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The Tesla Model S is on another cross country road trip. It’s not being driven by a Tesla team, like last year – this time it’s a long, winding tour for old friends Peter, Luba and Tina, making their way from Portland, OR, to New York. It’s been a sightseeing drive – as of day six, they’d only made it to Albuquerque from Oregon and still had a couple thousand miles to cover. Thankfully, they’re writing up their journey, so we can ride along with words.
The Model S was picked up by Peter three years and 273 days after his deposit was placed. Jared, the Tesla store manager in Portland, walked him through delivery of the new car, which was given the name “Sunrise” by the road trip crew. Even though Peter is an engineer who’s done a lot of homework on the Model S, Jared was able to teach him a few things.
An hour after picking up Sunrise, Peter drove to the airport and picked up Tina. The initial trip plan was changed on the spot, as they decided to spend some time enjoying the sunshine of Portland, along with breaking in the new car and verifying charging stations.
On day two, heading out of Portland to San Francisco, they tested out charging networks. On a ChargePoint station in Forest Park, just south of Portland, they got an error message after swiping the card, informing them to call ChargePoint. The charging station customer service rep quickly got back to them and fixed the problem – an incorrect zip code was initially entered.
In Corvallis, OR, they pulled into a local RV park, where Peter decided to test out his custom designed electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) multi-input unit. It was his first time plugging the EVSE into a Model S, so he took it slow. He was more than pleased to see it working right away, and was able to charge at 50 amps and 240 volts.
Stopping at the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA, was almost like Charlie Bucket exploring Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory for the road trip team. Far from being a car enthusiast like Peter, Tina found herself fascinated by the size, scope, organization, teamwork and technology at plant building the Model S. As a group, they were fully entranced for about 30 minutes as they witnessed the assembly line in action.
Luba joined her friends on day five of the road trip, in the Los Angeles area, where they visited a Tesla supercharger in Hawthorne, CA, for a quick charging “top off.” Peter ended up having a fascinating conversation with Larry, a navy pilot who flew F14s and who’d also graduated from University of Maryland and owned a Model S. It was so fascinating, Peter didn’t realize until about 40 minutes later that their Model S wasn’t even charging at all. Oops! Oh, well – they’ve still got a lot of miles to drive, things to see and lots of chances to learn something new every day about Sunrise.
By Jon LeSage
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
It appears that Tesla’s new $600-per-year service program for its Model S is not going over well with some of the owners and wait-listers. David Noland, a Model S reservation holder and freelance writer, has dug into it the details and clarified the one he’s finding most annoying. And as it turns out, he’s not the only one taking issue with the program.
According to Green Car Reports, Noland owns a 2011 Chevrolet Volt and likes the service coverage for the plug-in hybrid’s electric motor and battery thermal-management system. It only needs minimal maintenance – a $49 annual system check at a local dealer and a $35 oil change every two years. That’s $84 for two years of routine maintenance. For the Model S, it’s a lot higher: $600 per year, and that electric car doesn’t even need the oil change.
Tesla’s official website says that the annual fee includes an inspection, replacement parts such as brakes and windshield wipers, roadside assistance, system monitoring, remote diagnostics and software updates, so it is more comprehensive. Looking for more detailed information, Noland contacted Tesla’s public relations department but reportedly never heard back. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, though, did eventually respond to Noland’s questions. “We are matching service cost to be less than a Mercedes of comparable purchase price,” Musk wrote. “This basically amounts to $50/month and covers all software upgrades as well as concierge level service.”
When Noland responded with a question about whether Tesla owners who opt out of the service program won’t receive software upgrades, Musk apparently didn’t respond.
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Further investigation showed that the matter is even more serious. In a recent blog post on Tesla Motor Club forum, Tesla’s vice president, George Blankenship, made the policy more clear in comments on a post about the new service plans: failure to pay $600 for an annual inspection voids the warranty. Plus, any visit to a non-Tesla shop for any type of service will void the warranty, a provision that could run afoul of the law.
This isn’t going over well with Model S owners. In a Tesla Motors Club forum survey, 12 percent agreed that Tesla had “screwed the pooch,” and would cancel their orders. About 48 percent think the price is too high but will reluctantly pay it since they don’t think they have another choice. Only nine percent think it’s a great deal worth every dollar.
Noland thinks it’s odd that Tesla is taking what looks like the opposite approach with the Supercharger, offering the fast charging for free. He’d like to see Tesla do something similar with its Model S maintenance plan, or at least follow the example of BMW, where every one of its luxury cars comes with four years/50,000 miles of included service.
By Jon LeSage
It may have a sliver of Chevrolet muscle car heritage, but the plug-in hybrid Volt didn’t stand a chance of beating the Tesla Model S in a recent quarter-mile race.
As you can see in the video below, shown recently on That Racing Channel, the Model S took the lead in the race right away, hitting the finish line in 12.562 seconds at 108.34 miles per hour. The Volt took a leisurely 17.201 seconds and only reached 80.36 mph. “Hey, that one on the left was so quiet!” a member of the audience remarks about the Model S right after the race finishes. Yes, that’s part of its all-electric beauty.
About a week earlier, the same Model S set a quarter-mile speed record for a production vehicle, hitting a time of 12.371 seconds at 110.84 mph. Motor Trend has done better than 80.36 mph with a Volt – netting 16.8 seconds at 81.5 mph – but in a race against the much more powerful and much costlier Tesla, it’s just an unfair fight. Check out the video below.
By Jon LeSage
The third annual electric cross-country, 800-kilometer race known as E-miglia took place from August 12 to 16 through the mountains of Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Thirty-two participants lined up to demonstrate the possibilities of electric propulsion and, for 31 of them, the mission was to knock Tesla Motors out of first place. The California-based EV maker provided the cars that took first place in the past two years, so the big question was: could Tesla be beat this time?
In the car class, the Mini E, Mercedes E-Cell, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot iOn took on the Tesla Roadster. As for e-motorcycles, Zerotracer, Zero Motorcycles and others raced for the title.
Their first stop, after a 72-km prologue, was in Salzburg, where competitors were provided with solar-powered recharging at the city’s Convention Centre. The second phase of the race covered 120 km and was eco-focused, where drivers earned points for being energy efficient. During the course of the race, cars and bikes traveled an average of 200 km per day to make it through to the finish line.
And the winner was? Well, the same model as last year: LG Solar’s Tesla Roadster, followed by the Mercedes A-Class E-Cell and then a Mini E. The best bike was a 2012 Zero Motorcycles DS, which finished eighth overall. A video of the event is available below.
By Jon LeSage
Elon Musk, tech mogul and co-founder of Tesla is coming to the defense of his company as it faces a lawsuit from dealers in Massachusetts and New York.
They allege the Palo Alto, California-based electric-car maker is violating franchise laws that forbid factory-owned stores, something that’s restricted or prohibited in 48 states. Naturally, Musk denies this claim. In a blog post he said the company has taken “great care not to act in a manner contrary to those rules.” He backs up this assertion with several arguments.
The first point he makes is that most dealerships have an inherent conflict of interest. Pushing consumers toward electric cars undermines the sales of traditional vehicles, which is the majority of their business. Tesla, of course, does not have this problem.
Another one of Musk’s arguments centers on franchise laws. Factory-owned Tesla dealerships cannot unfairly compete with franchised dealers because there are no franchised Tesla stores, therefore no harm can be done.
One of his last points has to do with the location of Tesla dealers. By putting them in high-traffic areas like shopping malls Tesla hopes it can reach potential customers before they decide what kind of car to buy. The stores are staffed by non-commissioned salespeople are there to educate consumers. Vehicles are purchased from the company’s website.
By Craig Cole
To some, Nikola Tesla was the most unappreciated inventor ever. That’s why a group of activists are pushing for a U.S. museum to honor this creator of revolutionary technologies. How about this important work: the alternating current (AC) electricity that powers your home today. There were several Tesla inventions that other people took credit for, such as radio, radar, x-rays, and other breakthroughs he made in the first part of the 20th century. Tesla was inspirational enough to get an ’80s metal band named after him, and more recently, a luxury electric carmaker.
Matthew Inman, creator of the humor site The Oatmeal, has started Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum, which is a campaign to turn Tesla’s final laboratory – the Wardenclyffe, in Shoreham, NY – into a museum. Its tower – originally set up to broadcast free wireless energy – was knocked down in 1917 and its land was sold to a film and paper manufacturer. The land, laboratory, and foundation beneath the tower are still present and are now up for sale. Hence, Operation Let’s Build.
Inman is not fighting this quest alone, and has reached out to the Google corporation and actor Christian Bale, among others. One, most appropriate backer has stepped forward. Inman was able to garner support for the project from Nikolai Tesla fan Elon Musk, best known for being a part of bringing us PayPal, Space X, and, or course, Tesla Motors. Tesla is a personal hero for Musk, and he’s agreed to make a donation to the project. Musk couldn’t commit to Tesla Motors making a contribution, and they are a bit cash strapped right now, but promises have been made. Inman needs to get the money together pretty soon and could be outbid by a rival developer who wants to turn it into a retail center. The state of New York is willing to offer matching funds to build the museum, and that means supporters need to raise $850,000 to get the memorial built. $260,000 has been raised so far.
Related GalleryReview: 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport
By Jon LeSage
Elon Musk is talking about maybe forming a holding that would own stock in both of the companies he’s incredibly busy with these days – Tesla Motors Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) – basically to simplify his life. “No actual plans under way,” he said. “[It] gets unwieldy to have lots of companies with me as the only connection.” The holding company may own public shares of both California-based companies. Tesla Motors went public in 2010, and Musk is looking at launching an initial public offering of SpaceX next year.
SpaceX has been doing pretty well lately. In May, it became the first private company to send a spacecraft to supply the International Space Station. In August, SpaceX landed a $440 million U.S. government contract to develop spacecraft for future cargo missions.
Tesla Motors is looking forward to becoming profitable, and that may happen in 2013 through sales of its Model S battery-powered sedan. Next year will see the launch of its all-electric Model X crossover sport-utility vehicle.
Musk also mentioned on a Web chat on Jalopnik that Tesla is thinking about rolling out an electric “supercar.” This would cost more than the Tesla Roadster – supercars from brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini can cost more than $200,000.
This will need to wait about four-to-five years, he said. It was going to happen right after the Model X, but it might be a good idea to make a less expensive electric car, since it is “more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car.”
As automakers are learning, offering more affordable electric cars is a good idea. A $7,500 federal tax credit is usually available, but on cars like Model S, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference. The Model S, which began production in June, has a starting price of $57,400 and can cost more than $100,000, depending on battery pack size and other options. If you’re thinking about buying one of these or a $200,000-plus Tesla supercar, a $7,500 tax credit is, proportionally, peanuts.
By Jon LeSage
Tesla isn’t holding its Detroit Auto Show press conference until tomorrow, but there’s a new Model X on the stand today. This one is white – and, in a nice touch, it’s simply called “white” – and has an updated interior and new wheels. We doubt those wheels will ever make it to production, since they have carbon fiber spokes that are pure flair, not structural.
Inside, the surfaces, materials and colors are updated from the silver/gray model unveiled almost a year ago, with black and white featured in alternating fashion. The big touch screen in the dashboard is the same as in the Model S, but it “floats” (as you can see here) instead of being flush (see this). What we hadn’t noticed before is the tight squeeze third-row occupants will feel on their knees (see this).
Tesla representatives told AutoblogGreen that this Model X is an updated design prototype, not even a beta version (the first beta is expected in 2014). That said, the minor evolution that we see here is getting closer to what the production model will look like.
Speaking of tomorrow’s press conference, we were told it will mostly be a review of what Tesla accomplished in 2012, even though some of the numbers we’re most interested in (i.e., sales) won’t be revealed until February. Still, we did hear that the way pre-orders and production rates are going, Tesla is on track to sell 20,000 Model S vehicles in 2013. That’s calendar year 2013, by the way, which for Tesla matches the Model Year. We like it when companies keep things simple.
Related GalleryTesla Model X: Detroit 2013
Tesla Motors has announced European pricing for the Model S all-electric luxury sedan and has given a time frame for first sales of both left-hand and right-hand-drive versions across the Pond.
Tesla is giving the Model S vehicles earmarked for the Netherlands a base price of about $96,000 and a Performance version of about $129,000. The company said on its blog that the prices, which mark about a $30,000 premium on US versions, factor in transportation costs, import duties and other “minor business expenses” and factor out the $7,500 US federal tax credit. In explaining the price jump, George Blankenship, Tesla vice president of worldwide wales and ownership experience, writes, “Our goal is to make the same level of profit per car no matter where it is ultimately delivered around the world. We do not think it is right to seek higher profits from customers in some countries just because other companies do.” Take that, other companies.
European left-hand-drive vehicles will go on sale in the late spring, while UK right-hand drive units will start being produced by the end of the year. Last week, Tesla said it was about to open its European Distribution Center in Tilburg, Netherlands, and would start bringing in parts ahead of European distribution. Last month, the company priced the Model S for the US next year, boosting the price tag by $2,500 to a base of $59,900 and a top-end maximum of $94,400. European buyers can take advantage of the pre-increase price by placing an order before the end of the year.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
By Danny King