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Electrons are small. You may think that dead pixel on your computer screen is small, but it’s a city block compared to an electron. This may be why many people don’t understand how hard it is to store enough of them to power a car. Two companies with an intimate knowledge of the problem are electric car pioneer Tesla, and electronics giant Panasonic.
This week, the Japanese tech company announced it was investing $30 Million into Tesla to jointly develop new battery technology for its upcoming electric sedan and to be licensed by other manufacturers. Tesla currently uses Panasonic cells to power its Lotus-based Roadster and is working with Toyota on developing their next generation of hybrid and all-electric vehicles. The infusion of cash came in the form of Panasonic acquiring a 2-percent ownership stake in Tesla.
Panasonic recently announced its own joint-venture with Toyota, dubbed Primearth EV Energy Co. The goal is to develop more efficient nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. Future plans involve the merger of Panasonic and current rival Sanyo to become a battery development powerhouse for the quickly expanding electric car market.
Factoid: Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most efficient type being used in electric vehicles and are roughly 64 times less energy dense than good ole gasoline. The best Li-ion cells are currently capable of roughly 0.72 MJ/Kg while gasoline is roughly 46.4 MJ/Kg.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)
Electric car purveyor Tesla filed paperwork for a $100 million IPO with the SEC earlier today, and after deeper perusal of the 173-page form S – 1, the company looks to be treading on extremely thin ice. The filing has revealed that not only will the company stop making its only car — the Lotus Elise-based Roadster — in 2011 because Lotus will be retooling its plant to make way for a new Elise/Exige line, but also that it has no solid agreements in place for further development or procurement of electric powertrain components with third-party suppliers. While the company hopes to have a new Roadster on the road by 2013, the discontinuation of the present car means Tesla would have no vehicle to sell for the better part of two years — unless of course its proposed Model S sedan magically appears in 2012.
The filing — specifically, the 39-page-long “Risk Factors” section — makes Tesla’s entire operation look quite shaky as it includes far more than the usual warnings about outside factors that could affect a company’s business.
It’s no secret that the future of the company rides on the success of the Model S and Tesla says that it already has 2000 orders. However, 2012 is less than two years away and the company still does not have a way of actually building the sedan. In fact, the company lists 11 assumptions that it’s operating under with regards to the launch of the Model S:
that we will be able to identify and secure an appropriate facility for the manufacturing of our Model S;
that we will be able to secure the funding necessary to build out and equip the manufacturing facilities in a timely manner, including meeting milestones and other conditions necessary to draw down funds under our loan facility with the DOE;
that we will able to develop and equip the manufacturing facilities for the Model S without exceeding our projected costs and on our projected timeline;
that the equipment we select will be able to accurately manufacture the vehicle within specified design tolerances;
that our computer aided design process can reduce the product development time by accurately predicting the performance of our vehicle for passing relevant safety standards, including standards that can only be met through expensive crash testing;
that we will be able to obtain the necessary permits and approvals, including those under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as building and air quality permits, to comply with local zoning, environmental and similar regulations to operate our manufacturing facilities and our business on our projected timeline;
that we will be able to engage suppliers for the necessary components on terms and conditions acceptable to us and that we will be able to obtain components on a timely basis and in the necessary quantities;
that we will be able to deliver final component designs to our suppliers in a timely manner;
that we will be able to attract, recruit, hire and train skilled employees, including employees on the production line, to operate our Model S manufacturing facility;
that we will be able to maintain high quality controls as we transition to an in-house manufacturing process; and
that we will not experience any significant delays or disruptions in our supply chain.”
It generally takes established automakers that do not have to worry about supplier contracts, facility procurement, and government permits at least three years to bring a new vehicle to production, so we fail to see how Tesla is going to produce the Model S by 2012, barring a minor miracle. The company admits that it does “not have a full production intent prototype, a final design, a manufacturing facility or a manufacturing process.”
Furthermore, the production of the Model S also depends on Tesla finalizing a number of agreements with Daimler (which has a small stake in the company) that would result in the German automaker providing it with access to parts as well as engineering help. There are also clauses that would allow Daimler to terminate all of its agreements should current CEO Elon Musk leave the company or invest in another automaker.
Even if Tesla manages to overcome the multitude of hurdles in its way, it remains a mystery as to how it would make money in the time that passes between the end of the present Roadster and the launch of the Model S.
The full text of the SEC filing can be found HERE.
Tesla has become the first American car company to go public in 54 years, and has raised some $226 million in the process. The electric vehicle producer is the first automaker since Ford in 1956 to have an initial public offering (IPO).
Initially, Tesla planned on offering 11.1 million shares at $14-$16 each, but later increased that figure to 13.3 million. According to Bloomberg data and a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla also increased the share price to $17 each for a total around $226 million. The company will trade under the symbol TSLA. Tesla CEO Elon Musk rang the NASDAQ Stock Market opening bell today.
Going public may seem like a good way for several Tesla affiliates, as well as Musk — who has reportedly gone broke after spending more than $70 million of his own money — to recoup their losses.
The cash infusion from the IPO comes at a good time for the company yet to turn a profit after seven years. Tesla will use the funds from its IPO along with a $465 million federal loan to buy a factory in which to produce the Model S sedan and put the sedan into production. Toyota and Tesla have already been in talks about reopening the now abandoned New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated plant in Fremont, Calif.
The federal government, however, has put a few measures in place with its loan to ensure that Musk, along with a few other key players, remain Tesla investors. In order for Tesla to secure the loan, Musk and other certain unnamed Tesla affiliates must retain 65 percent of their stock in Tesla for at least one year after completing the Model S project.
As part of the deal to reopen NUMMI, both Tesla and Toyota would produce an electric vehicle there in 2012. Tesla’s plan: a production version of the Model S, as well as possible Model S derivatives and a new Roadster. Toyota’s EV plans for NUMMI, however, remain less clear. In addition to reopening the NUMMI plant together, Tesla and Toyota also came to a deal in which the Japanese giant invested $50 million in the American startup and would later be granted common stock. Following the IPO, Toyota now owns roughly 2 percent of Tesla.
Tesla is ready to help out those owners who feel that their Roadsters aren’t new and shiny enough. According to a new report, the electric car maker will be giving owners a credit when they trade in a Roadster for a new Model S.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Tesla has created a buyback program for current Roadster owners who are looking to move into a new Model S. Tesla’s program works just as any other trade-in deal would work, and has been created to help simplify the process for Model S/Roadster customers, according to Tesla representative Christina Ra. Since some Model S variants are actually priced well below the Roadster, it is possible for an owner to receive more on a trade than the cost of the new car. “In that case, we’d write you a check,” Tom vonReichbauer, Tesla’s director of finance, told the Chronicle.
Pricing for the Model S hatchback starts at $57,400 for the 40 kWh battery, steps up to $67,400 for the 60 kWh car, and $77,400 for the 85 kWh model (all prices are before any government tax rebates). The EPA has already rated the 85-kWh Model S at 89 MPGe and a range of 265 miles. Currently, the only Model S versions being built are the top-spec Signature Performance models that use the 85-kWh battery; an upgraded interior, suspension, and wheels; and the exclusivity of being just one of 1000 units built. Once all the Signature models are built, the automaker will begin to produce the Model S and Model S Performance versions.
Having a cache of Roadsters will also help Tesla, the Chronicle points out. Having another vehicle to sell alongside the Model S until the Model X crossover debuts will help the automaker keep retail sales going. It’s expected that a Roadster would be resold for anywhere around $73,000 to $94,000 depending on age and mileage of the car.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle