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Can Supercharger Stations Restore Faith In Tesla? (VIDEO)

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The 2012 Tesla Model S has long been heralded as ushering in the new era of an electric car society, but those predictions always seemed like pie-in-the-sky hyperbole. Until today.

Tesla has unveiled an innovative new charging infrastructure that is already up and running in six California locations, each charging at an impressive 100 kW – enough to fully charge a Tesla Model S with nearly 300 miles of range in less than thirty minutes. Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced the new Supercharger stations at a press event on Monday, in this video:

The stations have been installed in Folsom, Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch and Barstow. Tesla decided to position them around the large cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to allow drivers to charge once they leave the metro areas. In fact, Motor Trend recently proved that the Tesla Model S can already complete the L.A. to Vegas trip without charging stops (video here), but we’re sure no one is going to complain about being able to use the air conditioning and not worry themselves to death about breaking down on the I-15.

The goal is reliable long-distance driving, and the single biggest thing that needed to improve to allow that to happen is improved infrastructure. Even the biggest of dreamers saw Tesla as a company in need of that, but not a company capable of providing that. The automaker, partnered with industry leader Solar City, plans to install six more by next year and spread nearly across the country by the end of 2013.

The technology in the Supercharger stations is quite remarkable. They are not powered by electricity plants that themselves produce pollution, but by nearby solar grids that collect power from the sun. The power is provided at no cost to the driver, bringing the dream of free and limitless vehicle power to reality. Pretty neat stuff.

Unfortunately for Tesla, the news doesn’t seem to have immediately eased their financial issues. A recent review of customer orders revealed more than 1,200 cancelations of Model S reservations (video here), which will need to be repaid. In addition, Tesla reported reduced revenue expectationsand Wall Street acted accordingly, sending the TSLA stock into a ten-percent fall.

Tesla faces an uphill climb to financial solvency, especially with growing political pressure in an election year and continued leniency from the Department of Energy that is likely to tighten in the future. Is the Supercharger infrastructure the answer to electric car concerns, or another big gamble that Tesla has committed to before it’s actually ready? Only time will tell.


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By Ryan ZumMallen

Tesla Model S Controversy: Who's Really At Fault?


The conflict between the New York Times and Tesla Motors over a stranded Tesla Model Sis getting complicated.

The row started after reporter John M. Broderreviewed the cold weather, long distance driving capabilities of the Model S. In his article on the Times’ Automobiles section, Broder remarks that the vehicle went dead after only 185 miles, 80 miles less than its EPA estimated range of 265 miles per battery charge. Broder went on to blame the lithium-ion battery, which are reported to have problems holding charges in lower temperatures. Coming from a prominent publication such as the Times, this mostly negative review was a significant blow for Tesla, causing the company’s stock to dip. Tesla CEO Elon Musk reacted with a scathing series of rebuttal tweets, providing screenshots of contrasting data logs from the reviewed Model S’ computer, and calling Broder’s review completely “fake.”

So, who is actually wrong here?

According to both Tesla and Broder, Tesla provided specific instructions on how to drive the Model S for 200 miles between supercharging stations; namely, to keep the speedometer at 55 mph and minimize use of the battery-draining climate control. Broder states that he complied with Tesla’s requirements — setting the cruise control at 54 mph and turning down the heat despite the chilly temps. However, 29 miles from the Norwich, Connecticut charging station, he claims the Model S was “limping along at 45 mph” before it came to a complete halt five miles short of the station.

However, Musk argues that the car’s logs prove a different story. According to Musk and Tesla, the data indicates that Broder drove between 65 to 81 mph, never reaching the 45 mph snail’s pace he claimed. Also, the cabin was kept at a comfortable 72 degrees, even increased to 74 degrees at a later point in the trip. Musk also remarks that Broder did not fully charge the vehicle during any of his three charging station visits, even disconnecting the Model S when it showed an expected range of 32 miles, when Broder planned to drive 61 miles.

Today, the Atlantic Wire is questioning the validity of the logs provided by Musk and Tesla Motors. In a blog post published this morning, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan tried to reach Elon Musk for comment on these accusations, as well as a request to “open source the driving logs” and other data. Musk was unavailable at the time.

Wanting to be an alleviator of our gas guzzling ways, utilitarianism has been one of Tesla’s main goals. Wired contributor and EV1 engineer Chelsea Sexton remarks, “The day-to-day experience EVs offer is so much better than gas cars for 95% of driving. Long-distance road trips are among the last 5% of usage scenarios.”

Ironically, it was a little over a century ago that this circumstance was reversed. Steam and electric cars that appeared at the beginning of the automobile age outsold all petrol-powered vehicles, until combustion engines became more stable and gas became more abundant for long distance trips. Now, at its resurgence, the electric vehicle has to face a similar challenge as its early gas-fueled cousins.

Even if Broder’s review turns out to be false, Tesla Motors may have already shot itself in the foot. What perhaps is most intriguing about this fiasco was the amount of care required (not merely recommended) by Tesla in order to drive the Model S the 500 miles it initially logged. By just taking this into consideration, Broder correctly reports that Tesla billing the Model S as a “casual car” ready for a road trip is a bit of a stretch. If the typical road-tripping consumer needs as much detailed instruction as seen in both Tesla and Broder’s account, the extinction of the gas-powered car might be a little further off.


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By Jessica Matsumoto

Tesla Model S Scores 99 Rating From Consumer Reports

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There have been a lot of questions swirling around the practicality of owning a Tesla Model S. But with booming sales, and a bevy of raving critic reviews, the cherry on top may be a gushing article in Consumer Reports today that scores the Model S a 99 out of possible 100 points – their highest score for any vehicle in eight years. Is this a turning point for the EV leader?

Consumer Reports scores aren’t always taken seriously by the buying public. In 2011, CR scored the 2012 Honda Civic so low that they knocked it off their Recommended Buy list. Outraged customers responded by buying nearly 318,000 of the econoboxes. But the 99 score is still an eye-popping total from the notoriously stingy CR, and only lends more credence to the rapidly rising reputation of the Model S.

For sure, there’s a lot to like about the Tesla Model S. It even got Consumer Reports to liven up their normally dry text with some sass – “There, we said it.” – and a Back To The Future reference. The review makes the case that the Model S doesn’t score well in spite of its EV powertrain, but that it does so because of it. That’s high praise for a vehicle no one could guarantee would make it to market last year.

Consumer Reports does point out the main obstacles of owning a Model S: Price and range. The model they tested was an 85 kWh Model S, retailing at over $89,000. They also loaded it to the gills with options like the third row jumper seat and extra charging equipment. Meanwhile, they noted that while the 280-mile range is impressive, it’s still not as convenient as gas in some cases.

Still, there were no glitches or breakdowns, no defects or frustrations. The Model S came and saw the status quo, and by conquering Consumer Reports, it’s on the way to stardom.


Visit theautoMedia.comTesla Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.


By Ryan ZumMallen

Tesla Model S Sales Pass Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf

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The little car company that could, Tesla Motors Inc., is now the domestic leader in electric car sales. The Model S recently surpassed sales of the Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle that led regional sales of rechargeable cars in 2012. This news is an undeniable blow to General Motors, though representatives for the Detroit based automaker remain optimistic.

“Any success for a company in this space is helpful for all other makers of plug-in vehicles,” said Jim Cain, a General Motors spokesman. “The single most important thing we can do for plug-ins, to encourage sales, is to have them on the road.”

The sales ranking for the Model S coincides with Tesla saying it would report a first-quarter profit, the first in its ten-year history. When it releases first quarter results, Tesla expects 4,750 deliveries of the electric Models S in North America – compared to GM’s 4,421 sales of the Chevy Volt. The all-electric Nissan Leaf also expects smaller sales figures.

Despite its high base price ($69,900) and its exclusivity in North America, the Model S has been extraordinarily successful and is a critical darling. Always attempting to outdo itself, Tesla has pledged to sell over 20,000 vehicles this year.

GM sold about 30,000 of their respective rechargeable models worldwide last year, but has declined sharing its volume-targets for 2013.

At the North American International Auto Show in January, retired GM executive Bob Lutz spoke with a hologram of inventor Thomas Edison, who was the former employer and later adversary of Nikola Tesla. Edison was revered for generations while Tesla faded into obscurity, despite the fact that cities abandoned Edison’s dangerous direct current electricity system in favor of Tesla’s safer alternating current system.

Perhaps Tesla Motors success is history’s vindication for the brilliant, but ill-fated engineer, or perhaps Tesla Motors just created a better product. Either way, it’s clear to GM that Tesla Motors is more than a novelty – it’s serious competition.


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By Jessica Matsumoto

2013 Toyota RAV4 EV: Test Drive Review


If we aren’t yet past the old narrative that all electric cars are cheap and tiny egg-shaped golf carts, one trip in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV should put that to bed.

The new generation of the RAV4 EV is one of the best examples yet of the viability of an electric future. It combines pleasing design, build quality, driving excitement, fuel economy and – here’s the kicker – utility like no other EV has. During a ride and drive event at the Los Angeles Auto Show, we had a chance to hop behind the wheel.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV boasts a strong physique that doesn’t differentiate much from the standard, gas-burning RAV4, expect for a few details that make it appear leaner and cleaner to the eye. The RAV4 EV is sprinkled with LED running lights, tail and headlights that mix technology and luxury.

The green push button start brings the RAV4 EV to life with a soft tune and warm glow. Like most modern day electrics, it’s a breeze to drive at a level that is still somewhat surprising; it will take a while for the public to grow accustomed to silence on the road. Set off in Normal mode to maximize efficiency, or Sport mode to take advantage of all the instant torque under your right foot.

A lithium-ion battery system with 129 kW powers the AC induction motor, which boasts 154 horsepower and 218 lb.-ft of torque (273 in Sport mode). A 0.30 drag coefficient – downright amazing for an SUV – helps the RAV4 EV achieve an estimated 78/74 eMPG with a 103-mile electric range. But how does it drive? With a welcoming battery whine, off you go.

In motion, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV moves quickly and directly. Reporters talk about the way that electric cars “dart” and “zip” all the time, but you don’t much expect that from a five-seater SUV.

And yet, the steering is direct and light – the RAV4 EV reacts instantly to your commands and feels confident on its feet. There is none of the uneasiness of past electrics, and none of the clumsiness of a typical SUV. It feels light – not the steering, the actual car. In fact, the RAV4 EV tips the scales at 4,032 lbs., about 100 lbs. lighter than the standard RAV4, which is astounding considering the li-ion batteries alone weigh 845.5 lbs.

Engineers skewed the system by using the heavy batteries to give the RAV4 EV a low center of gravity, which accounts for its impressive balance. They didn’t save weight everywhere, though – the hood is pretty heavy, bolstered to protect the batteries in case of low speed collisions.

With a new Sport mode and clever weight distribution, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV not only deals with the reality of driving an electric car, it uses it to its advantage. If you want more style and range, spring for the Tesla Model S. If you want the most efficiency, check out the Honda Fit EV.

But if you need utility and still like to have fun, the RAV4 EV is an electric that isn’t just good for its owner – it’s good for the future of the EV industry.


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Find local Toyota RAV4 EV Clearance Pricing and Blue Book Values7fa2fa6d-0cae-473e-92a6-d0ec76b4f9d1|6|3.0

By Ryan ZumMallen

Tesla Triples Supercharger Network, Eyeing Entire Country

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In response to an EV infrastructure that has basically failed to improve at all in the past five years, Tesla Motors will immediately triple the network of their Supercharger stations and could have hundreds of stations running by the end of 2013.

By the end of June, Tesla expects to have new locations in California, plus the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Illinois and Colorado and four locations on the East Coast for the first time. In six months they expect range to increase into Canada, plus Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia. By then, Tesla says, it will be possible to drive a Tesla Model S from New York to Los Angeles. The big news here is not the triumph for Tesla, but rather the utter embarrassment for every other automaker in the world.

Infrastructure and driving range have always been two of the largest obstacles in convincing the public to buy Electric Vehicles. They are two of the chief reasons, in fact, that automakers like the Big Three dragged their feet and refused to build EVs for many years. People have often looked at Tesla sideways, because no matter how good their cars are, it means nothing without infrastructure.

But where the auto industry saw disaster, Tesla saw opportunity. They are now the leaders in the largest EV infrastructure project ever, and will reap all of the benefits. The Tesla Supercharger systems work only for Tesla vehicles, meaning that owners of the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf or any other EV that isn’t the Tesla Model S can’t use them. Essentially, Tesla figured out how to open the country up to their customers while leaving the door shut on the competition.

This will hurt the auto industry much more than it helps Tesla, and it’s no one’s fault but their own. The prospect of building a nationwide EV infrastructure seems incredibly daunting – and true, we have to wait and see whether it actually all works out – but someone saw fit to make it possible. If GM or Honda or a Toyota-Ford partnership to build similar charging stations had begun five years ago, infrastructure and driving range wouldn’t even be an issue by now. Instead, they didn’t take initiative and are still reluctant to build electric cars. That’s just fine by Tesla.

Today’s announcement forces us to consider whether automakers that have griped about lack of infrastructure and technology costs couldn’t build electric cars, or simply wouldn’t.

It would appear to be the latter, and they’re paying for it now.


Visit theautoMedia.comTesla Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.


By Ryan ZumMallen

Who Wants To See A Tesla Model S Burnout?

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Naysayers beware. The Tesla Model S delivers speed, style, and sexiness on par with its non-electric competition. Also, as this newly released video from Road & Track shows, it does sick burnouts. Very, very, quiet sick burnouts.

Keeping with its reputation of pushing cars to their limits, Road & Track released a video of a Model S (possibly a Signature Performance model) delivering an extreme burnout, temporarily silencing speed freaks who consider electric cars an eco fad lacking in the excitement department.

In order to achieve a full burnout, R&T West Coast editor Jason Cammisa removed a single fuse to disable the ABS, stability control, and traction control. While unsafe, this allowed the powerful, 416 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft, rear-mounted electric motor to instantly accelerate to the car’s maximum 132 MPH.

While producing this undoubtedly head-turning trick, the modification has a few dangerous drawbacks. Aside from killing the aforementioned control features, the removed fuse also disables the speedometer, air suspension, brake assist, and power steering. Not surprisingly, the extreme torque also destroys the rear tires fairly quickly.

Considering these risks, and also taking into account the $50,000 price tag and three-month waitlist for a base Tesla Model S, serious car modders should probably reserve their hacks to old Acura Integras and Mitsubishi Ellipses – at least for now.


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By Jessica Matsumoto

Tesla Model S Earns 89 MPGe Rating, 265-Mile Range


The top-of-the-line Tesla Model S all-electric sedan reaches 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. Today we can add another number to the spec sheet: 89. As in, 89 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon equivalent).

That’s how the EPA officially rated Model S cars with the largest 85 kWh battery today, along with an expected range of 265 miles on a charge. Tesla had originally predicted a 300-mile range, which may still be possible if you’re dainty with the accelerator.

The 85 kWh battery is available in both the Model S Signature ($87,900*) and Signature Performance ($97,900) trims that will begin delivering to customers this Friday. An 85 kWh Model S Performance ($84,900) and 85, 60 or 40 kWh Model S ($49,900-$69,900) will begin delivery later this year. The EPA has not yet released figures for the 40 and 60 kWh battery-powered Model S vehicles. Tesla predicts an electric range of 160 and 230 miles, respectively.

The EPA rating places the Model S below its all-electric competitors in the U.S. market. The Honda Fit EV recently set an all-time record with its 118 MPGe rating, while the Mitsubishi i-MiEV scored a 112, the Ford Focus Electric is 105, and the Nissan Leaf weighs in at 99 MPGe.

Of course, none of those offer much in the way of performance, and none will turn heads like the drop-dead gorgeous Model S is sure to do. Its 265-mile driving range is more than double each of the other EVs, as well.

The Tesla is exponentially more expensive than its electric competition in every trim except the 40 kWh Model S, but for this combination of style, performance and eco-friendliness, that’s small pittance to high-income and green-minded buyers.

*All Tesla prices listed are after a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars.

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Are you charged or drained by the efficiency rating for the Tesla Model S? Let us know in the comments below.

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By Ryan ZumMallen

Tesla And Chrysler In Public Spat Over Loan Repayment

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After the announcement that Tesla had repaid its $456 million loan in full earlier this week, and proclaimed themselves “the only American car company to have fully repaid the government,” the old guard stepped up and took offense. Chrysler soon posted a blogthat called Tesla “unmistakably incorrect” and said that Chrysler has repaid their government loan in full two whole years earlier.

It would have been a great rebuttal. Except it isn’t true.

The bitterness and resentment is understandable. It has been a long and difficult road to recovery for Chrysler, who have had to watch the media and customers fawn over the new EV darling and their stellar Tesla Model S. While things have been looking up for Chrysler lately, with improved sales and significantly better products, Tesla has emerged as an unqualified success and even won over doubters with their loan repayment.

Chrysler saw an opportunity to put the up-start in their place, but Ranieri’s claim is way off base for a number of reasons.

First off, Chrysler isn’t exactly an American company anymore. As Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted in a Tweet yesterday, Chrysler is now a subsidiary of the Italian giant Fiat, after buying the company following their 2009 bankruptcy.

Second, while Chrysler paid off all $11.2 billion that the U.S. government expected from them (Fiat paid it, actually) six years earlier than necessary, that still left $1.3 billion that will never be recouped. For those keeping score at home, the Tesla loan brought taxpayers a $12 million profit, and the Chrysler loan brought them a $1.3 billion loss.

The auto industry bailout saved thousands of jobs, several iconic American brands and perhaps even the economy itself. Chrysler should be confident with the fact that they’ve used that money wisely and paid off what they could. But they tried to pick on Junior and instead opened up an ugly can of worms. Next time, tell us less about your shaky financial past and much more about what has come out of it. We’re going to go back and read our review of the 2013 SRT Viper now.


Visit theautoMedia.comTesla Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.


By Ryan ZumMallen

Tesla Model S Adds Optional $6,500 Performance Package Plus

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Tesla Motors has set out to prove that their Model S is not just a great electric car, but a great car, period, since it hit the market. They’ve taken the next step with today’s announcement that a new handling setup with summer tires, called the Performance Package Plus, will be available for $6,500.

Tesla says the package will bring “supercar handling” to the Model S, which is a frightening thought for any other sub-$100,000 luxury sedan on the market. The Model S has already proven itself to have impressive acceleration and is obviously loaded with tech. Plus, nearly a year after its release there haven’t been any major issues with its futuristic powertrain. Will a new handling package elevate the Model S even further in the minds of luxury buyers?

Available only on the top 85kWh Performance trim, the Performance Package Plus includes 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires and improvements to the suspension dampers, bushings and anti-roll bars. Normally, the 85kWh Model S offers 19-inch all-season tires or optional 21-inch Continental ExtremeContact DW tires – the PS2 set will provide a noticeable improvement.

The advantages don’t boil down exclusively to the handling, though. Tesla also says that the Performance Package Plus will increase the driving range of the Model S. Somehow, the setup that will help the Model S attack hairpin turns will also take it from 265 miles to 277 miles on a single charge.

We’re patiently waiting for more information to come out on the new package, and can’t wait to test it out for ourselves. The Model S has been a smashing sales success thus far, already besting the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, and this new setup could convert the last remaining non-believers.


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By Ryan ZumMallen