By on March 26, 2007

2007-tesla-roadster-fa-1280x960.jpgTesla Motors says it's taken 350 deposits for their Lotus Elise-based, lithium ion-propelled, $92k Roadster. Despite this success, Tesla's hyper-exotic may offer more hype than hope. The company won't allow expert evaluation of their product until it's "ready for market." Even before they've delivered a single Roadster, they're promising two additional, mass market electric vehicles– whose enabling technology is, at best, under-developed. Meanwhile, they've raised $60m in venture capital and secured $20m in state subsidies to build a New Mexican factory. To find out if the Tesla Roadster is keeping it real for planet Earth, or DeLorean/Tucker redux, we sent our man Shoemaker to Tesla for a "test drive."

Jay reports that the carbon fiber Tesla is far more attractive than the fiberglass Elise. Lotus’ engineers added two inches to the Elise’s wheelbase to holster Tesla's LiIon batteries and attendant cooling and heating gear. Lotus' boffins also lowered the sports car’s door sills and modified all the bodywork, adding Tesla-specific design cues. The finished Roadster includes 2.5mph bumpers, HID headlights and all LED rear lights.

ahnold-side.jpgShoes says the new dimensions and finely rendered jewelry (e.g. the distinctive hood motif and the taillights standing proud from the body) transform the British sports car’s look from insectoid to exotic. There's a bit of Ferrari F355, a bit of Lotus Europa, a lot of style. It’s no wonder the Tesla Roadster has become the plug-in poster boy.

Jay also reports that the Roadster’s interior is so Elise it hurts. Literally.

interior.jpgTesla modded the cabin to appease their upmarket customers. They’ve widened the narrow seats and fitted them with “the finest space-age foam available.” They carpeted the floor, leather-trimmed the door panels and Blaupunked the ICE. The overall effect is like adding a space heater to a drafty classroom. “If it holstered a small block Chevy, the Roadster would be the official car of ‘The 300.’”

Instead, the Roadster houses 6831 lithium ion cells. The battery pack weighs 900 pounds and costs $20k to replace (try not to misplace it Bond). Tesla rates the four pole electric motor at 248 horsepower. It can be charged in six hours (if your home has 30 – 40 Amps of power) or as little as three hours (if you’re rigged with 90 Amps). Although the Roadster’s maximum range is 250 miles, the company says spirited driving will yield “substantially less.”

roadsters.jpgBefore we share Shoemaker’s “driving” impressions, keep in mind that all these numbers reflect Tesla's ambitions, not demonstrable reality. Again, no independent organization has evaluated any aspect of the Roadster's performance or construction. While Tesla Motors is happy admitting their Roadster's range could be “substantially less” than advertised, anyone thinking about buying a Roadster should consider those words carefully. Would you purchase a sports car that can only drive 90 miles between 12 hour recharges?

Tesla admirers/intenders also note: our man was not allowed behind the wheel. Indeed, all Tesla’s media coverage has been carefully supervised and controlled. While "you can't touch this" restrictions are not unknown in an industry that produces million dollar plus prototypes, there are plenty of electric car companies happy to let responsible journos do what responsible journos are supposed to do. 

2060808_002_1m.jpgTesla says the Roadster sprints from zero to 60mph in about four seconds, which would make it faster than the Elise. According to Shoemaker, the Roadster felt every bit as quick as his E63 AMG. The Roadster's all-electric engine doesn’t free wheel, so the car slows when pressure diminishes on the accelerator. Although the Roadster doesn’t generate any engine noise and very little transmission whine, Shoes says there’s virtually no insulation from significant road or wind noise.

In terms of handling, “fast and darty sums it up.” Tesla says that although the Roadster’s batteries add 25 percent to the weight of the elongated Elise; the weight distribution is still 40 – 60 front to rear. Jay says the Tesla Roadster’s low center of gravity and relative light weight maintain the Lotus’ slot car handling. The Roadster uses regenerative braking; as a passenger, Jay couldn’t rate the system’s feel or effectiveness.

The enthusiastic staff at Tesla Motors describes the Roadster’s selling proposition as “performance without guilt.” But if you set aside the media’s PC fawning over an eco-friendly sports car, there are serious questions about the Roadster’s ability to deliver on its manufacturer's promises.

electrictank.jpgFor example, Tesla says its engineers have placed the Roadster’s LiIon batteries away from each other in steel and aluminum containers. Even so, if one of its batteries ignites, it could cause a virtually unstoppable series of fires and/or explosions. Roadster deliveries are now scheduled for fall; federal approval for the vehicle has not yet been granted.

Safety, range, reliability, recharge time, battery life, build quality, manufacturing costs– Tesla has yet to prove that they’ve overcome any of these obstacles for their lightweight Roadster (never mind their planned family car). Until they do, until they allow the press to thoroughly evaluate the car’s real world capabilities, their Roadster should be viewed as nothing more than another well-meaning concept car. Or, if you prefer, a fabulous toy.

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229 Comments on “Tesla Roadster...”


  • avatar

    Good point Robert. I’m afraid I had initially gotten caught up in the idea of a high performance, Elise-like, electric car, but the reality, as you have stated, is that the concept is still entirely unproven. Hopefully the Tesla Roadster makes good on the hype, as it would then embody an exciting technological step forward. I guess we’ll all see later this year…maybe.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Being a child of the 1980s, all I can do is quote O.M.D.:

    Tesla girls, tesla girls
    Testing out theories
    Electric chairs and dynamos
    Dressed to kill they’re killing me
    But heaven knows their recipe

  • avatar

    They’re still not letting anyone else drive the car, not even a potential customer like Jay? Wow.

    Since I’ve driven an Elise and it made my rough, noisy Protege5 feel like a Lincoln Navigator, I love the “like setting up a space heater in a drafty classroom” analogy.

    So I take it the center console still has a considerable amount of lateral wobble?

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    For what its worth, I have seen their design/manufacturing facility and spoken at length with their chief mechanical engineer and came away very impressed. Unfortunately, I was also denied the ride and drive.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    I always remember when the UK magazine “Car”, which was pretty damn good, produced a whole article about the the 1988 Lotus Elan, about a year before it was launched.

    My, how they gushed.

    A friend of mine was very interested, he asked me, were the prototypes /that/ good? No, sadly, the journos had not driven a car. They hadn’t even sat in one for a hot lap. Journalism at its best.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Is a matching Nomex suit available?

    More seriously, what is the spontaneous rate of catastrophic failure in a lithium-ion cell? I’m guessing its one in 20 million+ based on the little I read in the tech blogs, but perhaps someone in the know can say?

    350 Tesla Roadsters = 2.39 million cells.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Just their choice of batteries and the over-the-top measures to keep them “safe” speaks of an initally good idea being rushed to market (to satisfy investors?). I’ll wait for the $25K “safer-battery” version (Prius Roadster, anyone?)

  • avatar

    starlightmica:

    As Dell will tell you, improperly designed or poorly manufactured LiIon batteries have a nasty tendency to burst into flames. Experts estimate the chances of a lithium ion battery fire are one in ten million. Tesla says it will build 1325 Roadsters by the end of ’08. Achieving that goal would require 9,051,075 LiIon batteries.

    If one of those nine million batteries ignites…

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Sounds to me like another Tucker or Davis. using unproved technology in utter secrecy. If you have something good you would not keep it under wraps before you launch. Especially in this day in age when “buzz” is so important.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Finally, someone reaches in and finds out that the Emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes.

    The Tesla is a perfect example of just how gullible and technically uneducated, the popular media really are.

    These are the same people who are giving “A convenient lie” enough credibility to vault Al Gore into the Presidential race.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Wow, all this biatch-slap of reality and we didn’t even make it to the point that the electricity is dirty and only makes sense if (a) you are in an area that receives 100% nuke/hydro/wind power and/or (b) you’re an ostrich-headed NIMBY “environmentalist”

  • avatar
    Brendan

    philbaily: A better example of the uneducated popular media is fuel cells.

    Tesla is currently unable to prove their claims independently. That hardly qualifies as a lie, or failure. After launch, their ambitions will be proven or disproven pretty quickly. They have every right to be paranoid and cagey for now.

    The best way for American automaking to survive is with a high-tech startup, away from Detroit, with fresh leadership and engineering. The other option is that the taxpayers can just bail Detroit out over and over.

  • avatar
    MW

    An expensive toy? Well, sure, isn’t that kind of the point? A small number of people with a large amount of money will buy it because it makes them feel good about themselves. If someone wants to drop $100K on a tempermental, expensive-to-own electric exotic car rather than a tempermental, expensive-to-own conventional exotic car, what’s the harm in it?

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    RF –

    I see on the Tesla FAQ that they’ve intentionally set a cell on fire within the battery pack to make sure that it’s contained.

    http://www.teslamotors.com/engineering/safety.php?js_enabled=1

  • avatar

    Brendan: Point taken. This is precisely the argument Tesla used with me when I confronted them on these issues: judge us when we're ready. Yes but… The company is already soaking up a LOT of OPM (Other People's Money), including the taxpayers of New Mexico. When Tucker went belly-up, the company lost Shoemaker's boss' father's cash. When DeLorean's dream died, lots of people were hurt. Caveat emptor? OK. But Tesla's taking investment money that might have helped more established and transparent companies that have a better chance of achieving the goal of a practical electric car for the masses. Also, they are not shy about making claims. These claims are being reported as fact. These facts may not be realized. If they aren't true, if Tesla sinks under the weight of its own ambitions, it could put potential consumers off the whole electric car concept. Perhaps it's a question of style, rather than a lack of substance. I hope so, but the question should be raised. For the media to jump on the Tesla bandwagon without questioning the company and product's viability is an abrogation of their journalistic responsibilities.  starlightmica: Setting a single cell on fire is not the same as running the car into a barrier at speed. Or proper NHTSA side and (especially) rear crash tests. I will believe that the vehicle is safe when the feds pronounce it so. But does the vagueness of Tesla’s text bother anyone else? “Tesla Motors’s engineers selected cells from a reputable Fortune 500 battery supplier.” “We then collaborated with an outside firm known for expertise in lithium ion battery safety to perform hundreds of tests to validate the safety of our design.” Proprietary information? Perhaps. But that’s not the way these things are usually done by the serious players.

  • avatar
    FreeMan

    Following the link from starlightmica, there’s this:
    Hot wheels. Our wheels are constructed from machined forged aluminum alloy, making them extremely lightweight while giving you better performance. The unique design of the spokes leans clockwise on the right side of the car and counter-clockwise on the left.

    That’s nice – no rotating tires for you, little sportscar!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    FreeMan–
    There’s no tire rotation on a lot of cars. Unidirectional tread with different width tires front/rear means no rotation. Corvettes, vipers, etc…

  • avatar
    wsn

    IMO, the 1st true electric car will be from Honda, the greenest of all automakers and the one that always delivers on its promise. If Honda cannot (yet), no one else can do it safely or reliably or economically.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    RF -

    For better or for worse, it’s the penalty of being the leader. The Tesla won’t have any problems passing the federal crash tests thanks to lots of computer simulations, but all it takes is one bad unforseen hit from a tractor trailer to splatter the bad news everywhere, because it will be the first.

    Contrast that with the previous Mustang: a picture of a 50mph rear-ended SN95 Mustang convertible graced the front page of blueovalnews.com a while back. The ‘Stang had but empty air where the trunk and fuel tank were previously located, with a gallon of fuel leaked and the doors jammed shut. Yes, people have been burned alive, and Google turns articles about this, but I doubt this is well known.

  • avatar

    starlightmica:

    Don’t be so sure about those NHTSA crash tests. The feds are rigorous and diligent in their work, and they use real cars, not simulations (if that’s what you meant).

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Yes, but NHTSA also gives freebies to manufacturers that somehow show that US jobs are at stake if they are forced to throw their car against the wall.

    Example? Elise.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    We rightfully bash GM for a lot of things they do, but you do have to give them credit for putting effort/time/money into things outside the mainstream once in a while. The EV1 for example (though driven by California’s mandate.)

    My point is, that GM is saying that the current state of battery technology does not allow the Volt to become reality. In fact, it seems the Volt was simply a publicity stunt that got out of hand.

    So, if GM (and Toyota) do not feel that electric cars are ready for the road en masse, how is it that a startup with very limited resources (relatively) can do it? Yes – unlimited creativity, forward thinking, hard work, dedication – all things that are typically stifled in a large corporation.

    But still, if it was ready to go I gotta believe Toyota or Honda or GM would be doing it, if only for the “green” halo effect.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Might as well make the wheels out of magnesium for further weight savings. Would also add to the light show if the battery pack does flare up.

  • avatar
    MW

    Sid:

    “if it was ready to go I gotta believe Toyota or Honda or GM would be doing it”

    The only reason I question that is that those are mass-market companies locked into their own assumptions about what consumers will and won’t buy. From what I read here and on other sites, it sounds like an all-electric vehicle with a 100 mile range from an overnight charge for around $20K is probably feasible. GM, Toyota et. al. rightly conclude that doesn’t sound like a value proposition that’s going to talk many Americans out of an Impala or Camry for their next ride. And they can’t operate producing cars that only a few thousand people will buy. Weren’t annual sales of the Insight something like 3,000 units?

    I have no idea if Tesla’s cars are for real, but one thing they did right was to start with a very small, very profitable niche market. If the things work at all, they’ll sell a few hundred to wealthy indviduals who want to make a point, do something to feel good about themselves, or just have a cool new toy their friends don’t have. It sounds like their plan is to use the money from the roadster to continue developing the “real world” car. Or maybe just sell it to a company that can actually manufacture, market and distribute in scale. Either way, what comes next will be interesting.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    It wasn’t very long ago that the world was going to be saved by a magical device from Dean Kamen. John Doerr of venture capital fame and Jeff Bezos of Amazon did their role in hyping “IT” before anyone knew what “IT” was. In 2001 “IT” finally appeared in the form of the constantly hyped Segway electric scooter. Laws were changed around the world to enable a new more efficient future. Countless news stories were printed and aired. But in the end, almost nobody buys the silly things and the first generation was recalled 100% at least once. I bet that many Tesla intenders already of a Segway, and never use it.

    It is bad enough that we have self-igniting cell phones and laptops on the market now. Lithium ion batteries in cars strikes me as a horrible idea.

    By the way, how long do you think it will be until a hydrogen fueled car does a Hindenberg?

    BTW, another interesting automotive start-up is Carbon Motors in Georgia. They intend to make a purpose built police car.

    http://www.carbonmotors.com/

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Good points, hadn’t really thought of them in regards to the Tesla although a 90k toy isn’t in my future anyway. The question I have is doesn’t making an electric sports car with no conventional motor, no exhaust and I guess no need to shift defeat the entire purpose of a sports car to begin with?

  • avatar

    This sounds for all the world like the late, and unlamented Shelby Series 1. Fortunately the Tesla was not beat with the same ugly stick.

  • avatar
    pk

    Note:

    1) The company that provides the batteries for Tesla is also “under serious consideration” to provide batteries for a new plug-in vehicle by GM.

    2) Collaborating with Lotus has its pros (weight, dynamics) and cons (build quality). For a pioneering supertoy for wealthy techno geeks (give me some money and count me in), the level of forgiveness for the latter should be pretty high.

  • avatar
    New-Thinker

    Farago – This at best is a muckraking piece which does a fine job at slinging FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). The whole point was to criticize Tesla before it’s even in the marketplace, right? I thought this was ‘The “Truth” about Cars’ not The Negative Conjecture about Cars.

    Your first gripe is that you can’t drive it whenever you request to. I didn’t know that journalist had a god given right to drive whatever un-launched car they wanted to. How well does it work when you demand that Toyota give you a preproduction car to review? Does BMW or GM do that for you? I doubt it. Obviously Tesla has some bugs to work out, but they don’t want a blog to pass judgment on a work that is still in progress.

    Next you hammer them on the possibility that the battery could ignite. Do you have any inside knowledge of the safety systems that Tesla has implemented or are you assuming that the highly educated engineers are just throwing batteries into a box and hoping for the best? News flash: Did you know that gasoline is highly explosive? Holy crap! They use this explosive the current cars. Let’s condemn all cars.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Hey gents,

    I’ve got alot of thoughts on this that I’ll try to compress into a short period of space:

    1. Tesla’s in a tough spot. They are trying to build a limited production vehicle using advanced technology and have limited funds and resources to do it. Therefore, they need tons of good publicity (to keep the money flowing) but can’t reveal much of their technology for fear of competition. If Toyota/Honda truely got involved or saw a profit from this venture, they have alot more money and manpower and would hurt Tesla’s upstart effort.

    2. I believe I just read that Tesla sent 2 cars to be crash tested. This indicates readiness. I didn’t search for the source, so my apologies if I’m wrong on this information

    3. This, to my knowledge, is the first all-electric sports car. And it’s seriously capable, if it’s doing 0-60 in 4.0. I wouldn’t want it put in the hands of journalists yet either. They need nothing but glowing publicity right now, because (see #1) they need money and suspense.

    4. Range: Lets say with conservative driving you get 250 miles, and aggressive driving you get 100. I don’t know about you guys, but I get about 250 miles to one tank in my 06 Honda Civic SI under back-road driving fairly aggressive. I can get it to under 200 when alot of aggression. My car doesn’t offer the same level of performance. If the Tesla can get 100 miles when driven in serious anger, then it is a success to me. How many miles can that RS4 go?

    This is a sports car, utilizing new technology. Sure, you’ll get some owners that don’t realize they can’t bomb up and down the California coast all day, and get stuck out there….but range, as long as it’s 100 miles of “spirited” driving, is good enough.

    5. I pray Tesla has a fire supression system in place, and that they offer free replacement for a few years on any failed battery packs. This would be responsible, and show maturity and long-term seriousness.

    I’ll give Tesla credit for doing something that’s pretty freaking hard. They are a start-up company operating with new technology in a hot market (read: buzz for all-electric). They are dangerously close to delivering a product that meets alot of their original claims; claims that were made probably in the earliest of prototype phases. 0-60 in 4.0 and can be recharged at home in a reasonable amount of time.

    Joe O.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    New-Thinker:

    I think Robert’s point is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Tesla is making some rather bold claims about its product, but when asked for some seat time, Tesla refuses. This should be worrying to him and anyone considering buying one; if the car is really that great, they would be practically begging auto journalists to take it for a spin, knowing they’ll rave about it later.

    BTW, yes, gasoline is explosive, but it is at least a known danger. LiIon batteries are relatively new to us. It’s worth noting that if gasoline-powered cars didn’t exist already, they would never be introduced today. Threat of litigation would scare the car companies completely away from dangerous, highly explosive gasoline. It’s a different world today.

  • avatar
    durailer

    This product isn’t entirely far-fetched as it sounds. There are a few warranty-voiding enterprises willing to convert your Prius into a fully-electric, plug-in vehicle. The fact that Tesla’s using a Lotus platform indicates that there more than a few knowns about this car.

    It’s Tesla’s over-protective, secretive attitude that worries me, not because it could lead to this roadster’s failure, but if the car falls short of its promises (or worse), the company’s hopes of producing mass-market cars would evaporate overnight. The general public would be firmly sceptical (or scared) of the technology, and that would make things difficult for the mainstream automakers.

    The world needs motoring alternatives, let’s hope Tesla doesn’t mess things up for Toyota, Honda, GM’s Volt, and the like.

  • avatar

    Joe O: 4. Range: Lets say with conservative driving you get 250 miles, and aggressive driving you get 100. I don’t know about you guys, but I get about 250 miles to one tank in my 06 Honda Civic SI under back-road driving fairly aggressive But when you empty the tank in your SI, you can refill it in a matter of minutes at a number of convenient locations. When the Tesla's "tank" is empty it takes hours to "refill" after you find somewhere to plug it in. That seriously limits its usefulness to nothing more than a limited-range toy.  And unless they can overcome this limitation before they bring out their sports sedan (codename Whitestar), it won't find a very large audience either.  

  • avatar

    Posted by Darryl SIry: VP Marketing at Tesla

    I think we are the only company that allows a very large number of people to take rides in the Engineering Prototypes and gives tours in their facility. We also spend a lot of time on the phone talking to people like Robert Farago and many others giving them as much information as we can about our progress. We have a corporate blog that goes into a great amount of detail as to this progress as well, and answers many of the questions (and speculations) raised here. This is about as transparent as a car company can be at this stage of product development. It’s not accurate to say we are vaporware, especially since your guy showmaker was at our facility and took a ride in the EP.

    It is accurate to say that we have not yet offered a car to automotive journalists for independent verification of the performance. That is because we are at the EP stage of development, and no company has ever done that. It isn’t wise to hand over early stage prototypes for evaluation since they are not yet fully developed and quite expensive if crashed. First drives are usually offered to the press when the Validation Prototype” is ready for prime time. In between that is a lot of engineering and refinement.

    Our first VP is in San Carlos now. When I get my VPs (numbers 9 and 10) and when we have the car in full pre-production readiness, I will happily hand over the keys for third party validation. I will do that as soon as possible, probably late summer.

    I told Robert Farago all this in a lengthy phone call.

    Bottom line is that serious car makers follow a lengthy process of product development with multiple stages of prototype development before the cars are ready for prime time. That is what we are doing.

  • avatar

    On Crash Testing:

    We have already crash tested our EPs as a natural course of development – and they performed very well. You can find a blog that goes into great detail on the crash tests that include photos on the Tesla blog (http://www.teslamotors.com/blog1/?p=28)

    We plan to crash another 4 VPs to verify conformance with the Federally Mandated Vehicle Safety Standards. Contrary to Robert’s comments above, no one hands cars to the “feds” for them to crash. The government sets standards that you must demonstrate compliance to with your own testing. The manufacturer certifies that they meet all FMVSS requirements, not the government. Crash testing cars costs a lot of money. If we were a vaporware company we wouldn’t bother, would we?

  • avatar

    On Batteries:

    As another commenter pointed out, on our website you can learn that we have designed the ESS specifically to prevent any thermal runaway event in a cell from propagating to another cell in the pack. If a cell goes into thermal runaway the group of cells it belongs to will “drop off” the circuit and the driver will see a “check engine” light. If there is sufficient smoke in the pack the ESS will shut itself down. In either case there is little or no danger to the occupants. All of this is public information on our website and with the depth that Robert Farago went into reporting this piece (including an “inside” look), I wish he had read up on these issues before writing his piece.

    As far as GM saying that the battery technology is not there yet – GM is setting out to build a series hybrid with the Volt. The battery requirements for a series hybrid are very different from a pure EV like the Tesla. They need cells with extremely high cycle life since their pack is small and will be discharged and recharged many more times over the same distance driven than the Tesla pack.

    While on the subject – If anyone has the opportunity they can ask the GM team involved with Volt if they think Tesla is vaporware. They know enough about us to tell you their views.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Along with 250 optimal miles, I’d like to know how long the batteries last at WOT. That might be enough to judge the real-world range for yourself.

    While I appreciate the need for a startup to keep a distance from journos and hard data, there’s a lot of money at stake here. Being a little more forthcoming about information presented here is a good idea.

    I bet the folks in Dunmurry needed some of that from DeLorean.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I’ve been following the Tesla fairly closely for a while. I do think this piece has a bit of “Chicken Little” feeling to it.

    There is no question that if Tesla fails to meet their claims by a material matgin, they will be a disappointment. But don’t worry about the poor investors; this is not a Tucker stock scheme.

    The investors have plenty of money to play with. They’re like the prospective buyers – they can afford the possible risks.

    Do you realize how much money is floating around silicon valley? I went back to Los Gatos recently – the Ford dealer went out of business, but there’s a full size Lamborghini showroom. As well as two other showrooms full of every exotic you could want to drool over.

    You need to put the Tesla roadster in that context. Why worry about their rich kids’ toys. Are you going to cry for George Clooney if his Tesla only goes 200 miles?

    BTW: Toyota has confirmed that Li-ion batteries will be in the next 2009 Prius. That says something about their readiness.

  • avatar
    camp6ell

    i suspect a lot more than one in 10 million gasoline powered cars end up in flames. i saw one yesterday at the side of I-95, in fact. will be expecting a big (well, 800 words anyway) follow up on the dangers of gasoline cars.
    nice response by siry.

  • avatar

    A final comment for now:

    I think it is natural that we will have some people who are skeptical about the actual performance of our car until we have delivered cars to testers and to customers. That is why we have decided to be as transparent as we can about things, and go into depth on many of these issues on our website (www.teslamotors.com). Serious journalists who are skeptical of the company can get a lot of answers there and can call the company for more answers to their questions.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Sajeev:

    I could see an ironic accessory: a 240V gas-powered generator compact enough to fit in the trunk to get you home from the track.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Ok here’s my take on this little toy. This is not the EV-1, it’s not a green grocery getter. It’s a high performance car in the $100,000 dollar range. Therefore, you’re going to want to take it to a track on occasion. So you show up at Nurburgring and you dazzle everyone with your 0-60 time out of the gate, you maybe even pass a Porche 911 Turbo or two. Then less than 8 laps into it you have to call the tow truck because you’re battery is dead and you are heading back to the hotel room for the night while the car recharges.

    Are you f***ing kidding me?

  • avatar

    ash78: .. and we didn’t even make it to the point that the electricity is dirty and only makes sense if (a) you are in an area that receives 100% nuke/hydro/wind power and/or (b) you’re an ostrich-headed NIMBY “environmentalist”

    I assume you derive (b) from (a), however your (a) is largely incorrect :-)

    Electric power is transmitted efficiently over thousands of miles by the high-voltage transmission grid. There’s really no such thing as a local area which supplies your energy; switch on another light and a little more energy is pulled from wherever it’s available (might be the other side of the country). As such, everyone shares the same mix of sources (coal, nuclear, hydro etc).

    If every house in the US switched off a light at 10 pm, more than likely a couple of large coal-fired power stations somewhere would come off-line.

    Another way of looking at it; when the 2000 MW power station down the road from your house has its annual maintenance shut-down, you still have power. It just comes from all the other power stations on the grid. Grids span continents (US and Canada are connected, as is most of Europe).

    That’s simplified – but essentially correct.

    It’s also not correct to think that thermal power stations (coal and natural gas) plus the associated transmission are as inefficient as a typical internal combustion engine and therefore no better from a CO2 or sulphate pollution perspective. Thermal power stations are generally more efficient (particularly modern combined-cycle gas turbine stations) and of course pollution mitigation is more practical at a small number of large producers.

    I don’t mean to pick on your comment, but I often see this misconception, even on TTAC :-).

    One big advantage of electric cars (or more likely plug-in hybrids) is that they will improve the economics of intermittent renewable energy sources (e.g. wind and solar), as they can store the cheap energy when it’s available. Most electrical energy is sold at a fixed price, irrespective of when you consume it. This favours predictable but expensive energy (nuclear, coal etc), over intermittent but unit-cheap energy (wind, solar, run-of-the-river hydro etc).

    Electricity is sold in a very inefficient way – there’s effectively no price signal to match supply and demand in the short term. This disadvantages the cheap-get-it-while-its-available producers (wind, solar etc) and everyone pays more accordingly. Of course at the moment there aren’t a lot of uses of electricity which can store it until needed.

    Plug-in hybrids and electric cars will change this. Of course, the one-price-whenever system will go and you’ll need an internet connection so your car plug-in hybrid decide when to recharge.

    Apologies for the long posting.

    Cheers

    Malcolm

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Perhaps when batteries get light enough to swap them out like you would on say, a cordless power tool, then this concept might fly.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Robert: you summed it up in your last three words: “a fabulous toy”. That’s what it is, and that’s how it’s being marketed. So what’s the problem?

    If you had wanted to look for vaporware or questionable financing arrangements; there are other electric car companies out there that would have been much juicier plums: ZAP, Phoenix, etc.

    The Tesla folks have been very smart and transparent, unlike much that has gone on in this sector before.

    Tankd0g, Sajeev, Frank W: why are you bringing up the profoundly obvious issue of range and charge time? The buyers of the Tesla are intelligent enough to understand those realities. Tip: don’t buy one.

    You guys are sounding a bit like what the folks probably sounded like in 1889 when Carl Benz had to buy fuel for his car at the drug store- dry cleaning fluid- because there were no gas stations. I’m sure they were naysaying him from their horse and buggies.

    If Tesla were being financed through some government grant, and planning to sell millions to poor folks, I could begin to see some of your concerns. Let rich folks play with their Teslas, and very likely, we’ll all learn something useful from the exercise.

  • avatar
    LastResort

    It’s a bit incorrect to say our power grid spans the entire continent. We have basically separate eastern and a western grids, with some very small back to back converter stations in between in places like Montana. I also think that plug in hybrids/total electric are going to exacerbate an existing problem: aging power infrastructure. Both the east and west coast have seen major outages, often precipitated by higher than normal loading and temperatures.

    The problem with plug in vehicles is more social, than technical. Our current peak power demand comes as people head home. Firing up AC, ovens, lights, etc, put a huge demand on our transmission and generation infrastructure. Add in every Joe America coming home, plugging in his 90A/240V load (very substantial in a home so he can go out at might, and we will have a problem.

    It’s easy to say, “build more generation”, but this is easy for Seattle, less so for Wyoming where the coal fired power plants are constructed. Add other problems, such as power corridors that are already at maximum capacity in the LA area, and we are looking at some rather serious technical problems. Much of the existing protection in this country is still using state of the art, 1960′s technology. Updating will be costly, and American consumers have shown they are very unwilling to pay for this in the form of a higher utility bill.

    As an Electrical Engineer, I would love to be excited by electric vehicles, but I realize the future for them isn’t so rosy.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    LastResort: The DOE has issued a report saying that the existing US grid can handle up to 185 million plug-in vehicles at night.

    You’re right in that plugging in during “prime time” could be a problem. The electric companies are eager for this business, and smart meters are increasingly available. This would allow lower rates for night-time use. Europe has had these forever.

    A smart plug that doesn’t turn on until the right hour would be a microchip away. Plug in when you come home, and the juice starts flowing at the pre-determined time.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    LastResort,
    Did you see the study by the DOE stating that the current grid could handle charging 180 Million plug-in vehicles at night? Sounds sufficient to me. Besides, even if the grid is strained in a few areas by America switching to plug-ins, there would be plenty of $ incentive for utilities to upgrade.

    Additionally, there would be incentive for homeowners to install solar panels as their cost falls and government incentives rise (if only to avoid invovlement in another war in the MidEast).

  • avatar

    siry: So the reason you won't let journalists drive the Roadster on a closed course is…? Never mind road testing your precious prototypes. How about proving that you can recharge the battery pack in three hours? Would you agree to let a mutually agreeable expert test that claim? As for your assertions about the Roadster's safety, range, reliability and recharge times, they are just that: claims. I hope Tesla produces a product that lives up to ALL your hopes, dreams and assertions. I admire your entrepreneurial spirit. But I reckon you've been given a free ride by the automotive press. You want TTAC's respect? You've got to earn it. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you make your reputation by what you do, not what you say.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    jinx!

  • avatar
    LastResort

    SherbornSean:
    Yes, notice I didn’t say overnight would be the problem. Many of the utilities that were excited about Plug in vehicles discovered that American consumers were not interested in charging overnight, but would come home, and plug in immediately so they could go out at night. Hence why the problem is more social, than technical.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    And to paraphrase Bill Ford, you soil your grandfather’s firm’s reputation by what you say and don’t do?

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    As Paul Niedermeyer stated, Silicon Valley has a lot of money to play with.

    Tesla, is the perfect example of a Silicon Valley start up. Rich people and VCs in silicon valley gamble on 20-30 different companies and front them money with the hopes that at least one will pay off big. In the realm of technology companies, Tesla seems far more promising than many of the other companies earning VC money in these parts.

    Tesla has the big funding not because that they are guaranteed to make it, but because they have at least a 1 in 20 shot of hitting it really big. Make no mistake, if tesla does make it, they will be huge because they hold out the promise of a non-penalty box electric car.

    Second, I think it’s bulls*** that TTAC takes the domestics to task on a daily basis for not innovating and not taking risks and then turns around and rips the most innovative and risk taking company in the business.

    Finally, articles like this really dampen my hopes for what TTAC could be. On one hand I think TTAC is great because they obviously do not cower automakers and they are earnest and honest. But then TTAC takes all that well-earned objectivity and squanders it by posting completely unbalanced over-the-top screeds like this. What’s the use of avoiding the bribes of automakers when your not putting your well earned respectability to good use?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    LastResort,
    I have 3 preschoolers at home, so maybe you can explain to me what this “go out at night” concept is?

    Anyhow, I think the electric will be a good second car for a lot of families, so long as their commute/errands requirements are less than the range of say 40-50 miles. But I wouldn’t expect electrics to replace ICE/diesel completely, at least not over the next 20 years.

    Of course, technological change comes fast. When’s the last time you went shopping for a CRT or VHS?

  • avatar

    zoomzit: I don't remember taking The Big 2.5 to task for not innovating enough. As I recall, both myself and other writers (we are not a monolithic organization) have taken them to task for "innovating" too much (introducing too many models for too many brands, not supporting existing models, etc.). Now, as most of you know, TTAC has a strict policy prohibiting flaming the website, its authors or fellow commentators. For this post, Frank and I have agreed to waive the restriction against criticizing TTAC for publishing this article. It is my opinion that we have an obligation to hold Tesla to their claims. To suggest that they may not be able to meet them. If you think I've been premature or unfair, well, feel free to say so.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Paul Niedermeyer: I’m bringing it up as the main reason this thing won’t be seen on the roads. Sure, some absurdly rich people will buy them, but will they actually use them for anything? Doubtful.

  • avatar

    RF: Wonderful, fascinating article, can’t wait to finish reading the comments. Having said that, I would like them, or someone like them to succeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these upstarts grew up out of the ashes of the 2.5.

  • avatar

    Robert – As I said, I will let automotive journalists drive the Roadster on the streets and on a closed course when the Validation Prototype is ready, which will be later this summer. That is the appropriate car to test because it will be closest to production, so there will be little or no caveats. Why is it so strange that we don’t hand over early prototype cars for full blown testing? No one does.

  • avatar

    siry: Full-blown testing? How about just letting them drive the thing? And what of the recharge test? Or letting an expert examine your safety systems?

  • avatar
    LastResort

    SherbornSean:

    Soccer games, Concert recitals, Karate classes, etc. Can’t blame this all on the DINK’s, I know I kept my parents very busy in the evenings when I was young.

    Technology may come fast in some sectors, but the power industry is notoriously slow to change. For good reason. You can’t recall or issue a patch for a 500MVA transformer.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    The “is the electrical grid big enough” isn’t a factor if you are selling a couple hundred of these a year. And even if it becomes a problem in the distant future, the solution is to build more power plants-the additional demand won’t happen all at once; it can be planned for.

    As for whether or not they are vaporware or not-the cars exist, that’s for sure. They are still prototypes, of course. The only potentially “sleazy” thing here is that they are selling vehicles before the design has been approved and finalized (which is not typical, although one can probably put down a deposit on a 2009 Camaro too).

  • avatar

    The Tesla Roadster is a silly concept – and I speak as one who is convinced that EVs are part of the future of automobiles.
    Why silly? Because its “have your cake and eat it too” philosophy. “Have an EV, and drive as if you’re in a Mustang GT!”
    That is just not going to happen — or rather, as someone points out above, it’s back to the motel after eight laps while your car is recharging.

    WTF! What’s the point of creating an EV racer that’s going to juice out half-way to the weekend spot you’re aiming for? Build one that gets me to the Hamptons, allows me to fool around while I’m there, and then gets me back through the late Sunday stampede – on one charge. Now that would be impressive.

    EVs should be an alternative to the gas guzzlers, instead of replacing them with power guzzlers. The energy available for consumption in the future is, as far as we know today, not going to increase in leaps and bounds. It’s finite, it’s got to be shared by more people than ever before, and there’s apparently a check-out fee in the form of global warming that’s entering into the equation. The Tesla is sending all the wrong signals, for all the wrong reasons, in that respect.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Robert: regarding the Henry Ford quote: Henry did a lot of talking to finance his dreams. Don’t forget, he failed two times before his company finally took off.

    It was easy for him to say that in hindsight,after he succeeded. Who had the money to build their dreams? And what about the investors that lost their money in Henry’s first two tries? Are we going to cry for them too?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Tankd0g, Sajeev, Frank W: why are you bringing up the profoundly obvious issue of range and charge time? The buyers of the Tesla are intelligent enough to understand those realities.
    ———
    Paul: even rich people are reluctant to trust their dreams with others. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness, this car must fit their lifestyle: be it a Sunday cruise or hot-laps on a 3.5 mile roadcourse.

    Its not like asking Mr. Benz why he’s inventing the car, it’s more like Johnny Carson wondering why his Delorean (a gift for his generous investment, IIRC) left him stranded several times.

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    You have to hand it to those Tesla guys — can you imagine GM (or Ford) taking their lumps and taking the time give their side of the story in a rational, non-dismissive, serious manner?

    There is talk about this is the 1880′s and we are talking about Mr. Daimler and Mr. Benz.

    Michael Crichton’s long-winded critique of Global Warming alarmists points out that technology can change things — even as late as the 1920′s, the big social-environmental-health issue was urban horse plops and I guess they are not much of a concern these days.

    On the other hand, I believe that the groundbreaking tech of the next 50 years or perhaps the next 100 years is not some occult (meaning hidden) yet-to-be-discovered eureka moment for some future inventor. I think that what we will go with is here, but in some primitive form. Think of auto’s in the 1880-1890 timeframe. Not only where the early auto’s very experimental and somewhat tempermental, one had to be a visionary to see how you would get from that to the modern automotive society — there had to be a lot of infrastructure of roads and the whole petroleum industry growing up alongside. On the other hand, all of the elements of modern auto tech existed in some form in the late 1800′s.

    My visionary bet for auto of the future is some form of automated highway-autonomous driving car — for reasons of safety and highway capacity in a more crowded future world. My guess is that it won’t come from top-down initiatives like government research into automated highways, but it may come from Lexus and others introducing radar cruise control in luxury cars and gradually increasing the capability to cooperate with other cars to form “convoys” or “platoons” to increase roadway capacity.

    As to the hybrid/fuel cell/electric/improved IC engine burning switch grass, I don’t have a good crystal ball, but I imagine the car of the future that runs on the fuel of the future is here now in some impractical form, which will require some parallel evolution of all of the supporting elements (fuel and road infrastructure) to happen.

    As to automated and autonomously driving cars, my computer-scientist brother relates a story told by our momma about life in the 1930′s Yugoslavia. Turns out that in the horse and buggy days you had autonomous-driving vehicles. You could go to a party, get knee-knocking drunk, and all you had to do was get a friend to dump you into your carriage and tell the horse “Home!” That horse would reliably, safely, and enthusiastically take you home because that horse knew were the stables were and were its next mouthful of hay came from. Of course if your friend wanted to play a practical joke on you in your soused state instead, well, that is the plot to the comic opera “Die Fleidermaus”, and momma told me that such practical jokes were a common occurence in her home town.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Stein: Tesla’s initial goal wasn’t specifically to build a hot sports car per se. To get maximum range out of an electric car, it has to be very light and very aerodynamic. That’s what led them to the Elise: it has an aluminum frame, and low drag.

    If they were starting from scratch, it would have taken them the same general direction, out of necessity.

    Keep in mind a parallel: the first Porsche 356. In 1949 Europe, gas was very expensive and folks were poor. The first Porsche, with all of 40 hp, represented a way to go 90 mph ans still get 30+ mpg. It wasn’t primarily a hot-rod racer, but a very efficient way to get around reasonably quickly.

    The Tesla Roadster is the way for Tesla to get off the ground. They know that every one of their Roadster buyers has at least one, more likely several other cars in their garage. Range and performance is not going to be their primary concern.

    It allows Silicon Valley and Hollywood types to get to work and back. I’m very convinced that Tesla’s going to be fine with the roadster sales and their buyer’s happiness with them.

    Their real challenge is the next project, the $50k sedan; and the project after that, the $25-30k small car. That’s where the real market-place challenge will be. Are there enough folks willing to accept the range limitations?

    Personally, that’s why I like the Volt concept. It has a generator on board.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    Farago, the following is an excerpt from your article:

    “Although the Roadster’s batteries [allegedly] add 25 percent to the weight of the elongated Elise, the weight distribution is still [supposedly] 40 – 60 front to rear. Jay says the Tesla Roadster’s low center of gravity and relative light weight maintain the Lotus’ slot car handling. The Roadster [purportedly]…”

    I understand and agree that there is much to be suspicious of regarding Tesla, when no one can actually drive their car. But at the same time it is obviously more than vaporware as they have working prototypes that have been driven. I suggest that you may want to point out the merits of the vehicle (as there are many) and also spend significant time critiquing the fact that Tesla does not have a vehicle that they will allow people to drive and perhaps they will never have a vehicle that actually sees public roads.

    Your right to critique the fact that the press has given Tesla a free pass and only sung it’s praises. However your use of parenthetical critique in this article completely swings in the opposite direction and cuts any praise of the car at the knees and focuses almost entirely on the faults of the company and car.

    From a layman’s standpoint, the automotive press was asleep at the switch and didn’t do it’s job in balancing it’s review of Telsa. But TTAC did the same thing, just on the opposite extreme. Neither approach displays balance or serious journalism.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Hot topic!

    Kudos to Tesla for taking this critique seriously, and for posting their view.

    Kudos to Farago and Williams for letting the discussion get a bit more heated than usual.

    Transparency rules!

    Here are my two Eurocents.

    * Concept: I have no problem with an electric sports car. The point is to make it sexy. There are too many spartanmobiles out there. Getting Bradpitt and Benaff to drive your car is worth a million in advertising.

    * “Other people’s money”: That is the principle of venture capitalism, and it has worked wonders.

    * No tester: no wonder. I am on Tesla’s side here.

    * CO2 footprint: That may be the problem. Is a full-electric really more efficient than a hybrid in stop-and-go, or a Diesel in mixed urban/heavy duty? I doubt it. But here, as in all other points, I am willing to give Tesla the benefit of the doubt till they get to the market.

  • avatar

    zoomzit: Point taken on the tone. I've edited the section in question.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Sajeev: I said “intelligent”, not “rich”. I have found the two to be surprisingly often mutually exclusive.

    The folks that are putting down their deposits for the Tesla know the risks and limitations. Carson was given his DeLorean. If he had been “intelligent” about cars (and DeLorean, the person), he would have refused the gift.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Here’s the really important thing to understand about the Tesla phenomena: EV enthusiasts are fanatics. Look at how they lamented the passing of the EV-1, with its ridiculously short range and other limitations.

    The Tesla Roadster buyers are going to love it, even if range comes up a bit short. It’s a huge jump over anything else available to them.

    Tesla doesn’t expect YOU to buy the Roadster. It’s for EV enthusiasts, not ‘Ring enthusiasts.

    That’s the critical difference.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Ever since I first heard about this car it has been heralded as some kind of “breakthrough”. By the information listed here it seems that the Tesla likely where the EV1 would be in terms of range and recharge times if GM kept developing it.

    As for a performance vehicle, I am not sure what this tells me. Make something light enough with enough available power and it can go fast. Tesla hasn’t solved the electric vehicle’s biggest problem: compact energy. You still get more efficient energy out of a volume of gas than you do out of batteries.

    I haven’t even heard how this car might perform in climates other than SoCal’s.

    I agree with Robert, this is a fun toy for fair-weather climate-dwellers. EV’s still have a long way to go.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    Farago,

    Props to you my friend. I appreciate it.

    By the way, you should be madly proud about this site. You have serious editorial discussions and informative automotive dialog (with Tesla’s VP of Marketing, no less) all happening within the same thread. Gives me hope for this thing they call the “internet.”

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    If Tesla is going to open up prototypes by summer then that’s early enough I think. Again this isn’t a mass market vehicle. I’m still interested in a driving dynamics aspect more so then charge range, battery safety and so forth at this point. Does an electric vehicle provide the kind of joy that something like a 911, Elise, or even a Mustang GT does?

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Paul Niedermeyer: If you think there’s a former EV-1 owner out there besides E.B.J. that could afford this thing I think you are mistaken.

  • avatar

    Would I buy a roadster that only went 90 miles between overnight charges? Sure — because with at-home recharging, that’s almost 33,000 miles per year. Most people simply don’t drive their regular cars that much, let alone their two-seat roadsters. Furthermore, 90 miles is, I think, a ridiculously low figure — cars like the EV Plus and RAV4 EV, with an “optimistic” range estimate of 120 to 140 miles, generally had real-world ranges around 100 miles, 90 if you lead-footed it. I’m sure real-world range on the Tesla will turn out be at least 100 to 150 miles, if not more — more than enough for a spirited Saturday drive.

    Furthermore, do we know that charging on these batteries is linear? My experience with NiCd EVs was that the bulk of the charging time required was to top off the batteries — the cars could pick up (and I’m using my rusty old memory for these figures, so if someone knows better, please correct me) 80 to 90% of their charge in 3 to 4 hours, and that’s with a pretty well depleted battery.

    I’d miss the clutch pedal in a sporting EV, but I think the prospect of 100% torque from 0 RPM to redline would make up for that, just a wee bit.

    This is the kind of “black PR” that killed the EVs in the first place. It wasn’t lack of demand; every EV from a major manufacturer that was sold to the general public (GM EV1, Toyota RAV4, Honda EV Plus, even the Ford Th!nk EV) had a waiting list when it was taken off the market. EVs are expensive to produce and the automakers didn’t want to make them, so they allowed myths like “too little range” (3x the national average with nightly recharging), “not enough power” (EV1, 0-60 in

  • avatar

    While we wait to hear siry’s answer to my request for a test of recharge times and expert evaluation of their safety systems, I’d like to quote from his blog on the subject of the media’s responsibilities in this matter.

    “The trouble here is that many journalists are not taking the time or making the effort to discriminate between vehicles that are mere concepts or science experiments and vehicles that are designed for mass production and mass adoption by discerning customers.

    In their coverage of the various companies in the “EV space,” they also do not distinguish between companies that are wholesale distributors of products, companies that engage in the conversion of existing vehicles to electric cars, and companies that are Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of electric cars.

    Sometimes they don’t even distinguish companies that are outright scams.”

    and

    “I want the media to ask all the tough questions that they should be asking and that few are actually asking.

    They should be asking about the product development process. They should be asking about the safety of the vehicles, the performance of the vehicles, and the durability of the vehicles. They should be asking about the viability of the technology and the verifiability of claims.

    They should be asking how the company intends to finance the design, manufacture, distribution, and service of the cars that it sells to the public.”

    and

    “Reporters in this exciting, emerging field shouldn’t let any companies off the hook – they should be tough and get to the bottom of the story. Unfortunately, the reporter I find myself talking to sometimes cares a lot more about which celebrity has bought the car or who will be riding to the Oscars in the Tesla Roadster.”

    and finally

    “If things are going to change for the better, real companies with solid business models and solid products will have to rise to meet the growing public demand for alternatives. The media can do a better job at helping the public sort out the good from the bad, make informed decisions, and avoid feeling like they are being scammed.

    All the media need to do is step up to the plate and start asking the tough questions. We’re looking forward to it.”

    Go back and read siry’s original reply to this review/editorial and ask yourself who’s kidding whom here.

  • avatar

    Oops, guess my comment was too long.

    Anyway, the gist of the rest was that I was surprised that TTAC took the same line as most other automotive journalists on EVs: “We don’t need to drive it to tell you that it won’t work.”

    Come on, guys — spend a week with an electric vehicle, then tell the TRUTH about electric cars!

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Plug in hybrid running on bio fuel gets my vote as the only viable design for mass market right now. Not that I would buy one, give me a car that just runs on bio fuel and forget the batteries altogether.

  • avatar

    The blog entry which Robert references above is titled The Media Need to Toughen Up on the Subject of EVs . The title is linked to it.

  • avatar

    autonerd:

    I don’t know who you’re reading on the subject of EV’s.

    “The Tesla Roadster delivers on its promise,” the L.A. Times announced. “Good news does indeed travel fast,” Popular Mechanics proclaimed.

    Forbes named the Tesla roadster one of its “Best Cars of 2006” and awarded it “new car that best lived up to the hype.” Time magazine labeled the Roadster the “best transportation invention of 2006.”

    Despite siry’s “bring it on” entreaty, I couldn’t find a single critical news story about Tesla. From treehugger.com to Wikipedia, every description of the Tesla Roadster relies entirely upon Tesla-provided data and loves it to death.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Hey gents-

    Frank Williams: People are becoming very spectacular in their speculations in these comments. We’ve gone from a range of 250 miles to one that won’t last a lap at the ‘ring at full throttle. The truth is, we have no idea. My point is if the car can get you through a 30 mile (each way) commute, and some errands, and then be plugged in, then it is, in effect, being useful. I think this car is being built as a “halo” expensive sports car model. It’ll accelerate like a bat-out-o’-hell upon judicious right-foot application, but it can do other things too. Besides, if you are tracking the car, than I imagine you are using those regenerative brakes to full effect :)

    In regards to infrastructure, they are talking about making 200-300 of these cars. Not exactly a big drain at this time.

    From an environmental standpoint, electric vehicles are probably the best option I’ve seen thus far. The infrastructure is practically in place; sure, you might need to increase generation and transmission capability, but that happens as demand increases.

    Further, the cost of electricity “miles-per-gallon” is significnantly less than gasoline. Sure, it’ll increase as demand goes up, but it’s still pennies on the dollar.

    And again, going further: If you use electricity to power cars, then you limit the regions of pollution generation to power-plants. If power-plants are generating the pollution that used to be created by automobiles, then you have a highly-localized, well-regulated, location that is generating your pollution. As opposed to millions and millions of little pollution generators running around. You gain control, and you have options on how to disperse/clean/manipulate those emissions.

    Robert F.: I don’t think you’ve directly addressed some of Tesla’s points. Why should they be required, at this point, to independently prove their recharging and safety claims? If it’s still in development, what’s the point? It’s not like they’re getting ready for delivery. Why allow a journalist to circle the thing on a track if it’s got kinks that still need to be worked out?

    It’s like the journalists that drove the camaro concept at 20 MPH and wrote about it. A pointless exercise of automotive dreaming. Allow the mfr the time until they say it’s ready to be tested; then test their claims with the biggest magnifying glass available.

    Joe O.

    P.s. In ~5 months the next gen. Honda Accord should be going on sale. Honda has made claims about it in regards to engine advancements, safety, etc.

    All I’ve seen, 5 months out from sale, is a concept vehicle that’s still fairly concepty. No spy shots, no journalist drives, no pictures of what it’s going to look like. Am I critical? No; it’ll happen when it comes closer. Why aren’t they criticized for making claims so early? Because they are Honda, and they have a solid reputation.

    Since Tesla hasn’t earned, or lost, our respect, I suggest we give them a chance.

  • avatar

    Joe O:

    “Why should they be required, at this point, to independently prove their recharging and safety claims?”

    Because they’re already selling cars based on those claims.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Perhaps he’s refering to my comment “Are you f***ing kidding me?” When I said it would only do less than 8 laps around the ‘ring. Which it will, 7.5 laps is 100 miles. Now some have questioned the relevance of that, and if this was a Prius or EV-1 I might agree, but this is a $100,000 sports car for the driving elite. It has no cargo room, it is not a mass market grocery getter, it serves no other purpose than to have fun, about an hour of it by their own estimates.

    As for Joe O’s comments, Honda didn’t ask any customers to make a $50,000 deposit to fund the development of the car that does not yet exist in hopes of being first in line to pay the other $50,000 to take delivery.

    I stand by my comments.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    TankDog:

    I don’t think the market for the Tesla will be ‘ring dwellers. They only want to sell 200-300 cars, and you have to assume that these are going to young rich people who need to look like they care about the environment yet feel the prius is a bit pedestrian. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, of Google fame (and Tesla backers) are prime examples.

    Telsa only need to sell 200-300 cars to people who like the IDEA of electric cars. In this regard, being practical, handling well, or accelerating quickly are irrelevant. The car only needs to be street legal and be (somewhat) drivable.

    As it was pointed out previously, selling electric sports sedans and small cars is another issue altogether.

  • avatar

    LastResort: “It’s a bit incorrect to say our power grid spans the entire continent. We have basically separate eastern and a western grids, with some very small back to back converter stations in between in places like Montana. ”

    OK, I didn’t want to get too detailed, as my point is: there’s a grid, and it’s sufficiently interconnected that your energy come from a great diversity of sources, and certainly not just from your ‘local’ power stations.

    LastResort: “I also think that plug in hybrids/total electric are going to exacerbate an existing problem: aging power infrastructure. Both the east and west coast have seen major outages, often precipitated by higher than normal loading and temperatures.”

    Sure, the grid ages and needs to be repaired, rebuild and augmented. Same for the power stations connected to it. But HV power transmission is very efficient and if it makes sense to move to electric and plug-in hybrids (C02 emissions etc) then just upgrade /extend the grid over time. In most Western countries the HV transmission system was largely build in the 50 – 70s and we’ve been slowly eroding the fat in the system ever since. No one ever says “oh we should never have build the HV grid, and gotten all the attendant efficiency and reliability gains from connecting our generation together – it wasn’t worth the trouble”. On the contrary, it’s so successful and efficient that it’s taken for granted.

    I’m also a power system engineer and I hear this “oh it’s almost impossible to build new transmission lines/substations now-days” line of thinking all the time. Frankly it’s just a luxury which can be enjoyed while there is still fat in the transmission system. In many countries this has been eroded to the point that new capacity is needed. But grids are very forgiving – you can always push it a bit harder and no politician wants to force through a new transmission line. Until of course, the wall is hit. A few months of rolling black-out and people will say “What, some pylons running across farmland and a new cable tunnel – do it – what have you been waiting for?”. The politics are simple: An obvious need. An environmentally sound and highly efficient way to do it. Get on with it. Just like when most of it was built 30, 40, 50 years ago.

    LastResort: “The problem with plug in vehicles is more social, than technical. Our current peak power demand comes as people head home. Firing up AC, ovens, lights, etc, put a huge demand on our transmission and generation infrastructure. Add in every Joe America coming home, plugging in his 90A/240V load (very substantial in a home so he can go out at might, and we will have a problem.”

    Agreed, but that’s partly because of the crude one-fixed-price-anytime-irrespective-of-the-underlying-cost way in which electrical energy is currently sold. Granted, most electrical consumption is for immediate uses (lighting, cooking, computer etc), but plug-in hybrids are different. They represent a large load which can take advantage of cheap intermittent energy and wind/solar is one source of that. We need a better market – i.e. instantaneous pricing and an ability for loads (plug-in hybrids etc) to take advantage of this (via the internet).

    And if there wasn’t any cheap electricity on offer the previous night, the your car runs on gasoline the next day.

    I’m not pretending that plug-in hybrids will not mean more generation is required, but if the electricity market was more sophisticated (and the internet could make it so), then the existing transmission and generation capacity could be used more efficiently and more of the new generation could be from renewables.

    LastResort: “Much of the existing protection in this country is still using state of the art, 1960’s technology. Updating will be costly, and American consumers have shown they are very unwilling to pay for this in the form of a higher utility bill.”

    Agreed, but the HV transmission system is relatively cheap. What proportion of the household electricity bill is it: 10-15%. Cheap at twice the price. I think the HV transmission system is so good at what it does, that people take it for granted. It should promote itself more :-)

    OK, slightly off-topic.

    Cheers

    Malcolm

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    zoomzit: Well if this car is intended only for posers, they should dial down the claimed performance and up the range.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    Tankdog:

    Simple. If it didn’t have these claims, we wouldn’t be talking (at least, not so much) about it.

    This is a halo car to get Telsa on the map. They need people to talk about it. They need people to see that electric cars don’t have to be quite as boring as the EV1.

    Think of it this way. If the car only makes it to 60 in sub 7 seconds, only goes 60 miles before it needs to charge and handles like a dog… it’s owners will still be happy and Telsa can still claim that they made the first somewhat sporty electric car.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    I guess you’re right. It would be interesting to see what range it would get if it only performed as well as say, a Mazda Miata, though.

    Side note, look at all the paper we have saved on this thread so far!

  • avatar
    Drew

    “You want TTAC’s respect? You’ve got to earn it. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you make your reputation by what you do, not what you say.”

    Alright – I was disappointed with the piece, but this drove me to comment.

    Tesla might have to earn TTAC’s respect, but there is no need for you to be disrespectful in the meantime. There’s a difference between skepticism and disrespectfullness. I’m sorry to say, Robert, that you’ve fallen into the latter.

    We’d all do well to remember that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

    How about simply raising the questions that need asking without attacking? I really don’t understand the source of the vitriol in this piece.

  • avatar

    Sorry about the long time since the last post – I had to drive in to work.

    Robert – I meant every word in my blog. I appreciate you (or anyone) asking tough questions because it allows Tesla to demonstrate it is a serious car company. I would like to think you would ask similar questions of other companies out there also claiming to be offering EVs in the near future.

    To that end, I am spending a lot of effort to answer those questions in a straightforward manner – just as I promised on my blog.

    Regarding verifiability of claims – if the standard of proof is an independent third party evaluation of the car, I have written here that we will not do that until I have a near production VP ready to test. At that point, I am happy to do whatever reasonable thing anyone wants to do, such as verify charge times and verify safety of the ESS. I’m looking forward to that.

    Many of the companies out there don’t even have a prototype and are making grand claims that would not remotely hold up under similar questions. They wouldn’t even answer them. They certainly wouldn’t invest the time we are engaging in dialogue on your blog. I encourage you to do similar writeups on them as well.

    Regarding your comment about Tesla already selling cars based on our claims. Customers are voluntarily placing deposits to reserve cars for the future. The car is not sold (and revenue is not realized by Tesla) until the car is delivered to the customer. Customers can get a full refund of their deposit at any time prior to delivery. The reason people are willing to place such large reservations is that there is great demand for the car and there is confidence that we will deliver a great car. I am sure there are many other people out there who are also excited about the Roadster but will wait for third party verification and testing before they place their order. That is their choice and it is perfectly fine. When we are ready to hand over the keys to the car magazines I am sure that many others will place orders because I am confident the cars will be received well.

    We have many people eager to reserve a WhiteStar. We are not accepting deposits for the car because it is too early. The earliest we might do that is after we have a functioning prototype for potential customers to see and experience. Even then we may choose to hold off on pre-orders if it is appropriate.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Robert F. – Good point. But those people put their money down when they knew the claims weren’t going to be individually verified initially.

    So then who do we want independent testing for? For us, the people who want to judge whether it’s a good product or not.

    Tankdog – It’s a $100k all-electric car capable of great acceleration and solid handling based upon a lightweight, low COG frame. But it weighs ALOT more than a lotus elise (per the above article).

    Maybe it can do 100 miles at a blistering pace with lots of heavy braking. I’d be pretty freaking impressed if it could :)

    This car is, to me, about a dream. Instead of building a low-cost EV for the masses as a starting point, they went the opposite direction. I think it was a good move.

    I don’t think this company, which needs to come out of the gate on fire, needs to reveal alot before they start delivering. I think they’ve found a good balance, thus far, between keeping proprietary technology away from prying eyes while providing a fair amount of information for consumers.

    I think you can look at that one of two ways. Either they’re just making claims to keep the money coming, or they’re operating a smart start-up business.

    Joe O.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I say hats off to siry for taking the criticism and responding to Robert’s concerns. The heat will be on Tesla (figuratively speaking, one hopes) to meet the high expectations it has set with the public, and I know TTAC will be watching them every step of the way, telling it like it is.

    Who knows, the Tesla may be a huge success, at which point, TTAC will be singing “to siry with love.”

    Sorry.

  • avatar

    Joe O:
    Why should they be required, at this point, to independently prove their recharging and safety claims? If it’s still in development, what’s the point?

    Many of the performance #’s on teslas website are stated as if it’s fact. Why not expect some sort of proof?

    Tesla website (how it works):
    Meanwhile, the battery stores enough energy for the vehicle to travel 250 miles without recharging, something no other production electric vehicle in history can claim.

    Who is RF to question something right there in black and white on the internet?

  • avatar

    siry:

    I appreciate the time and effort you’ve spent addressing our concerns. While I am still far from convinced, I admire your energy, enthusiasm and willingness to engage in this debate.

    We’d like to be added to your list to those who will fully examine the Tesla VP when it’s ready for prime time.

    If and when your company’s claims have been independently verified, provided it occurs before the late 2007 deadline you’ve set for customer deliveries, I will devote equal editorial space to a more flattering description of the Roadster.

    I will also apologize for casting doubts about your efforts.

    Fair enough?

  • avatar

    Regarding media coverage of the Tesla to date. I might note that Dan Neil from the LA Times did indeed drive the Tesla in an uncontrolled environment before he proclaimed in his article that “The Tesla Roadster delivers on its promise,”. Dan is a very smart journalist who has one a pulitzer prize for his automotive coverage. He was able to drive the EP because he cajoled Martin Eberhard to let him get behind the wheel and Martin relented.

    Paul Horrell and Pat Devereaux from Top gear (a magazine known for their tough criticism) spent hours here and I took them for a ride. They both came away very impressed and believing that the car was indeed a serious car in the making. I promised them a test drive when we were ready with the VP.

    Auto BILD was here last week and we went for a long ride with lots of high speed runs and the reporter proclaimed that it was the most exciting car he had experienced. That article should be in Auto BILD soon.

    Every automotive journalist who has asked for a look around and a ride has been given access to our execs and shown the shop. We have answered all their questions. Every one of them understood why we would not let them drive an EP, and they all look forward to the VP drive.

    TTAC chose a different route. They sent a person in for a test ride under false pretenses, claiming to be a potential customer. They asked questions of the sales person that relate to technical issues. I could have referred them to our CTO for those questions had TTAC been up front about their intentions.

    Now that I need to get to other work, I am not likely to be able to respond to questions posted in the comments section. Please don’t misinterpret this as not being willing to answer. Many of the other commenters have provided good answers and I suggest readers of this blog visit the Tesla website at http://www.teslamotors.com where many of the answers exist in detail.

  • avatar

    Well, I’ve got serious lust for an Elise. But I really prefer to drive a turboDiesel as I’m a homebrewer.

    I DO live in a place with cheap (relatively) hydro power, and I work in a place with a HUGE amount of power available (2000A @ 480V) both from the grid, and our own standby 1.25MW genset. Maybe this Telsa would work for me.

    The price tag is a bit high for something that sucks juice at that rate though. TCO is going to be expensive, even with my access to relatively cheap power.

    It would be cheaper for me to drop a VW TDI engine into an Elise I think.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Joe O

    z31:

    First off, it’s sad that I’m refreshing this page so often, but moving on…

    I see your point, but I’ll still put in a counterpoint: Alot of automakers will state “With our 20-gallon gas tank and 26mpg highway rating, you have a range of over 500 miles”.

    To repeat the first thing on tesla’s website:

    0-60 in about 4 seconds
    135mpg equivalent
    250 miles per charge

    And, the website even looks like it’s a production vehicle. Nonetheless, it’s being developed. As Robert once said to me, “The proof is in the pudding”

    Why rush them to prove something they are still developing? Or perhaps you are saying, “Don’t make claims until you can back them up.”

    Great, but then the only companies capable of building devices like this would be the conglomerates, because small-time operations couldn’t get funding.

    Sorry, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. I don’t think they’ve stepped over a line; but I do agree, their website pushes the envelope in it’s marketing stance. It needs to be more obvious that this thing is being developed.

    That being said, if they’ve built a prototype capable of these things, individually (0-60 in 4.0, 250 miles on one charge) then I see nothing wrong with stating it. It’s just like me building something, testing it, and then making claims about it on my website.

    Joe O.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    z31:
    “Who is RF to question something right there in black and white on the internet?”

    z31, Telsa makes it’s claims and the automotive community can withhold judgment until the claim can be verified or denied (i.e. when they have a production prototype). It’s the same deal with all auto manufacturers. For example, BMW claims the new M3 will get 414hp and 295 pounds torque.

    BMW is stating their claims as fact and they will eventually provide a model for the press to test these claims. The same goes for Tesla. For now for both Tesla and BMW, we take a wait and see approach. If either car maker doesn’t live up to their claims, then we should loudly point this out.

    But, it’s premature to say that they won’t live up to these claims and it is premature to demand Tesla provide a test sample, when they are obviously not at that stage in development yet.

  • avatar

    We’re delighted that our journalistic colleagues were thrilled with their time as passengers in the Tesla Roadster. Unfortunately, their seat time and enthusiasm doesn’t address our main concerns: safety, range and recharge times.

    As regular readers of this website know, Mr. Shoemaker was and is a potential customer for all the cars he reviews on our behalf. (He has purchased several.)

    I have no idea what siry’s referring to regarding talking to a Tesla sales person, but you’d expect a sales person to answer technical questions, or refer the enquiry to the aforementioned Chief Technical Officer.

    We regret that siry has left this debate before committing to a test of the VP.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Okay, everyone, let’s do this again with the Chevy Volt next Sunday.

  • avatar

    Of course you can test drive the VP when all is ready! If Mr. Shoemaker buys a roadster you can torture test it all you want as well. Bob Lutz told me he was interested in buying a Roadster and I told him had to buy two – one for cutting in half and one for him to enjoy.

    As for the comment from starlightmica, I strongly encourage TTAC to continue with features like this on all EVs out there (from concept to reality.) Hint: you should start with the ZAP-X crossover SUV.

  • avatar
    Wheely

    As long as the production Tesla will work reasonably well (doesn’t spontaneously ignite, drives 100 miles between charges, build quality not much worse than an Elise) it will be a huge success.

    The target market for this experiment is not pistonheads who dream of taking it to the track. Instead, as someone already mentioned, I’d also guess that it’s targeted at the Silicon Valley and SoCal crowd who don’t lose any sleep dropping 100 grand on a new toy, and preferably add the solar power charging option to increase the overall happiness factor, although a better accessory may be the yellow carpool lane access sticker for low emission cars. The Roadster will look fabulous next to all the Ferrari’s and Lambos on Rodeo Drive, none of which have seen a track day or many canyons in their lives.

    And that’s not a bad thing.

    Hopefully, the success generates more venture capital for Tesla to gradually go down market as planned and start adding some creative pressure on the established auto industry.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Yet it also hasn’t proven itself to NOT pass those hurdles, coming into the situation being overwhelmingly negative and unnecessarily pessimistic isn’t the right attitude.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I admire Siry’s willingness to post here. Martin Eberhard even posted in Autoblog when many people were flaming the roadster in the comments section.

  • avatar

    zoomzit:
    For example, BMW claims the new M3 will get 414hp and 295 pounds torque.

    BMW has a lot more credibility in making claims on things they’ve been building for decades.

    The key is only in stating everything is there, instead of it will be there.

    The website reads like a brochure for an existing car one could buy tomorrow. I don’t mind a company having a ‘trust us, it’s gonna be cool’ attitude. But don’t try to say that it’s all there when there is still significant development to be done.

    Or maybe I’m just jaded from listening to too many pie-in-the-sky claims from defense contractors ;)

    Just to be clear, I love the idea of this car and I want it to succeed. That doesn’t mean I ignore the bs alarms when I read about it.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    This is just the rich getting a toy to play with. If I decided to go into the business of building a “fuel cell car” and did it by selling an Elise knock off with a $2 million fuel cell in each car would that make fuel cell cars a reality for any one that didn’t have 2 mill for a toy? I don’t think so.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    z31: At the very top of Tesla’s FAQ section is the following disclaimer:

    NOTE: We’re confident in all of the performance figures contained in this section, but, as a new car company, we’re still awaiting the day our car, a track, and a government guy with a clipboard all meet. For now, please use these numbers as our best estimations, and check back in for updates.

    Does that read like “a brochure for an existing car”?

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    I’m certainly not in the market for a Tesla, being too far from the average auto-journalist income ;) , and I remain skeptical, but there is definitely a petulant, nasty vibe to this piece. My wife read it and wants to know, in her words, “who pissed in his cornflakes?” It’s like Sunday Times, take two.

    I feel the safety and charging issues are red herrings; until the production model is seen, testing the prototype offers no real insight. Tesla says they’re safe, you say they’re not.

    Manufacturers often take deposits on concepts, and they invariably come from rich folks who have their eyes open and can weather the storm if the car never materializes. XJ220, anyone?

    From my viewpoint, TTAC and Tesla have about equal amounts of credibility in their respective fields. Either party demanding respect they haven’t earned from the other seems pretty odd.

    The marketplace will very quickly send Tesla packing if their car doesn’t meet or come close to their claims. Why the desire to have them fail before they even get going?

  • avatar
    philbailey

    I think we should give one of these jokes as a freeby to Al Gore. Then he’ll blow every fuse in Tennessee when he plugs it in.

    If you haven’t been watching, he uses more power in his house in one week than most Tennessee people do in a month.

    As a practical matter, call your local electrical contractor and ask how much it will cost to uprate your entry panel to provide another 100 amps.

    Then faint.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Maxwelton, your wife is a poet.

  • avatar
    pk

    Has anyone ever thought that the people at Tesla might be conservative and the Tesla roadster, when tested, will exceed its manufacturer’ s claims?

    I see so many bloggers here sitting on their big fat horses, waiting for Tesla to fail.

    Again, what if the test results will by far exceed their claims?

  • avatar
    TheChaz

    pk – not only are you right to bring up this point (the continual refrain I’ve heard among successful Silicon Valley startups is, “under-promise and over-deliver”) but there’s equal reason to expect that Tesla will, in fact, verify or exceed their claims as there is to expect they’ll fail to do so.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I applaud Tesla for financing its experimental program at the expense of private individuals (enthusiastic environmentalist poseurs and garage queens) and VCs rather than suckling from the public teat.

    However this shakes out, the Tesla Roadster will definitely be a wealth of knowledge for future generations of EVs and plug-in hybrids, so good luck, Tesla.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    If I were a prospective buyer I would be concerned by how the $20K battery pack performs 2-3 years down the road (literally) after being drained and recharged every 24 hours?

    If they perform like the Lithium Ion batteries in my cell phone, camera and laptop, the battery performance will degrade. What might take 6 hours to charge when new might take 8 or more hours later. A charge good for 250 miles when new might degrade to 150 after a couple years.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    This is a very entertaining thread.
    And while I’m very split on this issue, I’ll share my thoughts:

    I have worked in the industry, and the claims about the Roadster don’t look “wrong” from an engineering standpoint. In essence, they are using proven technology – your drivetrain and power electronics are based on AC Propulsion’s stuff, right?
    So, to verify the charging time claim, Farago could just test an eBox. The charger should be mostly the same, or am I wrong on this one?

    siry, I’m a bit surprised about your flak against the ZAP-X. Sure, some of the stuff on their spec sheet is pie-in-the-sky, but they rely on an existing Lotus chassis, Lotus engineering and en existing drivetrain concept – let’s just presume they are using PML Flightlink’s motors.
    Sounds a lot like you, minus the Silicon Valley billionaire funding.

    Robert: Try to get a test drive of any AC Propulsion powered vehicle. The Venturi Fetish would probably be the Tesla’s closest relative currently on the market – and I’ve seen Jason Plato driving it on Fifth Gear, so it looks like they are available to journalists. The AC Propulsion eBox would be another likely candidate, since they apparently already delivered a few customer cars.
    Let us know how they are, from a petrolhead, not just an EV enthusiast view. Ask Tesla the right questions, especially if they ask for it in their blog. But also ask others. Do a story about Alan Cocconi.

    Damn, if my English were any good, I’d be seriously tempted to contribute something.

  • avatar
    WestLABoy

    I think TTAC’s intent to take a skeptical look at Tesla Motors Roadster is promising, but the timing is all off. In his blog entry, Darryl Siry challenged journalists to ask hard questions about the company, its financial backing, and the likelihood of a successful car introduction.

    But instead of taking up the challenge Siry asked, this article focused on something else: whether a prototype car can meet the claims its makers say the production car will achieve. It’s a good question, but the wrong one. You should ask, instead, whether the production car will meet its goals. For heaven’s sake — WAIT FOR THE PRODUCTION CAR!

    I happen to think that when you finally get your chance to drive the car (lucky you!), you’ll find that Tesla Motors was conservative in some estimates, and pragmatic in others. This culture probably comes from the top, where Martin Eberhard, ever the skeptical engineer, asks hard questions. A couple of points:

    1) The website states a 4 second sprint to 60 MPH. Even unverified, this claim makes a lot of sense. Electric motors are all about torque, even off the line, which is the kind of stuff you need for quick acceleration. (I might wonder if any of your readers have ever sped their traditional sports cars to the stated acceleration times — it takes a top driver, putting the car through some extraordinary stress, to achieve them.) I’ve heard the Tesla Roadster has sometimes hit 3.9 in tests. Ian Wright, at WrightSpeed, uses similar technology, and does around 3.0, and regularly beats very expensive sports cars. Who’s to say what a really good driver might do?

    2) Range per charge is shown at 250 miles using the EPA cycle. It probably is. But this claim is more for marketing than anything else. Range is very much speed dependent: the car gets better “mileage” the slower it goes. Electricity math isn’t hard, but it’s new for most of us (one may well be smart to become versed in it, because electric cars are your future). If you look at the battery output versus the motor consumption, you’ll probably see that the car may well get around 500 miles to a charge at 25 MPH, and around 60 miles at 130 MPH.

    3) Charging times are stated between four and eight hours. Again, you’ll do well to learn your electricity math to judge whether the claim makes sense. That said, I’m guessing that most drivers will usually need less than the stated times, as charge time is dependent on charge depletion.

    Eberhard gave an interview to the BBC some months ago in which he stated that the way to successful entrepeneurship lay in making a technology work just at the moment it became barely feasible. Electric cars, for all their promise, are now barely feasible. Most of your readers probably will dismiss the Roadster for some reason or another — too expensive, limited range, style, whatever. But this is Version 1.0. Future versions promise to get bigger, stronger, faster, and better. If the Roadster’s only a “toy for the rich,” as some commenters suggested, then let’s hope the rich really like their toys, for it is through them that the rest of us will eventually be able to use this incredible technology.

    –Brent

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    WestLABoy:
    “Ian Wright, at WrightSpeed, uses similar technology, and does around 3.0, and regularly beats very expensive sports cars.”

    Ian Wright uses an AC-150 drivetrain in an Ariel Atom chassis, with a comparatively small battery. His car is a lot lighter than the Tesla. It would be a miracle if it wasn’t that fast.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    William C: You’re right, its the $20k question. And there will be a gradual reduction in capacity over time. It’s one of Tesla’s biggest hurdles, and I’ve read a fair amount of their projections and assumptions.

    It’s also why I think their strategy of selling $92k roadsters to well-off EV entusiasts makes sense, because the enthusiasm of those buyers makes a fantastic small but big-enough base of essentially beat-testers of li-ion batteries.

    This next stage of the evolution of the electric car will not happen overnight; it will be over decades. The Tesla roadster is an ideal way to prove (or disprove) the concept before rushing into mass production.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    “beat-testers of li-ion batteries” = beta-testers

  • avatar
    akitadog

    William C. Montgomery: If I were a prospective buyer I would be concerned by how the $20K battery pack performs 2-3 years down the road (literally) after being drained and recharged every 24 hours?

    You ask a good question about the batteries’ effectiveness over time, but are the owners of these cars going to be driving them 100 to 250 miles a day forcing them to plug in nightly? I doubt it.

    Taking a page from GM, when talking about the Volt, they say the average daily commute is about 40 miles roundtrip. This means that, in the best case, Tesla drivers would recharge every 5 to 6 days. Worst case may be every other day. As long as owners understand that they don’t need to “top off” their cars every day like so many do with their cell phones, the batteries could have a decent life span.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    malcolmmacaulay - Good stuff man. I'm glad there's someone posting here who can speaking intelligently and expertly about the matters at hand. It's time's like these that I feel a sudden surge of faith being restored in Al Gore's wondrous invention – the Internet. (Note, that was a complete joke. I do not actually think Al Gore invented the Internet.) philbaily- How about we just stick to talking about the Tesla Roadster and leave Al Gore out of it?

  • avatar


    Paul Niedermeyer:
    z31: At the very top of Tesla’s FAQ section is the following disclaimer:

    touche

    But you have to make it all the way to the MORE tab, then to the FAQ section to find that ;)

  • avatar
    Tesla138

    As someone who has ridden in the Tesla EPs on a few occasions and has also driven on several race tracks I thought I would post a few comments about the utility of the Roadster for both road and track use.

    For the people who say “boy, I can drive it on the track for 8 laps and then go recharge” – the Nurburgring was the track someone was referring to – that is a 13 + mile track if I recall. Most weekend racers would never drive 100 plus miles in one lapping session. Most of us are out there for 20 – 25 minute sessions, maybe logging 20 – 25 miles per session. Then you take a break of say 30 – 60 minutes before it is your group’s turn to run another session. I suspect under these conditions, if you could plug the Tesla in between sessions, you would have no problem logging the 100 – 120 miles of track time you would get during a really nice day at the track – and maybe even have enough charge left to get back to your hotel in the evening or make it home (if you live close to the track). As an aside, however, most serious track guys (particularly those with the money to track $100K cars) are going to tow their cars to the track, so if you run out of juice, no big deal. I should also note, that your average suped-up track car averages well under 10 miles per gallon at the track. I know my old track car with a 20 gallon tank was good for about 100 – 120 miles before we needed to fuel up.

    As far as commuting / daily driver use, it baffles me that so many people think a 250 mile range is not enough. I commute about 20 miles each way, which seems long to me, but is probably average for the SF Bay Area. If I plug my car in at night, I will never run out of juice doing that. My wife and I like to take road trips every so often, like a lot of Americans, but in the last 12 months I could count on one hand the road trips we have taken that exceeded 200 miles each way.

  • avatar
    Jeffrey

    When Robert Farago presents his degree in Electrical Engineering to me I just might, maybe consider his perspective. Until then, I’m sorry this whole article is completetly flawed from top to bottom. I’ll believe the engineers at Tesla anyday before a journalist. Anyday…

    ~Jeffrey~ (BSEET Student/Penn State)

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Tesla Roadster is a sound, reasonable, well-restrained concept. Just because they advertise it properly (by giving you optimistic estimates) doesn’t mean it’s not going to work. Sure, you’ll get problems, glitches, under-spec performance issues here and there, but overall, it appears a lot more real than, say, GM Volt. As in, at least it runs, drives, and has a somewhat defined delivery date. I’ve seen enough to quench my initial doubts, I think it is now time to wait for the end result.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    As I read all of this the rather famous comments of GM’s CFO back in the early 50′s when Kaiser embarked on his (ill fated) excursion into automobile manufacturing keep coming to mind. If you don’t know it, you should. Just off hand, what came first, the flathead V-8, or the hotrods based on it? Yeah, it is stupid question, but the analogy to what Tesla is doing is apt, the continuing problem of the feasibility of electric cars is the battery – and as far as I can tell Tesla is not building new battery technologies – but rather adapting ones that already exist. I think it is fine that Tesla is going to be making $100k electric toys, but, also, who cares? When they start making claims about building a mid-priced family vehicle whose performance is close to a decent gas/diesel automobile is when my inner skeptic rises to the fore. There are some problems that are very expensive and hard to solve, and no amount of wishing changes that.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Robert,

    If you could find a way to charge us by the comment, you could buy a Tesla Roadster!

    Hmmm, charge a bunch of opinionated people to beak-off…:)

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    z31: There’s another disclaimer on the bottom of the Tesla home page. And the one I quoted before is one click away. You can’t get to the FAQ section without it. Trying to suggest they’re hiding the disclaimers or selling on their projections don’t fly. Double touche.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I don’t know why the VP of Tesla charges me with false pretences- I haven’t even met the man. I test drive every car from the perspective of a potential customer and this time was no different. While I was at Tesla, I disclosed my intent to write about my visit for a blog.

    RF can tell you that came away from my experience at Tesla feeling very optimistic about the prospects for this company, but now I begin to feel more suspicious when personally attacked for expressing my point of view.

  • avatar

    I apologize for that – I got some misinformation is the confusion of this morning. I spoke with Tom O’ Leary and indeed he told me that you were up front about your writing for the blog and that you had a positive experience with the car. My bad.

  • avatar
    pk

    So wait, the guy who checks out the car comes away with a positive experience, and the guy who ends up writing the piece, drags it all through the mud?

    Please explain.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    Thank you. I will add that everyone I met from the Tesla company was enthusiastic and positive. I enjoyed having Tom drive me around like he was a race car driver and not like the father of four little kids that he is.

  • avatar
    Drew

    One question:

    Why is this in the “Reviews” section of the website? Part of the complaint is that they wouldn’t let Jay drive (review) the car, correct?

    This seems a better fit for the editorial section of the site.

  • avatar
    Jeffrey

    # pk wrote:

    “So wait, the guy who checks out the car comes away with a positive experience, and the guy who ends up writing the piece, drags it all through the mud?”

    “Please explain.”

    Rofl. Exactly what I was thinking. :D

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I think it is hard not to come away from riding in a Tesla with a smile on your face. The people at the company make it even better.

    The questions that RF raises are important ones that need full disclosure and debate.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Tesla138: The world does not revolve around socal. 40 miles isn’t even half way to where we want to go for a lot of us, my track car is a non-suped up 4 banger that also only barley gets double digit mileage at WOT, and when I go out, I empty the tank several times in a weekend. If that translated to a 6 hour wait each time in between, I would be giving up track driving. That 6 hour wait, by the way, is assuming that the world is full of “courtesy” receptacles, giving free electricity to all those who wish to plug in wherever they park. It is not. The few work places that currently do offer such luxury will only be doing so until it impacts their bottom line, i.e. when more than 2 granola eating CEOs get an electric car. I’m taking Telsa’s numbers at face value and at that price point I find them lacking. Perhaps if this were a $30k production vehicle with a little more utility I would be impressed.

    I have no doubt they will sell all they can produce, after all, in this world there’s even a demand for a $100k wrist watch in certain circles. As an average joe however, I would by one even if it was Honda Civic money.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The first paragraph of an article usually sets the tone for what’s written later on. With that in mind…

    “Tesla Motors claims it’s taken 350 deposits for their Lotus Elise-based, lithium ion-propelled, $92k Roadster.”

    The word ‘claim’ is used to express doubt for what Tesla has stated. If that’s the case the article should be about Tesla’s management, not their car.

    “Despite this success, Tesla’s hyper-exotic may be nothing more than hype-fuelled vaporware.”

    Ouch! Vaporware as in hot air, as in fraud. You’re insinuating that Tesla may be defrauding investors and lying to everyone else in the industry.

    “The company refuses to allow any independent product evaluation.”

    Ditto

    “Even before they’ve delivered a single Roadster, they’re promising two additional, mass market electric vehicles– whose enabling technology is, at best, under-developed.”

    Double ditto

    “Meanwhile, they’ve raised $60m in venture capital and scored $20m in state subsidies a new New Mexican factory.”

    Hmmmm… when you ‘scored’ in the old days, you were either talking about baseball or a bank heist. I think you’re implying the later.

    “To find out if the Tesla Roadster is keeping it real for planet Earth, or DeLorean/Tucker redux, we sent our man Shoemaker to Tesla for a “test drive.””

    Robert, I like what you’ve written over 90+% of the time. But this sensationalist, muckraking approach is… dare I say it, low-end journalism. It’s what make the morons of this world believe that Ralph Nader and Rush Limbaugh are credible. Self-righteous anger and ‘holier than thou’ attitudes do not make this site credible.

    It would have been better to have taken Tesla’s statements and then use facts, or common sense, to either support or disprove them. If they were untrue or wildly optomistic, don’t just tell us they are. Tell us ‘why’ they are.

    On the positive side I think you’ve struck a strong chord of debate here. It may be worthwhile to consider a nice point/counterpoint with the Tesla.

    I look forward to it, and I also look forward to some real strong articles about what is actually there. Telling the truth about cars is what makes this place worth visiting. By the way, I heard there’s this one egotistical fellow who has written about growing up in the car-happy land of New Jersey. You got sumtin’ against us Jersey Boys??? What’s up wid dat!

    Don’t take any of this too seriously and thanks again for making this place a great one to debate and discuss.

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    RF,
    I can give you a bit of background on the recharge of this car, even though I never touched it or saw it in person. Why? because I gave a recharge to the guy that has a drivetrain in his EV from the company that Tesla also derived theirs from: AC Propulsion.
    Incidentally he is also the guy that detailed the Roadster for the SF car show, he chose to help me teach about electric cars at a local college instead of going over to SF to look at the results of his detailing job. To get back home he needed a recharge, so he came to my house and I plugged him into the range outlet.
    Charging away at 240V 50A he was adding almost a mile every minute of recharge, so before we were done chatting the car was ready to bring him home again. His (older) car can charge at 80A, you can ask the AC Propulsion guys to back this up – see the tZero and more recently eBox.
    As Siry said – you can charge the Tesla at up to 90A if you install the proper wiring. This means that it would charge up for about 100 extra miles in one hour, after 3 hours it would be close to full but the chemistry of batteries requires that the last bit is put in slowly, so it can might take up to 6 hours to top up completely.
    The calculations validate the claims from Tesla:
    90A 240V is 21.6kW. The 6800+ cells in the Raodster carry about 3.6V x 2.2Ah = 8Wh each, for a total of around 55kWh. This means that the car can consume over 200Wh per mile and still reach the expected range. This is a normal number for an efficient sedan. My truck uses 350Wh per mile but hey, it’s a truck.
    Taking the 55kWh, you see that it should be possible to charge it in 2.5 hours if the charger and batteries had no losses. Adding 20% loss and you end up at a 3 hour recharge to give almost max range back, the last bit takes more time.
    Hope this gives a hint as what to expect in real life.

  • avatar
    peakay

    Do you guys like *anything*?

    I have yet to read a positive word in any review. You make Pete DeLorenzo sound like a butterfly-chasing optimist.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Drew, I’m afraid you misunderstood my comment. Or rather, I expressed myself poorly. Mrs. Maxwelton’s colloquialism struck me as particularly funny and I wrote my sarcastic response as I was laughing. I suppose the little round emotion faces were invented to compensate for shortcomings that language alone cannot succinctly communicate.

    My sincerest apologies to the spirited Mrs. Maxwelton if she perceived that my comments were in any way critical of her.

    I didn’t rebut Mr. Maxwelton’s post because I don’t necessarily disagree with what he wrote. My serious contributions to this debate were in later postings.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    About nine years ago I toured the factory of Corbin motors, which company attempted to bring a small electric car to market. They actually built a number of cars and recalled most of them at least once. They eventually went bust in 2003 after building around 300 vehicles and it all went down in a spiral of nasty lawsuits, including those from customers who pre-paid large deposits in order to get in line for vehicles. The history of highly hyped silicon valley companies who promised to change the world and burned through 10s or 100s of millions of dollars for nothing is long. The list of successes is short. Generally one way the dreamers fail is that they think there is no way the existing entrants in a target market can or will respond to a competitive threat. What exactly is it that a Tesla is able to do which GM is incapable of, or Honda or Toyota? If we ever see a Honda all-electric car it will not be a multi-year sneak peak please-give-me-cash-to-finish dream, it will be a car ready to go. Tesla sounds like a company which is 50% reality, 50% bluster. Typical of Silicon Valley (where I live, work and have been part of start-ups in).

  • avatar

    RF:

    In terms of automotive coverage of EVs — I’m talking about the press from 3-5 years ago, back when you could actually lease (and in the case of the Toyota, buy) an EV. Glad to hear that the Tesla is getting praise heaped upon it — so is that why TTAC is harshing on the car, because the mainstream automotive media, biased as they are by old-boy relationships and advertising dollars, likes it? Regardless, you’re still spouting the same line that so many journalists took on EVs. What about real world mileage? What about safety? What about charging time? Etc., etc., etc. EV1, EV Plus, Altra, RAV4 EV all proved that these were non-issues — ask anyone who actually owned and lived with an EV day in and day out.

    Again, let’s see what the media says when (if) the cars are actually available to the general public — not just the Tesla, but several EVs…though to tell you the truth I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    jthorner:
    Have a look over at Myers Motors.
    Not to say that Corbin did not hurt people, but the designed lived on and someone else is again running with it. Lots of happy customers, as I read many of their experiences on the web. (No, I am in no way connected to Corbin or Myers, I am just another EV driver with an interest in EVs and happen to live in Silicon Valley too)

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    peakay, There are many positive reviews on our site. Offhand I recall Jonny Lieberman’s gushingly poetic review of the Audi RS4. As near as I can tell, this is one of the most widely read articles ever posted on the site. He also wrote a highly favorable write-up of the 4-cylinder Fusion. Additionally, I can think of numerous other articles singing the praises of various Audi’s, Mazda’s, Porsches, Mercedes, etc. Among my own reviews, I wrote highly of the new Jeep Wrangler, Honda CR-V, Acura RSX & RDX and Toyota FJ Cruiser.

    Of course, no car is perfect and we don’t ignore shortcomings so the reviews can sometimes seem harsh. But we are all avid car lovers. If a car gets a strong positive review you’ll know that it truly is a special vehicle.

  • avatar
    pk

    I agree with Steven Lang: It is the tone that was set at the beginning, without tongue-in-cheek, coming from TTAC, which is upsetting. And this after Jay Shoemaker walked away from the factory happily.

    Almost smells like ulterior motives, a surprisingly unprofessional and polemic approach, very Big 2.5: Bring out the good old boys and let them tell the world.

    TTAC can do better than that. People will stand up for what they want to think they believe in, and in such a case, will not accept criticism – how ever justified it may or may not be – if it comes out of the wrong corner. And in the first paragraph, RF had manoevered himself into the wrong corner, sounding just like Detroit the way he portrays it. Coming from TTAC, this sounds like betrayal: We know he’s smart, we know he can do better, did he switch sides? Probably it’s just a rare lapse of penmanship.

    If we want to read clever articles that are critical at the same time, we can all read “car” magazine. Or TTAC, most of the time.

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    For what it’s worth – my truck has a range of about 60 miles. Yeah, I hear you say – you can’t use that for anything.
    Wrong. I use it every day for commute, for trips around town and other errands. More than 95% of my trips are with this vehicle, it is by far my first vehicle of choice.
    The rare occasion that I go on a longer trip, I’ll use the gasoline car and get used to that funny smell again. Can’t be healthy…

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    tankd0g:
    “Tesla138: The world does not revolve around socal.”

    Detail – Silicon Valley is in North California.
    (San Francisco Bay Area, south side)

    “… when I go out, I empty the tank several times in a weekend. If that translated to a 6 hour wait each time in between, I would be giving up track driving.”

    Even at 10 MPG, several tanks would account for around 1000 miles per weekend. Do you own a track?
    Nobody said that Tesla is a good long-distance racer, you will always find nice applications where an electric car does not (yet) work.
    Now, to imply that that makes the Tesla a bad choice in general is quite a stretch.
    I agree however that EV’s won’t be for everyone.
    Only 90% of the people may be able to use an EV for their daily use, so it may stay a niche market for a while.

  • avatar

    Tankd0g:

    Imagine how people would feel about the prospect of gasoline cars if EVs were the norm.

    “Yeah, the 300 or so mile range is nice, but… you mean I can’t charge it at home? I have to go someplace and pay cash out of pocket to top up the range? I have to take it in for service every 3000 to 7000 miles? And it runs on a fuel which is limited in supply, subject to huge price fluctuations and so volatile that it’s the preferred fuel for molotov cocktails? Sorry, but this gasoline-powered-car thing is never going to catch on.”

  • avatar
    hal

    I was wondering why this article got such strong reactions and what I came up with is this:

    1 It’s not a review: Where can we read Jay Shoemaker’s first hand account of his visit to Tesla and his impressions of the car? I would love to read that article.

    2 It’s an editorial: A piece debunking the claims of some of the wilder Tesla fans is probably overdue but it should be in the editorial section.

    For what it’s worth I’m a huge fan of the Tesla project. Will it result in a car I can drive? Probably not, but I do believe it will result in a new technology or two that will turn up in my future sedan.

    The burning batteries thing is a red herring. Gasoline is explosive, we can deal with the batteries.
    “PC fawning over an eco-friendly sports car” this line really grates with me. Whether you care or not about your “carbon footprint” it is pretty clear we need alternatives to oil to power our cars and the sooner they arrive the better. Electricity and batteries are at least as good and as “proven” as any of the other alternatives.

  • avatar
    ma bagnole

    I’m still not taking the beautiful red Tesla off my desktop background. I want this product to make it to market. Who better to support the development of electric vehicles that those of us with a disposable income to support their lust for “cleaner” speed.
    I will never be able to afford a Ferrari or Porsche or for that matter another used Z06. But I can enjoy them vicariously, and I can rest assured that my 4 sons and my grandson will be able to enjoy being a gear head as I have for over 50 years.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    Robert Farago:

    Long time reader, finally a post I just had to comment on. So, you want a bit of verification of ramge and battery charge times? Get out a calculator.

    According to http://teslamotors.com/display_data/TeslaRoadsterBatterySystem.pdf, the Tesla Roadster’s battery pack stores 56 kilowatt-hours of energy. Divided by 6831 cells, that’s 8.2 watt-hours per cell. Lithium-ion cells operate at around 3.7 volts each, so you have 2.2 amp-hours per cell. This is an entirely reasonable number for good lithium-ion batteries. I don’t follow too closely, it’s probably way off state-of-the-art by now.

    As far as range goes, for a 250-mile range off of 56 kilowatts you need to achieve an efficiency better than 224 watt-hours per mile. Considering AC Propulsion’s Tzero observed 170 watt-hours per mile (http://www.acpropulsion.com/tzero/efficiency.htm) in real-world highway driving, 220 is not unreasonable for the Tesla. And for urban driving, regenerative braking gives you some of the wasted energy back and you don’t waste any energy (except for AC, radio, other accessories) when you’re sitting at a traffic light.

    Charging time? I couldn’t find the exact specs on Tesla’s home charger (I didn’t look very hard), but people here have been throwing around 90 amp current numbers. Working on 240 volt power at 90 amps gives you 21.6 kilowatts of charging, so 3 hours isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Charging is a bit nonlinear, but the slowest part of the charge is the last 15%, so you should be able to charge up to 100 or 200 miles range in a matter of hours.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    (d’oh, ramge = range)

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    MR42HH:
    The Venturi is a 300k plaything; I have seen it in various auto shows but I doubt there are mass-market lessons to be learned from what it does.

    However, taking your helpful cue, I will contact them and see whether they have a fraction of the openness that Tesla has. Anyway, anytime I have an excuse to go to Monaco, I go.

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    For all you people who don’t believe the range of a car alike the Tesla with Lithium batteries, there has been a car that has done this 4 years ago by driving from LA to Las Vegas, the tZero from AC Propulsion. This has been the basis of the Roadster’s drivetrain and battery systems, although the tZero used complete laptop battery packs to create their Lithium power source:
    http://www.acpropulsion.com/tzero/SEMAtrip2003.htm

    Tavert:
    I think you cam to exactly the same conclusion as I did, even though I started with the Ah capacity of standard Lithium cells as you can buy everywhere, then multiplied by the nr of cells to get the Tesla pack capacity – apparently that is the correct number.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    So contreversial this topic is!

    Hay guise! Remember the Bristol Blenheim? Now *that* is a snooty car company. Robert, any word on test driving a Bristol Fighter?

    Electric grid infrastructure, power generation and that fun stuff aside, I figure if the Tesla matches an Elise’s driving range somewhat (My friend puts on ~200 miles between refills), it’ll be good enough for me. Of course, it’s about twice the price of an Exige S…

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    Martin Schwoerer:
    Sure, the Venturi’s price is higher than the Tesla’s – but it’s not like they have three times the technology in there. They were earlier to market, use their own chassis and build their cars in Monaco – the electric drivetrain is just the standard, off-the-shelf AC-150.

    Another idea: Go to Paris, drive the Courrèges ZOOOP.
    http://www.seriouswheels.com/2006/2006-Courreges-Zooop-Jump-1600×1200.htm
    1521 lbs and lithium polymer batteries… it was one of the stars of last year’s Challenge Bibendum.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    MR42HH:
    thank you very much for your leads; it is a topic about which you seem to know a lot and I know very little. As chance has it, I am going to Paris next week anyway, so I will contract Courrèges.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    tarnation!, “contact” not “contract”

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    Mrs. Maxwelton took Mr. Montgomery’s remark in the spirit in which it was written. But thanks for the apology, none needed, it gave us a good laugh.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    No problem Martin, feel free to contact me somehow. I’m not sure if Courrèges makes their cars available to the press, since they are not planning to bring anything to the market at all.

  • avatar

    Tavert:

    Tesla says its Roadster uses “basic proven lithium ion battery technology,” a 70 lbs. electric motor, a two speed transmission and electronic controls.

    They peg the models curb weight at “around” 2500 lbs. Factor in a brace of fat cats, and you’re looking at a gross vehicle weight near 2900 lbs.

    I asked a famous expert in the field (who wished to remain anonymous) to crunch the numbers.

    ”6831 cells will contain 61 kWh, if we assume 75% is usable this is 46 kWh at 5 mile per kWh it is 230 miles.

    “I thought they were using Mn based cells that will have about 20% less energy but maybe they assume 90% is usable. In this case we get 49kWh that at 5 mile per kWh will travel 245 miles.”

    It is technically doable but not for mass produced vehicles. i.e. cost replacement battery reliability etc.”

    Call me a hopeless pedant, but 245 is not 250. Just as less than 200 miles of “spirited driving” is also not 250.

    And yes, this website constantly criticizes the EPA for their wildly optimistic efficiency estimates.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    Robert:
    “And yes, this website constantly criticizes the EPA for their wildly optimistic efficiency estimates.”

    That’s the problem with Tesla’s marketing – they are generating so much hype, bragging about something they have yet to deliver on, yet they are full of negative comments about any of their competitors – which may or may not succeed with their different business models and technologies.
    That just doesn’t seem very polite, and has the potential for them to look pretty stupid eating their own words later.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    Robert:
    Your numbers look quite OK to me – let it be a few percent more or less. If it’s more, they’ll meet their claims – if not, they won’t.

    And I absolutely agree – even if Dan Neil had the oppurtunity to actually drive that engineering prototype and came out impressed – to state the care delivered on it’s promise without really testing it is… not brilliant journalism.
    Reminds me of all the articles on the Apple iPhone, many written like a review, complete with rating.

  • avatar

    Steven Lang:

    I’ve re-written the lead to take a less “muck raking” tone.

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer:
    Trying to suggest they’re hiding the disclaimers or selling on their projections don’t fly. Double touche.

    It still comes across to me as a disclaimer in the fine print, I had to scroll to the bottom to find the front page disclaimer.

    I’m not making acusations of flat out lies. I’m just not a fan of marketing hype. “We’re not there yet, but we will be.” is a valid answer. Your milage may vary.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    autonerd:
    That already happened, many of the first automobiles were electric. The people have spoken.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    RF:

    EPA ratings and manufacturer claims are optimistic, and people know this. Priuses are slugs, but if you attempted to drive one quickly your mileage would plummet. You don’t have to be an engineer to figure that out, but it’s not stopping anyone from buying the car. You’ve said it yourself, with green technology at this point it’s more of an image thing than anything else. Tesla buyers know they can’t make road trips in this car.

    All the technology is feasible for the roadster, but keep your doubts. This isn’t mass-market yet, and that’s the much more difficult prospect. Imagine the doubts you’d have if Tesla was trying to start out with a first model in the below-50k segment. I have a lot of confidence in their business model, they will be able to point to a growing number of happy Roadster owners when developing and generating hype for their next car, the White Star.

    Large lithium-ion packs do need to be verified in terms of battery lifetimes and whatnot, but if you look at AC Propulsion and all their licensees, I think they’re doing just that. They torture their prototypes, as Tesla is doing right now. If I was in the automotive industry I wouldn’t want to give the press a car that I’ve been doing extreme durability testing on. Normally the press is lucky to get a spy photo of these cars, much less a ride in the passenger seat.

    The uncertainty in gas prices is probably an order of magnitude larger than the uncertainty in Tesla’s performance figures. I think the more expensive gasoline gets, the more willing people will be to accept slightly less range / lifetime than advertised. Electricity prices are rising too, but nowhere near as fast. And you can make electricity at home.

    Patience, grasshopper. Optimists (and NM, which wants the several hundred high-dollar jobs) are investing in Tesla, pessimists aren’t. For now that’s not really a problem.

  • avatar
    skor

    Back in 1995, I had an opportunity to obtain a Ford Ranger, with a bad trans, for free. I studied the feasibility of converting that truck to electric using lead-acid batteries. After I had done my homework, I concluded that it wouldn’t have been worth the effort from a utility point of view. I would have ended up with a vehicle that had a practice range of of about 60 miles. The range would decrease drastically during very cool or very warm weather. During the winter months, it would have been unusable. I would have ended up with a vehicle with no A/C, no power brakes or steering and a propane tank would have been required for heat. The conversion would have been very expensive — for parts only — I would have done most of the work. The truck would have taken 10-12 hours to recharge. I didn’t take the truck.

    I understand that LiIon batteries are light years ahead of lead/acid, but there is no battery that has anywhere near the energy density of a gallon of dinosaur juice.

    I would like to own an electric vehicle, and I hope that the Tesla Motors people are successful with car, but I have my doubts.

    Here are my minimum requirements for an EV:

    1)At least half the range of a gas car — winter or summer.
    2)Enough acceleration to safely merge in highway traffic, enough speed to keep up.
    3)Battery packs that don’t need to be changed for at least 50K miles.
    4)Enough interior heat defrost the windows.
    5)Charge times of no longer than 6 hours.
    6)Cost should not exceed 150% of a comparable gas car.

    I could live without A/C, power toys, and a sauna-like heater. If someone could produce an EV like I have described above, I’d buy it.

  • avatar

    Skor:

    Then you missed the boat. The RAV4 EV (circa 2002) did everything on your list, with the exception of range; real-world was about 100 miles (80 on a hot day or if you really lead-footed it). But it had plenty of acceleration for highway merges, battery packs were good for 100k, heat was no problem (in fact a timer allowed the car to be pre-heated or pre-cooled while it was still on the charger), 6 hrs was usually enough to pick up a full charge, and with incentives and tax rebates, cost to buy was under $30k, compared to around $20k for a comparably-equipped gasoline RAV. Plus it had A/C, power windows, locks and mirrors, electrically defrosted windshield, and even a sauna-like heater. And unlike other publically-available EVs, you could buy it, not just lease it.

    Sorry you missed the boat!

  • avatar

    Augh. Said “missed the boat” twice. NEED EDIT FUNCTION. Edit function good!

  • avatar
    Tavert

    To add to autonerd’s comment, a used RAV4 EV sold on ebay last year for 60k+. There’s enough demand among enthusiasts that the used car sold for almost double what the original owner paid for the car. And the engineering development into electrical systems for the RAV4 EV no doubt helped improve and further develop technology used in the Prius.

  • avatar
    Spaceweasel

    Skor:
    Your minimum requirements for an EV:

    1)At least half the range of a gas car — winter or summer.
    2)Enough acceleration to safely merge in highway traffic, enough speed to keep up.
    3)Battery packs that don’t need to be changed for at least 50K miles.
    4)Enough interior heat defrost the windows.
    5)Charge times of no longer than 6 hours.
    6)Cost should not exceed 150% of a comparable gas car.

    Taking Tesla at their word, you have a car that meets or exceeds most of your requirments:
    1)The Elise has a (projected) range of 254.4 city / 307.4 highway. That’s managing to meet the EPA sticker and pushing it to empty. Automobile magazine found it closer to 150 (200 if you were “driving like a namby”). That sounds like Tesla is equaling the gas car, not just halfway there. Of course, we have no info on the temperature variations.
    2) Acceleration times for the Lotus are slower. I think the 4.0 seconds for a Tesla ought to be enough to “safely merge”.
    3) No info on how long to change out a battery pack.
    4) No info on interior heat, but if my laptop is any indication, warmth won’t be an issue
    5) Charge times seem to be well within your range, even less if you have high output at home, or if the suggestions that 85-90% of the charging is done in the first couple of hours.
    6) Cost. Here the projected price is approximately 200% of the Elise. But acceleration is closer to the Exige. Check a couple of option boxes and it could run you 65k. 150% of that is within spitting distance of the Tesla’s 100k.

    So, equal range, better acceleration, adequate charge time, and reasonable cost. No info on interior heat, and the jury is still out on battery longevity. Chalk up the last to the penalty of being an early-adoptor and you seem to have found your new EV!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    RF, thanks for the revision. I still think it’s a powerful write-up. I think there may be folks out here who can add to it with a point/counterpoint follow-up.

    TTAC has a long future ahead and I’m sure many of us (including me) would love to contribute to your cause. Have you considered marketing this particular segment to some of the EV and environmental oriented web sites? One of the critical ingredients in building an internet presence is cultivating the subscriber base and the knowledge base that goes with it. Yes, I know. It’s all obvious but sometimes the simplest approaches to marketing are the most successful. A short synopsis of who you/we are and a token link can go a long, long way.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    See Tesla’s blog for info on climate control: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog1/?p=43

    Likewise for battery longevity: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog1/?p=39

    Read all the info on their blog then try calling them secretive.

  • avatar
    jeanh

    Skor:

    Here’s a little to add to Spaceweasel’s post.

    The Roadster uses a Ceramic heater which has instant heat, it also has AC. Check out the Tech specs here: http://www.teslamotors.com/engineering/tech_specs.php
    The Battery pack (ESS) is rated for replacement every 100,000+ miles. After 100,000 miles they expect to start losing capacity. The ESS is temperature controlled with a liquid cooling system and heater to help maintain optimum operation. You can find more details in the white paper on batteries here:
    http://www.teslamotors.com/learn_more/white_papers.php

  • avatar
    jeanh

    Aarg! I goofed. The Tech specs are great but the don’t mention the heater just the heated seats. Tavert’s post does point to the discussion on the heater. It’s a Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heater NOT a Ceramic heater as I stated in my last comment. Sorry about that.

  • avatar
    hal

    Just a suggestion: when an article is edited in response to comments its great that its acknowledged but it should be possible to view the original version. Otherwise we can’t know what commenters are referring to. Slate has a good policy on this where all edits are acknowledged at the bottom of the article.

  • avatar
    Tesla138

    I agree with all the posters that have stated a verification of actual range would be nice. I asked Martin Eberhardt at Tesla if he thought the Roadster would make it from the SF Bay Area to Tahoe on a single charge and he said he did not think so due to the long hill climb (from sea level to a pass of 7200 feet). This is a 210 – 230 mile freeway trip depending on where you start. I am hoping he is wrong – but he is one of the founders. On the flip side, I was at one of the “test ride” events and watched the same car go out and back for a few hours without charging. I am sure they easily logged over 100 miles of test rides and these were spirited rides – usually topping out at 80 mph or so as they merged onto the freeway (how the Tesla guys stay out of jail for speeding through San Carlos is beyond me).

    As to why Honda or Toyota have not done this – I would think it is merely a matter of demand and leveraging their current manufacturing facilities for the most profit. If electric cars end up being as reliable and maintenance free as people claim, the big car companies lose a large source of their revenue – parts and maintenance. So where is their incentive to push this model any quicker than they are forced to.

  • avatar
    rdwd

    RF: “Call me a hopeless pedant, but 245 is not 250. Just as less than 200 miles of “spirited driving” is also not 250.”

    So a 1.875 percentage error is not within a reasonable amount of claim exaggeration? That could be a few missing pounds of air in a tire or a few pounds caused by making the error of stopping for a big lunch.

    Someone (WarpedOne) calculated out how far you could travel in a Tesla based on how fast you go. If you went a constant 35mph (no stopping) you would traverse 609 miles!
    His full set of range speculations are here:
    http://teslamotorsclub.com/forum/index.php/topic,90.0.html

    It seems petty to quibble about 5 or even 50 miles of range with any kind of fueled car when it’s so driver dependant. That why the EPA has set a standard driving routine seen here:
    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fe_test_schedules.shtml
    And as they say, you mileage may vary. :)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    There is a very, very simple solution to all this.

    siry: Let me drive the car when it is ready.

    Cheers in advance.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    Jonny, I’m looking forward to that review… would you mind driving the ACP eBox, obviously available now, first?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    MR42HH:

    I will drive whatever is put in front of me.

    That’s a Farago-based standing order.

  • avatar
    TinChicken

    An amusing aside: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=farrago&x=29&y=21
    I am sure this has been said before, but this stuck with me – “a confused mixture; hodgepodge; medley: a farrago of doubts, fears, hopes, and wishes.”

    Indeed.

  • avatar

    If I can afford a $100k roadster I don’t really care about efficiency or charge time (as long as I can trailer it to the track or whatever) as much as I really want to know: how much fun is it to drive? the Tesla intrigues me for the prospect of a sports car that drives like no other, thanks to the instant torque and so on. that’s the review I want to read.

  • avatar
    Dr Obnxs

    There is so much error here it’s not funny. I just went to Tesla today…..

    1) Li ION batteries. The tesla uses ones a bit bigger than a AA battery. While at first this seems strange, there is intelligence in it. It limits the amount of energy in a single cell, and this has very, very important safety considerations. The first of witch is the limit to the energy dump from a failed cell. While the writer of the review postulated about thermal runaway, it is sad that he didn’t ask about that. What he would have learned would have been very insitefull. The battery package is designed with tightlty coupled thermal transfer, guaranteing by design that thermal runaway can’t happen (not enough energy in a single cell to screw the neighbors that are tightly coupled). This aslo sheds light on GMs opinions, who are mandating bigger cells, not many smaller ones. This lets you know why they view battery technology as not ready, when their mandate WILL make the issue of thermal runaway a real problem.

    2)Li-ION an unknown technology? Maybe to some of you, but if you have a laptop you know it better than you would think. With the number of cells produced, if Tesla hit thier full production target now, that would be a bit less, if I remember correctly, than 1% of the cells used for laptops! While it’s a new technology to CARS its not a new technology. The voltage vs charge curves are well known, and all that stuff. Just read about it and it won’t be new to you.

    All in all, they have a very good start to a potentiall good car. Most of the speculation on the downsides or the smoke and mirrors here just isn’t validated by a visit and an NDA covered conversation with the principles.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Cross post on this article on Autoblog Green – http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/03/27/the-truth-about-cars-doest-see-much-of-it-in-tesla/

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    Hey RF,
    Two questions:
    “Would you purchase a sports car that can only drive 90 miles between 12 hour recharges?”
    Where did you pull these numbers out of? The range and recharge times are 250 mi and 3 to 6h?

    Secondly, since this site is called “The Truth”, how can you have >no info

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    Woops, the smaller-than sign was the end of the post.
    I said something like:
    How can you have _no info_ about almost all points that you criticize and then imply that it is a scam or vaporware? That does not sound like searching for truth, but instead “guessing for a scandal” and outraged responses may guide you closer to the truth, but it is not something you seek, so the site name is a misnomer.
    If it was your intention to report the truth, then sir you have failed. If you wanted to get noticed, get reader responses and attention no matter how far you had to bend the truth, then you might consider the title “The Sun” for this site. Your choice.
    I am afraid that you owe Tesla a big apology, unless you believe that reporters have no moral duty to report correct info, then you have no obligation to apologize when you get it all wrong and can say anything you please. Then you also completely contradict the site name.
    I fear however that you simply did not take the time to research the subject thoroughly, as virtually every question you have is answered on Tesla’s website and a little research on other sites (AC Propulsion, EV Album, EV Discussion List – EVDL) would have given you a far better understanding of what is going on. Even talking to the people at Tesla and GM would have cleared up about every question you raised.
    It appears that you chose instead to write based on your own questions and recent press-noise from others.
    I am still wondering what that has to do with the truth.
    I am also wondering if this reply will stay on the site and whether you will respond to it.
    Yours truly, Cor.

  • avatar
    EJ

    The Tesla costs about $50K more than a Lotus Elise. That’s a lot of money to show that you care about the environment. For the same $50K you could also plant a forest of 10,000 trees (those cost only ~$5 each through various carbon-neutral organizations)…
    I think the cost of an electric car should be a bit more sensible, as in ‘what you save on gas’.

  • avatar

    cor_van_de_water:

    Now hang on there.

    Before this article was published, my team and I did extensive research into Tesla: its founders AND its technology. We spoke with experts in various fields (including batteries and safety) and investigated the $20m tax breaks in New Mexico. And yes, I spoke with Tesla’s competitors, including GM’s team.

    Now, to suggest that we should take the claims made on Tesla’s website at face value– as the vast majority of media have done– is antithetical to good journalism.

    This is an unproven company working in a cutting edge field. It’s one thing to say you’ve built a carbon fiber supercar using a new V8, quite another to say you’ve done so using lithium batteries.

    I still believe that the onus is on Tesla to prove their claims. Until such time, it is our journalistic obligation to to point out areas where Tesla may– I repeat MAY– be misleading their investors, customers and, lest we forget, tax payers.

    Again, read Tesla’s PR guy’s “bring it on you doe eyed, celebrity obsessed media hacks” blog entry. We only did what he SAID we should do.

    I find it astonishing that so many people here are willing to cut Tesla so much slack. They claim that the Roadster will achieve a range of 250 miles. And yet dozens of people say, well, if it goes 100 miles on a track, hey, that’s close enough for rock and roll.

    When a company says “here’s what we’re going to do,” what’s wrong with saying “will they be able to do it?”

    And in all this, no one has mentioned that Tesla has already missed its first delivery date. Shit happens, yes. But that’s one promise unfulfilled. Will there be others? We shall see.

    When did EV become some kind of sacred cow?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    When did EV become some kind of sacred cow?

    • When people woke up and realized they were heating the planet with their carbon emissions
    • When people saw that gas cost $3 per gallon
    • When the dot com boom went bust and venture capitalists needed the next big thing to invest in
    • When WMDs were never found and Americans realized they were losing their sons for nothing but oil

    Take your pick

  • avatar
    Jeffrey

    Robert Farago wrote:

    “When did EV become some kind of sacred cow?”

    SherbornSean wrote:

    • When people woke up and realized they were heating the planet with their carbon emissions
    • When people saw that gas cost $3 per gallon
    • When the dot com boom went bust and venture capitalists needed the next big thing to invest in
    • When WMDs were never found and Americans realized they were losing their sons for nothing but oil

    Take your pick
    ———————————————-

    Ahaha! All of the above. But wait theres still room for more bullets. Electric vehicles date way way back, yet they continue transformation. This is a technology that can adapt. If these cars/trucks weren’t sacred cows why do they keep coming back then? Robert Farago next time consider taking your stock out of Exxon before you write reviews on these things. Please. :D

  • avatar

    Suggesting that I’m in the pay of Big Oil is just ridiculous. No, it’s worse than that. It reveals a combination of sanctimoniousness and paranoia that I find downright scary.

    And gentlemen, when I compared the EV to a sacred cow, I was asking when did it become unacceptable to challenge the technology. Surely anyone in search of an alt energy future should submit any and all emerging vehicular technologies to rigorous scrutiny.

    Wanting to protect the planet, extricate the US from foreign military entanglements, assure our children’s future, etc. are all noble goals. But don’t let them blind you to the need for clear thinking, common sense and, yes, a healthy dose of technological skepticism.

  • avatar

    Mr. Farago: When Daryl Siry invited the press to “ask the tough questions” of Tesla and other EV companies, you seem to have taken that as a personal challenge. However, I would point out that he didn’t invite the press to ask tough questions and then disparage the answers as probable lies. From my viewpoint, if you catch a company lying about their products then you have a story. If you only have conjecture that they might possibly be lying, that’s a non-story.

    As somebody else already commented, this is supposed to be The Truth About Cars, not The Negative Conjecture About Cars.

    I do, however, think there’s an irony in all of this, and Tesla have sort of unwittingly put themselves into this position. The more they show off the car, the more they give rides in it, the more info about it they post on their website and the more pre-orders deposits they accept, the more they are acting like a car company with a product that’s ready to sell — and test, and review, and evaluate. They are saying “It’s only an engineering prototype,” but their actions send a different signal to the automotive press. That’s just not the way things are done in the car business.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I think I need to clarify my post. What I was trying to say was that the media’s embrace of the Tesla and similar non-petroleum energy investments was driven by the factors mentioned.

    That doesn’t mean that I am gullible enough to think Exxon will be the equivalent of a buggy whip manufacturer any time soon. And I certainly didn’t mean to imply that TTAC’s views are influenced by Big Oil money, or any other for that matter.

    Also, my wife is not a poet, either.

  • avatar

    tonybelding:

    I’m confused. It’s OK to ask tough questions, but it’s not OK to question the validity of the answers provided? Or to cast doubt upon them?

    If this was an oil company talking about its plans for developing solar energy, would you be singing the same tune?

  • avatar
    cor_van_de_water

    Hi RF,
    I don’t see the EV as a holy cow, my EV is simply to transport me from A to B (usually from Sunnyvale to San Jose) on a daily basis. I know that EVs work from daily use. I have had a ride in the Wrightspeed (using the same drivetrain but bolted into an Atom Ariel iso based on Elise) and thus I know what the Li-Ion batteries can do. Again, it is not a new technology as the tZero has demonstrated it for 4 years now. If you want a serious torture test of the drivetrain and see if all the claims are plausible or can even be called confirmed, you could try Ian Wright and see if you can take the Wrightspeed to a test track to confirm the range at WOT and to confirm the range at the normal speed limit. WarpedOne over at TeslaMotorsClub forum did the theoretical calculations and you can see how the range is affected by speed.

    Mind you, I am all for critical questions. I am an engineer and believe that data and actions do not lie. Words can all to easily be twisted. I think Tesla is one of the most truthful and promising companies out there, there have been others who could not deliver on their promise and caused great pain, so I agree that we should test whatever we can and remain critical about claims. But that does not include calling faul before it even can be tested, because what is the basis that you draw these conclusions from?
    I’d say: test comparable cars to validate that the technology can deliver on Tesla’s promise and test Tesla’s actions against what you would expect from a startup car company. That will tell you if it is all real.
    BTW, I could have been all over the Tesla Roadster last fall when they were on the Palo Alto EV show and rally, my EV was there, but I promised a friend to help them move, so I missed the event. That I haven’t seen it does not cause me to call it a hoax, because I have heard about it from enough reliable sources. You too have heard about it from many sources that had varying levels of interest with Tesla. Maybe GM was questioning the validity of Tesla, because they are afraid of them or because GM has the attitude “the batteries do not work yet” while Tesla and others have already proven that the small Li-Ion batteries DO work. Why does GM say that batteries don’t work? Because they have mandated that they will only look at large batteries, which still have thermal problems. In essence, they have dismissed the only currently viable technology (besides NiMH which is controlled by Chevron). Like an old Chinese proverb: Don’t say “it can’t be done” and stand in the way of the person doing it.

  • avatar

    Yes, that is what I’m saying. It’s not okay to question the validity of the answers provided, or cast doubt upon them — unless you can point to some evidence or line of reasoning, however tenuous, to support those doubts. If you say, “I doubt these claims because X suggests otherwise,” that is good journalism. If you say, “I doubt these claims because I can,” that is not good journalism. That is FUD.

  • avatar
    TinChicken

    Robert,

    Can you post a link to the original article? Many of the comments here refer to a post that no longer exists. Typically, when a blog post is edited, those edits are clearly marked with a supplementary paragraph or two. The original text should not be changed.

    Tin.

  • avatar

    Articles on ttac.com always evolve post-publication. Most of these changes involve typos, sentence construction or minor factual issues. We do not provide links to the "original" piece (which no longer exists once we make the changes in wordpress). If we adopt a change or correction to the text suggested by a commentator, we always acknowledge the alteration. And it's worth noting that we have withdrawn articles from the site (and apologised to our audience) when they were proven to be fundamentally flawed. That will not happen with this piece.

  • avatar

    Here’s one bit from the so-called “review” that I found particularly questionable:

    “Even so, if one of its batteries ignites, it could cause a virtually unstoppable series of fires and/or explosions.”

    Tesla have said they designed the battery system so that this kind of chain reaction cannot occur, and they tested it by deliberately setting fire to individual cells and observing that there was no chain reaction. They say it can’t happen. Mr. Farago says it could.

    So, in this case it would appear he has stepped over a line. . . The way I read it, he’s not saying they might be lying, he’s saying straight up that they ARE lying. My question then becomes: Where’s the beef?

    Where is your evidence showing that these tests were not conducted, or that they were conducted improperly, or that they did not produce the results that Tesla describe?

    Or, was this example merely baseless speculation stated as fact?

  • avatar

    tonybelding:

    First, I think you should declare your position in this. Perhaps our readers would like to know the nature of your connection to Tesla Motors.

    Second, again, I spoke with numerous experts in the field in regard to Tesla’s safety, including NHTSA. They agreed– as does Tesla– that the only test that mean anything are federally mandated crash tests.

    As I said somewhere in the above maelstrom, it’s one thing to set a cell on fire, it’s quite another to subject the battery pack to the enormous forces of a collision.

    It is a fact that a lithium ion battery fire can not be supressed using a conventional fire extinguisher.

    I believe it is up to Tesla to prove that their system is NOT a fire safety hazard. Pointing that out to potential customer, investors or the general public is not unfair or unreasonable.

  • avatar

    Some info:
    We have done crash testing on our EPs (it was covered in our blog) We will crash test our VPs as well in order to certify that we pass FMVSS.

    The main issue for Li-Ion cells is a thermal event in one cell (rare) propagating to adjacent cells. That is what would cause a bigger problem. We have designed our ESS specifically to anticipate such a situation and specifically so that any event in one cell does not propagate to another adjacent cell. We have used a well-known third party to do this testing for us (I’ll be able to say who exactly we use soon)

    We also had to get UN certification that the ESS was safe for international transport (i.e. falls from a certain height, etc.) This is significant. I will elaborate on the corporate blog in the future.

  • avatar

    Since you ask. . . My connection it Tesla Motors is that I am a potential customer. Simply put, I want a Roadster (to take the place of my Esprit V8) and I’ve been studying everything I can about it before committing $100K. It’s not pocket change.

    If the only thing that really matters is federally mandated crash tests, then where’s the problem? That process is ongoing and doesn’t appear to have caused any fireballs or explosions thus far. Available information suggests that the first round of tests didn’t turn up any notable problems with the engineering prototypes, and I don’t have any particular reason to expect the next set of validation prototypes to fare differently when they are crashed. Do you? If so, please share with us!

    From where I sit, the federally mandated crash tests are not the only thing that matters. They were not designed to test the fire safety of lithium cells. If Tesla were merely doing the federally required tests and shoving it onto the market, I wouldn’t be satisfied at all. They have done their own additional tests on the battery pack to satisfy themselves — and people like me — that it’s not going to burst into flames. I give them credit for that.

  • avatar
    Tesla138

    This is an odd conversation – Tesla says it has tested the batteries for thermal runaway and the cars so far have not had an issue with this in crash testing. But, sure, a battery could explode – who knows. But even though an ICE car has passed crash testing without exploding, this doesn’t mean that something won’t happen to it to cause the engine to blow up or the gas tank to explode – who knows. In fact I would bet that the likelihood of a fire or explosion is much higher in a vehicle filled with flammable liquid that is ignited by sparks as part of its normal operation. But still, there they are, all over the place.

  • avatar
    hal

    Alterations to articles (particularly factual changes) should at a minimum be acknowledged at the bottom of the article or with linked footnotes rather than buried in the comments.
    I didn’t care much for the “disappearing article” policy either. Seems a bit too much like rewriting history.

  • avatar
    Jeffrey

    RF wrote:
    “And it’s worth noting that we have withdrawn articles from the site (and apologised to our audience) when they were proven to be fundamentally flawed. That will not happen with this piece.”
    —————————————————
    Why not? This article has a boatload of flaws. You’d pretty much have to rewrite the whole article to fix them.

    RF wrote:
    “Jay also reports that the Roadster’s interior is so Elise it hurts. Literally.”
    ————————————————–
    How does looking inside an interior of a car hurt oneself? I just don’t get it.

    RF wrote:
    “Even so, if one of its batteries ignites, it could cause a virtually unstoppable series of fires and/or explosions.”
    ————————————————–
    Do your homework. Tesla Motors has already addressed this problem ages ago.

    RF wrote:
    Would you purchase a sports car that can only drive 90 miles between 12 hour recharges?
    ————————————————–
    Details Details… How much would it cost? How much performance will it have? Your leaving so much out of the equation. I actually might.

    RF wrote:
    “there are plenty of electric car companies happy to let responsible journos do what responsible journos are supposed to do.”
    ————————————————–
    Elaborate on which companies these might be? No electric production car has ever come close in price or quality like the Tesla. They aren’t just going to hand off the keys.

    RF wrote:
    “Until they do, until they allow the press to thoroughly evaluate the car’s real world capabilities, their Roadster should be viewed as nothing more than another well-meaning concept car. Or, if you prefer, a fabulous toy.”
    —————————————————
    Actually your wrong again. Haha go figure. The only person Tesla Motors has to earn respect and trust from are potential customers. That’s it. They don’t owe journalists anything nor are they obiligated to prove anything to them. Almost 400 orders have been proudly placed already.

    RF wrote:
    “Even before they’ve delivered a single Roadster, they’re promising two additional, mass market electric vehicles– whose enabling technology is, at best, under-developed.”
    ————————————————–
    What are you talking about? Ev’s are over 100 years old. The batteries are used in just about all consumer electronics. The ac induction motor dates back to the 1800′s. The various other electronic components were invented in the middle 50′s and even earlier. I suggest you take a course in electrical science. No offense.

  • avatar

    hal:

    Rest assured: no one’s trying to “bury” or hide anything.

    But this isn’t the New York Times. It’s a blog, where the articles evolve. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes not at all.

    The ability to refine a published piece is one of this medium’s greatest advantages. The process has never been a source of contention or controversy in the past.

    Again, we always acknowledge our mistakes and rectify them where appropriate.

  • avatar
    Shantanu

    I used to avidly read this site but rarely comment. However, I have to say that TTAC’s approach has been extremely disrespectful, and seems to be trying to “balance” the public opinion by writing a glaring editorial that is posted as a review to counteract all the praise the startup has received.
    I am extremely disappointed with ttac.

  • avatar

    Shantanu: I'm sorry we've disappointed you. At the risk of pissing you off– again– every ttac.com writer reserves the right to withold their "respect" for those companies and products they feel deserves plaudits. [BTW: the door's open anyone wants to write a "pro" Tesla piece.]  As far as I'm concerned, if I have to choose between joining the cheering section for an unproven vehicle or taking the hit for maintaining a hard-nosed approach to the Roadster's avid promoters, even if it means I'm perceived as mean-spirited or unfair, there's no question which way it's going to go down.  RF PS Not all EV companies are so guarded about their technology. Here's an excellent piece about GM's efforts that gives you an idea of the enormous scope of the challenge facing GM and, by extension, Tesla. http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/03/14/general-motors-talks-about-battery-development/

  • avatar
    dean

    This must be a TTAC record for comments. Lots of new names chiming in — if nothing else this piece has generated traffic!

    Personally, I can see both sides of this debate. Consider me solidly on the fence.

    I am intrigued by the technology (I’ve read accounts of their electric motor development in engineering trade magazines and it is a fascinating piece of kit) and I sincerely hope that it succeeds. But until it does, I think Robert is right to hold their feet to the fire.

    Anyone remember the dotcom bust? It only busted because it boomed, and it only boomed because nobody asked the hard questions. As in “Is any of this ever going to make a buck?” Everyone (media included) was only too happy to get on the bandwagon of untold riches to be made in a connected society. That turned out real well for a lot of people.

    Before the same thing happens again in the so-called “green” industry we need people to take sober looks at these enterprises and keep on them to make sure that they are accountable for the promises they make and the hype they perpetuate.

    Jumping back to the other side of the fence, I do think the article (at least in its original form) came across as a little too overtly negative. A more objective approach with more neutral language would have accomplished the same result with fewer fireworks. Scratch that. The comments would have been a lot less interesting!

  • avatar
    Tavert

    RF, GM doesn’t have a product to be “secretive” about. Hell, they dismiss liquid cooling for “weight and complexity,” but you don’t see any air-cooled GM engines around anymore do you?

    Tesla’s proud of their innovations, they don’t want competitors stealing their business. I still think all the information they’ve shared about development on their blog makes them the most open EV company around. And they’re the closest to market.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    MR42HH:
    I have looked into a few of the vehicles you mention.

    The Venturi Fetish is, as noted above, a carbon fibre statement for people who are willing to pay 300k to save energy costs. Definitely not something with mass market potential.

    It would say it amounts to this: using that kind of expensive technology, it would be easy to design a 100mpg conventional car, so what’s the advantage of going electric?

    The wacky Courreges Exe and Zooop performed admirably at the previous ChallengeBibendums, but neither intend to be commercial. I do not not speak for TTAC, but it is my impression that this website does not concern itself too much with vehicles that are not made for the market. And it seems there is little sense in trying to test drive these cars.

    That said, if somebody bought me the plane ticket, I would go see the 2007 Bibendum (Shanghai, November) for a song. But it ain’t gonna happen.

  • avatar

    I applaud Tesla for pushing the edge. It’s a rich person’s toy. But so were personal computers, home broadband and cellular phones at one point. And if celebrities start gloating about going carbon neutral and having fun with a Tesla Roadster and a roof of grid connected solar panels then there is the potential of wider acceptance of greener living.

    Of course if they screw up and create a “Hindenburg moment” with some hot technology then I bet every electric car under development gets scrapped and hybrid drivers tear their batteries out.

    You don’t get progress hiding under the bed.

  • avatar
    skor

    I’m hoping that the claims made by the Tesla Motors people are true, but I’ll reserve my opinions about their car until I actually see one in the flesh(carbon fiber).

    I would really like to own a practical EV, not because I give a rat’s ass about carbon credits, or melting glaciers or the Arctic slime eel. No, I really want an EV so I can remove Ahmed and his Gas-’n-Rob “service” station from my life.

    Yes, I know that electricity costs money, and the power company execs are just as corrupt as the oil company execs. The older I get, the less I want to deal with people face to face.

    “So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. You remember: the fire and brimstone, the torture. Ah! the farce. There is no need for torture: hell is other people.” –Jean-Paul Sartre

  • avatar
    Tavert

    Martin Schwoerer:

    For all intents and purposes, the Venturi Fetish and the Tesla Roadster are equivalent cars. Like poeple have said, Venturi was a few years earlier to market and costs 3x as much.

    You can make a 100mpg car for much less than 300k, probably for less than 100k. Take a Honda Insight and replace the gas engine with a tiny diesel, I bet you could do it. BUT, this is the most important part of all, it would be slow and boring to drive. Look at how the power and weight of cars have increased over the past 20-30 years, with little increase in efficiency. If you applied all the technological advances of the past few decades to a lightweight, low-power vehicle, the efficiency would be tremendous. But who wants to buy a car with less than 100 horsepower nowadays? I think the Prius may be the only new car you can buy below that level. And people have been trained to feel unsafe in anything that weighs less than 2500 pounds.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    I have read TTAC since its inception and have thoroughly enjoyed (not necessarily agreed with) the pointed Reviews AND Editorials on the page. This and the WindingRoad have been the 2 recent refreshing auto media in a long time.

    But, I am extremely disappointed by this piece called “review”. It smacks of mean-spiritedness (the unrevised version), unsubstantiated cynicism, and chicken-little doubts cloaked in a purported “review.” There is no “review” or “truth” here; afterall, the guy who wrote the critical piece didn’t even test or sit in the car, while the one who did came away with a positive experience. Go figures!

    Who at Tesla stole your lunch money, Robert?

    We gave Audi over year of indulgence and claims for their R8, and reserved our judgment and doubts about those claims until its premier and testing in Vegas.

    We are giving BMW its benefit of the doubt with claims about the upcoming M3 since 2 years ago, and won’t criticze it until actual production next year.

    Why can’t we give Tesla the same benefit until at least a prototype is made available this summer? Why is there such a rush to sabotage Tesla’s claims?

    More importantly, why such take such approach in a “review” piece? In fact, if this piece were styled an Editorial such as the Death Watches, I’m sure there would not have been 200+ comments about it.

    Here’s looking forward to more responsible journalism on this wonderful site.

  • avatar

    TeeKay You speak of "responsible journalism." So what are we to make of all the pieces which report Tesla's claims as fact? For example, there's this from PC Magazine: "Plugged into an ordinary wall socket, it charges in about 7 hours. But if you use a specially designed in-home charging unit, which the company plans to include with the car at no extra cost, you can charge up in under four hours. A full-charge gets you 250 miles of driving on the open road (the company has yet to test stop-and-go performance)." Claims published as fact are OK, but doubts cast upon claims are not? ttac.com reserves the right to question ALL automakers. (I don't know to whom you are referring when you say "we" as in "We gave Audi over year of indulgence…") OUr writers indentify hype and, as best we can, separate it from reality. It's who "we" are and what we do.

  • avatar
    Shantanu

    Robert Farago:

    I understand your idea to cast some skepticism on the EV worlds poster-child, but why post it as a review of the car? If anything, it’s an editorial piece, not at all a review.

  • avatar
    stedwoo

    Robert Farago

    A reporter has driven this car unrestricted, it was Dan Neil from the LA Times and he wrote a glowing review that I read.

    Everything used in this car is using existing parts/technology unlike some (phoenix) EV companies. As a result almost everything they have said is verifiable.

    GM is looking to make a car that they can sell 100K plus so different requirements; also they are leaning towards the single battery versus multiple battery approach.

    Some of the EV companies are using unknown technology and selling their trucks for the price of the batteries alone so as a business model they are doomed. Even worse they are getting their based on a new technology that cannot be verified.

    If you read and listen to the many statements Tesla has made all of their numbers are verifiable based on basic engineering mathematics? The only question as far as I can see is the how the car will hold up long term and only time will tell. The only math I can do on Phoenix trucks is the price they are paying for batteries. Thos batteries cost more than they sell the truck for. The battery technology is supposed to be new and revolutionary with no long term use by the public for me to do math with.

    I am much less skeptical than you because I have been involved in many conversation/blogs were Tesla has been taken to task by engineers and answered everything to those peoples satisfaction. I like it when I can look up in any battery manual the spec on a Battery and any AC engine spec and do the math myself and verify at least the numbers are within reason. I think maybe you did not do enough research of where Tesla’s numbers has been questioned prior to writing this.

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    stedwo: I read the Dan Neil review too. He clearly stated that he drove a – in his own words – “dog-eared” engineering prototype with non-functional gearbox and several other problems. Sure, he had fun. I’d like to drive that thing too. But “delivering on promises” – that will be take more than a 45-minute drive.

    Let’s wait for the VPs and everything beyond for deciding whether those cars deliver. I want them to.

  • avatar

    I was going to point out the Dan Neil review. It’s on YouTube as well….

  • avatar
    hagakure

    I greatly fear that your “DeLorean” comment may prove true… but if there was ever a car out there that I was truly pulling for, it’s this one. I really want these guys to pull this one off.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    The Autobild review is out today. They were quite enthusiastic about the speed and efficiency of the Tesla. However, there was some scepticism about the technology’s reliability. For example, during the test drive, the batteries heated up to 36 degrees centigrade and the motor reached 118 degrees c, upon which they drove home in a slow fashion, for safety’s sake.

    Having just spent a few days in lovely Paris, I can think of nothing that would better improve the quality of life of literally millions of people than low-noise, zero-emissions vehicles. I don’t think Tesla will pull off the trick, but I sure wish it could.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    My apologies, RF. It appears you were more right than I had hoped. http://www.teslamotors.com/blog2/?p=48
    Revising weight and range targets pre-production… I had expected as much, but it’s a shame. As the Roadster gets closer to production, it’s looking to be more and more ahead of its time. The batteries will be better for their next car, but this news makes me wonder how they’re ever going to get the price down.

  • avatar
    Dane

    Do anyone know the dimensions of the battery pack? It would be nice to have some kind of trunk in future cars..

  • avatar
    Bella

    You want conspiracy theory?

    Check out the video at Teslamotors that shows ABS braking on ice/asphalt. Turn up the volume and marvel at the sound of an electric motor….. (End of video, car stops and drives away).

    Sounds just like, guess what?


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