Tesla Model S ‘Get Amped’ Tour: 5,000 Test Drives In Sight

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at “Get Amped” introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]


Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at "Get Amped" introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at “Get Amped” introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]

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From Los Angeles to Toronto, from Miami to Seattle, Tesla has been taking a fleet of its new 2012 Model S sedans around the country to offer short test drives to 5,000 current depositors and potential owners.

Those individuals have to be patient as the company slowly ramps up production of the all-electric luxury sport sedan, following delivery of the very first production car in early June.

But the short drives should keep many potential Model S buyers interested in the promise of the electric car with a 265-mile range rating from the EPA.

Fourteen of the planned sixteen cities on the “Getting Amped Tour” have now been completed. The tour started in Fremont, California, at the assembly plant that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] bought two years ago from Toyota.

Last weekend, the tour returned to Palo Alto, California–the heart of Silicon Valley–before finishing up in Austin (August 15-16) and, finally, Dallas (August 18-19).

Depositors are scheduled in groups of four to six at about half-hour intervals. Each driver may bring up to two guests for the test drive, but every drive has a Tesla chaperone in the front passenger seat. 

The drive itself is limited to about 7 or 8 miles, but is preceded by a brief and well-done group introductory lecture that introduces the emotional experience of electric driving.

Potential buyers can review their color and option choices with better color renditions than on the company internet site.

Tesla even offers refreshments, ice cream, and a play area for children at its venues.

At the recent Palo Alto venue, at least eight early production cars were available for inspection. Two cars were inside the display building for full viewing and inspection, and another six cars made up the ride-and-drive fleet.

Interested depositors were offered the choice of the standard or performance powertrains when they took their test drive. The Tesla chaperones encouraged getting drivers to take advantage of the “full feel” of the car’s torque and power after almost every stop sign. 

It was far too short a real driving experience for a proper assessment, of course, but there is no question that this vehicle has real power off the line, and corners well.

Is the current version of the 2012 Tesla Model S a $100,000 car? 

It still needs some refinement if it wants to be truly feature-competitive with the established players in the luxury performance category.

But there is no other car that offers combination of luxury, performance and environmental consciousness.

George Parrott is an emeritus professor of psychology at California State University in Sacramento. He owns a Nissan Leaf and a Chevrolet Volt that are recharged largely on solar power, and is considering the purchase of a Tesla Model S.

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By george parrott

Tesla Model S Road Trip Ends Without A Hitch In NYC

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Well, they made it!

Tesla Model S-driving trio Peter Soukup, Tina Thomas and Luba Roytburd successfully arrived in New York City after almost five thousand miles of driving coast-to-coast.

After starting in Portland, Oregon on December 26, the team drove down the West Coast, before cutting across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and then up the East Coast.

They announced their arrival in NYC with a Tweet on Monday.

“If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere and we made it! Electric Road Trip S successfully finished in NYC, final mileage 4887!”

The team then thanked Tesla and Elon Musk for “an amazing car”.

Over the course of the journey, the team made use of several different charging stations, including Tesla’s own Supercharger network, for speedy charging and shorter stops.

Musk himself tweeted about the trip, suggesting that by the end of 2013, “it will be Superchargers all the way!”.

Congratulations to the team for reaching their goal. With a few more rapid chargers along the way and electric car range rising all the time, we doubt it’s the last such trip we’ll be hearing about over the next few years…

You can read the team’s own report on the Electric Road Trip S blog.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Fully Repays Government Loan Nine Years Early

Tesla Fully Repays Government Loan Nine Years Early

Not long after offering 2.7 million additional shares, Tesla has just announced that the company has fully repaid the Department of Energy loan that wasn’t due until late in 2022. The announcement follows a string of recent company updates, including how Tesla sells and warranties the Model S.

Tesla Model X Side Moving 2 300x187 imageTesla wired $451.8 million to fully repay the loan with interest, and in a release the automaker says it is the only American car company to have fully repaid the government. Then again, Tesla currently only offers one vehicle, the lauded Model S. The larger and delayed Model X (pictured at right) is set to arrive next year.

UPDATE: Tesla isn’t actually the only American automaker to pay back government loans. Chrysler points out that, about two years ago, it paid back government loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments in full. For another perspective on this issue, read this Forbes blog.

So far, Tesla has worked with Mercedes and Toyota, and offered the all-electric Lotus-based Roadster, a car the company says had a 30-percent gross margin. More recently, we’ve heard about the Model S’ improved financing terms as well as a resale guarantee and a lenient warranty update. Next week, Tesla will reveal details on a revised supercharger system. Company co-founder Elon Musk hinted at the announcement on Twitter, saying there may soon be a way to recharge a Model S throughout the country faster than you can fill a gas tank.

The Department of Energy loan fit into the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program of which Fisker was also a part. On the original $451.8 million loan, Bloomberg notes that taxpayers will make at least $12 million from the deal. Paying off the loan early was made possible thanks to the roughly $1 billion raised in last week’s new common stock and convertible senior note offerings.

While reaching truly stable financial ground is still anything but a certainty for Tesla, it appears the company is on the right track.

Source: Tesla, Bloomberg

By Zach Gale

2012 Tesla Model S: Early Buyers Get 1 Year Of Data Free

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

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If you’ve got a brand new 2012 Tesla Model S sitting in your garage–or you’re soon to have one delivered–then life is probably pretty sweet right now.

Not that it can’t be improved, of course.

Drivers of Model S cars in Signature trim, denoting the first models delivered, also get a year’s worth of mobile data at no extra cost, says Tesla (via Engadget).

When your car has a massive, 17-inch internet-connected touchscreen dominating the center console, that’s pretty useful. Those first owners won’t have to pay a penny to use the screen’s Google maps facility, nor listen to music via the internet.

The free data will also ensure that owners can make the most of other features, like browsing the web for somewhere nearby to eat, creating personalized online channels for music and radio, and automatically-updating cover art for songs.

Owners of post-Signature Model Ss will of course be able to use all these features too, but they won’t be lucky enough to have Telsa pick up the tab.

What aspect of Tesla’s large touchscreen display would you find most useful as an owner? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Antony Ingram

Elon Musk Answers Qs About Tesla In 2010: Rate His Responses


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Elon Musk isn’t a man who minces his words–few people in his position get to where they are by being shy and retiring.

That means the Paypal, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] and SpaceX executive is always good for a soundbite, and there are quite a few in this Time interview from 2010.

Such a great deal has changed in the last three years, particularly at Tesla, so it’s interesting seeing whether Elon’s views from a few years back correlate with his companies’ success today.

The questions, picked by Time readers around the world, cover a variety of topics, but Tesla is at the top of the bill.

Back in 2010 the company only sold the Tesla Roadster, but today it’s very much another stage up from that–selling a car developed completely in-house, in impressive numbers, and having achieved the first profitable quarter in Tesla’s history.

The interview leads in with a hard-hitter, asking Elon whether Tesla should accept government loans given his libertarian views–in other words, whether it’s right using taxpayer money to fund a private company.

Musk answers in the affirmative, citing the current economic climate, but a few years down the line it’s looking much better for Tesla than it has for companies that have failed and dragged taxpayer money down with them–Tesla expects to repay its loan in 2017, five years ahead of schedule.

The next question asks whether electric vehicles will really replace combustion-engined ones.

Again Musk is positive, suggesting that in 20 years, the majority of new cars manufactured will be electric.

Three years on we’re no clearer to knowing how true that statement will be–it’s unlikely, but difficult to say with any certainty–but things certainly look rosier for electric vehicles today than they did a few years ago. There are more on the market, for a start, and even more on the horizon.

Other questions quiz Musk’s SpaceX project and his business accumen–but we want to hear what you think of his answers, given a few more years to reflect on them.

Leave your thoughts on the progress of Tesla and SpaceX below–and anything else you’d like to comment on.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Sells Banked Vehicle Emissions Credits to Raise $13.8 Million

Tesla Sells Banked Vehicle Emissions Credits to Raise $13.8 Million

Many business start-ups fail within the first few years because they run out of cash. Fortunately for Tesla, the electric-car maker was able to sell banked vehicle emissions credits to other automakers and raise $13.8 million to help keep the young manufacturer alive.

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Since setting up shop in 2003, Tesla has barely managed to turn a profit from selling its $130,000 Roadsters. About 1000 of the pure-electric Roadsters have been sold — primarily to big-shot actors, musicians, and electric-car fans — and Tesla is slowly inching towards its initial public offering, expected to generate at least $100 million. Before its IPO, however, the Palo Alto, California-based company must keep the doors open and payroll up-to-date, and that is where the emissions credit sales come into play. Tesla disclosed it sold credits to Honda and at least one other unidentified automaker in an initial IPO filing.

The emissions credit program is managed by the California Air Resources Board and allows automakers to score points with the notoriously stringent state. Recent California emissions-control regulation from 2008 mandated the largest automakers — Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota — must combine to sell at least 60,000 plug-in hybrid or pure-electric vehicles in the state over a three-year period. The credits, which are measured in grams per mile of non-methane organic gas (g/mile NMOG), are earned with each certified clean- or zero-emissions vehicle sold and stored within a state database. Companies with more-polluting vehicles can use the credits to offset the extra emissions.

“Having these credits gives us some flexibility for the future,” said Robert Bienenfeld, Honda’s U.S. senior manager for environment and energy strategy. “Whether we’ll need to purchase more, I can’t say.”

Without the credits, automakers are subject to state fines, fees, and potential sales restrictions in California, one of the largest auto markets in the United States.

To further strengthen its commitment to the Golden State, Tesla recently joined forces with Toyota to retool the former NUMMI plant in Fremont to build the entry-level Model S sedan.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

By Benson Kong

Who Wants To See A Tesla Model S Burnout?

2012 Tesla Model S CAPTIONS ON | OFF

Naysayers beware. The Tesla Model S delivers speed, style, and sexiness on par with its non-electric competition. Also, as this newly released video from Road & Track shows, it does sick burnouts. Very, very, quiet sick burnouts.

Keeping with its reputation of pushing cars to their limits, Road & Track released a video of a Model S (possibly a Signature Performance model) delivering an extreme burnout, temporarily silencing speed freaks who consider electric cars an eco fad lacking in the excitement department.

In order to achieve a full burnout, R&T West Coast editor Jason Cammisa removed a single fuse to disable the ABS, stability control, and traction control. While unsafe, this allowed the powerful, 416 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft, rear-mounted electric motor to instantly accelerate to the car’s maximum 132 MPH.

While producing this undoubtedly head-turning trick, the modification has a few dangerous drawbacks. Aside from killing the aforementioned control features, the removed fuse also disables the speedometer, air suspension, brake assist, and power steering. Not surprisingly, the extreme torque also destroys the rear tires fairly quickly.

Considering these risks, and also taking into account the $50,000 price tag and three-month waitlist for a base Tesla Model S, serious car modders should probably reserve their hacks to old Acura Integras and Mitsubishi Ellipses – at least for now.

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Visit theautoMedia.comGreen Cornerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

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By Jessica Matsumoto

Tesla Model S vs Chevy Volt race: No points for guessing the winner

Tesla Model S Sunset

Battery-electric cars like the Tesla Model S and plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt are supposed to save the planet, not defile it with burnout marks, but who wouldn’t want to find out which is faster? The answer isn’t very surprising: in a drag race filmed by That Racing Channel, a Model S destroyed a Volt in the quarter mile.

Although it looks like the Volt got the jump on the Model S at the start, the Tesla pulled away with comedic ease. It finished the race in 12.562 seconds (still not fast enough to impress Dom Toretto) at 108.34 mph. The Volt could only manage 17.201 seconds at 80.36 mph.

It was all very funny, but in no way shocking (no pun intended). The winner was racing a top of the line 85-kWh Signature Performance, with 416 hp and 443 lb-ft. Even the “base” Model S has 362 hp and 325 lb-ft.

The Volt’s electric motor has a mere 149 hp and 273 lb-ft. Its 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline “range extender” can contribute 83 hp, but the gasoline and electric halves of the Volt’s powertrain rarely work together.

One thing that was surprising about this lopsided matchup was how quiet it was. If you’ve never seen a drag race before, just listen to the rumbling engines in the background. That’s what they sound like at idle. They’re sonic weapons when the drivers put their feet down.

Is this the future of drag racing? It’s going to be hard to get used to noiseless speed, so we might consider installing noisemakers on any cars participating in our green drag race.

We also might try an apples-to-apples comparison. That means pitting the Model S against another all-electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, and lining the Volt up next to another plug-in hybrid, like the Fisker Karma.

On second thought, a Fisker versus Tesla drag race would probably be the most fun. Both companies claim to build the ultimate eco-friendly luxury sedan and, unlike Chevy and its more utilitarian Volt, both consider their cars to be performance vehicles.

With 403 hp and 959 lb-ft of torque, the Karma looks like it could put up more of a fight, although it does take 6.3 second to reach 60 mph compared to the Model S Signature Performance’s 4.4 seconds. Still, that theoretical race would probably be closer than this real quarter mile massacre.

By Stephen Edelstein

Buy a House, Get a Free Tesla Model S Thrown In



There was this guy once, who was trying to sell his two-story house in Neville's Cross, Durham, UK. It had been on the market for quite some time, with very little interest, despite several price drops, so the guy decides to throw in his 1998 Ferrari 355 to coax in more buyers.

We don’t really know whether that guy managed to sell his house, but what we do know is that another guy is doing the same thing, but with a car that’s a quite a bit more special, even more so than a Ferrari 355. The house in question is a traditional-looking thing, worth around $1.15- (€0.93-) million, and to spice things up, the owner is throwing in his soon-to-be-delivered Tesla Model S.

What can we say, other than the fact that it’s rather pointless, as the Model S in question could have gone to somebody who actually wanted it, and it’s kind of silly to give away a car with the house, instead of just detracting the car’s value from the house’s. Modern marketing techniques like this one shouldn’t work. But then again, they are – this piece of news is all over the web, so whoever thought it up definitely deserve at least some credit. They even put up a website for it.

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Makes Money On Model S: $35K Per Car Selling ZEV Credits?

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Tomorrow at 5 pm Eastern, Tesla will hold what may be its most eagerly awaited conference call to date.

The Silicon Valley startup automaker will discuss its first-quarter financial results–which will give the first clue to its financial viability as an operating automaker.

But Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] will have raked in revenue not only from selling electric cars, but also by selling those cars’ zero-emission vehicle credits to other automakers.

Tesla sold “more than 4,750″ Model S electric sport sedans last quarter, the company said on April 1 (no, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke), and another 2,650 last year.

Selling credits since 2009

Now, as the Los Angeles Times reports, we learn that one analyst estimates Tesla could take in as much as $35,000 more from each Model S by selling its ZEV credits.

This is hardly new; the company has been doing so at least since 2009, when it sold ZEV credits to Honda and one other unnamed automaker.

Thilo Koslowski, an auto-industry analyst at Gartner Group, told the LA Times that the company might take in as much as $250 million this year from selling the credits.

Tesla communications director Shanna Hendriks declined to comment on the article, noting tomorrow’s earnings call. (SEC regulations discourage companies from commenting close to release of important financial information, including earnings.)

How much per car?

The math’s a bit unclear, since if Tesla sells 20,000 Model S cars this year, that would work out to $12,500 per car.

Nonetheless, as the article notes, Tesla’s ability to garner additional revenue beyond the sales price of its cars “highlights just how far California regulators have gone to promote the electric car.”

More properly, that should be “promote zero-emission vehicles,” since hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles also qualify for the same credits.

ZEV rules —> compliance cars

California’s ZEV sales requirement has produced the phenomenon of so-called compliance cars, which will be built and sold by five automakers in just enough volume to keep themselves within the law and avoid fines.

Those cars are the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV.

On balance, most of them are quite good electric cars.

And they give those companies experience with developing all-electric vehicles that they’ll need in the latter half of this decade, as carmakers must start to sell higher volumes of plug-in cars to meet increasingly stringent national fuel efficiency standards.

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

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Losing money on electrics

But to the degree that it’s cheaper for an automaker to buy ZEV credits from Tesla than to sell more of its own electric cars at a loss, they may well do so as a matter of financial expediency.

Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, for instance, has famously and repeatedly griped that his company will lose $10,000 on every electric Fiat 500 it must sell in the state.

His vehicle engineers, meanwhile, are remarkably proud of the 2013 Fiat 500e–which we found to be surprising good–and its marketers speak vaguely of plans to roll it out beyond California.

Perhaps.

ZEV Credits still a sideshow

Tomorrow evening, financial analysts will be poring over Tesla’s financials to tease out information on how much money the company really makes on its core business: building and selling electric cars.

Certainly California’s ZEV regulations give Tesla a financial boost.

Years from now, we may be able to look back and decide whether that incremental revenue was crucial to Tesla’s fate (whatever it turns out to be) and its first-quarter profit.

Over the long term, analysts expect the value of ZEV credits to vary, but say it will likely fall over the long term as the cost of building plug-in electric cars continues to fall.

But let’s be clear about one thing.

Over the long term, if Tesla Motors can’t design, develop, build, and sell electric cars in sufficient volumes to make enough profit to fund its future operations, then all the ZEV credits in the world are irrelevant.

Which isn’t to say, mind you, that they don’t look very attractive to Tesla’s CFO on the eve of its first quarter operating as a profitable automaker.

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By John Voelcker