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The Tesla Model S Electric Wagon We Wish They’d Build

Tesla Model ST wagon render by Theophilus Chin

Tesla Model ST wagon render by Theophilus Chin

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High-performance wagons are easy to appreciate. Plenty of utility, but none of the sacrifices that practicality usually implies.

If they look great and run on electricity, like Theophilus Chin‘s render of a Tesla Model ‘ST’, then all the better.

Chin’s render (via Autoblog Green) is so slick you’d think it came from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] itself.

The long, elegant body of the regular Model S lends itself to the wagon shape, and the end result isn’t dissimilar from the recent Jaguar XF Sportbrake, one of the best-looking wagons on the road.

In fact, we’ve a nagging feeling it looks even better than the regular Model S. There’s little doubt it’d add  to that car’s practicality too, perhaps enough to swap the two small booster seats for a full rear bench.

The Model S’s wind-cheating aerodynamics might suffer, and we’d expect a weight increase too–but it’d be a small price to pay for such an elegant “sport tourer”.

Tesla Model ST wagon render by Theophilus Chin

Tesla Model ST wagon render by Theophilus Chin

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It’s unlikely to see the light of day, though–Tesla already has a larger seven-seat vehicle on the way, in the shape of the falcon-winged Model X crossover.

What other vehicles would you like to see from Tesla? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Antony Ingram

2012 Tesla Model S Signature Series: Is It Worth The Premium?

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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The first 1,000 or so 2012 Tesla Model S electric sport sedans to be delivered to U.S. customers will be fully-loaded, limited-edition “Signature” cars.

But as delivery dates slip due to early production snags, some owners of Signature cars–called “Sigs” within the Tesla clan–grumble that they’re not getting much value for the extra money they had to shell out.

Is the “Sig tax”–the premium price and the hefty $40,000 deposit–worth its benefits? 

Let’s look at the numbers.

The Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] list price for a Signature Model S is $87,900.

A comparably-equipped standard Model S–with an 85-kWh battery and all available options except the moon roof–lists for $84,350. That’s a $3,550 difference.

For the Performance version of the car, the comparable numbers are $97,900  and $92,850–or a $5,050 difference.

Interest adds up, too

The effective “Sig tax” can be higher if an owner wouldn’t otherwise have ordered a particular option. Downgrades aren’t allowed; Signature owners pay for all the options and the premium paint job whether they want them or not.

Then there’s the interest on the $40,000 deposit. In effect, Tesla has received interest-free loans totaling more than $40 million from its Signature owners.

Early depositors put down their money more than three years ago. At current corporate bond rates  (about 6 percent), that amounts to about $8,000 in foregone interest.

So, roughly speaking, the typical Signature owner has paid a “Sig tax” of $3,500 to $13,000. 

What does he or she get for the money?

  • The option of a special red paint job unavailable on the standard car
  • The option of a special white interior, also unavailable on the standard car
  • Two small external “Signature” badges
  • Free 3-G connectivity for one year

In addition, Signature Performance models get some added minor interior and exterior accents that the standard Performance car lacks.

Ironically, the Signature Model S lacks some interior and paint options available on the standard car.

If you happen to prefer green paint to red, or a silver interior rather than white, the first two Signature “benefits” become penalties.

Is that all there is?

At first glance, these Signature benefits may not impress. 

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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“I don’t think I’m getting anywhere near the value for the money,” griped one owner in a lengthy thread on the Tesla Motor Club forum.

“I too think the Sig is a disappointment in terms of value,” chimed in another. “But I can’t bring myself to switch (to a standard car).”

For most Sig owners, however, the “Big Bennie” is not the car itself. It’s the timing.

Sig owners automatically go to the front of the queue to own what is, by all accounts, an extraordinary, ground-breaking car. 

But recent production delays and the rapid anticipated ramp-up in production of standard cars as soon as the Signature cars are built has blunted this hoped-for time advantage. 

“I was willing to pay the premium (begrudgingly) to jump the line by three months,” says one Sig owner whose car has been delayed by four to six weeks. “But for one month, it’s an absurd premium to pay.”

“Delivery during the summer would actually have had some value,” echoed another.

Earliest cars delivered

The very earliest adopters at the head of the Sig line already have the pleasure of driving their cars three to six months ahead of the rabble, starting in June with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, who’s on the Tesla board.

(At this writing, Tesla will only say that “more than 250″ Model S cars have been delivered.)

Last-minute Signature buyers also reaped a huge bonus in delivery time. If you signed up for one of the last few remaining Sigs in August, you’re probably looking at a December delivery.



2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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But if you’d chosen a standard car instead, your number in the queue would have been about 12,000–and you’d be getting delivery next summer at the earliest.  Is that a benefit worth $5,000? For a lot of people, it is.

The frustrated Signature owners seem to be mostly those in the middle of the pack, who are now watching their early delivery advantage fade. 

Middle of the pack

One of them, Arnold Panz, of Miami, Fla., had this to say on the Tesla Motor Club forum:

The fact that we, as Sig holders, have gotten absolutely no special treatment has been a huge miss. (We) were mostly Tesla’s truest of true believers, plunking down $40,000 for a car that we had no guarantee would ever be made, let alone be a great car. How was that blind faith rewarded? I’m still trying to figure that out.

A lot of this is basic psychology. Why are people who are paying almost six figures for a car complaining about $600/year in maintenance? The same reason high rollers who gamble  $1,000 a hand in Vegas demand free rooms, tickets to shows, and free meals….and choose their hotel on who provides the best “perks”.

BMW bakes the cost of maintenance into the cost of the car and everyone thinks they’re getting “free” service! Tesla…just didn’t understand the basic psychology that makes BMW’s program so popular.

The same is true for Sigs…Additional swag, ‘insider’ informational e-mails, free satellite radio, and free maintenance (still) wouldn’t make the Sig premium cost-effective…..But (it) would have psychologically given us all the warm and fuzzies…We would have felt like we were getting special treatment that made the excess cost worthwhile.

 

A role in history

In the end, the Signature program has proven to be a good deal for Tesla.

It got the company $40 million cash up front, and assured that the first 1,000 cars out the door would be maxed out with options, bringing in nearly $100,000 each.  (That’s $100 million in badly needed cash.)

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Tesla clearly could have done a better job making its Signature buyers feel special. But all 1,000-odd available Sig cars have sold out.

At some level, the market proves that the “Sig tax” is perceived as value for money–by at least 1,000 or so people.

“Definitely worth it,” explained one Sig depositor. “I feel I am playing a minor role in history….I am proud to be helping, in a small way, [to] usher in the age of vehicle electrification.”

On a less philosophical note, an envious non-Signature Model S depositor summed it up nicely: “The value is simple: They are getting cars right now. The rest of us are waiting.”

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

All-Electric smart ED to Go on Sale for €18,910 in Germany



The all-electric Smart ED (Electric Drive) has been with us for around three years now, with the manufacturer first delivering 250 of them to the US for testing purposes, back in 2009. Well, now the car will enter official production and it will be available in Germany for as low as €18,910 ($23,585) for the basic car.

The car is powered by a 30 kW (55 kW in peak) electric motor which draws juice from a 17.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which at first was developed by Tesla for Daimler, Smart’s parent company. The car has a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph) and it reaches 60 km/h (37.5 mph) in 4.8 seconds after setting off, giving it decent poke – more than adequate for town driving. If driven carefully, the car’s theoretical maximum range is 145 km (90.6 miles).

It will be available as both a coupe and cabrio, with the topless variant costing €22,000 ($27,500). This price does not include the monthly €60 ($75) battery lease, however, the car can be ‘completely bought’, if the customer so requests, but prices are considerably higher, with the coupe ending up costing €23,770 ($29,600) and the cabrio model costing €26,770 ($33,500).

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla entry-level all-electric car and truck could be in the works

Tesla entry-level all-electric car and truck in the works

With Model S deliveries commencing, and plans to move forward with the introduction of the Model X, the future is looking bright for Tesla. The California start-up, spearheaded by enigmatic CEO Elon Musk, seems to have a bona-fide hit on its hands in the ultra-chic, all-electric sedan.

Not content with resting on its laurels, the company will introduce another member to the Tesla family next year in the form of the Model X. Speaking to Autocar, chief designer Franz von Holzhausen confirmed that a third model is well on its way and could be seen as early as 2015.

“The third model will continue to drive down the price point as fast as possible,” said von Holzhausen, who hinted that an extremely competitive price point of $30,000 could be in store for the new, entry-level all-electric.

In addition to being the most affordable Tesla on the market, Von Holzhausen hinted that the third model line could also be the most visually adventurous and “boast more distinctive styling than the relatively conventional Model S.” If that’s truly the case then consider our curiosity firmly piqued. We already consider the Model S design language to be top notch despite the car’s conventional design approach. Adding more personality and visual cues will only serve to build upon an already impressive design language.

But perhaps the most intriguing morsel of information buried within the interview hints at a pick-up truck possibly in the works. Given the flexibility of the Model S platform, Von Holzhausen indicates that “there will be a time and place for us to develop something around a pick-up,” adding that the benefits of the immediately on-hand torque of an electric motor would prove nothing short of ideal for an electric truck.

Admittedly, we’re more excited for a dynamically designed, entry-level electric car from Tesla, but if nothing else the addition of an electric truck could very well herald the next evolutionary step in the electric car market. 

By Amir Iliaifar

Tesla Teases Model X crossover

Tesla-Teases-Model-X-crossover

Tesla Motors is gathering quite the automotive buzz with its mysterious Model X crossover. The California-based luxury electric car company is planning on unveiling the Model X at its new Los Angeles design studio on February 9th.

Recently Tesla began sending out invitations to owners beckoning them to attend the unveiling, and included a partially silhouetted image of the car. While we can’t devise much from the image, the Model X looks like it will pack Tesla’s signature sleek design, and appears to closely resemble the Model S – only with a shorter hood, longer measured roof, and of course, a more rounded rear.

When we recently had a chance to jump inside Tesla’s Model S at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show we came away impressed. If that is any indication for what to expect with the Model X we certainly have high hopes.

According to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk, the reveal will be broadcast live on the Tesla Motors Website. Musk, who historically has never been one to mince words or hesitate from unabashed self-promotion, stated in his tweet, “Most cars are pretty blah. This is not.” What that means exactly remains to be seen, but we are positively intrigued nonetheless.

Another interesting circumstance surrounding the Model X is the company’s collaboration with Toyota. Since Tesla will be providing the electric powertrain for Toyota’s RAV 4 EV , including the battery, motor, gear box, and power electronics we can’t help but wonder if the Model X will share any similar design characteristics with its Toyota cousin. 

By Amir Iliaifar

Tesla Model S ‘Get Amped’ Tour: 5,000 Test Drives In Sight

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at “Get Amped” introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]


Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at "Get Amped" introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at “Get Amped” introductory drive event [photo: George Parrott]

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From Los Angeles to Toronto, from Miami to Seattle, Tesla has been taking a fleet of its new 2012 Model S sedans around the country to offer short test drives to 5,000 current depositors and potential owners.

Those individuals have to be patient as the company slowly ramps up production of the all-electric luxury sport sedan, following delivery of the very first production car in early June.

But the short drives should keep many potential Model S buyers interested in the promise of the electric car with a 265-mile range rating from the EPA.

Fourteen of the planned sixteen cities on the “Getting Amped Tour” have now been completed. The tour started in Fremont, California, at the assembly plant that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] bought two years ago from Toyota.

Last weekend, the tour returned to Palo Alto, California–the heart of Silicon Valley–before finishing up in Austin (August 15-16) and, finally, Dallas (August 18-19).

Depositors are scheduled in groups of four to six at about half-hour intervals. Each driver may bring up to two guests for the test drive, but every drive has a Tesla chaperone in the front passenger seat. 

The drive itself is limited to about 7 or 8 miles, but is preceded by a brief and well-done group introductory lecture that introduces the emotional experience of electric driving.

Potential buyers can review their color and option choices with better color renditions than on the company internet site.

Tesla even offers refreshments, ice cream, and a play area for children at its venues.

At the recent Palo Alto venue, at least eight early production cars were available for inspection. Two cars were inside the display building for full viewing and inspection, and another six cars made up the ride-and-drive fleet.

Interested depositors were offered the choice of the standard or performance powertrains when they took their test drive. The Tesla chaperones encouraged getting drivers to take advantage of the “full feel” of the car’s torque and power after almost every stop sign. 

It was far too short a real driving experience for a proper assessment, of course, but there is no question that this vehicle has real power off the line, and corners well.

Is the current version of the 2012 Tesla Model S a $100,000 car? 

It still needs some refinement if it wants to be truly feature-competitive with the established players in the luxury performance category.

But there is no other car that offers combination of luxury, performance and environmental consciousness.

George Parrott is an emeritus professor of psychology at California State University in Sacramento. He owns a Nissan Leaf and a Chevrolet Volt that are recharged largely on solar power, and is considering the purchase of a Tesla Model S.

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By george parrott

Tesla Model S prices on the rise

Tesla Model S sedan

Having just won Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year and Motor Trend’s Car of the Year awards, Tesla couldn’t have picked a better time for a Model S price hike. The company recently confirmed that it will be raising the price of its all-electric luxury sedan, but did not say how much sticker shock buyers should expect.

Tesla said specifics will be released within two to three weeks, and that the changes would also affect option packages. Some items that are currently standard on the Model S will become extra cost options, the company said.

The increase in price will not affect customers who have already ordered a Model S, although Tesla says they will need to finalize their orders (i.e., choose paint and options) within a specified timeframe. Tesla will also give customers who deferred their orders a chance to pay the current price before the to-be-determined deadline.

As it stands now, a base Model S with a 40-kWh battery pack and 160-mile range costs $57,400. Buyers can opt for a 60-kWh battery, which increases range to 230 miles, for $67,400, and an 85-kWh model with a 265-mile range starts at $77,400.

On top of the biggest batter, buyers can order a Performance package that lowers the Model S’ 0 to 60 mph time from 5.6 seconds to 4.4 seconds. A fully loaded Model S Signature Performance currently stickers for $105,400. All models are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Tesla has at least 12,000 names on its waiting list, although only a handful of cars have been delivered so far. It hopes to sell 20,000 cars in 2013.

Although Model S buyers are getting a lot for their money, raising the price seems like an odd way to increase sales. Tesla did not say why it is doing so, but it may be in response to unexpected demand, which would give Tesla an opportunity to increase its profits, or a desire to increase profits regardless of whether more people are signing up for its EVs.

It’s hard to know exactly what is going through Elon Musk’s mind, we will know the specifics of the Model S’ revised pricing in a few weeks.

By Stephen Edelstein

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

Video Shows Tesla Model S Body Panel Stamping Process [Video]



With deliveries of the all-electric Model S set to begin on June 22nd, Tesla is apparently making a really big deal of this and they will even have live coverage of the first delivery, as opposed to more mainstream manufacturers for whom their first mass-market electric car was delivered to the first customer in a parking lot with (almost) nobody watching.

Also, if you thought that Teslas were built in the American equivalent of a shed, well, think again! They employ very modern technology in the making of their cars, like robots and hydraulic presses, among others, in order for them to reach their target of 5000 cars per year.

Worth mentioning is the fact that Tesla “is one of the few companies in the world producing a steel-reinforced aluminum car." This material gives exactly the benefits you have come to expect from unusual materials used in the auto industry, less weight and more strength – both being an important factor in the making of the Model S, as it needs to be light so that it doesn’t use up its juice too quickly while also maintaining its structural rigidity under the weight of all those batteries.

By Andrei Nedelea

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