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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Posts tagged: tesla

VIDEO: Elon Musk claims car review cost Tesla $100million

Tesla CEO Elon Musk must be getting tired of fighting bad reviews of his cars.  In 2011Tesla sued the BBC’s ‘Top Gear’ over a segment where two of their roadsters allegedly broke down on the show’s test track.  Musk defended his company once again this month on Bloomberg television.  He claims a misleading New York Times review of the Tesla Model S cost Tesla $100million. 

Four ways the Tesla Model X is better than an SUV

 

 
Tesla’s financial success and uncertain future depends largely on how well their upcoming Model X sells. Luckily for the electric car pioneer, the X has more than a few things going for it that gas-powered SUVs just can’t touch:

NO ENGINE

Whether in the front, middle or rear of the car, an engine hogs valuable space that could otherwise be used for storage as well as crumple zone to absorb the impact of an accident. 

The Model X doesn’t have an engine. Instead it comes standard with a relatively tiny 300hp rear mounted electric motor and an optional 150hp front mounted motor. 

With either setup the X leaves a gaping storage space under the hood large enough to hold an extra set of luggage. In a head-on collision with a Ford Explorer for example, the X wins the crumple zone battle while scoring points for a unique way to destroy a spouse’s unnecessary set of extra luggage. 

X-Factor Bonus: 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds – on par with the 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0. 

NO TRANSMISSION

You know that giant hump on the floor of most every gas-powered car you’ve ever been in? That’s the transmission. The X’s drivetrain is linked directly to its potent little motors, eliminating the need for a space-wasting transmission and drastically increasing interior space.

X-Factor Bonus: Optional all-wheel drive, hump not included. 

LOW CENTER OF GRAVITY

The cliché SUV of years past is a top heavy beast that rolls over with ease during an emergency lane change at highway speeds - sometimes the faulty tires blowout for added effect. 

Where the aforementioned transmission would be in such vehicles, the X has a flat battery pack that runs from the front to rear wheels, lowering the center of gravity and significantly improving handling. 

X-Factor Bonus: The X’s electric powertrain is a universal platform on which Tesla plans to build other vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this should help drive the price point down to the $30,000 range on an upcoming “Mass Market” vehicle. 

FALCON WING DOORS

They might seem like a gimmick, and to a certain extent they probably are, but falcon wing doors do actually have a practical purpose. 

In a presentation to the media, Elon Musk stood up inside the X with his head sprouting above the roofline to show how the doors opened up a gaping space to load and unload the vehicle. 

Keep in mind these are Falcon wing doors, not to be confused with Gullwing doors. The distinction is important. Gullwing doors open out before up, making it harder to exit a vehicle equipped with them in a parking stall without smashing the novelty hunks of metal on adjacent cars. 

The X’s Falcon Wing doors shrug upwards before moving outwards, eliminating this embarrassing problem. 

X-Factor Bonus: Tesla claims if passengers can fit between a parked car and the X, the Falcon wing doors will have ample space to open. Can “normal” doors do that?

As mentioned above, these unique attributes had better be worth the X’s estimated $60,000-$100,000 asking price to potential buyers, not only because of the lofty cost, but also for the amount of money Tesla spent developing the technology that make the X a cutting edge electric vehicle. 

In 2011 Tesla spent $208 million on research and development alone. That same year they lost $254 million after losing roughly $154 million in 2010. 

On paper these numbers might seem like the gambling debts of a man who lost his mind making his hair stand up from touching a static electric ball too many times, but in reality the losses could prove to be valuable investments. 

Outside of their own sales, Tesla understands the technological advances produced from their expensive work have a definite street value to major automakers. The young company has signed contracts with Toyota and Mercedes to help them develop their own electric cars. 

That’s right – the minds behind the ever-popular Prius want Tesla's help to develop electric cars. 

Tesla’s earnings from such deals increased from $19 million in 2010 to $55 million in 2011, indicating the X has much more to offer than bird doors. (1)

Still, there’s no denying that how well the Model X sells will play a huge role in Tesla's long term viability. After all, the company doesn’t produce a single gas-powered car to fall back on and won’t be able to rely on government grants indefinitely. 

As of February 16 of this year Tesla had confirmed more than 500 reservations for the X at a cost of $5,000 per reservation. Tesla estimates the resulting sales could total $40,000 million. (1)

For American taxpayers, those figures should 
grant some optimism for return on their investment, especially if Tesla technology eventually finds its way into an entry-level electric car, even if it’s not a Tesla. 

SOURCES:
(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/tesla-model-x_n_1282569.html
Picture: Wired.com

“It’s a brick” - Tesla’s batteries under question

A titillating story emerged this week with solid evidence that Tesla electric cars can turn to “bricks” if their batteries reach a zero charge. Tesla has since released a statement downplaying the issue, but the juiciest facts are clear. Michael DeGusta of The Understatement broke the news: 


“A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a ‘brick'. The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed.” (1)

That’s exactly what happened to Tesla Roadster owner Max Drucker. As described in DeGusta’s article, Drucker’s car turned to a brick after he left it unplugged in his garage for two months. 

“It wouldn’t do anything,” Drucker said. “It wouldn’t even unlock. It took four guys two hours to get the car out of my garage and onto a flatbed truck. The car wouldn’t even roll.” (1)

But that wasn’t the worst of Drucker’s experience. When the $100,000 Roadster was towed to a Tesla service center a technician informed him his car was a “brick” and the battery would have to be replaced at a cost of $40,000 – far more expensive than any battery sold at Midas. 

The worst part - Tesla does not offer any form of insurance or warranty for a “bricked” car. 
Drucker sent an angry letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk and vented about his terrible experience to DeGusta, who just happened to be one of nearly 500 people that had dropped a $5,000 reservation on the upcoming Tesla Model X. 

DeGusta published a scathing story describing Drucker’s experience as but one example of a “devastating design problem”, not only for the Roadster but for all Tesla electric cars. (2) More to the point, he perpetuated Drucker’s charge that Tesla fails to do an adequate job of properly disclosing their vehicles can transform to useless bricks if not properly maintained. 

“With such a large price tag for a bricked vehicle, it would be reasonable to expect Tesla to go to great lengths to ensure their customers were fully aware of the severity of battery discharge,” he wrote. (2) 

In fact, Tesla does have buyers sign a Disclosures and Acknowledgements” form that specifically states:

“Note, your Roadster warranty as it relates to the battery does not cover damage caused by exposing an unplugged vehicle to ambient temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for over 24 hours, storing an unplugged vehicle in temperatures below -40 degrees Fahrenheit for over seven days or leaving your vehicle unplugged where it discharges that battery to at or near zero state of charge.” (1) 

Drucker felt this warning was vague at best. 

“It doesn’t say that if you don’t leave the car plugged in your battery will be dead and you’ll be out $40,000,” he said. “I am not an idiot. If I had ever heard that, I would not have allowed this to happen.” (1)

When DeGusta's article on Drucker’s $40,000 battery replacement began to grab Google headlines Tesla was quick to release a statement reminding people that “All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time.” (3)

There’s plenty of truth to those comparisons. Then again, when I returned from a week-long winter vacation to find the battery in my Subaru dead I didn’t get shafted to the tune of $40,000 - I called Triple A and got a jumpstart. 

Whether or not Tesla is doing enough to clearly inform their customers of the brick issue is up for debate. What’s clear is that Tesla is well aware of the issue and has gone to great lengths to prevent their cars from ever reaching critically low charges.

Tesla stated that, “Owners of Roadster 2.0 and all subsequent Tesla products can request that their vehicle alert Tesla if SOC (state of charge) falls to a low level. All Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below 5 percent SOC.” (3)

A Tesla service team member reportedly told DeGusta that in certain cases Tesla staff has gone so far as to remotely activate a dying vehicle's onboard GPS after failing to reach the driver. Once the vehicle is located Tesla has sent maintenance workers to service the vehicle. (3)

If Drucker was aware of or signed up for these services it’s likely his Roadster never would have been bricked. Still, being asked to fork over $40,000 to replace a dead battery isn’t going to seem like a reasonable proposition to many consumers should all the preventive measures fail. 

Having said that, it's important to keep in mind we’re going to have to grant electric cars certain concessions while the technology behind them evolves to the point where they can be mass-produced.

For Tesla, “brick” could soon become a forgotten dirty word of their early history. 

But I wouldn't say that to Mr. Drucker. 


Read DeGusta’s full article here: http://tinyurl.com/6nfl87c

SOURCES:
(1) http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/02/bricked-tesla-roadsters/
(2) http://theunderstatement.com/post/18030062041/its-a-brick-tesla-motors-devastating-design?utm_source=Jalopnik+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b6b671aaaf-UA-142218-9&utm_medium=email#fnref:1
(3) http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/02/22/tesla-motors-downplays-threat-brick-problem/?vgnextrefresh=1?test=latestnews#ixzz1nFDfMY7Y 

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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