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Tesla Gets $10 Million Of California Cash To Build Model X Crossover

2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' open

2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with ‘Falcon Doors’ open

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Yesterday, the California Energy Commission approved a $10 million grant to Tesla Motors which it said would help the electric automaker prepare for the launch of its second mass-produced car, the Tesla Model X Crossover SUV. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Tesla will have to match the $10 million in grant funding with $50 million of its own funds. 

The $10 million will be used by Tesla Motors  [NSDQ:TSLA], to expand capacity at its production facility in Fremont, California, where the 2012 Model S Sedan is already made. 

This will include the purchase of new manufacturing equipment needed to make components for the all-new electric crossover, as well as the hiring of an additional 700 workers when the Model X starts production in 2014. 

Unveiled earlier this year at an exclusive event in California, The Model X will be Tesla’s second mass-produced, and third overall, electric car. 

With seating for seven adults, Porsche-beating performance, and its famous falcon wing doors, the Tesla Model X is being marketed as having the practicality of a minivan, the luxury of an SUV, and the performance of a sportscar. 

According to Forbes, those present at the energy commission meeting in Sacramento, where Tesla was awarded the grant, were keen to see the Model X make it to market. 

Tesla Model X - Official Debut, Los Angeles, February 2012

Tesla Model X – Official Debut, Los Angeles, February 2012

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“Tesla has the unique distinction of being the only automaker to actually ask us to increase our targets under zero emission rules,” said Ryan McCarthy, science and technology policy advisor to the chair of the California Air Resources Board. 

“I think the Model X is going to be the next embodiment of delivering on that unique vision and capability,” he continued.

The funding announcement comes as Tesla is preparing to start repayments of $465 million of low-interest loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program form the U.S. department of Energy.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed the automaker will be cashflow positive by the end of 2012. 


By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Motor Trend Giveaway: “Own” a Tesla Model S in Car Town!

Motor Trend Giveaway: “Own” a Tesla Model S in Car Town!

The Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year-winning Tesla Model S may be priced out of reach for most consumers, but that’s not the case anymore. Motor Trend is partnering with the popular social game Car Town, allowing players to own the Tesla Model S by visiting our Facebook fan page and following the instructions.

“Any true automobile aficionado will want this kind of horsepower in their stable,” said Dennis Suggs, president and CEO, Cie Games, creator of Car Town. “We’re proud to be offering our first Tesla straight from the pages of Motor Trend to the virtual garages of our car-loving players.”

Car Town 2013 Scion FR S Community Design Contest prizes 300x187 imageAnd that’s not all. Aside from an in-game pop-up of the Motor Trend magazine, there are monthly Motor Trend community design contests — from designing a Motor Trend branded truck to transforming a Car Town garage into Motor Trend headquarters — with three finalists earning a Motor Trend branded Scion FR-S.

Car Town has nearly 50 million lifetime players on Facebook, and the related game Car Town Streets has proved popular on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Check out the Motor Trend Car Town Community Design contest page here, and the official Car Town Facebook page here. To see how you can get a Tesla Model S in your Car Town garage, head here.

By Motor Trend Staff

Does Tesla Motors Really Want To Be Chevron, Rather Than Ford?

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

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It’s been a great few months for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].

The company’s flagship product attracted a near best-ever rating from Consumer Reports to add to its trophy cabinet. Its DoE federal loans have been paid, and the company made a profit in the first quarter.

But is Tesla’s greatest potential in its Supercharger fast-charging network, rather than the Model S and its future vehicles?

The Wall Street Journal thinks it might be, and the argument is a strong one.

At the moment, only eight Superchargers dot the country, but that number will triple by the end of this month and rise to a hundred by the end of the year.

Superchargers for all

The business case for the Superchargers is currently one of added value for Model S sales. Tesla owners aren’t charged a penny to use the chargers, and that’s likely to remain the case for the forseeable future. As a Model S buyer, it’s nice to know you’ll eventually be able to travel the country without spending a dime on fuel.

But Tesla’s Supercharger technology is among the best fast-charging tech out there, and stations that can replenish 200 miles of battery capacity in 20 minutes have plenty of potential outside Tesla’s realm.

What if, asks The Wall Street Journal, Tesla Motors could expand its network faster than anyone else? And what if other cars were eventually able to use that network?

The paper likens the move to the first network of filling stations across the U.S. These were controlled by–get this–Henry Ford, shortly after the Model T was launched.

It’s great having people fill their Model S for free at those Superchargers, but even if Tesla’s success continues, it will only ever be one maker of electric cars. There are thousands of other electric vehicles out there with charging requirements, and allowing them access to the national Supercharger network could be a real money-spinner.

Charging: In Tesla’s best interests

Tesla is also perfectly placed to control such a network.

Many companies have a passing interest in running an electric network–automakers, utility operators, gas stations–but all have other interests at heart. Tesla’s business is only in electric vehicles, so there’s all the more to be gained from investing in the technology.

And while there are several competing charging technologies, such as the CHAdeMO standard adopted by many Japanese automakers, Tesla could potentially share its tech with some big automakers like Toyota and Daimler–both of whom have technology deals with Tesla.

Tesla has an exciting product line ahead of it, but The Wall Street Journal sums up the charging situation quite nicely:

“It has proven much more profitable to be Chevron than it is to be GM.”

It will of course be hugely expensive to set up a wide-reaching Supercharger network, as investment site Seeking Alpha points out (each station costs around $300K)–but that’s all the more reason to expand the network beyond merely free Tesla charging.

A Model S in every garage would be nice for Tesla Motors, but every electric car in the land using their chargers could be even better…

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


By Antony Ingram

Drag Race: Tesla Model S vs Dodge Viper [Video]

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

Tesla Says All-Electric 3-Series Competitor Due By 2015

Tesla presentation slide from June, 2012 outlining 'Gen 3' platform variants

Tesla presentation slide from June, 2012 outlining ‘Gen 3′ platform variants

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Ever since it was founded, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has followed a ‘trickle-down’ business model, developing its technology in premium luxury cars before using that technology to develop ever more affordable models. 

With its first car, the expensive yet sexy Roadster sports car no-longer made, its 2012 Model S full-size sedan now in production and plans to launch its Model X Crossover SUV next year, Tesla is already looking towards its first true, affordable electric car. 

It, according to Tesla’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen (via autocar), will be a BMW 3-series competitor that the Californian automaker hopes to launch as early as 2015.

First promised earlier this year, the new car will be Tesla’s third mass-produced electric car, built on an all-new, smaller, third-generation platform that it will share with a compact crossover SUV.

But according to von Holzhausen, Tesla may build more than just a compact sedan and crossover SUV on the new platform.

“There are lots of ways in which we can exploit the platform,” von Holzhausen said. “There will be a time and place for us to develop something around a pickup. That’s a market for which the torque of an electric motor would be ideally suited.”

Hinting that the target price of Tesla’s compact sedan would be around $30,000, von Holzhausen promised that “the third model will continue to drive down the price point as fast as possible.” 

2012 Tesla Model S painting process

2012 Tesla Model S painting process

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We’re glad to see Tesla planning for its future, but it’s worth remembering a few things.

First, while Tesla’s Model S development was at breakneck speed, it remains to be determined whether there will be any quality issues of the kind most automakers experience with brand-new cars and platforms.

Second, the 2012 Model S is Tesla’s first mass-produced car. To launch a 2015 affordable BMW 3-series beater, it has to continue producing the Model S,  as well as the successful development and launch of the 2013 Model X. 

In short, a lot can change in three years.


By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

We named the 2013 Ram 1500 our 2013 Truck of the Year winner this morning, wrapping up our 2013 Motor Trend “Of-The-Year” season. Joining the Ram 1500 with Golden Calipers of their own is our 2013 Sport/Utility of the year 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and our 2013 Car of the Year, the 2013 Tesla Model S.

For today’s Thread of the Day, we’d like to know which of the 2013 Golden Caliper-recipients you’d most want to own. Each award-winner brings plenty to the table; we loved the Mercedes GL’s segment-busting interior and dynamics; the Tesla Model S’ eco-cred, long legs, and speed; and the Ram 1500′s segment-first eight-speed automatic and towing capability. To make things more interesting, we’re going to include as an option the winner of our coveted Best Driver’s Car award: the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S.

So again, which of the following would you rather park in your driveway:

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, our Sport/Utility of the Year

2013 Tesla Model S, our Car of the Year

2013 Ram 1500, our Truck of the Year

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, our Best Driver’s Car

Tell us your choice and why in the comments below.

By Christian Seabaugh

No Joke: Tesla exceeds sales expectations but cancels entry-level model due to poor demand

Tesla Model S

Given that it’s April First, the news from Tesla seemed like a bit of a larf. Turns out, however, it’s not. The upstart luxury EV brand has axed plans for its $50,000 40 kWh Model S battery pack.

Customers who put down a deposit for a 40 kWh model will still receive one, however. As a Tesla press release put it: “The customers who ordered [the 40 kWh] option will instead receive the 60 kWh pack, but range will be software limited to 40 kWh. It will still have the improved acceleration and top speed of the bigger pack, so will be a better product than originally ordered, and can be upgraded to the range of the 60 kWh upon request by the original or a future owner.”

How much it will cost to unlock the extra 20 kWh worth of battery life is for now unknown. It stands to reason that buying the 40 kWh model secondhand and paying Tesla to unlock it, rendering it a 60 kWh model, would be the smart way to go.

Additionally, Tesla has announced that it has gone above and beyond and installed Supercharger hardware on all 60 kWh models, in anticipation that all customers will eventually buy the upgrade, allowing them access to unlimited long distance travel for life. Additionally, Tesla sees the upgrade as a boon to resale values, which adds equity for the first owner.

Lastly, Tesla has announced that it has exceeded its sales goals, having taken orders on 4,750 units versus the 4,500 that the company had previously projected.

Frankly, we’re quite impressed with Tesla’s announcements. They seem to be truly keyed in to, and concerned with, the future of their cars and customers satisfaction.

We wish other automakers showed the same level of care and concern. All too often it seems that once the vehicle leaves the lot, the brand no longer has concern for the vehicle. Tesla appears to want to nurture the vehicle throughout its life and across generations of owners.

By Nick Jaynes

Rolls-Royce copies Tesla and opens its first in-mall boutique showroom

Rolls-Royce Bangkok

Tesla got a lot of flack when it opened its showrooms inside of malls, turning the entire dealership and car buying process on its head. Though Tesla has been banned from such sales in a couple of states including Texas and perhaps soon in North Carolina, the idea has apparently inspired others, notably Rolls-Royce.

Rolls officially announced today that it has opened its first-ever boutique showroom in Bangkok, Thailand, of all places.

Just like the Tesla showrooms, customers can come in an experience the full Rolls-Royce experience from the comforts of a luxury shopping mall.

In the lounge, Rolls invites customers to take the time to customize their Rolls-Royce model, to feel the actual materials, and immerse themselves in the bespoke buying experience.

Rolls will even let buyers specify virtually every part of their car from the treadplate to the headrest. Rolls offers over 44,000 leather colors and will even install the wood from a buyer’s orchard, should they choose.

We sort of wonder why Rolls-Royce has chosen to mimic Tesla and why in Bangkok. Perhaps it was the easiest place to initiate such an ordering experience, as Tesla has had an uphill battle here in the States.

Frankly, we love the idea and wish all cars were sold this way. Do away with the triangular flags that encircle the multi-dozen-acre car lots staffed by nincompoops and their brothers. We’d much rather take the time to quietly spec our next car than be pushed into the first thing we see by a guy with a dead tooth and a chinstrap beard.

By Nick Jaynes

Tesla Wins One In Minnesota: Bill To Ban Its Stores Defeated

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

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Like a lot of news from Tesla, this came in the form of a tweet by CEO Elon Musk on Friday morning.

It read, in its entirety, “Minnesota auto dealers tried to pass legislation to block Tesla stores. Bill was just defeated in Senate. Thanks MN!”

And indeed, a Minnesota Senate committee voted down the bill.

Score one for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], at least for the moment.

But the fight isn’t over yet. On Wednesday, the state Assembly is holding a hearing on its own version of the bill.

Both Minnesota dealership owners and Tesla representatives will testify.

Most state laws prohibit carmakers from opening dealerships that compete with franchised dealers selling the same cars, because the company might give its own dealers better financial terms than the franchisees.

But auto dealers find Tesla’s model of selling exclusively online through factory-owned Tesla Stores highly threatening to the lock they have on all auto purchases.

Tesla, of course, has no franchised dealers–so the company says it is complying with all state laws governing car sales.

Nevertheless, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association followed the model laid down three years ago in Colorado and worked to persuade the legislature to amend the state’s franchising laws last month.

That amendment would ban auto companies from owning any dealerships at all, under any circumstances.

Auto dealers across the country, and their national group–the National Automobile Dealers Assocation, or NADA–view the Tesla model as a continuing threat to their livelihood.

Indeed, its chairman William Underriner told reporters last October that NADA “has ‘a whole mess of lawyers in Washington’ who work on state franchise laws,” which presumably NADA could deploy in every state where Tesla has or seeks to open a store or service facility.

CEO Elon Musk spoke out that month about various pending legislation pushed by dealers that targets Tesla Stores.

So, there’ll be more to this story. We’ll keep you posted.

[photo courtesy of Sam Villella]


By John Voelcker

2012 Tesla Model S Electric Sedan: 238 Miles Of Range, Says Motor Trend

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Whether you drive gas, electric or anything else, there are dozens of different factors that affect your car’s efficiency.

That’s why, even though Tesla Motors claims a range of 265 miles for its 85 kWh Model S, we’ve been eager to see how far it can go in realistic day-to-day driving.

Thanks to Motor Trend, we now know. The magazine borrowed Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s own Model S and ran it through a series of tests, culminating in a drive down I-15 and then up the Pacific Coast Highway to measure its range.

Starting with a full charge from the California Speedway, where the team logged performance figures, the car was driven down to San Diego on I-15 in 55-69mph traffic, before heading North again using I-5, where much of the driving was stop-and-go.

The rest of the journey North to Redondo Beach was on the PCH, with plenty of stops at intersections. Overall distance? 240 miles.

With a brief stop to top-up within a few miles of their destination, Motor Trend calculated a total range of 238 miles.

That’s 11 percent short of the claimed 265 miles, and they note that the trip involved fairly careful driving too. A failure, then?

Not necessarily. While the quoted range wasn’t reached, the driver did point out that the trip involved five hours of continuous driving. That’s the sort of distance and time that few drivers would go without needing to stop anyway, regardless of how far their battery or gas tank can take them.

The other figures are equally impressive. The drive depleted 93 percent of the battery’s capacity, or 78.2 kWh of electricity. Using a gasoline energy equivalency of 2.32 gallons, the car achieved 100.7 mpg-equivalent. Their chase car, a BMW 528i, managed 30.1 mpg. And quick though the BMW is, it doesn’t have anything like the potential performance of the Model S.

The 265-mile range may be achievable over long stretches at lower speeds, but even for those drivers not reaching the official target, a range of over 200 miles isn’t to be sniffed at.

And save for a criticism about under-padded seats, the car attracted plenty of praise in other areas too.

You can read our own thoughts on the Model S by clicking on our first drive report. And you can leave us your thoughts on the Tesla’s range in the comments section below.


By Antony Ingram