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Had To Happen: Tesla Model S Spawns ‘Teslacessories’ Startup

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

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Accessories are a huge part of the auto business, and for every car, somewhere there’s a business (or a few dozen) offering aftermarket items the manufacturer hasn’t, can’t, or won’t provide.

And so it turns out to be for the Tesla Model S, the all-electric sport sedan from Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].

Founded by Tesla owner Roger Pressman, who took delivery of a very early Model S with serial number 00184, Teslaccessories.com plans to offer aftermarket add-ons for the Model S.

The company’s first product is the Center Console Insert, which slides into the empty center tray on the floor of the Model S just ahead of the front seats.

The Console Insert has stitched leather sides and a carbon-fiber pattern top surface, and it contained both a cupholder and a closeable compartment with a sliding tambour door.

The pricing is not given on the company’s website, although there’s a signup procedure to get on a priority waiting list for the item (which the company says was released last week).

Signing up on a waiting list is a process Model S owners will be familiar with, since Tesla took deposits for Model S reservations up to three years before it delivered the cars.

With something like 5,000 cars delivered to date (Tesla won’t say), and production at 400 cars a week, the pool of Model S owners is growing every day.

Center Console Insert for Tesla Model S offered by Teslaccessories.com

Center Console Insert for Tesla Model S offered by Teslaccessories.com

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And you can view the arrival of a dedicated aftermarket firm exclusively for the vehicle as another tiny indicator of success for Tesla Motors.

It won’t make any difference to the company’s viability as a global auto business, of course.

But the launch of Teslaccessories.com can be viewed as yet another bit of validation by a member of what have to be some of the most enthusiastic–if occasionally critical, or at inquisitive–owner bodies of any new car in the world.

We look forward to hearing about additional aftermarket accessories for the Tesla Model S.

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By John Voelcker

Should Apple Buy Tesla? Or Would Ford Be A Better Buyer?

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

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Electric-car maker Tesla is on a roll–its first quarter was profitable, its stock price is soaring, and Consumer Reports gave its Model S a rave review.

That has led many writers to compare the company to Apple Inc. [NSDQ:AAPL].

Now one analyst has taken it further: In a Bloomberg column, Chamath Palihapitiya suggests that Apple should simply buy Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].

And, Palihapitiya writes, if Steve Jobs were still alive, he would have done so. He argues:

The right move would be for Apple to enter the car space, buy Tesla and make Elon Musk the CEO. Cook could move back to COO. Obviously this will never happen. The market is too big. Tesla is too good, and Cook is probably too weak to do something this radical.

Apple has designs on your dashboard, granted, and it is working with carmakers to integrate its Siri Q+A service into car infotainment systems.

Apple also has the money: Even assuming a 100-percent price premium over Tesla’s current market capitalization of $8.8 billion, buying Tesla would cost Apple only 12 percent of its $145-billion cash hoard.

So it’s doable.

But it would probably be a spectacularly bad idea.

Writing about Apple’s rumored plans to enter the television market, Palihapitiya writes, “TVs will probably turn out to be a very difficult product category.”

So cars, meanwhile, would be easy?

Apple designs remarkable consumer electronic products that share the following characteristics:

  • Product cycles of 18 to 36 months
  • Superb, sometimes revolutionary user interfaces
  • Outsourced manufacturing in developing countries
  • Core technology is low-power consumer electronics
  • Size is small enough to carry; weight is a few ounces to 30 pounds

Tesla’s designs, on the other hand, differ rather a lot from Apple’s:

  • Product cycles of 3 to 7 years
  • User-interface innovation confined to infotainment; steering, brakes, accelerator all conventional
  • Manufacturing done in-house by automakers of scale
  • Core technology is energy storage in battery, and high-power electric motor-generator plus power electronics
  • Size is more than 16 feet long; weight is more than 2 tons

The similarities and shared expertise are … where, exactly?

Sure, Apple tends to enter new categories within its core industry.

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

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But we’d suggest that going into carmaking would be roughly as smart as Apple going into, say, deep-sea oil exploration–another industry where electronics and sensors are increasingly key to success.

We’ve long argued that Tesla is not likely to remain independent as a carmaker. At some point, we believe, it will be bought by one of perhaps a dozen global automakers.

By far the most logical candidates are Daimler and Toyota, each of which owns a minority share of Tesla. An outlier might also be its lithium-ion cell supplier, which also has a stake in the company.

But may we suggest a different acquirer? What about Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F]?

Ford is at best lackluster about the prospects of battery-electric vehicles.

Its Ford Focus Electric is apparently only a compliance car, and the company has said in the past it doesn’t expect it to sell well–a self-fulfilling prophecy, apparently.

But we note that company chairman Bill Ford (whose name is on the building) recently expressed his admiration for Tesla and its recent successes.

“My hat’s off to them,” Ford said at a Los Angeles conference last Tuesday, although the company needs to be “mindful as they scale.”

1903 Ford Model A Rear Entry Tonneau and Bill Ford, Jr.

1903 Ford Model A Rear Entry Tonneau and Bill Ford, Jr.

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Of the big global companies, Toyota has placed its bets on hybrids (Ford makes some too, but only a fraction of Toyota’s volume). GM has its Chevy Volt, Nissan its all-electric Leaf and other battery cars coming, and Volkswagen is doing a bit of everything.

It’s a sign of Detroit’s inherent conservatism that Ford jokingly called himself as a “Bolshevik” for pledging that the company would raise fuel efficiency 25 percent from 2000 to 2005–a commitment it did not keep.

If Ford came to see plug-in electric cars as necessary to comply with increasingly stringent global fuel-efficiency rules, buying Tesla could catapult it to the front of the crowd.

That makes more sense, at least, than an Apple acquisition.

As Ford cautioned, “Running a car company is different than running a tech company.”

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By John Voelcker

March Plug-In Electric Car Sales: Tesla On Top, Leaf Roars Back (FINAL UPDATE)

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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The big news in plug-in car sales for March was Tesla’s statement that it delivered “more than 4,750″ Model S electric cars from January through March.

That news early Monday not only sent stock in Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] soaring, it also cued up an interesting three-way horse race.

Those sales put the Model S on a par with the Volt, ahead of the Leaf, and add roughly another third or so to the total number of plug-in cars from established makers that were delivered for the quarter.

Would Chevrolet manage to deliver more than 2,000 Volt range-extended electric cars to outsell the Model S?

And how quickly would sales of the 2013 Nissan Leaf rise now that cars are flowing freely from the Tennessee assembly line where they’re now built?

CEO Ghosn promises Leaf sales

Last month, while Volt sales recovered, Leaf deliveries were hampered by low inventory.

With production of the U.S.-built 2013 Nissan Leaf ramping up at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant, supplies were low for the first two months of the year.

But at a press roundtable at the New York Auto Show last Wednesday, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that the company expected to deliver around 1,900 Leafs during March.

The actual number turned out to be 2,236–higher than Ghosn’s no-doubt lowballed estimate–bringing the Leaf’s quarterly total to 3,539. Not at Tesla levels, but by far the Leaf’s best-ever monthly total.

Ghosn went on to say that a level of around 2,000 monthly sales was NOT where Nissan expected to settle–implying that higher volumes were in the cards for the rest of the year. We hope Nissan’s U.S. sales staff is listening to their boss.

Volt gets close–but not close enough

As it turned out, Chevrolet delivered 1,478 Volts during March, fewer than last month’s 1,626.

That number brings first-quarter Volt totals to 4,244, decisively below the Tesla total.

While the Volt is still ahead of the Leaf for the first three months of the year–4,244 to 3,539–it was outsold in March by Nissan’s battery electric car, for the first time since January 2012.

The third-place monthly ranking has got to be a blow for GM’s electric-car team–although, in fairness, the price of the average Model S is likely twice that of the average Volt and Tesla has a backlog of eager customers who’ve waited up to three years to take delivery of their cars.

Plug-in hybrid models to come

In fourth place during the first quarter was the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which outsold the Leaf through February to take a solid second place behind the Volt.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

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We said yesterday that if March sales tracked at their level during the first two months of the year, the Prius Plug-In would come in between 700 and 900 units.

And in fact, Toyota delivered 786 plug-in Priuses in March, for a first-quarter total of 2,353–bumping that car down to fourth place for the quarter, now that we have Tesla numbers.

As for Ford, it continues to increase sales of its Energi line, with 494 C-Max and 295 Fusion plug-in hybrids sold.

The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid appears to be on a slow upward trend. Just 19 were delivered in January and February combined, but March saw 26 sold–a far slower pace than the first months of the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

Compliance cars coming too

As for the battery-electric compliance car segment, deliveries of the Ford Focus Electric totaled 180 cars in March–its best-ever month, bringing total sales since December 2011 over the 1,000 mark for the first time.

(We’re still waiting for Ford to address our questions about whether the Focus Electric actually is a compliance car, though its continuing pessimistic and downbeat predictions on the Focus Electric’s sales potential may well be self-fulfilling.)

Remarkably, 133 Toyota RAV4 EVs were sold in March, by far the highest monthly number ever–bringing total sales since last September to more than 400, or one-quarter of the number Toyota needs to build.

Honda delivered 23 Fit EVs in March, equaling the previous two months’ sales combined and bringing the lifetime total to 139.

Finally, as for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, after a couple of months that totaled almost 600 sales, the littlest electric car on the market slumped back to its 2012 levels of 31 cars delivered.

The i-MiEV isn’t a compliance car, but the March sales are at that level–and a disappointment to the hopes of those who like small, minimalist plug-ins.



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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Next: Tesla Q1 sales call in May

Analysts will now be looking for comments from Tesla–which may not come until its Q1 earnings call in May–about the level of reservations for Model S.

Not all reservation-holders will convert into sales, but the rate at which the company can add new reservations versus starting to clear its queue of more than 10,000 Model S depositors will be keenly watched as an indicator of its ability to sustain sales beyond its first audience of early adopters.

Finally, one note on sales outside the U.S.: In its first full month of deliveries, 1,089 Renault Zoe all-electric subcompact hatchbacks were registered last month in France.

That number is fully 80 percent of plug-in electric car sales in the country for March.

French carmaker Renault is an alliance partner of Nissan, with the two companies together having delivered 70,000 battery-electric vehicles since December 2010.

The Zoe is its first high-volume battery electric vehicle, following the Kangoo ZE small electric delivery van and the low-volume Fluence ZE mid-size sedan with a swappable battery pack, designed for–and mostly sold to–the Israeli company Better Place.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Model S To Get Adaptive Cruise, Lane-Departure Warning, More?


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Drivers of the Tesla Model S are generally pretty happy with their cars, but as with any new product there are always a few ways it could be improved.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is one of few companies that can execute those improvements without you having to lift a finger, as software updates can be achieved via the internet.

Whether lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection will be software updates is a different matter, but all have been discovered deep within the car’s menus by an enterprising owner (via Autoblog).

None are currently available on the Model S but all have appeared in a video of the car’s menu settings, located behind an access code off the car’s main menu.

It’s likely that all are simply menu provisions for hardware changes coming in later Model S, unless Tesla has hidden the required sensors in each car already.  ‘Right Hand Drive’ also appears on the menu, suggesting that Tesla has designed in a bunch of features not yet tested, but expected at a later date.

What itt does imply is that the car will be getting a few of the options some owners have been asking for, already standard on many competing vehicles.

Other screens within the coded menus include power usage data, not just between battery, motor and wheels but also through the battery temperature systems, heating and ventilation and more.

Another menu shows not-yet-available apps, light-hearted applications like a sketchpad rubbing shoulders with test apps for the screen colors, audio and others. A further menu illustrates speed and torque-limiting option sliders.

One thing is for sure: There are still plenty of interesting features in the pipeline for Model S owners.

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By Antony Ingram

Official: 2012 Tesla Model S To Be Given Creep Option

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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To creep or not to creep? That is the question.

As many hardened electric car fans will tell you, unlike gasoline cars with automatic gearboxes, not all electric cars move forward — or creep — when you release the foot brake. 

When Tesla launched the 2012 Model S, it, like unlike the two-seat Tesla Roadster which preceded it, did not come with creep function enabled. 

But after numerous requests from its customers, Tesla has announced it will soon be offering a remote software update to all 2012 Tesla Model S cars which will enable the function.

Without visiting their local service center, Tesla customers will be notified of the update to their Model S’ operating system. 

Once installed, it will add a new option to the car’s preferences, allowing customers to enable or disable automatic creep. 

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Tesla’s creep function upgrade was quietly announced in a recent webpage update covering its 2012 Model S servicing plans

“By default, Model S does not slowly move forward when you release the brake pedal like cars equipped with automatic transmissions,” Tesla says on its webpage. “With an electric motor there’s no need for this, but some early customers miss it. Using software updates, we can upgrade every Model S with a ‘creep’ option which customers can enable using the 17 inch touchscreen.”

Tesla hasn’t detailed how long Tesla owners will have to wait for the update, or if it will come standard on Model S cars which have yet to leave the factory, but we assume the additional optional feature will be made available to existing customers shortly. 

For those who are used to driving gasoline automatic cars, the option of creep simulation will be a welcome addition to first-time electric car drivers. 

But would you like to choose if your electric car has it or not?

Let us know in the Comments below. 

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By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

New Tesla Model S Pricing Announced For Jan 1, Battery Pack Costs Too

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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As of January 1, it’ll cost you more to buy a 2013 Tesla Model S–as the company said last week.

Now, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has released the details of the price increases on the different versions of the Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan.

The new prices are $59,900 for the base version with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack, $69,900 for the mid-range 60-kWh model, $79,900 for the top-end 85-kWh level, and $94,900 for the Performance model, which also uses the 85-kWh pack.

That means each car has risen by $2,500. Tesla says that figure is half of what an inflation-adjusted figure might be, given that the company priced the Model S way back in 2009.

Those prices will apply only to buyers who put down a deposit starting January 1 or later.

To sweeten the deal, all Model S cars from January 1 get 12-way adjustable, heated front seats for no extra cost.

Performance Package cars get 19-inch wheels as standard, with 21-inch wheels for $3,500 extra. A new red multi-coat paint shade is also available, for $1,500. Production of the new red shade starts in March 2013.

Any rush by uncommitted buyers to put down deposits on or before December 31 of this year can only help Tesla’s quarterly and annual financial results, which will be announced in January.

With European pricing announced very soon, Tesla will also deduct 1,700 Euros (or its equivalent in other European countries) from the base price of a Model S, for any European buyer putting down a deposit by end of day on December 31, 2012.

Batteries from $8,000

Tesla also released pricing for replacement battery packs, giving current and future owners a better sense of what it will cost to own their electric sport sedans over a decade or more.

The price of a 40 kWh pack is $8,000. Another $2,000 gets the 60 kWh pack, and the 85 kWh pack costs another $2,000 on top of that.

The company suffered some criticism by owners and depositors who disliked its mandatory $600-per-year service requirement in order to keep their Model S warranties valid, since battery electric cars require little maintenance beyond inspections and new tires and wiper blades.

But now owners can calculate the cost of potentially replacing a battery pack over the car’s longer term life.

Extended warranties, servicing

Long-term ownership costs can be calculated further with the introduction of a new four-year, 50,000-mile extended warranty. This joins the standard four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, and costs an extra $2,500.

Likewise, buyers can purchase an extra four years and 50,000 miles of prepaid maintenance–to add to the previous $600-per-year service package–for an additional $1,900.

Price increases are rarely something to celebrate, but with new features and extended peace-of-mind options, 2013 will still be a good year for Model S buyers.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Now Delivering 60-kWh Versions Of Model S Electric Car

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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It’s now clear: Volume deliveries of the second version of the 2013 Tesla Model S began this month.

That would be the version fitted with the middle of three battery-pack sizes, with a stated energy capacity of 60 kilowatt-hours.

The news does not come from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], a company that can be bafflingly opaque about standard business metrics like production and deliveries.

Instead, it comes from scanning the “Delivery Update” thread of the Tesla Motors Club forum (that thread now runs to 400 pages, by the way).

Multiple reports have been posted during the month of owners taking delivery of their 60-kWh Model S cars.

While one such delivery might be an anomaly, it’s clear from the postings, photos, and general level of glee that Tesla is now chewing away at its reservation list for 60-kWh models.

Owner “Hans,” for instance, posted that he took delivery of his 60-kWh Model S at the Fremont, California, factory on Saturday, January 19.

He noted that everything was in order save for a missing piece of chrome trim on the charging cord, and attached a photo showing the chrome-free handle.

This is, his specialist told him, a supplier problem, and numerous Model S cars are being delivered without it.

The 60-kWh Model S was rated in December at 208 miles of electric range by the EPA, versus a 265-mile range for the 85-kWh version.

Once Tesla has blended production of 60-kWh and 85-kWh models into its line, next up will be the lowest-capacity Model S, with a 40-kWh battery pack.

That model hasn’t yet been rated for range, but its 160-mile range (at a steady 55 mph) stated by Tesla is likely to translate to an EPA rating of something like 140 to 145 miles.

Those deliveries are expected to start sometime between April and June.

One eager new owner of a 60-kWh Model S will be our own writer David Noland, who is slated to take delivery of his car within weeks.

Noland has written numerous pieces about the Model S delivery process and other aspects of the car.

His latest piece summarized minor quirks and issues identified in Model S cars delivered thus far.

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By John Voelcker

2012 Tesla Model S Shows Up On eBay, Will Owner Profit?

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

It’s not unusual to see rare and exclusive cars pre-sold to buyers before cars are delivered–the practice has been going on for decades, every time the latest supercar hits the streets.

We didn’t expect to see a 2012 Tesla Model S sold so soon, though–and with a Buy It Now price on the eBay auction of $145,000, the seller stands to make a healthy little profit should they find a buyer.

The model being sold is one of the thousand limited edition Signature models, and the buyer will get the actual car, rather than a reservation slot–something Tesla will not allow.

With Signature Red paint, a white leather interior and the 85 kWh, EPA-rated 265-mile battery pack–as well as other Signature edition features–the car will certainly be to a high specification.

It also features an upgraded tech package, Dolby 7.1 premium sound system, and other Model S amenities.

The car is already being built, and is set to be delivered on October 14. The auction itself runs until 10:18 PDT on September 20, provided someone doesn’t pay the full price–over $47,000 more than MSRP–to end the auction early.

So why is the car for sale so soon? The seller doesn’t say, but it’s not beyond possibility that they were banking on pre-selling it all along, hoping to make a tidy little profit in the process from someone wishing to jump the queue.

It also has us wondering–how long until more Model S Signature editions appear on the market? And what price would you pay to get behind the wheel?…

Hat tip to Martin at eCars.bg

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Model S To Be Evaluated By Consumer Reports

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Let’s hope that the Tesla Model S fares better than the Fisker Karma did.

That’s the first thought that sprang to mind when we heard the news that Consumer Reports had bought its very own Model S all-electric sport sedan to test.

The respected consumer testing magazine notoriously savaged the Fisker Karma in a review last September.

Specifically, the $106,000 range-extended electric luxury sport sedan died on the test track and otherwise proved to be badly built, with confusing controls and minimal interior space for such a large and heavy car.

The magazine was more impressed with the Tesla Model S following an early drive in a borrowed car last November.

The Model S “shatters every myth,” it wrote, and redefined the experience of traveling on all-electric power.

Two weeks ago today, after waiting more than two years following its $5,000 deposit, CR took delivery of its 2012 Tesla Model S.

It specified the Model S with the largest 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack and the $1,500 additional charger to bring charging capacity up to 20 kilowatts.

As an early-build car, the magazine’s Model S also comes with the air suspension, along with a large sunroof, and tan Nappa leather upholstery.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

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The total price was $89,650, roughly in line with the Audi A7 or Porsche Panamera luxury sport sedans.

Confronted with the option to pick up its Model S at Tesla’s Queens service center or have it delivered to the door on a flatbed truck, the magazine chose the latter alternative.

As usual, Consumer Reports masked the identity of the buyer so that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] likely didn’t know that the magazine was actually buying the car.

As CR’s Gabe Shenhar says, “We can’t wait to pile some break-in miles on our Model S and start testing it.”

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Model S Top Speed: More Than 130 MPH, Emission-Free

Top speeds are more relevant than many people think.

That even applies to cars like the Tesla Model S, though perhaps more for bragging rights than any practical purpose. And as bragging rights go, 133 mph isn’t too bad for an electric car.

While there aren’t many places you can legally explore a modern car’s top speed, those three-figure numbers are usually a good indication of how well your car will cruise at freeway speeds.

A car designed to travel two or three times the speed limit will generally be relaxed, quiet and economical at the limit itself.

The Tesla Model S Performance is relaxed and quiet at pretty much any speed.

In fact, as you’ll see (and hear) in the video above (via our sister site Motor Authority), wind and road noise are only really audible on camera at 90-100 mph, more than most people will regularly cruise at.

Acceleration only starts to tail off as the car breaks into the 120s, and it’s all done at 133 mph. We make no guesses as to what the range might be at that sort of speed, even with the 85 kW battery pack–not that the Model S’s gasoline-powered rivals will be particularly economical at 133 mph and above…

What’ll be most remarkable to anyone unfamiliar with the Model S is just how quickly it reaches its top speed. Motor Authority measures it at 12 seconds to 100 mph (it could be less, as the driver appears to pull away fairly gently at first) and 26 seconds to 133 mph.

We don’t condone exploring your car’s top speed on the roads, of course, but it’s nice knowing the Model S has plenty in reserve when you’re at a steady highway cruise.

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By Antony Ingram

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