption to the power flow, and no need to do any work or suffer any delays while you find the right gear. Compared with an auto, you never get that frustration of realizing the trans has selected the wrong ratio.

But do you miss the rumble of a V-8, the wail of a V-12? Yes, I guess you might. But on the other hand, you have no need of such sonic cues to time your gear changes.

Even driving in the traffic thrombosis of an urban crawl, this thing is easy. No need for clutch pumping: they’ve even digitized the creep of a torque converter auto. OK there is a very tiny amount of lash as you roll on and off the accelerator pedal, but beyond about 20mph it’s not noticeable.

2009 Tesla Roadster Side View

2009 Tesla Roadster Front View2009 Tesla Roadster Front View

What is noticeable at first (you soon recalibrate yourself) is that there’s a lot of lift-off deceleration. This is the regenerative braking in action: the car switching the motor to generate power to recharge the batteries. It’s why the urban and highway range numbers on EPA cycles are so very similar. If you drive with a modicum of anticipation you’ll hardly be using the friction brakes, so you’ll be wasting little energy as brake heat.

What really kills the range is driving at sustained high speeds. I found a steady 85mph motorway stretch used about twice as much absolute charge per mile as doing 55mph. So the last section of my test was conducted drafting trucks on the way back to London.

2009 Tesla Roadster Rear View

Yeah, OK and driving it as intended, as a true sports car, ain’t great for range either. But boy does it lift the spirits. You know the drill: aluminum chassis, double wishbones, carbon fiber body, about 2750 pounds, excellent mass distribution and — oh joy! — unassisted rack and pinion steering. The Roadster delivers on the promises of its spec.

The steering first: it’s direct, light under way and utterly precise. Most of all, it communicates road feedback in a league ahead of the usual big-gun sports cars. It needs just small front tires — 175/55 15 — and they carry little weight, so their messages are free of corruption and interference. There is very gentle steady-state understeer, but this can be neutralized by an extra brush of the accelerator.

2009 Tesla Roadster Front Three Quarter View

It was a slightly damp day and there was mud and leaf fall on the road. Not ideal for driving hard in rear-biased sports cars, where a sudden loss of asphalt friction at either end of the car could spell disaster. But the conditions were no impediment to the Tesla. The steering’s information stream gave huge confidence in the front end, and the superb traction control allowed me to get right on the power as soon as the corner’s exit came into view. An electric motor is far easier for a traction control system to operate on than a gasoline powertrain, so the TC delivers results with a delightfully light touch, never hesitating or overdoing its interference. Oh and it also works on the over-run to save you from the dramatic effects of regen braking on weight transfer and potential snap oversteer.

Quite a lot has changed in the Roadster over the past year and a half. To migrate from two-speed to single-speed, Tesla found ways to boost current to the motor, raising the torque so it can run a higher gear for acceleration, while increasing the max motor revs to 14,000 so its 125mph limited top speed is unaffected. The battery though is unchanged.

2009 Tesla Roadster Rear Compartment

2009 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View2009 Tesla Roadster Interior

The interior finish is now pretty convincing. A premium package is available which sees most padded interior surfaces, including the dash, covered in leather. Naked structural aluminum is used for the center console and lower dash shelf, and also the switchgear. It feels good to the touch. There’s full, high-quality carpet, and a lined roof. It has cruise control, heated seats, air-con, remote locking and electric windows – they might be standard on any Korean econobox, but not always not on hardcore quasi-track cars, so they’re worth noting. The premium pack adds a satellite radio with navigation, and more and better speakers.

Tesla needs to hurry up the delivery of Roadsters now. It needs the cash flow (as well as a sizeable slug of cheap federal loans courtesy of the Energy Independence and Security Act) to move to the next phase and re-start development of its Model S sedan. Detroit is catching up. Lithium ion batteries were laughed at by the major automakers two years ago, but now they’re all on the bandwagon.

But a measure of clairvoyance seems to surround Tesla. The company has now passed 500 orders on the Roadster, all from people who had seen no reports of the finished car’s attributes. Those people have called it right: it’s a fabulous car.

2009 Tesla Roadster Plug Outlet

2009 Tesla Roadster Taillight

Base Price $109,000
Vehicle Layout Mid-motor, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door roadster
Motor 375V AC synchronous, 248-hp/276-lb-ft
Transmission single-speed
Curb Weight 2750 lb
Wheelbase 92.6 in
Length x Width x Height 155.4 x 67.8 x 44.4 in
0-60 mph 3.9 sec (mfr)
Fuel Economy 105 mpg gas equivalent
Range, Combined 227 miles
Recharge Time 3.5 hrs @ 220 volts/70 amps
On Sale In U.S. Currently/delivery in 2009

By Kim Reynolds