Archives for July 16th, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

  • BY AARON ROBINSON

    Driving the new Tesla Model S out of its factory in Fremont, California, you pass the empty glass and steel husk of neighboring Solyndra Corp., another Silicon Valley technology venture that was propelled by optimism and bountiful government loans. Solyndra made solar panels, but it broke apart on the rocks of business reality, and its politicized bankruptcy has been a daunting daily reminder to Tesla’s 1700 employees of the consequences of  failure.

    However, there are reasons for at least temporary optimism for Tesla. We only got 10 minutes in the car so we couldn’t test its range, but here’s what we can report: Our few miles in the Model S revealed a vehicle that would meet a BMW owner’s definition of a sports sedan.

    The 362-hp Signature model we drove, priced at $96,570 before a $7500 federal tax rebate, strained its leash with its prodigious electric muscles and flat-tracked through 80-mph sweepers directed by fast steering with piano-wire tension to the wheels. It pounced from an on-ramp like the jaguar on the hood of the Jaguars it resembles, hitting 100 mph with a whisper of electromotive acceleration. Tesla says the hottest model, the Signature Performance ($106,570), which has the largest available battery and produces the most torque, will hit 60 mph in the mid-fours. At this point, we don’t doubt it.

    The windows are leak-free, the doors don’t squeak, and the seats feel comfortable, though rear headroom is pinched. The various menus of the giant, glowing, iPad-like central display are easy to learn and access while driving, and the combination of a long wheelbase, stiff structure, and compliant tune of the air-spring suspension makes for a gentle, cosseting ride. Besides that, the Model S looks like Beyoncé draped over a chaise lounge.

    The first customer deliveries were in June, but, in reality, most early buyers won’t receive their cars until much later this year or into next. The sprawling industrial campus that was once a GM/Toyota joint-venture plant spewing out 6000 vehicles per week is currently assembling just one Model S a day in an unusual, vertically integrated process that has the Tesla workers stamping their own sheetmetal, injection-molding their own bumper covers, winding their own motors, and upholstering their own seats.

    The company plans to ramp up to 80 cars daily by the end of the year, but since our last visit in October 2011, the crisply refurbished production hall with its army of idle red-painted robots maintains the quiet grand ambience of Westminster Abbey several days before a royal wedding.

    Eventually, after the first 1000 cars are built as loaded-up Signature models, ordering a Model S will involve choosing from two motor-power levels, three battery packs, two onboard chargers, two trim packages, and several stand-alone options.

    Specifications >

    VEHICLE TYPE: rear-motor, rear-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door hatchback

    BASE PRICE: $58,570–$106,570

    MOTOR TYPE: AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor, 362 or 416 hp, 325 or 443 lb-ft

    TRANSMISSION: 1-speed direct drive

    DIMENSIONS:
    Wheelbase: 116.5 in
    Length: 196.0 in
    Width: 77.3 in Height: 56.5 in
    Curb weight: 4650 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
    Zero to 60 mph: 4.4–6.5 sec
    ¼-mile: 12.6–13.7 sec
    Top speed: 110–130 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 147 ft

    FUEL ECONOMY:
    EPA city/highway driving: 88/90 MPGe

    Continued…

  • BY AARON ROBINSON

    The base Model S uses a liquid-cooled AC motor producing 362 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, while the Perform­ance models have a 16,000-rpm motor juiced with additional windings to produce 416 horses and 443 pound-feet. Performance models also will have 21-inch wheels and summer tires instead of 19s and all-seasons.

    Initially, only the top 85-kWh lithium-ion battery pack will be supplied for an advertised range of  300 miles, but lighter, less-expensive 40-kWh and 60-kWh packs will come later, offering claimed ranges of up to 160 miles and 240 miles, respectively. The Model S comes standard with an onboard 10-kW charger, while a 20-kW unit can be purchased initially or retrofitted for $1500. It will cut recharge time on the mega 85-kWh pack from eight hours to about four, depending on the amp and voltage ratings of the garage circuit.

    The Model S concentrates much of its 4650-pound curb weight in the 7000-cell battery pack installed under the floor, so it doesn’t feel the pull of lateral g’s like conventional cars with higher centers of gravity. Thus, Tesla is able to get away with a relatively soft suspension while still keeping pitch and roll in check. The driver can choose from three distinct steering-boost levels, and the air-spring suspension offers four ride heights. The monolithic, half-ton battery case underfoot gives passengers the sense of sitting atop a granite slab. Road bumps are heard but barely felt through the dense structure. The Tesla is a double-bacon porker, but what it does with the pounds makes it magical. Somewhere, Colin Chapman is nodding.

    By producing the aluminum-bodied Model S, Tesla has taken on challenges far exceeding those of building the roadster it has been selling since 2008. With five doors, the option of seven seats, an all-glass dashboard of multicolor display screens, and a battery pack that is promising up to 300 miles of driving, the Model S is co-founder Elon Musk’s moonshot.

    Though it may seem expensive, the more-made-in-America-than-most-“American”-cars Model S can’t possibly turn a profit at its price, given all that is clean-sheet new and novel about it—at least, not until Tesla has closed out a few Decembers at or near its 20,000-per-year sales goal, which, given the cruel history of the auto industry, may be never.

    Various investors, from Toyota to ­Daimler (which supplies a Benz steering ­column to the Model S) to Uncle Sam—with its $465 million in loans—to Tesla’s shareholders on Wall Street, have all bet money and material that Tesla won’t flame out like Solyndra. Without them, there would be no Model S. And unless the car succeeds, there may be no more investors.

    Specifications >

    VEHICLE TYPE: rear-motor, rear-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door hatchback

    BASE PRICE: $58,570–$106,570

    MOTOR TYPE: AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor, 362 or 416 hp, 325 or 443 lb-ft

    TRANSMISSION: 1-speed direct drive

    DIMENSIONS:
    Wheelbase: 116.5 in
    Length: 196.0 in
    Width: 77.3 in Height: 56.5 in
    Curb weight: 4650 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
    Zero to 60 mph: 4.4–6.5 sec
    ¼-mile: 12.6–13.7 sec
    Top speed: 110–130 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 147 ft

    FUEL ECONOMY:
    EPA city/highway driving: 88/90 MPGe

    View Photo Gallery

    By AARON ROBINSON

  • Tesla Model S Coupe Rendering



    Tesla’s Model S electric luxury sedan is a very successful vehicle in the United States. And as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, all the numbers are in Elon Musk’s favor.

    Needless to say, we’ve always wondered what if Tesla built more versions of the Model S. Like a coupe, a station wagon and even a convertible. We bet we’re not alone in this, but there’s no sign that Tesla is going to satisfy our curiosity anytime soon.

    In case you forgot, we’ve already seen the Tesla Model S rendered as a station wagon by Theophilus Chin back in November. Fortunately, the self-proclaimed automotive manipulator is now back to show us the Model S in a coupe version as well, or a 2+2 GT to be more precise.

    “There’s a huge market for an electric 2+2 GT. And I feel Tesla has the right product for that niche,” says Chin. And we couldn’t agree more. The Model S looks stunning with a two-door body-style and we strongly believe that Musk should do some serious thinking after this.

    See for yourself below and don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts with us.

    Check out the Tesla Model S Coupe Rendering photo gallery

    By Ciprian Florea

    Tesla Explains Model S Price Hike – Also Announces Battery Pack Prices



    The recent announcement made by Tesla, that they would be adding an additional $2,500 to the $57,400 base price of the Model S sedan. While price changes are common in the automotive industry, the increase operated by Tesla seems a bit steep, if one does not have the appropriate background information.

    In order to clear up at least some of the questions posed by those who have already ordered the car, as well as the prospective buyers who are thinking of ordering the EV, Tesla VP of worldwide sales and ownership experience, George Blanenship gave additional explanations on the matter.

    He noted that with the increase in price, owners will be getting extra stuff, like 12-way adjustable heated front seats, which will become standard, as of 2013, while the Performance Package will include 19-inch rims as standard, while 21-inch wheels will still be sold as an optional extra.

    They have also added a 50,000-mile Four-Year Extended Warranty pack, which costs an additional $2,500, while a Four-Year 50,000-mile Prepaid Maintenance program is now available for $1,900. Another important piece of information, shared by Blanenship is the pricing information for the three battery packs.

    The 40 kWh pack will cost $8,000 to replace, while the 60 kWh pack costs $2,000 more and the largest pack, the 85 kWh variant adds 2000 more dollars to that. More information will be made available soon, according to the official information.

    By Andrei Nedelea

    September Plug-In Electric Car Sales Surge, As Tesla Sells 200 (Or So)

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

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

    Enlarge Photo

    Sales of plug-in electric cars surged in September, after setting a new record in August.

    And this month’s notable event was the projected delivery of 200 or more 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sport sedans to buyers.

    Tesla refuses to release monthly sales figures, as every other automaker does, but the company said it would deliver between 200 and 225 Model S cars by the end of the month.

    That figure came from a quarterly report filed by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Tesla has not provided an exact total of the cars it sold last month.

    Even without confirmed Tesla numbers, plug-in sales in September totaled more than 5,550 cars. That gives last month the highest total since modern electric cars went on sale in December 2010.

    The Chevrolet Volt continued its recent strong sales, with 2,851 Volts delivered in September.

    That number is just a fraction higher than previous highest-ever number of 2,831, registered last month, and it brings total sales for the year to 16,348 of Chevy’s range-extended electric car.

    New incentives and lower lease rates on the Nissan Leaf helped its September sales, which rose to 984 from 685 in August–the Leaf’s best single-month sales total since September 2011.

    Total sales this year for Nissan’s all-electric hatchback are still only 5,212, fewer than the 7,199 that had been sold at the same time last year.

    Sales of the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, the third of the three high-volume plug-in cars this year, were 1,652–just two units shy of its best month ever, which was this past April.

    The September total is a huge increase from the 1.047 of its plug-in Prius sold in August, and Toyota has now sold 50 percent more plug-in Priuses (7,734) than Nissan has Leafs (5,212) so far this year.

    Continuing its recent trend, 36 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric minicars also found buyers. Ford Focus Electric sales numbers won’t be available until tomorrow.

    There were 16 sales of the 2013 Honda Fit EV, and no fewer than 61 copies of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EVs sold in its inaugural month as well–though both models are still only limited-volume compliance cars.

    Of the other makers of plug-in electric cars, Coda Automotive and Fisker Automotive decline to provide any monthly sales data.

    +++++++++++

    By John Voelcker

    Consumer Reports Gets Delivery of Their Own Tesla Model S [Video]



    It seems strangely hard to get hold of solid road test information on the Tesla Model S. Sure, the limited number of test drives which have already been done all say it supreme in every single way – a car with very few faults to speak of.

    However, we were waiting for Consumer Reports to get one and try it out in their own characteristic fashion. As usual, the crew at CR have bought their very own Model S, for which they paid $89,650. It is a well-specced car, with Nappa leather seats, electrically-operated sunroof and onboard charger.

    It also features the largest 85 kWh battery pack, which gives it a manufacturer claimed 265 miles or 425 km of autonomy on a single charge.

    CR have announced that they will be posting a full review of the Model S, once the car is 'broken in', and has done a sufficient number of miles for the test to be as thorough as we have come to expect from the publication. We also say it will fare a lot better than the mediocre Fisker Karma.

    By Andrei Nedelea

    Electrifying Celebration for Musk and Co. at Tesla’s Newport Beach Dealership

    Electrifying Celebration for Musk and Co. at Tesla’s Newport Beach Dealership

    It’s been a busy few days for the folks at Tesla Motors, perhaps the busiest in company history. Last night, the company capped off an epic week that included a $226.1 million dollar IPO and the debut of its updated Roadster 2.5 with the grand opening celebration of its Newport Beach, California, dealership.

     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image
     image

    It’s Tesla’s 8th sales and service operation in the U.S. and 12th worldwide (the company’s 13th store was opened simultaneously in Cophenhagen, Denmark). Although the Newport Beach facility has already been open for a few weeks, that didn’t stop Tesla team members and invited guests from cutting loose. Libations flowed as fancy hors d’oeuvres circulated among the tanned and enhanced revelers and handful of new Roadster 2.5 models spread around the showroom floor. For the young and young at heart, Tesla set up a basic remote control car racing area in the back. Out front, guests were given Roadster rides along PCH. Overall, the mood was optimistic, upbeat — you might even say electric.

    CEO Elon Musk was on hand, chatting and posing for photographs with owners and prospective customers. Musk also delivered opening remarks before handing over the keys to a new roadster buyer. Also working the crowd was Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer and veteran auto couturier.

    Located on the Mariner’s Mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in the heart of Newport Beach, the dealership is located across the street from the area’s swankiest yacht club, just down the road from several luxury and exotic car purveyors, including Bentley, BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s an impressive facility befitting its surroundings; fronted by gaudy neo classical columns, the enormous showroom space boasts soaring ceilings and yards of glass. No surprise a Rolls-Royce dealer occupied the space until 2008.

    Located at 1100 West Coast Highway, the Newport Beach dealership is also the newest regional hub for Tesla’s mobile service squad, which offers house calls for customers. Technicians Tesla calls “Rangers” will travel throughout the southwestern U.S. to customers’ homes to perform annual inspections, firmware upgrades and other services.

    By Edward Loh