Automobile Magazine awards Tesla Model S 2013 Car of the Year

Tesla Model S

The electric car has received a positive image boost, and perhaps more mainstream validation, as Automobile Magazine has named the Tesla Model S its “2013 Car of the Year.”

For those unfamiliar with Tesla Motors ambitious EV, the Model S is an all-electric luxury sport sedan and the California start-up’s second battery-powered vehicle after the well-received Tesla Roadster.

Okay, so it’s powered by electrons. But what makes the Model S worthy of such an accolade? “It’s the performance that won us over,” Automobile Editor-in-Chief Jean Jennings said in the magazine’s January 2013 issue. “The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses.”

Indeed, Tesla’s green speed-machine is capable of rocketing from zero to 60 miles per hour in a mere 4.2 seconds when outfitted with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery – this, despite weighing more than 4500 pounds. “It’s alarming to jam the accelerator of such a big car and have it surge forward so quickly and so quietly,” said copy editor Rusty Blackwell.

Of course, a lot of cars are fast, very fast, and while it’s no doubt impressive that the Model S can scamper down a straight line with ease, it’s not the only reason the folks at Automobile were smitten with it, citing the vehicle’s excellent handling dynamics, ability to soak up road noise, and nuanced steering. “All that speed, along with powerful braking, superflat handling, and sharp steering, gives you the sense that you’re invincible,” reads Jennings’s evaluation of the vehicle on a test track.

And then there’s the inside. The Model S might be packing a lot of impressive tech, battery and all, but it’s the car’s command center cabin that proved equally drool-worthy. Having already sat inside the Model S ourselves over the course of the year, we are more than aware of the tech-laden wonderland that is the Model S’ cockpit. Instead of dials, buttons, and knobs, virtually everything inside the Model S is operated via its gigantic, 17-inch iPad-like center touchscreen. Want to open the panoramic sunroof? Swipe the screen. Climate controls? Same deal. Drivers can even surf the Web and access their email while on the go.

Interestingly, Tesla’s status as a start-up was taken into consideration before the final decision was made, according to Automobile’s senior editor Joe Lorio. “What if we give the car this honor, and a year from now the company disappears in a ball of flakiness?” he said “Are we going to feel foolish?”

Ultimately, though, the Model S was given the award based on its merits as a standalone vehicle and not the politics or position it may or may not see itself in down the road. “The car is here now, and we think it’s a significant milestone,” Lorio explained.

The Model S is available in three different battery sizes: 40 kWh, 60 kWh, and 85 kWh. Pricing for the 40kWh Model S starts at $57,000, $67,00 for one outfitted with a 60 kWh battery, and $77,000 for an 85 kWh model like the one tested by Automobile. (All prices exclude a $7,500 federal tax credit). Estimated range for the base Model S sits at 160 miles on a single charge, 230 miles for the 60 kWH, and 300 miles for the 85kWh.

The Tesla Model S went into production this summer, with 250 deliveries having taken place as of October. According to Tesla, roughly 13,000 people have placed $5,000 deposits towards a Model S. The company expects to sell about 3,200 units by the end of 2012.

[Update] Tesla Motors representative Shanna Hendricks had this to say to about the Model S being named Automobile Magazine’s 2013 Car of the Year, “We’re thrilled to receive this endorsement from AUTOMOBILE Magazine. This recognition underscores our goal to build a great car, not just a great electric car.”

By Amir Iliaifar

Tesla Model S Pricing Details Surface, Larger Battery Capacities to Cost an Extra $10,000-$20,000

Tesla Model S Pricing Details Surface, Larger Battery Capacities to Cost an Extra $10,000-$20,000

George Blankenship, Tesla’s VP of worldwide sales and ownership experience, recently took the opportunity to allay future Model S customer concerns with an update on the electric family sedan.

With production scheduled to commence in mid-2012, the first 1000 units built will be part of the North American Model S Signature Series. In acknowledgment of these initial models, they’ve been deemed “limited edition” and will come with their own unique badges and special options. All North American Model S Signature Series sedans will have the big 300-mile batteries.

We’ve long heard the Model S will start at $57,400 with the smallest 160-mile battery. Blankenship also disclosed the 230-mile battery will add another $10,000 to that cost, while the 300-mile battery will be a not unsubstantial $20,000 on top of the base price. As an incentive, a federal $7500 tax credit is being touted, and state governments may have their own financial perks for supporting alternative propulsion. Final MSRP and option prices are due this summer.

With the 300-mile packs expected off the line first, the 160- and 230-mile batteries will follow later in 2012. Left-hand drive deliveries to Europe will also begin in late 2012 and right-hand drive applications for Europe and Asia will follow suit in mid-2013. Tesla anticipates a grand total of 5000 sedans produced in 2012 at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. By 2013, the EV builder will be targeting an annual total of 20,000.

A few months ago, we found that Tesla expects the 20,000-unit production mark to bring them to profits. Stay tuned as we continue to follow the progress of this much-hyped electric sedan from Silicon Valley.

Source: Tesla

By Benson Kong

Tesla CEO Musk: Boeing 787 Batteries ‘Inherently Unsafe’

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is hardly shy and retiring.

He tweets out random financial results, states as fact things that haven’t quite happened yet, and regularly speaks his mind.

Yesterday, he described the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s battery pack design as ‘inherently unsafe,’ which could add fuel to the…ahem…fire.

It came just one day after his offer to help Boeing resolve its problem with fires in the 787′s lithium-ion packs, designed by Japanese battery-cell company GS Yuasa.

(It’s worth noting that SpaceX, the other company Musk runs, competes directly with Boeing for certain government contracts for space-launch vehicles.)

Musk, who has run Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for several years, laid out his thoughts on battery design in a detailed e-mail to the website Flightglobal.

In it, he termed the architecture of the GS Yuasa battery packs supplied to Boeing “inherent unsafe,” and predicted more fires from the same causes due to its design.

Specifically, Musk criticized the use of large-format lithium-ion cells “without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect.”

He also noted that when thermal runaway occurs in the larger cells, more energy is released by the single cell than comes from a small-format “commodity” cell, of the type used by the thousands in Tesla battery packs.

And he went on to highlight what he viewed as the dangers of batteries using those large-format cells, saying they have a “fundamental safety issue” because it’s harder to keep the internal temperature of a large-format cell consistent from the center to the edges.

Not surprisingly, Mike Sinnett–Boeing’s chief engineer for the 787 project–counters that the company designed the pack to cope with not only a single cell failure but to contain runaway thermal events as well.

The 787 battery problems have sparked a deluge of news coverage, with the Seattle Times noting yesterday that Boeing had numerous problems with the batteries before the fires that led to the grounding of all 787 planes worldwide.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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The chemistry used in the Boeing 787 cells is not the same as that used in today’s electric cars, a point largely overlooked by many reporters.

But Musk’s comments highlight a second issue: the use of large-format lithium-ion cells (some roughly the size of a very thin paperback book) versus the smaller commodity cells (somewhat larger than a AA battery) that Tesla uses.

Musk’s critique, although he didn’t explicitly say so, could be extended beyond the 787 Dreamliner to indict the pack design of all electric cars that use large-format lithium-ion cells.

Those include, oh, every single modern plug-in electric car except the Tesla Model S.

Tesla Motors is the sole maker that builds its packs out of thousands of small ‘commodity’ lithium-ion cells (from Panasonic, for the Model S) rather than using hundreds of large-format cells.

Battery-pack engineering is a complex, multifaceted art.

There’s the physical design of a large, heavy component that must be engineered into the vehicle’s structural design.

There’s positioning of the cells inside the pack to protect against thermal runaway.

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors – Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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There’s thermal conditioning, in which a pack is passively or actively heated or cooled to keep its cells within a desired temperature range, both extending their life and reducing the chance of catastrophic cell failure.

Each electric-car maker takes a somewhat different approach: Nissan uses just passive cooling in its Leaf battery electric car, but has had no recorded fire incidents at all to date.

It has, however, had problems with reduction in energy capacity early in the life of cars that cover high mileages in high temperatures.

The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, uses only two-thirds of its pack energy and has active liquid cooling for its pack (as does the Model S).

So has Musk has implicitly slammed the pack designs of the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and a host of other electric cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more?

If so, is this a good strategy for the CEO of a startup electric-car maker?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


By John Voelcker

New Tesla Model S Pricing Announced For Jan 1, Battery Pack Costs Too

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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As of January 1, it’ll cost you more to buy a 2013 Tesla Model S–as the company said last week.

Now, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has released the details of the price increases on the different versions of the Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan.

The new prices are $59,900 for the base version with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack, $69,900 for the mid-range 60-kWh model, $79,900 for the top-end 85-kWh level, and $94,900 for the Performance model, which also uses the 85-kWh pack.

That means each car has risen by $2,500. Tesla says that figure is half of what an inflation-adjusted figure might be, given that the company priced the Model S way back in 2009.

Those prices will apply only to buyers who put down a deposit starting January 1 or later.

To sweeten the deal, all Model S cars from January 1 get 12-way adjustable, heated front seats for no extra cost.

Performance Package cars get 19-inch wheels as standard, with 21-inch wheels for $3,500 extra. A new red multi-coat paint shade is also available, for $1,500. Production of the new red shade starts in March 2013.

Any rush by uncommitted buyers to put down deposits on or before December 31 of this year can only help Tesla’s quarterly and annual financial results, which will be announced in January.

With European pricing announced very soon, Tesla will also deduct 1,700 Euros (or its equivalent in other European countries) from the base price of a Model S, for any European buyer putting down a deposit by end of day on December 31, 2012.

Batteries from $8,000

Tesla also released pricing for replacement battery packs, giving current and future owners a better sense of what it will cost to own their electric sport sedans over a decade or more.

The price of a 40 kWh pack is $8,000. Another $2,000 gets the 60 kWh pack, and the 85 kWh pack costs another $2,000 on top of that.

The company suffered some criticism by owners and depositors who disliked its mandatory $600-per-year service requirement in order to keep their Model S warranties valid, since battery electric cars require little maintenance beyond inspections and new tires and wiper blades.

But now owners can calculate the cost of potentially replacing a battery pack over the car’s longer term life.

Extended warranties, servicing

Long-term ownership costs can be calculated further with the introduction of a new four-year, 50,000-mile extended warranty. This joins the standard four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, and costs an extra $2,500.

Likewise, buyers can purchase an extra four years and 50,000 miles of prepaid maintenance–to add to the previous $600-per-year service package–for an additional $1,900.

Price increases are rarely something to celebrate, but with new features and extended peace-of-mind options, 2013 will still be a good year for Model S buyers.


By Antony Ingram

Tesla Model S Says No to Chrome [Photo Gallery]

The California-based mobile electronics and communications specialist Al & Ed’s Autosound has recently revealed their latest customization for a customer that apparently hates chrome.

The client wanted his Tesla Model S to ditch all its chrome trimmings to make it a bit more unique, since the car’s sales boosted in the last period and more and more units are seen on the streets.

Al & Ed’s team took every single shiny chromed bit and wrapped it in 3M satin black film to give the car a meaner look, despite its lack of “growling” ability. The job couldn’t be complete without the rims receiving a similar finish.

Another small change that really matters, is the plastic front grille that was covered with a glossy wrap, in the same color as the rest of the body.

Not too much and not too extreme, but still, the changes makes a difference to the overall look of the car. It gives it the “silent but violent” look, which is enforced by its electric motor’s capability. The 421 hp (310 kN) and 601 Nm (443 lb-ft) of torque that the motor produces, can boost the car from a standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 4.5 seconds.

Source: Tesla Motors Club

Check out the Custom Tesla Model S photo gallery

By Gabriel Brindusescu

Tesla Model S Top Speed: More Than 130 MPH, Emission-Free

Top speeds are more relevant than many people think.

That even applies to cars like the Tesla Model S, though perhaps more for bragging rights than any practical purpose. And as bragging rights go, 133 mph isn’t too bad for an electric car.

While there aren’t many places you can legally explore a modern car’s top speed, those three-figure numbers are usually a good indication of how well your car will cruise at freeway speeds.

A car designed to travel two or three times the speed limit will generally be relaxed, quiet and economical at the limit itself.

The Tesla Model S Performance is relaxed and quiet at pretty much any speed.

In fact, as you’ll see (and hear) in the video above (via our sister site Motor Authority), wind and road noise are only really audible on camera at 90-100 mph, more than most people will regularly cruise at.

Acceleration only starts to tail off as the car breaks into the 120s, and it’s all done at 133 mph. We make no guesses as to what the range might be at that sort of speed, even with the 85 kW battery pack–not that the Model S’s gasoline-powered rivals will be particularly economical at 133 mph and above…

What’ll be most remarkable to anyone unfamiliar with the Model S is just how quickly it reaches its top speed. Motor Authority measures it at 12 seconds to 100 mph (it could be less, as the driver appears to pull away fairly gently at first) and 26 seconds to 133 mph.

We don’t condone exploring your car’s top speed on the roads, of course, but it’s nice knowing the Model S has plenty in reserve when you’re at a steady highway cruise.


By Antony Ingram

Watch the Tesla Model S Attempt to Reach Las Vegas from L.A. on a Single Charge

Watch the Tesla Model S Attempt to Reach Las Vegas from L.A. on a Single Charge

Like it or not, an increasing number of automakers are experimenting with electric vehicles. Whether EVs will supplant internal combustion engines or only complement regular vehicles depends on how well executed they become. On this episode of Wide Open Throttle, host Jessi Lang and Motor Trend technical director Frank Markus attempt to drive the all-new Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to the Las Vegas strip on a single charge – the first real-world range test of its kind.

Tesla Model S from LA to Las Vegas WOT video pic 11 300x187 imageThe Tesla Model S, which is the personal car of Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, is fitted with the larger 85-kW-hr battery pack that is EPA rated at 265-mile range. An earlier test by testing director Kim Reynolds and associate online editor Benson Kong netted about 238 miles – short of the official rating. While Lang’s and Markus’ trip was only about 210 miles, they were facing two 4000-foot mountain passes in route to Sin City. In an effort to reduce energy consumption, the duo climbed the summits at 55 mph with the air conditioning off and the windows up in 100 + degree temperatures.

Check out the video below to see if Lang and Markus made it to Las Vegas on a single charge or if the Tesla Model S ended up on the back of a flatbed tow truck. Don’t forget to check out our two Tesla Model S road trip stories here and here.

By Jason Udy

MT Then and Now: Tesla Roadster, Model S, Model X Prototype

MT Then and Now: Tesla Roadster, Model S, Model X Prototype

When Tesla Motors was founded in the early 2000s, many would never have guessed the company would last long enough to produce a car like the Model S. The first car to arrive was the Tesla Roadster, followed by the just-released Model S and, before long, the Model X. As we share the results of our exclusive range test of the Model S, WOT is taking a look back at the Tesla models we’ve driven and tested over the years.


Based on the Lotus Elise chassis, the Tesla Roadster replaced the Toyota-sourced four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 248-hp AC motor that generated 211 lb-ft of torque at 0 rpm. Juice supplied by a 6831-cell lithium-ion battery pack powered the electric motor that sent power to the rear wheels via a two-speed dual-clutch transmission. We were impressed during our First Drive of the Tesla Roadster in 2008.

2008 Tesla Roadster cockpit 1 300x187 image“I’m almost grimacing as I release the brake and pound the accelerator to the floor. Whrrrrrrr…30 mph, 40 mph, 50…in the four seconds it’s taken to read this sentence, the Roadster has shrieked to 60 mph (Tesla’s claimed 3.9 seconds would seem entirely plausible in a controlled setting). There’s no wheelspin, axle tramp, shutter, jutter, smoke whiff, cowl shake, nothing. I’m being eerily teleported down the barrel of a rail gun, head pulled back by a hard, steady acceleration. Bizarre.”

During the following months, Tesla failed to deliver the first Roadsters on time and the car began to look like vaporware. After a long delay, deliveries began. The Roadster now used a one-speed transmission, which cured the ills that plagued the two-speed unit – that along with financial difficulties slowed development. Though horsepower remained the same, torque grew to 278 lb-ft of torque. The battery pack gave the Roadster a 227-mile range.

2010 Tesla Roadster Sport side static 300x187 image“Yeah, OK and driving it as intended, as a true sports car, ain’t great for range either. But boy does it lift the spirits. You know the drill: aluminum chassis, double wishbones, carbon fiber body, about 2750 pounds, excellent mass distribution and — oh joy! — unassisted rack and pinion steering. The Roadster delivers on the promises of its spec.”

In 2010, we finally tested a Tesla Roadster. Our tester came in Sport form, which bumped power to 288 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. “…its acceleration is breathtaking. Make that breath-extracting. At the track, we confirmed the car’s 3.7-second scream to 60 mph — but, that’s just a number. Three-point-seven — what’s that mean? Felt, it’s such an unnatural thrust that it actually brings to mind that hokey Star Trek star-smear of warp-speed. The quick, linear accumulation of velocity makes you smile and hold on, shake your head, and eventually learn to carve unimaginable moves through traffic that’s populated by completely flat-footed internal-combustion cars.”

2010 Tesla Roadster with 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder front view 300x187 imageWe compared that same Tesla Roadster against the 2011 Porsche Boxster S. In the end, we handed the win to the Boxster, but noted that “the Tesla is now a genuine car to reckon with on the world stage, despite its extraordinary price and limited range. Now if only it could better communicate its handling intentions.”

Model S

Unlike the Lotus-derived Roadster, the Model S four-door was fully developed by Tesla. The flat battery pack sits below the floor and the 306-hp electric motor powers the rear wheels. With no combustion engine or transmission to worry about, the design allows a small front trunk and a large rear hatch area. Optional rear-facing jump seats increase passenger seating to seven.

2012 Tesla Model S right frong motion during testing 300x187 image“The car’s acceleration — claimed to be 5.6 seconds to 60 mph — is a continuous press-the-seat-back surge that only a single-speed, big electric motor can provide. Interestingly, while the motor is quiet, its growly roar is a very different acoustic signature than the frenetic whine in the Roadster. Tesla claims that’s just how it sounds, and no acoustic modifications have been attempted. Bumps were nicely absorbed amid muted tire-impact noises, and the lateral grip seemed considerable for a car over 4000 pounds. That low battery location and compact powertrain are very helpful.”

Recently, we got another drive in the Model S. Horsepower has climbed since our first drive in the Model S, now at 362 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque while Performance versions make 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Depending on the size of the battery pack, the Model S’ driving range is said to be 160, 230, and 300 miles, the last of which was EPA-rated at 265 miles. “I’d advocate for a bit more rear seat space, comfort, and lateral support, and of course more range for less money would be nice,” Frank Markus concluded after his stint in the car. “But the dynamic performance, equipment level, and style nearly justify the price — even if you don’t care about the electric drivetrain. I don’t. And I want one.”

2012 Tesla Model S cockpit and center screen 300x187 imageWe traveled 233.7 miles during a recent trip in a Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to San Diego and back before stopping to recharge when the onboard range meter said we would be 1.7 miles short of reaching the office. Despite that, we were impressed by the energy cost to make the journey, “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 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; the BMW’s drive cost $34.55. The 528i emitted 152 lbs of CO2; the Model S, 52 — from the state’s power plants.”

In our latest real-world range test of the Model S, we drove the electric car from the edge of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, then back to our El Segundo office. After these tests – which used Musk’s personal car, we developed some conclusions about the Model S.

Tesla Model X left rear doors open 300x187 image“The take home message isn’t whether or not the Model S meets the EPA’s range rating of 265 miles. We’ve proven that it does and does not. The takeaway is that the Tesla Model S is not a real electric car, it’s a real car that just happens to be electric.”

Model X Prototype

If all goes well with the Model S, a production version of the Model X prototype — a three-row, seven-passenger SUV with gullwing style doors — is next from Tesla. Before volume delivery of that car begins in the 2014 calendar year, though, Tesla will depend on the sales of the Model S, a car that’s progressed quite a bit from the company’s beginnings with the Roadster.

By Jason Udy

2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive Video

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With Tesla Motors opening new Tesla Stores at a rapid pace, the 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan has now been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

Thus far, however, very few of them, however, have gotten behind the wheel.

Tesla’s working to change that, with a traveling nationwide roadshow from now through early August that aims to put 5,000 Model S reservation holders in the driver’s seat for a few minutes each.

Yesterday, we got our first test drive of the 2012 Tesla Model S. The video above should give you a small taste of what our drive was like.

We really had only about 20 or 25 minutes behind the wheel of the new electric luxury sedan from Silicon Valley startup carmaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], but it gave us a little taste of what owners will start to experience as Model S deliveries slowly ramp up.

The car is quiet, quick–especially the high-end Model S Signature Series Performance model we drove–and smooth.

The 17-inch central touchscreen display is astounding–see a photo gallery of display screenshots here–and easy to use but not distracting.

And with some light jazz playing as we tooled around lower Manhattan, we came to the preliminary conclusion that indeed the 2012 Tesla Model S is a viable car.

It’s also fun to drive, and unlike the crude, cramped Roadster–hellaciously fun in its own way, but not all that practical–we can easily imagine using it as a daily vehicle.

If, that is, we had the cash to cover the sticker price, which on our top-end test car was somewhere around $100,000.

If you’re all about the acceleration, there’s a bit at 0:40 and another burst at 2:30. But watch the whole thing to see the touchscreen and a lot more.

There’s one narration error: At the very end, “2010 Tesla Model S” should obviously be 2012. Sorry ’bout that.

Special thanks to our pal Noonz, who cheerfully let himself be pressed into service as cameraman.


By John Voelcker

Cameron Diaz Buys a Tesla Model S

Cameron Dias, one of the Hollywood names who need no introduction, is now the third famous actor owner of a Tesla Model S EV. She was preceded by fellow actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, both of whom have bought the all-electric sedan.

She was recently spotted leaving the gym, and getting aboard the Model S, which does not appear to be the Signature top spec model, as it does not have the trademark anthracite wheels, which are also larger in size than the ones on her car.

Still, at least this way celebs will stop buying the Toyota Prius simply as a green statement, as the Model S is a proper no-emissions luxury car, which is exactly what they are looking for. It is also great publicity for the car, and Cameron Diaz is undoubtedly not the last famous person to buy one.

We are curious to see who buys one next, but regardless of whom that may be, the more celebrities buy the Tesla, the higher the car’s popularity will be, even among non-celebrities. Also, once they begin European deliveries, as well as deliveries to other major markets, the Model S will hopefully become a more common sights on the world’s roads.

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By Andrei Nedelea

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