The Truth About Cars » Tesla The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Tesla Low-Cost Tesla EV To Use Steel To Hit A4, 3 Series Pricing Levels Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:00:16 +0000 550x365xtesla-model-s-logo-550x365.jpg.pagespeed.ic.C2rTVvi0LG

Though Tesla’s low-cost EV won’t be able to put the E in between the S and the X, it will be able to meet its price target thanks an alloy swap in its construction.

Autocar reports steel instead of aluminum will make up the low-cost EV, which CEO Elon Musk stated will be 20 percent smaller than the Model S. The steel construction will likely be assembled through bonding and rivets, as well.

The use of steel will allow the new EV — expected sometime between late 2016 and early 2017 — to better compete against the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series on price, backed up by the reduced cost in battery production once the Gigafactory goes online at the same time as the low-cost Tesla arrives in showrooms.

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BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 BMW M235i HR 04

BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

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Few Majors Taking Up Tesla’s Open-Source Patent Offer Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:00:37 +0000 10352722_h15508358

Remember when earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk released all of the patents related to his company’s offerings in the hope that all of the major players would eagerly buy into his vision thing of widespread EV production?

It hasn’t turned out as well as Musk had hoped.

Autoblog Green reports only Mahindra is interested in the patents and their potential application in future products; the company once had the e2o EV in its lineup, and is working on an EV version of its Verito Sedan. Meanwhile, General Motors is more interested in how Tesla does its business than how to put together a Model Volt S, Honda is satisfied with its own EV technology, and most of the other players aren’t saying much.

The lack of excitement may be attributed to the fact that, according to The Motley Fool:

Tesla is not revealing its trade secrets. There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner. Besides, by the time the competition digests the patents, some of them may have become outdated, and Tesla likely will have advanced to the next generation of its technology.

Though the patents seem to have more in common with a Cosby Christmas sweater than an Apple iPhone, Nissan and BMW are having secret meetings with Tesla to discuss charging technology. BMW of North America’s product and technology communications manager Matthew Russell proclaimed his employer and Tesla were “interested in the success of electro mobility” for their electric vehicles, though he declined to comment on similar announces from BMW’s competitors.

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NJ Assembly, NY Governor Pass Direct Auto Sales Legislation Wed, 18 Jun 2014 11:00:32 +0000 Tesla Roadster and Model S

Tesla is one step closer to resuming direct sales of its electric vehicles in New Jersey after the N.J. Assembly passes a bill that would allow it and other ZEV manufacturers to bypass the independent franchise system in selling electric vehicles.

Automotive News reports the bill comes after the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission banned the automaker from using its business model within the state earlier this year. Once passed in the N.J. Senate and signed by Governor Chris Christie, Tesla and any other ZEV manufacturer who sold direct to the public prior to January 1, 2014 could now return to business in full.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed similar legislation that had already been approved, allowing Tesla to continue direct sales in its five stores. However, no other manufacturer is allowed to use the EV automaker’s business model for their own, and Tesla’s stores must be transferred to an independent dealer should things change for it. Cuomo said the bill would ensure “that both sides will thrive to be able to grow the market for cutting edge zero emission vehicles.”

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Tesla Opens Patents To All Potential EV, ZEV Automakers Immediately Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:00:34 +0000 tesla-model-s-logo

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made available to all interested parties — including automakers — every patent related to the automaker’s electric-vehicle technology in the hope more EVs will be built.

Autoblog reports Musk had made a personal policy not to take out patents on any project he created, believing doing so actually meant buying “a lottery ticket to a lawsuit.” With Tesla, however, he claimed as many patents as he could to protect the EV automaker from the competition. To his dismay, the competition wasn’t competing at all:

… electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

Thus, all patents in Tesla’s front office have been taken down as a sign of Musk’s willingness to help spur EV and ZEV development among the majors, believing “Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.” Musk also stated the open-sourcing of the patents would boost Tesla’s position as a technology leader.

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Tesla May Soon Make EV Patents Available To All Tue, 10 Jun 2014 10:00:47 +0000 tesla-model-x

Ever wanted your own Tesla, but didn’t have the thousands of dollars to order one? The automaker could soon make your dream possible by providing the patents to anyone who wants to make their own Tesla-based EV.

Autoblog Green reports CEO Elon Musk is considering making the patents to his EV tech freely available for anyone to use as a way to expand the EV market. Musk remarked during the United Kingdom market introduction of the RHD Model S that he didn’t just “want to cut a path through the jungle” only to lay out mines behind him, but did want “to write something so that [he could] articulate it properly and explain the reasoning for the decision” prior to freeing up the patents.

As for when such an announcement would occur, Tesla had “nothing further at this point” to say. Musk has freely distributed technology in the past to any and all interested parties, including the automaker’s Supercharger, and the Hyperloop rapid transit system.

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New Jersey Assembly Committee Approves Tesla Direct-Sales Bill Mon, 09 Jun 2014 12:00:00 +0000 tesla-model-x

Earlier this spring, Tesla ceased direct-sales at its two New Jersey showrooms due to enforcement of state law that prohibited such sales from auto manufacturers. That may soon change once a bill that would allow direct-sales to begin again comes to a vote before the New Jersey Assembly.

The Star-Ledger reports the bill — which would also allow Tesla to open two new stores — was drafted and passed by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee in a 4 to 0 vote. A3216 isn’t limited to the Californian EV automaker, however, as the bill’s language welcomes any ZEV manufacturer to sell directly to the public at as many as four stores, and requires all to have at least one service facility for the vehicles sold.

Though no one testified against the bill, both the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers wanted the status quo of franchise dealership sales maintained. AAM director of state affairs Amy Brink called for language to bring direct-sales to an end if a ZEV automaker is sold to another automaker, while NJCAR president Jim Appleton held out hope that Tesla would be forced to enter the franchise game once operations have fully ramped up.

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Musk: Location Of First Tesla Gigafactory To Be Announced By Year-End Thu, 05 Jun 2014 11:30:44 +0000 Tesla Gigafactory

For those awaiting when and where Tesla will build its first Gigafactory, the automaker announced the decision should come near the end of the year, and that said Gigafactory will have siblings.

The Detroit News reports CEO Elon Musk told shareholders at Tesla’s annual meeting in Mountain View, Calif. that as many as three states could see one of the battery factories land in their boundaries, with Gigafactory 1 delivering 6,500 jobs at a cost of $5 billion between it and its investors to one of four states before the end of 2014. Musk added the plans were “quite advanced,” and that his company talks with Panasonic — who wants the Gigafactory all for itself — on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to sharing the love with the concept of American-made battery packs, Tesla plans to boost deliveries of the Model S by 56 percent as markets in China and elsewhere come online. Musk himself will travel to the United Kingdom this week to oversee delivery of the first RHD models assembled by Tesla, with other RHD markets — Japan, Hong Kong et al — to receive theirs down the road. All Ss will also receive software upgrades to provide the owners with more customization abilities, with auto-pilot features to come sometime in 2015.

Finally, Musk himself proclaimed he would not leave the controls of his company until sales of Tesla’s third-gen EVs began, a inevitability not due for the next four to five years.

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S&P Delivers Junk Status On Tesla Wed, 28 May 2014 12:00:56 +0000 550x365xtesla-model-s-logo-550x365.jpg.pagespeed.ic.C2rTVvi0LG

Though still riding high all over equity markets, Tesla’s debt offerings took a severe hit in status when Standard & Poor’s bestowed a rating of junk status due to increased possibility of default by the EV automaker.

Automotive News quotes Standard and Poors

[Tesla has a] arrow product focus, concentrated production footprint, small scale relative to its larger automotive peers, limited visibility on the long-term demand for its products and limited track record in handling execution risks that could arise in managing high volume parallel production.

The automaker issued $920 million of 0.25 percent unsecured convertible senior notes due in 2019, another $1.38 billion in 1.25 percent unsecured convertible senior notes with a date in 2021, and a previous issue of such notes due in 2018 totaling $660 million. The notes are being used to fund two Gigafactory projects and further development of the Gen III EV platform meant to underpin the compact vehicle formerly known as the Model E.

In the meantime, the rating company expects the debt to remain stable over the next 12 months in part to improvements on the company’s gross margins. The rating also offers the potential for high returns for investors who know the risks and rewards the status entails.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly termed Tesla’s stock as “junk”, when it should have referred to Tesla’s debt offerings. We regret the error.

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Tesla Surpasses Toyota In Employment Numbers Among California Automakers Mon, 19 May 2014 11:00:58 +0000 tesla-model-x

Thanks in part to Toyota’s decision to relocate its U.S. base of operations from California to Texas, Tesla is now the former state’s largest automotive industry employer.

Bloomberg reports the EV automaker has over 6,000 employees so far, with plans to add 500 by year’s end. Meanwhile, Toyota has 5,300 employees in California, the majority of whom will pack their bags for Plano by 2017.

Tesla could end up doubling that number should California get the nod for the 6,500-strong Gigafactory, which would also place it far ahead of fellow tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.

The major block in bringing the battery factory to California the high cost of doing business in the state, including industrial power rates and workers’ compensation, both of which are the highest in the nation. The Brown administration aims to fix some of this through tax credits for companies who maintain or add jobs in California.

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Tesla-Toyota Battery Deal For RAV4 EV Concluding By Year-End Mon, 12 May 2014 10:00:42 +0000 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Tesla’s deal with Toyota to supply the automaker with battery packs and motors for the latter’s RAV4 EV will come to a close by the end of 2014 at the same time the electric crossover is expected to cease production.

Bloomberg reports Toyota announced in May of 2012 that it would purchase components from Tesla for 2,600 RAV4 EVs over three years with the possibility of extending the agreement. With word that the EV would cease production at the end of this year, however, Tesla announced in its quarterly filing — where it proclaimed that the deal netted $15 million for Q1 2014 — that related production would draw to a close, as well.

Meanwhile, Toyota spokesman John Hanson claims the EV hasn’t been cancelled, nor has his employer “made any announcement about the relationship or what [Toyota will] do with Tesla in the future.” To date, 1,594 of the $50,000 electric crossovers have left California showroom since 2012.

In the meantime, Toyota will introduce in 2015 a hydrogen fuel sedan based upon the FCV Concept introduced in late 2013, while Tesla — in addition to its own product plans — will boost component production for Daimler AG, who, like Toyota, is an investor in the EV automaker.

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TTAC Long Term Tesla Part 5: The Mystery Of The Vacaville Supercharger, Or Why I Miss Gas Stations Thu, 08 May 2014 04:01:14 +0000 img-0288

Vacaville, California. Population 93,899, as of two years ago. Median income $57,667. A series of stripmalls. A Buffalo Wild Wings. And one of Tesla’s Superchargers – the weirdest Supercharger, the Supercharger that I cannot understand the location of, nor the existence of – unless, of course, you’re driving like I was from Napa to San Francisco, and needed a quick charge.

The “Supercharger” in question is really just a line of Supercharging units – the tall white holders that you get your power from. Next to it is a gigantic, billowing generator (I think) that makes a sound like a jet engine. And that’s it. The phrase “Supercharger” in the past had become synonymous with a performance accessory for supercars. If you’re a weirdo like me, you associate it with some sort of Tesla experience – a “place” where you take your car that has an “experience” attached to it. Instead what it is is a peculiar charge-bank in a strip mall.

The chargers themselves worked…strangely. When I parked and plugged my car in, with three other cars next to me, I charged at 100 miles per hour (of course, this denotes how much juice you get in a given amount of time, not the traditional measurement of velocity). This kicked up slowly to 150 “mph” once another car left. This was totally fine – I was spoiled by the speed of the Freemont Supercharger, which at my last trip was able to get me to 320 miles per hour of charging.

The Vacaville Supercharger has a bigger problem, though – culture. On the Supercharger Promise Scale, it succeeds only in being able to give you a place to go to the bathroom (a 5 minute walk across the parking lot) and a bite to eat (a vending machine with some candy in it). The scenery is weird – you’re by the highway, there’s a Coldwater Creek Outlet and some other stores, and nothing else.

In short, the Supercharger feels horribly out of place. As did I charging my car. People would walk past the line of Teslas, running their hands on them, or slowly drift by gawking and staring me in the eyes as I waited for it to charge. I don’t mind, really – hands are fine, at least they’re not keys. It just felt a spectacle.

As a functional “charger”,  it worked well– and as far as travelling to/from Napa, it was about as perfect it could be. It also brought up the interesting definition that Tesla needs to make between a SuperCHARGER and a Supercharging STATION – a secondary term that doesn’t exist yet, but should.

I am frustrated that Tesla seems so ardently unable to follow through on the basic statements on their website. While their definition of Supercharger is a very fast charger, the pictures they use on the website suggest beautiful, scenic chargers – not a line of weird stalls alongside a strip mall, or awkwardly sandwiched next to the sales office at HQ. In the same way that gas stations function as refueling facilities for both the car and the driver, the Supercharger should be a station not a charger – especially since you’re there for a lot longer than it takes to fill a car’s gas tank.

If the Tesla network is to grow illustriously and truly make a go of being an alternative to gasoline, they have to provide more of a service at a Supercharger. Yes, it’s great that I can get back 50% of my power in 20-30 minutes. However that’s 20-30 minutes I’m sitting around in the car – messing with the screen, twiddling my thumbs – that would be a lot better spent stretching my legs. And no, saying “it’s by a strip mall” is not a sufficient answer.

Considering the amount of care and attention to detail put into the Model S, the Superchargers – at least based on my experiences in Vacaville and Fremont – feel deficient. No doubt they’re expensive to install and maintain, and would be even more so if you added actual services on top of them, but perhaps now is the time for Tesla to make the next step. Sorry, Elon, but I shouldn’t be missing gas stations. And I am.

I realize that sounds immensely bratty – but the basic existence of the gas station is one that is there to partially support the driver. Even if it’s just to have a pee, grab a drink, stretch your legs and then get driving, it’s an experience that is unglamorous but necessary. And until Musk recreates it for the Tesla, it’s something that will effect my willingness to take particularly long drives.

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TTAC Long-Term Tesla Part 3: (Super)Charging Fri, 02 May 2014 12:00:02 +0000 img-0219

Here’s a blunt statement for you: If you don’t have at least a 240V charger in your home, or plan on getting one very quickly, or live very near (10 minutes or less) to a Supercharger, do not buy a Model S. I hate to say that because I love this car. But charging without having a charger at home is frustrating and/or expensive.

I live in San Francisco and commute to Mountain View. For all the talk of this being the official car of the Bay Area Tech Douche, there are few convenient chargers available in the Palo Alto or Mountain View area. The nearest Supercharger is in Fremont, which is 30-40 minutes away – more if there’s traffic.

The Chargepoint network is an abomination. Finding a charger using their app (a hodgepodge of HTML mashing into Apple Maps) is ponderous. When you do find one, you had best hope it’s not a 120V charger. Because that will get you anywhere from 3 to 10 miles for each hour of charging, which is not useful when you drive 30 to 40 miles each way. This is also assuming one is *available* – many Chargepoint stations have two outlets, and you can’t reserve many of them.

You can also find chargers with SemaCharge, which is just as bad.

In San Francisco there are many chargers inside large, expensive garages, such as 3 Embarcadero. For $3.99 an hour for the first four hours, then $6 an hour afterwards, you can charge your car at a decent pace – I forget the exact rate, but I think I was at 50% and was quoted 5 hours to charge. So you’re paying for the garage, the charger, and whatever wacky rate they add on top of it.

Get your own charger if you want to save money on gas. Actually, get your own *240 Volt* charger. This will charge you at – I think – 20-30 miles for each hour of charging. This is bearable overnight, and will get you back on your feet for the next day. A 120V (as in a normal plug) will get you three miles an hour. That is not practical for any human being.

If you can, get the high-powered wall charger that Tesla sells. It can go from 40-80 miles for each charging hour, which will mean that you can just go to bed with your car charging. I got my building to install one, and if an apartment building can do it, you can do it.

Now, the positives. My Volvo cost about $50 a tank if memory serves, and that wasn’t even using premium gas (yes, I know miles per gallon is better, but I can’t remember). I’d say that I’d be gassing up on my current schedule two or three times a week. At a conservative estimate, that’s $400 a month. $4800 a year, $38,400 over the course of the 8 years of my warranty (yes, I bought an extended warranty). This is actually an underestimate deliberately engineered to ward off the potential comments of “you suck at math.” If I was filling up the Audi Q5 I drove via Zipcar, the cost of the premium gas they demand would be more like $80 a tank from about a quarter left. Yes, that’s an SUV, I know. But mathematically speaking the Tesla can and will save you money, and the additional stress of finding a gas station.

The “but what if I travel?” argument leads to the Superchargers, which I’ll talk about shortly. However, the general argument I can give you is that while the Chargepoint network sucks for the constant need to juice up, there generally seems to be – at least in California – a good network of places to charge. 4 star and 5 star hotels consistently seem to have 240V chargers – I spotted one in Charlotte, NC at the Ritz Carlton – and even some lower-end hotels in Napa appeared to have them. This isn’t to say that it isn’t inconvenient. The infrastructure of the overall EV-charging network needs significant work to establish the convenience of readily-available gas. However the argument of “you’re gonna get stranded” does not seem to apply in this state. Outside of California, it’s a different world, and I recognize that our state is in a unique situation.


Superchargers were originally advertised as beautiful little oases – places you could go, charge your car, get a cup of coffee, eat a bagel and relax. However, at least in Fremont, the result is less glitzy. A line of chargers, some metal chairs and a lot of buildings that you can’t go into. I was dreaming of being able to grab a cup of coffee and relax while the car juiced up. My dreams are shattered. Other Superchargers may be different – but you’d think the marquee Supercharger where you pick up your car would be gorgeous.

To quote the website: “Simply pull up and plug in, take a quick bathroom or food break, and get back on the road.” There was no usable bathroom at Fremont – at a late stop (10pm) I was able to use the intercom and security let me into the one in the delivery center. There was no food. I had to pathetically ask a secretary for a glass of water. Unless I intended to walk across a highway, there was no readily-accessible way to take a quick bathroom or food break unless I brought snacks and intended to pee on the ground.

When the Supercharger *works* it’s fantastic (and free). I really mean it. The ones that work can charge you with 200 miles worth of juice in just an hour – you can swing in, get your car powered up while you sit inside and then get out of there in 30 minutes to an hour. The new 6.0 firmware update allegedly will up the rate of charge at Superchargers to 400 miles an hour.

The problem for me personally is that Fremont is not convenient. Neither is Burlingame. I’m confused as to why there is no Palo Alto or Mountain View or San Francisco Supercharger.

There are also the issues of the deficient Superchargers. I’ve been to the Fremont charger three separate times. Chargers 1A and 1B charged my car at 180-200 miles per hour. However, 4B trundled along at 80-90, and took three tries to get it to even charge. I head similar complaints of other chargers doing the same from other people parked there, who were apparently not as big of an asshole as I am and thus just stayed at one point to charge. I did not call the Supercharger complaint line like it says to on the chargers. I would not be surprised if nobody ever has. I probably should have. But you’d think at the Tesla plant, where Tesla is, where Elon Musk (I assume) sits upon a throne of skulls, that the Supercharger would be flawless. It isn’t.

The Supercharger network is growing across the country, but there’s a fair amount of obfuscation as to where. You can’t zoom in on the list, you can’t click the red circles to find out where the exact spot is (and my geography sucks). The list doesn’t even update when you move to “coming soon.” There are fan-made listings that work based on permits, but there is no reason in the world that Tesla shouldn’t be providing this information themselves. Unless, of course, they’re worried that they’ll get railroaded if they reveal their plans.

From my research it appears that you could do a cross-country drive. I would be a little bit nervous to, or get the help of someone good at planning. By the end of 2014 it would appear that it’ll be a lot easier, and over time I can imagine the network will be good, even if you do have to settle for 80-90 miles per hour.


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TTAC Long-Term Tesla Part 2: Buying Direct From The Factory Thu, 01 May 2014 12:00:20 +0000 img-0226

To buy a car, you usually go to a dealership. You wait to see if someone is available. You wait a little more. That person comes to you. You look over the options, they attempt to sell you something else. You eventually settle upon something (or, of course, you leave and go somewhere else). Once you do that, if you don’t have the cash, you go to their finance person, run credit checks, talk about your options, and eventually come to a deal. You put down money. You get sold on services (tires, service plans, warranties, etc.). You sign many, many documents. You get sold on more services. You – after hours of waiting – get to see your car (assuming it’s actually available – otherwise you’ve just made a deal and will wait a few days to a few weeks). You’ll be rushed through a product demo. Anywhere from two to eight hours after arriving, you get in your car and leave.

With Tesla, most if not all of this takes place online. You order the car, and depending on the options it’ll take 2-3 weeks, unless you buy the 85KWh Performance mode, which can arrive in 1-2 months. I ordered the P85, and received it just over a month later. You choose all of your options online, everything from battery size to whether you want leather seats, and then put down $2500 to ‘reserve’ it. You get a few weeks to pull out before the deposit becomes firm, and the car starts being made.

From there, you can apply for financing online – and if you don’t work with Tesla because of your credit, they will find you a bank that will. Everything is done digitally - down to the signing of the car purchase agreement – and the services are offered up front. You can call and ask really, really stupid questions, like “what is a caliper” and “what’s a power liftgate” and “what is suspension” (I asked all of these questions). They don’t even laugh at you. But feel free to laugh at me.

In essence it’s not too dissimilar to buying things off of Amazon, except it’s a very expensive car.

An important side-note – I highly recommend the P85 option. It’s $10k more for 65 more miles of range, Supercharger capabilities and yes, 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds. I may not be a “car guy”, but I like making bad decisions. Constant full-throttle sprints up to 60 mph is one of life’s great pleasures.

When my delivery day came around, I went to Fremont to pick it up. The ‘delivery specialist’ was waiting for me. He handed me two pieces of paper. I signed them. I was walked to an iMac. I hit “accept delivery” on “Okay, great. The car’s over here.” The car that had been sitting there the entire time that I assumed was a store model was actually mine.

When I originally ordered my Model S, the ‘multi-coat red’ looked kind of burgundy. Sort of stylish and reserved. My Model S was…a cherry red. What I imagined was going to be my sleek electric car was a big red sports car. What was I gonna do, ask them to go paint it a new color? I was stuck with it. It’s not so bad, aside from every person telling me how “cops pull over red cars”.

The delivery guy walked me through the car’s operation, helped me set up my phone and answered my incessantly stupid questions. At the end of it all, more Tesla employees were there to wave goodbye. One shook my hand vigorously and said “congratulations.” Everyone was so happy. I’m in PR and can spot a fake smile from space. These guys seemed to really like the idea of getting up and going to work every single day. When you’ve just made a major purchase, it helps to make the person feel like they’ve made the right decision.

When I bought my Volvo, they sort of grunted at me and handed the keys over while one guy cackled like a pawn shop broker.

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TTAC Long-Term Tesla Part 1: Why I Bought A Tesla Model S Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:18:35 +0000 img-0174

Ed Zitron is a friend of TTAC, but not much of a car guy. After giving up his old, gasoline powered car, Ed went and bought a Tesla Model S P85 – and we asked him to write about it over a period of 12 months, documenting his ownership experience and what it’s like to live with an electric car. This is the first installment.

I do not know much about cars. I got my license two years ago, after growing up in London, moving to Aberystwyth (Wales), moving to New York, and only then moving to New Jersey, where having a car is somehow more natural than having legs. I unhappily learned to drive, and just about got through my test on the first go, even though my parallel parking was – to quote the instructor – “bad.”

I also know very little about cars – you go fast with right pedal, you stop with left pedal. Don’t stand in front of another car that is moving, especially if it’s moving fast. Porsches are nice, so are Ferraris. GM stands for General Motors. More importantly, petrol (or as Americans call it “gas”) goes inside. It starts an explosion (I think?) and the car moves. When you are running low on gas, you go to a “gas station”, where you stick a thing in your car and it smells a lot, but then you can get on your way again.

I started my driving years with a Volvo S60. It was reliable, unsexy and introduced me to the concept of driving well enough. I then moved to San Francisco, minus the Volvo, and realised that taking the Caltrain to Mountain View every day was going to become rather tiresome, and that it was time to buy a car. So, I decided I wanted a Tesla Model S.

I wrote about games and gadgets for about seven years before moving to America and into the awful world of Public Relations, and I’ve always wanted the latest gadgets. To me, the Tesla is just an extension of this compulsion.

Waiting for my Tesla to arrive, I’ve been in Getaround and Zipcar rentals for most of my week. I’ve been in low-end and high-end Mercedes, BMWs (including their electric DriveNow rentals), Audis, a smart ForTwo and a Chevy Volt. Probably around fifteen different cars, all from good to great manufacturers. I even rented a 2013 Tesla Model S. I’ve seen a fair sample – though by no means an exhaustive one – of what the car industry has offered for the last two years. Yes, they all have wheels and drive in a straight line, and got me to the places I was going without catching fire, but the actual experience, compared to the Tesla, was inferior and anachronistic.

It’s not the actual driving that’s the problem – cars are, well, cars. Especially to a car-knowledge-defunct person like myself. However I’d consider myself the general purpose sample of most people – I’m guessing most do not know much more than I do. The problem is that most of these cars have navigation, bluetooth control of your phone’s music (and sound systems), and general car settings. You also have to control air conditioning, cruise control, and other car functions *while driving*.

This is what in tech they’d call the User Interface. And the ‘user interface’ of most cars sucks, because before the Model S there has been no solid proof that you can do it better. The comparison is easy to make – this is what happened to cellphones. Before the iPhone, your average cellphone was an awkward chocolate-bar shaped thing that you texted on by hitting in numbers. The iPhone arrived, and the industry collectively shat its pants – touchscreens were, before this point, a quasi-joke that only Microsoft would back. Ironic, right?

Similarly, though not to the same extent, many carriers didn’t want the iPhone around, and claimed it was too expensive, that there was no market for it, and so on. Carriers didn’t like supporting it at first. Millions of people wanted it. Then Android happened. Overnight it was apparent that a lot of people didn’t like buttons.

Tesla’s growth is not going to be so rapid: this is a car, one that’s anywhere from $60,000 to $120,000, and you can’t just walk up and buy one in the traditional manner.

When it comes to the purchasing process, it seems like Tesla treats the customer with a degree of kindness and thoughtfulness that is missing from the motor industry. Perhaps I have not spent enough time driving cars to understand why people accept this – perhaps there’s a low-grade tinnitus that stops you from noticing that your car – even your just-bought car – in comparison to every other interactive medium is about a decade behind.

Even though it’s unfair to compare a Model S to a Prius, or an S60, or a Cruze or anything really below a nice Audi or BMW, the average guy like me is seeing very clearly that you can build an interaction with a car that’s as pleasant as your phone. It means that they have to start putting more energy into R&D, and means that simply adding a screen or tweaking a touchscreen each year is not going to work.

It’s an attitude built on a fat, old industry with great swathes of red tape and corporate groupthink. Cars are meant to be like THIS because our FOCUS GROUP says so. Decisions are made from the perspective of an executive (who would never drive said mass market car in a million years good lord no), thinking that they are in touch with the typical consumer. Branding experts win the battle against engineering and usability, and car commercials have become little more than televised SEO (look at all the meaningless statistics and figures they throw at you – even gearheads know that a lot of it, like horsepower-per-liter, is BS) and Deepak Chopra-rejected platitudes – they are a black hole for information with a pricetag at the end, because they are anxious at having to admit that, in their eyes their product is just another car.

The Tesla upends this because it provides differentiated product. Yes, it goes fast and all that, but the interface is different, the car is different, it looks different, it feels different, you save money on gas, they have service techs that will drive to you, you have a network of superchargers, and so on. It’s no longer a case of “THIS YEAR…THE CAR THAT YOU DRIVE COULD BE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER.” This is a new kind of car.

That’s scary. How do you compete with that? Apart from making a product as good as it, or better. But that costs money and effort, and doing so admits that Tesla might be doing something right. Which will piss off your dealers, and regulators, and gas fans, and…shit. Isn’t adding an updated version of MyEnTouchLink just so much easier?

This isn’t to say that the Model S is perfect, or that the supercharger network doesn’t have problems, or that the beautiful electric car future is here Let’s face it – it’s very, very far away, and only the most deluded fanboys would think otherwise. But I’m not a fanboy. I’m just a regular guy who decided to roll the dice on a new kind of car. And I’m very happy. Let’s see if I stay that way over the next 12 months.

Next-up: what it’s like to buy direct from a factory store, using the Supercharger and getting used to driving an EV

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Musk: Tesla Will Build Cars In China Within Next Few Years Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:00:56 +0000 Model S - Tesla Motors China

Though Tesla is now just delivering new vehicles to China, CEO Elon Musk predicts his company will build luxury electric vehicles in the burgeoning market within the next three to four years.

Bloomberg reports the move to localized production would allow the automaker to sell their wares while also avoiding China’s 25 percent import tariff. Right now, a new Model S retails for $118,000 in Beijing due to VAT, shipping and import duties, compared to $71,000 in Los Angeles. Musk hopes to qualify the Model S for local subsidies to help offset costs in much the same way the luxury EV sedan receives federal tax credits back in the United States.

In addition, Tesla is expanding its Supercharger network to China, with Beijing and Shanghai among the first cities to join. No word yet as to how much the automaker is investing in the expansion.

A number of challenges lay ahead for Tesla’s move into the market, including slow adoption of electric vehicles among Chinese consumers and lack of a robust infrastructure, as well the loss of China general manager of operations Kingston Chang prior to the automaker’s entry. That said, Tesla plans to increase overall global sales 56 percent this year, moving 35,000 EVs out of the showroom in so doing.

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Tesla Charging Station Coming To Carl’s Jr. In Gila Bend, Arizona Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:18:43 +0000  Gila Bend 2

Pity poor Tesla Motors. The General Motors recall crisis has knocked the electric automaker out of the auto industry headlines. There were times when half the news stories on industry feeds like this one would be about Tesla. TTAC is here to help get the company back on track to maintaining their 3:1 News Stories-To-Cars Sold Ratio.

The above picture was taken in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant in dusty, desolate Gila Bend, Arizona. If you have ever been to Gila Bend you can attest to the fact that the shot is actually in color.

It was quite a jolt to spot this under-construction Tesla Supercharger station in Gila Bend this week as I was headed towards California. It proves Tesla is well on its way to building a coast-to-coast network of charging outlets. Gila Bend sits between San Diego and Tucson on I-8 at the turnoff for Phoenix, so West Coast owners on their way to Phoenix can stop here or at the Hilton Garden Inn in Yuma, Arizona to “fill up.” (Curiously, Tesla’s website currently shows no San Diego chargers or any in Tucson.)

I am sure that part of Tesla’s strategy to is locate its Superchargers at the most upscale establishments available with easy access to the interstates. In Gila Bend the best place in town is this greasy burger chain. It will certainly be a new experience for Tesla drivers to eat a Western X-tra Bacon Thickburger or walk next door to the Love’s Truck Stop during their 75 minute stopover. Certainly, members of the Tesla Motors Club are excited about Gila Bend.

If Tesla should ever go out of business, perhaps due to having no traditional dealer network as Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon suggested yesterday, or due to an end to their subsidies from the government, their charging station stanchions will become as collectable as Route 66 signs.

I want one from Gila Bend.

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Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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Lemon Law King Sues Tesla In Wisconsin Circuit Court Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:15:57 +0000 tesla-model-s-09

Wisconsin lawyer and self-proclaimed “Lemon Law King” Vince Megna has filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against Tesla under the state’s lemon law.

Green Bay Press Gazette reports the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Robert Montgomery of Franklin, Wisc., takes the automaker to task for failing to refund Montgomery’s $99,515 after his 2013 Model S Performance was in the shop for various issues — including failure to start and inoperable door handles — for over 30 days; Wisconsin’s law requires manufacturers to either replace a defective product under warranty after four attempts in one year to fix a defect, or to refund the affected customer. The refund request was made in November 2013.

Megna told the newspaper that under the lemon law then-in affect when Montgomery purchased his Tesla, his client could receive double damages should the court side in their favor. The lawyer also posted a video on YouTube outlining the case and subsequent filing, with a cameo from a cardboard cutout of famed Tesla owner George Clooney.

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CARB ZEV Credit Restructuring Leaves Tesla With Fewer Credits Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:01:11 +0000 tesla-model-s-logo

A change to the California Air Resources Board’s Zero-Emission Vehicle credit program will leave Tesla with four credits per car cold for the foreseeable future, down from seven credits for every Model S through 2013.

Bloomberg reports the change will award zero-emission vehicles with long-driving ranges and refueling times no greater than 15 minutes — such as the outgoing Honda FCX Clarity, with its hydrogen fuel cell technology — the maximum of nine credits, while Tesla — which had, until now, earned the maximum of seven — will receive four credits going forward due to failing the rapid-refueling requirement.

Tesla, the top seller of CARB ZEV credits to other automakers, has plans to introduce battery-swap stations that would allow drivers to exchange depleted packs for new ones in around one minute. However, until enough of the stations are in place, the 2014 Model S will be rebranded a Type III ZEV going forward.

The new standards — originally meant to be in place by October 2013 — were designed by CARB to emphasize actual use of ZEVs over theoretical capabilities.

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Tesla Appealing NJ Direct Sales Ban Ruling Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:30:35 +0000 Tesla brown front quarter

With the Ides of April fast-approaching before direct sales come to an end, Tesla filed an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court asking to overturn a government ruling that banned the automaker from directly selling vehicles to consumers in its two New Jersey stores.

Automotive News reports Tesla proclaimed the action by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is not legal and harms consumers in the state:

As the [Motor Vehicle Commission] itself recognized when it licensed two Tesla locations in 2012, New Jersey law was clearly written to prevent car manufacturers from exploiting their greater market power to compete unfairly against dealership franchises that sell their cars, something that simply doesn’t apply to Tesla because it has no dealership franchises.

In response, New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers president Jim Appleton felt confident that “the courts will recognize the compelling state interest in regulating the sale and distribution of new motor vehicles,” and that Tesla would fail to overturn the ruling. He added that NJCAR wasn’t out to push the EV automaker out of the state, but only wanted Tesla to play by the same rules as those in the state’s franchise dealer network.

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Tesla Leads Charge To Replace Side Mirrors With Cameras Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:08:01 +0000 Tesla Model X Concept

Should Tesla and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — including General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen — be successful in their petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, new cars could soon have cameras instead of side mirrors.

Automotive News reports the petition — on the heels of the agency mandating rearview cameras by 2018 in all light-duty vehicles — explains cameras could do the same job as mirrors while allowing for increased aerodynamics:

In light of future greenhouse gas and corporate average fuel economy requirements beginning in 2017, camera-based systems represent an opportunity to increase vehicle fuel efficiency through improved aerodynamics by eliminating externally mounted mirrors.

Current regulations place cameras as a supplement to side mirrors, with Nissan, Honda and Mercedes-Benz offering such systems, while Volkswagen’s XL1 is one of a few vehicles to do away with mirrors by using cameras in their stead.

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Tesla Stays In NY, Loses Key China Exec Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:59:13 +0000 Tesla Model S

Automotive News reports Tesla and Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association reached a compromise agreement over the weekend that would allow the EV automaker to keep their five stores while prevent Tesla or any other auto manufacturer from establishing more direct-sale stores in the state. In the words of Governor Andrew Cuomo:

Today’s agreement reaffirms New York’s long-standing commitment to the dealer franchise system, while making sure New York remains a leader in spurring innovative businesses and encouraging zero emissions vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean tells Bloomberg the Gigafactory will source supplies of graphite, cobalt et al from within North America, citing cost and environmental issues behind the decision. Currently, the majority of graphite found in the automaker’s battery packs come from synthetic sources in Europe and Japan, with future natural sources expected to come from Canada.

Over in China, where graphite mines and processing plants are being closed over air-quality issues, Tesla’s general manager Kingston Chang resigned his position for personal reasons. His departure, which the automaker declined to expand upon to Bloomberg, comes just as CEO Elon Musk prepares to expand further into the country’s auto market, who predicts sales to be on par with those in the United States as early as next year.

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Gov. Perry Pushing For Direct Sales In Texas To Attract Gigafactory Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:09:14 +0000 Texas Governor Rick Perry circa January 2014

With the possibility of bringing Tesla’s Gigafactory — and its 6,500 jobs — to Texas, Governor Rick Perry is actively pushing for legislation which would do away with the direct-sales ban currently preventing the EV automaker from doing more than presenting their wares to local customers.

The Dallas Morning News reports Perry took his stance on the issue to FOX Business’ “Opening Bell” earlier this week, explaining that it was in the state’s “best interest” to revisit what he says some people would view as “antiquated protections” for Texas’ franchise dealership network:

The people of Texas will say, ‘We don’t need to be protected. We like to be able to negotiate straight away.’ I think it’s time for Texans to have an open conversation about this, the pros and the cons. I’m gonna think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons.

Currently, Tesla has two showrooms in Houston and Austin, with a third soon to arrive in Dallas. As of this writing, however, none of the trio can do more than provide visitors with information about Tesla’s lineup, prompting interested parties to complete their purchase online or in a state more favorable to direct sales.

The move to allow direct sales would add another incentive for Tesla to build their Gigafactory in Texas, which Perry proclaims would give his state a much-desired cachet. Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association president Lee Chapman, however, disagrees with the kind of incentive Perry wishes to use in luring Tesla:

The system we have was put into effect by the state to protect consumers and dealers. [Dealers are] always open to discussion, [but] at this point, we have not been given anything to discuss other than the right to sell cars here in exchange for a plant.


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Tesla Business Model Reconsidered In NJ, Talking Point In 2016 Presidential Election Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:30:25 +0000 tesla-model-s-logo

Even though the door on Tesla’s direct sales model appeared to be closed in New Jersey, the Garden State is reconsidering its position just as the automaker’s way of doing business could find itself a major talking point in the 2016 run for the White House.

Automotive News reports that New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced a bill which would allow Tesla to continue selling its cars to the state’s consumers. The bill, which is the third in a series of actions related to the currently strained relationship between the two parties, comes on the heels of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision to reinforce existing law banning direct sales by automakers, which would have unintended consequences for the local economy according to Eustace:

Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car. How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?

For their part, the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retailers, lobbying on behalf of the state’s franchise dealer network, stressed that while they have no intention of driving Tesla out of business, they only want Tesla to play by their long-established rulebook. Association president Jim Appleton is willing to work with the automaker to a point, however:

We hold as sacrosanct the franchise system. There is no resolution to this problem that allows Tesla to operate outside the franchise system forever. But we’re open to accommodations if Tesla can make the case that there’s a reason why they can’t.

Meanwhile, Tesla has a new ally in the form of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who, in his support for the business model, puts him in opposition of New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the run to represent the Republican base against the Democrat nominee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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