Archives for July 11th, 2013

Jay Leno Is Impressed by Tesla’s Model S [Video]

Jay Leno’s opinion on cars matters to a lot of people, and with good reason, as he always knows what he’s talking about, and always seems to ask the right questions – the same questions any ‘car guy’ would ask, if faced with the same situation.

The latest car he’s tested is really special – the Tesla Model S, a car which is slowly gaining recognition and appreciation, all throughout the automotive world. As others before have said, Jay liked its styling, interior, ease of use, comfort, quality, and of course, the stunning performance – he even does a burnout, right at the end of the video.

He is also impressed by the range of the car, as well as Tesla’s new Supercharger charging stations, which now allow inter-city travel in the Model S, giving the car an extra 240 km (150 miles) of range, for 30 minutes of charging.

Jay tested the highest-spec car, with the largest battery pack, which has a theoretical maximum range of 480 km (300 miles), yet even the smaller battery packs will often suffice for those who only drive their car in town.

By Andrei Nedelea

World Exclusive! 2012 Tesla Model S Test and Range Verification

2012 Tesla Model S Front Motion On PCH

2012 Tesla Model S Front Three Quarter Motion During Testing

2012 Tesla Model S Rear View At Track

2012 Tesla Model S Front Three Quarter

See All 19 Photos

To start off, let’s see a show of hands for how many of you have watched both of Chris Paine’s EV documentaries, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and “Revenge of the Electric Car”? I’m going to turn on your computer’s Web cam for a moment and take a count.

Hmm, that’s not very many.

2012 Tesla Model S Front Three Quarter Motion During Testing

If you’re one of the few who have seen them both (like me), then you might be getting the idea that the battery-electric car’s storyline has now pulled out of its post-EV1 nosedive and is winging its way toward a sky-blue future, with squadrons of Nissan Leafs coming to the rescue as “The Ride of the Valkyries” blares in the background, “Apocalypse Now”-style.

Reality check: The Leaf’s sales have been as brisk as soggy leaves on a damp lawn. And the electrified versions of the Ford Focus, Honda Fit, and Toyota RAV4 — despite incremental improvements — aren’t likely to fare much better. If their project managers were interrogated with the aid of smoldering cigarette butts, they’d confess that these cars are basically money-sieves necessary to satisfy the influential Golden State’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate. Meanwhile, the controversial growth of fracking is pushing the electric car’s peak oil justification farther into the future. The headwinds are strong.

But before anyone demands a refund from Mr. Paine, let me direct you to the following spider graph, plotting a few of the more significant attributes of battery-electric cars: their range, recharge rate, cost, 0-60 mph time, and gas-equivalent mpg. The better the car is in each attribute, the farther out it goes on the graph. Other than price, the Tesla gets out to the edges.

Tesla Model S Spider Graph

As you can see, there just might be a revenge of the electric car after all (the revenge of the revenge?), courtesy of the only major electric car builder producing EVs without being forced to: Tesla.

Last month, our technical director Frank Markus took the 2012 Tesla Model S out for a spin in the environs around Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory and walked us through the car’s technological particulars. Now, I’m standing next to the dragstrip at Auto Club Speedway and across from me in a black Model S Signature Performance 85 (I’ll explain all that later) is Carlos Lago, who’s readying himself to put down our first official test numbers. Did I mention this is Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s personal car?

And just like that, Carlos and Musk’s car are gone. Like, gone. Without a tire chirp. I’m rotating my head at an unusual rate to track him. Were I in a dark, cool movie theater, I’d pass the spectacle off as Hollywood special effects. But looking around — yep, there are damp patches under my armpits and the sun overhead is like in an old Western where the lost cowboy drops to the desert sand in delirium. I’m definitely in Fontana in August. And that big sedan quietly teleporting itself to the far end of the dragstrip is actually happening. Moreover, had I been looking in a different direction I might have missed everything, because the car’s soundtrack is no more than a hushed ssshhhhhh. It’s as if you’re listening to a fast gasoline car while wearing Bose noise-canceling headphones.

When we crunched the numbers (with no weather correction because the car doesn’t ingest air), the car’s 0-60-mph time was 3.9 seconds, and it ssshhhhhh-ed past the quarter-mile mark in 12.5 seconds at 110.9 mph. We’re on the bleeding edge here, kids. Sedans of this performance caliber are as rare as netting Higgs bosons in the Large Hadron Collider — and in this case, all of them but the Tesla speak with German accents:

Base Price Weight Power 0-60 mph 60-0 mph Lat grip
BMW M5 $92,095 4384 lb 560 hp 3.7 sec 110 ft 0.94 g
Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG $96,805 4256 lb 550 hp 3.9 sec 113 ft 0.92 g
Porsche Panamera Turbo S $176,275 4388 lb 550 hp 3.5 sec 105 ft 1.00 g
Tesla Model S P85 $105,400 4766 lb 416 hp 3.9 sec 105 ft 0.92 g

And were we to have measured those 0-60 mph times from the first twitch of accelerator movement instead of after the standard 1-foot roll-out, the Model S would be already off and away while the gas cars were still reacting to their suddenly opened throttles. It’s a startlingly instant shove into the seatback. Measured by our classical methods, the Model S P85 is now the fastest American sedan, and close to the fastest anywhere. And in the real-jousting that sometimes erupts on highways (you know what I’m talking about), it’s probably the quickest.

Maybe you’ve also noticed the Model S’ 400-500-pound weight penalty over those Germans. Its lithium-ion battery pack, which resides like a great slab beneath the car’s floor, is enormously heavy. The car’s maximal use of aluminum partly mitigates this, but one senses that Model S’ interior materials (door panels, in particular) are deliberately lightweight. They don’t have the solid heft of those German sedans’ baroquely detailed, old-world cabins, but on the other hand, you might picture the design as an ascetic, Apple-esque absence of unnecessary adornment, too. After Carlos finished his brake stops (great grip with no oddball shuttering or fade), the Model S was handed over to me and our 1/3-mile figure-eight handling test.

2012 Tesla Model S Rear View At Track

Building up speed around the infinity-symbol course, the car’s minimal roll isn’t surprising, what with its low-slung battery. But its 0.92 g of grip is great for a 4766-pound sedan. As I mentioned, this is a top-drawer Signature Performance version, meaning it carries the big 85-kW-hour battery (the upcoming entry 40-kW-hr car will be $57,400; the 60 kW-hr version, $67,400; and the 85-kW-hr basis for our test car is $77,400 — all before the $7500 federal tax credit). The SP model we’re testing adds extra power (416 hp and 443 lb-ft versus 362 hp and 325 lb-ft), sport-tuned traction control, nicer interior materials, and carbon-fiber aero trim. Add to that two significant option boxes checked for our test example: a $1500 giant glass sunroof and no-cost Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires wrapping 21-in wheels — hence that lateral grip.

As I pour more of the car’s power into the figure eight’s corner exits, it becomes a little difficult to keep the steering corrections ahead of the tail’s waggings. The problem is a slightly aggressive accelerator response. For performance driving, this should be toned down a bit.

2012 Tesla Model S Front Three Quarter

2012 Tesla Model S Side View

2012 Tesla Model S Rear Three Quarter

2012 Tesla Model S Cockpit And Center Screen

2012 Tesla Model S Front Cargo Area

2012 Tesla Model S Steering Wheel

Take a second to think about that spider graph and the performance chart above. The Model S is either dominant — or at least thoroughly competitive — in two diametrically opposite automotive worlds. It embarrasses its high-efficiency, electric car peers with one hand, while happily trading steel-knuckle punches with Germany’s mightiest warp-speed heavyweights with the other.

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Up At Fontana

With answers in hand about the Model S’ performance, the other empty check-box to explore is just how far this big battery version can actually travel on a single charge. According to the EPA’s 5-cycle test procedure, it’s rated at 265 miles in its extended range mode, which fills the battery nearly to its brim. But after our testing wrapped, and we plugged it in to recharge, I happened to glance at the car’s big, 17-inch, multi-touch display and its energy-use data. Eeek — all of our testing, including a few dragstrip runs just for photography, had consumed 13 miles. And the car’s computer was predicting that at the abusive rate we were going, our Model S was only good for another…40 miles. A 265-mile range? Is this really possible?2012 Tesla Model S Nav System Map

After a full, extended range charge at the track, navigator and data collector Benson Kong and I left the Speedway and aimed south towards San Diego over the inland hills via Interstate 15, hoping to touch that major metropolitan base before swinging north again on the I-5 and peeling off on the Pacific Coast Highway for a slow, stoplight-punctuated march back to our El Segundo office. Start to endpoint, it looked to be about 240 miles.

Even with the A/C off (but with ventilation on), cruise control set at 65 mph, and the body lowered on its air suspension, the car’s range prediction quickly went sour. Out came the iPad and iPhone maps to nervously ponder shortcuts to the I-5 prior to San Diego.What was happening?

The passing tree tops were noticeably stirring and the occasional flag was pointing at us at three-quarter headwind angles. But there’s also something that’s underappreciated by these laboratory tests: the impact of ordinary driving chaos, even in moderate traffic. Time and again I had to override the cruise control and punch the brakes because of a lane-changing car or sharply accelerate to get around somebody who seemed to suddenly fall asleep directly in front of us. Every time, Benson, watching the numbers like a broker on the floor of the Stock Exchange, would admonish me, “smoother, smoother, don’t be so jerky,” but there was nothing I could do. Eventually, the car’s range prediction seemed to brighten and as we arced through San Diego, we even punctuated the point by dog-legging down the 163 toward downtown.

2012 Tesla Model S Front Seats

“My leg is starting to hurt,” Benson suddenly said, and I was simultaneously thinking that I wouldn’t want to drive much more than 265 miles in these seats anyway. They’re beautiful, but the seat bottoms are too thin and firm. On the other hand, the car’s mammoth and marvelous multi-touch screen is a happy distraction, with the sort of brilliant resolution and cool features that might have had Steve Jobs uttering “Insane!” (Think 3G Internet access, a giant back-up camera screen, and swipe-able icons.) Indeed, the whole car is a compellingly imaginative re-thinking of how we interact with cars in the first place. For instance? There’s no actual ‘on’ button. The Model S ‘knows’ you’re ready to drive by recognizing that you’ve gotten in (door opens and closes, weight on the driver’s seat), are ready to drive (seatbelt latched), and are taking action (tapping the brake pedal). That’s it.

Up the 5 we went, briefly grinding to a halt in late afternoon traffic, but after that, sailing along until we exited for Highway 1 North in Dana Point, where we pulled into a Starbucks to consider the situation. Would we make to the office? Benson’s numbers were close, but the experience Benson and I have had with EVs is that they love this slower-speed stuff. No sweat, I’m thinking. In Laguna Beach, the Energy Czar himself suddenly said “nail it” — and I obliged, warp-speeding us to the next block. A little further, photographer Brian Vance (in a BMW 528i chase car) barks from the walkie-talkie, “Why don’t we do a lap around your old magazine workplace?” Why not, I think, but as I crank the wheel up the hill, Benson shouts, “Noooo!” “Relax,” I reply, “we’ve got plenty of battery. Plenty.”

2012 Tesla Model S Front Closeup On Highway

2012 Tesla Model S Rear View Heading South

2012 Tesla Model S Rear Motion On PCH

2012 Tesla Model S Rear View On Highway

2012 Tesla Model S Side View Motion On Highway

2012 Tesla Model S Front Motion On Highway

A few minutes later, Benson somberly calculates that we’re running a mile short of making it to the MT garage. I’m silent. And slow down a bit. Crap.

To break the tension, we discuss the car’s ride, which is firm but appropriate for a performance car like this. And it’s difficult to keep that in mind, since its quietness suggests more of a Rolls-Royce than an AMG Mercedes. Benson frequently asks if I’m braking. No, I’m doing lift-throttle regen, but it’s a strong enough tug to make him wonder if I’m touching the brake pedal.

The range number finally drops into the single digits. “How far do we have to go?” “Seven-and-a-half miles,” Benson reports. The display says we’ve got a range of six. I call Tesla and nonchalantly ask, “So, uh, I’m just curious — what happens when the car gets to zero miles?”

Tesla Model S Range Test Map

“It stops,” was the reply. Hmmm. We turn off the ventilation completely and dial down the instrument panel’s illumination until we can barely see the range number. I remind myself this is Elon Musk’s personal car. Do I want to be the famous bozo who conks out in it on Pacific Coast Highway in traffic? No way, brother.

With 4 miles of remaining range we pass a public ChargePoint station on the opposite side of the road. I grit my teeth, wheel around, and plug in. Benson is broadcasting telepathic messages I can’t repeat here. One lousy detour…

We’ve traveled 233.7 miles and wind up short by 1.7.

The total range — adding the unused 4 miles, would be 238. Yes, 238 is 11 percent short of 265. Moreover, it was done while being very stingy with performance (for the most part). Is that 265 actually valid? If you drive predominately at highway speeds, then probably not. But were we to have included more medium-speed roads (long stretches at 45-50 mph) well, possibly.

2012 Tesla Model S Charge

But the range that matters is really a psychological/perceptual one, not a specific number. Think about it: We drove from Fontana on the eastern edge of the L.A. basin to San Diego and all the way back to L.A.’s Pacific edge on one charge. Five hours of continuous driving. This is a breakthrough accomplishment that ought to knock down the range anxiety barrier that’s substantially limited EV sales. (Tesla is also preparing to deploy a network of super-fast chargers to supply some 150 miles worth of range in 30 minutes along many common long-distance driving corridors). Using Tesla’s home charger (240 volts at 80 amps) a full extended-range battery refill requires 6 hours (4 hours for standard-range recharge).

During our drive, we used 78.2 kW-hrs of electricity (93 percent of the battery’s rated capacity). What does that mean? It’s the energy equivalent of 2.32 gasoline gallons, or 100.7 mpg-e before charging losses. That BMW 528i following us (powered by a very fuel-efficient, turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine) consumed 7.9 gallons of gas for a rate of 30.1 mpg. The Tesla’s electrical energy cost for the trip was $10.17 (at California’s average electrical rate); the BMW’s drive cost $34.55. The 528i emitted 152 lbs of CO2; the Model S, 52 — from the state’s power plants.

2012 Tesla Model S Rear Three Quarter Motion

For sure, it’s a game-changer of a car, then. But a car isn’t really metal and glass and rubber and leather at all. It’s people. With dreams, brains, and drive. And from Musk to Boaz Chai, who oversaw our garage charger installation (and like many of them, is a Stanford engineering grad), Tesla — like Apple in the electronic device realm — is the sort of ambitious and fearlessly innovative company this country needs a thousand more of.

We’ve got even more to come this week on the new Model S! Stay tuned next Thurs., Sept. 6, for another extended range feature here at, along with a special episode of Wide Open Throttle at our Motor Trend YouTube Channel at:

2012 Tesla Model S P85
BASE PRICE $105,400*
VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear-motor, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
MOTOR 416-hp/443-lb-ft AC electric
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4766 lb (47/53%)
WHEELBASE 116.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 196.0 x 77.3 x 56.5 in
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 12.5 sec @ 110.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 105 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.3 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 38/37 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.00 lb/mile (at car)
*Before $7500 Federal Tax Credit

By Kim Reynolds

Tesla CEO Musk: We’ll Build 80 Model S Electric Cars This Week

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

Enlarge Photo

The 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan is now in a race with time.

The first production Model S was delivered in June, and Tesla has cautiously been ramping up production numbers while trying to keep initial quality high.

But the company has said repeatedly it will sell 5,000 of its new electric car by the end of this year, and indeed, its cashflow needs may require that volume to be delivered.

Tesla news often seems to come first from the personal Twitter account of CEO Elon Musk.

So it was with a message late last night, in which Musk tweeted, “Tesla made 100 vehicle bodies this week for the first time. Really proud of the team!”

Accompanying the message was a photo of a partial aluminum frame that Musk identified as “S/N 396,” or serial number 396–indicating that almost 400 production bodies have now been assembled.

[UPDATE: In SEC paperwork filed on September 25, Tesla Motors stated, “As of September 23, 2012, we have produced a total of 255 Model S vehicles, including 77 Model S vehicles produced during the week ended September 23, 2012. ” That number presumably refers to completed vehicles, not body shells.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Five days after this article ran on September 17, we were contacted by Christina Ra of Tesla Motors, who said the number of 400 bodies built was inaccurate. She would not provide any information to back up this claim, beyond saying that the serial number is not indicative in this case. In the absence of actual facts, you may draw your own conclusions.]

Separately, Musk said four days ago in a Fox Business video interview that the company was likely to build 80 completed cars this week, after assembling 40 last week.

In the same interview, Musk predicted a “tsunami of hurt” coming for investors that have shorted the stock of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], of whom there are substantial numbers.

When we drove early-production Model S cars in mid-July, the serial numbers of the four different models were 106, 108, 111, and 116.

Eight weeks later, the company has built 280 more cars.

To hit its goal of 5,000 sales, the company likely needs to build something like 5,500 cars.

Model S vehicles are personally delivered to a location of the buyer’s choice, so the company’s “pipeline” holds less inventory than for companies that offer conventional dealer distribution.

To build 5,200 more cars in the 14 weeks between now and Christmas, Tesla Motors will have to hit a production rate around 400 cars a week, or the 80 cars a day Musk has mentioned in the past. That’s five times the current rate.

Thus far, and unlike startup Fisker Automotive, Tesla has not had any major quality flaws reported in the media.

Will the company achieve its goal of 5,000 deliveries by December 31?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


By John Voelcker

New 'Inside Tesla' Video Released [Video]

Tesla have released a series of videos, detailing the production procedures, the atmosphere within factory and the techniques used to build each Model S. This latest movie details the manufacturing process behind the EV as the official launch date draws ever nearer.

There are exactly two days left before the event, and Tesla are keen to re-assert themselves as a proper car manufacturer, showing how their cars are made and tested. We must say that we’ve been won over by the brand and their Model S, and we think that if it proves to be reliable, it should and will make its mark in its crowded market sector.

We really want to start seeing these cars on the road, as they represent something new and fresh, while also being very technically competent, even compared to their established rivals.

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Model S Electric-Car Deliveries For Q1: 4,750-Plus, Says Company

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

When the news is good, you want to get it out there.

Last night, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] released a statement saying that it had delivered more than 4,750 Model S cars from January 1 through March 31 of this year.

The statement came before the first quarter of 2013 had even technically ended (California time).

But as Tesla noted, those total deliveries exceeded its prior estimate of 4,500 Model S cars delivered for the quarter.

That means, the company noted, that it will amend its Q1 financial guidance from achieving an operating profit to full profitability (including capital expenses and other costs).

In a statement posted on its blog, CEO Elon Musk said he was “incredibly proud of the Tesla team for their outstanding work.”

Musk also thanked the company’s customers for their “passionate support” of both the Model S cars they had purchased and of Tesla itself.

“Without them,” Musk noted, accurately, “we would not be here.”

40-kWh Model S canceled

The announcement also included some revisions to the plans for the 2013 Tesla Model S lineup.

The last and smallest battery-pack option to go into production, the 40-kilowatt-hour version, will not be offered after all, “due to lack of demand.”

Tesla noted that just 4 percent of its Model S deposits were for the lowest-range version, which didn’t justify producing it.

Customers who put down a deposit on the 40-kWh model will instead receive a 60-kWh Model S–but, Tesla said, “range will be software-limited to 40 kWh.”

That means, we presume, that range will be roughly two-thirds of the 208-mile EPA rating for the Model S 60-kWh version.

Those cars will not only have a higher top speed and better acceleration than the 40-kWh model would have, Tesla said, but can also be upgraded back into a regular 60-kWh car at some future point by any owner.

The company did not specify the cost of such an upgrade.

Supercharger hardware standard

Finally, the company said that all 60-kWh Model S cars have been built with the Supercharger quick-charge hardware as standard.

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

Enlarge Photo

That was to have been an extra-cost option, but Tesla–calling it an “Easter egg” to celebrate yesterday’s Christian holiday–said the quick-charging equipment will continue to be standard on all Model S versions.

That will, the company suggests, improve those cars’ resale value even if their drivers never use the Supercharger network of Tesla-only quick-charging locations.

That network now includes eight locations in California and the Northeast Corridor, but is expected to add more stations in the Northeast and expand into Florida, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest in the near future.

Tesla communications director Shanna Hendriks took pains to point out that last night’s sales announcement was not the “really exciting” news about which CEO Elon Musk tweeted last Monday.

That news, in which Musk will “put [his] money where [his] mouth is in [a very] major way,” was intended for last Thursday but later postponed until tomorrow.


By John Voelcker

Tesla says it will sell 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of 2012


Tesla Motors released its 2011 financial results Thursday, as well as some information on the company’s plans for 2012 and beyond. CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the highly-anticipated Model S electric sedan will be in customer’s driveways by the end of 2012.

According to Musk, Tesla will sell 5,000 Model S sedans beginning in the second half of 2012, and that no cars will be available to journalists until the first batch is delivered to customers. “We want the car to be as close to perfect as possible before we give it to any automotive journalists,” Musk said. Tesla may be using the same approach as rival Fisker, which released a small batch of Karma sedans (officially classified as prototypes by the government) to customers as a final test before the car’s full production run. A few of these pre-production Karmas did find their way into journalists’ hands.

Musk is very confident about the Model S, saying that it is a luxury car first and an electric car second. Instead of competing with other electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, Musk said the Model S will compete with high-price sedans like the Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5 and 7 series, and the Porsche Panamera.

Musk expects buyers to order $10,000 to $15,000 worth of options on their cars. That would make the Model S much more profitable than if every car sold was a base model.

Although the Model S is not quite finished, Musk also said that it is “increasingly likely” that the car will score five-star crash-safety ratings in all categories.

While the Model X crossover is the fastest selling Tesla in the company’s short history, generating $40 million in sales since the concept was unveiled last week, Musk is not concerned that it will cannibalize Model S sales, saying that Model S sales have risen because of publicity from the Model X unveiling. Tesla plans to sell both cars in China.

After the Model S and Model X reach production, Tesla plans to build a third car (the Model Z?) priced in the $30,000 range, which would make it more of a mainstream product than the luxury Model S and Model X. Musk said the company is approving this third model because it is confident that battery technology has reached the point where it is scalable to high-volume production.

The next Tesla Roadster has been pushed back by this new project; it will arrive as a 2015 model. The first-generation roadster was based on the now-defunct Lotus Elise; it is unclear which platform Tesla will use for the new one.

Will the Model S live up to Musk’s predictions? The world will find out in a few months.

By Stephen Edelstein