Archives for July 10th, 2013
Is the Volkswagen BlueSport on-again or off-again? Last we checked the diesel-powered mid-engined roadster had been canned, but Volkswagen’s design chief recently hinted that VW is still interested in building a small sports car. With the Volkswagen in mind, we thought it would be fun to create a list of five automakers that should make a Mazda Miata rival.
The recent BlueSport news comes from a recent interview between Auto Motor und Sport and VW design head Walter de Silva. In the interview, de Silva suggested that a small Volkswagen roadster wouldn’t be the worst addition to the automaker’s global lineup. Though the BlueSport concept came with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4, in a perfect world, here’s what we think Miata rivals from Volkswagen and four other automakers should look like.
Volkswagen: The BlueSport is an attractive concept, even four years after its Detroit auto show debut. We wouldn’t change much in the production BlueSport; it should keep its mid-mounted engine, and turbodiesel I-4, although since it’s a sports car Volkswagen should also offer the 2.0-liter 210-hp turbo I-4 from the updated Beetle Turbo and Jetta GLI. The only other change we’d make is to its name; surely Volkswagen can combine more animal names (may we suggest Velociphant or Sharphin?) for its new roadster.
SRT: We bet SRT Ralph Gilles would love to make a Miata-competitor, and by all accounts it could already be in the works. Our dream SRT Miata-fighter would be a two-seat roadster powered by a souped-up version of the Dodge Dart’s 2.4-liter turbo-4 – we’re thinking around 250 hp in a lightweight roadster should do the trick. That would leave just enough room in the lineup for SRT to offer a 470-hp Hemi V-8 powered TA version. Hey, when you’re dreaming, why not dream big?
Honda: Honda once built fun sports cars, but the S2000 died a few years back. We’d like to see Honda bring back the S2000 just as it was. Seriously, don’t change a thing: the circa 1999 design still looks fresh to this day, and by all accounts its 239-hp high-revving I-4 left little to be desired.
Chevrolet: Just build the damn Code 130R already, Chevy. The Alpha platform three-box coupe would not only give Chevy a convincing Mazda competitor, but it’d also give Chevy an entry-level sports car that could lead to Camaro sales, and then ultimately the Corvette. With that kind of sporting tradition it only makes sense for the bowtie to build a Miata fighter.
Tesla: An entry-level followup to the Tesla Roadster would be pretty awesome. The Miata-fighting Roadster Mk II could use the chassis of the upcoming entry-level Tesla, with the Model S Performance’s motor and 85 kWh battery. That’d give it blistering performance, and the ability to enjoy the EV all day long.
What company do you think should build a Miata fighter? What would it look like? Sound off below.
Source: Auto Motor und Sport
When the New York Times admitted the editor's lack of "good judgement" in the Model S review last week, we thought the two would finally bury the hatchet. Well, we couldn't be more wrong!
Tesla Motor's boss Elon Musk came back pouring more gasoline on the (electric?) fire claiming that New York Times' review cost the automaker up to $100 million. "It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, to the order of $100 million," Elon Musk said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
The Tesla CEO's estimate is of course virtual, but company shares have fallen 12 percent (from $39.24 to $34.38) since the New York Times article appeared almost three weeks ago.
Tesla Motors Inc. has accused a New York Times reporter of faking a Model S road test and claiming the electric automaker is misreporting the vehicle's estimated driving range. The automaker backed its story by releasing the vehicle's driving logs, which actually did prove that the New York Times editor's review is not based on real facts.
Story via Bloomberg
Tesla Motors’ unorthodox retail store business model is creating a lot of controversy. The EV manufacturer has already fought dealer associations and state legislatures from Massachusetts to Texas, and now the battle is moving to North Carolina.
A proposal in the North Carolina state legislature would make it illegal for Tesla, or any other carmaker, to sell directly to customers, the state’s News & Observer reports.
The measure, which is supported by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, was approved by the state Senate’s Commerce Committee last week.
If the proposal becomes law, Tesla would be forced to change its sales strategy or stop selling cars in the Tar Heel State.
Instead of selling cars through conventional dealers, Tesla opens Apple Store-like spaces in malls and shopping centers, with all transactions conducted over the phone or online, and routed through the company’s California headquarters.
That last part has allowed Tesla to dodge claims that it is opening its own dealerships, which is illegal in most states. The Tesla Stores don’t actually sell (or service) any cars in states where that practice is illegal; they direct customers to online ordering and standalone service centers.
However, North Carolina’s legislators are claiming that any direct sale that cuts car dealers out of the loop, whether it takes place in a physical showroom or online, is against the law. Tesla doesn’t have any mall stores in North Carolina, only service centers.
“They’re trying to insulate the dealer franchise model from any competition,” Tesla vice president for corporate and business development Diarmuid O’Connell said during a visit to Raleigh, “It’s a protectionist move to lock down the market so we have to go through the middleman – the dealer – to sell our cars.”
As with previous cases, the North Carolina car dealers argued that Tesla’s Apple-style sales model would set a precedent for corporate dealerships, leaving customers to deal directly with large car companies instead of a local franchisee.
“The whole point of the retail system is to protect the consumer,” Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, told the News & Observer.
So far, 80 North Carolina residents have put Model S electric sedans in their driveways.
The Tesla Stores have attracted controversy literally from the beginning.
Tesla opened its first location in White Plains, New York last year, angering the state car dealer association. Similar protests soon came out of Massachusetts and Oregon.
Last September, Tesla was notified by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office that listing company CEO Elon Musk as the owner of a Chicago store was illegal.
In April, Tesla also drew fire from Texas legislators examining the legality of two stores in the Lone Star State. Musk fired back with an offer to produce electric pickup trucks in Texas.
Tesla currently has 28 stores in 13 states.
Is Tesla breaking the law – or should the law be changed? Tell us in the comments.
Tesla Motors says the top-spec version of its Model S sedan will have a 300-mile range. However, the company also says that the EPA will probably rate the Model S at 265 miles. How can one car have two quoted ranges? According to Tesla’s official blog, it all comes down to how the Model S is tested.
The testing procedure can dramatically affect a car’s range. The Model S has actually gone over 300 miles (320, to be precise) between charging in testing, but only with the old EPA two-cycle fuel economy method. Tesla is saying that under the current, five-cycle, testing regimen, the Model S will only go 265 miles.
The five-cycle test is more comprehensive than the two-cycle, which explains the two different ranges. Whereas the old test only involved city and highway driving, the five-cycle includes a cold start test, an aggressive acceleration test, and a few miles driven with the air conditioning on. All tests are conducted on a dynamometer for consistency.
The five-cycle procedure also weighs scoring differently. The two-cycle gave city driving a 55-percent weighting; highway was 45. The five cycle weighs city driving at 43 percent and highway at 57 percent.
Tesla based the Model S’ 300-mile rating on the old two-cycle test, and expects that number to drop to 265 miles in the five-cycle test. Looking on the bright side, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel noted that the 265-mile range is an improvement over the Roadster’s 245 (that car was tested under the two-cycle regimen).
The projected five-cycle range of 265 miles is still pretty impressive; a Nissan Leaf is only rated for 73 miles. However, Tesla may need to attach some asterisks to its Model S badges. Real world conditions are very different from the controlled setting of a laboratory, hence the “your mileage may vary” fine print in most car ads. The Model S may have superior range, but if drivers’ numbers don’t match the ones quoted by Tesla, the company may still have a lot of explaining to do.
Most cars have trim levels based on equipment, but the Model S comes in three versions with different ranges: a base model that can go 160 miles between charges, an intermediate 230-mile model, and the top 300-mile version. The different ranges are due to the size of each model’s battery pack. The 300-mile Model S has an 85 kWh battery pack. Tesla did not release estimates for the 160-mile and 230-mile model’s five-cycle ranges, but they will likely drop as well.
Buyers will find out just how far the Model S will go next month, when the first cars reach dealers. The new sedan will cost between $57,400 and $87,400, depending on the trim level and options selected. Like other electric vehicles, the Model S will be eligible for state and federal tax credits.
Hopefully, buyers will not quibble over 35 miles. Tesla needs the Model S to sell well; the company lost $89.9 million in the first quarter of 2012, and will start repaying $465 million in government loans this December.
2013 Tesla Model S
Most advocates and industry analysts expect lithium-ion batteries to dominate electric-car energy storage for the rest of this decade.
But is Silicon Valley startup carmaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] planning to add a new type of battery to increase the range of its electric cars?
The high-end 2013 Tesla Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is EPA-rated at 265 miles of range.
(Real-world range can be lower, depending on a number of factors, including temperature, speed, and driving style.)
8 patent applications
But as a commenter on the Tesla Motors forum and a recent article on the stock investing site SeekingAlpha have noted, Tesla has filed for eight separate patents on uses of metal-air battery technology.
Take, for instance, “Efficient Dual Source Battery Pack System for an Electric Vehicle,” which is Tesla’s patent application # 20120041625.
Two of the three names on the application are JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, and Kurt Kelty, its lead battery engineer.
The metals covered for use in the metal-air battery are aluminum, iron, lithium, magnesium, vanadium, and zinc.
First and second battery packs
The application’s abstract includes the following summary:
A method of optimizing the operation of the power source of an electric vehicle is provided, where the power source is comprised of a first battery pack (e.g., a non-metal-air battery pack) and a second battery pack (e.g., a metal-air battery pack).
The power source is optimized to minimize use of the least efficient battery pack (e.g., the second battery pack) while ensuring that the electric vehicle has sufficient power to traverse the expected travel distance before the next battery charging cycle.
Tesla Motors – Model S lithium-ion battery pack
In other words, a presumably lithium-ion pack for everyday use and a supplemental metal-air battery for longer range when needed.
Another patent application, Electric Vehicle Extended Range Hybrid Battery Pack System, says:
The second battery pack may be used to charge the first battery pack or used in combination with the first battery pack to supply operational power to the electric vehicle.
1,000 miles of range
Metal-air batteries, some of which slowly consume their anodes to give off energy, hit the news last month when Israeli startup Phinergy demonstrated its prototype battery and let reporters drive a test vehicle fitted with the energy-storage device.
Mounted in a subcompact demonstration car, Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery provides 1,000 miles of range, it said, and requires refills of distilled water (which acts as electrolyte in the cells) about every 200 miles.
Diagram from Tesla Motors patent application for dual battery packs including metal-air battery
Once the aluminum plates are consumed, they must be replaced–a task Phinergy didn’t discuss in any detail.
Production in 2017?
Phinergy CEO Aviv Tzidon told Bloomberg reporter Elliott Gotkine last month that his company has signed a contract with a global automaker to deliver the battery in production volumes, starting in 2017.
He didn’t name the company, and Tesla does not say much about its future products (occasional tweets from its CEO Elon Musk aside).
But for Tesla, combining the acceleration provided by a lithium-ion battery with the longer range offered by a consumable aluminum-air battery might permit future vehicles that offer the responsiveness of the Model S with even longer range when needed.
We can dream, anyhow.
The EPA released its ratings for the Tesla Model S electric sedans just as the first cars were being delivered to customers. The agency tested a Model S with the optional 85 kWh battery pack, rating it at 89 MPGe and saying the car could achieve a 265 mile range.
The 265 mile range is shorter than the 300 Tesla originally predicted (and still uses in promotional materials). However, the official EPA number matches the new estimate Tesla gave after the company found out that the Model S would be tested with the new five-cycle method. The current tests are more comprehensive than the old two-cycle; they include energy-sapping operations like cold starts, aggressive acceleration, and running with the air conditioning.
The EPA certified range may not be a round 300 miles, but it does give the Model S the longest range of any electric car currently in production. The Nissan Leaf, the only other car in the Tesla’s EPA size class, can go 73 miles on a full charge. The CODA sedan, Ford Focus Electric, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, are rated at 88, 76, and 62 miles, respectively.
The Model S’ 89 MPGe efficiency rating was not class-leading. It is the second least efficient fully-electric car currently on sale, only beating the CODA sedan. The current MPGe champ, at 112, is the Mitsubishi i. At $1.14 per 25 miles, the Tesla is the second most expense electric car to drive, in terms of energy costs.
The Tesla is also by far the most expense electric car currently on sale. The 85 kWh model with the 265 mile range starts at $77,400 (before federal tax credits), and can cost as much as $105,400 with options. The Leaf has a base price of $35,200. However, the Tesla is aimed at the higher end of the market, and offers more luxury and performance than any current fully-electric vehicle.
An alternative to the Model S’ all-electric powertrain is the extended-range electric vehicle. Cars like the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma have gasoline engines that are used to generate electricity. The Karma can travel 50 miles on electricity, and 300 miles on one tank of gas. The EPA rated it at 52 MPGe; the Volt is rated at 94.
The EPA did not test the two Model S base models, which have smaller battery packs and shorter ranges. Tesla sells the car with a 40 kWh battery pack and 160 mile range, or 60 kWh and a 230 mile range. The base Model s starts at $57,400 before applicable tax credits.
Tesla will deliver the first Model S sedans to customers on Friday, although one car has already been given to a Tesla board member. The company claims it has a waiting list of 10,000 orders. It hopes to sell 5,000 cars in 2012, and 20,000 in 2013.
As the first Model S electric cars trickle off its California assembly line, Tesla Motors is already thinking about bigger and better things. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg that he wants to bring an electric supercar to production.
“We will do an electric supercar at some point,” Musk said. “It was going to happen right after the Model X, but it is more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car. Hopefully, we will get to an electric supercar in four to five years.”
Musk’s supercar would not be Tesla’s first performance vehicle. The company started out making the Roadster (pictured), an electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise. A Roadster Sport did 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 125 mph. The Roadster went out of production last year.
To reach supercar levels of performance, Tesla will need to do better. A Ferrari 458 Italia will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, and keep pulling all the way to 202 mph. Electric motors make all of their power at zero rpm, which gets a car off the line quickly, but a supercar needs to be fast as well as quick.
The Roadster Sport sold for roughly $120,000. A new 458 will set its owner back at least $226,000.
Another challenge for Tesla’s engineers will be handling. If Tesla evenly distributes the supercar’s batteries in the floor, as it did with the Model S, the supercar will have a very low center of gravity. However, a battery pack weighs more than a gasoline engine. That, combined with low rolling resistance tires, made the Roadster less than satisfying to drive through corners.
Performance aside, the Tesla supercar would probably be the most spacious of its kind. Since it wouldn’t have an engine or transmission tunnel, such a car would have plenty of cabin space; most supercars are very cramped, and are hard to get in and out of. A comfortable supercar would be a nice change of pace, but the Tesla will be a bit of a joke if its only virtue is leg room.
Before any supercars can get built, Tesla has another model in the pipeline. The first is the aforementioned Model X, a crossover with roof-hinged “Falcon Wing” doors and a projected 0 to 60 mph time of “under 5 seconds.” Tesla says it will deliver the first cars in 2014.
Tesla also plans to deliver 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of the year, and to produce a total of 20,000 of the EVs in 2013.
CAPTIONS ON | OFF
Tesla Motors has set out to prove that their Model S is not just a great electric car, but a great car, period, since it hit the market. They’ve taken the next step with today’s announcement that a new handling setup with summer tires, called the Performance Package Plus, will be available for $6,500.
Tesla says the package will bring “supercar handling” to the Model S, which is a frightening thought for any other sub-$100,000 luxury sedan on the market. The Model S has already proven itself to have impressive acceleration and is obviously loaded with tech. Plus, nearly a year after its release there haven’t been any major issues with its futuristic powertrain. Will a new handling package elevate the Model S even further in the minds of luxury buyers?
Available only on the top 85kWh Performance trim, the Performance Package Plus includes 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires and improvements to the suspension dampers, bushings and anti-roll bars. Normally, the 85kWh Model S offers 19-inch all-season tires or optional 21-inch Continental ExtremeContact DW tires – the PS2 set will provide a noticeable improvement.
The advantages don’t boil down exclusively to the handling, though. Tesla also says that the Performance Package Plus will increase the driving range of the Model S. Somehow, the setup that will help the Model S attack hairpin turns will also take it from 265 miles to 277 miles on a single charge.
We’re patiently waiting for more information to come out on the new package, and can’t wait to test it out for ourselves. The Model S has been a smashing sales success thus far, already besting the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, and this new setup could convert the last remaining non-believers.
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Tesla will turn over the keys to the first 2012 Model S customer cars at the end of this week, and the Environmental Protection Agency released final fuel economy equivalent and total range numbers not a moment too soon.
The Model S had already been crash-tested and cleared for public sale, and we were waiting for confirmation from the EPA. And now we have it: top-spec Tesla Model Ss with an 85 kWh battery will get the equivalent of 89 miles per gallon. That may be 10 fewer miles per gallon equivalent than the 2012 Nissan Leaf, currently the country’s most popular battery electric vehicle, but the Model S does have a bigger interior and a lot more power: it hits 60 mph in between 4.4 and 6.5 seconds, depending on specification, compared to the Leaf’s 9.7 second sprint.
While Tesla has long said that it was shooting for its 85-kWh models to travel a full 300 miles on one charge, the final EPA-estimated range is 265 miles. As we previously reported, Tesla says this is the result of differing testing methods: Tesla’s range estimates are at 55 mph, while the EPA’s methodology combines city and highway driving and is much more rigorous.
With the 85-kWh model getting an estimated 265 miles of range, it’s still anyone’s guess as to what less-expensive models will do. The Model S’ initial 1000-car production run will all be 85-kWh Signature Series models, but later models will have available 40- or 60-kWh battery packs that will allow the Model S to go a Tesla-estimated 160 or 230 miles, respectively. Neither Tesla nor the EPA have released those numbers, but expect EPA testing to temper those estimates a bit.
Still, the Model S easily takes the crown of the electric-only car with the furthest range, dwarfing the Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf, with their respective ranges of 98 and 100 miles.
By Ben Timmins
Modern cars feel so substantial and safe they can often feel impregnable–you’re just rolling along in your little bubble, protected from the world outside.
The Model S, the luxurious electric car from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] with its large body, incredible refinement and luxurious interior is just such a vehicle–though as the video above (via Wired) demonstrates, there’s only so much extreme force a car can handle.
No car is completely crash-proof, and it can take the work of a split-second out on the road for something to go very, very wrong.
If it does, modern cars really are as safe as they feel, with airbags, deforming crash structures and more, keeping occupants as safe as possible.
But put enough force through a car body and occupants can still become trapped, or incapacitated to such an extent that safety teams need extraction tools like the “jaws of life” to provide better access for ambulance crews.
In an electric car, there’s an element of added danger for those crews, with high voltage cables and different body structures to contend with.
It might be excruciating to watch the Model S torn apart, bit by bit, but reassuring to know that if the worst happens, the emergency services still have a way of extracting you from the car.
In the video above, the real action starts around the 27-minute mark, as safety crews rip the front passenger door from its frame. They then remove the front wing and hood, before making cuts into the A-pillar, chassis support struts and finally, the door surround–careful to avoid the electric components nearby.
All this accomplished, some dashboard support struts are cut, before a hydraulic ram pushes the dashboard upward. The resulting gap could be enough to free an injured passenger’s legs following a crash–or to give paramedics a larger space to extract a passenger with back or neck injuries.
Tesla itself provided the Model S for Fremont Fire Department to train on–and the resulting video can be used to train other crews to deal with the car.
The rest of the video goes through all the realities and myths faced by first responders to electric vehicle accidents–and it’s worth a watch to fully reassure you of the safety of these vehicles.