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…]
Category: Tesla Birth Watch
Tesla Motors has apparently run out of toilet paper again. Valleywag reports that they're off in search of another $250m to
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.
As Darryl Siry promised, the Tesla Roadster will meet all federal safety standards. Well, all but the advanced air bag rule, that is. Yesterday, Tesla received a pass from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla will not have to equip its Roadster with air bags that deploy with varying force depending on the weight of the passenger and force of the impact. That's not such a big thing– the Lotus Elise (upon which the Tesla Roadster is based) receives the same exemption. But the NHTSA's rationale is unprecedented: "public interest is served by encouraging the development of fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles." The AP reports that NHTSA was worried that the advanced airbag rule would bankrupt Tesla– given the erstwhile automaker's $43m operating losses from 2003 – '06. Tesla would have to "cancel its pending development of an electric-powered sedan, and would ultimately have to terminate its operations." So if GM can't meet some requirement with the Volt without spending tons of money, do they get to slide? Oh and "based on information provided by the automaker, NHTSA estimates the waiver will cover 3,825 Roadsters, including 625 vehicles this year and 1,600 in each of the following two years." Last we heard, Telsa was talking about building one car a week.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that tano kubwa have tested the Tesla. Yes, well, the buff books' jobbing journos only got a couple of hours behind the wheel. What's more (or less), Tesla gently revealed their Roadster is a "two mode" vehicle. Tesla now claims 220 miles per charge (down from 250) on "maximum range mode" and 165 miles in "standard mode." Motor Trend missed this wrinkle, and reported the higher number. Autoweek didn't mention the dual-mode deal, but reported they traveled just 93 miles on a single charge– with a limp-home aftertaste. And all the journos tested the Roadster with a "this is not my beautiful transmission" either locked into the higher of its two ratios, or, uncomfortably, not. Which doesn't square with Tesla mouthpiece Darryl Siry's claim to TTAC that the mags tested two different transmissions. In short, Tesla failed to provide journalists with a production-ready Roadster less than two months before its supposed production date.
of the Tesla Birth Birthwatch? Our friends over at Edmunds reveal that Tesla has finally set a new new new launch date for their all-electric Tesla Roadster: March 17. Yes, that could be the fateful day that TTAC terminates this series on the oft-delayed EV to the Stars– if not our coverage of the ongoing technological changes (and resulting performance claims) for the vehicle. But remember: we're obliged to quit carping under this title when one– count it ONE– Roadster enters its owner's climate-controlled garage. It will be a rare beast indeed. "Tesla spokesman Joe Powers said production will ramp up in a 'slow cadence' of about one car per week. 'We'll be getting the processes down and getting a feel for the build of the vehicle,' he said. 'The eventual rate will be 40 cars per week. That is realistic based on what Lotus has committed to. We'll get there eventually. The question is, how soon can we ramp up to full production? I would say we'll get close to full production in late 2008.'" He would say? Sounds to me like another promise destined to remain unfulfilled. Oh, and scribe Anita Lienert needs to peruse TTAC's Best and Brightest comments section. She says "Tesla Motors will not disclose who is supplying the transmissions for the Roadster." Spokesmouth Darryl Siry told TTAC readers the Roadster uses "a single speed xtrac transmission."
"The two big questions in my opinion is [are?] whether they have or can get the technology, especially in the battery arena, to pull this off… The second thing that seems questionable is that they will be able to manufacture a car in the volumes that they are talking about." No, that's not TTAC talking about Tesla or Volt. That's Tesla's Daryl Siry trash talking Henrik Fisker's Karma electric car, unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. In what sounds like a classic case of "if you can't beat 'em, beat 'em up" he gives Fiskar a right royal pasting in his Horseless Age blog. Speaking from experience, Siry points out "Designing and integrating the battery pack alone is going to be a very big undertaking." Then he takes Fisker to task for "already quoting a price and taking reservations on a car that isn't even in drivable prototype phase" (a la Tesla). After pointing out that Jalopnik's wrong, wrong, wrong about the demise of their WhiteStar project, Siry admits he's learned that "there is a long road between here and there." We suggest Siry contemplate the even larger space between his company's hype and on-the-ground reality.
Martin Eberhard isn't the only one to get the boot from Tesla Motors. The Mercury News reports a number of employees, including "several senior executives" have been shown the door in what company founder Eberhard calls "firings," not layoffs. Daryl Siry, Tesla's vice president in charge of trying to convince people otherwise, said the "layoffs" were related to "performance management." The firings were outed by Eberhard which he called it a "bloodbath" on his teslafounders blog. Marty listed 26 people who've gotten the ax and warned of terminations to come. I got that information from another news report, because when I went to the site to read what he wrote , I found this:
This blog entry has been taken down at the strong request of Tesla's management. By taking it down, I am in no way admitting that anything I wrote was in violation of any agreement I signed with Tesla Motors, and I stand behind the truth of what I wrote.
But it was explained to me that Tesla and its financial backer(s) can spend far more than I can on a lawsuit…
Most of the comments on this blog entry have also be taken down; sorry for the inconvenience.
There was no mention of any of this on Tesla's site, where the last news release listed was about Eberhard's "transition" to their "advisory board." If GM fired 10 percent of their employees or a number of executives got the boot at Chrysler or Ford, their PR departments would be all over it for damage control and every major news outlet would have it on the front page. Yet Tesla wants its cull to fly under the radar. Oh well.
What happens when you put one of the founders of Tesla and GM's Bob Lutz (is there another one?) in the same room and let them talk? It becomes a mutual admiration society. In his apostrophe-challenged Tesla Founders Blog, Martin Eberhard recounts his meeting in the Car Czar's "palatial office." Eberhard says the two execs "spent a good couple of hours talking about battery-electric vehicles." (He didn't say how many bad hours they spent talking.) And then Bob dropped the bombshell: "He started the Volt program in direct response to the Tesla Roadster." Wow! And here we were thinking the Toyota Prius had something to do with it. Anyway, after a few hours with Maximum Bob, Minimum Mark came away impressed "and willing to believe that the Volt might be a real program." After schmoozing with a few other people on the Volt program, Eberhard concluded that "the Volt Program is real." So the co-founder of Tesla is sold on the Volt. I guess that means we should now have equal faith in both.