GM and Volkswagen try to take down Tesla in a green version of the legendary Monte Carlo Rally

Opel Ampera rally

For the past five years, one of motor sport’s most legendary events has gotten a green makeover, and this year the competition will be more intense than ever. The Alternative Energy Monte Carlo Rally, which starts tomorrow, is a race for electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. This year, it’s attracted the attention of General Motors and Volkswagen, whose company-sponsored teams should make the sixth edition of the Alternative Energy Monte Carlo Rally very interesting.

GM will field six Opel Amperas, European versions of the Chevy Volt. The cars will be almost completely stock, except for new tires, GPS units, and safety equipment. That means the Ampera will rely on an electric motor and a 1.4-liter, four cylinder gas engine, giving it a maximum 149 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Rallies are held on public roads, so the cars tend to be closer to showroom models than most race cars.

While GM showcases its technological achievements, Volkswagen is going for efficiency. The German company is entering two Up!s, powered by bioethanol. The Up! is Volkswagen’s new city car, designed for the European market. In stock form, the Up! gets 74 hp and 65.7 mpg from a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine.

Unlike the regular Monte Carlo Rally, the goal is not to set the fastest time. Instead, drivers will try to use the least amount of energy over the course of the race. The rally lasts four days and takes competitors across the French Alps to Monaco.

The Alternative Energy Rally will take place on the same course as the conventional race, with narrow mountain roads and plenty of hairpin turns to challenge drivers. To qualify, cars have to emit less than 115 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Competitors are divided into four classes: mass-produced electric vehicles, mass-produced electric vehicles that can be driven daily, hybrid-electric vehicles, and vehicles powered by other alternative fuels such as ethanol, hydrogen, and biodiesel.

Opel and Volkswagen will be 146 teams competing in this year’s rally, including cars from Fiat, Mitsubishi, and Tesla, which won last year’s race. When car companies bring their technical knowledge and cash to the table, they usually produce competitive teams. With GM, Volkswagen, and others looking to de-throne Tesla, this could be a quiet a slugfest.

Of course, manufacturers aren’t just doing this for fun. Racing is a great form of advertisement, hence the adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” That is especially true of Monte Carlo and rallying in general. The Mini Cooper became an automotive star after it won Monte Carlo three times, and cars like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution are based on successful rally racers.

The Ampera and Up! are all saving the planet, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. They could be just as economical on a legendary rally course in southern France as they are on the morning commute.

By Stephen Edelstein

Buy a Tesla Model S for $500 a Month! [Video]



Oh, ye of little faith. You thought nobody could make a cool electric car, but Tesla Motors has the pulse of Silicone Vally types and has transformed the Model S into a huge success.

We've talked at length about what makes the Model S good, but buying a car is always something a bit different to liking it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has found the perfect way to make it a lot more affordable, by launching a "revolutionary new finance product" in partnership with Wells Fargo and US Bank.

You can buy a Model S with a 10% down payment, which is actually covered by the US Federal and state tax credits ranging from $7,500 to $15,000. New Jersey, Washington and DC also have no sales tax for electric vehicles, so basically all you have to do now is worry about the down payments.

Obviously, the rates will vary depending on what trim you buy, but Tesla says that "when considering the savings from using electricity instead of gasoline, depreciation benefits and other factors, the true net out of pocket cost to own a mid-range Model S drops to less than $500 per month."

Watch Elon's announcement in the video below and watch out for the words "Mercedes S-Class". This guy is the Steve Jobs of plug-in cars, only healthier.

By Mihnea Radu

Free Supercharging For 60-kWh Tesla Model S: How A Lucky Few Got It

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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It looks like Tesla may just have done it again.

Compared to Nissan’s challenged public responses to hot-weather range-loss problems in its Leaf electric car, a recent move by Tesla to offer free Supercharging to early buyers of the 60-kWh version of its 2012 Model S looks like brilliant customer relations.

Or at least it looks brilliant to me. I’m set to take delivery in December of my own all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sport sedan.

And after a surprise e-mail from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] earlier this week, I’m a really, really happy customer right now.

Here’s the story.

I put down my deposit more than three years ago, so I’m pretty early in the queue (reservation P 717, out of 13,000 outstanding as of last week).

My number came up in August, and I chose my battery size (60 kWh, the middle of three alternatives) and color (green), specified the options I wanted, and signed my purchase agreement on September 5.

One of the options supposedly available to me at that time was Supercharging: the onboard hardware and software required to use the network of ultra-fast charging stations that Tesla had been teasing for months–though it hadn’t then officially unveiled any details.

According to Tesla’s website, Supercharging was to be standard on the 85-kWh Model S, optional at a price “to be determined” on 60-kWh cars like mine, and unavailable on the base 40-kWh version.

But I didn’t see a Supercharger box to check on my purchase agreement. No problem: Since I knew little about Supercharging, and the price had not yet been determined,  I wouldn’t have opted for it any case.

Then, on September 24, Tesla officially unveiled the Supercharger system. The big news was that the charging service would be free for all Model S owners equipped with the hardware to handle it.

Four days later, I got an e-mail announcing the price of the Supercharger option for my 60-kWh car: $1,000 for the hardware, plus $1,000 for software testing and calibration.

But, the e-mail continued, “Since you are an early reservation holder and booked your 60-kWh Model S before complete Supercharging information was available, we planned ahead to build your Model S with Supercharger hardware at no additional cost to you.”

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

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The testing and calibration, however, would still cost $1,000. Did I want my Supercharging hardware enabled at that price?

I mulled that one for a while. Though I don’t often make long cross-country trips, it would be nice to have the option.

It seemed a waste to have the Supercharging hardware in the car, but unusable. And, frankly, I didn’t want to miss out on the full Tesla experience.

So, what the hell? I clicked the “Add Supercharging ” box.

Four days later came the e-mail that shocked and delighted me.

“After revisiting some of the explanations we used on our website and in our Design Studio the past few months, we feel as though it was not as clear as it should have been regarding the requirement to activate Supercharging on 60-kWh battery cars.”

“As a result, we are going to waive the entire fee to enable Supercharging on your 60-kWh Model S. You will now receive free, unlimited Supercharging on your car at no additional cost.”

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

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“We apologize for the confusion. We thought our explanations were clear, but they were not clear enough.”

To be honest, I was never confused about the Supercharger option.

But I will happily accept Tesla’s largesse, and take it as a very positive sign for the future: This is a company that clearly wants to keep its customers happy.

Now, about that Model S service program….

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fifth article for High Gear Media.

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By David Noland

Tesla Model S Controversy: Who's Really At Fault?

Tesla Model S CAPTIONS ON | OFF

The conflict between the New York Times and Tesla Motors over a stranded Tesla Model Sis getting complicated.

The row started after reporter John M. Broderreviewed the cold weather, long distance driving capabilities of the Model S. In his article on the Times’ Automobiles section, Broder remarks that the vehicle went dead after only 185 miles, 80 miles less than its EPA estimated range of 265 miles per battery charge. Broder went on to blame the lithium-ion battery, which are reported to have problems holding charges in lower temperatures. Coming from a prominent publication such as the Times, this mostly negative review was a significant blow for Tesla, causing the company’s stock to dip. Tesla CEO Elon Musk reacted with a scathing series of rebuttal tweets, providing screenshots of contrasting data logs from the reviewed Model S’ computer, and calling Broder’s review completely “fake.”

So, who is actually wrong here?

According to both Tesla and Broder, Tesla provided specific instructions on how to drive the Model S for 200 miles between supercharging stations; namely, to keep the speedometer at 55 mph and minimize use of the battery-draining climate control. Broder states that he complied with Tesla’s requirements — setting the cruise control at 54 mph and turning down the heat despite the chilly temps. However, 29 miles from the Norwich, Connecticut charging station, he claims the Model S was “limping along at 45 mph” before it came to a complete halt five miles short of the station.

However, Musk argues that the car’s logs prove a different story. According to Musk and Tesla, the data indicates that Broder drove between 65 to 81 mph, never reaching the 45 mph snail’s pace he claimed. Also, the cabin was kept at a comfortable 72 degrees, even increased to 74 degrees at a later point in the trip. Musk also remarks that Broder did not fully charge the vehicle during any of his three charging station visits, even disconnecting the Model S when it showed an expected range of 32 miles, when Broder planned to drive 61 miles.

Today, the Atlantic Wire is questioning the validity of the logs provided by Musk and Tesla Motors. In a blog post published this morning, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan tried to reach Elon Musk for comment on these accusations, as well as a request to “open source the driving logs” and other data. Musk was unavailable at the time.

Wanting to be an alleviator of our gas guzzling ways, utilitarianism has been one of Tesla’s main goals. Wired contributor and EV1 engineer Chelsea Sexton remarks, “The day-to-day experience EVs offer is so much better than gas cars for 95% of driving. Long-distance road trips are among the last 5% of usage scenarios.”

Ironically, it was a little over a century ago that this circumstance was reversed. Steam and electric cars that appeared at the beginning of the automobile age outsold all petrol-powered vehicles, until combustion engines became more stable and gas became more abundant for long distance trips. Now, at its resurgence, the electric vehicle has to face a similar challenge as its early gas-fueled cousins.

Even if Broder’s review turns out to be false, Tesla Motors may have already shot itself in the foot. What perhaps is most intriguing about this fiasco was the amount of care required (not merely recommended) by Tesla in order to drive the Model S the 500 miles it initially logged. By just taking this into consideration, Broder correctly reports that Tesla billing the Model S as a “casual car” ready for a road trip is a bit of a stretch. If the typical road-tripping consumer needs as much detailed instruction as seen in both Tesla and Broder’s account, the extinction of the gas-powered car might be a little further off.

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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 Planning Grid Storage As Part Of Supercharger Expansion

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

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Buy a Tesla Model S, and you won’t need to worry about brownouts. And you could even keep driving through the Zombie Apocalypse.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk revealed that little tidbit at a press conference today, where plans were detailed for an expanded network of the company’s Supercharger rapid-charging stations.

“We actually have grid storage going on at some of our Supercharging stations,” said Musk, noting that two stations in California currently have 500 kilowatt-hours of combined energy storage—with the potential of “putting out a megawatt if need be.”

And that extended grid storage is “probably” part of the long-term plan for every Supercharger station, according to the CEO. Under the scenario, stationary battery packs take in energy through the week from an overhead solar panel array—which in turn doubles as a shelter from sun or rain.

“The chargers are generating energy cumulatively throughout the course of the week, and it cumulatively adds up to more than what the cars consume,” said Musk. “So it’s actually capable of going completely off-grid,” and of continuing to charge cars when the power goes out.

Musk wouldn’t exactly where in California those two grid-storage prototypes are, but he confirmed they’re in California, and that the grid storage is being planned together with utilities, who have received the plan well—as that excess energy could be fed back into the grid when it’s needed, as a buffer to help prevent brownouts or help reduce pollution during off-peak situations.

“Even if there’s the Zombie Apocalypse—seems like a popular theme nowadays—you’ll still be able to travel throughout the country using Tesla Supercharging system,” quipped Musk. “Even if the entire grid goes down, it’ll still work.”

**[Ed. Note: Elon Musk's comments may be seen as building on a misconception that the grid is unreliable. Let the record stand: The entire national grid has never gone down, and major regional outages are extremely rare.  Also, zombies are not real.]

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By Bengt Halvorson

Tesla Model S to go on Sale Next Month, Ahead of Schedule

Tesla Model S to go on Sale Next Month, Ahead of Schedule

Electric carmaker Tesla delivered a bittersweet announcement today. First the good news – the upcoming Tesla Model S will go on sale next month, ahead of schedule. Bad news? The automaker posted a loss of $89.9 million during the first quarter of this year, which is significantly more than the $48.9 million it lost during the first quarter of 2011.

Despite that, Automotive News reports that Tesla is expecting its total revenue for 2012 to be at least $560 million. It originally predicted $550 million in revenue, but boosted the forecast due to the early launch of the Model S. Looking even further ahead, CEO Elon Musk is optimistic that his company will be profitable in 2013, predicting a 25 percent gross margin.

The arrival of the Model S can’t come soon enough for the automaker. Production of the Tesla Roadster ended last year and according to The Detroit News, only a couple hundred Tesla Roadsters remain in Asian and European showrooms. Additionally, 2012 Tesla Model S Front Three Quarters 300x187 imageTesla expects it will soon exhaust the $465 million loan it received from the Department of Energy.

Despite the lack of vehicles available for test drives, Tesla says that there has been much interest in the Model S. According to The Detroit News¸ there are at least 10,000 pre-order requests for the upcoming EV, which will be built at Tesla’s assembly plant in Northern California.

Compared to the Tesla Roadster, which carried a price tag that neared six figures, the Model S will be relatively affordable with a base price of $49,000 following tax credits. It will be offered with three battery options that offer ranges between 160 to 300 miles per charge. Additionally, the Model S will have the ability to recharge its battery to 80 percent capacity when plugged into a fast charger. Among its long list of notable features is its rear-facing, third-row seats (boosting passenger capacity to seven) and its 17-inch, touchscreen infotainment display.

Tesla hopes to sell 5000 units by the end of 2012 and plans to produce 20,000 units annually once its plant is running at full speed. The automaker will start selling the Model S after it clears the required crash tests.

“I do not know where we are in the [NHTSA testing] queue, Musk told the Automotive News. “We are very confident that it will be a five-star safety rating, the safest car on the road. We have certain architectural advantages, like a much longer crumple zone in the front because we don’t have to make room for an engine.”

Source: Automotive News (subscription required), The Detroit News

By Erick Ayapana

Tesla Picks Apple Vet to Ramp-Up Dealer Network

Tesla Picks Apple Vet to Ramp-Up Dealer Network

If there’s a hip, trendy-looking Apple Store in your town, you probably have George Blankenship to thank for it. Now, he’s hoping to do the same thing for Tesla.

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The spunky electric car-maker announced today that Blankenship, 57, will join the company as vice president of Design and Store Development. He’ll be in charge of further developing Tesla’s boutique dealerships, creating a long-term strategy for retail development and expanding the network beyond its 13 current stores globally. Mimicking his work with Apple, Tesla hopes Blankenship will help draw more customers with showrooms that are “stylish and inviting,” or as Tesla’s press release implies, the opposite of traditional dealerships. Blankenship’s first task will be to open three new stores in Tokyo, Japan, Toronto, Canada, and Washington D.C.

“George has a record of building customer-focused stores that revolutionize their industries, and he does it on time and on budget. There is simply no one better; he is the ideal candidate for Tesla,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “With George’s leadership, I have no doubt Tesla will have the best retail experience in the auto industry as we continue to grow and prepare to launch the Model S.”

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Blankenship, based on the limited biographical information available, apparently got his start at clothing retailer Gap, where he spent 20 years and eventually became the company’s vice president for Real Estate Strategy. Proving himself exceptional at identifying and acquiring prime retail locations, Blankenship was stolen away by Apple Computer in 2000, where he was made vice president of Real Estate. Apple opened its first store a year later and Blankenship’s “Smart Growth Hit List” soon had Apple Stores popping up all over the world. He left Apple in 2007 and most recently consulted with Microsoft on creating a competing network of retail stores for that company’s products.

“Joining Tesla allows me to work with some of the boldest and brightest people on the planet while changing the world for the better,” said Blankenship. “I’m excited to create a retail experience that is as thrilling as my first drive of the Tesla Roadster.”

Tesla’s stock price rose more than 10 percent in after-hours trading to $17.46, rebounding from yesterday when the stock closed at $15.80, well below its IPO price of $17.

Source: Tesla

By Scott Evans

Tesla Model S Needs $600 Annualy to Maintain Warranty



Talk about hidden costs… Apparently, Tesla Model S owners and a few of those currently on the waiting list, are reportedly not pleased with the company’s $600-per-year service program.

The fees include an inspection, replacement of parts such as the brake pads and wipers, as well as roadside assistance, system monitoring, remote diagnostics and software updates.

One of the less-than-pleased owners is David Nolan, who is on the list to receive a Model S – he currently owns a Chevrolet Volt. He is displeased with the extra fee, which is considerably higher than what he has to pay to maintain the Volt – $49 annual check, and $35 oil change once every two years.

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, answered questions regarding the fee, saying that "We are matching service cost to be less than a Mercedes of comparable purchase price [. . .] This basically amounts to $50/month and covers all software upgrades as well as concierge level service,” more or less answering Nolan’s question. However, when asked if any owner could opt out of the program, he reportedly didn’t get a reply.

Story via greencarreports.com

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Reports First Quarterly Profit

Tesla Reports First-Ever Quarterly Profit

Tesla has reported its first-ever quarterly profit as Model S production hits full swing.

The company said it made about $11 million dollars in the first quarter of 2013. A huge chunk of that came from a bit of accounting magic: Tesla was able to eliminate from its balance sheet some $10.7 million in liabilities relating to its Department of Energy loans. It also benefited from the state of California’s cap-and-trade system, selling some $68 million in zero-emission-vehicle credits to other automakers.

Still, the profit marks a milestone for the start-up company given the enormous costs involved in introducing its first independently developed product. Even when Automobile Magazine named the Model S Automobile of the Year, we cautioned that we weren’t certain Tesla would survive to produce it in significant volumes. Tesla says it built more than 5000 copies of the Model S in the first quarter of 2013, putting it on target for its annual production goal of 20,000 vehicles.

Tesla says demand for the Model S has kept pace with the supply, thanks in part to its new financing deal. Later this year, it will start selling the car outside North America. CEO Elon Musk predicts Tesla can sell 10,000 vehicles per year in Europe and 5000 per year in Asia.

Tesla’s next challenge will be reducing how much it spends building the Model S. Its profit margin on the car is presently a slim five percent. Musk says production costs will continue to fall as Tesla gets better deals from suppliers—a result of higher-volume production—and improves the car’s design.

Tesla’s stock has risen to nearly thirteen percent, to nearly $70 per share, in afterhours trading.

By David Zenlea

Got A Tesla Roadster And Want A Model S? Tesla Will Buy It Back

2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

Pretend for a moment that you’re one of the fortunate folks who purchased a new Tesla Roadster while it was still in production. You’re satisfied with the car, but now all anyone wants to talk about is the swanky new Tesla Model S. What’s an early adopter to do?

You could, or course, trade in that Roadster for another vehicle from a different manufacturer. Some dealers might balk at the idea, since the all-electric Tesla is a very different car than the kind in which most of them traffic. And of course, those dealers wouldn’t be able to sell you the Model S, because only Tesla can do that. (For now.)

Thankfully, there’s now another option for EV enthusiasts: Tesla has launched a buyback program, allowing Roadster owners to trade in their pricey two-seaters for the more practical Model S.

Tesla intends to re-sell the Roadsters for prices ranging between about $70,000 and $90,000, depending on vehicle condition. What Tesla hasn’t said is how much it’s willing to give Roadster owners for their trade-ins.

Roadsters initially cost north of $100,000 but the 60 kwh version of the Model S starts much lower, at $62,400. So, it’s conceivable that Roadster owners could drive off with a brand-new ride and some dough for the difference.

That said, we have a hunch that most Roadster types would opt for the Model S Performance, which has a significantly higher $87,400 starting price — meaning that Tesla might not have to write many refund checks. 

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By Richard Read

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