It seems like Tesla comes out with a new all-electric model every week these days, with the first Model S vehicles hitting the streets last year, and now the introduction of their new Model X SUV.
The Tesla Model X is built on the Tesla Model S platform, which means the basic drivetrain is the same, with the battery, controller, and motor sitting in the same position. The basic Model X is rear wheel drive like the S, however, you now have the option to upgrade to front and rear wheel drive. Pictured below is the drivetrain for the optional all-wheel drive model.
The second front mounted motor enables all-weather, all-road capabilities, increases torque by 50%, and horsepower bumps from 362 to 410. When outfitted with AWD, the Model X Performance accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, outperforming the fastest SUVs and many sports cars. The low profile drivetrain also allows for a “frunk,” or a trunk in the front, as well as plenty of passenger and cargo space.
The interior focuses your attention on a giant touchscreen unit in the center console. Critics say it is less responsive than your cutting edge tablet computer, but definitely navigable. It does make you wonder, when is big a little too big. Looks somewhat obnoxious to me.
Tesla claimed last year they would make the base model available for around $30,000 within 5 years, competitive with current not-even-luxury SUVs. This seems hardly believable right now. If you want to be an early adopter, you’ll pay maybe twice that. You can make your reservation on their website for a mere $5k, which shoots up to $40k for the rare Signature Model. The concept however, truly is revolutionary. An SUV with the acceleration of a supercar, the cargo space of a minivan, and hopefully at the price of a BMW X3 or X5 will surely find a market with dual income families with who want to one up the neighbors.
Earlier this year, Elon Musk announced his plan to build solar powered, fast charging stations across America, available to Tesla Model S owners to use for free. A lot of my colleagues were very excited about this prospective announcement. To me, it seems downright impossible: high fixed capital costs, and no revenue from the stations. Additionally, these charging stations aren’t even compatible with Tesla’s other model, the Roadster, and you can forget about cross manufacturer compatibility. Solar panels are not just plug and play either, they require maintenance and cleaning if you want them to perform up to their specified manufacturer standards of efficiency.
Even if the solar panels operate at optimal efficiency, the fast chargers will draw more power than the solar panels can produce at one time, so unless Tesla has on-site electricity storage, the company will have to buy electricity at a higher rate than they can sell back to the grid.
Another challenge is the fact that utilities will often charge a hefty “demand charge” per month because of the high load these chargers can put on the grid, says Arindam Maitra, a senior project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute. Fast charger owners will have to pay that fee even if no one uses the station. At least one DC fast-charging system charges $7 per charge, which is more expensive than buying gasoline for the equivalent range in a conventional car. -Technologyreview.com
Despite the economic pitfalls, Tesla charged on this year. They built 6 charging stations in SoCal and have already begun their electric corridor in the northeast. The station pictured at the top is in Milford, Conn. Whether anyone has actually used it for its purpose remains to be seen. These stations will charge between 4 to 6 cars and the initial capital investment ranges from $100,000 to $250,000 This could be a substantial financial liability for Tesla, which has already announced that it needs to raise more money to keep operating. When you think about the infinitesimal amount of people that actually own the Model S currently, and then they have to be driving on that specific route, the logic seems ridiculous. Yet they are still building charging stations, and they need to sell a lot more cars for this plan to be remotely logical or we will get another Solyndra ordeal. Project Better Place seems to be turning in a bad direction in the final quarter of 2012, asking for emergency funding from investors and laying off hundreds of employees.
Fast charging is a great idea in theory. You can drive a few hours, stop, have lunch or stretch your legs and browse a shop, then get back on the road. Existing rest stops and commercial centers will see the value in drawing electric vehicle owners to their area for 30 minutes. Drivers can plug their car in for free, and businesses can lure in generally higher income patrons that buy electric vehicles. There is a possible business model to building fast charging stations that provide free or cheap electricity. However, that is not Tesla’s business model. They hope to increase the value a very expensive car by creating a free charging infrastructure for one specific model.
I just don’t think this type of widespread endeavor can possibly work, given that only one luxury model is compatible, and given that Tesla will not receive revenue to sustain the service. Provide me one example of a capital intensive, widespread, exclusive, free service that has worked in America. But this is what Elon Musk does: he creates things before we appear to need it (PayPal, SpaceX). I would like to be proven wrong. So if Elon or anyone has a brilliant defense of the plan, please feel free to discuss in the comments
Since 2008, we have been covering the electric vehicle market, and things have certainly changed since then. Back in the day, an electric vehicle startup, Tesla Motors, perked international interest with the Tesla Roadster. Then dozens of concepts, specialized automakers, and eletrofitters rolled in. I remember when it was only the little guys like ZAP, Think, Tesla, Zenn, etc. We’ve seen exotic supercars and concepts like the Eliica, Aptera, and Lightning GT, and low speed, neighborhood electric vehicles like the BG-100 and REVA. Some came to fruition, some did not. This international attention garnered the interested of the major automakers like Ford, GM, Nissan, and Mitsubishi. These majors not only created concepts, but have begun delivering electric vehicles in mass. Here are a few fully charged, highway capable 2012 models for the masses that you can order for delivery right now. In the US, these all qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The 2012 Ford Focus EV is one of my favorites because, from the outside, you can’t even tell that it is an EV. The Ford Focus EV is built on the same glider as the third generation ICE model. The EPA rated its range at 76 miles per charge and a fuel economy of 105 MPG equivalent. Production began in December 2011, in Wayne, Michigan.
I had a chance to drive the first model of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at the 2010 New York Auto Show. I preferred it too the Mini-E, because it had more natural coasting and braking, and the battery was tucked under the carriage instead of being jammed in the back hatch area. On the Japanese test cycle, the vehicle has a 100 mile charge, but the EPA, the harsh critics they are, rated it at merely 62 miles. Over 20,000 of these little buggies have been sold worldwide. Prices vary widely regionally and so do tax incentives. In the Japanese market, the i-Miev is only $23,000 after subsidies, in Europe and the US it’s about $30,000, and $50,000 in Australia.
I have already spotted a few 2012 Nissan Leafs in the wild already. Although, I don’t know why so many people choose the seemingly trademark, “blue ocean” color. The EPA rated this hatchback at 73 miles-per-charge. After tax incentives in the US, the price is solidly below $30k at $27,000. Nissan is claiming an increase in range and a pretty significant decrease in price in the next model year.
We are all still wrapping our heads around a company from Palo Alto, California won the Motor Trend Car of the Year with the 2012 Tesla Model S. Not Detroit, Japan, or Germany, but essentially a company founded by a guy who made his first millions from PayPal. The award really means something though: that technology, innovation, and thinking outside the box in the automotive world can really evolve the industry in ways not possible through traditional thinking. Motor Trend states the $50,000 supercar (after US tax credits) “smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius.” This simply was not possible before.
Tesla has become world renown for their superior performance electric vehicles. The Roadster put them on the map as the first production electric car that was actually refined, cool, and exciting. The heir to the awesome electric car throne, the Model S, will finally be delivered in 2012. The Model S sedan is targeted at electric vehicle fans with funds and maybe a couple kids. Remarkably, the base model will remain under their original target price of $50,000, at $49,900 after the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles purchased in or after 2010.
Tesla is providing a slew of classes and options for this electric sedan in hopes of capturing the absurdly rich and the upper middle class market share, so read closely. There are four classes of Model S: the Model S (plain, vanilla), the Model S Performance, the Model S Signature, and the Model S Signature Performance. On top of that, the plain Model S version has three, liquid cooled, lithium ion battery options, at 40, 60, and 85kWh. The other three classes (Performance, Signature, Signature Performance) all have the 85 kWh battery, standard, which pushes their ranges to a whopping 300 miles per charge. The 40 kWh option gives 160 miles and a 0-60 of 6.5 seconds, the 60 kWh battery puts out 230 miles and 5.9 seconds. The 85 Kwh pack gives you a 0-60 in 5.6. With the performance option that drops down to 4.4 seconds. The Signature label doesn’t necessarily enhance performance, but they are limited edition and available mid-2012, a few months earlier than the non-Signature class. They also carry about a $30,000-$50,000 premium over the base model.
All of the Model S classes will feature a 17-inch touch screen monitor which will contain media, GPS, and communications. The 200 watt stereo system will have radio, satellite radio, and USB ports. No CD player though, that’s so 20th century.
If you opt for the Signature series, you get the Tech Package standard, which includes xenon lights, keyless entry, LED foglamps, turn by turn navigation, power rear liftgate, back camera, rear USB ports, homelink, and electrochromatic side mirrors. A premium stereo system is also standard in the Signature class, and 1,000 bucks otherwise.
All Model S cars plug directly into 110 and 240 volt outlets with the Universal Mobile Connector and adapters. The High Power Wall Connector, which installs in your garage, enables cars equipped with Twin Chargers to charge twice as fast as cars equipped with a Single Charger. Cars equipped with a 60 or 85 kWh battery can use Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations.
Hope this helps clarify the many options and models of the Model S. For more information, visit Tesla’s Specifications page.
Tesla is drawing sales of the Tesla Roadster to a close in 2012, primarily to focus on their more subdued and affordable Model S. As of September 30, 2011, Tesla had sold more than 2,000 Roadsters worldwide and the car maker announced it intends to sell a total of 2,500 units before it discontinues the model in early 2012. The latest model punched out 295 lbs-ft of torque and 288 horsepower. The instant torque, electric motor pushes the Roadster to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The EPA reports 245 miles per charge, giving it the longest range of a production electric vehicle ever. The world distance record of 311 miles was set by a Roadster on October 27, 2009, during the Global Green Challenge in outback Australia, in which it averaged a speed of 25 mph. At $109,000, the vehicle is really a steal for performance, groundbreaking technology, and rarity.
Elon Musk’s goal from day one has been to provide a “Model T” electric vehicle, an affordable $30,000 electric car with optimal range and performance. However, as an upstart company without the economy of scale that Ford or GM are endowed with, Tesla produced a premium performance electric vehicle. Now that the company is one step closer with the Model S, they are stepping away from the successful sports car model. So is it a wise move? Maybe a couple years ago, but now that the major manufacturers are entering the electric vehicle segment (Mitsubishi iMiev, Nissan Leaf) and offering plug in hybrids (Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in). Can Tesla successfully sell a sedan while the majors are doing the same with their insurmountable resources and capital? It is going to be tough without the unique electric vehicle fanfare that the Tesla Roadster once had.
Here is a warm and fuzzy Tesla Roadster video to send it off:
In a recent press release, Panasonic and Tesla Motors announced they will collaborate to develop the next generation of batteries for electric vehicles. Panasonic is the world’s largest producer of Lithium-ion battery cells and Tesla is the only current manufacturer of a highway capable EV.
Tesla and Panasonic Collaborate to Develop Next-Generation Battery Cell Technology
SAN CARLOS, Calif. – (Business Wire) Tesla Motors and Panasonic today announced that they will collaborate to develop next-generation battery cells for electric vehicles.
Tesla, the only carmaker producing highway-capable electric vehicles, will use Panasonic’s battery cells in their newest battery packs. The cells are comprised of Nickel-based Lithium ion chemistry, the highest energy density battery cells in production today, preferred by Tesla for EV applications because of their high capacity, light weight, durability, and long life.
“Our collaboration with Panasonic will accelerate the development of next generation EV cells, enabling Tesla to further improve our battery pack performance,” said JB Straubel, Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer. “Combining Tesla’s rigorous cell testing and understanding of EV requirements with Panasonic’s cutting-edge battery technology will result in custom cells optimized for use in EVs.”
Panasonic is the world’s leading battery cell manufacturer and a diverse supplier to the global automotive industry.
“Being selected by Tesla to provide cells for their current and next- generation EV battery pack is a tremendous validation of Panasonic’s nickel-based chemistry and the extensive investments Panasonic continues to make in lithium ion R&D and production,” said Naoto Noguchi, President of Panasonic Energy Company.
Panasonic is one of the world’s largest producers of Lithium-ion battery cells. Furthermore, Panasonic is the global leader in lithium-ion cell technology, and is midway through a 3-year USD$1 billion investment in lithium-ion battery cell R&D and production facilities. The first of the new facilities in Suminoe, Japan will begin production in April 2010.
Tesla’s current battery strategy incorporates proprietary packaging using cells from multiple battery suppliers. This new cell will also be compatible with other cell form factors to enable the continuation of Tesla’s strategy of using cells from multiple suppliers. Tesla has already delivered more than 900 cars to customers in North America and Europe.
Tesla’s goal is to produce increasingly affordable cars to mainstream buyers – relentlessly driving down the cost of EVs. San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla sells cars online and has delivered nearly 900 Roadsters to customers in North America and Europe. In addition to South Florida, Tesla has showrooms in California’s Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Boulder, London Munich and Monaco.
The Tesla Roadster is faster than an Audi R8 yet is six times as efficient as conventional sports cars. With an EPA-estimated range of 244 miles per charge, it costs less than $5 to charge.