Archives for July 24th, 2013
In case you haven't heard of the Tesla Model S yet, it's the geekiest car on the planet. They are making it in California and is definitely not your typical car, more like an iPhone with wheels than anything else.
It's got the coolest center display in the world, a touchscreen that could be considered larger than some TV screens, up to 300 miles of electric range and because there's no gas engine at the front, extra storage has been create there.
However, the part we're interested in today is the electric motor mounted at the back between the two wheels it drives. The torque and power it provides are enough to take on proper sportscar that don't have rear seats or complicated infotainment systems.
This drag race between a Tesla Model S and the Dodge Viper shows what we're talking about. Off the line, the EV is much quicker than Detroit's best. A Viper usually has 600 horsepower, but this one has been fitted with exhaust and air filter upgrade, so it eventually manages to pull away.
This just goes to show you what Tesla learned with the Roadster was put to good use.
By Mihnea Radu
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Two weeks and 600 miles ago, I took delivery of a 60-kWh 2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan.
I won’t dwell on the ear-flattening acceleration, nor the magic-carpet ride and handling, nor the mesmerizing 17-inch touch screen controls.
Those features have been exhaustively analyzed and reported by far more expert authorities than I.
I’ll just say that I was expecting a world-class cutting-edge luxury sport sedan, and that’s just what Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] delivered.
But there have also been a few things I didn’t expect.
Here are some of the little surprises–good and bad–that I’ve noticed in the Model S so far.
One of the joys of electric driving is regenerative braking. Lift your foot off the “gas” pedal, and the car slows aggressively as the drive motor turns into a generator and sends current back into the battery.
Strong regen is not only energy-efficient, but also gives the car a sporty, responsive feel, like engine braking in a gas car in a low gear. Electric-car drivers call it “one-pedal driving.” With strong regen, you’ll hardly ever touch the brake.
Different electric cars have different levels of regen. The gentle Nissan Leaf is designed to feel like a standard car [but has two different settings for Regen, D and ECO].
The Chevy Volt has two regen settings, one that mimics conventional gasoline cars, and a second stronger one that allows for one-pedal driving. (I drive my Volt in this “L” mode virtually 100 percent of the time.)
Tesla’s first car, the two-seat Roadster, had particularly strong regen, a popular feature with its performance-oriented owners.
The Model S, like the Volt, has two settings: Low, which mimics conventional cars, and Standard, which follows in the one-pedal tradition of the Roadster.
I was eagerly anticipating the same sporty, responsive regen feel that had hooked me in the Volt.
Not so much, it turns out.
To my surprise, regenerative braking in the Model S virtually disappears when the battery is cold. Starting out on a winter’s day, it feels disappointingly like any old ICE car–even with the regen on the highest setting.
As the battery warms, the regen gradually increases. But it can take a maddeningly long time to get back to the max level.
Model S vs Volt
On a sunny 40-degree day last week, it took almost 25 miles of driving for full regen to come back. On my typical shorter trips around town, I never get it back. I’d guess that overall, perhaps only a third of my driving so far has had full regen available.
Blame the Model S battery management system, which is programmed to limit the charge rate when the battery is cold.
Under normal circumstances, abruptly backing off the gas pedal at high speed can send a jolt of up to 60 kW into the Model S battery. Tesla engineers believe such bursts of charge are not healthy for cold batteries, and therefore limit regen accordingly.
The Model S has a dashboard dial that shows exactly how much regen current is flowing back into the battery at any given moment. Its maximum reading is 60 kW.
When regen is limited, a dotted line appears on the dial, and the meter won’t go beyond it. On a cold day, the dotted line starts out at around the 15-kW mark and gradually moves up to the 60-kW level before disappearing altogether when the battery reaches its normal operating temperature.
By contrast, the Chevy Volt’s regen is unaffected by temperature. It’s the same sporty feel, winter or summer. Apparently Chevy engineers don’t see a problem with high charge rates for cold batteries.
Do they know something Tesla engineers don’t? Or vice versa?
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Whoever’s right, and long-term battery health notwithstanding, one thing is indisputable: From the driver’s point of view, the regen system of the Model S is a lot less consistent and fun than the Volt’s in cold weather.
One more reason to look forward to summer.
The key fob that won’t shut up
For the last 35 years, I’ve left my keys in the car as it sits overnight in my driveway. (I live in a low-crime area, deep in the woods, at the end of a long driveway.)
It’s a great system. I never, ever forget my keys on the kitchen counter or in the wrong jacket pocket. They’re always waiting in the car.
Until I got the Tesla Model S.
When I casually described my car-key system to the Tesla delivery guy, he frowned and said, “If you do that with this car, you’ll be replacing the key fob battery every month or so.”
He went on to explain that when the key fob is in the car, it stays in constant communication with the Model S computer, which remains on all the time. Even though there’s nothing really to talk about, the key fob keeps talking to the computer 24/7. That takes juice. And that kills batteries. Moral: Don’t leave the key in the car.
I’m trying to reform. It’s not going well.
About half the time, by sheer force of 35-year habit, I walk out the door not thinking about my car keys. I walk up the 200-foot path from the house to the driveway, go through the awkward getting-in contortion the Model S requires of tall, creaky drivers like me, and put the shift lever into Drive–only to be greeted with a “Key Not Inside” alert.
Help me out here, Elon. Could you please make a key fob that shuts up after a while?
I’m ready to wager that no production car in the world coasts better than a Model S.
There’s a long, ruler-straight, very slightly downhill stretch of highway near my home. Visually, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the grade.
But drive the Model S along this stretch and slip the gear lever into neutral, and the car seemingly glides on like magic, maintaining 60 mph with zero energy input. It’s surreal.
Credit the car’s aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.24, the lowest of any production car. Likewise the low-rolling resistance tires, inflated to 45 psi. As far as I can tell, that’s the highest tire pressure on any production car.
The result is a hypermiler’s wet dream.
Which raises the question: if you’ve got regen braking, why bother to coast? By shifting to N, aren’t you losing the chance to put free energy back into the battery?
Yes, you are.
But regen braking slows the car. And to accelerate back up to coasting speed takes all the energy you’ve just put back into the battery, and more.
Assuming a typical motor/generator/inverter effciency of around 80 percent, the regen process wastes about a third of the energy it processes. 100 watt-hours of kinetic energy from the car turns into 80 Wh of electricity back into the battery, which turns into 64 Wh of energy delivered back to the wheels.
Coasting, on the other hand, wastes nothing.
More efficient than the Volt….in winter
After 594 miles of driving, the Model S Magic Screen is telling me I’ve used 217 kWh of electricty, for an average of 365 watt-hours per mile. (Or, if you prefer, 36.5 kWh per 100 miles.)
That’s just slightly above the Tesla’s official EPA rating of 35 kWh per 100 miles. Considering that all my driving was done at temperatures of 25 to 40 degrees, that’s a splendid number indeed.
By comparison, on a typical winter’s day, the Volt uses around 40 kWh per 100 miles.
Thus the Model S–although much larger, around 800 pounds heavier, and with much better performance–is actually more efficient than the Volt in typical winter temperatures. Amazing.
The Volt’s electric efficiency, however, will shoot up dramatically once summer arrives. In 80-degree temperatures, the Volt’s appetite for electrons drops to about 25 kWh per 100 miles.
Will the Tesla’s numbers improve that much in warmer weather?
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Tesla has stubbornly stonewalled my questions about cold-weather range loss for almost a year now.
But based on my winter numbers so far, the Model S appears to lose no more than 10 to 20 percent–dramatically better than the Volt, which in my experience loses up to 50 percent of its range in winter. (As does the Nissan Leaf, according to owner reports.)
I find this to be one of the most intriguing technical mysteries of the electric car world: How does Tesla manage to kick every other company’s butt when it comes to cold-weather efficiency?
Feeding The Vampire
I keep a close eye on my home electric meter. For some reason, it seemed to be running a little faster than normal after I got the Model S.
That was odd, because the Tesla was simply substituting for the electric miles I had already been driving in my Chevy Volt. The two cars are comparable in efficiency on winter days; it shouldn’t have taken more power to run the Model S than the Volt.
And then one night I happened to leave the Tesla unplugged.
When I left the car at 9 p.m., the Rated Range display said I had 169 miles remaining. But next morning, I was surprised to find that the range had dropped to 153 miles.
As an experiment, I left the car unplugged again the next night. (Temperature was in the 20s, a bit colder than the previous night.) Indicated range dropped from 89 miles to 66, a loss of 23 miles.
That’s the equivalent of about 8 kWh of electricity–which is one-third of my daily electric use, not including electric-car miles.
What’s going on here? Does it really cost as much in electricity to let the Model S sit static as it does to drive it?
I’m currently researching the topic further, and plan to use a watt-hour meter to determine precisely what goes on when a Model S sits unused, plugged in or not,.
Till then, I wouldn’t advise leaving your Model S unplugged at an airport for a couple of weeks–despite the owner’s manual’s assurances to the contrary.
David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland
Despite the fact that Tesla has so far failed to reach its intended production capacity for the Model S sedan, they have not forgotten about the Model X crossover. Now, they have received a $10-million grant from teh California Energy Commission, to which they will be adding $50-million of their own money, in order to get the production of the Model X underway.
The money will be used for the expansion and retooling of their Fremont, California plant, which currently only makes the Model S. Manufacturing equipment will also be bought, in order to manufacture the needed parts for the new model.
Also, some 700 extra workers will be hired, in order to actually commence production. The official date for the start of production is still unknown, but since they have begun preparation for it, things should be all set-up by the middle of next year, in order to keep their promise of starting deliveries in 2014.
For most Tesla buyers, the wait between order and delivery has been around three months, despite the Tesla website insisting the wait is closer to two. But that’s all about to change, well at least for a few high-rolling buyers. Tesla says it has some fully-loaded 85-kWh 2013 Tesla Model S Performance models as inventory vehicles ready for delivery today.
Even with a price tag around $110,00, buyers won’t be able to specify options or color combos because supplies are limited and the cars have already been built. If you’re the kind of wealthy EV enthusiast who hates to wait, however, this opportunity could be just what you’ve been hoping for.
This deal reminds us of the old Henry Ford quote about the Model T, “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.”
Why does Tesla have top of the line inventory vehicles sitting around, awaiting buyers? It’s simple, really; some of the inventory vehicles had been ordered by buyers who were unable to come up with the funds by the delivery date and others were used as in-store display cars.
All the inventory vehicles have been spec’d with 21-inch wheels, the Performance Plus handling package, panoramic sunroofs, and the technology and premium sound packages. As for colors, the inventory fleet has every color that Tesla offers, including the highly anticipated multicoat red, according to Green Car Reports.
So here’s your chance. If you have the funds and hate waiting, your Model S awaits. We’d run down and grab a few but our money is tied up in some offshore deals right now. You know how it is.
By Nick Jaynes
While all ‘green’ car news of the week have been pretty much all about the launch of the Tesla Model S, another California-based ‘green’ automaker with a decently successful car, Fisker, is looking to increase its brand appeal, not to be left behind by Tesla.
Apparently, Fisker launched a US ad campaign for the Karma, on the very same day that the Model S was officially launched – we suspect that this is no accident. Furthermore, the automaker has also been working hard on expanding its European dealer network, after having granted sales rights to a company which sells BMW, Ferrari and Porsche cars in Spain, as well as Portugal and Morocco. Also, Fisker will be opening a new showroom in ‘green-loving’ Norway, in an old Oslo shipyard.
With Dutch sales going very well, Fisker still has a chance to recover after the recent problems it faced, despite having to overcome another setback in the form of a delay in the production date of its less expensive offering, the Atlantic. This move has been caused by the US Department of Energy freezing most of the $529 (€423) million in loans granted to Fisker.
It’s been a monumental week for Tesla. After bagging $226 million through its initial public offering and watching its stock trend steadily upward since, the Silicon Valley-based electric-vehicle automaker is now spreading the word about its refreshed Roadster 2.5.
On paper, the Roadster 2.5 appears little different from its standard 2.0 counterpart. The front end adopts a new fascia with vents for a more aggressive look, and a redesigned diffuser joins a wider license plate holder on the 2.5′s rear end. The forged, seven-spoke wheels will be available in silver and a new seat design will feature increased bolstering — perfect for those who will be flogging their Roadster 2.5 at the track. A new front fender liner material will help decrease wind noise and what Tesla describes as new “power control hardware” will enable harder driving in hotter temperatures. In addition to these changes, an optional seven-inch touch-screen display with a rear-view camera can also be ordered.
“Although development of the Model S is our main focus, this shows that we still care a great deal about improving the Tesla Roadster,” said Elon Musk, Tesla CEO. “These improvements are a direct result of customer feedback and come only a year after release of Roadster 2.0, showing an exceptionally rapid pace of innovation. Where feasible, we will also offer existing customers the ability to purchase the upgrades now available in version 2.5.”
As detailed in Tesla’s IPO filing, the EV automaker’s future greatly hinges on the success of its next model, the Model S sedan. Profits have been bare, and Tesla needs a decent volume seller to continue funding operations and to help develop an even better Roadster and future battery-electric vehicles. Tesla is hoping that its highly publicized link-up with Toyota will help it to get the Model S into production by 2012.
Tesla has sold over 1200 Roadsters around the world and the Roadster 2.5 is currently available for order.
By Benson Kong
Tesla Model S
With the delay of its Model X crossover until “late in 2014,” it may look as if Tesla’s product pipeline is running dry.
But we suspect the Silicon Valley startup electric-car company will offer a few new variants on its sole product, the Model S luxury sport sedan.
And an obvious next step for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] would be to add the option of all-wheel drive to the Model S.
The company has already revealed that the Model X crossover–built on the same underpinnings as today’s Model S sedan–will have the option of all-wheel drive.
Tesla has engineered the car’s floorpan and suspension to allow a second electric motor to be added to the front axle, with power delivery between front and rear motors controlled electronically.
Moreover, all-wheel drive is becoming a must-have feature for large luxury vehicles.
In markets like the Northeast and affluent mountainous states like Colorado, a large majority of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz sedans (as well as sport-utility vehicles) are sold with all-wheel drive.
Jaguar, in fact, retrofitted all-wheel drive into both its XJ large luxury sedan and its XF mid-size sport sedan, neither of which had been designed to accommodate the hardware, for the 2013 model year.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s sole product offerings have fallen from three to two with the cancellation of the 40-kilowatt-hour version of the Model S–due, the company said, to lack of demand.
So if Tesla’s customers can afford the pricier 60-kWh and 85-kWh versions of the Model S, perhaps there’s more per-car profit to be made in adding all-wheel drive?
Remember, the company’s engineers are designing all-wheel drive for the Model X anyway.
2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with ‘Falcon Doors’ open
And there’s more than enough space under the Model S hood to fit in a second motor. Right now, that space serves as the front trunk–which Tesla insists on calling a “frunk.”
We think there’s a strong chance that at some point over the next 18 months–perhaps this fall, for the long 2014 model year during which the Model X will not arrive–Tesla will announce a new all-wheel-drive option for the Model S.
We’re not going to hazard any guesses about performance, pricing, or other options.
But that’s our semi-informed prediction for today: Watch for the 2014 Tesla Model S to offer all-wheel drive.
[NOTE: Our ready AReddy notes that Tesla CEO Elon Musk answered a question on this topic when he spoke at the Tesla Store in Norway last month.
At about 41:15 in the video, an audience member asks whether “four-wheel drive” for the Model S will “ever be a reality.”
Musk responds, “It’s not going to happen soon; that I could rule out” and then segues into a discussion of how well the traction control on the rear-wheel-drive Model S works on snow and ice.
“Unless you’re going to go off-road,” Musk concludes, “I would say you probably don’t [need it].”]
What do you think? Is this a logical next step for Tesla, until the Model X arrives? Or will the company offer some other options first?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.
[hat tip: Seeking Alpha]
The Citroen DS-19 and the 2013 Tesla Model S duke it out in the latest Head 2 Head episode. The pairing seems odd at first, but host Jonny Lieberman argues that the Model S and the DS are packed with innovation, making both contenders worthy of a comparison.
Lieberman argues that the Citroen might be the most innovative car in the 20th century for many reasons. For starters, the car’s futuristic body is constructed of fiberglass and aluminum, and its oleo-pneumatic, auto-leveling suspension was unlike anything the public had seen back in the 1950s. And the list of innovations continues: its Citromatic transmission (which Lieberman explains in the video), high-mounted brake lights, and lightweight chassis construction.
Next is the Model S, which was the recipient of our 2013 Car of the Year award. Most of you are probably well versed when it comes to this innovative Tesla, which provides drivers with road-trip-worthy range and supercar-like acceleration, all while producing zero emissions. Both cars are impressive indeed, but only one is declared a winner in this Head 2 Head. Watch the video, and let us know which car you’d rather own in the comments below.