Tag archives for 2013

Tesla Model S Loaners For Tesla Model S Owners, Elon Musk Says

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Loaners cars are now routinely provided by luxury carmakers when their customers have cars in for servicing.

Now Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is joining the crowd, providing Model S luxury sports sedans to its Model S (and Roadster) owners while their cars are in the shop.

But according to CEO Elon  Musk, these aren’t just any Model S: All the loaners will be the top-end, most luxurious Model S Performance version with the 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack and punchier acceleration than lesser models.

Road testers have logged the Tesla Model S Performance accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds (the original factory quote was 4.6 seconds).

That’s a number that exceeds most luxury sedans on the market today, although to be fair, repeated use of that acceleration is likely to have a negative effect on the car’s EPA-rated range of 265 miles.

Musk discussed the loaner plan in an interview with USA Today, in which he also promised that Tesla employees would drop the temporary Model S cars wherever the customer requested–rather than requiring the owner to bring the car in to a Tesla service center.

Initially, the loaner fleet will number about 80 vehicles spread among Tesla’s 21 current service centers.

The fleet will expand as Tesla opens more stores and service centers across the country; the company lists another 13 service centers as “coming soon.”

Musk noted that the idea for luxury loaners hadn’t originated with Tesla. He attributed it, instead, to Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus.

But a top-of-the-line loaner–nicer, in many cases, than the Model S that’s in for service–is certainly a step up from hearing the service guy yell, “Hey, Manny, whadda we got in the back for this guy?”

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Model S Driving On Sunlight: Amateur Video Not So Amateur


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The right car can inspire people.

Whether it’s the poetic beauty of an Italian sports car or the noise of the race track, that inspiration takes many forms.

For some, the all-electric Tesla Model S is their inspiration. The sleek electric sedan has certainly attracted attention far beyond that of most electric vehicles, but it’s the die-hard fans who are most inspired–and this fan-made commercial is proof.

Every second of footage looks professionally produced, as if Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] itself is promoting the car.

Filmed on January 3rd, the one-minute commercial follows the Knapp family, whose road trip using solar-powered Tesla Supercharger stations–hence “Gallons of light”–highlights how such a trip doesn’t need a drop of fossil fuels, in the right kind of car.

Created by Jordan Bloch, who Autoblog Green says has also made videos for Nike, British Airways and Nissan, the ad is perhaps a little saccharine for some.

That shouldn’t detract from what has been achieved on a tight budget though–nor that only 61 seconds of footage is enough to effectively highlight the joys of driving electric–something the carmakers themselves have occasionally struggled to do.

In fact, it leaves us wondering why some adverts have done so little to convey the real benefits of driving an electric car–the silence, the ease of use, and the spirit of the community of like-minded owners.

It’ll make you want to drive the car too–which is what a good advert should do.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Model S 60-kWh Version: EPA Range Rated At 208 Miles

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Without any fanfare, the EPA has released its range rating for the second version of the Tesla Model S to come to market.

The 2013 Tesla Model S fitted with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack has a rated range of 208 miles.

That compares to 265 miles for the Model S version with the largest 85-kWh battery pack.

The new 60-kWh Model S has a higher efficiency rating (95 MPGe versus 89 MPGe) and uses slightly less energy to cover 100 miles: 35 kWh versus 38 kWh.

The Miles-Per-Gallon-equivalent (MPGe) rating measures how far a vehicle can travel on the amount of electricity equivalent to the energy content of one gallon of gasoline.

The 85-kWh Tesla Model S received its 265-mile range rating in June.

The new model’s 95-MPGe efficiency rating is close to the 99-MPGe rating of the 2012 Nissan Leaf, an impressive number for a larger, heavier, more capacious, and faster luxury sport sedan.

The differences in the two Model S versions may be attributable to the 60-kWh version’s lighter weight and some differences in standard features.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] will begin delivering the 60-kWh Model S versions early next year.

The final and lowest-range version of the Model S, fitted with a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery, will be the last to enter production–by March, Tesla has said.

That version has not yet been rated by the EPA.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Tunes Up Model S Warranty, Loaner Cars, Service Plan

2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]

2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]

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On Friday, Tesla held a media call to reveal another in the series of announcements touted in tweets by CEO Elon Musk.

This time, the news covered enhancements to the warranty and service experience on its Tesla Model S electric luxury sport sedan.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is now delivering several hundred Model Ses each week and, Musk said, taking feedback from buyers to heart.

Its goal has always been to create “the world’s best service and warranty program” for any car on the market, he said, with the “overriding principle” being, “I want give people peace of mind” to ensure they have “the happiest possible transport experience.”

The revisions to Tesla’s service and warranty policies include three main points.

The $600-per-year service plan is now optional rather than mandatory.

This had been a source of considerable grumbling among Model S owners forced to pay $600 each year for a service plan on a car that, at least in theory, should need only wiper blades and tires replaced.

“We made a slight mistake,” said Musk in a rare admission, “in making the service fee mandatory.”

And, he revealed, unlike current automakers, his charge to the Tesla service department is “never to make a profit” from owners–just to break even.

That varies from today’s conventional model, in which new cars are sold at relatively little profit by dealerships, which makes the bulk of their profits through service work and the sale of used cars.

Musk even quoted what he termed an adage in the car business: “Sales sells the first car, but service sells all the subsequent ones.”

Any battery failure for any reason (within reason) is covered for the warranty term.

The goal here is not to require Model S buyers to read their owner manuals to understand how best to take care of their battery, Musk said.

“Any product that needs an owner’s manual to work is broken,” he said–a much-repeated Silicon Valley belief not always actually taken to heart by designers of consumer products.

And the company specifically included “user error” in its list of things that are now covered.

“This is to address electric-car concerns like, What if my battery dies?” said Musk.

'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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“We want to say, don’t worry about the battery, it’s going to be fine.”

Whether that includes leaving the car for long periods without plugging it in was not addressed on the company’s call, but a notorious “bricking” incident with a Tesla Roadster received much coverage a couple of years ago.

Coverage excludes deliberate damage–owners attacking their battery packs with sledgehammers are likely not covered–but it seems a smart move on Tesla’s part.

Loaner cars at Tesla Service Centers will be new top-of-the-line 85-kilowatt-hour Model S Performance versions.

And if owners decide they prefer the driving experience of the loaner to their own Model S, they can buy that car on the spot. Its price will be the new-car price minus 1 percent for each month it’s been in service plus $1 for each mile it’s covered.

Musk said that each service center will have two to 10 such cars, depending on its service volume. The fleet altogether would number about 100 cars.

These loaner cars will also be delivered to whatever destination the Model S owner specifies, by a valet service, and the company will pick up the car to be serviced wherever it’s located.

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By John Voelcker

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

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

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

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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