Tag archives for tesla supercharger

Superchargers will only work on Model S (for now) and every future Tesla EV

tesla supercharger



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

tesla supercharger stationTesla Superchargertelsa model s superchargingtesla supercharger station map 2015Tesla Supercharger initial locations map

By Sebastian Blanco

In deep with Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Financials, Falcon doors and finding faults in the Model S

tesla ceo elon musk



Tesla Motors Elon Musk spends about half his working life – i.e., almost all of his waking hours – in his office at SpaceX in Los Angeles. The automotive CEO is, after all, also in charge of the rocket company, which means that he’s thinking about a lot more than just ramping up production of the Model S. But he is thinking about that a lot, too. More than you might expect.



AutoblogGreen recently got to sit down with Musk at SpaceX for a one-on-one, wide-ranging interview. Musk, comfortable and relaxed in an “Occupy Mars” t-shirt, was forthcoming about most things we asked – but questions about Tesla’s upcoming Supercharger network of fast chargers, which can deliver so much more juice per minute than any other plug-in vehicle charger on the market, were deflected, since the company is planning a big announcement at the end of this month or early October – and we got into Tesla’s financial situation, why the Model X has those falcon doors and how Daimler saved Tesla. We learned a lot, including that Musk really doesn’t like the rear seat access in the Audi Q7. Not one bit.



Read the whole interview below.









ABG: What’s the biggest thing on your mind right now, with the Model S. George [Blankenship] wrote the post about 100 vehicles being produced, 74 for customers. Is that at the forefront or are you already looking at what you’re going to do next?


Every Model S needs to be exactly right, and I am literally personally looking at every car at this point.

Musk: Certainly, there’s a little bit on the back burner with Model X and a few other things, but the company’s central focus is on scaling up production of the Model S while trying to keep quality as perfect as possible, really trying to have every car that goes out the door be perfect. None of this, “J.D. Power found 80 defects” bullshit. Every car needs to be exactly right, and I am literally personally looking at every car at this point. I won’t be able to do that long-term, but the cars are held up for shipment twice a week and usually on Tuesday or Wednesday I will look at every singe car and drive one or two at random and then on Saturday I’ll do the same thing.



ABG: What does that process entail? Visual inspection, turning them on?



Musk: There is a visual inspection of the inside and outside, looking at fits and interior finish and often sitting inside and making sure that everything is put together correctly. Obviously, the software is always going to be the same, so I’m not trying to see if there’s any variation there. And then, as I said, I pick cars at random to drive and make sure that the driving feel is correct and the sound system is working as it should and if there’s an issue, I’ll trace it back to the exact place on the line where that occurred. For example, yesterday I found that the installation of the headlamp was not quite correct and there was a slight asymmetry between the right and the left. I think most people wouldn’t see it, but it seemed pretty obvious to me. So I was like, this doesn’t seem right, this is off by like three millimeters. So I literally walked over to the lead tech on that portion of the line to find out why is this three millimeters wrong and it turned out he was still operating with the part dimensions of the old part, but we had made a new part that didn’t require shimming and nobody had given him the new instructions that it no longer needed shimming to get to the right position. And that was the origin of the problem. On Saturday, I will talk to the whole assembly, metal stamping and plastics team to make sure that everybody understands that they are all empowered to be perfectionists on the line and that they should not let a car move from their station if they see anything that is slightly wrong. They must reverse the line and send it back to the prior station.



ABG: You’re talking to them on Saturday. Are they working seven days a week?


If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week.

Musk: Right now we’re working six days a week. Some people are working seven days a week – I do – but for a lot of people, working seven days a week is not sustainable. The factory is operational seven days a week but most people we only ask to work six days a week right now and, obviously, we want to get that to a more reasonable number. I think people can sustain a 50-hour work week. I think that’s a good work week. If you’re joining Tesla, you’re joining a company to work hard. We’re not trying to sell you a bill of goods. If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week and there are times when it’ll be 60- to 80-hour weeks. If somebody is hourly, they receive time-and-a-half but if somebody is salary, then we do cash and stock bonuses for going above and beyond the call of duty. So we try to make it fair compensation, but the general understanding is that if you’re at Tesla, you’re choosing to be at the equivalent of Special Forces. There’s the regular Army, and that’s fine, but if you are working at Tesla, you’re choosing to step up your game. And that has pluses and minuses. It’s cool to be Special Forces, but it also means you’re working your ass off. It’s not for everyone.







ABG: When you start building more and more Model S vehicles and hiring more people, will all of the factory staff be expected to step up?



Musk: Everyone. So we will only scale to the degree that we can hire people who are willing to do that. We’re getting quite big, though. We’re at almost 3,000 people, 2,800 or something.



ABG: Roughly how many – in percentage or raw numbers – Model S vehicles do you send back?



Musk: The issue is that we need to improve the communication update frequency. That person would have learned it, but he learned it maybe two days later and we would have had to fix a bunch more headlamps. He’s a really good guy, and I was actually really impressed with his knowledge, he had it right down to the millimeter, but he just had the wrong instructions. So, the talk on Saturday is going to be: “Guys, don’t follow instructions if they don’t seem right. It doesn’t matter how junior you are, if you just came out of school and are 22 years old. Whatever. If you’re looking at something that doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t matter if you got those instructions from the vice president or from fricking me or whatever. You should say, hey, this doesn’t seem right and this is why. If you’re right, you’re right and it’s not about the position of the person, it’s about the truth of the argument.



ABG: Going back to the number of cars, do you have a number if how many you’ve noticed?


I find things wrong in almost every car.

Musk: I find things in almost every car.



ABG: Are they all worth sending back?



Musk: Yeah, absolutely.



ABG: So, pretty much every car you look at you send back?



Musk: I have corrections. (laughs) In the beginning, we have to be slightly imperfect because we don’t have everything completely dialed but our aspiration is to get to cars that are accurate to the limit of reasonable physics. What I’ve told my teams is that we want our cars to be so accurate you could use them as a calibration device. So, if I want to know how long is a meter, oh, don’t worry, I can go measure the car.



We’re going to be ordering some laser calibration devices so we can literally calibrate the entire dimensions of the car within tenths of a millimeter. If it’s wrong, let’s trace it to the origin and fix it. This is very extreme for the car business, but for the rocket business this is not, so from my standpoint, when people say you can’t do that, it’s like, “I do that every day. What are you talking about? I know it’s possible.” We’re trying to take the precision of rockets, where fractions of a millimeter can mean the difference between success and failure. We’re applying rocket science to the car business, absolutely. If you want to make the best car, that’s what you have to do.



ABG: Since you’re so involved with the Model S at this stage, will it be hard to let go, as more and more cars get built?



Musk: As our rate steps up, it won’t be possible for me to inspect every car, so then what I’ll be doing is picking cars at random and inspecting those and then, if the sample group is sufficient and I’m not seeing any issues, then that means the most likely thing is the greater population is good, but [my involvement] is most important in the beginning because once we get instructions correct and the feedback loops in the system correct, then I think that pretty soon I won’t be able to find issues.



2012 Tesla Model S - front three-quarter dynamic motion shot



ABG: Have you had cars come back from customers, where you noticed a mistake and then realized that that problem had been sent out to someone and you wanted to replace it?



Musk: No. Our customers are more forgiving thus far than I am. They all think it’s really great.



ABG: With all of this effort spent, I think legitimately, put into each of the early Model S vehicles, the time and money spent per vehicle is very high at this point –



Musk: It is, of course.



ABG: Do you have an idea of how long it will take for the Model S to become profitable? How many you’ll need to make? Do you even expect to make money on the first generation?


There’s no question that we have to make money on the Model S.

Musk: Absolutely. There’s no question that we have to make money on the Model S. We made money on the Roadster, as a product line by itself. We did actually reasonably well. I’m not sure what the lifetime gross margin is, but somewhere between 25 and 30 percent, which is quite good for the car business. If the Roadster was the only thing we did, then we could have achieved profitability, but we would be a much smaller company. The issue with going to the Model S is we’re going from around 700 cars a year to 20,000 cars a year. It takes a better person than me to remain profitable if you’re going to improve your volume by 30. That’s 3,000 percent. There is a pretty massive investment required. We definitely need to make money. We need to repay the government loan. In fact, my goal is to repay that loan early. I actually feel pretty confident that we will be able to repay the loan early and I take that really seriously because, essentially, the U.S. people, through their intermediaries in Congress, has been kind enough to loan Tesla money and it is our absolute duty to repay that as soon as possible.



ABG: As you’re well aware, that’s definitely a hot political topic right now, the money that the government spent on advanced technologies.


One of the requirements of the ATVMP loan was that you demonstrate viability as a company. That’s why General Motors and Chrysler were not eligible. I think there’s a slight question about why Fisker was given the money, but whatever.

Musk: I don’t regard this as a political thing. I just think that we have an obligation to do right by them. People have made it a political thing, yes. I want to take the opportunity to clarify the nature of the loan, which a lot of people confuse with the bailouts, because they were occurring at approximately the same time. But, in fact, one of the requirements of the ATVMP [Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program] loan was that you demonstrate viability as a company in your own right, and that’s why General Motors and Chrysler were not eligible because they were going through bankruptcy. I think there’s a slight question about why Fisker was given the money, but whatever. (laughs) The value of the money was really as a catalyst. The DOE money did not, as many people think, save Tesla. That’s not what occurred. The credit for saving Tesla should go to Daimler. It was the Daimler investment that saved Tesla in early 2009. We didn’t get any DOE money until almost a year later. Around March 2010 was the first time we got DOE money, and the DOE money was specifically for Model S-related activity and moreover, had to be audited by [Price Waterhouse Cooper] and then we have to submit audited statements after having paid people. It’s not like we could pay money in advance. We had to pay suppliers and then get an invoice and then PWC would check that the invoice was correct and applied only to the Model S program and then we would get reimbursed, so there was a three-month gap between when money was spent and we would get reimbursed for it. So it was impossible to consider it a bailout for Tesla. If we’d needed money to be bailed out the Roadster, we’ve have been screwed.



tesla daimler deal



ABG: That leads to my next question, which is that especially start-ups, but every company walks that line on the edge of bankruptcy at certain times.



Musk: 2007 and 2008 were especially bad for us.



ABG: So that’s the question, how close was that? Without Daimler, it probably would have stopped?


There were a couple of near-death situations. One is where I had to basically take all of my personal reserve capital in 2008 and invest that in Tesla. I literally had to borrow money for rent.

Musk: Extremely close. There were a couple of near-death situations. One is where I had to basically take all of my personal reserve capital in 2008 and invest that in Tesla. I literally had to borrow money for rent. And that’s a whole saga that eventually should be told. It was a difficult thing that was made more difficult by one of our investors who was just an absolute bastard, nobody should ever take money from them. So I was totally tapped out. That was enough to get us through the second half of 2008 and into early 2009 and then, thankfully, Daimler, with whom we had a small deal to produce battery packs for the Smart [ED] actually invested $50 million into Tesla in the nick of time. It wasn’t some huge altruistic gesture, but nonetheless, they had to have faith that their $50 million wouldn’t go down the drain.



ABG: At that time, did they know how in trouble Tesla was?



Musk: Yes. They had total access to our financials, sure.



ABG: Even with that they said this was worth it because they liked the technology?



Musk: Yeah. There was the potential to get an investment from another car company – not Toyota – but I don’t know if they would have actually followed through or not, but they did express interest. I think Daimler was maybe aware of that. Either way, they put $50 million into Tesla at a time when they themselves were cash strapped. Dieter Zetsche had to go to Abu Dhabi and raise emergency cash for Daimler and then reserve $50 million for Tesla. When someone is hungry themselves and they give you a bit of food, you’ve got to be grateful for that.



ABG: What would you say is Tesla’s financial situation now?



Musk: I actually think Tesla is in a pretty good position. In principle, if we raise no further funding, Tesla should be able to reach cash-flow breakeven, so that’s kind of where we are right not. It’s a public company, so you can see our financials. We’ve got a couple hundred million dollars. If we make a bunch of screw-ups, then we’ll be in trouble, but if we execute reasonably well, then we’ll be in good shape. As I mentioned in the last earnings call, we are considering doing a small financing round just to improve the cash cushion, just in case bad things happen, but hopefully that’s money we’ll never use. We might go something like that, but it’s not yet approved by the board.



ABG: You’ve talked about the Karma, both today and recently in very clear statements and you can see how things can spiral out of control.



Musk: It’s a bit ridiculous, because my opinion of Fisker and the Karma has not changed in the last two years. It’s been exactly the same thing. Automobile just asked me for my opinion, it’s not like I was volunteering it or sort of intentionally lobbing stones. If I’m asked a question, I try to give an honest account of how I feel. But a lot of people in the media treated it as if I, of my own accord, launched some missile at Fisker. It was part of a longer interview. This is really not news. This is an opinion that I’ve expressed in the past, but I guess there were a lot of people who were not aware.



ABG: Plus it’s August…


It’s a slow news day when Bloomberg reports that Tesla opened a service center in San Rafael. I mean, c’mon.

Musk: It’s a slow news day when Bloomberg reports that Tesla opened a service center in San Rafael. I mean, c’mon. It was on Google and Yahoo Finance that we were opening a service center in San Rafael. We’re opening twenty.



ABG: Speaking of the media, so far, everything about the Model S, from the media who got to drive it at the launch to customers, has been entirely positive –



Musk: 99 percent positive.



ABG: Yeah. But the overwhelming message is that this is a great car, so wouldn’t there be a great incentive to try to get even more people into the car?



Musk: Yeah, and we just did 5,000 test drives. That’s pretty significant. But there is a shortage of cars. We need to provide cars to all of our stores for customer test drives, then we need cars for service, cars for endurance and quality and then we need to deliver cars to customers who have been waiting for a long time. So we just don’t have a lot of cars to lend for days on end. We will do that, increasingly in the coming months. This is not in any way trying to hold back. We’re trying to make each car as perfect as possible. Since each car is literally like 98 percent new. Usually, when people say it’s the all-new blah-blah-blah, whatever car, that’s bullshit. 40 percent of that car, if not 60 percent of that car, if coming from some parts bin. In our case, two percent is coming from the parts bin. There are some Mercedes components, like the steering column and the light switches and some of the internal bits but, literally, 98 percent is totally new, the components are in nothing else on earth. So, of the 98 percent new stuff, 90 percent of those components, no problem, we can scale up to high-volume immediately. Five of those are slightly problematic. Two percent are problematic and one percent are really problematic and causing us headaches. Putting it all together and making sure you assemble this incredibly complex puzzle in the right way, is tricky.







ABG: What are some of the parts on that one or two percent list?



Musk: Well, I don’t want to get suppliers mad at me, but some of them are some pretty big name suppliers and you think, “How the heck can this big-name supplier not get their shit together?” and I call the CEO and he’s like, “I promise I’ll get my shit together,” and I’m like, “Your shit is not together.” It’s quite vexing. In some cases, we’ve got some small suppliers where they’re going their absolute best but we’re asking them to do things they’ve never done before. One example is the bright molding around the window of the Model S. We have a continuous arc all the way to the back. It’s really big. It goes all the way from the A pillar all the way across to the C pillar and then under. It’s this huge, single piece part. If we did it like other manufacturers, we’d have seams, and seams suck and I was unwilling to have seams. So it was quite tricky to make that whole thing as one piece and then ship it and not have any warping or damage and then put it on in the right way. It’s awesome, because it’s the best bright molding of any car. Go and look at the bright molding on a BMW or something and you’re like, “that sucks.” So that’s pretty hard to make this huge continuous piece and not just have some crap that is usually done. Normal suppliers couldn’t do it, so we went to a specialty supplier and we worked with them to figure out how to get us a special weld in there and they are really doing a good job and they’re good guys, but it’s just tricky to scale that up. Everyone else just takes the easy path and has gaps in their bright molding.



ABG: You mentioned Mercedes. There was also talk about the B-Class E-Cell. We haven’t heard much about that? What’s the status of that program?


The B-Class E-Cell is not a marketing or a demonstration program. It is a serious, high-volume program.

Musk: Tesla policy is, when we’re supplying powertrains, we take a back seat on PR. It’s about our customer in that case, so it’s really up to Mercedes and Daimler how they want to portray things and what announcements they want to make, whether they even want to talk about our stuff or not. We’re just trying to be helpful to the electrification of cars and it’s whatever our customer wants in that case. We never want to be out in front of our customer since it’s really, fundamentally, their car. I can repeat the stuff that they’ve said, which is that it’s a big program, it’s not a marketing or a demonstration program. It is a serious, high-volume program.



ABG: I know it’s bigger than the Smart ED program.



Musk: By an order of magnitude.



ABG: How about work on future projects. I know Model S is the focus, but what about the Model X and the pickup truck? And we also have the next-gen roadster?



Musk: (laughs) I think we definitely want to avoid talking about distant products too much. In the case of the Model X, the reason why we unveiled that relatively early was just to show that Tesla is not going to be a one-trick pony but, in general, we’re going to make product announcements a lot closer to product introduction.







ABG: I haven’t seen that car and those doors in action, but the intent is still to bring them into production?



Musk: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You should see it. It’s a double-hinged gull wing – falcon door, whatever, it literaly looks like a bird of prey when the doors are open, it looks like a falcon in a dive – and the reason that works, while a regular gull wing doesn’t work, is because in a regular gullwing we’d have the problem that the arc goes out too far and then too far up. But if you double-hinge it, it does this (makes a motion with his hands, similar to the video here). If you can physically fit between the next car and the Model X, like maybe a foot-and-a-half, you can open the door. In fact, you can open the door in tighter spaces than a minivan door, because a minivan door, when it opens, it’s going to come out and slide. If you’re trying to come at if from the back, you can’t get in. You have to go past the door and then press the button and, if anyone is behind you, they can’t get in.



ABG: Who’s idea was the door? Was it Franz [von Holzhausen, Model S chief designer] or was it an older idea that was never used or is it a Tesla original?


This is a problem I’ve had with all SUVs. You can’t get to the damn third row. The Audi Q7 is particularly horrendous. Even in the best case scenario, you need to be dwarf mountain climber to get into the back seat.

Musk: The desire to have that kind of door opening is coming from me because it’s important to frame the problem correctly. The problem is, how do you have a door that opens in tight spaces and is also able to access the third row without changing the seat back position of the second row. This is important because if you have a baby seat in the second row, you can’t get to the third row. This is a problem I’ve had with all SUVs. You can’t get to the damn third row. The Audi Q7 is particularly horrendous. Even in the best case scenario, you need to be dwarf mountain climber to get into the back seat. It’s ridiculous. It’s the most comically ridiculous third row I’ve ever seen. So, I wanted to be able to access the third row even if you have a child seat in the second row. I wanted to be able to step into the second row, so if you’re trying to put a baby or a toddler into the child seat in the second row – right now you have to do some backbreaking thing where you have to hold the kid and cantilever yourself over the back seat. For me, it’s fine, but if you’re a five-foot-six woman and you weigh 130 pounds and you’re trying to take your 30 or 40 pound kids and do this, it’s really hard. On the other hand, if you can step into the car and put the kid down, it’s much easier. There are a few ways to accomplish that. One is to do the double-hinge and the other is to do a double door, so you have part of it go down. It may have been Franz who came up with the double-hinge approach, I’m not sure, but the double-hinge one work better than the double opening. And so when I was shown the options, I said let’s do that one.



ABG: Shifting topics to Supercharging, we’ve heard about this for a while. Can you talk about why you’re going your own way and also the idea behind it?



Musk: The Supercharger will be available to both the 60-kWh and the 85-kWh packs. The 40-kWh pack is really designed for people who never expect to do long-distance journeys. And on the 60-kWh pack, it’s offered as an option and on the 85-kWh pack it’s offered as a default because, presumably, someone is buying it for potential long-distance trips. The reason for the Supercharger – we hope to do a big unveiling in late September or October, and I’ll fully articulate it then – but, essentially, the other charge systems don’t have enough power and in order to really charge fast, the charger needs pretty advanced technology and it needs to exactly match the pack. It’s got to be hand-in-glove. So we couldn’t use some generic system because it doesn’t really understand our battery pack and there’s a quarter as much power as we need. So we want to recharge at a rate of over 300 miles of driving per hour. That means you can stop for 30 minutes and charge almost three hours or driving.



ABG: Which is so far above what anyone else is even talking about.


The Tesla Supercharger is on the order of 100 kW. The Leaf has like a 6 kWh. So we’re talking about something 12 to 15 times more powerful.

Musk: Exactly. There’s nothing even close. The Tesla Supercharger is on the order of 100 kW. The Leaf has like a 6 kWh, that’s their high-speed charger. So we’re talking about something 12 to 15 times more powerful than the Leaf’s fast charge. That the approximate convenience inflection point for long-distance driving, three hours of driving for a 30-minute stop. Most people, if they time themselves, will find that’s their ratio, it’s three hours to 30 minutes. So, you’ll start a trip at 9 am. By the time you get to noon, you want to stop and gas up, use the restroom, grab a bite to eat, grab a coffee and then go on your way. If you actually time yourself, you’ll see it’s about 30 minutes. People always think it’s less than that, but it’s not. Occasionally, somebody’s a super-hardass and they want to drive for like six hours and wear diapers or something, I guess that’s not our target market. So that’s our target inflection point, 30 minutes of charge for three hours of driving. Over time, we’re going to make that better. We’ll get down to 25 minutes, 20 minutes, eventually under 20 minutes for three hours of driving.



ABG: Is that part of the excitement for you, to again be pushing what EVs can do?


If we can make an electric car that people think is better than any gasoline car, then they’ll buy it just because it’s the best car. Then we’re way beyond people who just care about the environment.

Musk: That’s our goal, absolutely. The fundamental good that Tesla will serve is as a catalyst for the advent of electric vehicles. We’ve got to address all of the concerns that people have about electric vehicles and the reason that the Model S be the world’s best car – not for some ego reason – is it’s got to show that an electric can can be a better car than any gasoline car. I wouldn’t actually care all that much about making the best gasoline car in the world. That’s, eh. But if we can make an electric car that people think is better than any gasoline car, then they’ll buy it just because it’s the best car and then we’re way beyond people who just care about the environment. That’s great, but for a lot of people, it’s just not their top thing, so that’s why it’s very important for us to achieve that, which means our quality has got to be fantastic, our safety has got to be top of the line and we have to address the long-distance travel issue, and that’s what the Supercharger is about. I certainly hope people copy us, that’d be great.



ABG: What does the actual physical charger look like?



Musk: Well, we’re going to unveil it, so I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like. The thing that’s awesome is that the socket on the Model S that is used for home charging, that same socket can take 100 kW, which is amazing. We’re designing sockets and plugs the way they should be designed. This has got to be the best power rating of any plug-socket combination in the world. But then there’s the charger itself, which has a shape that’s really cool.



ABG: Can you talk about any of that stuff right now?



Musk: We’ve had the Supercharger in testing since September of last year [2011] and it’s working really well. We keep refining the technology and this is the most advanced charging device on the planet. I think it’s appropriately named, recycling the term, obviously, from the gasoline world.



ABG: Where do you see the Superchagers being built?



Musk: Places where there’s pretty good food available. Existing highway rest stops. So you just park, plug it in, go grab a bite to eat and a coffee and you’re on your way.

By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Superchargers to Connect NY with LA Within Six Months

Tesla-SuperCharger

Making EVs more practical is one of the biggest challenges still facing the electric-vehicle market, and Tesla is once again expanding its network of fast-charging Supercharger stations. 

Tesla plans on tripling the number of free-to-use Supercharger stations by the end of the month, and within two years, Tesla Model S owners will be able to travel from New York to Los Angeles using nothing but Superchargers. There are currently only nine active Superchargers, but the brand will have over 100 by 2015, as seen by the map shown above.

Within a month, Superchargers will be added to link Vancouver to Portland, Austin to Dallas, and Illinois to Colorado. Within six months, California will receive more stations, along with Texas, Florida and the Midwest. More importantly, in that time Model S owners will be able to drive from New York to Los Angeles relying exclusively on Superchargers.

In Canada, Ottawa will be linked to Montreal. Tesla says that one year from now, the Supercharger network will cover almost the entire population of the U.S. and Canada, and within two years, 98 percent of the population will be covered.

A half-hour stop off at a Supercharger will fill an 85 kWh battery pack with 150-miles worth of range, though Tesla is working on new tech that will allow the Model S to replenish three hours of drive-time in just over 20 minutes of charging.

Each Supercharger is placed close to some kind of attraction or restaurant to try and keep those 20-30 minute stops from being too boring, as a trip across the country will still require several stops.

 Discuss this story at Tesla-Forums.com

By Stephen Elmer

Tesla Supercharger network to feature solar panels, battery swapping

Slide from shareholders meeting featuring outline of what's next for the company



Supplying energy for cars on the move is an important piece of the electric vehicle puzzle and in this regard Tesla Motors is taking a unique approach. At some time in the future – the company is not saying when, exactly – it plans to reveal what it calls its Supercharger network.



Although the company isn’t giving any details about the design of the individual stations, we expect something more than just a post with a plug. Much more. During the recent shareholders meeting where CEO Elon Musk briefly touched on the system, he declared that when people see how awesome it is and what Tesla has planned, it will blow their minds. We await this moment.



Of course, Musk can be given to a bit of hyperbole now and again. When discussing the five-star safety rating of the Model S, he said if there was a sixth star, the vehicle would have been awarded it as well. Still, hints as to what is involved with the Superchargers arose during the Q&A session after the main presentation and makes us think that this will indeed be pretty cool.



For example, we expect it to feature battery swapping. Long a controversial concept in the electric vehicle community, it is clear that Tesla is going to employ it in some fashion. Whether it will be available for every pack size – the Model S comes with either a 40-, 60- or 85-kWh pack – is not yet known, but it shouldn’t prevent you from retaining ownership of a specific pack. While fast charging your 85-kWh Model S might take around 45 minutes using the 90-kW station with its proprietary connector, the battery packs are engineered to enable a swap as quickly as one minute.



Another prominent feature will be solar panels. Musk is a big proponent of solar energy and it’s been reported that Tesla and SolarCity (where he also serves as chairman) are working together to create rooftop solar storage systems. What better place, we rhetorically ask with no pun intended, to implement such a scheme than atop stations stuffed with batteries. Musk says the panels will help illustrate the connection between sustainable power production and electric transport and go some way to combat the long tailpipe argument.



If you’d like to watch video of the shareholders meeting, it’s available at Tesla’s website for a while longer. Besides discussion of the Supercharger, there are a lot of little tidbits for those interested in the company and its product. More to come.

By Domenick Yoney

The Charges Are Flying Over a Test of Tesla’s Charging Network

A test by The New York Times of Tesla's East Coast Superchargers has stirred debate.John M. Broder/The New York Times A test by The New York Times of Tesla’s East Coast Superchargers has stirred debate.

The account in Sunday’s Automobiles section of The Times detailing my troubled East Coast road trip in a Tesla Model S sedan has generated quite a lot of commentary on the Internet, on Twitter and in the news media. Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, issued several tweets and was interviewed on CNBC Monday afternoon, where he disputed some aspects of the article.

He stated that my account was a “fake,” that I had ignored explicit charging and driving instructions from Tesla personnel, that I had taken a “long detour” and that I had deliberately sabotaged my own trip. He said I had driven 10 miles an hour over the speed limit at times, and that he had logs that he said would show that I drove in a way that inevitably reduced the car’s range.

Let’s answer these assertions in turn. My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it. When I first charged the car, which was equipped with the highest-capacity battery available, of 85 kilowatt-hours, at the Tesla Supercharger station in Newark, Del., I left it connected to the cable for 49 minutes until the dash display read “Charging Complete.” The battery meter read 90 percent full, with a range of 242 miles.

I was not directed by anyone at Tesla at any time to then switch to the Max Range setting and wait to top off the battery. If I had, I might have picked up an additional 25 or so miles of range, but that would have taken as long as 30 additional minutes.

I was at that point 200 miles from the other East Coast Supercharger outlet in Milford, Conn., which I barely reached by driving 10 m.p.h. below the speed limit and turning off the battery-draining cabin-heating system.

(Mr. Musk’s logs may show I hit 75 m.p.h. for a mile or two during my trip, although it was likely before, rather than after, the Newark stop. The car’s power-usage meter clearly shows the major penalty driving at 75 inflicts on battery charge, discouraging any temptation to hooliganism in this 416-horsepower, $101,000 car. I drove more than 100 miles below 55 on cruise control to conserve power.)

Tesla may contend that had I added the extra 25 miles of range, I would have been able to drive the speed limit (65 miles per hour) with a comfortable cabin temperature for 200 miles in 30-degree outside temperatures. Based on the rate at which the charge level was declining, I’m skeptical.

Mr. Musk has referred to a “long detour” on my trip. He is apparently referring to a brief stop in Manhattan on my way to Connecticut that, according to Google Maps, added precisely two miles to the overall distance traveled from the Delaware Supercharger to Milford (202 miles with the stop versus 200 miles had I taken the George Washington Bridge instead of the Lincoln Tunnel). At that point, I was already experiencing anxiety about range and had called a Tesla employee from the New Jersey Turnpike to ask how to stretch the battery. She said to shut off the cruise control to take advantage of battery regeneration from occasional braking and slowing down. Based on that advice, I was under the impression that stop-and-go driving at low speeds in the city would help, not hurt, my mileage.

Before I set out from my home in suburban Washington, I informed Tesla that I intended to make a brief stop in New York and that I would spend the night in the vicinity of Milford rather than trying to make it to Boston, which was theoretically possible with a full charge at Milford, although it was a bitterly cold night — and that clearly affects the car’s range. I added 185 miles of range at Milford, knowing that I wouldn’t need 242 or 265 miles before recharging the next morning.

When I parked the car for the night at a hotel, the range meter showed 90 miles remaining, and I was about 45 miles from the Milford Supercharger. As I recounted in the article, when I awoke the next morning the indicated range was 25 miles. The rest of that story is told in the article, including a Tesla official’s counsel, which I followed, that an hour of charging at the Norwich, Conn., utility would restore much of the range lost overnight, which had disappeared because of what he called a “software glitch.”

A few more points:

Tesla made the offer to The Times to test the new East Coast Superchargers. The idea and the timing were theirs. (The Tesla public relations person who arranged the trip left Tesla last week and now works for Mr. Musk’s space-launching venture, SpaceX.)

We tested the six-station Supercharger network on the West Coast in September; it worked super, and we said so.

While Tesla officials and many armchair experts have said I should have accepted the time penalty to top off the battery in Delaware at the Max Range setting, Tesla warns specifically that this shortens the battery’s life.

Virtually everyone says that I should have plugged in the car overnight in Connecticut, particularly given the cold temperature. But the test that Tesla offered was of the Supercharger, not of the Model S, which we already know is a much-praised car. This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it. Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop.

Knowing then what I know now about the car, its sensitivity to cold and additional ways to maximize range, I certainly would have treated the test differently. But the conclusion might not have been any better for Tesla.

Mr. Musk promised on Monday to write a blog post critiquing my drive and to publish the logs he says he has of how I drove and why the battery pack drained. We will link to those when they appear. Mr. Musk said on Twitter that Tesla always logged data during media test drives, but logs car owners’ data only “with explicit written permission.”

One final note. Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

He offered me a second chance at a test drive in a few months, after additional Supercharger stations come online.

I’m game.

By JOHN M. BRODER

Tesla Supercharger to be Unveiled on September 24

Continuing to push the envelope on electric vehicle technology, Tesla will be unveiling its ‘supercharger’ on September 24th, which the American automaker claims will charge the Model S to full charge in one hour.

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a recent tweet, the Tesla Supercharger will “feel like alien spaceships landed at highway rest stops.” Quite the image to depict, but Musk has always been known for his vibrant statements. Though the misnomer might have you believe that the Model S was getting some form of forced induction, the Tesla Supercharger is in fact a quick-electric charger for the electric sedan.

The American automaker hopes to quell range anxiety for electric vehicle owners interested in taking long trips with its supercharger. Details on Tesla’s deployment plans will also come on the date of its unveiling, but it’s not expected for home use but rather on the road. According to some media reports, the stations could be solar powered and can charge up the Tesla Model S in as little as 45 minutes.

By Jason Siu

Tesla says Model S can recharge in an hour, given the right equipment (a Supercharger)

Tesla Model S quick drive



Get this: the recharge time in the humongous Tesla Model S battery pack – yes, the 300-mile version – could be as short as an hour. That is, if you happen to have one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations handy.



At the big Model S launch event Friday, Tesla chief technology officer J.B. Straubel told Automotive News that the upcoming 90-kW 440-volt Superchargers will be able to recharge a top-of-the-line, 300-mile-range car in an hour. Say what you want about proprietary technology, that’s far, far faster than today’s DC Fast Chargers, which take 20-30 minutes to give an EV around 80 miles of range. He said that, “If you recharge a Nissan Leaf in 30 minutes, it’s much different than if you can do a 300-mile Model S in 30 minutes,” adding that putting 150 miles of range into a Model S in a half-hour is “not science fiction,” and will be unveiled “in less than one year.”



Other numbers from Friday’s event:

  • Tesla is building a Model S a day right now, but this could ramp up to 80/day by the end of the year. That equals 8,000 from the first year, given a single shift working.
  • At the end of Q1 2012, there were 9,800 reservations for the Model S, which means putting money down today equals a delivery in May 2013. This could be shortened if Tesla ramps production up quicker than anticipated.
  • There should be 22 Tesla stores in the U.S. by the end of the year (there are 12 today). Tesla had expected 1,000 people a month to stop in, but apparently around 4,000 stop by.

For more on Tesla’s Supercharging network, read this and this.

By Sebastian Blanco

In deep with Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Financials, Falcon doors and finding faults in the Model S

tesla ceo elon musk



Tesla Motors Elon Musk spends about half his working life – i.e., almost all of his waking hours – in his office at SpaceX in Los Angeles. The automotive CEO is, after all, also in charge of the rocket company, which means that he’s thinking about a lot more than just ramping up production of the Model S. But he is thinking about that a lot, too. More than you might expect.



AutoblogGreen recently got to sit down with Musk at SpaceX for a one-on-one, wide-ranging interview. Musk, comfortable and relaxed in an “Occupy Mars” t-shirt, was forthcoming about most things we asked – but questions about Tesla’s upcoming Supercharger network of fast chargers, which can deliver so much more juice per minute than any other plug-in vehicle charger on the market, were deflected, since the company is planning a big announcement at the end of this month or early October – and we got into Tesla’s financial situation, why the Model X has those falcon doors and how Daimler saved Tesla. We learned a lot, including that Musk really doesn’t like the rear seat access in the Audi Q7. Not one bit.



Read the whole interview below.







ABG: What’s the biggest thing on your mind right now, with the Model S. George [Blankenship] wrote the post about 100 vehicles being produced, 74 for customers. Is that at the forefront or are you already looking at what you’re going to do next?


Every Model S needs to be exactly right, and I am literally personally looking at every car at this point.

Musk: Certainly, there’s a little bit on the back burner with Model X and a few other things, but the company’s central focus is on scaling up production of the Model S while trying to keep quality as perfect as possible, really trying to have every car that goes out the door be perfect. None of this, “J.D. Power found 80 defects” bullshit. Every car needs to be exactly right, and I am literally personally looking at every car at this point. I won’t be able to do that long-term, but the cars are held up for shipment twice a week and usually on Tuesday or Wednesday I will look at every singe car and drive one or two at random and then on Saturday I’ll do the same thing.



ABG: What does that process entail? Visual inspection, turning them on?



Musk: There is a visual inspection of the inside and outside, looking at fits and interior finish and often sitting inside and making sure that everything is put together correctly. Obviously, the software is always going to be the same, so I’m not trying to see if there’s any variation there. And then, as I said, I pick cars at random to drive and make sure that the driving feel is correct and the sound system is working as it should and if there’s an issue, I’ll trace it back to the exact place on the line where that occurred. For example, yesterday I found that the installation of the headlamp was not quite correct and there was a slight asymmetry between the right and the left. I think most people wouldn’t see it, but it seemed pretty obvious to me. So I was like, this doesn’t seem right, this is off by like three millimeters. So I literally walked over to the lead tech on that portion of the line to find out why is this three millimeters wrong and it turned out he was still operating with the part dimensions of the old part, but we had made a new part that didn’t require shimming and nobody had given him the new instructions that it no longer needed shimming to get to the right position. And that was the origin of the problem. On Saturday, I will talk to the whole assembly, metal stamping and plastics team to make sure that everybody understands that they are all empowered to be perfectionists on the line and that they should not let a car move from their station if they see anything that is slightly wrong. They must reverse the line and send it back to the prior station.



ABG: You’re talking to them on Saturday. Are they working seven days a week?


If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week.

Musk: Right now we’re working six days a week. Some people are working seven days a week – I do – but for a lot of people, working seven days a week is not sustainable. The factory is operational seven days a week but most people we only ask to work six days a week right now and, obviously, we want to get that to a more reasonable number. I think people can sustain a 50-hour work week. I think that’s a good work week. If you’re joining Tesla, you’re joining a company to work hard. We’re not trying to sell you a bill of goods. If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week and there are times when it’ll be 60- to 80-hour weeks. If somebody is hourly, they receive time-and-a-half but if somebody is salary, then we do cash and stock bonuses for going above and beyond the call of duty. So we try to make it fair compensation, but the general understanding is that if you’re at Tesla, you’re choosing to be at the equivalent of Special Forces. There’s the regular Army, and that’s fine, but if you are working at Tesla, you’re choosing to step up your game. And that has pluses and minuses. It’s cool to be Special Forces, but it also means you’re working your ass off. It’s not for everyone.







ABG: When you start building more and more Model S vehicles and hiring more people, will all of the factory staff be expected to step up?



Musk: Everyone. So we will only scale to the degree that we can hire people who are willing to do that. We’re getting quite big, though. We’re at almost 3,000 people, 2,800 or something.



ABG: Roughly how many – in percentage or raw numbers – Model S vehicles do you send back?



Musk: The issue is that we need to improve the communication update frequency. That person would have learned it, but he learned it maybe two days later and we would have had to fix a bunch more headlamps. He’s a really good guy, and I was actually really impressed with his knowledge, he had it right down to the millimeter, but he just had the wrong instructions. So, the talk on Saturday is going to be: “Guys, don’t follow instructions if they don’t seem right. It doesn’t matter how junior you are, if you just came out of school and are 22 years old. Whatever. If you’re looking at something that doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t matter if you got those instructions from the vice president or from fricking me or whatever. You should say, hey, this doesn’t seem right and this is why. If you’re right, you’re right and it’s not about the position of the person, it’s about the truth of the argument.



ABG: Going back to the number of cars, do you have a number if how many you’ve noticed?


I find things wrong in almost every car.

Musk: I find things in almost every car.



ABG: Are they all worth sending back?



Musk: Yeah, absolutely.



ABG: So, pretty much every car you look at you send back?



Musk: I have corrections. (laughs) In the beginning, we have to be slightly imperfect because we don’t have everything completely dialed but our aspiration is to get to cars that are accurate to the limit of reasonable physics. What I’ve told my teams is that we want our cars to be so accurate you could use them as a calibration device. So, if I want to know how long is a meter, oh, don’t worry, I can go measure the car.



We’re going to be ordering some laser calibration devices so we can literally calibrate the entire dimensions of the car within tenths of a millimeter. If it’s wrong, let’s trace it to the origin and fix it. This is very extreme for the car business, but for the rocket business this is not, so from my standpoint, when people say you can’t do that, it’s like, “I do that every day. What are you talking about? I know it’s possible.” We’re trying to take the precision of rockets, where fractions of a millimeter can mean the difference between success and failure. We’re applying rocket science to the car business, absolutely. If you want to make the best car, that’s what you have to do.



ABG: Since you’re so involved with the Model S at this stage, will it be hard to let go, as more and more cars get built?



Musk: As our rate steps up, it won’t be possible for me to inspect every car, so then what I’ll be doing is picking cars at random and inspecting those and then, if the sample group is sufficient and I’m not seeing any issues, then that means the most likely thing is the greater population is good, but [my involvement] is most important in the beginning because once we get instructions correct and the feedback loops in the system correct, then I think that pretty soon I won’t be able to find issues.



2012 Tesla Model S - front three-quarter dynamic motion shot



ABG: Have you had cars come back from customers, where you noticed a mistake and then realized that that problem had been sent out to someone and you wanted to replace it?



Musk: No. Our customers are more forgiving thus far than I am. They all think it’s really great.



ABG: With all of this effort spent, I think legitimately, put into each of the early Model S vehicles, the time and money spent per vehicle is very high at this point –



Musk: It is, of course.



ABG: Do you have an idea of how long it will take for the Model S to become profitable? How many you’ll need to make? Do you even expect to make money on the first generation?


There’s no question that we have to make money on the Model S.

Musk: Absolutely. There’s no question that we have to make money on the Model S. We made money on the Roadster, as a product line by itself. We did actually reasonably well. I’m not sure what the lifetime gross margin is, but somewhere between 25 and 30 percent, which is quite good for the car business. If the Roadster was the only thing we did, then we could have achieved profitability, but we would be a much smaller company. The issue with going to the Model S is we’re going from around 700 cars a year to 20,000 cars a year. It takes a better person than me to remain profitable if you’re going to improve your volume by 30. That’s 3,000 percent. There is a pretty massive investment required. We definitely need to make money. We need to repay the government loan. In fact, my goal is to repay that loan early. I actually feel pretty confident that we will be able to repay the loan early and I take that really seriously because, essentially, the U.S. people, through their intermediaries in Congress, has been kind enough to loan Tesla money and it is our absolute duty to repay that as soon as possible.



ABG: As you’re well aware, that’s definitely a hot political topic right now, the money that the government spent on advanced technologies.


One of the requirements of the ATVMP loan was that you demonstrate viability as a company. That’s why General Motors and Chrysler were not eligible. I think there’s a slight question about why Fisker was given the money, but whatever.

Musk: I don’t regard this as a political thing. I just think that we have an obligation to do right by them. People have made it a political thing, yes. I want to take the opportunity to clarify the nature of the loan, which a lot of people confuse with the bailouts, because they were occurring at approximately the same time. But, in fact, one of the requirements of the ATVMP [Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program] loan was that you demonstrate viability as a company in your own right, and that’s why General Motors and Chrysler were not eligible because they were going through bankruptcy. I think there’s a slight question about why Fisker was given the money, but whatever. (laughs) The value of the money was really as a catalyst. The DOE money did not, as many people think, save Tesla. That’s not what occurred. The credit for saving Tesla should go to Daimler. It was the Daimler investment that saved Tesla in early 2009. We didn’t get any DOE money until almost a year later. Around March 2010 was the first time we got DOE money, and the DOE money was specifically for Model S-related activity and moreover, had to be audited by [Price Waterhouse Cooper] and then we have to submit audited statements after having paid people. It’s not like we could pay money in advance. We had to pay suppliers and then get an invoice and then PWC would check that the invoice was correct and applied only to the Model S program and then we would get reimbursed, so there was a three-month gap between when money was spent and we would get reimbursed for it. So it was impossible to consider it a bailout for Tesla. If we’d needed money to be bailed out the Roadster, we’ve have been screwed.



tesla daimler deal



ABG: That leads to my next question, which is that especially start-ups, but every company walks that line on the edge of bankruptcy at certain times.



Musk: 2007 and 2008 were especially bad for us.



ABG: So that’s the question, how close was that? Without Daimler, it probably would have stopped?


There were a couple of near-death situations. One is where I had to basically take all of my personal reserve capital in 2008 and invest that in Tesla. I literally had to borrow money for rent.

Musk: Extremely close. There were a couple of near-death situations. One is where I had to basically take all of my personal reserve capital in 2008 and invest that in Tesla. I literally had to borrow money for rent. And that’s a whole saga that eventually should be told. It was a difficult thing that was made more difficult by one of our investors who was just an absolute bastard, nobody should ever take money from them. So I was totally tapped out. That was enough to get us through the second half of 2008 and into early 2009 and then, thankfully, Daimler, with whom we had a small deal to produce battery packs for the Smart [ED] actually invested $50 million into Tesla in the nick of time. It wasn’t some huge altruistic gesture, but nonetheless, they had to have faith that their $50 million wouldn’t go down the drain.



ABG: At that time, did they know how in trouble Tesla was?



Musk: Yes. They had total access to our financials, sure.



ABG: Even with that they said this was worth it because they liked the technology?



Musk: Yeah. There was the potential to get an investment from another car company – not Toyota – but I don’t know if they would have actually followed through or not, but they did express interest. I think Daimler was maybe aware of that. Either way, they put $50 million into Tesla at a time when they themselves were cash strapped. Dieter Zetsche had to go to Abu Dhabi and raise emergency cash for Daimler and then reserve $50 million for Tesla. When someone is hungry themselves and they give you a bit of food, you’ve got to be grateful for that.



ABG: What would you say is Tesla’s financial situation now?



Musk: I actually think Tesla is in a pretty good position. In principle, if we raise no further funding, Tesla should be able to reach cash-flow breakeven, so that’s kind of where we are right not. It’s a public company, so you can see our financials. We’ve got a couple hundred million dollars. If we make a bunch of screw-ups, then we’ll be in trouble, but if we execute reasonably well, then we’ll be in good shape. As I mentioned in the last earnings call, we are considering doing a small financing round just to improve the cash cushion, just in case bad things happen, but hopefully that’s money we’ll never use. We might go something like that, but it’s not yet approved by the board.



ABG: You’ve talked about the Karma, both today and recently in very clear statements and you can see how things can spiral out of control.



Musk: It’s a bit ridiculous, because my opinion of Fisker and the Karma has not changed in the last two years. It’s been exactly the same thing. Automobile just asked me for my opinion, it’s not like I was volunteering it or sort of intentionally lobbing stones. If I’m asked a question, I try to give an honest account of how I feel. But a lot of people in the media treated it as if I, of my own accord, launched some missile at Fisker. It was part of a longer interview. This is really not news. This is an opinion that I’ve expressed in the past, but I guess there were a lot of people who were not aware.



ABG: Plus it’s August…


It’s a slow news day when Bloomberg reports that Tesla opened a service center in San Rafael. I mean, c’mon.

Musk: It’s a slow news day when Bloomberg reports that Tesla opened a service center in San Rafael. I mean, c’mon. It was on Google and Yahoo Finance that we were opening a service center in San Rafael. We’re opening twenty.



ABG: Speaking of the media, so far, everything about the Model S, from the media who got to drive it at the launch to customers, has been entirely positive –



Musk: 99 percent positive.



ABG: Yeah. But the overwhelming message is that this is a great car, so wouldn’t there be a great incentive to try to get even more people into the car?



Musk: Yeah, and we just did 5,000 test drives. That’s pretty significant. But there is a shortage of cars. We need to provide cars to all of our stores for customer test drives, then we need cars for service, cars for endurance and quality and then we need to deliver cars to customers who have been waiting for a long time. So we just don’t have a lot of cars to lend for days on end. We will do that, increasingly in the coming months. This is not in any way trying to hold back. We’re trying to make each car as perfect as possible. Since each car is literally like 98 percent new. Usually, when people say it’s the all-new blah-blah-blah, whatever car, that’s bullshit. 40 percent of that car, if not 60 percent of that car, if coming from some parts bin. In our case, two percent is coming from the parts bin. There are some Mercedes components, like the steering column and the light switches and some of the internal bits but, literally, 98 percent is totally new, the components are in nothing else on earth. So, of the 98 percent new stuff, 90 percent of those components, no problem, we can scale up to high-volume immediately. Five of those are slightly problematic. Two percent are problematic and one percent are really problematic and causing us headaches. Putting it all together and making sure you assemble this incredibly complex puzzle in the right way, is tricky.







ABG: What are some of the parts on that one or two percent list?



Musk: Well, I don’t want to get suppliers mad at me, but some of them are some pretty big name suppliers and you think, “How the heck can this big-name supplier not get their shit together?” and I call the CEO and he’s like, “I promise I’ll get my shit together,” and I’m like, “Your shit is not together.” It’s quite vexing. In some cases, we’ve got some small suppliers where they’re going their absolute best but we’re asking them to do things they’ve never done before. One example is the bright molding around the window of the Model S. We have a continuous arc all the way to the back. It’s really big. It goes all the way from the A pillar all the way across to the C pillar and then under. It’s this huge, single piece part. If we did it like other manufacturers, we’d have seams, and seams suck and I was unwilling to have seams. So it was quite tricky to make that whole thing as one piece and then ship it and not have any warping or damage and then put it on in the right way. It’s awesome, because it’s the best bright molding of any car. Go and look at the bright molding on a BMW or something and you’re like, “that sucks.” So that’s pretty hard to make this huge continuous piece and not just have some crap that is usually done. Normal suppliers couldn’t do it, so we went to a specialty supplier and we worked with them to figure out how to get us a special weld in there and they are really doing a good job and they’re good guys, but it’s just tricky to scale that up. Everyone else just takes the easy path and has gaps in their bright molding.



ABG: You mentioned Mercedes. There was also talk about the B-Class E-Cell. We haven’t heard much about that? What’s the status of that program?


The B-Class E-Cell is not a marketing or a demonstration program. It is a serious, high-volume program.

Musk: Tesla policy is, when we’re supplying powertrains, we take a back seat on PR. It’s about our customer in that case, so it’s really up to Mercedes and Daimler how they want to portray things and what announcements they want to make, whether they even want to talk about our stuff or not. We’re just trying to be helpful to the electrification of cars and it’s whatever our customer wants in that case. We never want to be out in front of our customer since it’s really, fundamentally, their car. I can repeat the stuff that they’ve said, which is that it’s a big program, it’s not a marketing or a demonstration program. It is a serious, high-volume program.



ABG: I know it’s bigger than the Smart ED program.



Musk: By an order of magnitude.



ABG: How about work on future projects. I know Model S is the focus, but what about the Model X and the pickup truck? And we also have the next-gen roadster?



Musk: (laughs) I think we definitely want to avoid talking about distant products too much. In the case of the Model X, the reason why we unveiled that relatively early was just to show that Tesla is not going to be a one-trick pony but, in general, we’re going to make product announcements a lot closer to product introduction.







ABG: I haven’t seen that car and those doors in action, but the intent is still to bring them into production?



Musk: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You should see it. It’s a double-hinged gull wing – falcon door, whatever, it literaly looks like a bird of prey when the doors are open, it looks like a falcon in a dive – and the reason that works, while a regular gull wing doesn’t work, is because in a regular gullwing we’d have the problem that the arc goes out too far and then too far up. But if you double-hinge it, it does this (makes a motion with his hands, similar to the video here). If you can physically fit between the next car and the Model X, like maybe a foot-and-a-half, you can open the door. In fact, you can open the door in tighter spaces than a minivan door, because a minivan door, when it opens, it’s going to come out and slide. If you’re trying to come at if from the back, you can’t get in. You have to go past the door and then press the button and, if anyone is behind you, they can’t get in.



ABG: Who’s idea was the door? Was it Franz [von Holzhausen, Model S chief designer] or was it an older idea that was never used or is it a Tesla original?


This is a problem I’ve had with all SUVs. You can’t get to the damn third row. The Audi Q7 is particularly horrendous. Even in the best case scenario, you need to be dwarf mountain climber to get into the back seat.

Musk: The desire to have that kind of door opening is coming from me because it’s important to frame the problem correctly. The problem is, how do you have a door that opens in tight spaces and is also able to access the third row without changing the seat back position of the second row. This is important because if you have a baby seat in the second row, you can’t get to the third row. This is a problem I’ve had with all SUVs. You can’t get to the damn third row. The Audi Q7 is particularly horrendous. Even in the best case scenario, you need to be dwarf mountain climber to get into the back seat. It’s ridiculous. It’s the most comically ridiculous third row I’ve ever seen. So, I wanted to be able to access the third row even if you have a child seat in the second row. I wanted to be able to step into the second row, so if you’re trying to put a baby or a toddler into the child seat in the second row – right now you have to do some backbreaking thing where you have to hold the kid and cantilever yourself over the back seat. For me, it’s fine, but if you’re a five-foot-six woman and you weigh 130 pounds and you’re trying to take your 30 or 40 pound kids and do this, it’s really hard. On the other hand, if you can step into the car and put the kid down, it’s much easier. There are a few ways to accomplish that. One is to do the double-hinge and the other is to do a double door, so you have part of it go down. It may have been Franz who came up with the double-hinge approach, I’m not sure, but the double-hinge one work better than the double opening. And so when I was shown the options, I said let’s do that one.



ABG: Shifting topics to Supercharging, we’ve heard about this for a while. Can you talk about why you’re going your own way and also the idea behind it?



Musk: The Supercharger will be available to both the 60-kWh and the 85-kWh packs. The 40-kWh pack is really designed for people who never expect to do long-distance journeys. And on the 60-kWh pack, it’s offered as an option and on the 85-kWh pack it’s offered as a default because, presumably, someone is buying it for potential long-distance trips. The reason for the Supercharger – we hope to do a big unveiling in late September or October, and I’ll fully articulate it then – but, essentially, the other charge systems don’t have enough power and in order to really charge fast, the charger needs pretty advanced technology and it needs to exactly match the pack. It’s got to be hand-in-glove. So we couldn’t use some generic system because it doesn’t really understand our battery pack and there’s a quarter as much power as we need. So we want to recharge at a rate of over 300 miles of driving per hour. That means you can stop for 30 minutes and charge almost three hours or driving.



ABG: Which is so far above what anyone else is even talking about.


The Tesla Supercharger is on the order of 100 kW. The Leaf has like a 6 kWh. So we’re talking about something 12 to 15 times more powerful.

Musk: Exactly. There’s nothing even close. The Tesla Supercharger is on the order of 100 kW. The Leaf has like a 6 kWh, that’s their high-speed charger. So we’re talking about something 12 to 15 times more powerful than the Leaf’s fast charge. That the approximate convenience inflection point for long-distance driving, three hours of driving for a 30-minute stop. Most people, if they time themselves, will find that’s their ratio, it’s three hours to 30 minutes. So, you’ll start a trip at 9 am. By the time you get to noon, you want to stop and gas up, use the restroom, grab a bite to eat, grab a coffee and then go on your way. If you actually time yourself, you’ll see it’s about 30 minutes. People always think it’s less than that, but it’s not. Occasionally, somebody’s a super-hardass and they want to drive for like six hours and wear diapers or something, I guess that’s not our target market. So that’s our target inflection point, 30 minutes of charge for three hours of driving. Over time, we’re going to make that better. We’ll get down to 25 minutes, 20 minutes, eventually under 20 minutes for three hours of driving.



ABG: Is that part of the excitement for you, to again be pushing what EVs can do?


If we can make an electric car that people think is better than any gasoline car, then they’ll buy it just because it’s the best car. Then we’re way beyond people who just care about the environment.

Musk: That’s our goal, absolutely. The fundamental good that Tesla will serve is as a catalyst for the advent of electric vehicles. We’ve got to address all of the concerns that people have about electric vehicles and the reason that the Model S be the world’s best car – not for some ego reason – is it’s got to show that an electric can can be a better car than any gasoline car. I wouldn’t actually care all that much about making the best gasoline car in the world. That’s, eh. But if we can make an electric car that people think is better than any gasoline car, then they’ll buy it just because it’s the best car and then we’re way beyond people who just care about the environment. That’s great, but for a lot of people, it’s just not their top thing, so that’s why it’s very important for us to achieve that, which means our quality has got to be fantastic, our safety has got to be top of the line and we have to address the long-distance travel issue, and that’s what the Supercharger is about. I certainly hope people copy us, that’d be great.



ABG: What does the actual physical charger look like?



Musk: Well, we’re going to unveil it, so I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like. The thing that’s awesome is that the socket on the Model S that is used for home charging, that same socket can take 100 kW, which is amazing. We’re designing sockets and plugs the way they should be designed. This has got to be the best power rating of any plug-socket combination in the world. But then there’s the charger itself, which has a shape that’s really cool.



ABG: Can you talk about any of that stuff right now?



Musk: We’ve had the Supercharger in testing since September of last year [2011] and it’s working really well. We keep refining the technology and this is the most advanced charging device on the planet. I think it’s appropriately named, recycling the term, obviously, from the gasoline world.



ABG: Where do you see the Superchagers being built?



Musk: Places where there’s pretty good food available. Existing highway rest stops. So you just park, plug it in, go grab a bite to eat and a coffee and you’re on your way.

By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla teasing Supercharger design before next week’s reveal

tesla supercharger



We know a fair number of details about the upcoming high-speed charging network for Tesla vehicles. What we don’t know is what the chargers will look like. This will change Monday evening.



Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently Tweeted that that Supercharger unveiling will make it “feel like alien spaceships landed at highway rest stops,” so that give us some indication of the design. We’re not sure if those vertical supports in the image above are part of the station or not, but it’s the teaser image on Tesla’s website now, so we think it’s likely.



As for the technical aspects, here are some of the things we already know:

  • A top-of-the-line 85-kWh battery pack will be able to be recharged in about an hour.
  • You will be able to get around three hours of driving during a 30-minute stop, and that will get better over time.
  • The capacity is “on the order of 100 kW.”
  • There will be solar power involved (we had heard rumors of battery swaps, too, but then that kind of died down).
  • The network is intended to allow for long-distance drives and will require about 30 Superchargers to provide that capability along the U.S. continental coasts.

Musk recently told AutoblogGreen the reason for the proprietary network (other plug-in vehicles won’t be able to use the special connector) was that, “the other charge systems don’t have enough power and in order to really charge fast, the charger needs pretty advanced technology and it needs to exactly match the pack. It’s got to be hand-in-glove.”



The Supercharger will be unveiled, along with deployment plans that provide “a solution for the electric vehicle’s long-distance road trip that only Model S* can achieve” on Monday, September 24, with a live webcast starting 8 p.m. PDT. You will be able to watch the event here.



*And not all Model S vehicles will be able to Supercharge, since the 40-kWh version was not designed for long trips, according to Musk.

By Sebastian Blanco

Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #335 LIVE!





We’re set to record Autoblog Podcast #335 tonight, and you can drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module below. Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven’t already done so, and if you want to take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.



Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #335

  • Porsche Macan to debut at Los Angeles Auto Show
  • Rolls-Royce SUV?
  • Tesla expands Supercharger network nationwide
  • Mitsubishi Attrage
  • 2014 Toyota Corolla teaser



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By Dan Roth