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As a handful of journalists snapped pictures, poked at touch screens, and flipped open the charging ports on the trio of preproduction (Betas, they call them) Model S’s parked outside the Tesla (ex-NUMMI) factory in Fremont, California, I had one solitary thought:
This is it.
The future of the 100-percent battery-powered electric automobile could very well pivot on what’s in front of me. If you’re one of those who’s enchanted by an Tomorrowland-like, electric-car future, you’d better hope the Tesla Model S succeeds. If you’re among its detractors, well, now’s the time to start pressing pins into your knitted Model S doll. But no matter what, the Model S is going to be a very difficult electric car to dismiss.
Because it’s a real car. Let me explain that statement. Remember GM’s EV1? It was a brilliant car…that was drastically undermined by its 1990′s battery technology (I actually pushed one down a street when its battery died). In most people’s eyes, it was simply not a “real car.” Battery technology hasn’t been nearly as problematic for the more recent Tesla Roadster — lithium-ion chemistry allows it to travel 200-plus miles between charges and be fast as heck — but it regularly gets dismissed as too expensive to be a “real car.” And ironically, the new Nissan Leaf — neither expensive nor archaic — seems to have come full circle, finding itself batted aside by some critics because of the EV1′s old Achilles heel: limited range. (Roughly 75 mile range in this case.) Too little to be a “real car.”
None of this can be said about the Model S. In its base version, it’ll cost $57,400 (add about $1950 for destination) and be eligible for a federal $7500 tax credit (and depending on where you live, additional local ones). Here in California, for instance, that means the price will be about $49,350 (after including our state $2500 tax credit as well). Not cheap, but there’s a whole lot of vastly less interesting sedans out there that regularly sell for $49,350. (Don’t make me name names.) Moreover, unlike the Volt and Leaf, the Model S’s charger is part of the deal, built right into car.
For that sum you’ll get the standard battery pack capable of a 160-mile range, a crummy distance in conventional gas car terms. But I’d reckon that 160 miles (more than twice the Leaf’s) would eliminate the daily-driving range phobia I’ve occasionally felt behind the wheel of the otherwise likeable little Nissan. And to get off on the right foot, the kickoff 1000 ‘Signature’ Model S’s will all carry the big, optional 300-mile range battery, which does tack a fat $20K onto the price. (The intermediate choice is a 230-mile range battery pegged at an additional $10,000). A little pencil work suggests Tesla is consequently charging $504 per kW-hr of energy storage — which is actually an attractive price at the moment.
Plugged into high-amperage, 240-volt juice, the Model S recharges at a massive rate of 62 miles per hour — meaning 2.6 hours for the 160-mile battery, about five hours for the 300-mile version (120-volt charging should be regarded as an emergency measure). Fast charging can replenish 80 % of the battery’s capacity in 45 minutes. A problem Tesla has faced as a pioneer is that it’s constantly a step ahead of international standards. With the Roadster, Tesla had to create its own version of what’s now called a level 2 charging receptacle before an SAE standard was established; when the J1772 plug appeared, it had to create an adaptor. It’s happening again as Tesla now has to come up with its own integrated levels 1, 2, and 3 (direct current, 400-plus volts) receptacle before the SAE version was ready. (The Leaf’s optional level 3 port is separate from its J1772 standard, and an awkward solution). Tesla defends its proprietary plug as better than trying to chase independent standards employed in Europe, the U.S., and Asia. Consequently, if you want to plug a Model S into, say, a ChargePoint station in the U.S., you’ll first need to attach an adapter.
While the Tesla Roadster has been unfairly labeled an electric Lotus (derived, perhaps), that won’t happen with the Model S as virtually every spec of it is original. Overall, its presence struck me as something like a more organic Audi A7, meaning it’s a stylishly windswept four-door fastback with a clear accent on performance. Parked side-by-side with the Audi, they’re just about the same length, with the Tesla measuring an inch taller and wider. And like the Audi, the Model S is almost entirely aluminum, with bolding via adhesives, rivets, and welds, depending on the circumstance.
At this moment, I’m one of Earth’s few inhabitants to have ridden in both Fisker’s Karma and Tesla’s Model S (at least in this pre-production guise), and maybe the most startling difference between them is space efficiency. The Karma’s vastly smaller, 20 kW-hr battery runs down the car’s spine, dividing the interior so utterly that there’s not only room for just two in back, but I’d advise them to be 12 years old. Its trunk? Don’t play golf. However, the Model S’s battery — despite being more than four times bigger — is sort of like a 3- or 4-inch-thick sheet of plywood bolted under the car (and said to be removable in minutes). As the rear-mounted motor and reduction gears are quite small, the result is astonishing.
Like a big Porsche Cayman, there’s trunks both front (8.1 cubic feet) and rear (a giant 28.7, rising to 58.1 with the aft seats collapsed). There’s room for five, offering more space than the A7 in just about every dimension except rear headroom (the same) and rear shoulder room (0.9 inch less). What with the sloping roofline — as well as mechanisms needed for the large retractable glass panoramic roof (standard equipment) — I had to watch my noggin getting in and out (I’m 6 foot 1 inch), but it’s not much different than the A7. On the other hand, there’s a thoughtful cut-out for feet beneath the front seat bottom, something that’s amazingly neglected in too many cars. And oh, about those two little optional rear-facing seats (seats 6 and 7)…
In fact, they’re removable, five-belt child affairs, so their occupants’ size is literally restricted by law. I actually climbed back there, but being considerably past child-seat age (when I was a kid, I used to stand on a front bench seat, for heaven’s sake) all I could judge is that they’re definitely close to the rear bumper. But no more so than the third row of many minivans. Would I put a kid there? Well, the seats do provide some flexibility in a pinch…and that’s about it.
A funny thing about the Model S is that I suspect its biggest talking point might not be its range and recharge times, but the 17-inch, high-res, full-color display in the middle of the dash. I don’t often mutter “Cool…” anymore, but mutter it I did as I began to tap my way through its configurations. Like the iPad? This is an iPad on steroids, offering access to the Web, climate controls, and a Google maps navigation presentation that is simply terrific. It’s so good (judging from the prototype screen) that it might be a considerable driver distraction. (It isn’t clear how web connectivity while driving will be handled.) However, I’d suggest that its extraordinary size could actually become a safety benefit if what’s displayed on the screen was greatly enlarged so it’s easy to read and touch-sensitive taps don’t need to be well-targeted. This might be the first time a display’s size and high-quality graphics actually add to the attractively modern interior design. Of the three cars available to us, one was described as representative of fit and finish, and while it was very nicely, and expensively, executed, it’s really impossible to judge any of this until we see a production — rather than a hand-built — example.
My ride in the Model S was a brief circuit around the factory grounds and the banked corners that punctuate the ends of the tiny test track left over from the NUMMI days. But I was quickly surprised by a couple of things. 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. (Top speed is 130 mph, and a sub-5-second, 320-mile range has been mentioned for a sport variant.) Aided by liquid cooling, the motor generates 306 hp at 7000 rpm and 362 lb-ft of torque between 6500-10,000 rpm (redline is 14k!). 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.
Selfishly, I’ll admit that during our tour of the ex-NUMMI digs, I was thinking it’s sure nice to be taking a tour of a car factory without being jet lagged. Tesla’s digs are 350 miles north of our spacious cubicles in El Segundo. Not 5000 miles east or 7000 miles east. What a novelty.
Of course, what’s much more important here is the pundit-defying reality of all the shiny new industrial decoration surrounding me. For all I know, Tesla may suddenly go all Solyndra on us. But at this particular time-stamp in history, I’m standing in the middle of a genuine electric car factory.
There’s the smell of fresh paint. Gleaming painted floors. Gigantic (I mean “Transformers”-scale) stamping machines that were shipped from Detroit in pieces, requiring numerous trucks and train cars to transport (a 20-foot-deep concrete-lined subterranean pit was created to support them). And everywhere you look are brigades of brand-new robots busily showing off their dexterity by swiveling their wrists and doing a pantomime of handing body parts to one another. Eerily, they’re actually handling nothing but pieces of air, as the stamping dies needed to make those parts won’t be showing up a few more weeks, but they’re practicing nonetheless. Curiously, not that much of the pre-existing machinery is being used — at least yet.
I’ve listened to endless auto industry wags dismissively bellow that it’s one thing to make some high-priced electric sports cars by piggybacking on low-production Lotus know-how. But real car-making, they harrumph, is beyond those helpless, Silicon Valley know-nothings. Search engines and social networks are not automobiles. I’m wondering if it isn’t a strength.
For instance, one unusual twist is the degree to which automated die changes are part of the production process. Those giant stamping machines are frightfully expensive, so it’s cheaper to robotically switch dies in and out of them. Another is the plant’s micro re-envisioning of a Rouge River-esque, soup-to-nuts manufacturing strategy. Counter to the conventional wisdom to subcontract just about everything — with car companies doing not much more than final assembly — nearly the entire Model S will be created onsite. The motors will be wound in one place, the batteries assembled nearby, the stamping happens over there. There’s an injection molding center with sparkling new presses, likewise a paint line that’s almost entirely robotic. Even the leather works (a separate company) will be co-located on site. Gilbert Passin, VP of Manufacturing, explained that given the gigantic sprawl of the virtually free facility (Tesla paid $47 million dollars for the property and $18 million for the existing machinery — after which Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla), and how remote California is from the suppliers surrounding Detroit, it just make sense. In its prime, NUMMI produced about 500,000 Toyota and GM cars. Right now, Tesla is employing somewhere between 15 to 20 percent of the main building (the rest is simply mothballed). Indeed, being that the cars are electric and can be driven indoors, the final evaluation track — speed bumps, road ripples, etc — is within the same massive space as the final assembly line. Why not? There’s room.
Despite its innovative nature, Tesla’s key positions are all populated by guys who have a clue: CTO J.B. Straubel co-founded the aerospace company Volacom; the Model S’s designer is Franz Von Holzhausen, previously Director of Design at Mazda and creator of the Saturn Solstice and Sky while at GM; the chief engineer is Peter Rawlinson, who did the same for Lotus’ Advanced Engineering, previously worked on Jaguars and BMWs, and is an expert in aluminum construction; and there’s Passin, who lords over the manufacturing facility and was previously general manager of production engineering for Toyota North America. Even the guys responsible for the German-made presses are Germans, hired directly from the factory for their knowhow. (I’m also told there’s also a guy named Elon Musk who’s somehow involved.)
And all of this expertise, money, property, buildings, robots, and hopes is now focused on a batch (well under 100) of Beta 2 Model S’s for final, production-line evaluation. After that, the plan is to build about 5000 cars in 2012, with the numbers ramping up to 20K per year after that. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the middle of next year. And at that point we might finally see if the Model S is the car that makes the electric automobile a force — or kills it forever.
|2012 Tesla Model S|
|Base price||$59,350 – $79,350 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Rear-motor, RWD, 5-7 pass, 4-door sedan|
|Motor||Liquid-cooled, AC induction, 306-hp/362-lb-ft|
|Curb weight (F/R dist)||4200 lb (est)|
|Length x width x height||196.0 x 77.3 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 mph||5.6 sec (est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||112 combined mpg-e (est)|
|Energy cons, combined city/hwy||30 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.00 lb/mile (at the tailpipe)|
|On sale in U.S.||Mid 2012|
By Kim Reynolds
We didn’t crown the Tesla Model S Car of the Year just because it was a technological marvel – it also earned the golden calipers because it’s damn fast (among other reasons). Reconfirmation of the Model S’ dynamic abilities comes from Florida, where DragTimes.com drag raced a Model S against a last-generation Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster.
The DragTimes.com video shows a Model S Performance, complete with the 85 kW-hr battery pack thoroughly smoking a lightly modified 2005 Viper SRT10 at the strip. On paper, the Model S really doesn’t stand a chance – its electric motor in the lineup-topping model makes 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, compared to the stock 2005 Viper’s 8.3-liter V-10, which makes 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. In fact – our testing confirms that this isn’t exactly a fair matchup, considering the fastest Model S we’ve tested hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.0 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph. The last Viper Roadster of the same era we tested needed 3.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph and 11.8 seconds at 123.6 mph to knock out the quarter mile. Nonetheless, just like when the Model S drag raced a BMW M5, it’s the Tesla that comes out on top here, likely because the EV is an incredibly easy car to launch.
DragTimes.com’s 12.371 seconds at 110.84 mph quarter mile time for the Tesla Model S just edges out our time of 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph, reportedly earning the Model S the world record for quickest production electric vehicle in the quarter mile from the National Electric Drag Racing Association. Less powerful and expensive Model S trims use 40- and 60 kW-hr batteries instead of an 85 kW-hr battery pack.
In other Tesla news, CEO Elon Musk is reaching out to the chief engineer of the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in an effort to help the plane maker sort out its lithium-ion battery troubles, Reuters reports. The 787 fleet has been grounded after a series of high-profile fires in the 787′s battery compartment. Musk, who also heads commercial space transport company SpaceX, uses the same type of batteries in the Tesla Model S and in SpaceX’s rockets. The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries for main flight control systems.
Check out the Model S racing a Viper in the video below.
Source: DragTimes.com, YouTube, Reuters
Now that we’ve crowned the Tesla Model S the Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year, we’ve dug up the best videos of the electric cars that we could find. From videos documenting the development of the Tesla Model S to a Motor Trend comparison with a Tesla Roadster and a Porsche Boxster, get your fill of Tesla videos right here.
The Tesla Model S was designed and engineered with one goal in mind: to cure electric-vehicle range anxiety. To put it to the test, we drove it to Las Vegas and back in one single charge and documented the journey. How do we know what Tesla’s goal was with the electric sedan? Before setting off on the excursion to Sin City, we toured the Tesla’s Silicon Valley factory and spent some time with Tesla CEO, Elon Musk to learn more about the Model S.
We’ve tested the 2013 Tesla Model S’ range on three single-charge road trips, but how did the car perform on the track? The Model S reached 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph, and its performance was all caught on video for an episode of Ignition. While the Model S is a great performer all on its own, we were also curious to discover how it behaves when matched up against an unlikely rival in a drag race — the BMW M5.
Before we got our hands on the Model S though, we followed the development process and all the engineering that went into it with a series of three videos. We also caught a trio of prototypes testing on the track, and it appears the Model S also enjoys a bit of winter weather, as we’ve also caught it playing in the snow. Before the Model S though, was the original Tesla Roadster, which we compared against a 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Let’s not forget about the upcoming Model X, in which we got to check out its awesome gullwing doors at its official debut.
Watch the Tesla videos below.
Get your checkbooks out: Tesla is now planning to file an initial public offering at an estimated $178 million.
Well, not quite yet.
Tesla, which has lost money hand over fist since inception, believes it can make an IPO of $178 million, up from a January estimate of $100 million. The automaker plans to sell just over 11 million shares, at $14 to $16 each, and will be bolstered by a planned $50 million investment from Toyota.
Currently, Tesla’s earnings stand at $147.6 million since 2003, contrasted against losses of more than $290 million. So far, the money comes from the sales of its one and only offering, the Tesla Roadster, though Tesla has teased a sedan called the Model S.
Tesla is working on the sedan in collaboration with Toyota and expects it to compete in the $50,000 range. It will be built in Toyota’s shuttered NUMMI manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, pending the finalization of an agreement between the two companies. We’ve already reported on the two brands working together, and are curious to see if Tesla can make good on the deal.
Source: Detroit News
Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]
Why would Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk take a Sharpie to the sun visor of an all-but-new Tesla Model S electric sport sedan?
It wasn’t a question we’d considered until a reader tipped us off to a photo on Flickr that showed just that.
And we were intrigued enough to contact Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA} to ask just what was going on here.
The photo is one of a set of 15, dated last Saturday, collectively labeled “Elon Musk visits Austin,” taken by local resident John Griswell.
“Owners showed up early during the opening weekend of our store at The Domain in Austin, Texas,” responded Tesla communications director Shanna Hendriks.
“Elon was there at South by Southwest to give his keynote address,” she continued, “and he stopped by the store to say hi.”
“Owners asked him to autograph their cars–and he obliged!”
For background, you should know that the first, priciest, and potentially most valuable Model S cars are the first thousand or so off the production line.
They have pretty much every feature you can order on a Model S, plus special paint and trim, and they’re designated the “Signature” series.
Each one carries a signed nameplate with its limited-edition serial number.
Always wanted a “signature” Model S, but missed out on the pricey first edition?
There you have it.
If you’re a Tesla Model S owner, and you want to make your car into a rare “Elon Musk Signature” edition, find out where the next Tesla Store is opening.
Then drive there–with luck it’ll be near the company’s growing Tesla-only Supercharger network of fast-charging stations–and ask him politely to sign your car.
[hat tip: Brian Henderson / photo: John Griswell on Flickr]
The Infiniti Emerg-e is a stunning looking thing, and there’s no doubt about that. It is their best design exercise so far, and some officials have stated that it’s ‘feasible’ to build a production version of the car, so it’s great news that the car will be driven for everybody to see at this year’s edition of the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The car is based on a modified Lotus Evora platform – an excellent chassis which has been praised for its excellent handling and comfort characteristics (two traits rarely found together, let alone on a Lotus sports car). It is a range-extended hybrid, with a power output of 402 hp, as stated by Infiniti engineers.
It can crack 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in around 4 seconds, with an all-electric range of 48 km (30 miles) and an extended range of around 480 km – this makes it thoroughly usable as a daily driver, and a more-than-brisk one at that.
If we stop to think for a second, Lotus is open to the whole idea of supplying rolling chassis to other manufactuers, as proven by their collaboration with Tesla – the Roadster sharing the Elise’s epoxy-bonded aluminium construction. This just makes us add the Emerg-e to the category of possible future production cars.
If it does make it into production, the car is expected to cost somewhere in the region of €115,000 (£95,000), and with its ‘green’ credentials, awesome styling and posh badge, it will sell by the thousands, despite the relatively high price – they should also change its name.
Story via autocar.co.uk
Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, has given a tutorial in series of videos on the electric Model S sedan, in which he highlights the aluminum structure, the rear suspension system, and the battery pack that ultimately makes the electric luxury sedan so unique. But this alpha testing video isn’t just another tutorial – we finally get to see Model S triplets in action as they hit the test track.
These playful Beta cars mean Tesla has finally moved onto the second development stage of the electric sedan, and with plans to start production in the second quarter of 2012, let’s hope testing continues to go as smoothly as it does in the video.
The Model S has been the center of the electric hype, and more than 3000 reservations have been placed for the sedan so far in North American and Europe. When it goes on sale, it will start at $57,000 (before a $7500 federal tax credit) for the 160-mile range battery pack – a 230-mile pack will run buyers $67,000, and the 300-mile range Model S will start at a cool $77,000.
With its third row – the first in a sedan – the Model S may pose a serious threat to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and the Porsche Panamera. But unfortunately, we can’t really see the interior in this video, which leaves how any person, or child, will fit back there, a mystery.
Source: Tesla Motors
US automaker Tesla Motors has announced its first quarter 2013 financial results, posting a profit for the first time in the company’s 10-year history.
According to a report released yesterday, Tesla delivered 4,900 vehicles in the first quarter of 2013 for record sales of $562 million, up 83 percent when compared to the last quarter, which resulted in a profit of $15 million (GAAP profit of $11 million).
In addition, Tesla’s 4,900 examples delivered in North America in Q1 have surpassed both the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, with the two companies reporting 4,244 and 3,539 units sold over the same period of time.
Talking about the future, Tesla said it expects US demand to exceed 15,000 Model S vehicles a year, with global demand probably more than 30,000 a year. With exports starting Q3, the company hopes to sell 10,000 and 5,000 cars a year in Europe and Asia respectively.
Tesla Model X
Along with the news that Tesla expects to build 80 Model S electric cars this week, CEO Elon Musk also released a few more details of the company’s plans for additional models in 2016.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has already said that it will launch the Model X crossover within the next year or so.
That seven-seat crossover utility, complete with roof-hinged “falcon doors,” is to be built on the same basic understructure as the Model S all-electric sport sedan.
Now, Musk told Wired last week, the company’s third vehicle architecture–a smaller, less costly vehicle than those two models–will include not only a sedan, but also a smaller crossover and a sports car.
The sedan is expected to be roughly the size of a BMW 3-Series, so the crossover might logically be comparable to that company’s X3 crossover utility vehicle.
And the sports car effectively replaces Tesla’s very first car, the 2008-2011 Roadster electric two-seat convertible.
The previously announced entry-level sedan, to be a 2015 model, is targeted for a price before incentives of about $30,000.
That’s little more than half the cost of the Model S, which starts at $57,400 but can approach a sticker of $100,000 if the largest battery pack, for the longest range, and other options are selected.
The sedan will actually be a five-door hatchback, as is the Model S, Musk told Wired.
He called it a “scaled-down Model S,” saying it would be “20 to 25 percent smaller” than the current Tesla sedan.
For the moment, though, Tesla has to work through the challenges of scaling up production of the 2012 Model S, the first production car it’s assembled itself, to volumes of 80 cars a day.
First things first … though it’s nice to have a sense of what Tesla would like to do over the next several years.
You can say one thing: Tesla and Musk don’t lack for ambition.