Tesla Motors is just a few days away from handing over Model S key fobs to the first batch of customers. Yes, the company already gave investor and board member Steve Jurvetson and CEO Elon Musk their Founder Series cars, but this time it’s for reals.
While we wait to watch the sleek sedans, painted in the
ten four colors of the company’s current palette Signature series, passed to their new owners – the big event will be broadcast on Tesla’s website Friday at 3:30 PDT – we can now see more of what goes into the manufacturing of this truly innovative electric car. We’ve already watched the massive metal stamping that begins the process, now we can view the whole assembly and paint application operation. Scroll below for three more videos from the Inside Tesla! series.
In other Model S news, Tesla has revealed what’s going to be so special about the area between the front seats, a space Tesla is calling the “Opportunity Console.” Based on buyer preferences, this customizable space should one day be able to be outfitted with “compartments, shelves or phone holders to make this area more organized.” Tesla will reveal prototypes of the consoles this weekend and will listen to customer input on how the final versions develop.
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.
In which we bring you motoring news from around the Web:
• Volvo is expected next month to announce a joint partnership with its owner, the Chinese manufacturer Geely, to build cars for the Chinese market. Though Geely holds a majority stake in the Swedish automaker, Volvo must partner with a local manufacturer to legally produce and market its cars in China. If approved, the joint venture would base its operations in Chengdu, located in China’s southwest. (Bloomberg)
• Smith Electric Vehicles, the Missouri-based producer of purely electric commercial vehicles, recently announced its intention to form a joint venture with Wanxiang Group, one of China’s largest automotive component manufacturers. Wanxiang would initially invest $25 million and, under the terms of the venture, up to a further $75 million to produce and commercialize the vehicles in China. Smith, with international clients like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, recently announced its plan to open an assembly plant in the Bronx. (Smith Electric Vehicles)
• General Motors has appointed Jon Lauckner as its new chief technology officer, effective April 1. He will replace Tom Stephens, who recently announced his retirement. Mr. Lauckner, currently the president of G.M. Ventures, the venture capital arm of the conglomerate, was also tipped to assume leadership of Research and Development for G.M., a responsibility held by Alan Taub, who also recently announced his retirement. (General Motors)
• Former Nascar Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield was charged this week with three felony counts of theft stemming from a search that took place at his home in North Carolina last November. In his defense, Mayfield said the charges were based on statements from a source with a substantial criminal record. Mayfield was suspended from Nascar after failing a drug test in 2009. (ESPN, via The Associated Press)
• An amended libel charge brought by Tesla Motors against the BBC, the producer of the television program “Top Gear,” was dismissed by a London judge on Thursday. The electric vehicle manufacturer initially sued the broadcaster in March after a “Top Gear” segment aired in which the Tesla Roadster was said to have achieved 55 miles of range on the program’s test track, significantly less than the 200 miles or more claimed by Tesla. An earlier libel charge brought by Tesla was dismissed in October last year for being insubstantial. (Top Gear)
All eyes have been on Tesla Motors this past week as it disputed the veracity of an account of a long distance drive by The New York Times reporter John Broder. While it was somewhat amusing to watch NYT counter the original accusation of fakery made by CEO Elon Musk, only to be then publicly slapped with a handful of revelatory vehicle logs, today’s release of Tesla’s shareholder letter and fourth quarter financial results are certainly more relevant to the company’s future. And, if Tesla manages to keep performing as it has these past few months, that future looks bright.
According to the letter, the California automaker ramped up its production to 400 units per week, building a total of 2,750 Model S sedans last quarter, bringing its yearly total to 3,100 vehicles. Of course, building cars is one thing and delivering quite another. The delivery process (in most States) involves buyers meeting with a specialist who explains the intricacies of owning and operating the car. The tricky logistics go some way to explain why Tesla delivered 2,400 units (100 units less than its target) for the quarter and around 2,650 for 2013. The next few months will see that number increase significantly with 4,500 deliveries planned for the 1st quarter of 2013.
“I’m quite certain we will deliver more than 20,000 cars this year.”
Continuing at its current production rate, the company expects to build 20,000 all-electric machines in 2013, and CEO Elon Musk said on a conference call with analysts today that those are already sold. “I’m quite certain we will deliver more than 20,000 cars this year,” he said, adding that if Tesla shut down all its stores and stopped taking orders, they’d still sell out for 2013. Tesla received an additional 6,000 new reservations in the 4th quarter of 2012, putting its net reservations – discounting deliveries and cancellations – at year end in excess of 15,000. Musk is happy about this, naturally, but is focused on figuring out, “how do we exceed the 20,000 number next year?”
Financially speaking, the numbers also look pretty positive. Tesla’s quarterly loss shrunk to $90 million from $110 million in the third quarter, while revenue dramatically increased over 500 percent from the previous quarter to $306 million. That income was derived not only from Model S and a few Roadster sales, but also benefited – to the tune of $12 million – from its work on the Mercedes B-Class EV program and drivetrain shipments for the Toyota RAV4 EV.
“I don’t want to be overconfident. I do think we’ll be profitable in Q2, and subsequent quarters, too.”
Perhaps the most interesting piece of the financial puzzle came in a prediction in the investor letter, and we quote, “… we expect to be slightly profitable (excluding only non-cash option and warrant-related expenses) in Q1 2013.” Later, during the call, Musk expanded on that point saying that the only thing that could stop Q1 profitability is a “force majeure” event, like an earthquake. He is “cautiously optimistic” about Q2, but is waiting to see how things develop before he makes as bold a claim as he is with the Q1 prediction saying, “I don’t want to be overconfident. I do think we’ll be profitable in Q2, and subsequent quarters, too.”
You can read the investor letter and financial results for yourselves below. We’ll have more from the analyst call, including information on leasing in North America and a snazzy new “awesome red” color for the Model S soon.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
Tesla has announced it will offer 2,703,027 shares of common stock along with $450 million worth of convertible senior notes that mature by 2018. The money raised from this public offering will primarily be used to pay off Tesla’s Department of Energy loan with interest.
Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk will purchase $100 million worth of the shares himself, with $45 million purchased from the common stock offering and $55 million bought directly from Tesla in a private sale. The underwriters will have a 30-day option to purchase up to 405,454 additional shares and $67.5 million worth of convertible notes, which can be converted into cash or shares of Tesla stock when they mature.
Tesla stock ended trading today at $84.84 a share, up significantly from last week’s price in the mid- to high $50 range. The surge in price is attributable to Tesla posting its first quarterly profit, with the company generating $11.2 million net income in the first quarter of 2013.
Though Tesla’s revised financing option may have lead to higher consideration among luxury buyers, the brand is still only selling variations of one vehicle. Whether Tesla can maintain its momentum remains to be seen.
There you have it. Tesla, the much-hyped purveyor of all-electric vehicles, has set the bar: sell 20,000 units of its coming Model S sedan and profits will come.
Next year will be the current generation Roadster’s final year of production. So far, some 1400 models have been delivered to at least 30 countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. While the Roadster has been both an impressive engineering exercise and brand awareness builder, the publicly traded Silicon Valley firm has yet to start raking in the dough. And that’s exactly why it’s betting big on the Model S, which it believes will put it in the black.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Tesla chief technology officer J.B. Straudel asserts the niche carmaker needs to move 20,000 Model S sedans per year to be profitable, citing lower battery pack costs and a $56,500 entry MSRP as the primary enablers.
Tesla’s 18560 cell battery pack, which is similar to our everyday laptop battery, has the benefits of preexisting R&D from major tech companies (Panasonic has invested $30 million in Tesla) and advanced economies of scale, not to mention enviable energy density. According to Martin Eberhard, Tesla’s co-founder who later left the company and has famously sparred with Tesla CEO Elon Musk since, the 18560-cell packs likely cost $200 per kilowatt-hour, which is 71- to 75-percent cheaper than large-form cell lithium-ion packs at current analyses. Additionally, the cells have already diverged onto a dedicated EV development route and are expected to see further year-over-year price drops from 6 to 8 percent.
The same Bloomberg report also cites Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn stating Nissan and Renault may need to sell 500,000 electric vehicles per year for their own program to stay in the black without government aid. At $32,780, the Leaf is considerably cheaper than the Model S and has a head start, having already gone on sale in select launch markets.
Scheduled to start production at the NUMMI factory line in Fremont, California, by mid-2012, the Model S plans to offer three battery pack sizes with varying ranges, a 5.6-second 0-60 mph time, seven seats (extra two for children only), and a futuristic design. Tesla has hired the staff, is doing the homework, and we can now only wait to see how well the finished product turns out.
Future/Spied, Green Cars, Hybrid Car/EV, Sedan, Tesla
Beating the Dead Horse – Top 10 Overused Automotive Cliches
By Benson Kong
Tesla Motors Inc. has 33 days to appeal a ruling issued Monday denying the electric car maker a dealer license in Virginia.
Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb turned down the request, saying he wasn’t presented with clear evidence that there isn’t an independent dealer available to operate a franchise in a manner consistent with the public interest. His statement regards an exception to the law that allows cases like Tesla’s in such an absence.
The brand’s business model operates like a shopping mall storefront rather than a traditional dealer. Customers come into a showroom where one or two cars are available to sit in and learn about. But there are no cars available for sale at any of those locations.
SEE ALSO: Tesla Wins License to Sell Cars in Boston Suburb
Prospective buyers can take a Tesla Model S out to test, but only in a car reserved for that purpose. That’s something causing a stir in more areas than just Virginia, where the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association is opposing Tesla being given a store license.
Tesla fought a similar battle in a suburb outside of Boston… and won. But what brand boss Elon Musk is busy trying to crack into new markets like Texas, which he says could be the second best market behind California.
[Source: Automotive News]
Plug In America has launched a second electric vehicle owner experience survey – this time with the Tesla Roadster. It follows a survey conducted last year among Nissan Leaf owners, which was utilized and acknowledged by Nissan as it dealt with unexpected battery capacity loss reported by Leaf owners in high temperature Arizona.
Last year, Plug In America’s Expert Assistance and Research Group launched its first-ever consumer-oriented evaluation of plug in battery performance. It was intended to educate consumers on battery reliability and extended warranty purchase options, along with supporting industry-wide adoption of standard battery performance warranties.
Last year’s survey found that many Leaf owners were experiencing a high degree of stability and reliability. Along with that, the study clarified that ambient temperature seems to be the most significant factor in battery deterioration. Soon after release of the findings, Nissan announced a new battery warranty for Leaf owners. Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer encouraged Leaf owners to read the Plug In America survey results.
More people own Leaf than Roadsters, but the Roadsters have been on the road longer. The expensive Roadster electric sports car (which started at $109,000) was launched nearly three years before the Leaf, in 2008. About 2,500 Roadsters were sold through 2011, and Roadster owners have had a lot of experience behind the wheel. While the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were lauded for returning EVs to the market following the limited number built by major automakers in the 1990s, the Tesla Roadster actually opened the door for EV commercial production.
Roadster owners are encouraged to visit the Plug In America website and take the survey. Like the Leaf survey, most of the questions focus on the battery pack’s performance and the influence of determining factors – time and mileage in use; how it compares to owner expectations; how well the Roadster’s active thermal management protected the battery pack in hot and cold weather; and distinctions between those who’ve experienced the different versions of the Roadster – 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 and the mainstay Roadster compared to the Roadster Sport. There’s also a question dealing with what owners might expect when considering purchasing an extended warranty.
The survey project is led by Plug In America’s Chief Science Officer Tom Saxton. Along with this sort of real-world battery performance research, Saxton and the PIA research group conducted their first ever performance evaluation of charging station down time last year.
Related GalleryBrabus Tesla Roadster
By Jon LeSage
Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg News
Sunday’s Automobiles section takes the measure of purely electric and hybrid vehicles that are currently on sale or coming to market in the next couple of years.
Bradley Berman spent a week with the BMW ActiveE, a purely electric version of the 1 Series coupe that serves as a test platform for BMW’s electric vehicle program. By gutting the internal-combustion innards and packing the vacated spaces with 192 battery cells, BMW created a surprisingly dexterous and spirited machine, he writes, even though the new powertrain adds nearly 1,000 pounds to the car’s curb weight.
Lawrence Ulrich surveys the available plug-in offerings and looks forward to debuts from Fiat, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and other major automakers, as well as that of the highly anticipated, and long-delayed, Tesla Model S.
With so many variations on gas-electric powertrains, Lindsay Brooke compares competing hybrid technologies, noting their commonalities and stark differences. Check out the accompanying graphic to learn which systems have been embraced most enthusiastically by automakers.
And Daniel McDermon rides the 2012 Zero DS, a purely electric dual-sport motorcycle with significantly greater riding range than its 2010 incarnation.
Check out all the stories and the accompanying slide show, and share your thoughts on the present and future of plug-in passenger vehicles in the comments below.
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 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