Akio Toyoda Talks EV with Tesla, Hints at New-Age Supra

Akio Toyoda Talks EV with Tesla, Hints at New-Age Supra

NAGOYA, JAPAN — What will Toyota Motor Company get out of its recent minor investment in Tesla Motors? Perhaps an electric vehicle prototype, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda told a group of American reporters Friday. Toyoda expressed enthusiasm for working with a new, Silicon Valley-based high-technology company and said through an interpreter they can “join hands and develop cars, in terms of being a joint-venture.”

Toyoda said his company is “building a prototype EV unit,” but would announce details to the press at a later date. When asked to clarify whether the EV car is a joint venture with Tesla, Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said there are two Toyota EVs in the works. One car is from Toyota alone and the other is with Tesla. Bottom line is that Toyota will work with Tesla on something. Whether it ever goes public will depend on its engineering success.

Earlier, Sasaki expressed enthusiasm for Tesla’s use of household personal computer lithium-ion batteries, but conceded that “reliability goes down” when you string thousands of them together to power a car.

And, of course, one thing Toyota doesn’t need these days is a new reliability problem. The whole point of the American automotive and business journalists’ visit to Japan, ending Friday, was a deep dive into Toyota’s quality and safety operations.

Toyoda said that its investigation of more than 3600 unintended acceleration claims found no problem with its electronic throttle control systems. He also said Toyota has no intention of blaming customers for accidents caused by what the drivers claimed were unintended acceleration problems.

Toyoda skirted the issue of whether Toyota’s new quality and safety initiative is eating into its resources to build more interesting cars. His hints that Toyota might build a new-age Supra were no more than hints, and Toyoda acknowledged it will take the approval of the whole company to build such a car; that it’s not simply his decision. Watch for more detail and analysis coming presently in the Motor City Blogman blog.

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By Todd Lassa

Alpha Testing: Tesla Details Engineering Advances of Model S Development

Alpha Testing: Tesla Details Engineering Advances of Model S Development

Tesla’s out to prove its electric Model S luxury hatchback is unique in its technological advancement. To make that happen, the company has released three videos featuring Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, talking about the car’s structure.

We’re expecting to find more information about the Model S at the Detroit Auto Show next week but, for now, we’ve got these videos highlighting the aluminum structure.

“We’re particularly pleased with this,” Rawlinson says, “it’s a very advanced form of architecture, which is a combination of castings, extrusions, and stampings.”

Currently, the Model S is in its Alpha testing and development stage. In other words, it’s in stage one of two. As though having an electric powertrain wasn’t enough, the Model S will also distinguish itself from other luxury vehicles with its seven-passenger seating.

“Model S has such extraordinary package efficiency, it’s possible to endow it with a third row of occupants,” Rawlinson says.

Underneath that third row you’ll find the compact electric motor and rear suspension — we’re eager to see just how comfortable that third row will truly be.

Rawlinson continues in the third video, discussing how the battery pack helps increase torsional rigidity. Many still doubt whether Tesla will be capable of introducing the Model S quickly enough and selling it at a reasonable price.

“We have a very lean team,” Rawlinson says. “We have people from different disciplines sitting right next to each other and sharing the collective experience of designing and packaging the car.”

Source: Tesla

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Auto News, Detroit Auto Show, Future/Spied, Green Cars, Hatchback, Hybrid Car/EV, Luxury Car, Tesla, Video Find

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By Zach Gale

Tesla Model S – World's Fastest Production EV



The stats of the Tesla Model S never cease to amaze us, and the car keeps wowing everybody who sees and drives it. It`s got a great body shape, which looks good and clean and is also very aerodynamic. It`s got two trunks (one in the back, where you`d expect it, and one in the front, called the 'frunk').

However, not even the excellent quality of the interior, or the 17-inch touchscreen display are more impressive than the engine powering the car. Mounted behind the rear axle, it produces 416 hp, of which 386 make it to the pavement.

The manufacturer claims it will reach 100 km/h or 62 mph in 4.4 seconds, yet independent tests show that it is actually half-a-second quicker than Tesla says.

We recently posted a video of the Model S, beating a Dodge Viper SRT-10, with over 500 hp. The race was a quarter-mile sprint, which the Tesla finished in 12.731 seconds, crossing the line at an impressive 110.84 miles per hour, or 178.38 km/h.

This means that the Model S is now officially the world`s fastest production EV, and the record has been confirmed by the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA). This is just one more reason to want to drive a Model S, and a little something extra for the company`s marketing department to play with for future ad campaigns.

By Andrei Nedelea

WOT Episode 4: C7 Breaks Cover, Mercedes AMGs, Tesla Model X – Motor Trend YouTube Channel

WOT Episode 4: C7 Breaks Cover, Mercedes AMGs, Tesla Model X – Motor Trend YouTube Channel

In the fourth episode of Wide Open Throttle, Jessi Lang tops off the hottest stories of the week, starting out with more than a dozen models coming from AMG in the next few years, electric-powered BMWs, and spy shots leaking out of the upcoming seventh-generation Corvette just around the corner, and Tesla’s sporty new Model X electric crossover. Finally, editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie talks with Jessi about Acura’s upcoming NSX.

We’re all fans of high-performance models, so whenever we hear more are coming, we get excited. And in the case of Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance AMG division, we’re not just getting a few, but 17 new hot-rod Benzes, most of which are expected to come to the U.S. as well. Starting off, two AMG versions of the new SL roadster are coming, the V-12 SL 65 and V-8 SL 63, both twin-turbocharged. Next up is a Black Series version of the SLS gullwing with 600+ hp from the beloved naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter AMG V-8. Finally, AMG is aiming for the Porsche 911 with the new SLC model in 2014, expected to be powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 producing 550 horsepower with a rear-mounted transaxle.

BMW is hoping it can balance mean and green with its new “i” series models, retaining the brand’s reputation for superb driving dynamics, while offering a more environmentally-friendly choice for enthusiasts.

Corvette traditionalists will be relieved that the C7 Corvette will still be front-engine, rear-drive, and V-8-powered. Although many expected the iconic “split window” from the 1963 model would be applied to the new model, it looks like the C6’s conventional one-piece glass hatch will carry over. The biggest news, other than the direct-injected fifth-generation small block V-8 under the hood, is a dramatically improved interior, something that’s been a constant criticism of the car since the C4.

Testing Director Kim Reynolds takes a look at the new Model X crossover, and talks with Tesla chief designer Franz Von Holzhausen about the vehicle’s “falcon wing” doors, and their practicality as well as their dramatic looks.

Regarding the upcoming Acura NSX, Angus discusses how much further the bar has been raised in the supercar segment with the Ferrari 458 Italia, with the previous NSX coming out around the same time as the Ferrari 348, one of the low points for Maranello. Can the new NSX compete with what many consider to be the zenith of Ferrari’s development?

Stay tuned to the Motor Trend YouTube channel for a new episode of Ignition on Monday, where we take a look at the new F30 BMW 335i.

By Edward A. Sanchez

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Gets Second Model S



After reporting that board member, Steve Jurvetson was the first to take delivery of the first ever Tesla Model S, the second person to get a car is the CEO of the company, Elon Musk himself, apparently at the same time Steve got his own.

The two men reportedly received their cars two days before the pictures of Steve Jurvetson surfaced on the internet. Also, if you were wondering why the two men received their cars early, a statement by Elon Musk will clear that up for you: “…the reason those two cars are goingto Steveand myself is so that we can spend a few weeks just going through the cars in detail and experiencing any tiny issues ourselves before regular customers experience them them. I think its really important to thoroughly test your own product and be extremely tough on it before giving it to general customers” and goes on to explain how issues have been identified and fixed before the big day.”

While that may not be entirely true (we think), they are the words of the CEO of the company and should be taken as they are.

Story via insideevs.com

By Andrei Nedelea

SimCity Game Implements Nissan Leaf Charging Stations



Full electric vehicles are slowly starting to expand into the digital world to further advertise their capabilities and Eco-friendly performance.

After people were given the possibility to drive certain EVs in racing games, such as the Tesla Roadster in the latest Need For Speed Most Wanted edition, SimCity integrated Nissan Leaf charging stations to its town simulation game series.

Playing such a game, you will find that you can build up to five charging stations throughout the level, after which several Nissan Leafs will appear roaming on the virtual streets and use them as needed. Also, the citizens will be more happy for having low pollution levels, having big cheesy smiles on their faces.

Over 1.3 million people bought the latest SimCity game from its debut in March, the number expecting to grow since the simulator will be available for Mac systems in June.

By Gabriel Brindusescu

Tesla Model X Crossover Revealed. Has Falcon Doors



Tesla has finally show what the brand new Model X is all about at its design studio in California. This vehicle combines elements of SUV and minivan design and actually features the rumored falcon doors, which unsurprisingly aren’t that different from gullwing doors.

The Model X crossover is underpinned by the same chassis as the Model S, but it sits higher off the ground and comes with AWD as an optional extra. Also borrowed from the electric sedan is the list of battery options – more specifically the 40 kWh, 60 kWh and 80 kWh.

The real novelty with the X is the so called falcon doors in the back. These open up like on the Mercedes SLS AMG, but have an extra hinge installed in the middle so they can be operated in tighter spaces. Tesla is clearly aiming this vehicle at larger families, as it has three rows of seats for seven people. However, your family will have to be very tech-savvy, because the whole dash has been replaced with a touchscreen that operates everything.

Expect production of the Model X to start next year.

Check out the Tesla Model X Crossover photo gallery

By Mihnea Radu

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Slams The Fisker Karma – Rumor Central

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Slams The Fisker Karma

You could say Elon Musk is fairly busy these days: bringing the Tesla Model S to production, not to mention sending Space X cargo ships into orbit, requires 100-hour work weeks. But the billionaire CEO carved out a few moments last week to throw a few bombs at nemesis Henrik Fisker and the plug-in electric rival to his Model S, the Fisker Karma.

“It’s a mediocre product at a high price,” Musk said in an interview with Automobile Magazine. “The car looks very big, and yet it has no trunk space and is very cramped inside, particularly in the rear seats.”

The rivalry between Tesla and Fisker dates back to the origins of both sedans. Tesla unsuccessfully sued Henrik Fisker, CEO of the eponymous car company, for developing the Karma while he was under contract for the design of the Model S. “We were paying someone to do styling for his own car,” Musk alleges. Tesla hired former Mazda and General Motors designer Franz von Holzhausen to pen a completely new, battery-electric Model S, which is now rolling off Tesla’s Fremont, California, assembly line with a base price of $95,400 (in the Signature trim level; a $57,400 version with a smaller battery goes on sale this fall). Musk sees a critical difference between it and the $103,000 Karma—and between himself and Fisker.

“The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker — he is a designer or stylist…he thinks the reason we don’t have electric cars is for lack of styling. This is not the reason. It’s fundamentally a technology problem. At the same time, you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you’re going to have an impaired product. But just making something look like an electric car does not make it an electric car.”

Alluding to the fact that the Karma leans heavily on suppliers, Musk continued, “[Fisker] thinks the most important thing in the world — or the only important thing in the world — is design, so he outsourced the engineering and manufacturing. But the fact is…that’s the crux of the problem. And he’s outsourcing to people who don’t know how to solve the problem.”

The Karma’s plug-in hybrid powertrain was developed by Quantum Technologies and employs a General Motors–sourced 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder for its gasoline engine. Contract manufacturer Valmet assembles the car in Finland. Tesla employed a somewhat similar model in producing its Lotus Elise-based Roadster, installing its own electric motor into a Lotus-supplied chassis. But for the Model S, Musk has gone to extreme lengths to vertically integrate production. Everything from the electric motor to the aluminum-intensive chassis and the seventeen-inch touch screen were developed by Tesla, which has grown from some 500 employees in 2009 to about 2000 today.

Musk allowed that the Karma, our 2012 Design of the Year, is well styled. “It looks good. Particularly from the side it looks good. I don’t love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito—the grille.”

We ran Musk’s comments by Henrik Fisker, who responded via e-mail:

“Firstly, to set the record straight, Fisker won in court…a judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker.

Secondly, we are delighted that Elon thinks the Karma is a good-looking car.

Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range. We are proud to have delivered over 1000 Karmas to customers in the U.S. and Europe and are now moving into the [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] and Chinese global markets.

We wish Tesla all the best with their latest model and hope that both companies go from strength to strength as they challenge the automotive rulebook.”

The truth is that both fledgling automakers have far bigger concerns than each other. But the enmity certainly makes things interesting. Who do you think builds a better environmentally friendly luxury sedan? Read our review of the Karma here and our first drive of the Model S here. Our complete interview with Musk is here.

—David Zenlea

By Automobile Staff

Tesla Opens Portland Store, Passes A Million Visitors So Far In 2012

Tesla Store – Portland OR

HI-RES GALLERY: Tesla Store – Portland OR

  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR
  • Tesla Store  -  Portland OR

  • Tesla Store – Portland OR

By the sales numbers—even if you consider the 20,000 Model S sedans (which Green Car Reports drove this week, with a first drive review and video post) the company hopes to sell annually—Tesla Motors [NSDQ: TSLA] is a small niche automaker. But based on what the upstart electric automaker has seen so far this year, there’s a lot of public interest in its cars. It’s arguably on its way to becoming a much better-known brand, and its new high-visibility stores are part of the reason why.

As of this weekend, across Tesla’s ten new-design, retail-oriented stores (out of 14 total stores), there will have been over a million visitors so far in 2012.

“That’s off the charts,” said George Blankenship, Tesla Motors’ VP of sales and ownership experience. “And if you take the stores that were open last week, which would be nine of the new design, you still have over 51,000 people that went through, this past week.”

We recently caught up with Blankenship as he personally oversaw training at the company’s new Portland store, which opened yesterday.

Although it’s too early to tell how the Portland store—located in a large suburban mall, near a Sears anchor store—will do, Tesla is finding that the new stores are drawing as many as 11,000 people in a week (in its Santa Monica store). And those are numbers that even seem to surprise Blankenship.

George Blankenship - Tesla Motors

George Blankenship – Tesla Motors

Enlarge PhotoThe Tesla sales chief is a former Apple and Gap executive, and was seen as Apple’s retail guru, credited for the company’s smart growth and placement of its stores.

Around the same time that Blankenship joined Tesla, a couple of years ago, the automaker started to transition to the same type of store—one focused around foot traffic, and far closer to a traditional main-street or mall storefront than a traditional dealership property.

Yep, like an Apple Store

As opposed to Tesla’s first few North American stores—in Menlo Park, Manhattan, and Washington D.C.—which were set up more like traditional prestige-luxury or exotic-car dealerships, these new stores are more like—and there’s really no surprise here—Apple stores. You walk into a long, brightly lit showroom, with video screens, walls of technical and feature displays, and other exhibits, as well as several complete cars in the middle. Product specialists, who don’t make any commission, are responsible “to make sure everyone who leaves is smiling,” says Blankenship, and there are some computer terminals and a few semi-private chairs in back for talking details.

Blankenship says that with the Model S, the company’s stores have to serve a different kind of role. “It’s a matter of being in front of them on a daily basis to tell them who we are and what we do—and to explain EVs to them, because most people don’t understand what it’s like to drive an EV, and the benefits of it.”

Some of Tesla’s new stores are in especially high-visibility areas and have become tourist destinations, Blankenship describes. “People go to that store; they’ve never seen a Tesla, they think ‘Oh, this is great;’ they go to teslamotors.com and they reserve a car; and that store has now impacted another store in another part of the country or of the world.”

Tesla’s numbers come from the basic camera-based people counters—a commonly used tool from conventional retailing—that Tesla uses in all of its store entries.


Tesla Store – Portland OR

And that doesn’t count the window shoppers (or those under four feet tall), Blankenship pointed out—as almost perfectly timed, a middle-aged woman in fitness wear stopped to pull her iPad out of a shoulder bag, snap a picture of the storefront, and send or post it.

“What makes the experience more complete is that it’s in a location like this where a lot of people are going by and stop by just because they’re in the mall, and then secondly you just have an interior presentation that invites engagement,” said Blankenship. “We get people in every day who have no idea who we are, and we start informing them.”

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By Bengt Halvorson

2008 Tesla Roadster

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

2008 Tesla Roadster Action Side View

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View

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2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View


VIEW OUR EXCLUSIVE MOTOR TREND VIDEO OF THE TESLA ROADSTER IN ACTION.

So how fast is the Tesla Roadster really? In a few seconds, we’re gonna find out because framed by its porthole-size windshield is a deliciously straight stretch of Skyline Boulevard, a knockout snake of a road we’ve never heard of before in the coastal hills above San Carlos, California. San Carlos, in case you’re not Google-Earthing at the moment, is the inviting, northwestern Silicon Valley ‘burb where Tesla decided to settle its unpretentious research and development quarters about four years ago. Through the trees, we occasionally glimpse Stanford’s 285-foot-tall Hoover Tower some seven and a half miles away.

Okay, then, I’ve got the brake pedal stapled to the floor. The mirrors are scoped for innocent traffic. Coast is clear. Dip into the accelerator and…remember that Mark Twain quip about the coldest winter he ever knew being a summer in San Francisco? Ditto that for this San Carlos place. Except it’s now December, the Roadster’s top is AWOL, and an Arctic front is leaning in from the gray Pacific. But back to business.

2008 Tesla Roadster Action Side View

Can an electric sports car really deliver sports-car thrills? Absolutely-though its dynamics are velvety in their violence and its silence is almost snakelike.

I lean into the accelerator, brace myself and…er, hold on, we’ll get to that. I first want to tell you about the irony of this car’s name. Haven’t you wondered where “Tesla” comes from? Automotive historians might be acquainted with the story about Thomas Edison famously giving encouragement to a young employee named Henry Ford (“Young man, you have it. Keep at it. Electric cars must keep near to power stations”). However, the reality is that cantankerous Tom would soon embark on thousands of experiments aimed precisely at cracking the automotive battery nut, and in 1904 finally introduced-amid much stage-managed hoopla-his nickel-iron battery for electric cars.

It didn’t work out, at least not automotively. But the tie-in with the 2008 Tesla Roadster is that, a year before the Ford conversation, Edison had a giant row with another employee, a curious Serbian immigrant named Nikola Tesla. Depending on which story you like, Edison either did or didn’t renege on a $50,000 payment to Tesla. Edison’s version was that he meant it as a joke. Either way, the historic champions of direct current, Edison, and alternating current, Tesla’s baby, were pretty much at each others’ throats after that. So what gets me is that now, a century later, the first popular electric car to crack the battery nut is called a Tesla, not a Tom. Sure, Tesla was a genius. But did he even try to make car batteries? Nooo.

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View

All right, then, back to the car-specifically, its batteries. The reason I’m braced for a wallop when I nail that accelerator isn’t the watermelon-size electric motor’s 248 horsepower. What’s worrying my neck is the combination of the motor’s 211 pound-feet of zero-rpm torque and the ease with which its 6831-cell, lithium-ion battery pack can juice the little banshee. Note that, at an estimated 2690-pound curb weight, the Tesla Roadster has a weight-to-torque ratio of 12.7 pounds/pound-foot. By comparison, it’s natural reference, the sizzling Lotus Exige S (with 165 pound-feet of torque and 630 fewer pounds) offers 12.5 pounds/pound-foot-but only when you finally reach 5500 rpm. Notably, that’s not zero rpm.

Although the battery pack contains the equivalent of just 2.1 gallons of gasoline (before recharging losses), Tesla claims the Roadster’s efficiency is six times that of rival sports cars, and it contributes ten-fold fewer CO2 emissions. Perhaps. What’s painfully apparent as you delve into the world of battery EVs, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is that everybody’s sequence of PowerPoint charts, funnily enough, favors themselves.

2008 Tesla Roadster Interior

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear View

2008 Tesla Roadster Gear Shifter

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View2008 Tesla Roadster Overhead View

Still, the Tesla is undeniably, unbelievably efficient: Given its miniscule ration of “electric” fuel on board and its 220-mile, combined-cycle range (recently reduced due to a subcontractor’s miscalculation), the Roadster delivers roughly 105 miles per electric gallon. Assuming that electricity is (optimistically) sourced from a highly efficient combined-cycle, natural-gas-fired powerplant (which Tesla claims can provide an efficiency of 52.5 percent from well to outlet), the Roadster’s gasoline-equivalent well-to-wheel mileage works out to something like 55 mpg. That’s roughly 1.5 times (or higher, by Tesla’s calculations) that of the Prius, the green standard of current automobiles. By the way, there’s little cause to fret about laptop-scenario battery infernos, either-the battery is liquid-cooled by the same refrigerant used by the air-conditioner; all those cells are bathed in a total of 27 square meters of surface-area to squelch any troublemaking hot-spots.

Tesla’s real troublemaker hasn’t been batteries but its transmission. Or make that, transmissions. An electric car, even one with a 13,500-rpm redline needs at least two cogs to get lickety-split to 60 and still top-out at 125 mph. Transmission Design One proved unreliable; Transmission Two, which is fitted to the car I’m in, operates nicely but isn’t lasting more than a few thousand miles. Presently, two more subcontractors are simultaneously going full-bore on transmission designs Three and Four to accelerate the development. Confronted at a recent Tesla Town Hall Meeting attended by still enthusiastic, but detectably restless deposit-placers (there are some 600 of them at the moment), Chairman Elon Musk predicted production would start slowly but ought to reach full tilt by summer. When a questioner queried if Tesla’s investors were getting skittish, Musk (who sold PayPal for several hundred million dollars) replied, “Unequivocally, I will support the company to whatever extent is needed. I [Musk's bank account] have a long way to go before [money's] a problem.” Optimistically, Musk noted that their painful transmission development is preemptively smoothing the road for the next Tesla, the code-named “WhiteStar” sedan.

2008 Tesla Roadster Front View

The current transmission is a two-speed, DSG-like double-clutch design, with the motor automatically spinning up or down to match revs. Move the lever and you’re actually just throwing a switch; there’s no clutch pedal and the sound is akin to an electronic yelp. Think of C3P0 being kicked.

Although it’s a prototype I’m driving, the differential is going to need a lot less lash when you snap on and off the accelerator, which presently elicits a nasty drivetrain buck (this probably isn’t helping the brittle transmission, either). “Drop-throttle” basically tailors the car’s inherent mild understeer, but what’s interesting is the regen’s strong drag when you lift. In fact, often the friction brakes aren’t really needed at all, and when they are, your right foot gets to enjoy old-fashioned sports-car braking feel because the regen isn’t concomitantly ramped up. On the move, the Tesla’s ride is surprisingly supple. Lotus has done a laudable job of stretching its Elise chassis two inches and accommodating a near-1000-pound battery (offset by a carbon-fiber body) while keeping this thing a frantic road dart on twisty roads.

I check the mirrors again. Still no traffic. I’m almost grimacing as I release the brake and pound the accelerator to the floor. Whrrrrrrr…30 mph, 40 mph, 50…in the four seconds it’s taken to read this sentence, the Roadster has shrieked to 60 mph (Tesla’s claimed 3.9 seconds would seem entirely plausible in a controlled setting). There’s no wheelspin, axle tramp, shutter, jutter, smoke whiff, cowl shake, nothing. I’m being eerily teleported down the barrel of a rail gun, head pulled back by a hard, steady acceleration. Bizarre. And before too long, profoundly humbling to just about any rumbling Ferrari or Porsche that makes the mistake of pulling up next to a silent, 105-mpg Tesla Roadster at a stoplight.

2008 Tesla Roadster Wheel

2008 Tesla Roadster Taillight Closeup



2008 Tesla Roadster
Base Price $98,950
Vehicle Layout Mid-motor, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door roadster
Motor AC synchronous, 248-hp/211-lb-ft
Transmission 2-speed manual
Curb Weight 2690 lb
Wheelbase 92.6 in
Length x Width x Height 155.4 x 67.8 x 44.4 in
0-60 mph 4.0 sec
Fuel Economy 105 mpg gas equivalent
Range, Combined 220 miles
Recharge Time 3.5 hrs @ 220 volts/70 amps
On Sale In U.S. Currently/delivery in 2008

Martin Eberhard Profile

IS TESLA IN TROUBLE?

After our pleasant visit to Tesla’s San Carlos tech base, we began intercepting ominous signals about Tesla throughout the EV blogosphere. Most notable, Martin Eberhard (pictured), a Tesla founder, was forced out and has subsequently begun his own blog, www.TeslaFounders.com. In a recent entry — which has since been removed after pressure from Tesla — Eberhard enumerated the series of sometimes abrupt and random-appearing firings that have been taking place at his former company (among them, Wally Rippel, a genuine EV visionary).

Tesla fans have consequently been on red alert, some tea-leaf-readers going so far as to say the company is going under or preparing itself for sale. We, obviously, have no idea what all this means. But as students of the car business, none of us is raising eyebrows just yet. Startups are brutal. Few succeed. And it’s not unusual to see periodic chaos among those who do. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chairman, has stated that the company needs to trim its sails toward producing cars and fulfilling orders, and not everybody’s cut out for letting go of their baby, transmission reliable or not. A Tesla spokesman has also enumerated various personnel overlaps that needed inevitable paring. Let’s hope that’s all we’re seeing because the Roadster is a cool automobile technically, a cooler automobile to drive, and an historic game-changer in our perception of battery-electric vehicles.

Finally, after reading through the cottage industry of blogs orbiting Tesla Motors, I’m amused to discover that Elon Musk’s (wanted or unwanted) nickname is “Edison.” So maybe my tongue-in-cheek speculation that the car might be better named “Tom” wasn’t so far off! - Kim Reynolds, Technical Editor

AND THERE’S MORE…

Just as we posted our Tesla feature and video to the Web, more news regarding the company’s transmission conundrum appeared on Tesla Motors Web site. As speculated in our feature, there will in fact be an interim, one-speed transmission. The bad news is that its compromised ratio (needed to achieve a sports car-like top speed) will temper the car’s acceleration rate to 5.7 seconds to 60 mph, instead of the 4-flat (or less) that was originally promised (and recorded by us from a prototype two-speed transmission car).

The twist is that the “permanent transmission,” which will appear later this year as production really ramps up, will also be a one-speed. Huh? Does this mean Tesla is permanently lowering its performance targets?

No — due to an unexpected solution. Instead of achieving their original acceleration bogey via a two-speed tranny, they’re simply beefing up the motor’s power by enhancing the PEM (Power Electronics Module) and adding an advanced cooling system to the motor. Folks who are delivered early cars with the interim hardware will be called in (coincident with the production increase) for an update to the latest spec, free of charge. What isn’t clear is whether this hardware swapping will include a new, cooling-enhanced motor as well, or instead see a client’s existing motor somehow retrofitted.

What all this suggests is that the problems with the two-speed transmission must have been onerous indeed. This is a costly fix. Moreover, the motor is already at the technology’s power density fringe; getting more out of it can’t be easy. And, to be honest, I’m a little saddened to see the two-speed go as it was rather interesting to drive, though its relaxed shift time would probably be difficult to ever trim due to the giant ratio gap a two-speed necessitates. On the other hand, Tesla rightly points out that the car’s quarter-mile times will benefit with the elimination of the time-wasting gear shift at 65 mph. Furthermore, a one-speed works to an electric car’s inherent advantage in drivetrain simplicity.

Tesla says all regulatory approvals for sale are now in place, including EPA, DOT, and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Moreover, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chairman, will be receiving the first production next week (time to park the McLaren, Elon), with series production starting March 17. - Kim Reynolds, Technical Editor

By Kim Reynolds

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