Tag archives for Hybrid & EV - Page 3
The first models that come to mind for mass-market plug-in vehicles are probably the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and more lately, the Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi. But the best-selling plug-in vehicle for the first quarter of 2013 is expected to be our 2013 Automobile of the Year, the Tesla Model S. Bloomberg reports that the company will reveal the sales results as part of their official sales and financial report to be released on May 8.
Tesla is expected to report 4750 deliveries of the Model S when it releases first-quarter sales and financial results. The Volt sold 4421 units and the leaf sold 3695 units in the same period. This accomplishment follows the company’s earlier announcement of a new fleet of loaner vehicles and a “no-fault” battery warranty, as well as the expectation it will post its first-ever quarterly profit.
General Motors spokesperson Jim Cain lauded Tesla’s apparent victory, saying, “Any success for a company in this space is helpful for all other makers of plug-in vehicles.”
Although the Model S has taken the lead for this quarter, both the Volt and the Leaf have been on-sale longer than the Model S, and have more affordable starting prices than the premium Model S, which can crest six figures in top-of-the-line trim. Despite Tesla’s apparent successes, many auto industry analysts remain skeptical of the company’s long-term viability.
It’s been a little while since Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk made any interesting declarations about product or development, which means we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Musk spoke of a future with Tesla Motors making pickup trucks in Texas.
For what it’s worth, Tesla neither makes pickup trucks now, nor does it make vehicles in Texas. At this point the experiment of making electric sport sedans in California has been a relative success: Tesla says that it’s now making a profit after years of red balance sheets. One of the more significant problems at this point–beyond the occasional question of range or creative accounting–is that Tesla’s unique method of selling cars might be under fire.
Dealers in Massachusetts and New York have already filed suit against Tesla, saying that Tesla’s retail setup, which uses corporate owned “galleries” that show off cars and allow people to place deposits via the internet, violates existing automotive franchise laws. In Texas, Tesla galleries are not allowed to plan test drives or talk car sales at all, and Tesla service centers can’t process warranty work in the same manner as a franchised dealer.
Musk and Tesla received two gifts this week, however, in the form of a bill in the Texas legislature that would allow Tesla (and other EV manufacturers with no pre-existing dealer network) to sell and service its own cars. Meanwhile in New York, a judge struck down the lawsuit against Tesla, saying that “dealers cannot utilize the Franchised Dealer Act as a means to sue their competitors.”
Where does Tesla go from here? South, and not in the metaphorical sense. Musk said on Wednesday, while he was in Texas supporting the bills, that Texas has the potential to become one of the company’s biggest markets, selling perhaps 1500-2000 Model Ss a year. Musk thinks that success for the Model S in Texas could pave the road for a new production plant there.
What will the plant make? If Musk gets his way, the as-yet-unbuilt Texas plant could make the as-yet-undeveloped Tesla pickup truck we’ve heard about before. Musk told Automotive News “I have this idea for a really advanced truck that has…more towing power and more carrying capacity than a gasoline or diesel truck of comparable size.” That makes Musk the second Tesla exec (behind designer Franz von Holzhausen) to mention the truck in one year. Does it mean that this will happen? Not necessarily, but we do like the sound of it.
Source: Tesla via Twitter, Automotive News (Subscription required)
By Ben Timmins
We’ve tested our 2013 Automobile of the Year, the Tesla Model S, extensively. But some people are curious to see what else the electric sedan is capable of, as these two amateur test videos show. In one clip, a driver tries to find the Model S’ top speed, while the other seeks to find out if you can squeeze a kindergarten class into the EV.
As we’ve seen in other videos, the Tesla Model S can out-accelerate such powerful sports sedans as the BMW M5, and this new video gives us an idea of how fast it will go if you keep your foot on the gas pedal. The video shows a man driving his Model S Signature Performance equipped with the 85-kW-hr battery on a sparsely populated highway. As he mashes the “throttle,” there’s a subtle hum but otherwise the cabin is eerily quiet. There’s no physical needle to peg, but the digital display finally tops out at an indicated 133 mph.
In the second video, a group of kindergartners questions the Model S’ seven-passenger capacity. The five- to six-year-olds, who are all naturals in front of the camera, count out loud as they appear out of the car’s cargo area, cabin, and frunk. By the end of the video, a total of 16 kindergartners are found stuffed in the Model S’ various orifices.
Check out both videos below.
You could say Elon Musk is fairly busy these days: bringing the Tesla Model S to production, not to mention sending Space X cargo ships into orbit, requires 100-hour work weeks. But the billionaire CEO carved out a few moments last week to throw a few bombs at nemesis Henrik Fisker and the plug-in electric rival to his Model S, the Fisker Karma.
“It’s a mediocre product at a high price,” Musk said in an interview with Automobile Magazine. “The car looks very big, and yet it has no trunk space and is very cramped inside, particularly in the rear seats.”
The rivalry between Tesla and Fisker dates back to the origins of both sedans. Tesla unsuccessfully sued Henrik Fisker, CEO of the eponymous car company, for developing the Karma while he was under contract for the design of the Model S. “We were paying someone to do styling for his own car,” Musk alleges. Tesla hired former Mazda and General Motors designer Franz von Holzhausen to pen a completely new, battery-electric Model S, which is now rolling off Tesla’s Fremont, California, assembly line with a base price of $95,400 (in the Signature trim level; a $57,400 version with a smaller battery goes on sale this fall). Musk sees a critical difference between it and the $103,000 Karma—and between himself and Fisker.
“The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker — he is a designer or stylist…he thinks the reason we don’t have electric cars is for lack of styling. This is not the reason. It’s fundamentally a technology problem. At the same time, you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you’re going to have an impaired product. But just making something look like an electric car does not make it an electric car.”
Alluding to the fact that the Karma leans heavily on suppliers, Musk continued, “[Fisker] thinks the most important thing in the world — or the only important thing in the world — is design, so he outsourced the engineering and manufacturing. But the fact is…that’s the crux of the problem. And he’s outsourcing to people who don’t know how to solve the problem.”
The Karma’s plug-in hybrid powertrain was developed by Quantum Technologies and employs a General Motors–sourced 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder for its gasoline engine. Contract manufacturer Valmet assembles the car in Finland. Tesla employed a somewhat similar model in producing its Lotus Elise-based Roadster, installing its own electric motor into a Lotus-supplied chassis. But for the Model S, Musk has gone to extreme lengths to vertically integrate production. Everything from the electric motor to the aluminum-intensive chassis and the seventeen-inch touch screen were developed by Tesla, which has grown from some 500 employees in 2009 to about 2000 today.
Musk allowed that the Karma, our 2012 Design of the Year, is well styled. “It looks good. Particularly from the side it looks good. I don’t love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito—the grille.”
We ran Musk’s comments by Henrik Fisker, who responded via e-mail:
“Firstly, to set the record straight, Fisker won in court…a judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker.
Secondly, we are delighted that Elon thinks the Karma is a good-looking car.
Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range. We are proud to have delivered over 1000 Karmas to customers in the U.S. and Europe and are now moving into the [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] and Chinese global markets.
We wish Tesla all the best with their latest model and hope that both companies go from strength to strength as they challenge the automotive rulebook.”
The truth is that both fledgling automakers have far bigger concerns than each other. But the enmity certainly makes things interesting. Who do you think builds a better environmentally friendly luxury sedan? Read our review of the Karma here and our first drive of the Model S here. Our complete interview with Musk is here.
It’s been about two weeks since Tesla’s Model S won Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year, and the EV sedan added another trophy–Motor Trend’s Car of the Year title –to its case, which also includes Yahoo Autos’ Car of the Year. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is happy to see the awards rack up and hear the accolades, but is reportedly celebrating with the promise of more Tesla models.
That isn’t to say that Musk isn’t spending a minute or two just celebrating. “When I heard that the Model S had won Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year, I did a double-overhead high-five with George Blankenship [head of Tesla's retail efforts],” the CEO told Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh. “It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm to the whole Tesla team.”
But there aren’t many laurels for Musk to rest on: Tesla is still struggling a bit, amidst the financial hardship of starting a car company, creating a network of charging stations, and now fighting legal battles over its retail network. Keep in mind that Tesla has only built 1000 Model S bodies (which likely includes development models) at its Fremont, California plant through the end of last month. Tesla is hoping to ramp up production to 20,000 units a year by next year.
If Tesla is successful, there are still a few roadblocks between here and President Obama’s stated goal of having one million EVs, plug-in hybrids, and EREVs on the road by 2015, namely the charging infrastructure and initial cost of buying an electric car. Musk hopes to have both of those bases covered, too, and predicts that Obama’s reelection will help keep the pressure on from the government to promote greener, more electrified cars.
First up: the Supercharger network, a national grid of solar-powered electric car chargers along major thoroughfares that hopes to make interstate (or cross-country) driving possible with the Model S. Musk and Tesla recently opened a handful of Supercharger stations but hope to have all major intercity routes (like Boston to New York/Philadelphia/Washington D.C.) covered by 2014.
As for the products, Musk hopes to introduce new products to expand Tesla’s reach while the technology’s costs naturally come down. “I think we’ve got some really good products coming down the pipeline,” he said. “We’ve got the Model X, which is really trying to apply some major innovation to the SUV and Minivan segment, and we’ve got our third-generation car, which is a mass-market electric car–that’s actually the one that I’m most keen to bring to the market.” Lest you think that Teslas are only going to be passenger-focused vehicles like SUVs and sedans, Musk did slip a little fun into his conversation with Motor Trend. “We have this idea for an electric truck that could really be a big improvement in truck technology…[and] we’d like to do an electric supercar.”
With that said, the truck and supercar’s future (and the saleability of the Model X) do depend on the ability of the Model S to make money. So if you’re hoping for a California-built, all-electric truck in your future driveway, keep your fingers crossed.
Sources: Reuters, Motor Trend
By Ben Timmins
Tesla Motors, the electric car startup, plans to launch a new vehicle called the Model X. Based on a dark teaser photo accompanied by the tagline “Utility meets performance”, we believe the Model X will be an all-electric SUV. It will be revealed Thursday, February 9, in California.
We don’t really know anything about the Model X, although lightening the teaser image with the wizardry of Photoshop reveals a curved hooded, sloping roofline, and oval front grille opening. The Model X’s lines are reminiscent of those found on the company’s forthcoming Model S large hatchback. Furthermore, Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on his Twitter feed that, “Most cars are pretty blah. This is not.”
As with the company’s Lotus-based Roadster and long-awaited Model, we expect the Model X to use a proprietary all-electric powertrain developed by Tesla. This won’t be the first time Tesla has dabbled with building an SUV: the company previously partnered with Toyota to build an electrified RAV4.
Sources: Tesla, Twitter
By Jake Holmes
The Tesla Model S can go almost 300 miles on a full change, but is that enough to make the drive from Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas, Nevada in relative comfort? Frank Markus and Jessi Lang found out in this episode of Wide Open Throttle.
The EPA has rated the Model S at a range of 265 miles when equipped with the largest, 85-kWh battery. For those of you keeping count, the drive from L.A. to Vegas is 280 miles, one way. If that wasn’t already a bit of a headache, when MT tested the full range of the Model S, it found that the luxury hatchback came up 27 miles shy of its EPA rating.
As Markus mentions in the video, the road-tripping duo may have cheated a little bit: they started out from eastern edge of the L.A. basin, some 65 miles closer to their destination than downtown L.A.; however, the 215-mile trip still loomed dangerously close to the Model S’ range limit. To help get every possible mile of range out of the battery pack, Lang and Markus opted to keep the air conditioning off for most of the trip.
Even with the air off, it didn’t keep the intrepid duo from rocking out to some MC Hammer and playing some of the usual road trip games. Did the Tesla make it to The Strip on one charge? Check out the video below to find out. (Hammer pants and poker chips not required.)
Tesla has just announced a new finance program, making it easier than ever for prospective buyers to get into a new Model S with no money down and a smaller-than-expected monthly payment.
The program, a collaboration with U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, works by having the banks pick up the Model S’ 10-percent down payment. The down payment is covered by federal and state tax credits, which range from $7500 to as high was $15,000, if you live in West Virginia. Essentially, the banks are using as a down payment the tax credit Model S buyers would otherwise receive further down the line.
The buyer, who Tesla chief Elon Musk says must have excellent credit, then makes a monthly payment based on a 2.95-percent interest rate. According to Tesla’s math, that could amount to about $500 per month for 66 months for a buyer of a 65 kWh Model S. That figure is all smoke and mirrors, though, as the automaker is taking into account intangibles like the time you save by using the carpool lane or avoiding the gas station.
For example, say you’re a wealthy West Virginian business owner who’s purchasing a new 65 kWh Model S, who drives 15,000 miles per year, and is getting out of a BMW 550i, which nets 20 mpg combined on the EPA test cycle. Right there, Tesla says you’ve netted $267 per month in energy savings if you figure the average price of premium gas over the next three years will be $5 a gallon. Drive your car for business? Deduct at least $200 per month off. Is your time worth $100 per hour? Then you’ve essentially saved $167 by cutting your commute by five minutes every day, using the carpool lane. Under all those conditions, according to Tesla, your monthly payment amounts to just $184 per month. Except it doesn’t. This West Virginian businessman will actually be paying $1051 per month for his Model S. An 85 kWh Model S Performance, the quickest American four-door we’ve ever tested, would really cost $1421 per month, and the regular 85 kWh model goes for $1199 a month. It’s worth noting that the costs of driving a $1400-per-month Model S will almost certainly be less than driving a comparable $1400 per month gas-powered car.
After three years of owning the Model S the owner will have the opportunity to sell the car back to Tesla, for at least the same residual value of an equivalent-year Mercedes-Benz S-Class. At the moment, that value is 43 percent, as long you drive less than 12,000 miles a year. For those concerned about the viability of Tesla in the long run, Elon Musk will pick up the tab in the unlikely case Tesla doesn’t exist after those three years.
Ultimately, this program looks to be a win for Tesla and a way for those who might not otherwise be able to afford a Model S to get their hands on one of our favorite electric cars. As for what’s next from Tesla, Musk promised the automaker would begin holding weekly phone conferences with the press, so stay tuned.
Play with Tesla’s True Cost of Ownership Model S calculator here.
Tesla Motors revealed today that it will post a profit in the first quarter of 2013, because sales of the Model S electric sedan exceeded expectations. Total sales of the Tesla Model S reached 4750 units, up from the 4500 units previously planned.
The announcement is good news for Tesla after a disappointing year in 2012, when the company lost almost $400 million. Last year, Tesla sold just 2650 units of the Model S while it ramped up production of the car.
“There have been many car startups over the past several decades, but profitability is what makes a company real. Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a statement.
The company also announced two changes to the model line-up. First, Tesla has killed the low-range, 40-kWh version of the Model S. Only four percent of customers asked for the smallest battery, making it financially difficult for Tesla to build that version. Customers will receive the next largest battery pack, with a capacity of 60 kWh, but the car’s software will keep range equivalent to that of the 40-kWh pack unless owners pay for an upgrade.
In addition, Tesla revealed what it calls an Easter egg in the new Model S. Although the hardware to use Tesla’s Supercharger fast-charging network was supposed to be optional, it has actually been included in all versions of the Model S. Customers can simply pay for a software update to “unlock” the function if they need to use the Supercharger network.
Source: Tesla Motors
By Jake Holmes
Haven’t we heard this one before? An auto manufacturer opens a dealership owned by them (and not a franchise) and gets called out by various dealer organizations and state governments for violating franchise laws. Tesla is now coming under fire for that very reason.
Automotive News is reporting that the manufacturer-owned stores that Tesla has been opening up across the country are in a direct violation of various states’ franchise laws. Some states completely prohibit dealerships run by automakers, while others – like California – require a certain amount of distance between factory-owned and dealer-owned stores.
Dealer groups are worried that “If a manufacturer sees that Tesla is successful with this kind of business model, who’s to say they don’t break out their own EV product lines and create a separate system that bypasses dealers?” Bob O’Koniewski, the executive vice president of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, told AN.
Despite saying that it does not want to revolutionize the car-buying experience, Tesla has taken a different tack from other automakers. The upstart automaker hired George Blankenship as the VP of sales to head up the retail experience – Blankenship previously created the look and feel of Apple’s retail stores and has given Tesla’s in-mall retail shops a similar feel. Litigation against Tesla is currently being pursued in Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York; however, some states (such as Texas) has no laws regulation car dealership ownership.
Chrysler faced the same kind of scrutiny that Tesla is now facing when it opened a factory-owned dealership in California last year. After a legal battle, Chrysler acquiesced and sold the retail store to a local dealer.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)