Archives for August 15th, 2013
Servicing a vehicle can easily mar the ownership experience, but Tesla Motors is taking steps to ensure its customers are satisfied. Tesla recently revealed improvements to the manner in which the automaker provides service.
Musk said his goal is to transform Tesla’s service experience from “OK” to “great.” To start that process, a fleet of loaded Model S cars(and in some markets, Roadsters) will be offered as loaner cars while owners have their vehicles serviced. The company can have the loaner car delivered to owners for no extra fee. Additionally, Tesla hopes to keep the service fleet fresh and new by allowing customers to purchase the loaner if they like it better than their current car. Tesla says the loaner cars will depreciate at a rate of 1 percent per month and $1 per mile. The cars traded in will simply be put up for sale as a used vehicle.
Tesla also hopes to wipe out any doubt potential electric-car owners have surrounding its batteries. The automaker will replace a defective battery regardless of cause, even if the owner is found to be at fault. That means if the battery fails due to improper charging habits, Tesla will still replace it. Obvious attempts at abuse won’t be covered (one of Tesla’s examples: “lighting the pack on fire with a blowtorch is not covered”). The battery warranty (eight years or 125,000 miles, whichever comes first) won’t change and Tesla will used a refurbished battery pack with equal or better battery capacity than the original.
That said, Tesla is now making the $600 annual checkup completely optional. The automaker points to the fact that its cars require very little service. Brake pads in a Tesla, for example, don’t wear as quickly as those in gas-powered car thanks to the regenerative braking system that recaptures energy while simultaneously slowing down the car. In all, Musk hopes the updates to his automaker’s service and warranty methods will provide customers added peace of mind, even those who have never opened the manual.
“Any product that needs a manual to work is broken,” Musk said in the webcast.
Earlier this month Tesla announced a new financing option that makes owning a Model S more affordable.
Toyota recently announced that it will put the RAV4 EV on sale in California on September 24. The electric crossover will come with a starting price of $49,800.
The aforementioned price might scare you, but you have to know that the car, which has been created together with Tesla Motors, is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 rebate via California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. Thus, you end up paying $39,800 for the car. In addition to that, Toyota will also offer a $599 36-month lease option.
Toyota brags that the RAV4 EV only needs 6 hours for a full charge (using a 240V outlet), while the car’s EPA rating shows a range of 107 miles (172 km) per charge. The automotive producer says that it aims to sell 2,600 units of the car by the end of 2014.
By Andrei Tutu
Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the Tesla Model X prototype to the world today at the site of his other big endeavor, the Space X rocket factory in southern California, which builds the Falcon 9 rocket ship.
The signature feature of the Model X prototype is a falcon of a different kind, what Tesla calls falcon-wing doors, a two-piece articulated gullwing door. Unlike ‘ordinary’ gullwings, the Model X’s powered articulation allows them to stay close to the car’s sides as they rise, making ingress and egress in tight parking spots a snap, just step in and sit down. Musk stood up under them to show how much room there is with the falcon doors in full flight. The opening’s unusually long length also helps accessing the Model X’s twin, third-row seats (there are seven seats in all).
While the Tesla Model X is still of course a prototype with many details that will change, it will share much with its Model S sedan sibling, including its imposing 17-inch hi-res, multi-touch display and its overall vehicle architecture.
Also the same as the Model S will be its pancake-flat, under-floor battery packs in two sizes (60 and 85 kW-hrs). The small, 40 kW-hr size will only be available in the S. Given the bigger size and weight of the Model X, range will likely be at least 10 percent less than what is expected from the Model S, somewhere between about 214 to 267 miles depending on the battery. Recharge times are unchanged at about four hours for the big battery.
Extending the Model X’s extruded structure between the front and rear cast aluminum subframes has allowed the wheelbase to grow by about four inches over the Model S. Combined with the low, flat battery and the small-size and low-positioning of the electric motors (a second, front motor with about half the rear’s estimated 300 horsepower will be optional), there’s room galore. There’s a generous rear cargo hold even with the third-row seat erected, plus a decent front trunk as well. The Model X’s air suspension will allow it to vary its ride height by about an inch. Musk estimated the Model X will weigh between 10-15 percent more than the Model S at about 4700 lbs.
Tesla says power can be transferred instantly between the front and rear motors (lateral distribution being via individual brake application). There’s also greater regen braking available. Musk claims the Model X will move from 0-to-60 in as little as 4.4 seconds to 60 mph (from presumably a sport edition). Pricing is expected to about the same as the Model S, which starts at $49,900 after the Federal tax credit. Production of the Model X is expected to start late next year with volume delivery happening in 2014. -Photos by Jason Davis
2013 Tesla Model S
To put it mildly, the Tesla Model S has been a resounding success.
The New York Times has called the all-electric luxury sport sedan a game-changer, comparable to the Model T Ford. It’s won virtually every 2012 “Car of the Year” honor, including the only unanimous Motor Trend award in the magazine’s 65-year history.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has a waiting list of nearly 20,000 eager buyers. Its production line is now humming at full capacity. And the 3,000-odd customers who’ve taken delivery of their cars are, for the most part, ecstatic.
But nobody’s perfect.
In fact, it would be something of a miracle if there weren’t at least a few teething troubles from a revolutionary, clean-sheet-of-paper design, built by a fledgling startup company, relying heavily on software, and assembled on a brand-new production line.
The Tesla Model S, too, has had its share of glitches, quirks, and peccadilloes.
In an ordinary car, these minor blips would likely pass unnoticed. But the Model S is no ordinary car.
Under a microscope since the prototype was revealed four years ago, the car has attracted a devoted clique of fanatical followers who pore over every scrap of Model S minutia.
(Count me as one of them; my 2013 Model S, with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, is now due to arrive in just a couple of weeks.)
Here, in any case, are some of the handful of blemishes sighted on the otherwise happy face of the Tesla Model S, as recounted by owners on Tesla Motors’ own online forum.
*Self-opening door locks. Several owners report having returned to their supposedly locked cars to find them unlocked, with one door slightly ajar. This has occurred both after manual remote locking with the key fob, and in the “walkaway” auto-lock mode, where the car locks itself when the key fob recedes to a certain distance.
*Sticking sunroof. Owners have reported difficulties opening the sunroof, which is controlled entirely from the touch screen.
2012 Tesla Model S Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S
*Software glitches. Model S software update 4.1 was designed partly to offer a “sleep” mode to reduce power consumption when shut down. But it has proven prone to bugs, with numerous reports of unpredictable glitches with the panoramic roof, door handles, locking, wipers, displays, and controls. (In fact, the two problems listed above are likely software problems, not mechanical.)
Rebooting seems to resolve many of these malfunctions, but for a few owners, rebooting has become almost a daily occurrence.
Laments one owner on the Tesla on-line forum, “You shouldn’t have to look to the east, raise your right hand, do the hokey-pokey, and tap the screen randomly to make something work!!!”
Responded another owner, wearily, “You obviously have no experience with software. The hokey-pokey is a basic required user skill.”
Tesla is currently remotely downloading Model S software version 4.2, to cars in the field. It eliminates the sleep mode that apparently caused most of the problems. “Reduced power sleep mode remains a high priority for future software releases,” says Tesla.
*Fogged windshields. Numerous owners have reported poor defogger/defroster action in cold or humid conditions. Tesla has already come up with a new vent design, and expects to have retrofit kits available at its service centers soon. Estimated installation time is less than an hour.
2012 Tesla Model S Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S
*Balky charge port doors. Owners report that the doors, disguised as part of the left taillight, occasionally don’t open or close properly, and sometimes pop open repeatedly. One poor fellow had his charge cord jam in the socket, immobilizing the car. He had to be rescued by a Tesla service rep.
*Substandard Floor Mats. Even top-of-the-line Model S cars come with no mats for the back seats, and cheap, low-quality mats in the front footwells. “They are the crappiest ever,” complains one owner. If you want nicer ones, Tesla will sell you “premium” mats for the front and rear footwells for $400.
*No regenerative braking in the cold. The recent Midwest cold snap has revealed an odd characteristic of the Model S: In subfreezing temperatures, the regenerative braking doesn’t kick in until the car has been driven 10 or 15 miles.
2013 Tesla Model S
This is apparently because Tesla engineers don’t want a cold battery to receive the sudden charge that occurs when a Model S driver suddenly backs off the throttle, or descends a steep hill. So the regen is automatically disabled or limited until the battery warms up.
This has proven disconcerting to a few owners who weren’t expecting it. “I was caught off guard by this over the weekend,” commented one owner on the Tesla forum. “It’s not hard to adjust to, but with something as important as braking, the car should stop in a consistent, predictable way.”
“It’s a wart on what is otherwise a superior, consistent driving experience,” commented another. And, oddly, the Chevy Volt suffers no such quirk. Its regenerative braking functions consistently in all temperatures.Do Chevy engineers know something that Tesla’s don’t? Or vice versa?
A few Model S owners have suffered more than one of these problems.
One unfortunate buyer who took delivery in late December–when Tesla was rushing to deliver as many cars as possible before year’s end–reported multiple problems with his car’s paint, GPS system, body trim, and door handles.
“I am so frustrated with all of these problems,” he wrote recently on the Tesla forum. “Had I known about this before I made a final order I never would’ve purchased this car. I wish I could take this car back to them now. Be forewarned.”
But the vast majority of Model S owners aren’t suffering any problems, or seem far more willing to cut Tesla some slack and give the company time to work out the few bugs.
One of them summed it up this way: “The car is just too awesome to whine about little problems that will (eventually) be taken care of.”
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland