CNN recreates infamous Tesla Model S drive with miles to spare, others to try this weekend [w/video]

white tesla model s

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Even more prisms through which to look at the failed (or is that “failed”?) Tesla Model S drive up the East Coast that The New York Times reported on last weekend. We’re going to assume you know what’s been happening with this, but if not, then you can get caught up by reading this, this and this. All set? Good.

Today, CNN reporter Peter Valdes-Dapena easily completed all of the miles in a Tesla Model S that the Times’ John Broder reported he could not do. The takeaway line: “In the end, I made it – and it wasn’t that hard.” That Valdes-Dapena managed the trip is perhaps not that big of a surprise, but a small group of Model S owners will try to prove again that 200 miles is no problem, even in the winter cold, for an electric car that’s officially rated at 265 miles. The owner convoy is going to set out from the Tesla Service Center in Rockville, Maryland tomorrow morning and then spend the night in Groton, Connecticut, just like Broder did, before turning south again. If you want to follow along tomorrow, stay tuned to TeslaRoadTrip on Twitter. Think it’ll start trending?

Also today, Road & Track chimed in to suggest the whole affair is about way more than range, it’s about trust: “If you can’t fully trust Tesla, then you’ll continue to be a customer for the Times. Think for a moment about Broder’s article in that context: it’s an advertisement for his product at the expense of Tesla’s.” We’re not 100-percent on board with that line of thinking, but it does suggest that there is a lot of meat on the test-drive bones of the original article. Check out the CNN video of its bon voyage below for more.

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By Sebastian Blanco

Driving the 2013 Smart Fortwo ED

2013 Smart Fortwo ED.Mercedes-Benz USA 2013 Smart Fortwo ED.

Of all the new features on the 2013 Smart Fortwo ED, including a larger battery pack and a more powerful motor, one is engineered to garner the most attention: its price.

Accounting for the maximum federal income tax credit of $7,500, the price of the 2013 model, scheduled to go on sale next spring, can be reduced from $25,750 to $18,250. From there, any available state subsidies could be applied. In California, where a zero-emissions-vehicle program recently awarded its 10,000th rebate, the price could potentially fall a further $2,500.

Even for non-Californians, the positioning makes the Fortwo ED the lowest-price battery-electric car on the American market. Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA, said the company did not intend to “play games” and advertise the price inclusive of the tax credit.

Smart USA brought its electric cars to Brooklyn on Wednesday for test drives along the waterfront and around Prospect Park. It was a homecoming of sorts, as the company offered test drives of the second-generation car, which was only available for lease, in the borough in 2010.

According to Heiko Schmidt, a Smart product manager, Tesla Motors, which supplied the battery and other components for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class E.V. on display at the Paris motor show, was not producing the battery for the updated and upgraded Fortwo ED. Instead, the vehicle will ship with a 17.6 kilowatt-hour battery pack from Deutsche ACCUmotive, a subsidiary of Daimler, owner of the Smart brand.

At peak output of 55 kilowatts, the motor can produce 74 horsepower in two-minute bursts. The motor, according to Mr. Schmidt, is produced in a joint venture with Bosch. Charging the battery from depleted to full using the 240-volt charger, a $1,300 option, would take about six hours. A driver would reach a 20 percent to 80 percent level of charge in 3.5 hours, Mr. Schmidt added. Though Smart USA asserted the Fortwo ED’s travel range on a full charge would be 90 miles, the estimate had not yet been corroborated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The result is a vehicle that feels quick off the line, with an available 100 pound-feet of torque and a manufacturer-estimated run from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11.5 seconds, an improvement of 50 percent over the second-generation car, Mr. Schmidt said. It would also make the Fortwo ED quicker than a standard Fortwo, as observed by Edmunds. Top speed of the electric car is about 80 m.p.h. The Brooklyn streets were best for stop-and-go, so the Smart’s highway prowess was untested.

The utilitarian interior of the Fortwo is retained, with the addition of battery-related gauges and a touchscreen.Jim Motavalli The utilitarian interior of the Fortwo is retained, with the addition of battery-related gauges and a touchscreen.

The interior of the Smart does not vary greatly from that of the standard car, and the battery pack, mounted under the floor, does not intrude into what little storage space is available. Information on the car’s state of charge and power demand is available from two dash-mounted instruments that resemble tachometers, and the driver can check miles-to-empty and set charging times using a small display.

The options list for the Smart has not been published, but drivers would be able to order paddles mounted behind the steering wheel that controlled how much regenerative braking the car deployed, a useful feature, I found. Choosing extra “regen” extended the car’s range and also reduced the need to use the brake pedal. In any mode, the car was quiet, with only a minor amount of motor whine. Being tiny, it was easy to whip around corners and fit into tight spaces.

Smart USA, having come under the purview of Mercedes-Benz USA in 2011 after the Penske Group relinquished control of the brand, is in recovery mode. Tracey Matura, the general manager of Smart, said the company had 89 dealers, up from 75 when Mercedes took over 15 months ago. Smart sold 1,030 cars in September, an improvement from earlier rock-bottom results and up 120 percent from the same month last year.

Ms. Matura added that Daimler’s plant in Hambach, France, would be able to meet the demand for electric Smarts, should that demand materialize.

The new car is available for sale or lease, but the lease price is not yet available. The rate ought to be far more approachable than the $599 a month charged for the second generation, of which just 250 were made available to consumers in the United States. A further 300 of the second-generation E.V.’s went into service in San Diego in the fleet of Car2Go, a car-sharing service backed by Daimler.

The microcar would also be offered in Cabriolet form for $28,750, giving the company another distinction in the absence of the discontinued Tesla Roadster: the only mass-produced electric convertible in the United States.

Smart is encouraging consumers to preregister their interest in the Fortwo ED on a dedicated Web site.

The E.V.'s, on display in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday.Jim Motavalli The E.V.’s, on display in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 5, 2012

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the output of the Smart ED’s motor. At peak output of 55 kilowatts, it produces the equivalent of 74 horsepower, not 47 as initially written.


Musk vows to repay Tesla’s federal loans in five years, not ten

Tesla Model S - rear three-quarter view, black

Tesla Chief Elon Musk says his company will repay its US Department of Energy loans within five years, Automotive News reports. That’s way, way ahead of the 10-year deadline the electric-vehicle maker was originally given to pay back the $465-million loan it got from the feds.

Musk says better-than-expected results are responsible for cutting the planned payback time in half, something that had been talked about late last year. Earlier this month, Musk said the first-quarter of 2013 will be Tesla’s first profitable one. The company, which recently ramped up to its full production capacity of 400 Model S sedans a week, delivered about 2,400 of them during the fourth quarter, making it the fourth most-popular US plug-in car in that time frame.

Tesla will evidently speed up its repayment with no thanks to the The New York Times, which caused an uproar when it reported that the Model S’ single-charge range was far less than advertised. Musk disputed the report, which was then called into question by other publications and the Times’ own public editor. Musk estimated that the original article cut Tesla’s stock value by as much as $100 million and may have swayed “a few hundred” into canceling orders for their new electric car.

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By Danny King

We Hear: Tesla Still Considering “Compelling” EV Under $40,000

We Hear: Tesla Still Considering “Compelling” EV Under $40,000

Before Elon Musk even begins to consider letting Tesla be acquired by a larger company, expect a “compelling” electric vehicle with a starting price under $40,000. That’s the latest news from Tesla, which recently paid back its DOE loans nine years early and has seen its stock shoot up past $100 a share.

2012 Tesla Model S rear three quarter 1 300x187 imageThe last time we heard about a more affordable Tesla, the entry-level four-door was to carry a base price around $30,000 and sell at much higher volumes than the Model S, whose production will be around 20,000-21,000 units globally in 2013. The less-expensive Tesla could reach consumers in three to four years, Musk said to Bloomberg, though the Model X’s debut has been pushed back to late 2014.

Musk acknowledged the Model S is priced too high for most consumers to consider, and described the Nissan Leaf as cheap but not great.

“What the world needs is a great, affordable electric car,” Musk said to Bloomberg. “I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

The Nissan Leaf has had a slow start, but with 62,000 units sold worldwide and a significantly lowered base price, the car has started to catch on a bit in the U.S. The Tesla Model S has sold well in spite of the lowest-range 40-kWh model the company said only four percent of customers asked for. Musk claims the more affordable electric car will have a range of about 200 miles, and we’re sure models with more range will easily pass the $50,000 mark.

Whether Tesla can bring to market in three to four years a compelling $40,000 electric four-door with a 200-mile range remains to be seen — the company’s next challenge will be the Model X’s launch.

Source: Bloomberg

By Zach Gale

Tesla Motors Teases Model X Electric SUV – Rumor Central

Tesla Motors Teases Model X Electric SUV

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

NUMMI Lives: Tesla and Toyota to Cooperate on Electric Vehicles

NUMMI Lives: Tesla and Toyota to Cooperate on Electric Vehicles

Toyota announced that it couldn’t keep the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. production facility open after General Motors pulled out of the joint production facility. Toyota, however, has struck a deal to reopen the plant with Tesla and will produce electric vehicles at the facility beginning in 2012.


Tesla and Toyota will leverage each manufacturer’s strengths — Toyota’s size, engineering resources, and supplier base, and Tesla’s small, fast product development and electric vehicle technology — to create a team of electric vehicle specialists. Toyota will gain knowledge of newer lithium-ion battery technology as Tesla already has a partnership with Panasonic for the technology, and Tesla will learn how to efficiently put vehicles into mass production.

“I sensed the great potential of Tesla’s technology and was impressed by its decision to monozukuri (Toyota’s approach to manufacturing),” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota. “Through this partnership, by working with a venture business such as Tesla, Toyota would like to learn from the challenging spirit, quick decision making, and flexibility that Tesla has.

“Decades ago, Toyota was also born as a venture business. By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business spirit,’ and take on the challenges of the future.”

Tesla’s Model S sedan will likely be the first vehicle to go into production at the facility when it launches in 2012. Tesla estimates production volumes of around 20,000 units per year and it will likely be joined by platform derivatives and possibly the Roadster. Toyota also has plans to put an electric vehicle into production in 2012, but has not said any more.

In addition to working together on electric vehicle development, Toyota said it will buy into Tesla. Toyota is set to invest $50 million in Tesla in exchange for common stock once Tesla completes its IPO.

“Toyota is a company founded on innovation, quality, and commitment to sustainable mobility. It is an honor and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Toyota would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla. “We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota’s legendary engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.”

Do you think the Tesla/Toyota tie-up is a solid one? Which automaker stands to benefit more from the deal? Will the relationship be successful? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Tesla, Toyota

By Andrew Peterson

Teslas on Video: From Model S Road Trips to Roadster vs. Porsche Boxster Comparo

Teslas on Video: From Model S Road Trips to Roadster vs. Porsche Boxster Comparo

Now that we’ve crowned the Tesla Model S the Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year, we’ve dug up the best videos of the electric cars that we could find. From videos documenting the development of the Tesla Model S to a Motor Trend comparison with a Tesla Roadster and a Porsche Boxster, get your fill of Tesla videos right here.

Tesla Model S with Frank Markus and Elon Musk 300x187 imageThe Tesla Model S was designed and engineered with one goal in mind: to cure electric-vehicle range anxiety. To put it to the test, we drove it to Las Vegas and back in one single charge and documented the journey. How do we know what Tesla’s goal was with the electric sedan? Before setting off on the excursion to Sin City, we toured the Tesla’s Silicon Valley factory and spent some time with Tesla CEO, Elon Musk to learn more about the Model S.

We’ve tested the 2013 Tesla Model S’ range on three single-charge road trips, but how did the car perform on the track? The Model S reached 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph, and its performance was all caught on video for an episode of Ignition. While the Model S is a great performer all on its own, we were also curious to discover how it behaves when matched up against an unlikely rival in a drag race — the BMW M5.

Before we got our hands on the Model S though, we followed the development process and all the engineering that went into it with a series of three videos. We also caught a trio of prototypes testing on the track, and it appears the Model S also enjoys a bit of winter weather, as we’ve also caught it playing in the snow. Before the Model S though, was the original Tesla Roadster, which we compared against a 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Let’s not forget about the upcoming Model X, in which we got to check out its awesome gullwing doors at its official debut.

Watch the Tesla videos below.

By Karla Sanchez

Top 10 New Car Future Classics

Top 10 New Car Future Classics

We’ve all seen televised classic car auctions where a one-owner piece of vintage iron fetches six-digit sums, and we’ve all wondered the same thing, “How did that guy know his car was going to be a classic one day?” Not long after, you probably looked at what’s in your driveway, and wondered, “Will my car ever become a classic?” Being car guys (and girls), we often wonder the same thing – what modern cars might become future classics? We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 new cars that we think might one day be collectible.

So what in our minds makes a car a future classic? Three things: Significance to either the automaker or industry, rarity (which very well may leave a few significant cars off this list), and styling with staying power – because who wants to own an ugly classic car? Also (with one exception) the vehicles in question have to currently be on sale. With that in mind, here are our Top 10 New Car Future Classics:

BMW M3: We believe the E90-series M3 might become a future collectible for a few reasons. For starters, this generation of M3 represents the end of an era for the storied M Car. BMW’s M cars have always been known for their high-revving naturally aspirated engines. Unfortunately, the future of the M car lies with the turbocharger, which means the M3′s rev-happy 414-hp, 295-lb-ft 4.0-liter V-8 could be the last naturally aspirated M motor to ever be built. Because of that, the M3 will likely become a prize for future BMW collectors.

2011 Cadillac CTS V in Germany side in motion 300x187 imageCadillac CTS-V Wagon: This is the car that many thought GM didn’t have the cojones to build: a Nürburgring-slaying station wagon packing a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 producing 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque, driving the rear wheels through a proper six-speed manual transmission. The CTS-V Wagon has a couple things going for it on the collectible front: it’s a niche product so not many exist (relatively speaking), it’s expensive, which keeps it out of the hands of its mostly young fans, and it’s truly stunning to look at. The CTS-V Wagon very well may be a blockbuster at Barrett-Jackson auctions in the distant future.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: Like the C4 Corvette ZR-1 before it, the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is bound to become a collectible  This Corvette represents the best of the C6 ‘Vettes, and is easily among the best Corvettes ever made. The ZR1 is guaranteed collectible status thanks to the stories behind it: this is the first Corvette to crack 200 mph and the first to cost over $100,000. It’s also a world beater, having gone up against the best Europe and Asia has to offer, like the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Nissan GT-R. So why will the Corvette ZR1 be a future classic? Because America.

2012 Fisker Karma pre production front three quarter drift11 300x187 imageFisker Karma: Likely to be a controversial choice, the Fisker Karma nonetheless easily meets the criteria to be a future collectible.  The Karma is significant to Fisker and the automotive industry because the Karma is not only the first vehicle Fisker has ever built, but it’s also the first luxury extended-range electric vehicle. The Karma’s got rarity too, especially considering all of the production delays that were necessary for Fisker to recall all of its vehicles. Lastly, the Karma is a striking automobile to look at, and it’ll likely look just as good as it does today 20 or 30 years from now.

Ford Shelby GT500: What could be more significant than being both the most powerful factory Mustang ever and the first Mustang with a 200-mph top speed? Simple: Carroll Shelby. The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is the last factory Shelby Mustang that the dearly departed Shelby ever worked on. Because of that connection, the car’s big 5.8-liter 662-hp supercharged V-8, and the ridiculous top speed, the Shelby GT500 is most certainly on its way to becoming a collectible.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X: Like the BMW M3, the current-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X will likely be remembered as the end of an era. While its Subaru rival will continue on into its next generation, the Evo X marks the end of the Evo as we know it. Mitsubishi reportedly wants to go in another direction with the Evo XI – a direction that ditches the all-wheel-drive rally rocket’s turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 in favor of a plug-in hybrid setup. Will it be able to live up to the Evo name? Only time will tell, but if Mitsubishi does go that route, the current Evo X may very well become a prized collectible.

2013 Nissan GT R Black Edition front three quarter 300x187 imageNissan GT-R: What can we say about Godzilla that hasn’t already been said? Not only is the Nissan GT-R highly desirable, but it’s an incredibly important car for Nissan. The R35 GT-R is significant because it’s the first GT-R to ever be legally sold in the U.S., and it’s taken the segment by storm, frequently finishing on the podium in our Best Driver’s Car competitions. Despite its relatively low price, Godzilla remains a rarity on the streets, and though it has love-it-or-hate-it styling, the GT-R will without a doubt remain desirable in the future.

Saab 9-5: As mentioned above, the Saab 9-5 is the sole exception to the on-sale now rule, because while you can’t buy one new now, you could still buy a brand new 9-5 up until the Swedish automaker declared bankruptcy in January of this year. The 9-5 earns its spot on the future collectible list because it was the last new Saab car introduced. It may have had quite a few components from the GM parts bin, but the 9-5 was still the last true Saab. It was great to look at, full of quirky Swedish charm, and actually fun to drive. The 9-5 was the last Saab, and perhaps one of the best, which makes it a future collectible in our book.

2013 SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition Left Front 300x187 imageSRT Viper GTS Launch Edition: The 2013 SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition marks the return of the other American sports car icon. To celebrate the Viper’s rebirth, SRT created the limited-edition Viper GTS Launch Edition (Rarity? Check). Powered by a reworked 8.4-liter V-10 cranking out 640 hp, the Launch Edition comes wearing the stunning blue and white stripe paint job that helped make the original Viper GTS famous (Styling? Check). Finally, checking off the significance box is the fact that the new Viper is the first SRT-branded vehicle ever, giving it that special something that collectors will most certainly love decades from now.

Tesla Model S Signature Performance: The Tesla Model S is not only significant to Tesla as its first mass-market vehicle, but it’s significant to the industry as a whole as the first all-electric car that actually works for most Americans’ needs. The Model S Signature Performance is being built in a limited run of just 1000 examples. Making the Model S Signature Performance even more enticing is its world-beating performance, which allows the EV to smoke its gas-powered European rivals on the drag strip. The stunningly handsome Model S is a technological marvel that’s sure to be just as impressive sitting pretty on the auction block in the coming decades.

Do you agree with our list? Which cars would you have added and/or left off? Sound off in the comments below. 

By Christian Seabaugh

Elon Musk: “I am not the kale eating overlord of Mars”

elon musk

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and chief designer of space exploration technologies for SpaceX, had a lighthearted umbrage moment with an affront made on him and his space travel company, recently. It wasn’t really the request made by animal rights group PETA that SpaceX trips to Mars only offer passengers vegan meals, it was how writer Amy Tennery ended her article with a quick side note: “unless Elon Musk were some kind of benevolent, kale-eating overlord of Mars, how exactly would he enforce this rule?” Musk joked on Twitter: “Also, I am not the kale eating overlord of Mars (altho kale has its moments).” His Twitter followers responded with support, such as cardoso’s posting: “Thank you Oh Mighty Emperor of Mars Steaks!”

By now, you may be wondering how this possibly happened. Well, a press representative at PETA had sent The Jane Doe staff an open letter written to SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The well-publicized launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule last year, and Musk’s claim SpaceX would make it to Mars by 2018, got PETA thinking: “The opportunity to colonize Mars means a chance to make a fresh start, especially now that we’ve degraded our own planet by treating our fellow animals like disposable widgets, filled the air with pollution that will soon make the sky in ‘Soylent Green’ look clear, and populated the Earth with so many humans that the premise of ‘Logan’s Run’ starts to look practical,” the letter said

PETA thinks that serving vegan food to Mars colonists traveling to their new home, and leaving behind decimated planet Earth, means they might very well commit to enjoying an animal-free diet once they’ve arrived. We’d like to remind PETA about the 1972 film Silent Running, where space traveler Bruce Dern struggles to save the very last living vegetation from a destroyed planet Earth. Even vegan food might not be the easiest to come by in the future.

By Jon LeSage

Tesla Model X delayed one year, now due late 2014

tesla model x

Tesla is pushing back the Model X by about a year so that the company can focus on the well-received Model S. The news was made public in an SEC filing (a 10-K form that went out late last week) and first reported in the Los Angeles Times. In a press release in early 2012, Tesla said that production for the Model X, “begins at the end of 2013, deliveries begin early 2014.” But Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks has confirmed to AutoblogGreen that, “Production for Model X has been pushed back until late 2014.”

Tesla’s official statement reads:

Tesla has been intensely focused on Model S, its production and product enhancements and believe there is increased volume potential for Model S. As a result, Tesla has decided to slightly push back the development and timing of Model X to 2014. We do not expect a material impact on our profitability in 2013 or 2014.

The use of “slightly” there has us a bit confused, but if that’s how Tesla wants to define a year, then so be it.

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By Sebastian Blanco