The EV game is getting nasty. We've heard about Tesla suing Fisker, now Earth2Tech reports that Tesla is being sued by Canadian supplier Magna for breach of contract. The suit alleges that Tesla failed to pay Magna for development work on its troubled transmission system. Transmission woes have long been the Achilles heel of the Tesla Roadster's development. Initial plans called for a two-speed transmission to be supplied by X-Trac, That unit was quickly proven incapable of reliably handling the EV's zero-RPM grunt. Tesla then went to Magna for a replacement two-speed– which proved equally unsuccessful. After attempting an in-house development, Tesla has given-up on the whole multiple gears thing in favor of the golf-cart elegance of a single-speed box. But wait, says Magna, we told you to try a single-speed solution in the first place. Not only did Tesla not listen, but according to the suit filed California, they didn't pay some $5.6m in development fees that Magna claims it was owed under the development contract. Oops. Better collect quickly guys, before you have to squabble for it in, dare I say it, bankruptcy court.
Category: Tesla Birth Watch
It's hard to keep track of what's going on between Tesla and Fisker. But if you've got the time… First, Tesla mouthpiece Daryl Siry trash talks Fisker's range-extended vehicle, the Karma. After Fisker unveils their EV prototype at the Detroit Auto Show, Siry wonders if his rival's got what it takes to make it so. Next, Tesla's hires Henrik Fisker to design Tesla's Whitestar sedan. And now CNet News reports that Tesla is taking Fisker to court for stealing trade secrets and copying design ideas. Tesla's suit alleges that Fisker accepted the design contract "to gain access to confidential design information and trade secrets, then announced a competing vehicle." Fisker's brief had no comment on the case, other than "the firm's policy [is] not to comment on litigation." Meanwhile, Tesla says they've scrapped Fisker's design for the Whitestar in
a fit of pique favor of… something else. On the positive side, this intra-vaporware legal contretemps will provide Tesla for a convenient excuse when the Whitestar doesn't appear as promised. And for us, the case could expose the reality behind Tesla's endless hype. [Props to JT for the link]
Now that Tesla's started production on their all-electric Roadster (although there's been no indication that they've delivered a single car to single paying customer), the Silicon Valley start-up is expanding their "sales territory" into Europe. The San Jose Business Journal reports that Tesla's started taking orders across the pond as of last week. Tesla's promising to deliver 250 Elise-based, lithium-ion electric sports cars into the Eurozone as of spring 2009. And here's the kicker: Tesla is asking European buyers to pay 160 percent of the U.S. price. That's $156,630 for a car that sells for $98k here in The Land of the Free. If I was an American customer who'd paid the deposit, I'd raise holy Hell if Tesla sent even one car to Europe before satisfying its aspiring American customers.
Those of you familiar with our coverage of Tesla Motors' struggle to produce a lithium-ion powered sports car know that we believe that they believe every word they're saying, regardless of which side of their mouth their words emanate. But you've got to wonder when the erstwhile automaker's VP of Vehicle Integration [via Just-auto, sub] answers the straightforward question "So when does series production start then?" with the above. (And there I was thinking production meant building cars for customers.) And what about this quote? "There is a danger when you ramp that you keep an eye on the big balls," Malcom Powell proclaims. "But it needs all the balls to build the car; it's no good having just 99% of the parts because you can't build it. So we will control our ramp rate carefully. We will start producing the cars this quarter and we will monitor and ramp as quickly as we can, but under control." So, uh, how many cars, then? "It will be some hundreds of cars this calendar year – we should be running at around 600 for the Model Year." You heard it here, folks: Tesla is [not] fully committed to producing 600 '08 Roadsters– whatever that means.
Whatever else you can say about the aspiring electric vehicle (EV) maker– and we've said plenty during the previous thirty-nine installments– you can never accuse Tesla Motors of humility. Before they've delivered a single car to a single paying customer, Tesla is now talking about European sales. Innovation Beat carries the glad tidings. "We have always wanted to distribute in Europe, but with the low dollar we are going to move quicker,” says Darryl Siry, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service at Tesla. “The introduction date for the Roadster in Europe will be announced in a couple of months.” Will that be that before or after the White Star sedan EV prototype hits the streets? Meanwhile, Wired reports that Siry was equally vague about the delivery date for the second "production" Tesla Roadster. "The factory turns out 'gliders,' or rolling chassis without drivetrains. The cars will be shipped — Siry said he imagines [Tesla founder Martin] Eberhard's car will be flown — to San Francisco for final assembly. Every Roadster will have its battery pack, transmission and motor installed in San Carlos. 'The whole process before they're passed to sales takes a couple of weeks,' Siry said, and Eberhard will probably get his car in April.'" Probably?
"Tesla Starts Full-Scale Production!" "Stop the Presses, The Tesla Factory is Cranking" "Tesla Begins 'Regular' Production of Roadsters" Reading the ever-credulous press, you'd be forgiven for thinking investors who've been waiting two years for their $98k battery-powered Roadster will have one in their garage in the next few weeks. Not so fast (literally). First, we await independent confirmation that Tesla hit the "start" button on the production line. Second, there's many a slip between the cup and the lip. We await the first customer delivery (real customers, not Tesla execs). And third, by its own admission, Tesla will build Roadsters at the rate of "one or two per week." On Tesla's blog, CEO Ze'ev Drori stated his employer would gradually ramp-up production, heading for "over 100 Roadsters per month early next year." Ignoring the existence of the REVA, the ZAP Xebra and several million golf carts, Drori also proudly proclaims "the Tesla Roadster is the only zero emission electric vehicle in production today." At least the Tesla hype factory is [still] in full swing.
In the latest installment of Tesla Motor's Mythbusters, the erstwhile EV maker's Director of Energy Storage Technologies says that Tesla's lithium-ion batteries are eco-friendly. That's because they're "manufactured in Japan, a country with very strict environmental laws." Kelty then lists all the nasty stuff their battery pack doesn't contain (leaving out dead kittens and powdered rhinoceros horn). In short, Tesla's Li-ion cells contain no toxic materials and "by law, could be disposed of by putting them in a landfill." Before that, Kelty recommends using the efficiency-challenged batteries "as a power source for off-grid backup or load leveling." Once the cells die, they'll be shipped off to Toxco's recycling plant in British Columbia. The copper cobalt will be sold for recovery, the slurry "sent off as non hazardous effluent for proper disposal" and the "fluff" (mostly plastic) "trucked back to the U.S. border and properly disposed" (in landfills). Kelty proudly points out that Tesla's disposal process "does not involve any smelters." He doesn't say how much smelting is needed to produce the battery pack but hey, we appreciate the info.
Tesla's Spitfire Spinmeister wants to set the record straight on all the "myths" surrounding the Tesla Roadster. To that end, Daryl Siry has started a "Mythbusters" section on the company's web site blogs (no word on what Discovery Channel thinks about this). The first myth exposed: the Roadster won't have airbags. The second myth: the Roadster is a converted Elise. Daryl points out that the Roadster shares about seven percent of its parts with the Elise, while Lamborghinis share up to 10 percent with Audi. [NB: Lambo and Audi are all part of the same company, while Lotus and Tesla are separate entities.] The third myth is… wait a minute… there is no third myth. So Siry would "love to hear your thoughts on other myths to address in future installments." How about it, folks? Since we know Daryl reads us, he'll see any Tesla myths you list here. Hell, he might even respond (in his own special way). And just to show how fair-minded we are, we won't mention the myth that TTAC would get a test drive (started by Siry on this very site, posted March 26, 2007 at 3:56 ) or The Mother of All Tesla myths: production will start in summer 2007.
Tesla sent out a press release yesterday bragging that they'd raised $40m in "bridge financing" that was "co-led by Valor Equity Partners and [Tesla chairman] Elon Musk." They're really going to have to stretch that $40m; Tesla plans to use it "for the continued development of a 4 door, five passenger sports sedan planned for introduction in 2010, the establishment of company-owned sales and service infrastructure, and the continued production of the Tesla Roadster, a stylish, high-performance, zero emissions car." The use of the singular in describing the Roadster is appropriate, given they've only produced one Roadster, despite describing the company as "a manufacturer of high-performance production electric cars" in the opening paragraph. So let's see… that's $40m down and only $210m to go.
Tesla Motors has apparently run out of toilet paper again. Valleywag reports that they're off in search of another $250m to
keep the lights on fund development of the "Whitestar" electric sedan. That's right, if you have a quarter of a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you too can invest in a company that has produced exactly one working "production" car (delivered to the company's CEO) in five years, in exchange for over $145m and Federal regulatory exemptions. I'm not an expert, but this strikes me as a particularly optimistic investment. Oh, and Tesla also wants a guaranteed loan from the Department of Energy to build a factory for these new electric sedans. To quote President Bush, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me – you can't fool me again." [NB: I know we're a little late to this story, but that's kind of appropriate don't you think? And here's an old video for potential investors that shows the critical coverage given Tesla by our blogging pals. Driving range of 250 miles. Those were the days…]
After Tesla Motors chairman Elon Musk got the first production Roadster earlier this month, Tesla Founders Blog reader Pete asked ex-jeffe Martin Everhard when he'd receive his (he's supposed to get Roadster number two if/when they ever get it built). Martin's response:
I don't yet have a date for my car, Founders Series number 2, though they say the next cars will be delivered in March. I was the second person to deposit $100K, well over a year ago, and I have a certificate signed by Elon stating that the second production car is mine. As of today, I am a bit worried that they will pull something on me. I hope I am wrong, but I recently got a very bad signal from them.
When another reader asked about the delivery date, Eberhard requested him to inquire on the Tesla Motors blog for him. No such answer was forthcoming. On February 10, "Yanquetino" wondered if Tesla was muzzling Musk:
I am fairly confident in my ability to read between the lines of previous posts, but now I'm just going to ask point blank: is Tesla suing you? Only a negative answer is warranted, i.e., "NO, Telsa is NOT suing me." If, after a couple of days, you still haven't given said reply, or have removed this post from the blog, well… then we'll know how to call a spade a shovel.
As of today, Martin has not responded, even though he has replied to other comments posted after that date and the post is still on the blog.
If you can't get the whole car to market, sell the pieces. At least that's what Tesla's thinking these days. According to CNET, Tesla is expected to announce that they will sell drivetrain components (presumably excluding transmissions) and software to other companies interested in developing their own electric car. Chairman Elon Musk (who already has his Roadster even if no paying customer does) indicated that Tesla might start peddling their technology by 2010 "or earlier." In addition to parting-out the Roadster, in an interview during this week's Clean Tech Investor Summit in Indian Wells, California, Musk also revealed that Tesla was trying to finish a styling prototype of their sedan (code named "Whitestar") in the second quarter. He suggested a working prototype would be "possible" by the end of the year. Based on Tesla's present nomenclature convention, "Tesla Sedan" seems the likely name for their unlikely machine.
A number of media outlets are carrying the story that Tesla chairman Elon Musk's personal Roadster has finally made it across the Atlantic and into his waiting arms. Everyone is proclaiming this as the first delivery of a production Roadster. Yet Petrol Head reports that as Musk got his, he indicated "the first deliveries" would start in mid-March. In the meantime, the second car will go to Tesla founder Martin Eberhard. So what about it gang? Would you consider this transfer of a hand-massaged example with a temporary transmission to the head honcho as the official start of Tesla Roadster production? Should we end the Tesla Birth Watch series with this installment? Or should we wait until we actually see the cars getting into the hands of a paying customer?
Who killed the electric car? That's easy: GM. What killed the electric car? Also a no-brainer: an operational range of 55 to 95 miles. From the moment Tesla Motors announced its all-electric Roadster, we've called for independent verification of their official range claims, which started at 250 miles, slunk to 220, and ended up in a real-world figure of 93 (still unofficial). Despite a rear-guard defense on the issue, Tesla's new CEO Ze'ev Drori ain't no dope. At a press conference to announce the historic fact that Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster had finally arrived from Europe, Drori pulled a GM: talking about the next next Big Thing. And here's the thing: Tesla will offer the formerly all-electric WhitesStar sedan as a hybrid also, with a small gas engine powering an on-board generator a la Volt. Tesla says their sedan will hit the streets by 2009, stickering in the $50 to $70k range. After that, they'll focus their attention on an economy car. First things second, eh?
Some people think TTAC has been/is being overly critical of the Tesla Roadster, particularly when it comes to their claims for driving range and recharge time. We're not the only ones expressing concern. Autobloggreen's ace scribe Sam Abuelsamid reports their experience with the range while test driving the roadster:
Driven sedately, the Tesla Roadster very likely could achieve somewhere around 220 miles or more. Perhaps even as much 250 miles in city driving with lots of regenerative braking. The problem is that this little demon doesn't really want to be driven in that manner… [Based on the readings on the charge indicator gauge] the range with the driving I did [is] somewhere between 105 and 120 miles…. According to some of the print magazine reviews, they got significantly less. Autoweek only managed 93 miles… For now, drivers of the Roadster will have to choose, exceptional performance or exceptional range, but probably not both.
So there you have it. It's a sports car you can drive like a sports car for about 100 miles, or a sports car you can drive like a Prius for about 200 miles. Either way, it's a sports car that no one will be driving until after March 17. That is, if they can get it to the airport on time.
Correction: Under the headline "Tesla Roadster Misses Production Date," TTAC stated that the date when the first production Tesla Roadster was scheduled to be released to a customer had changed to March 26. Our report was based on information posted on another site. Darryl Siry from Tesla contacted us and insisted that the production date has not changed; it's still March 17. We look forward to seeing a California-registered, fully-functional Tesla Roadster in a private customer's hands on that date. As stated previously, if so, we will discontinue the Tesla Birth Watch.