By on December 13, 2007

tesla-canyon-front1.jpgAutoblogGreen reports that Tesla Motors held an open town hall meeting yesterday; "open" in the sense that only customers who've plunked down a hefty deposit for the thrice delayed lithium ion-powered Roadster were invited to attend, and "meeting" as in a conference call. Semantics aside, Tesla's top brass assembled the faithful to make a momentous announcement: Roadster Number One is in production! And who gets this historic vehicle? Tesla Chairman Elon Musk! It seems that Tesla still can't source a suitably robust transmission for their vaporwaricle, and nobody else was willing to take delivery of a Roadster with a tranny that's doomed to failure after "a few thousand miles." Actually, I lie. Tesla says it "might" give some customers their very own electric-powered tranny time bombs, and swap 'em over later. (Did Tesla talk to their insurance broker about this idea?) According to unofficial meeting secretary Tony Belding, "Production will be very slow until the transmission problems are fully resolved, which means full-rate production will probably begin about summer, probably late summer. There are some uncertainties about the schedule, and they are trying not to over-promise until they have it figured out better." That would make a change. Oh, and you remember everyone giving me grief about giving Tesla grief about their unverified range claims, after they released an unverified range claim of 245 miles? Well, it seems there was a software glitch. "Latest testing now puts the range in the 220-230 mile region," AutoblogGreen credulously reports, still without verification.  

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18 Comments on “Tesla Birth Watch 11: Tesla Needs Trannies...”

  • avatar

    Maybe they should have worked out the fact that their car didn’t have a reasonably working transmission before they took deposits, set delivery dates, and declared themselves the future of the automotive world.

    How is what Musk is getting an actual “production unit” anyway? It sounds more like he’s getting a pre-production car with official ratings attached to it.

    The job is better than ever, and so is Tesla!!!!

  • avatar

    I thought the use of electric traction motors generally simplified the transmission problem. Is Tesla making things harder than they ought to be?

  • avatar

    The Venturi Fétish EV got around this problem by a single speed transmission and having a top speed of 100mph. Of course, delivery data is hard to come by.

  • avatar

    I guess that is why whenever I saw them showing this thing on TV they never took it out of the low gear, they failed to say it didn’t work. They sure have a lot of bugs for a car ready for production, I’m glad I didn’t spend $100,000 to be a beta tester.

  • avatar

    There’s got to be something in the silicon-valley water…

    Yes, the smartest people in the world work there – in software, in bio-tech. But their attitude toward Quality control and finished product support can be insane.

    A while ago at work, we got new stats analysis software at ~$1500/end user. Good stuff. Lotsa features and very intuitive graph functions.

    Minor flaw: Report Generation. You could set up a ‘Report Template’ with spiffy graphs and data. However, they forgot to include a ‘Save As’ function for such templates. If you changed a report template or just wanted to mess around, you couldn’t save it to a new name.

    Tech support was fun:

    Me: “This doesn’t seem to have a ‘Save As’ option.”

    Them: “Oh yeah, minor glitch. A patch is in the works. Until then, just copy the template you want to change to another folder so that when you save the template you’re modifying, you have the old version in the other folder.”

    Me: “Um. Yeah. Ok. I guess that’ll have to work. How long until that patch is available?”

    Them:“Three, four weeks. The end of the month is the patch goal.

    Three months later…

    Me: “I just installed the patch you made available last week. It doesn’t seem to work.”

    Them:“Yeah, we know. It’s a minor thing. We’ll have a working patch soon.”

    Me: “How soon?

    Them: “A couple weeks.”

    To their credit, they patch did work then…

  • avatar

    I’ve spent enough time with software implementations to see that their corporate culture isn’t gonna fly anywhere else but the software industry. Windows Vista, anyone? It reminds me of this scene from the movie Gung Ho:

    “Ok. By seven-thirty, he’s going to start counting cars. While he counts the cars, we keep building.

    Good idea.

    Boys, on the last few, we may have to cut a few corners. All right? Just little things like… engines.”

  • avatar

    Can these people just get their money back at this point?

  • avatar

    Can someone please summarize for me the basic problem with EV trannies? Is it the torque load? We’re still driving turny things with motors, right? What’s so different?

  • avatar

    Four asteriks I get, but what uncomplimentary word consists of three letters, in this context? Oh, OK it should have been “grief”. Silly me I had other four letter words in mind that I agreed with even more!

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    What’s wrong with this picture? Here they are trying to wow the world with electric storage breakthrough and they can’t get a trannie that works?

    The clock is ticking and it is not Tesla’s friend.

  • avatar

    It isn’t easy engineering this stuff, or testing it or developing it or??? I give them a A for ambition, and trying to do a good thing, but man the devil is in the details, and it takes an army and a ton of money to cover all the details.

  • avatar

    ” … their corporate culture isn’t gonna fly anywhere else but the software industry. Windows Vista, anyone?”

    I know this is off topic, but this skewering of Microsoft Vista could be a great template for the next Tesla spoof-advertisement.

    Back to the main topic. I cannot think of a single new North American automotive company started in the past 50 years by people from outside the industry which actually survived. Quite a few went belly up, such as Delorean and Bricklin and they had name automotive guys running the show. Countless wanna-be boutique sports car companies have come and gone over the years. Some of them had Carol Shelby involved.

    It is much harder to pull off than it looks.

  • avatar

    autoblog quotes them as saying that they are looking for a transmission strong enough to “survive the process of shifting gears while the motor remains at full torque”. This is probably an oversimplification of the problem b/c there are a lot of cars out there with millions of ft-lbs of torque shifting gears just fine… and the tesla has only 200 ft-lbs. anyways, I have high hopes for this car. I really want this thing to work…

  • avatar

    Isn’t the Tesla’s tranny only 2 speeds? If so, the distance between ratios are likely huge. I also think the motor redlines at 10,000+ rpm. To shift quickly under load, the rotating parts will have to go from 10,000+ to, say, 4,000 (or the other way) in very short time, preferably without an interruption in acceleration, something I doubt many off the rack trannies have been designed for.

    It’s still not something requiring rocket science, though. Just another time consuming detail that needs to be fixed. As long as this tranny issue isn’t covering up underperformance of more fundamental parts of the technology, they might actually be good to go in a year, as they say.

    Barring federal intervention, I still don’t think Tesla is necessarily a more likely BK candidate that some other US automakers.

  • avatar

    re: software
    As we say, it’s rather more difficult to do Ctl-Alt-Del on I-75 in rush hour traffic flow.

  • avatar

    You guys called it. Early.

  • avatar

    Why not just throw a slush-box in it?

    That’s what other makers seem to do when they don’t want to field a sure to fail manual.

  • avatar

    I asked the chief engineer behind the Lexus 400h why they were using planetary gears for Toyota’s hybrids. He answered that the huge torque of the electric engines made that the best solution, he also enjoyed the fact that you’d get stepless acceleration from zilch to maximum speed- don’t think Toyota has a patent on planetary gears, though.

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