It seems that everybody has very good things to say about the Tesla Model S, and if you needed more convincing that it is a very good car, Consumer Reports can now confirm this, as well, after having done a brief review of the car. However, it was not their car, which is what they usually do – buy a car, then test it extensively for a while.
Even so, the brief test again brought to light the Model S’ qualities, such as the sleek design, low drag coefficient, excellent performance, elegant and simple interior, and the 17-inch touch screen display, which has mostly been praised by reviewers who have had a chance to use it so far.
They will be doing a full review of it once they get delivery of their very own car, so until then, this is all they have to say about it. One thing they didn’t like, though, were the door handles, which the reviewer called ‘fussy’ – they do work, though, and will definitely impress your friends.
Hybrids and electric vehicles may not stimulate the senses as much as, say, a highly strung V-10 with a six-speed manual transmission, but at least said alternative-power vehicles look more exciting today than they ever have before. Today’s Tesla Roadster was nowhere near physical conception two decades ago, and today we are graced with a bevy of electric-motor-assisted and electric-motor-driven vehicles that look as visually appealing as their conventionally powered counterparts. What do you believe is the best-looking hybrid or electric vehicle?
Thanks to Futurearchitect for today’s TOTD!
Eight Cars We’d Be Surprised to See With Lambo Doors
By Benson Kong
In one of the quickest turnarounds we’ve seen in years, the Toyota RAV4 EV that Tesla only agreed to build for the Japanese giant four months ago will make its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week.
To be fair, by the time the companies announced the project, they already had a prototype built. Still, considering how fast they got a show car together, it’s likely that the drivetrain and battery system are very similar, if not identical, to the Tesla Roadster’s. All either company has said is that Tesla has been contracted to develop a battery, motor, gearbox and all related electronics for the RAV4 EV, for which Toyota will pay them a cool $60 million.
For the moment, Toyota’s only released these two teaser images of their nifty new badge and shout-out to Tesla on the speedometer. Further, the company has simply announced that the RAV4 EV will be at LA, but has kept all other details to itself. That means we won’t know the vehicle’s range, charge time, launch date or price until next week at the earliest. Unless more images are released, we won’t know what it’ll look like until next week either, though if the original RAV4 EV is any indication, the changes won’t be too radical save perhaps some aerodynamic improvements.
Stay tuned to MotorTrend.com next week for our complete live coverage of the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.
By Scott Evans
Tesla Motors is doing so well that it recently cancelled plans for a base model that would undercut the $69,900 Model S. Still, it’s important to let customers know that they’re getting a good deal, and Tesla thinks its customers are. It thinks a combination of low electricity costs and government incentives will make the Model S significantly cheaper to own than a comparable luxury sedan.
The carmaker from Silicon Valley is starting a three-year lease program, financed by by Wells Fargo and US Bank, with a 10 percent down payment. It works out to an “effective monthly cost” of $471 for a base 60-kWh Model S, and $895 for the top 85-kWh Performance model. All of Tesla’s cost of wonership estimates are based on this leasing scheme.
Right out of the gate, Tesla expects EV tax incentives to cover most if not all of the 10 percent down payment on a Model S. Buyers in every state qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but certain states offer more.
California gives buyers $10,000 in incentives, while West Virginia offers up to $15,000. New Jersey, Washington state, and the District of Columbia also don’t charge sales tax on electric cars.
Then there’s the all-important fuel savings tab. Tesla says that, even with higher electricity bills and a premium price, a Model S will still save its owner money.
Assuming the hypothetical Model S owner drives 15,000 miles over three years, with gas at $5.00 per gallon and electricity at $0.11 per kWh, Tesla says driving one of its cars will save $284 per month over an “average premium sedan.”
Tesla quotes an average fuel economy figure of 19 mpg for its competition. A 2013 BMW 550i with an automatic transmission returns 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The larger 750i gets 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, oddly enough.
Plugging in this week’s national average gasoline price of $3.65 (as reported by the Energy Information Administration), and the 5 Series’ EPA combined rating of 20 mpg, we got a still-substantial savings of $183 a month.
Since time is money, Tesla also lets potential owners calculate how much they’ll save by using carpool lanes for their commutes, and skipping stops at the gas station.
However, if these people decide to take their cars on business trips, they may have to make half-hour recharging stops at Tesla’s Supercharger stations. It might also be a good idea to budget time for repairs, since the Model S is a brand-new design.
After the three years are up, Model S drivers will be able to sell their cars back to Tesla for the same residual value percentage as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, although Tesla doesn’t say which S-Class model it means. Guaranteeing this high resale value means buyers won’t have to worry about depreciation.
While it’s undeniable that electricity is cheaper than gas, it might not be a good idea to buy a Model S based on solely on the expectation of saving a certain amount of money.
A person’s driving habits and the national average gasoline price fluctuate too much to be accurately predicted over the course of three years.
Still, electric car ownership will save some money, and there are plenty of other good reasons to buy a Model S. After all, if all you care about is saving money, why bother with such an expensive EV at all? Why not buy a Nissan Leaf?
The 2012 loss grew some $141.8 million over the company’s 2011 losses, bringing the red ink to a total of $396.2 million. According to Automotive News, “manufacturing and supply chain inefficiencies” were behind the fourth-quarter loss of almost $90 million, which was up by $8.4 million over the same period in 2011.
Indeed, the automaker says much of its red ink stems directly from ramping up production of the Model S sedan, the company’s sole product at this point in time. The company says it is now churning out 400 units a day, and is allegedly on track to build roughly 20,000 copies by the end of 2013.
The negative numbers don’t seem to have placed a damper on Tesla’s outlook. CEO Elon Musk stated during the company’s earnings call on Wednesday, “We really have a very high confidence that we will have a profitable first quarter, and this is the very first quarter that we have been at our target production rate.” It’s because Tesla has only just gotten up and running with its 400-unit-per-day rate that we don’t have full sales numbers yet; the company is still working through a backlog of orders on the Model S – unsurprising, given how impressed we were when we named the Model S our Automobile of the Year. That said, it still reported sales of 2400 cars in the fourth quarter of 2012 and has grown its international store total to 32. A total of 2650 Model S cars were sold in 2012.
Tesla is aiming to increase its global retail footprint to 52 stores by the end of this year, and also hopes to roll out a leasing program for the Model S and to continue expanding its Supercharger network. Musk stated that the expansion plans will only help to propel the company’s growth, as it currently has “over 15,000″ reservations for the Model S and expect to post a quarterly profit for Q1 of 2013. Ambitious goals, and we’ll have to wait and see how they shake out over the course of 2013.
Sources: Telsa, Automotive News (Subscription required)
2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]
It’s been a week of Tesla Model S hullabaloo, centered around last Sunday’s critical New York Times road test, Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway.
Now a set of defiant Tesla Model S owners are setting out to prove Times reporter John Broder wrong.
They will replicate his trip from Maryland to Connecticut, fully recharging their electric luxury sport sedans to show that the cars are quite capable of making the trip he couldn’t.
Three cars will set off at about 11 am tomorrow from the Tesla Service Center in Rockville, Maryland.
Two hours later, they’ll arrive at the Delaware SuperCharger site and connect with three additional Model S drivers, setting off fully charged by 3 pm or so.
They’ll stop again at the Milford, Connecticut, SuperCharger and recharge their cars to full.
Three drivers will even stay at a hotel in Groton, Connecticut, just as Broder did–returning the next morning to the MIlford SuperCharger to recharge once again.
After that, all the drivers will head home.
“We are trying to replicate the trip as closely as possible,” said driver Aaron Schildkraut, “but showing that with proper full charges (and even not plugging in overnight at the hotel) that the trip can be made.”
The owners have asked Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for access to their cars’ data logs afterward, to provide the same level of detail that Tesla offered in Musk’s rebuttal post, A Most Peculiar Test Drive.
A Twitter account, TeslaRoadTrip, has already been set up so that team members can post regular updates during the weekend. Perhaps Tesla’s tweet-happy CEO, Elon Musk, will RT some of their updates.
The plans stemmed from various discussions on the Tesla Motors Club forum. The plan to crowdsource drives that will ostensibly disprove Broder’s reporting grew over just a few days.
We’ll bring you more details on Monday about how the trip played out.
Meanwhile, for more details on the spat, read our full account of the discrepancies between the Times and Tesla accounts as of yesterday morning.
What do you think? Will the Model S owners make it?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.
Ford has steadily improved the SYNC system, developed with the help of Microsoft, over the years, and while it may still not be perfect, even after a few years in development, they have now reported the sale of the 5 millionth vehicle equipped with the system.
According to Paul Mascarenas, CTO and VP of Ford Research and Innovation, “SYNC has helped us evolve as an automaker, to think and act more like a technology company, with a new level of openness and access that has forever changed how we look at our business and respond to our customers [. . . ] Ultimately, SYNC embodies what Ford is all about: going further to transform innovative ideas into products that are affordable, attainable and valuable to millions of people.”
Over time, the system will improve, and the fact that they have made an alliance with the likes of Microsoft will most likely ensure a good quality product in the end. Some customers still don’t like it, and this will still be the case, until they finally make a system which is truly easy to use and intuitive – like the one used by Tesla, on the Model S’ oversized central screen, but smaller.
It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s time for turkey, family, road trips, football — and yes, even being thankful. In the automotive sphere that means being thankful for the latest and greatest new cars, trucks, and SUVs currently in production or entering production soon.
We’re thankful for quite a few new vehicles here at Motor Trend – like the uber-luxurious and uber-capable 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, the lightning-quick and all-electric 2013 Tesla Model S, and the pint-sized, entry-priced 2013 Scion FR-S and 2013 Subaru BRZ twins.
In honor of Thanksgiving and for today’s Thread of the Day, we want to know which currently on sale (or soon to be on sale) 2013 or 2014 car, truck, or SUV you’re most thankful for. Our only restriction is that the vehicle must be in dealerships now, or will soon go on sale.
Have at it in the comments below.
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Two weeks and 600 miles ago, I took delivery of a 60-kWh 2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan.
I won’t dwell on the ear-flattening acceleration, nor the magic-carpet ride and handling, nor the mesmerizing 17-inch touch screen controls.
Those features have been exhaustively analyzed and reported by far more expert authorities than I.
I’ll just say that I was expecting a world-class cutting-edge luxury sport sedan, and that’s just what Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] delivered.
But there have also been a few things I didn’t expect.
Here are some of the little surprises–good and bad–that I’ve noticed in the Model S so far.
One of the joys of electric driving is regenerative braking. Lift your foot off the “gas” pedal, and the car slows aggressively as the drive motor turns into a generator and sends current back into the battery.
Strong regen is not only energy-efficient, but also gives the car a sporty, responsive feel, like engine braking in a gas car in a low gear. Electric-car drivers call it “one-pedal driving.” With strong regen, you’ll hardly ever touch the brake.
Different electric cars have different levels of regen. The gentle Nissan Leaf is designed to feel like a standard car [but has two different settings for Regen, D and ECO].
The Chevy Volt has two regen settings, one that mimics conventional gasoline cars, and a second stronger one that allows for one-pedal driving. (I drive my Volt in this “L” mode virtually 100 percent of the time.)
Tesla’s first car, the two-seat Roadster, had particularly strong regen, a popular feature with its performance-oriented owners.
The Model S, like the Volt, has two settings: Low, which mimics conventional cars, and Standard, which follows in the one-pedal tradition of the Roadster.
I was eagerly anticipating the same sporty, responsive regen feel that had hooked me in the Volt.
Not so much, it turns out.
To my surprise, regenerative braking in the Model S virtually disappears when the battery is cold. Starting out on a winter’s day, it feels disappointingly like any old ICE car–even with the regen on the highest setting.
As the battery warms, the regen gradually increases. But it can take a maddeningly long time to get back to the max level.
Model S vs Volt
On a sunny 40-degree day last week, it took almost 25 miles of driving for full regen to come back. On my typical shorter trips around town, I never get it back. I’d guess that overall, perhaps only a third of my driving so far has had full regen available.
Blame the Model S battery management system, which is programmed to limit the charge rate when the battery is cold.
Under normal circumstances, abruptly backing off the gas pedal at high speed can send a jolt of up to 60 kW into the Model S battery. Tesla engineers believe such bursts of charge are not healthy for cold batteries, and therefore limit regen accordingly.
The Model S has a dashboard dial that shows exactly how much regen current is flowing back into the battery at any given moment. Its maximum reading is 60 kW.
When regen is limited, a dotted line appears on the dial, and the meter won’t go beyond it. On a cold day, the dotted line starts out at around the 15-kW mark and gradually moves up to the 60-kW level before disappearing altogether when the battery reaches its normal operating temperature.
By contrast, the Chevy Volt’s regen is unaffected by temperature. It’s the same sporty feel, winter or summer. Apparently Chevy engineers don’t see a problem with high charge rates for cold batteries.
Do they know something Tesla engineers don’t? Or vice versa?
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Whoever’s right, and long-term battery health notwithstanding, one thing is indisputable: From the driver’s point of view, the regen system of the Model S is a lot less consistent and fun than the Volt’s in cold weather.
One more reason to look forward to summer.
The key fob that won’t shut up
For the last 35 years, I’ve left my keys in the car as it sits overnight in my driveway. (I live in a low-crime area, deep in the woods, at the end of a long driveway.)
It’s a great system. I never, ever forget my keys on the kitchen counter or in the wrong jacket pocket. They’re always waiting in the car.
Until I got the Tesla Model S.
When I casually described my car-key system to the Tesla delivery guy, he frowned and said, “If you do that with this car, you’ll be replacing the key fob battery every month or so.”
He went on to explain that when the key fob is in the car, it stays in constant communication with the Model S computer, which remains on all the time. Even though there’s nothing really to talk about, the key fob keeps talking to the computer 24/7. That takes juice. And that kills batteries. Moral: Don’t leave the key in the car.
I’m trying to reform. It’s not going well.
About half the time, by sheer force of 35-year habit, I walk out the door not thinking about my car keys. I walk up the 200-foot path from the house to the driveway, go through the awkward getting-in contortion the Model S requires of tall, creaky drivers like me, and put the shift lever into Drive–only to be greeted with a “Key Not Inside” alert.
Help me out here, Elon. Could you please make a key fob that shuts up after a while?
I’m ready to wager that no production car in the world coasts better than a Model S.
There’s a long, ruler-straight, very slightly downhill stretch of highway near my home. Visually, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the grade.
But drive the Model S along this stretch and slip the gear lever into neutral, and the car seemingly glides on like magic, maintaining 60 mph with zero energy input. It’s surreal.
Credit the car’s aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.24, the lowest of any production car. Likewise the low-rolling resistance tires, inflated to 45 psi. As far as I can tell, that’s the highest tire pressure on any production car.
The result is a hypermiler’s wet dream.
Which raises the question: if you’ve got regen braking, why bother to coast? By shifting to N, aren’t you losing the chance to put free energy back into the battery?
Yes, you are.
But regen braking slows the car. And to accelerate back up to coasting speed takes all the energy you’ve just put back into the battery, and more.
Assuming a typical motor/generator/inverter effciency of around 80 percent, the regen process wastes about a third of the energy it processes. 100 watt-hours of kinetic energy from the car turns into 80 Wh of electricity back into the battery, which turns into 64 Wh of energy delivered back to the wheels.
Coasting, on the other hand, wastes nothing.
More efficient than the Volt….in winter
After 594 miles of driving, the Model S Magic Screen is telling me I’ve used 217 kWh of electricty, for an average of 365 watt-hours per mile. (Or, if you prefer, 36.5 kWh per 100 miles.)
That’s just slightly above the Tesla’s official EPA rating of 35 kWh per 100 miles. Considering that all my driving was done at temperatures of 25 to 40 degrees, that’s a splendid number indeed.
By comparison, on a typical winter’s day, the Volt uses around 40 kWh per 100 miles.
Thus the Model S–although much larger, around 800 pounds heavier, and with much better performance–is actually more efficient than the Volt in typical winter temperatures. Amazing.
The Volt’s electric efficiency, however, will shoot up dramatically once summer arrives. In 80-degree temperatures, the Volt’s appetite for electrons drops to about 25 kWh per 100 miles.
Will the Tesla’s numbers improve that much in warmer weather?
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Tesla has stubbornly stonewalled my questions about cold-weather range loss for almost a year now.
But based on my winter numbers so far, the Model S appears to lose no more than 10 to 20 percent–dramatically better than the Volt, which in my experience loses up to 50 percent of its range in winter. (As does the Nissan Leaf, according to owner reports.)
I find this to be one of the most intriguing technical mysteries of the electric car world: How does Tesla manage to kick every other company’s butt when it comes to cold-weather efficiency?
Feeding The Vampire
I keep a close eye on my home electric meter. For some reason, it seemed to be running a little faster than normal after I got the Model S.
That was odd, because the Tesla was simply substituting for the electric miles I had already been driving in my Chevy Volt. The two cars are comparable in efficiency on winter days; it shouldn’t have taken more power to run the Model S than the Volt.
And then one night I happened to leave the Tesla unplugged.
When I left the car at 9 p.m., the Rated Range display said I had 169 miles remaining. But next morning, I was surprised to find that the range had dropped to 153 miles.
As an experiment, I left the car unplugged again the next night. (Temperature was in the 20s, a bit colder than the previous night.) Indicated range dropped from 89 miles to 66, a loss of 23 miles.
That’s the equivalent of about 8 kWh of electricity–which is one-third of my daily electric use, not including electric-car miles.
What’s going on here? Does it really cost as much in electricity to let the Model S sit static as it does to drive it?
I’m currently researching the topic further, and plan to use a watt-hour meter to determine precisely what goes on when a Model S sits unused, plugged in or not,.
Till then, I wouldn’t advise leaving your Model S unplugged at an airport for a couple of weeks–despite the owner’s manual’s assurances to the contrary.
David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland
The Citroen DS-19 and the 2013 Tesla Model S duke it out in the latest Head 2 Head episode. The pairing seems odd at first, but host Jonny Lieberman argues that the Model S and the DS are packed with innovation, making both contenders worthy of a comparison.
Lieberman argues that the Citroen might be the most innovative car in the 20th century for many reasons. For starters, the car’s futuristic body is constructed of fiberglass and aluminum, and its oleo-pneumatic, auto-leveling suspension was unlike anything the public had seen back in the 1950s. And the list of innovations continues: its Citromatic transmission (which Lieberman explains in the video), high-mounted brake lights, and lightweight chassis construction.
Next is the Model S, which was the recipient of our 2013 Car of the Year award. Most of you are probably well versed when it comes to this innovative Tesla, which provides drivers with road-trip-worthy range and supercar-like acceleration, all while producing zero emissions. Both cars are impressive indeed, but only one is declared a winner in this Head 2 Head. Watch the video, and let us know which car you’d rather own in the comments below.