Archives for Electric Cars - Page 2

Can Tesla Raise More Than $1 Billion On Soaring Stock Price?

Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]

Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]

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Investors in startup electric-car maker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] have had quite the wild ride lately.

Following its first-ever profitable quarter, with its share price soaring above $80, Tesla announced last Wednesday that it would issue new stock and warrants.

Now, Tesla has quietly increased its offering, which could raise the company more than $1 billion if its stock price stays at current levels.

30 percent more

In a Bloomberg article late Friday, CEO Elon Musk said the offering would be increased by 30 percent over the level announced just two days previously.

On Wednesday, Tesla said it would offer 2.7 million to 3.1 million more shares of its common stock, as well as issuing up to $450 million in convertible debt.

At a closing price of $84.84 per share that day, total receipts to the company would have been $229 million to $263 million for the stock, for a total of $680 million to $710 million.

The expanded offering of up to 3.9 million shares could net the company as much as $1.08 billion.

Many analysts say the high price of Tesla stock is due to a “short squeeze,” in which investors who felt the share price was too high sold Tesla shares they didn’t own and now must buy the stock to cover their short positions.

To date, Tesla has sold approximately 10,000 cars globally. All but 2,500 of them are the company’s all-electric Model S luxury sport sedan, which starts at $69,900.

Musk follows Iacocca?

The Bloomberg article compared Musk to Lee Iacocca, who ran Chrysler during and after its 1979 bankruptcy.

Under his leadership, Chrysler repaid its government bailout loans with interest in 1983, seven years ahead of the due date. Musk intends to do the same, nine years early.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Most of Tesla’s $465 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy is still outstanding, although Tesla has made payments of $25.4 million to date.

But Wednesday’s offering announcement included the pledge that Tesla would use much of the proceeds to pay off the loan entirely.

Taxpayers might see a profit of $12.8 million after the loan is paid back by the end of this month.

The company will have roughly $680 million in cash and cash equivalents afterward, up from $214 million at the end of March.

Ford, Nissan, Tesla vs. Fisker

The DoE loan was granted to Tesla in July 2009 as part of its advanced-technology vehiclemanufacturing program.

Much larger amounts went to both Ford ($5.9 billion) and Nissan ($1.6 billion, of which it drew down $1.4 billion), which are making payments on schedule.

The fourth large loan commitment was $529 million to Fisker Automotive, although the DoE froze disbursements after $192 million had been paid out.

Fisker is now in deep trouble, having laid off most of its employees and not built any cars since last July.

Meanwhile, Tesla stock closed Friday at $91.50, more than five times its June 2010 initial public offering price of $17.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Reveals European Pricing For Model S Electric Sedan

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

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Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced European pricing for the Model S, set to go on sale there next year.

Speaking on the Tesla Blog, Tesla vice president George Blankenship revealed that the company is using a transparent approach to European pricing, making no more profit per car than it does in the U.S.

In the Netherlands, where Tesla is basing its European operations, a 60 kWh Model S kicks off at €72,600 ($96,000). 85 kWh models start at €83,150 ($110,000), and the Model S Performance starts at €97,550 ($129,000).

Signature models, arriving in the Spring, cost €101,400 ($134,000), and Signature Performance cars will be €110,950 ($147,000). All prices are before local incentives, and inclusive of purchase tax.

That purchase tax, plus a slight price increase to account for transport costs, import duties and other costs relevant to individual European countries (plus exchange rates) explains the large price difference between European and U.S. pricing. U.S. pricing starts at $67,400 for the 60 kWh model.

Blankenship also confirmed that the 40 kWh model won’t be available in Europe, at least initially–Tesla may choose to sell it in Europe at a later date.

Tesla will also offer deductions of €1,700 ($2,250) to buyers who already hold a Model S reservation in Europe, or plan to do so by the end of December. Buyers will need to finalize their order within four weeks of receiving their “Invitation to Configure” from Tesla.

Model S Signature models will start arriving by late Spring, and non-Signature car deliveries will start in Summer 2013.

Interested parties can head to their relevant European Tesla website.

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By Antony Ingram

Life With 2013 Tesla Model S: ‘Vampire’ Thirst For Electricity At Night?

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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A couple of weeks ago, shortly after I took delivery of my 2013 Tesla Model S, I noticed that my home electric meter seemed to be running a bit faster than normal.

I keep a close eye on my meter, but that seemed odd.

After all, the long-awaited new luxury sport sedan delivered to my house in February by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] was simply replacing electric miles I had been driving in my Chevrolet Volt.

The two cars have about the same efficiency in winter. So it shouldn’t have taken notably more power to run the Model S than the Volt, right?

I decided to try an experiment. Unplugging my 60-kilowatt-hour Model S for the night at 9 p.m., I made a note of the Rated Range display, which read 169 miles.

Next morning, the range had dropped to 153 miles.

I left the car unplugged again the next night. (Temperature was in the 20s, a bit colder than the previous night.) Range dropped  from 89 miles to 66, a loss of 23 miles. 

What was going on here? Many days, I don’t drive even 23 miles.

Was the Model S actually a “vampire” that used more electrical power just sitting overnight in my driveway than it might use during a typical day’s driving for me?

Two more unplugged tests confirmed the pattern: 10 miles range lost in 9 hours, then 23 miles lost over 22 hours. On average, I’d been losing roughly a mile of range for every hour the car sat unplugged.

This was different: It wasn’t just a design quirk, like the good and the bad points of the Model S that I wrote about recently.

This was taking money out of my pocket and putting carbon into the atmosphere.

No State-of-Charge Readout

Unfortunately, the Tesla Model S has no direct readout of the battery state of charge (SoC). There’s just an undelineated bar graph that gives you a rough idea of remaining charge.

With no direct SoC readout (either as a percentage or in actual kWh), the only way to estimate vampire losses is to extrapolate from the lost range. 

In normal driving, the Model S uses about one-third of a kilowatt-hour per mile.  My apparent 24-mile-per-day loss thus translated into about 8 kWh of electricity.  That’s about a third of my total daily home electrical consumption, not counting the two electric cars.

If those mileage-loss numbers were correct, my Model S’s apparent vampire losses would amount to almost 9,000 miles of driving a year. 

Delusional Owner’s Manual?

My numbers were wildly contradicted by the Model S owner’s manual.

“When you’re not driving Model S,” it purrs reassuringly, “the Battery discharges very slowly to power the onboard electronics. On average the battery discharges at a rate of 1 percent per day.”

One percent? Based on my unplugged mileage-loss numbers, my battery appeared to be discharging at about 12 percent per day.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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Hotline to the rescue

Tesla has recently established a hotline phone number for Model S owners with problems or questions, so I decided to give it a call.

The guy on the phone quickly confirmed the vampire problem.  It seems that the “sleep mode” in the original Model S software–the basis for the owner’s manual statements–had caused so many glitches in other car functions that it had been disabled.

With sleep mode missing from the current v4.2 software, he said, I could expect to lose about 8-10 miles of range per day when unplugged.

Using the rough three-to-one conversion ratio, that worked out to about 3 kWh per day.

He assured me Tesla was working  to come up with new sleep-mode software as soon as possible, but he offered no estimate of how long it might take.

Last week, Elon Musk addressed the vampire/sleep-mode issue in a meeting with Norwegian Model S buyers in Oslo. Musk promised that the new sleep mode would reduce vampire losses to a mere 0.2 percent–a miniscule 170 watt-hours–per day.

And, he said, the new sleep-mode software would be installed by the time the Model S was introduced in Norway–currently set, he said, for July.

Faulty mileage readings

But my apparent vampire losses were more than double what the hotline rep said they should be. Did I have a special problem?



2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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No, he told me, the problem was faulty range calculations. In the current software version 4.2, the  range readings are inaccurate when the battery is cold.

“When the range software makes its prediction, it takes into account the current battery temperature,” explained the hotline guy.

“It’s not smart enough to know that the battery will warm up as you drive, and so your range will increase.”

“The range numbers you see on a cold morning are too low,” he went on. “That means the range ‘loss’ you think you see is too high.”

Some Model S owners have indeed reported gaining back some of their “lost” miles as they drive. I haven’t noticed this, however.

I did notice that on one cold unplugged morning the range was 18 miles–less than 10 percent of the max range–but the battery-state-of-charge bar graph showed somewhere around 25 or 30 percent.

“If there’s a discrepancy between the range number and the bar graph,” he said, “trust the bar graph.”

New software to improve the accuracy of the range numbers reportedly started  downloading to a few Model S cars last week.

Due to bandwidth limitations, however, only a limited number of cars can be updated per day–so it will take a while to update the entire Model S fleet.

No Battery Warming

Surprisingly, my hotline guy said that temperature has no effect on  Model S vampire loads.  Contrary to what I believed–along with many other Model S owners, I suspect–he said that no power is used to keep the battery warm. It all goes to the electronics.

“There’s no additional loss due to battery thermal management,” he told me. “The Model S does not keep its battery at any particular temperature when the car’s off. In fact, lithium-ion batteries actually last longer if they’re cold when not in use.”

(Musk confirmed this in his Oslo talk.)

On the other hand, the Model S owner’s manual says that when you plug in the car to charge, “If the battery requires heating or cooling, you may notice a delay before charging begins.

“Heating or cooling starts automatically when you plug in, and charging begins when the Battery reaches the appropriate temperature.”

Now I’m totally confused.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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How many kWh really?

Despite the Tesla rep’s claim of 8 to 10 miles of range loss per day, I still didn’t know how many actual kilowatt-hours of  vampire power my Model S was using.

So I asked an electrical engineer friend to cobble together a kilowatt-hour meter that would be compatible with the 240-Volt NEMA 14-50 outlet I use to charge the Model S.

The device would measure precisely how much total electric energy passed through the outlet into the car: No guesswork.

With battery fully charged and the range readout at 189 miles, I plugged the Tesla mobile connector into the NEMA 14-50 outlet, with the 240V kilowatt-hour meter attached, and went to bed.

Next morning, fully 12 hours later … surprise!

The meter read zero, and I’d lost 12 miles of range. Even though it had been plugged in, the car had used its own battery energy rather than grid power. The actual electricity it had used was unknown.

Charging Kick-start

On a hunch, I unplugged the charge cable from the car, then plugged it back in.  The green ring around the charge port immediately began to pulse, indicating that charging had begun.

About 15 minutes later, the battery was full again.

The meter said  it had taken 1.6 kWh to top off the night’s losses. That worked out to a vampire power draw of 3.2 kWh per day.

Interestingly, the range now read 183 miles–at the same full charge level that had indicated 189 miles last night.  (Warmer battery then, presumably.)

The next night I replayed the same scenario, hoping to leave the car plugged in long enough to trigger the auto-transition to grid power to recharge.

But the next day, after 18 hours, the kWh-meter still hadn’t budged. I needed to drive the car.

So again I kick-started the recharging process. This time the meter read 3.5 kWh to refill the battery after 18 hours. That works out to 4.7 kWh per day. 



2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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A third 11-hour test session showed 5.7 kWh per day, a fourth 24-hour session consumed 4.5 kWh. During the 24-hour test, the car did switch to grid power sometime between 18 and 24 hours.

Overall average of the four test sessions:  4.5 kWh per day.

That’s the equivalent of a steady drain of 188 Watts, or three incandescent light bulbs left burning 24 hours a day. That may not sound like much, but over the course of a year, it’s enough juice to drive about 5,000 miles.

Losing 4.5 kWh per day, my battery would be totally exhausted from full in about 13 days.

Suddenly, leaving the Tesla parked at the airport for a ten-day trip looks a bit sketchy, to say the least.

If my car is typical, the Model S fleet–now about 5,000 strong– wasted 22.5 megawatt-hours of vampire power yesterday. 

Conclusions

My little experiment taught me three things.

First, with sleep mode disabled, my car uses an average of 4.5 kWh per day, or enough to drive about 14 miles–significantly more than Tesla’s hotline reps currently tell owners.

Second, instead of trickle-charging when plugged in, the Model S consumes its own battery power for periods of 18 to 24 hours before briefly switching to grid power to top off its  battery. Thus it can lose 10 to 15 miles of range overnight even when it’s plugged in.

[UPDATE: According to a Tesla spokesman who responded to the author after this article was first published, the Model S starts the topping-off process when the battery charge level drops by more than 3 percent.]

Third, owners can kick-start the topping-off process by removing and re-inserting the charge cord. Doing so 10 or 15 minutes before driving has the further advantage of preheating the battery, which increases range and maintains the regenerative braking, which is otherwise limited when the battery is cold.

Solutions

In my opinion, Tesla needs to do three things:

(1) Get the new sleep-mode software out as fast as humanly possible.

And I’m sure they’re already working hard to do just that.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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(2) Along with estimated-range readout, give us an actual battery state-of-charge indication–either percentage of charge, or total kWh remaining. (Better yet: a choice of either.)

No matter how sophisticated, range-estimating software cannot predict the future or read the driver’s mind. 

Am I about to begin a long uphill or downhill stretch? Will I be be driving fast or slow? Lead-footing it or feather-footing it? Blasting the A/C or sweating it out? 

I know those things. The software doesn’t. So tell me precisely how much juice I have left in the battery, and let me figure it out. 

(3) Do a better job of communicating with us. 

The owner’s hotline is a good start, but it only tells us what we know we don’t know. What about those pesky “unknown unknowns”?

If the owner’s manual tells us the battery loses 1 percent a day, shouldn’t Tesla inform us that the actual number is closer to 5 percent? 

And if you know the range readouts are inaccurate, shouldn’t you let owners know that, too?

Send a freaking e-mail.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.

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By David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S: Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy 2013

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2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Two years ago, our first-ever Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy award went to the first modern battery-electric car sold in the U.S.

How far we’ve come.

This year, our third annual winner is the 2013 Tesla Model S, a car that takes the all-electric vehicle to a new and far more elevated level.

But that’s far from the only reason it won. The Tesla Model S is an impressive new entry in the luxury sport sedan field for its performance, its looks, its capabilities, and its digital infotainment and control system.

NOTE: In December 2012, we gave this award to the 2013 Tesla Model S based on the availability of a base model with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack at a price of $59,900. That complied with our requirement that the Best Car To Buy Award go to a car priced at $60,000 or less.

In early April 2013, Tesla announced that it had canceled that 40-kWh model, due to lack of demand. According to the company, just 4 percent of its Model S depositors had specified the smallest battery size. The company said that for those customers who had put down deposits on the 40-kWh car, it would sell them a 60-kWh Model S with software that limited the car’s range to the range that the 40-kWh car would have delivered.

Electric power secondary?

Silicon Valley startup carmaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has pulled off an almost inconceivable feat: It’s designed and put into production a car that competes across the board with some of the most storied brands in the industry.

And that car is the first volume production vehicle from a company that didn’t even exist eight years ago.

From styling that many onlookers assumed was the newest, latest, sleekest Jaguar–a compliment indeed for a new carmaker–to smooth, silent acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds (in the Performance version), the Tesla Model S is more than an impressive new green car.

It’s an impressive car. Period. The fact that it’s green is almost secondary.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Its 17-inch touchscreen display, for instance, is so fast, so crisp, and so relatively intuitive that it makes all other such control systems seem pathetically outdated.

That even applies to the brand-new Cadillac CUE system, whose deficiencies cost the otherwise excellent 2013 Cadillac ATS the same title from Motor Authority, our sister site.

‘Buff books’ converted

The Tesla Model S has won awards all over the place. It’s attracted 14,000 or more buyers to put down deposits before the company’s built more than 2,000 or 3,000 vehicles.

And it’s completely seduced some of the most hard-core gasoline proponents of all: the “buff book” car magazines whose judgments that it was a car of the year sealed Tesla’s emergence into the ranks of carmakers to whom attention must be paid.

Two of the three versions of the 2013 Tesla Model S have now been certified by the EPA for electric range: 265 miles for the 85-kilowatt-hour version, and just last week, 208 miles for the 60-kWh model.

The third and final version, with a 40-kWh battery pack and a reduced set of features and options, will go into production in the next few months.

Useful real-world range

Electric range, of course, depends greatly on speed, acceleration, driving style, outside temperature, and other factors.

One owner made news last week, for example, when he managed to drive his Model S more than 400 miles on a single charge.



2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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The 85-kWh model has a practical real-world range of at least 200 or so miles, no matter how it’s driven.

We’ll see what the comparable figures are for the other two, but even the entry-level Model S is likely to deliver the 120-plus miles that many observers feel is the minimum acceptable for owners to avoid range anxiety.

For longer trips, Tesla is rapidly opening a network of Supercharger quick-charge stations–and the power they provide is absolutely free.

Not cheap

The Tesla sport sedan, mind you, is hardly a cheap car.

Prices for the 2013 Model S start at $59,900 for the lowest-range version and rise in $10,000 increments from there, with the Performance version adding $10,000 more on top of the cost for the 85-kWh version.

On the other hand, almost no advanced automotive technology enters the market at the low end–and electric propulsion is just one reason to buy a Model S.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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It holds four people comfortably, five people adequately, and Tesla promises a pair of optional child-sized rear-facing jump seats to fit into the load bay at some future point.

No guarantees

Our award is no guarantee that Tesla Motors will survive, that the Model S will provide durable electric transportation for decades to come, or even that battery-electric cars will take noticeable market share any time soon.

But the disbelief, criticism, and sneering that often confronts startup companies with radical new ideas has, in the case of Tesla, already given way to grudging acknowledgment even by skeptics that the 2013 Tesla Model S is a viable, well-built, functional, and competent car that’s also fun to drive.

For that reason, there was really little other competition for our Best Car To Buy Award for 2013.

Congratulations, Tesla.

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By John Voelcker

Globe Trotting Tesla Tragically Crashes 600 Miles Short Of Finish


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Back in July, we told you about Frenchman Rafael de Mestre, and his Verne-inspired attempt to travel around the world in just 80 days in his all-electric Tesla Roadster

Using some clever social media, and a few video cameras to boot, de Mestre has live blogged his trip in detail, giving us the highs and lows of a global expedition in a super-sexy sports car. 

On Sunday, however, just 600 miles short of the finish line, de Mestre’s attempt to beat fellow Frenchmen Xavier Degon and Antonin Guy’s own electric car circumnavigation of the world came to an abrupt halt. 

While passing through Germany, de Mestre’s all-black Tesla, nick-named KIT, rear-ended a Toyota hatchback and Mercedes SUV after failing to stop in time on a busy stretch of road.

Luckily, de Mestre escaped from his car unharmed, as did all of the other drivers involved in the accident. 

At the present time, the cause of the accident has not been disclosed, but de Mestre, posting on the trip’s Facebook page on Sunday said it all. 

“noooooooooooo!!!!,” he wrote. “game over! +++ I’m Fine!!!”

Initially, things looked bleak, with most of his Tesla’s front bodywork smashed and lying on the blacktop after the accident. 

But early this morning, de Mestre gave at least some hope of finishing his trek: Tesla was already working on his car.

Rafael de Mestre's Crashed Tesla Roadster (via Facebook)

Rafael de Mestre’s Crashed Tesla Roadster (via Facebook)

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“Tesla is repairing KIT with 5 technicians in parallel!,” he excitedly proclaimed online.

Rather than end his trip early as first feared, it looks as if de Mestre may just beat his fellow Frenchman — driving a 2012 Citroen C-Zero (Mitsubishi i) — across the finish line. 

That’s as long as Tesla can repair his car in short order, of course.

As for the accident itself? 

De Mestre captured it all via an on-board camera, and posted this short, but terrifying video of the accident online, calling it “The black day of the race.”

We’re glad to hear that no-one was injured, and wish de Mestre the best of luck with the remaining 600 miles of his trip. 

And of course, we’d like to remind everyone of one simple fact. 

As we’re sure de Mestre was, Always. Wear. Your. Seatbelt.

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By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Tesla Opens Distribution & Assembly Center In The Netherlands

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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As the first cars are set to arrive in European dealers next year, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced its new European distribution center in Tilburg, Netherlands.

The facility will serve as a final assembly point for European vehicles, as well as acting as Tesla’s distribution hub and regional service center.

The 62,000 square-foot facility will be central to Tesla’s roll-out of Model S cars through Europe. The first European Model S will enter production at Tesla’s Fremont plant in March 2013, before being shipped to Tilburg for final assembly.

As well as distribution and servicing, Tesla will use the facility for training, importing operations, parts remanufacturing, collision repair and more. Tesla expects up to 50 new jobs to be created in the next few years.

Many European Tesla dealerships have already begun taking orders for the electric sedan, while some still have stocks of the Roadster left.

Official pricing hasn’t yet been announced, though as with the U.S, European buyers can choose between standard and Signature Edition Model S.

Also in common with the U.S, many European countries offer tax incentives and rebates for the purchase of electric cars, plus exemptions from local vehicle taxes, parking charges and inner-city congestion charging.

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By Antony Ingram

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 Road Trip Ends Without A Hitch In NYC

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Well, they made it!

Tesla Model S-driving trio Peter Soukup, Tina Thomas and Luba Roytburd successfully arrived in New York City after almost five thousand miles of driving coast-to-coast.

After starting in Portland, Oregon on December 26, the team drove down the West Coast, before cutting across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and then up the East Coast.

They announced their arrival in NYC with a Tweet on Monday.

“If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere and we made it! Electric Road Trip S successfully finished in NYC, final mileage 4887!”

The team then thanked Tesla and Elon Musk for “an amazing car”.

Over the course of the journey, the team made use of several different charging stations, including Tesla’s own Supercharger network, for speedy charging and shorter stops.

Musk himself tweeted about the trip, suggesting that by the end of 2013, “it will be Superchargers all the way!”.

Congratulations to the team for reaching their goal. With a few more rapid chargers along the way and electric car range rising all the time, we doubt it’s the last such trip we’ll be hearing about over the next few years…

You can read the team’s own report on the Electric Road Trip S blog.

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By Antony Ingram

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 CEO Musk: Boeing 787 Batteries ‘Inherently Unsafe’

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is hardly shy and retiring.

He tweets out random financial results, states as fact things that haven’t quite happened yet, and regularly speaks his mind.

Yesterday, he described the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s battery pack design as ‘inherently unsafe,’ which could add fuel to the…ahem…fire.

It came just one day after his offer to help Boeing resolve its problem with fires in the 787′s lithium-ion packs, designed by Japanese battery-cell company GS Yuasa.

(It’s worth noting that SpaceX, the other company Musk runs, competes directly with Boeing for certain government contracts for space-launch vehicles.)

Musk, who has run Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for several years, laid out his thoughts on battery design in a detailed e-mail to the website Flightglobal.

In it, he termed the architecture of the GS Yuasa battery packs supplied to Boeing “inherent unsafe,” and predicted more fires from the same causes due to its design.

Specifically, Musk criticized the use of large-format lithium-ion cells “without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect.”

He also noted that when thermal runaway occurs in the larger cells, more energy is released by the single cell than comes from a small-format “commodity” cell, of the type used by the thousands in Tesla battery packs.

And he went on to highlight what he viewed as the dangers of batteries using those large-format cells, saying they have a “fundamental safety issue” because it’s harder to keep the internal temperature of a large-format cell consistent from the center to the edges.

Not surprisingly, Mike Sinnett–Boeing’s chief engineer for the 787 project–counters that the company designed the pack to cope with not only a single cell failure but to contain runaway thermal events as well.

The 787 battery problems have sparked a deluge of news coverage, with the Seattle Times noting yesterday that Boeing had numerous problems with the batteries before the fires that led to the grounding of all 787 planes worldwide.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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The chemistry used in the Boeing 787 cells is not the same as that used in today’s electric cars, a point largely overlooked by many reporters.

But Musk’s comments highlight a second issue: the use of large-format lithium-ion cells (some roughly the size of a very thin paperback book) versus the smaller commodity cells (somewhat larger than a AA battery) that Tesla uses.

Musk’s critique, although he didn’t explicitly say so, could be extended beyond the 787 Dreamliner to indict the pack design of all electric cars that use large-format lithium-ion cells.

Those include, oh, every single modern plug-in electric car except the Tesla Model S.

Tesla Motors is the sole maker that builds its packs out of thousands of small ‘commodity’ lithium-ion cells (from Panasonic, for the Model S) rather than using hundreds of large-format cells.

Battery-pack engineering is a complex, multifaceted art.

There’s the physical design of a large, heavy component that must be engineered into the vehicle’s structural design.

There’s positioning of the cells inside the pack to protect against thermal runaway.

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors – Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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There’s thermal conditioning, in which a pack is passively or actively heated or cooled to keep its cells within a desired temperature range, both extending their life and reducing the chance of catastrophic cell failure.

Each electric-car maker takes a somewhat different approach: Nissan uses just passive cooling in its Leaf battery electric car, but has had no recorded fire incidents at all to date.

It has, however, had problems with reduction in energy capacity early in the life of cars that cover high mileages in high temperatures.

The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, uses only two-thirds of its pack energy and has active liquid cooling for its pack (as does the Model S).

So has Musk has implicitly slammed the pack designs of the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and a host of other electric cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more?

If so, is this a good strategy for the CEO of a startup electric-car maker?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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By John Voelcker

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