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.
Category: Tesla Birth Watch
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.
It may be hard for followers of this series to believe, but in an interview with VentureWire [sub], Tesla Motors' freshly-minted CEO Ze'ev Drori reveals that he's raised another $40m for the ill-fated electric sports car maker. And that's only the first round. This cash grab comes on top of the $100m Tesla has already burned in their seemingly endless pursuit of a production-ready Roadster. C/Net says the cash conflagration has caught the attention of dot bombers who've been there, done that, left the luxurious offices. "When companies get past the $100 million mark in funding without releasing a product, eyebrows start to go up in Silicon Valley. Something about that number tends to bring out skeptics." Why even C/Net is starting to ask a few questions (not to Tesla itself, but what the hey). "The delay of the Roadster could, possibly, lead to delays with the company's plans to come out with an all-electric sedan. Tesla has been hoping to come out with that in late 2009 or early 2010."
Finally, Tesla Motors can sell its eco-conscious customers something other than promises. The recently-opened Tesla Shop is now offering Tesla-branded shirts, hats, coffee mugs, key chains, luggage and wallets. Among the more interesting items: a "men's zero emissions tee" (won't sell many of those since there aren't many men who don't produce emissions), a $385 "angler's bag" (sounds fishy to me) and a $12 "desk mug" (darn – and I wanted a coffee mug). At least those who plunked down good money to get on (and stay on) a waiting list can dress the part while they're waiting– provided they pay. Might I suggest one more tee-shirt? It would have a pic of the Roadster with the words "What can be conceived can be created. In theory."
Martin Eberhard is the dot commer who founded Tesla Motors– and singularly failed to bring his vision to fruition. When Tesla's Bored of Directors gave Eberhard the old heave-ho, the man was pissed. Still is. In fact, Eberhard's newly-launched Tesla Founders Blog is laced with more venom than that Egyptian tomb where Indiana Jones freaked. "Okay, I said this blog is not going to be about criticizing Tesla," Eberhard writes. "But I just have to say something about the bloodbath going on over there right now, because it seems to be going largely unreported in the press." It's a highly ironic media dig, given that the press has reported his[former] company's vaporware with wide-eyed obsequiousness, and that Eberhard's blog is destroying that good will. Anyway, the list of 26 fired employees (roughly 10 percent of Tesla's payroll) must mean Tesla's new new production goal is toast. Could this be a total abortion? Nah. But according to Eberhard "axing nearly the entire executive staff, letting the world’s foremost EV motor engineer go, trimming down the service organization before the job of opening the first service center is done, ripping through the firmware team – and doing it by random firings on a daily basis – are all hard to explain." Well, how about this: they were all shit-canned because they failed to produce a car. In fact, it's a sign of Eberhard's arrogance that he can't draw any connection between his own incompetence and the employees fired in his wake. [thanks to everyone who sent the link]
You'd expect a web site named "howstuffworks.com" to be an excellent source of information on, well, how stuff works. If so, check out HSW's entry "How the Tesla Roadster Works." Author Ed Grabianowskii states the Roadster is "fast, fancy, handles like a dream and goes like a rocket." Since the only road-tested Teslas have been prototypes driven under tightly-controlled conditions, Grabianowski's description requires a distinct leap of faith. Likewise, even though Tesla has delayed production numerous times, he gushes, inaccurately enough, "Tesla's first production car is also the world's first high-performance electric car." Like most of the mainstream media, HSW is happy to parrot Tesla's official claims without question: "An electrician can install a recharging station in your garage. This 220-volt, 70-amp outlet allows for a full recharge in 3.5 hours from a completely dead battery." And here's the kicker: the reference link to safety claims leads to a Tesla web page proclaiming "We're sorry, the page you requested has been moved or is not available." Perhaps HSW should to change the website's name to howpressreleasessaythingswork.com.
At Tesla's recent e-town hall meeting, company Chairman Elon Musk said the erstwhile automaker "might" build some Roadsters with a temporary transmission, until such time as they can find one that lasts longer than a week [paraphrasing]. Tesla's new head honcho Ze'ev Drori has just turned that possibility into a certainty– in as much as one can be certain about any promises made by the Silicon Valley start-up. The EV-in-Chief made the new tranny for new announcement on Tesla's eye-searing blog (white on black text is against the Geneva Convention guys). "To help speed delivery of cars, we will begin production in 2008 with an interim transmission design. These transmissions will meet high standards for reliability and durability, but the car will not meet the original performance spec for acceleration, reaching 60 mph in 5.7 seconds instead of the promised 4 seconds. When the final transmission is ready, we will retrofit all cars, at Tesla’s expense, to meet the promised performance specifications." Speaking of promises, Tesla has a new new production date: Spring 2008. That said, "the ramp rate of the production volume will depend on how quickly our suppliers can ramp production of parts and how quickly Lotus can increase the rate of the production line. Because of this dependency we don’t yet know when each car will be built or how many cars will be completed in calendar year 2008." How reassuring is that?
After listening to TWiT (This Week in Technology) co-host John Dvorak nearly choke to death on a cashew, for two minutes, I persevered to hear Jason Calcanis (founder of Autoblog) say that he's done his part for the world by ordering a Tesla Roadster. To his eternal credit, Dvorak interrupts Calcanis mid-mantra to ask "When are you going to get delivery?" "I think ahhhhh they're going to start in the second quarter." Claiming he's got the "inside dope," Calcanis says the production delay's down to Tesla's desire to get the "best possible transmission." "They went through three possible transmissions. The first one would have been good enough; they're just being kind of obsessive about it." The Corvette-owning internet entrepreneur goes on to say the Tesla "costs nothing" to run "because you're doing it off electrical." More credibly, he's going to put some solar panels on his garage and maybe even buy a thirty grand windmill so he can be "100 percent off the grid." Calcanis was a bit late to the party– only putting down a $5k deposit– but he's told Tesla's he's ready to jump in with the full whack if and when one of the first 100 proto-customers drops out. Oh, and the free market will solve global warming in ten years, because everyone wants to drive an electric car. You can't buy publicity like that. Nor should you. [thanks to whippersnapper for the link]
AutoblogGreen 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.
Slate's "Green Lantern" is the columnist who aspires to offer "illuminating answers to green questions." Brendan Koerner takes a quick look at the relative environmental impact of electric vs. gas-powered cars. Although you've got to wonder about Koerner's choice of the Tesla as an EV poster child– given that the Roadster remains unobtainable and the company's range claims are both vague and unverified– the man gets credit for almost shining his light on the entire environmental picture. (His calcs make mention of battery production and recycling.) Props for some fascinating energy-related links as well. And the winner is… the Tesla! In theory, the $100k plug-in go-kart requires 48.05 pounds of CO2 per 100 miles, while the Corolla unleashes 63.11 pounds of carbon dioxide per 100 miles. [thanks to jpc0067 for the link]