Despite skepticism surrounding Tesla Motors, CEO Elon Musk expects Tesla to report positive cashflow by the end of November.
Doubt cropped up when Tesla failed to meet the planned 500-unit delivery mark by the start of the third quarter, but Musk blamed the slowdown on supply constraints. At the end of the second quarter, Tesla had manufactured 359 Model S vehicles, of which 250 have been delivered to customers.
Musk is also commented on the company’s Department of Energy (DOE) loan. “Tesla has never asked for or even hinted at postponing repayment of the loan…Tesla has always made its DOE payments on time,” Musk wrote in a blog post.
Reports that the DOE has been pushing Tesla to repay its loan sooner than originally planned might have cast a negative shadow over the company’s future.
“The DOE believes Tesla will be highly successful and accumulate a large amount of cash, but that we may then choose not to pay off the loan any sooner than is currently required,” Musk said.
In an effort to further emphasize that point, Tesla also issued an early payment today ahead of its March, 2013 deadline. But observing on-time payments is far from enough to affirm an automaker’s future. There needs to be a solid product backing the brand, which the Model S seemed to prove during our tests.
In our test, the Model S received much praise, another solid reason to believe that Tesla will in fact be successful, thanks to a solid product.
There were a lot of details left out of the late-night unveiling of the Tesla Supercharger network earlier this week. Sure, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained the big picture, saying the Supercharger network is “the answer to the three major problems holding back electric vehicles.” Those problems? Long-distance EV driving, the “long tailpipe” argument and how much it costs to produce electricity. But how big of an impact can your fancy charging station have if it only works with a small fraction of the EVs on the market?
“The reason Supercharging is available only for Model S and not others (including Roadster) is that Model S was developed with Supercharging in mind.”
Right now, the Superchargers can only charge up a Model S, despite the fact that these stations will be built at the perfect locations to offer Level 2 or DC fast charge options for other plug-in vehicles as well. Tesla spokesperson Christina Ra tells AutoblogGreen that non-Tesla options do not exist today, but they are “being considered, as always.” That said, Ra confirmed that every future Tesla vehicle will be Supercharger compatible. So, Model X and next-gen Roadster drivers, don’t worry.
We asked if there has been any discussion of licensing the Supercharger technology to other OEMs (Daimler and Toyota would be the most obvious potential partners, since Tesla is already providing battery packs for some of their EVs). Ra said, “The reason Supercharging is available only for Model S and not others (including Roadster) is that Model S was developed with Supercharging in mind, so the capabilities are built into the battery and hardware. Time could definitely resolve compatibility.”
Each Supercharger station costs around $250,000 to install and can charge – for free, remember – either four or six cars at a time. Since Tesla plans to build 100 in the next three to four years, the total cost will be around $20-$30 million. The six chargers that have already been built in secret in California (in Barstow, Hawthorne, Lebec, Coalinga, Gilroy and Folsom) are all operational now, but not yet open to the public. Ra said Tesla needs to get government approval to open them, and that will come “soon.”
Currently, there are only two Supercharger stations that have batteries (to store solar energy, we assume), the ones in Lebec and Barstow. The plan is to install batteries at all Superchargers, though, as well as make them all solar-powered. “The vision is absolutely solar-powered,” Ra tells AutoblogGreen. “Not all will be in the immediate future, but that is the plan.”
Related GalleryTesla Supercharger
Are electric cars always slow, planet-saving vehicles? Not necessarily. Contributor Ezra Dyer recently pitted a Tesla Model S electric sedan against one of Germany’s hottest performance four-doors — the 2013 BMW M5 — in an impromptu drag race, and the result was closer than anyone expected.
Dyer subjected the two luxury sedans to a 0-to-100-mph drag race at Gingerman Raceway in western Michigan. While we won’t spoil the result, it’s worth looking at how the two cars compare on paper. The 2013 BMW M5 has a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine with 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission directs that power to the rear wheels. The EPA says the car swills gas at a rate of 14/20 mpg (city/highway).
The 2013 Tesla Model S Performance uses a rear-mounted electric motor rated for 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. That’s less grunt than the BMW, but the key is that the motor produces all of its torque instantly, whereas the M5′s torque band peaks at 1500 rpm. The Tesla’s electric motor is backed up by an 85-kWh lithium-ion battery that the company claims will allow for a driving range of about 300 miles per charge.
When it comes to price and weight, there’s little difference between the two. The BMW M5 seen here wears an as-tested sticker of $106,695 (after destination) and weighs 4387 lbs, while the Tesla Model S Performance costs $102,270 and tips the scales at 4640 lbs.
So, which will take the drag-racing crown: a twin-turbocharged gasoline performance sedan, or a futuristic electric luxury car? Watch the video below to find out.
By Jake Holmes
In which we bring you motoring news from around the Web:
• What do you get when you cross a diminutive electric city car and a Formula 1 racer? The Twizy Renault Sport F1, apparently. It’s an exercise in boldness, superimposing Formula 2 wheels, a Formula-style steering wheel and a racy front splitter onto a platform that looks more likely to be moseying around a golf cart path than blasting around a racetrack. But the souped-up Twizy’s secret weapon also comes from F1’s bag of tricks. Where rear passengers would normally sit, Renault stuffed in a kinetic-energy recovery system, or KERS, that’s not unlike the ones their Formula teams use on the track. It doesn’t benefit from the extreme high speeds Formula cars’ KERS units glean their power from, but Renault said that the Twizy – which will be built in Spain – could rocket from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about six seconds to reach a top speed of 68 miles per hour. (Autoblog)
• Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, appears to be as fed up with the awful traffic on the 405 freeway in Las Angeles as many other gridlock-suffering Angelenos. Mr. Musk has already given $50,000 of his own money to Angelenos Against Gridlock, a group dedicated to speeding up the I-405 widening project that has so far faced delays and is $100 million over its $1 billion budget. He told The Los Angeles Times that he may be willing to chip in more for extra workers to expedite the job, as he has “super had it” with his regular slog through L.A. traffic. (The Los Angeles Times)
• At the Shanghai auto show this week, the American electric sports car manufacturer Detroit Electric and the Chinese automaker Geely announced a partnership aimed at developing an electric passenger car capable of reaching 124 m.p.h. The two companies said in a release that they planned 100- and 160-mile-range variants of an electric car based on Geely’s Emgrand EC7 by 2014. The two companies projected 3,000 EC7-EV sales in its first year of production and 30,000 by the end of three years. (Automotive News)
• Hyundai is under heavy fire over a suicide-theme ad for its iX35 fuel-cell car in Europe. The roughly one-minute clip depicts a depressed-looking middle-aged man who appears to be trying to kill himself by running a hose from his iX35’s exhaust pipe into the car’s interior. He does not succeed. Hyundai’s message is that the all-water emissions of the fuel-cell-driven ix35 are so clean, it’s impossible to kill yourself with the car. A London-based advertising copywriter, Holly Brockwell, sharply criticized the ad in an open letter, saying that it made her feel empty, sick and miss her father, who ended his own life using the same method when she was a young girl. Hyundai pulled the ad and apologized. (The Daily Dot)
• An auto theft ring that is said to have stolen more than 100 cars in several states has been indicted by the United States Department of Justice. The 21 people charged with the conspiracy used a number of methods to steal luxury cars and S.U.V.s, including falsifying loan applications, using fake titles from an Oklahoma Indian nation and tampering with vehicles’ tracking systems. Among the charges leveled at the alleged conspirators were bank fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and receipt of stolen motor vehicles. If convicted, they face up to 30 years in jail and up to $1 million each in fines. (ABC News)
Were you expecting Bob Lutz?
The first-ever Teslive conference for Tesla Motors enthusiasts will be getting a big of company star power when company chief Elon Musk comes to participate as its keynote speaker. The San Jose Mercury News says Musk will headline a two-date event starting July 12 that will take place about 10 miles down the road from Tesla’s Fremont, CA, factory at the Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley.
The convention, put on by the 6,000-member Tesla Motors Club (TMC), will charge $200 a head for attendees, who will have the chance to attend a party sponsored by the electric vehicle maker at its nearby plant. Last month, Musk was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people.
By Danny King
9:39 p.m. | Updated
On Monday night at its design studios in Hawthorne, Calif., Tesla Motors introduced its Supercharger, a glittering monolith capable of bringing the battery of a Model S sedan from flat to full in about an hour.
Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, has always known how to manufacture excitement around the company’s products, and the introduction of the 480-volt Supercharger was attended by enough smoke and lasers to suit a reunion of Spinal Tap. Mr. Musk said the chargers would dispense free electricity generated without emissions through a partnership with SolarCity, a builder and installer of photovoltaic equipment led by Peter and Lyndon Rive, cousins of Mr. Musk. The Tesla executive is also SolarCity’s chairman.
The Supercharger will be installed at solar carports loosely resembling filling stations and are capable of charging several vehicles simultaneously, as well as returning surplus power to the grid. Khyati Shah, a spokeswoman for SolarCity, wrote in an e-mail that two of the six Superchargers already installed had solar capability, with the others running off of grid power. One solar unit is 24 kilowatts and the other is 26.
Mr. Musk said the Supercharger network would address some anxieties that might be inhibiting wide consumer adoption of electric vehicles, including concern about power-plant emissions related to charging; the cars’ inability to travel long distances; and operational costs. The Supercharger will charge at 100 kilowatts and eventually up to 120 kilowatts, he said. “What it means is that you can drive for three hours, stop for less than half an hour, recharge, and be ready to go again,” Mr. Musk said. A Model S would reach a state of half-charge in 30 minutes.
The system is not compatible with existing Level III fast chargers. It complements elements of the company’s charging system unveiled earlier, including the high-power wall unit and plug design the company demonstrated for Wheels last year.
Tesla has six Superchargers in operation, all in California, with more to come in the state by the end of the year. The first stations are expected to be opened to the public in coming weeks.
Mr. Musk said the company intended to have Superchargers installed across much of the United States in the next two years and to have the entire country, and the lower part of Canada, covered in four or five years.
The ability to connect to the Supercharger will be standard on Model S cars with the 85-kilowatt-hour battery, the highest-capacity battery marketed by Tesla, and would be optional for buyers of the sedan fitted with the 60-kilowatt-hour pack. That said, Model S sedans equipped with the 40-kilowatt-hour batteries, and the existing fleet of Tesla Roadsters, will be excluded from using the Supercharger.
Mr. Musk said Model S customers with the necessary equipment would “travel for free, forever, on pure sunlight. It’s pretty hard to beat that.” Not one to understate the company’s accomplishments, he said the Supercharger’s introduction was likely to “go down as being quite historic, at least on par with SpaceX docking with the Space Station earlier this year,” a reference to his space-freight venture. “I really think this is important.”
Envia Systems, a battery maker based in California, announced on Monday what it called a “major breakthrough” in lithium-ion cell technology that would result in a significant increase in the energy density — and a sharp reduction in the cost — of lithium-ion battery packs. Envia is financed by the Energy Department and G.M. Ventures, the venture-capital arm of General Motors, as well as other investors.
“We will be able to make smaller automotive packs that are also less heavy and much cheaper,” Atul Kapadia, chairman and chief executive of Envia, said in a telephone interview. “The cost of cells will be less than half — perhaps 45 percent — of cells today, and the energy density will be almost three times greater than conventional automotive cells.”
Mr. Kapadia continued: “What we have are not demonstrations, not experiments, but actual products. We could be in automotive production in a year and a half.”
Envia, which was founded in 2007 and has licensed some technology from Argonne National Laboratory, was awarded $4 million in late 2009 by the Energy Department’s ARPA-E program, which finances advanced energy research. As a founding principle, the program was designed “to develop lithium-ion batteries with the highest energy density in the world.”
The advances were credited to the company’s proprietary cathode, anode and electrolyte materials, including manganese for the cathode. G.M. Ventures, in announcing its $7 million investment in Envia last year, noted that the company’s materials would “store more energy per unit of mass than current cathode materials.” Because the cathode was a “key driver” in the cost of a pack, the venture firm said, “the more energy the cathode delivers, the lower the battery cost because fewer cells are needed.”
Envia’s announcement said that its packs would deliver cell energy of 400 watt-hours per kilogram at a cost of $150 per kilowatt-hour. Though it doesn’t disclose a cost breakdown, Tesla Motors rates the energy density of its Roadster’s pack at 121 watt-hours per kilogram. Envia said its energy-density performance was verified in testing of prototype cells at the Naval Service Warfare Center’s Crane evaluation division.
“If it’s true, it’s a huge breakthrough, because the main problem for battery cars has been cost,” David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit research group based in Michigan, said in a telephone interview. “Right now, the lithium-ion battery is about three times as expensive as it should be for reasonable commercialization. That kind of cost target is the holy grail, and once it’s achieved it’s game on.”
The Golden State is providing some green for the Tesla Model X.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors $10 million to expand its Fremont, CA, plant to accommodate production for the Model X SUV.
Tesla, which currently employs around 3,000 people, will add more than 500 jobs to build the Model X. Production is expected to start in 2014, and Tesla itself is investing $50 million getting ready for Model X production. Tesla unveiled a prototype of the Model X, complete with its “falcon-wing” doors, in February.
The CEC’s grant was part of $20 million in awards for “clean transportation” projects within the state. Details on these grantees are available below, but readers will likely be most interested in the $1.8 million that Zero Motorcycles received to “expand the company’s full electric motorcycle production capacity.” There’s also $300,000 for a compressed natural gas (CNG) station that will refuel CNG-powered garbage trucks.
By Danny King
Epic Electric Vehicles
Morgan Motor Company’s 1930s-retro 3-Wheelers are cool. Of that there’s little doubt. They’re light, fast and guaranteed conversation starters. But what if you took that same Morgan, made it look all futuristic and replaced its noisy V-twin motorcycle engine with a silent, powerful electric motor?
You’d get Epic Electric Vehicles’ Torq Roadster, which resembles an escape pod from a ’90s space movie and has an electric motor, carbon-fiber body and, yes, only one rear wheel. Like the Morgan 3-Wheeler, the Torq EV is basically a sporty toy for people who have extra money lying around. But it is a mean-looking little buggy. If you’re the sort of car-loving playboy who is into 3-wheeled cars (come on, you know you’re out there) and prefers “Star Trek: The Next Generation” machines to ones like those featured in Lawrence of Arabia, the Torq could be what you’re looking for.
David Vespremi, a former Tesla Motors executive, became Epic’s first customer in an official-looking handoff ceremony last month. Judging by his blog post on the subject, Mr. Vespremi is pretty amped on having a Torq, and said the electric 3-wheeler is nearly as quick off the line as a Tesla Roadster. Mr. Vespremi commended not only the Torq’s quickness, but also its silence — the electric drivetrain means he can sneak out of the house at dawn for “spirited driving” without waking his entire family with the roar he’d subjected them to with his 400-horsepower Toyota MR2.
Epic Electric Vehicles said in a news release that it would produce about 50 Torqs for 2013. Prices start at $65,000 in the United States. If you want to play, be prepared to pay a $10,000 deposit. The company is also taking $5,000 deposits for a 2014 model.
I wish I could say more about the car, but since I’ve neither seen it in person nor driven it, I’ll leave you with a kernel of utter nonsense (which seems in keeping with chatter about a 3-wheel electric roadster that costs more than a couple of average family sedans): I have to wonder if driving one feels more carlike, or more like one of those speeder bikes the Ewoks ride in “Return of the Jedi.”
Fans of the British Top Gear television program may remember the controversy surrounding a segment involving the Tesla Roadster.
First aired back on December 14, 2008, the Top Gear episode (season 12, episode 7) infamously depicted the electric sports car being rolled into a garage in an attempt to highlight the plight of using electricity to solely provide a vehicle’s motive force. A purportedly broken brake pedal was also brought to viewer attention, as was an overheated drive motor. Well-recognized host and all-around funnyman Jeremy Clarkson concluded his piece by saying the Roadster won’t work in the real world. Now, Tesla has sued Top Gear and the British Broadcasting Corporation for libel, claiming the show’s Roadster footage was scripted, produced, and shown in bad faith.
First and foremost, Tesla says the lawsuit isn’t about money and they’d like Top Gear and the BBC to set the record straight on the Roadster. Pulling the segment off all official channels would be a start. Given the popularity of the motoring show, Tesla asserts they’ve tried repeatedly to get the BBC to reconsider showing and reshowing the clip, affirming there’s been enough negativity publicity to warrant their actions. They’ve even set up a Web page dedicated to the litigation, viewable HERE. For now, we wait to see how these events will unfold.
Never one to shy from speaking his mind, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also gone on the offensive in a different matter, giving his two cents regarding a recent column that calls Tesla a “prime acquisition target.”
For as long as Tesla has been doing business, there have been deathwatches and critical analyses of the Palo Alto-based automaker. Recently, the Business Insider Web site hosted a column titled, “Why Electric Carmaker Tesla Motors Will Likely Be Acquired,” submitted by two University of Virginia students studying at the McIntire School of Commerce. Though the authors don’t appear to doubt Tesla’s products and ideals, they believe the company itself cannot carry on alone and would be ripe for takeover within the next three to five years.
Tesla boss Musk dismisses the Business Insider column, acknowledging the difficulty of entering the auto business, but stating Tesla can pull it off.
“Their analysis of Tesla is incredibly bad,” said Musk by e-mail to Automotive News. “Tesla is of course a potential takeover target, like almost all public companies. However, I’m also highly confident that we can succeed as an independent company.”
With the Model S in the pipeline and scheduled for full production in 2012, Tesla will need its all-electric family sedan to hit the ground running. Whether there’s a takeover or not, it’s simple really: no sales, no business.
Sources: Tesla, Automotive News (Subscription Required), Business Insider
By Benson Kong