Archives for August 26th, 2013

Designers on Design: Franz von Holzhausen on the McLaren P1

Designers on Design: Franz von Holzhausen on the McLaren P1

I ran into Tesla Model S design chief Franz von Holzhausen at the Paris Motor Show as we were both on the way to the unveiling of the McLaren P1 supercar. After graduating from Art Center College of Design with a bachelor’s degree in Transportation Design, Von Holzhausen began his career with Volkswagen under J Mays and worked on such seminal projects as the Concept One (which became the new Beetle). He then moved to GM, and drew critical acclaim for his Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky roadster. In 2005, Mazda hired von Holzhausen as its North American design chief. Under his watch, the company developed the Nagare design language, revised the style of the RX-8 and Mazda5, and launched the 2009 Mazda6 and Mazda3.

Mazda Furai front three quarter 300x187 imageOne of my favorite concept cars of all time was executed by Franz and his team; the rotary-powered, LMP1-based Mazda Furai. Why do I still love it so? Because unlike most concept cars, it wasn’t just a pretty face, but a full runner that I got to experience around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Franz obviously knows something about fast cars and great designs, so just after McLaren boss Ron Dennis and Managing Director Antony Sheriff raised the sheet on McLaren’s all-new P1 supercar, I asked him for his first impressions:

FvH: Makes the 12C kind of old and tired. It’s got a great stance, it sits well, reminds of the F1 [McLaren’s first street legal sports car]. Yeah, I like it. It’s definitely got a menacing feel to it – a pissed-off face. It has a BIG greenhouse and I’m wondering about that proportion – but it’s hard to tell from here.

I love the sculpture on the body side. Reminds of stuff that we were doing in the past. Apparently it’s very functional as well, with the intakes going right from the door into the engine. So I can appreciate that, the form and the function kinda working together. It’s awesome.

Yeah, but it makes the 12C dated for sure.

McLaren P1 profile.jpeg 300x187 image

MT: Have you ever worked with [McLaren head of design] Frank Stephenson before?

FvH: No, I haven’t. I was looking for him on the stage, but I just know of him from, you know, the designer crowd, and but I think he did a pretty solid job. In general I think the car is cool. Way better than in pictures, sits way better on its wheels, from here. I’ll have to come back later, tomorrow, when there is less people to get a better view. But you know it’s awesome, Ron Dennis is up there — you don’t see that every day. Seeing Ron in person is very cool.

And I appreciate them continuing to just go for it.

MT: What do you think about the orange color?

FvH: I’m wondering about it. There must something about it I’m just not aware of. Is it the brand color…?  I love the simplicity of the stand with the orange and white, it’s super cool. But is it the right color for the car?

MT: Well, everyone knows you designer types only like light gray or silver for your concepts so you can show off the lines…

McLaren P1 rear view 300x187 imageFvH: [Laughs] Actually, orange is one of my more favorite colors, but this shade seems a bit, um, overly mature. I think a car like this, if you could get some screaming colors on it, it would be all that more impressive.

I do see a lot of reference from the F1 in the side feature. Hard to tell about the silhouette but from what I’ve seen, the silhouette is pretty similar.

MT: I noticed that the McLaren logo seems to be used as a throughout the car – in the headlights, hood scoops, etc. You know, the upside-down swoosh, punctuation mark…too much repetition? What do you think?

FvH: Oh as an element on the car – front, rear, everywhere – the “boomerang.” It reminds me of the Kumho tire logo. But you know it’s subtle enough that you know it’s not too overt.

It doesn’t punch you in the face…and you know the car does look fantastic.

MT: Thanks Franz!

By Edward Loh

New Performance Pack for Tesla Model S

Tesla is set to bring its Model S under the spotlights once again. The full electric Model S is getting a new performance package that will increase its range and improve handling.

Costing $6,500 (€4,966), the Performance Plus pack will include upgraded stabilizer bars and bushings and wider Michelin rear tires. Measuring 20 mm wider than the previous ones, they will ensure better acceleration and grip in fast corners.

Another benefit from the beefier tires will be that the car will be able to achieve a better mileage, squeezing between 6 and 12 mpg more from its all-electric drivetrain. We'll remind you that the Tesla Model S uses a 310 kW (421 hp) electric motor that sends all the power to the rear axle.

Despite its green nature, it can accelerate the car from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 209 km/h (130 mph).

By Gabriel Brindusescu

DT Daily: Tesla gets practical, more details on Windows 8, Diablo III delayed again

Germany refuses to sign ACTA

Proponents of Internet freedom received good news today, as Germany’s Foreign Office announced that it will not sign the controversial Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement, known as ACTA. If ratified, the anti-piracy treaty would require countries around the world to adopt stricter intellectual property laws, similar to those found in the US. It would also create an entirely new governing body to oversee the enforcement of copyright law. Critics of ACTA argue that the treaty would restrict free speech, and stifle innovation online. Germany’s refusal to sign ACTA could kill the treaty, which is schedule for a ratification vote by the European Parliament in June. All 27 countries in the European Union must sign the treaty for it to go into effect.

Related article:

  • ACTA bombshell: Germany refuses to sign anti-piracy treaty amid protests

Tesla unveils Model X electric

Tesla has unveiled a prototype of its third electric vehicle, the Model X. The new EV has been designed with families in mind, looking like a crossover between a SUV and a minivan. The X gets its name from its doors, which open upward, much like the Delorean, the iconic, time-traveling car from Back to the Future. Tesla plans to start production of the Model X in 2013. It will retail for just under 50 thousand dollars.

Related article:

  • Tesla Model X revealed, but it is cool enough to fend off the new Rav4 EV?

Windows on ARM

Microsoft has revealed more details on its tablet version of Windows 8, codenamed “Windows on ARM.” The software maker now says the tablet version of the OS will come packaged with a classic Windows 7 desktop, much like the laptop and PC version. The company is downplaying the fact that almost no current PC applications will work with Windows on Arm due to the difference between Intel processors, which are common in PCs, and ARM processors, which power most mobile phones and tablets. To help quell complaints, Microsoft will offer its suite of Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote for free with the operating system.

Related article:

  • Building Windows for the ARM processor architecture

Diablo III delayed again

Activision Blizzard is testing the patience of Diablo fans. The publisher has announced that the highly anticipated sequel Diablo III will be delayed from its previous “Early 2012” release to sometime between April and June. Commenting on the delay, Director Jay Wilson has said that “no one will remember if the game is late, only if it’s great.” Diablo III has been in development since 2001.

Related article:

  • Activision pushes 2012 Diablo III release to Q2, new Call of Duty coming

By Greg Mombert

Tesla Planning Grid Storage As Part Of Supercharger Expansion

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Enlarge Photo

Buy a Tesla Model S, and you won’t need to worry about brownouts. And you could even keep driving through the Zombie Apocalypse.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk revealed that little tidbit at a press conference today, where plans were detailed for an expanded network of the company’s Supercharger rapid-charging stations.

“We actually have grid storage going on at some of our Supercharging stations,” said Musk, noting that two stations in California currently have 500 kilowatt-hours of combined energy storage—with the potential of “putting out a megawatt if need be.”

And that extended grid storage is “probably” part of the long-term plan for every Supercharger station, according to the CEO. Under the scenario, stationary battery packs take in energy through the week from an overhead solar panel array—which in turn doubles as a shelter from sun or rain.

“The chargers are generating energy cumulatively throughout the course of the week, and it cumulatively adds up to more than what the cars consume,” said Musk. “So it’s actually capable of going completely off-grid,” and of continuing to charge cars when the power goes out.

Musk wouldn’t exactly where in California those two grid-storage prototypes are, but he confirmed they’re in California, and that the grid storage is being planned together with utilities, who have received the plan well—as that excess energy could be fed back into the grid when it’s needed, as a buffer to help prevent brownouts or help reduce pollution during off-peak situations.

“Even if there’s the Zombie Apocalypse—seems like a popular theme nowadays—you’ll still be able to travel throughout the country using Tesla Supercharging system,” quipped Musk. “Even if the entire grid goes down, it’ll still work.”

**[Ed. Note: Elon Musk's comments may be seen as building on a misconception that the grid is unreliable. Let the record stand: The entire national grid has never gone down, and major regional outages are extremely rare.  Also, zombies are not real.]


By Bengt Halvorson

Judge throws out Tesla's 'Top Gear' lawsuit


Tesla Motors’ libel suit against the British television show “Top Gear” was thrown out for the second time yesterday. Tesla was suing ”Top Gear” over a December 2008 review of the company’s Roadster, which depicted a car with a dead battery being pushed into a hangar.

British Justice Tugendhat said that, “rectification of inaccuracies is not a function of the courts unless that can be achieved in the course of proceedings properly brought to enforce a recognized course of action.” He also said that Tesla seemed determined to get a ruling declaring that ”Top Gear” had lied.

Tesla’s original suit claimed that ”Top Gear” misrepresented the car’s range. The episode shows a Roadster being pushed, but Tesla claims its batteries were not depleted. Host Jeremy Clarkson said that “on our track, it will run out after just 55 miles.” The Roadster’s listed range is 200 miles.

“Top Gear” also said that one of their two test car’s brakes had failed partway through shooting. The problem turned out to be a blown fuse that effected the brake’s power assist.

“Top Gear” admitted that the car still had some charge; producer Andy Wilman said the crew was filming a segment on what would happen if the Tesla ran out of charge. Indeed, about half of the Tesla video talks about the difficulty of charging an electric car, and includes a scene where the Roadster is plugged into a wind turbine on a windless day.

Wilman also stood by the 55 mile range, saying that driving a car on a track is different than driving it on a road. It is true that ”Top Gear” has made similar claims of diminished economy in the past: in another episode, Clarkson said a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII only got four mpg when driven hard. Wilman claimed that brakes with no power assist still qualify as “broken.”

In October 2011, Tugendhat threw out the suit, and told Tesla that they would have to amend their claim. Tesla responded by saying that, “there were reasonable grounds to suspect that each of the Claimants ["Top Gear"] had intentionally and significantly misrepresented the range of the Roadster by claiming that it had a range of about 200 miles in that its true range on the “Top Gear” track was only 55 miles.”

Yesterday, the judge dismissed that claim as well, saying that drivers understand that cars perform differently in different conditions, such as driving on a track instead of a normal road. Since that was the main point of Tesla’s suit, the electric carmaker had nothing else to argue.

By Stephen Edelstein