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Worst Thing About The Tesla Model S? Driving Anything Else Afterwards

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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If early ownership experiences are to believed, there’s not a lot wrong with driving a Tesla Model S.

The performance is great, it’s luxurious, quiet, has a great electric range… but there’s still one thing that bugs owners. One thing they wish wasn’t part of the Model S ownership experience.

Yep, that’s right–driving other cars. Model S owners hate it, according to a semi-serious, semi tongue-in-cheek thread on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

Owners regale each other with tales of lacking the performance and the strong regenerative braking effect from their Model S, when forced to drive another car for any reason.

Some don’t like the low-quality feel of other vehicles they’ve driven either, particularly when it’s the occasional rental car.

Amusingly, a few owners even say they’ve nearly run out of gas when driving internal combustion vehicles after the S–since most owners are used to waking up to a fully-charged vehicle, rather than having to fill up the tank every so often.

It seems range anxiety is as much an internal combustion thing as it is a battery thing–and goes to prove that it’s only a problem if you’re not used to it.

Even funnier (though perhaps not so safe) are the tales of owners accidentally leaving hybrids and gasoline vehicles running when they park up–being so used to the Model S turning itself off when you’re not using the car.

These Model S owners aren’t alone, of course–disappointment with internal combustion vehicles is quite a common affliction once one is used to an electric car.

You never quite realise how noisy and unrefined even the smoothest of gasoline vehicles is until you’ve spent some time behind the wheel of an electric equivalent.

In the meantime, electric owners will just have to make the best of the occasional gasoline vehicle they drive–and remind themselves what cars used to be like…

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Model S “Delivery Roulette” Annoys Some Owners, Thrills Others

2012 Tesla Model S

When you walk into a crowded deli in New York City, you take a number.

Rather than jostle in line and try to elbow (or charm) your way to the front, you take the number from the dispenser on the counter and wait till that number is called. First come, first served.  Even among rude, pushy New Yorkers, it works.

When Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] first started taking reservations (with $5,000 deposits) for its all-electric Model S sports sedan nearly four years ago, it put in place a similar system.

Each depositor was assigned a reservation sequence number, which represented the owner’s  place in line, and, to a certain extent, his/her status in the pecking order for the award-winning Tesla Model S.

When I put my money down in April 2009, I received number P 717.  With the waiting list now approaching 18,000, I’m feeling pretty good about my place in the line to own what by all accounts is a remarkable car.

In addition to the 716 even-earlier-adopters before me, about 1,200 “Signature” customers  put down $40,000 deposits for the right to buy special-edition top-of-the-line cars before the standard P cars went into production.

I never begrudged the Signature owners in front of me–they certainly paid dearly for their right to jump the queue.

But now that all Signature cars have been delivered and P cars have been in production for more than a month, it turns out that the Tesla delivery system isn’t working nearly as smoothly as your average New York deli.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

In many cases, production P cars are being delivered  way out of order–sometimes astonishingly so.

This naturally results in equal numbers of customers who are giddy at their unexpected early delivery and frustrated at a maddeningly delayed one.

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

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Count me among the latter.

Just yesterday I saw a post on the Tesla owners’ forum from an ecstatic Model S owner who’d just been notified his delivery would be in the first two weeks of February. That’s essentially the same delivery window I’ve been given.

You know when this guy placed his order?  Last August 31! That’s more than three years after I put down my money. He’s number 11,601 in the queue.

“Essentially FIVE MONTHS from order to delivery!” the guy crowed.

He’s not alone. A number of  cars with numbers above 5,000 have already been delivered. According to a Tesla Motors Club forum thread, an unofficial online forum, the highest number delivered as of December 31 was P 9935.

Meanwhile, owners with reservation numbers as low as P 631 have not yet received their cars, according to TMC.

“Reservation holders more than 3500 spots below me have gotten their VIN (a final step just before delivery),” moans one owner on the TMC forum. “Extremely frustrated.”

I understand his frustration.

Why should a Johnny-Come-Lately who puts his money down for a few months on a sure thing get his car before a True Believer who gambled $5,000 back when the Model S was a pipe dream and Tesla was a company struggling to even stay alive?

The 85-kWh Advantage

Although there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for many of the out-of-order deliveries, the cause of my delay is clear: I’ve ordered my car with the mid-size 60-kWh battery.

Because all  the initial Signature cars had top-of-the-line 85-kWh batteries, Tesla started production of that battery first. When Signature production finished in late November, Tesla wasn’t yet geared up for production of the smaller 60-kWh and 40-kWh battery options. 

So it continued to churn out 85-kWh production models, skipping over even low-number 60- and 40-kWh buyers like me.



Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]

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Tesla has announced that 60-kWh production will begin this month, and 40-kWh production in March. The company seems to be in no particular hurry to do so, and who can blame them?

They’d prefer to sell as many of the more expensive 85-kWh cars as possible, as they try to overcome the cash crunch of production start-up.

Tesla Motors remains mum about the proportion of the various battery options in the order book, so it’s unknown how many 40- and 60-kWh depositors have been passed over as 85-kWh production continues.

Other Factors?

But there have been numerous non-sequential deliveries of 85-kWh  P cars as well. The reasons behind this seeming “delivery roulette” are a frustrating mystery for many owners.

Through it all, Tesla has been characteristically obtuse about the reasons for its out-of-order deliveries of production models. 

There were similar problems with out-of-order Signature deliveries that spurred much grumbling among impatient owners. At the time, Tesla VP George Blankenship responded with an e-mail explaining that the problem was due to vendor delays and  changes or shortages of  certain interior decors and options.

“In some weeks,” Blankenship wrote, “it meant we had to reach forward in the sequence order to find cars that were not impacted by a particular decor or option, and in some case the absence of a decor or option pushed cars back.”

In his note to Signature owners, Blankenship acknowledged the importance of the sequence numbers.

“Many Model S reservation holders I have met during the last two years introduce themselves by name and then follow their introduction by giving me their….reservation sequence number,” he wrote. “Their sequence number is…very important to them, and is very important to us.”

Blankenship characterized Tesla’s customer communication on the subject as “weak at best,” and promised to do better.

But so far, Tesla has sent no such explanation to us production owners. (Or at least P 717 has not received one.)

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

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By David Noland

Life With 2013 Tesla Model S: Getting Supercharged In Winter

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

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As the brand-new owner of a 60-kWh Tesla Model S, I was eager to try out a Supercharger, the ultrafast 90-kilowatt DC fast-charging stations that Tesla is establishing along Interstate highways across the country.

Model S owners–and nobody else–will be able to plug in and grab up to 150 miles of extra range in 30 minutes, about the time it takes to empty their bladders and then eat a fast-food meal and/or check their mobile devices. Astonishingly, the Superchargers are free for Model S owners.

So far, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has installed five Superchargers in California and two along I-95 between Boston and Washington D.C.

Tesla claims it will have more than 100 Supercharger stations by 2015, enabling the Model S to make long cross-country trips just like a gasoline car.

For me, the nearest Supercharger is at the service area on I-95 in Milford, Connecticut, about 85 miles from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Though my car’s EPA range of 208 miles should manage the round trip without a recharge, I figured it would be fun to try out the Supercharger experience. 

And it would be my first long trip in the car, a chance to check the accuracy of the “rated range” readout–also called the Guess-O-Meter–that so commands the attention of any electric-car driver.

Hopefully, my fate would be better than that of reporter John Broder of The New York Times, whose Model S famously ended up on a flatbed truck, out of juice, when he attempted a trip to the Milford Supercharger after leaving his Model S unplugged on a very cold night.

Unlike Broder, I started with a full charge. He had unwittingly charged the car in “Standard” mode, which–in the name of long-term battery health–stops charging at  90 percent of battery capaacity.

For my trip, just to be sure, I set the charger on “Max Range”, which takes the charge to the full 100 percent. As I pulled out of my driveway on a cool 40-degree morning, the “rated range” read 198  miles.

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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Still new to the car, I drove conservatively, cruising at 60-65 mph on open stretches and accelerating gently on more congested two-lane roads.  Under those conditions, the  Tesla’s “Guess-O-Meter” was spot on. After about two hours, I pulled into the northbound side of the Milford service area showing 116 miles of range remaining–82 miles less than what I started with.

So far, so good. But where the heck was the Supercharger?

The picture on the Tesla website shows what looks like a four-bay carport, conspicuously Tesla-logoed,  and flanked by a 15-foot-high sculpted phallic column of no obvious purpose. (A nod to the SpaceX Falcon 9, perhaps?) 

But I could see nothing like that anywhere around.

Eyes swiveling, I drove slowly past the parking area, past the gas pumps, past the restaurant pavilion, finally to the truck ghetto at the far end of the service area.

Tesla Supercharger obelisk

Tesla Supercharger obelisk

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No carport-cum-phallus.

And now, I realized, I was stuck.  Traffic flow through the service area is one-way only. There was no going back.

I parked the car and backtracked  on foot. After a few minutes of searching, I found the Supercharger station. No carport. No phallus. Just two adjacent spaces in the regular parking lot, each with a gas-pump-like charging station and a miniscule Tesla logo.

I can now understand why John Broder drove around in circles in the parking lot at Milford. Tesla CEO Elon Musk implied that he was trying to run down the battery on purpose; Broder said he just couldn’t find the Supercharger. I can relate to that.

Luckily, both spaces were empty. But of course my car was now at the other end of the service area, marooned by “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs.

If I wanted to charge up, my only legal recourse was to continue north on I-95, get off at the next exit, get back on I-95 southbound, drive to the next exit south, get off, get back on northbound, and return to the service area.

Fuhgeddaboudit.

I looked around for cops, saw none, and drove the wrong way back past the gas pumps to the Supercharger, encountering no other cars during my nefarious 20-second dash.



Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 - Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location

Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 – Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location

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There were no instructions on the charger, just a phone number to call in case of problems. The charging plug was the same as the one I use at home.

Click the button on the plug, the charge door pops open. Plug in, and the glowing ring around the charge port turns blue, then green, and begins to pulse rapidly. Just like at home. Nothing to it.

Tesla brags that Superchargers are located at places “you’ll actually want to stop.” Not the Milford service area, a monument to low-rent fast food: McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts. I used the bathroom (clean), grabbed a smoothie and a Danish, and was out of there in 26 minutes.

During that time, the car picked up 62 miles of range, bringing the Guess-O-Meter up to 178 miles, more than double the mileage home.

This fell far short of Tesla’s claimed 150 miles in 30 minutes.

There are, however, two reasons.

First, I was more than half full when I plugged in. The charging rate is very fast for an empty battery, but it slows down as the battery fills up.

Second, I have the mid-size 60-kWh battery, not the big 85-kWh model. With less capacity, my charge rate presumably falls off more quickly. (A Tesla rep on the owners’ hotline could shed no light on 60-kWh vs. 85-kWh charging rates for me.)

With my brain perhaps dulled by a fast-food sugar-and-fat buzz, I had some trouble getting the plug out. With no instructions, I did what I do at home to unplug: squeeze the button on the plug and pull.

But it wouldn’t come out. With  rising panic, I fiddled for 5 or 10 seconds, randomly pushing the button and tugging the cord. Nothing.

And then, thank God, it finally popped out, for no apparent reason.

(A Tesla hotline rep later confirmed that it takes longer for the Supercharger to shut down and release the charge cord. Might I suggest it would be nice to let Model S owners know that ahead of time?)

Fat with energy, I drove home at my normal 70 to 75 mph, and didn’t stint on the acceleration. (Nothing crazy, though.) I arrived home with 76 miles remaining, for a net “usage” of 102 miles on the meter to cover the 88 miles home.

After trying out a Supercharger, I can see its potential.  But Tesla needs to put the charging stations closer together.

The two Superchargers connecting Washington D.C., and Boston are about 200 miles apart. John Broder notwithstanding, that’s probably okay for an 85-kWh car under most conditions. But it provides little margin for cold weather, fast driving, or Murphy’s Law.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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And for 60-kWh cars like mine, it just doesn’t work at all.

Okay, if I drive 55 mph and don’t use the heat or air conditioning, I might make it by the skin of my teeth. Maybe. If nothing unexpected happens.

But I’m guessing  this kind of razor’s-edge driving is not what Tesla has in mind. It’s certainly not what I have in mind; this weekend I’ll be driving to Baltimore in my trusty Chevy Volt because I’m not willing to risk the 198-mile drive in the Model S from my house to the Supercharger in Newark, Delaware.

According to  Broder, Elon Musk conceded that the Superchargers need to be 140 miles apart, not 200.

Speaking for all Supercharger-equipped 60-kWh Model S owners, I concur most heartily.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives 60 miles north of New York City.

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By David Noland

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Offers Help To Boeing On Battery Problems

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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He has his eyes on space, and is changing the world of automobiles with his Tesla electric cars–but now Elon Musk is offering a hand to Boeing, too.

The Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] CEO tweeted Saturday that he was in talks with the chief engineer of Boeing’s Dreamliner 787 aircraft, currently grounded after a series of problems.

Reuters reports that Musk has offered lithium-ion battery packs from his SpaceX rocket program to Boeing, whose GS Yuasa-designed packs have caused a series of fires–thankfully, none of which have caused any injuries.

Boeing’s 787 is one of the most advanced airliners in the world, made from composites to save weight, and using lithium-ion batteries to power electronics and as a backup, rather than powering them from engine load–saving fuel.

Unfortunately, the several packs have overheated, leading the FAA to ground the 50 aircraft in service until changes can be made to ensure the aircraft’s safety.

As we noted a few weeks back, the packs used are of a different chemistry to those used in electric cars, and aircraft batteries present a unique series of challenges–so lithium-ion batteries on their own aren’t solely to blame. That said, the lithium-ion cobalt chemistry used in the Dreamliner isn’t dissimilar from that used in Tesla’s first electric vehicle, the Roadster.

According to Business Insider, the Japanese transport ministry has found no issue with GS Yuasa’s batteries–and investigations are still ongoing into how the issues started.

In an email, Musk told Reuters, “We fly high capacity lithium ion battery packs in our rockets and spacecraft, which are subject to much higher loads than commercial aircraft and have to function all the way from sea level air pressure to vacuum. We have never had a fire in any production battery pack at either Tesla or SpaceX.”

Boeing has declined to comment on the matter, or confirm whether such talks were taking place.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Will Webcast Supercharger Quick-Charge Unveiling Tonight

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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It all began with a late-night tweet two weeks ago by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

In it, he announced that Tesla would unveil its much-discussed Supercharger network of dedicated quick-charging stations–usable only by 2012 Tesla Model S drivers–on September 24.

Well, today’s the day.

And this evening, the world can watch to learn details of a device that, Musk says, “will feel like alien spaceships landed at highway rest stops.”

OK, then.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] will reveal not only the looks and details of the Supercharger, but also its deployment plans, in a webcast tonight from an event that starts at 7:30 Pacific (10:30 pm Eastern).

Starting at 8 pm Pacific (11 pm Eastern), you can watch a webcast of the Supercharger event online.

It calls tonight’s event, to be held at the company’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California, not an unveiling or a launch but a “Premiere.”

The announcement, it should be noted, appears to have caught Tesla’s communications staff slightly off guard. Rumor has it they first learned of today’s date via Musk’s tweet.

The need for quick charging has to do with the large lithium-ion battery packs of the Model S variants. The 85-kilowatt-hour pack would take 12 hours or more to recharge fully using a conventional 240-Volt, Level 2 charging station.

Thus far, here’s what we know about the Supercharger:

  • The 90-kilowatt charging station is said to add as much as 150 miles of range to a Model S in half an hour
  • The unique charging connector on the 2012 Tesla Model S accepts both Level 2 AC charging and Supercharger DC quick-charging over the same set of pins
  • Last year, Tesla confirmed it would build a Supercharger corridor between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

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For more beyond that, tune in to tonight’s event.

If past events, including the first public showing of the Model S prototype and the unveiling of the Model X crossover concept early this year, are any indication, the event will follow a set format.

It will have questionable lighting for photography, hordes of fans and reporters crowded into roped-off areas, and a lot of tired-looking Tesla employees applauding enthusiastically.

Again, the URL for the webcast is: http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

We’ll provide a rundown of the details and the event later in the week.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Model S Performance: Fastest Electric Car (Video)


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The Tesla Model S Performance looks great on paper.

Not only does the 85 kWh Model S have an impressive 265-mile EPA-rated range, but it’ll do the benchmark 0-60 mph sprint in only 4.4 seconds.

That means the all-electric luxury sport sedan from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is at least as fast as V-8 German super sedans like the BMW M5.

But how do you quantify that sort of speed in the real world? If you’re Drag Times, you put it on the strip, preferably head to head against an American legend like the Dodge Viper SRT10. And then you beat it.

Yup, the near-silent Tesla made a mockery of the shiny red sports car–posting a quarter-mile time of little over 12 seconds in the process.

A second video shows the Tesla’s fastest pass, at 12.371 seconds and 110.84 mph. There aren’t a great many production cars which would do better–mostly vehicles well into the “supercar” or “hypercar” brackets, and at even higher cost than the Model S.

Some of the other statistics are outstanding too.

Drag Times recorded a 3.9-second 0-60 mph time on their VBOX timing gear. Given the Tesla’s hefty weight at the curb of 4,690 lbs, it’s even more impressive–weight is typically the enemy of speed.

Huge low-down torque helps, of course–the 416-hp Model S Performance develops 443 lbs-ft from zero to 5,100rpm, and power delivery is much smoother too.

While that driver in the Viper had to manage wheelspin and shift gears, the Tesla driver just has to sink the right pedal and keep it on the floor until he passes the 1/4-mile mark.

We’d love to see what other car giants the Model S is capable of killing.

With zero emissions and supercar-slaying acceleration, it seems you can really have your cake and eat it too.

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By Antony Ingram

Tesla Cuts Model S Production Goal For Third Quarter To 500, Analyst Reports

Tesla Model S launch

Tesla Model S launch

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Tesla Motors said today it would cut the third-quarter production target for its 2012 Model S all-electric sport sedan, according to a stock analyst who follows the company.

A report by Wunderlich Securities analyst Theodore O’Neill notes that Tesla is now saying it would probably only deliver 500 cars through the end of September, down from a previous target of 1,000.

It still expects to deliver about 5,000 cars by the end of 2012, meaning an average of 1,500 cars a month from October through December.

The delays were attributed to unspecified production execution issues.

Green Car Reports has asked Tesla for confirmation of the report, and will update this story if we receive further information.

[UPDATE: In response to a question asking for confirmation of the report, Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks replied, “Tesla’s plan has been and continues to be a focus on quality while ramping up production of Model S. This plan has not changed, and there have been no unexpected challenges or issues.”

That translates to “no comment”; you may draw your own conclusions.]

Tesla delivered its first production Model S in late June, and is now slowly ramping up production of the pioneering electric luxury sedan.

It has said it expects to deliver 15,000 cars during 2013, once its assembly plant in Fremont, California, is up to a steady production rate.

The news caused Wunderlich to downgrade Tesla Motors stock and change its recommendation to Sell, setting a new target price of $28 per share–down from its previous target of $49.

Two other analysts, Jefferies Group and Maxim Group, left their Buy ratings for Tesla stock unchanged.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] stock declined steadily throughout yesterday; today the stock price climbed until about 1 pm and then began to fall.

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By John Voelcker

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