Archives for September 5th, 2013

Elon Musk, Akio Toyoda Named to Forbes List of World’s Most Powerful People

What do Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Toyota boss Akio Toyoda have in common? The same thing Bill Gates and the Pope do: they’ve been named to the Forbes magazine list of the world’s 71 most powerful people.

With 7.1 billion people now living on the planet, Forbes says its list is of the 71 who matter, averaging one person for every 100 million.

Of the political, religious and business leaders, just two (Musk and Toyoda) are the head of car companies, though both automakers vary greatly.

Ranked at number 66 on the list is Musk, the man who founded PayPal and used his fortune to fund Tesla Motors, which after selling its electric Roadster sportscar in limited numbers for years, went more mainstream in 2012, launching its Model S electric sedan, which has earned accolades from the automotive press, including being named Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year.

However, Musks’s position on the list has less to do with Tesla and more to do with another of his companies, SpaceX. Launching a rocket to the space station this year and delivering supplies, Forbes calls him “the most powerful man in space” and says that he, “stands to make out like a 19th-century railway tycoon.”

Ranking above Musk is the CEO of the world’s largest automaker and great-grandson of its founder (with the name to prove it), Akio Toyoda. With the Japanese auto-giant about to solidify its third year as the world’s top selling automaker, it has sold over 200 million vehicles since it was established. In addition to being an automaker, the company’s Toyota Financial Services division also makes Toyota a bank. In addition, Toyota is seen as a pioneer in green technology, with its Prius model synonymous with the word hybrid.

Compiled by Forbes’ senior editors, each of the 71 individuals on the list are there based on individual rankings in four “power categories”, including how many people they have power over, the financial resources they control, how many different areas they have power in (political, religious, economic, etc.), and finally, they must actively use their power.

Placing first on the list is US President Barack Obama, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in third.

By Colum Wood

Renault-Nissan to Open New Research Office in Silicon Valley, Fourth Major Automaker in Area

Renault-Nissan to Open New Research Office in Silicon Valley, Fourth Major Automaker in Area

Attention all college grads with an engineering degree (and a slight interest in cars): add the Renault-Nissan Alliance to your job hunting list of automotive companies that have been actively  seeking and hiring talent to fill engineering and technology jobs. The group announced that in a few weeks it will open its doors to a new research office in Silicon Valley, which is home to a number of high-tech giants.

According to a prepared statement yesterday, the new Northern California office will play an important role in ensuring the group stays “ahead of trends that are reshaping the way people interact with their cars.” The office will research and develop upcoming in-car tech including advanced display interfaces and Internet connectivity. And as one the most prominent manufacturers of electric vehicles, Nissan will use the office to advance its influence in green technology.

Speaking yesterday at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said, “The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry’s shift to sustainable transportation. Having a greater footprint in one of the world’s headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further.” Ghosn also stated that green-tech research is having a positive impact on the economy as well as the job market in the auto industry.

Last year, more than 32,000 jobs were created in the industry including thousands of engineering positions. At the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress held last month, more than 10,000 attendees had the opportunity to check out and seek possible employment from 35 companies in the engineering field, including Chyrsler, Ford and General Motors. Back in March, we reported that the Detroit three were recruiting newly minted engineering grads for new tech jobs.  Attracting graduates to apply has been a challenge, however, mainly due to the low starting wages in Detroit, especially when compared to similar positions Silicon Valley.

In addition to Renault-Nissan’s new office, a number of automakers also have a presence in the high-tech hotspot. BMW’s Technology Office in Palo Alto, California, for example, opened over a decade ago and played a big role in the inception and subsequent revisions to the automaker’s iDrive interface system. Mercedes-Benz has a Silicon Valley-based Group and Advanced Engineering office, which recently developed the smart drive app for the iPhone and has been involved in the testing of fuel-cell vehicles. The Volkswagen Group recently opened an Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Belmont, California, which will develop future infotainment platforms and driver assistance systems. Lastly, Tesla Motors, makers of the all-electric roadster and the upcoming Tesla S sedan, is headquartered in Northern California, and took over the GM/Toyota NUMMI joint-venture assembly plant in Fremont.

Is the future of the U.S. car industry moving away from Detroit to high-tech areas like Silicon Valley?

Source: Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Tesla

By Erick Ayapana

Tesla involved in federal probe? News to us, says Tesla

tesla model s logo



A recent report indicates that there’s a dark and shadowy secret just waiting to wreck havoc on Tesla Motors: a federal probe into whether, as the conservative Washington Times puts it, “the automaker was using foreign instead of American parts in manufacturing their electric vehicles.” Tesla has openly said it uses Panasonic battery cells, for example, so the need for a probe is not quite clear.



According to a PDF that the Times says comes from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation, ICE asked the Department of Energy for documents about the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program on December 5, 2011. There are lots of “may” and “possibly” phrasings in the memo, and it reads like someone saw a mention on the DOE website about a “buy American” requirement and went fishing for information. The DOE responded on December 22 that “the $465m Tesla loan was not appropriated through the Recovery Act of 2009. The $465m Tesla loan was actually appropriated through Public Law 110-329 and does not have the buy American requirement,” adding that “The DOE [Office of Inspector General] would not be investigating this matter any further.” For some reason the Times concludes that the memo, “provides no information on how, or whether, the customs probe concluded.”



A Seeking Alpha contributor notes that the ICE:

is still proactively investigating whether Tesla is using its foreign trade zone status to bypass the so-called “loan requirements.” A foreign trade zone facilitates the creation of certain areas at or near customs port of entry where products can be imported without standard import duties and customs entry procedures. Tesla’s application for a “subzone” within San Jose’s foreign trade zone was approved in September. ICE is neither affirming nor denying an investigation. Also, Tesla has made no mention of this investigation in its SEC disclosures.

He add that he’s not worried about a negative impact on TSLA stock or the company based on the investigation. For the record, Tesla’s official statement is as follows:

We have not at any time been made aware of an investigation regarding this issue by ICE or any other governmental agency. It is customary for car manufacturers in the United States to use imported parts and we have openly indicated throughout the development of Model S that we purchase certain parts, like the cells used in our battery pack, from foreign suppliers.

Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive

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By Sebastian Blanco

Developer sues Tesla over proposed New Mexico Model S plant

Tesla Model S - front three-quarter view



New Mexico may be The Land of Enchantment, but at least one developer from the state is less than charmed with Tesla Motors.



The electric-vehicle maker has been sued by Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities for what the developer says was an agreed-upon deal for Tesla to produce its Model S battery-electric sedan in New Mexico, according to website Gigaom.



Tesla allegedly reached an agreement in early 2007 to have Rio Real Estate build a 150,000-square-foot factory and lease it out to the automaker for $1.35 million a year for 10 years. Instead, Tesla decided to start Model S production in California after reaching an agreement with Toyota in 2010 to make the cars at the old NUMMI Toyota-General Motors joint venture plant in the San Francisco Bay Area. We asked Tesla for comment on the matter, but Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks told AutoblogGreen that the company does not comment on pending litigation.



Tesla, which in June started deliveries of the Model S, said last week that its second-quarter loss widened by 84 percent to $106.5 million because expenses jumped and revenue fell as the company geared up for the car’s debut.

Related GalleryFirst Ride: 2012 Tesla Model S Beta

By Danny King

Tesla Model S Offers a Lesson in Electric-Vehicle Economics

Tesla Model S, near the start-up's factory in Fremont, Calif., on June 22.Noah Berger/ReutersTesla Model S, near the start-up’s factory in Fremont, Calif., on June 22.

A handful of fully electric Tesla Model S Signature Performance sedans were presented to their owners at the company’s factory on June 22, each priced around $100,000. The luxury sedans were fitted with the most powerful battery pack available from the start-up automaker, rated at 85 kilowatt-hours. In combination with the vehicles’ electric motor and other running gear, those reserves of energy are capable of generating 416 horsepower, Tesla claims.

A Model S with the 85-kWh pack but without the Signature Performance frills would cost $77,400, before tax credits. Smaller packs, with proportionally diminished prices and estimated driving ranges, are scheduled to be offered later this year: a 60-kWh model starting at $67,400 and a 40-kWh model at $57,400, again excluding tax credits.

By setting three distinct benchmarks for performance and price, Tesla offered customers, and the industry, an invitation to engage in some rudimentary calculations to determine the price Tesla placed on each kilowatt-hour of capacity.

Taking the difference between the prices of cars fitted with the 40-kWh and 60-kWh packs, Tesla ostensibly charges $10,000 for 20 kWh of capacity, or $500 per kilowatt-hour.

Because the battery packs are constructed of thousands of smaller batteries, the cost of the battery is expected to escalate as its capacity increases. But the 85-kWh pack offers 25 kWh for $10,000, or $400 per kilowatt-hour.

Of course, equipment levels are part of the Model S equation as well. Tesla expects buyers of the Signature Performance level to pay roughly $20,000 over the basic 85-kWh sedan for features like a performance-goosing inverter, sport-tuned suspension and nappa leather.

In return for the extra dollars and deeper reserves of battery power are extended range and better full-throttle performance. The Environmental Protection Agency recently rated the Model S equipped with the 85-kWh pack at a range of 265 miles, which is about 3.1 miles per kilowatt-hour. That is in keeping with the widely acknowledged capability of lithium-ion battery packs, which deliver about 3 miles per kilowatt-hour in a car weighing slightly more than an equivalent vehicle with an internal-combustion engine.

Consequently, the 60-kWh Model S should offer a range of about 187 miles, and cars with the 40-kWh pack should be capable of about 125 miles.

On its Web site, Tesla more optimistically cites range limits of 300, 230 and 160 miles for the three packs, assuming a constant speed of 55 miles per hour under ideal conditions. Driving in extreme cold can reduce the range of a lithium-ion battery, and any number of factors can erode their performance, be it excessive heat, overcharging or deterioration of the electrolyte.

Battery packs used in E.V.’s have safeguard systems built in that prevent overheating and overcharging, but no device exists that forestalls the march of time. Maximum range, in other words, isn’t a forever proposition.

The hope throughout the industry is for battery prices to decline as the technology matures and manufacturing efficiencies are developed. Tesla declines to cite a price for battery replacement, saying on its Web site that it is “impossible to accurately forecast the cost of future battery replacements.”

To that, one might add that it is impossible to forecast the cost of future electric vehicles.

By PAUL STENQUIST

Toyota shows off RAV4 EV’s eco tricks with new videos





If a picture paints a thousand words, Toyota’s hoping that a couple videos do a little better than that for its RAV4 Electric Vehicle.



The Japanese automaker recently released a couple of videos touting the EV and its evolution through the company’s partnership with Tesla Motors. The first five-plus-minute video features engineers discussing the benefits of collaborating with Tesla, including software advancements and battery technology that complemented Toyota’s engine-packaging expertise.



The other video, clocking in at almost five minutes, delves into the issue of aerodynamics and how engineers cut drag coefficient in an effort to boost range and chip away at drivers’ potential feelings of “range anxiety.” Toyota used its sleekest wheels, tires and headlamp lenses while customizing the front facia, adding a rear spoiler, removing the roof rack and smoothing out the underbody in order to allow the SUV to better cut the wind.



Toyota, which first announced the RAV4 EV in 2010, said in May that the SUV will have a 100-mile single-charge range and will be priced at $49,800, with sales starting by the end of this year. Initial markets will be contained to California and Toyota is only expecting to make and sell around 2,600 vehicles during the first three years.



You can see the videos below.

Related GalleryToyota RAV4 EV

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By Danny King