The Truth About Cars » tesla model s The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +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 model s Tesla Loses $49.8 Million In Q1 2014, Panasonic On Board With Gigafactory Thu, 08 May 2014 15:30:24 +0000 tesla-model-x

Although Tesla reported a profit of $17 million on $713 million in revenue, their financials were reported using non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) figures. Which means that my current checking account, according to non-GAAP figures, is probably somewhere in the high seven figures.

Using GAAP numbers, Tesla lost nearly $49.8 million, on revenues of $620 million. Despite the loss, Tesla delivered 6,457 units, and expects to sell 35,000 Model S units this year. Tesla also announced that their Model X SUV will be delayed again, until 2015.

But the bad news was interrupted today by a major development for Tesla. Panasonic, a major supplier of battery cells to Tesla, signed a letter of intent regarding their new “Gigafactory” that will build lithium-ion batteries somewhere in the Southwestern United States.

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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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Capsule Review: 2014 Tesla Model S P85+ Tue, 11 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000


Electric vehicles tend to get a pass from many reviewers, who are content to overlook major faults in favor of a great drivetrain. Years back, I did a review of the Nissan Leaf for EcoModder, an eco-enthusiasts site dedicated to fuel-friendly modifications and electric vehicle (EV) projects. In retrospect, I was far more impressed with the fact that it was just an electric car than the car itself. A Leaf is still a rebodied Nissan Versa with illusions of green responsibility. It’s neat, but it’s not that outstanding if you look at it simply as another car.

But that’s a lot of what Tesla has been about, waves of hype and media attention. Personally, I kept a fair amount of distance from the Tesla news and drama. Part of me simply doesn’t care, I am only really curious in the car that comes out of the debacle. And the car happens to be a genuinely good one. The styling is dead sexy, this car has fantastic lines in the glowing “Tesla Red Multi Coat” paint (there’s no sexy name for the color, sadly).

The brakes are mean stompers, aided by the regen braking in the rear. Though very heavy, you almost never feel the weight; it’s too low in the chassis to make itself known in all but the tightest corners. The interior is comfortable, with great visibility. The overall ergonomics are the polarizing aspect inside, with Tesla making a giant leap of faith by forcing a giant touch screen on Model S buyers, but it was hard to find fault with it.

Even though it’s been described again and against, the driving experience – devoid of gasoline, piston-actuated thrust, and multigear transmissions, is startling in how it delivers a near-silent freight train of torque from the rear wheels. What most publications can’t tell you is how you have to alter your own sensory perceptions when driving this car at speed.

We all have a method for gauging velocity without looking at the speedometer. Driving by feel – that is, the sights, sounds, and tactile feedback – is something that even the most marginally interested driver has developed. The more keen among us have an inner monologue based on all of these inputs. For instance,  practically any other road car, you see the “25 MPH” sign in yellow, ratchet down into the right gear for that corner and listen to the engine note fall, feel the chassis bite and the tires dig in to the pavement, and you know you’ve hit the right velocity for this corner.

With the Model S, your only option is through the tires, trying to sense speed with the increasing tire noise. And it’s not a bad thing, because the rest of the driving experience is so unique. Torque, 450 foot pounds of it, is always there. Always. A gasoline engine has to receive your input, open the throttle blades, pull air into the cylinders with fuel, squishbangblow, then transmit that power to the transmission… driveshaft… differential… axles... and you then still have to wait for the engine to hit its powerband. The Tesla bypasses everything and just throws down massive amounts of torque straight to the wheels. Up to its gearing-limited 130 mph top speed, it only begins to lose thrust as it approaches the aerodynamic drag of triple digit speeds.

Thanks to the low center of gravity, the Model S conceals its substantial mass quite well. The only time you get to feel the weight in action is in the tightest of corners, when the chassis’s neutral disposition gives way to mild understeer. The steering ratio is surprisingly quick, with decent road feel. Our P85+ came equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires that offered monumental amounts of grip.

The Model S’ stability control system also deserves a fair amount of credit for not being too intrusive while effectively managing the gratuitous amount of power put down the by EV drivetrain. Most stability systems will hunker a car back down into line,  heavily braking wheels strategically to pull the car back in line. The Tesla system simply feels like it guides the car with an invisible hand. It’s able to adjust torque output with exemplary speed and precision. Expeienced drivers will find it relatively easy to walk up to, but not exceed, the limit of the rear wheels on corner exit. Traction control can be turned off (and exploited pretty easily in the dirt), but stability control cannot.

Of course, it’s possible to find fault with the car. As someone who had a GameBoy by age five and grew up in the tech-era, I like the large touch screen for most things. And most of the Tesla buyers are from the same era, though a few years older and a few times wealthier. These are buyers who like tech, and it brings a wealth of new options with what you can do with a car’s control systems. But, at times it’s picky and finicky when you attempt to control chassis options.

The ride height is adjustable, but it would mysteriously lock out “low” when parked for photos. While setting the car up for a photo shoot, took five minutes of fiddling to get the running lights and accent to stay on with the driver’s door shut. While auto-on headlights handle daily use just fine, a simple headlight switch would be very welcome. Other operations, like HVAC, nav, and radio all work very well. After an hour or so, I could easily adjust HVAC controls as easily as my own car.

In one of the car’s more overlooked quirks, the Model S offers almost no internal storage. There’s door pockets and a glove box, but that’s it. It lacks a center console, and there’s a large and open shelf along the front floor board to the dash, but no cubby holes to keep things organized. Though Tesla was smart enough to fit Michelin Pilot Sport tires, this car REALLY needs better seats. That attention needed at the throttle is hard to summon when you have to use your right knee against the center stack to brace yourself. There is not enough bolster for how capable the car is.

One other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the size of the panel gaps, particularly around the hood. Not many outlets have mentioned this detail, but it’s one that I expect buyers in this price bracket to be cognizant of this if they’re coming from a BMW or Lexus.

But, Tesla is incrementally updating these with new features. And that’s something that really impresses me about the ownership experience. Elon Musk and Tesla genuinely cares about this car and its owners. They listen, they adjust, they accept criticism and do right. Not only does the Model S represent a new frontier for the automotive world , but it also represents a change in the mentality an automaker has towards the satisfaction of its customers. The Model S’ firmware is regularly updated, refining the car every time.

But as it sits, the Tesla Model S represents the best realization of the electric car that we’ve had in a production car. There’s no green illusion: no tree infographics, no ZERO EMISSIONS sticker package. It’s a car that happens to be electric, not just an electric car. And it’s damn good.

Photos: Phillip Thomas

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Review: Tesla Model S Wed, 05 Feb 2014 14:00:11 +0000


As a relatively low-profile Czech motoring journo, I couldn’t expect Elon Musk to hand me the keys for a long-term press loaner. Or any other kind of “official” experience with Tesla, as they aren’t even sold officially in our country. But I did manage to get my hand’s on one via a friend’s father is an avid fan of EVs.  As soon as the Nissan Leaf entered the European market, he bought one even if it meant to order it in Spain (about two thousand miles away) and have it trucked here. And when he learned about the Tesla Model S, he placed an early order, which made him one of the first few people in this country to own a Model S (a fully loaded P85 version, no less). Now, there are probably a dozen in Czech Republic.


The nature of the test somewhat limited my experience with the car. I wasn’t allowed to spend time with it alone, not I could take it very far – we had about and hour of driving. And since I had to sign an agreement that I’ll pay for any damage done to the uninsured car while I was behind the wheel, I wasn’t really hooning it. But still, it was enough for me to form an opinion about the car.

First Impression

They say the first impression matters most. When I came up to my friend’s house, the garage door opened and sleek, burgundy colored machine silently rolled out, I was truly impressed. This thing isn’t “pretty for an EV”. It’s just pretty. If you park it side-by-side with the current crop of the fashionable “four door coupes” like the Porsche Panamera, BMW 6 Gran Coupé, Mercedes CLS, Audi S7, or even supersedans like the Aston Rapide and Maserati Quattroporte, it will not seem out of place. It will hardly be the prettiest among them, but it will not look like an ugly duckling or a golf cart stumbled in the posh meeting accidentaly. And that is a nice start.

The thing is, Tesla doesn’t want to sell you this car because you need it – that’s not even really possible with an EV at the moment – but because you want it. And the show continues as you come closer. The door handles are hidden, and pop out as you approach with the key in your pocket. It improves aerodynamics, and it look wicked cool. I just wonder what will happen when those door handles malfunction after some time – which they surely will. They’re not even connected to the lock mechanism mechanically – it’s all electronic. I suspect that Tesla owners will start carrying bricks with them, just in case.


The interior continues in the same vein. Old fashioned types who like tactile controls will be dismayed at the tablet-like interface of the Model S. Most auxiliary functions, starting with satellite navigation and radio, and ending with setting up the HVAC or opening the sunroof, are controlled via the giant iPad-style glass screen in the middle of the dashboard. It looks cool, but changing the temperature or tuning the radio at 70 mph and having to take your eyes off the road is more than a bit unsettling. I think that with the first facelift, Tesla will pony up some cash to buy a few more buttons and knobs from Mercedes (all the tactile items, like window buttons, steering column stalk and steering column shifter, are from current MB cars), and offer us real controls for HVAC.

And the rest of the interior? You can best describe it as “different”. It is certainly well made, on par with most competitors, but it keeps surprising you with strange shape and outside the box solutions. One of the more interesting is the absence of the centre console. Altogether, the interior is very much love/hate affair. You can’t criticize it for materials or assembly quality, but some people will just dislike it for being too moden. But I think majority of potential customers will feel right at home here.



When you first put your foot on accelerator, the Tesla feels much like your typical hybrid in EV mode. If you’re not used to it, you’ll be fascinated by the noiseless movement and ever-present torque, noticeable even if you’re light on accelerator. But if you’ve driven, say, an Infiniti M Hybrid before, the silence, nor the strange power delivery will not surprise you. And in city driving, you can’t even find out anything interesting about suspension. You feel that the car is quite comfortable even on the low-profiles, and very stable due to its two tonnes of weight. But it’s nothing extraordinary compared with the likes of the aforementioned Infiniti.

But the interesting part comes when you pass the city limits. You’ve probably read that the Model S has 416 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. But here, you also have those 443 pound-feet of torque right from zero revs. Everytime. Without any lag. I have to say I’m not sure what to compare the Model S to. I have driven just a few cars with around 400hp, and none of them accelerates with such ferocity. It was much more similar to the 470hp Nissan GT-R. But imagine the GT-R operating in silence and serenity. If you’re not used to driving a really quick car, the Tesla Model S will shock you.


With someone else’s $150k car, you don’t have much appetite for backroad hooning, so I can’t tell you how the Tesla behaves over  70-75mph. But both owner and son told me that over 90 or 100mph, the Model S runs out of steam very fast, so it will not be an Autobahn missile. If you were used to the heavy acceleration your German sports sedan offered above 120mph, you’re out of luck – it’s nearly the car’s top speed. And even just keeping it there will squeeze juice from the battery at alarming rate.

So what did I find during our backroad jaunt? Quite a lot, actually. And I was more than a little bit surprised. I fully expected the silent, serene experience. I was prepared to the brutal acceleration. But the revelation came when we entered the twisty stuff. The back roads in Czech Republic are usually not stellar, so most German sports sedans, or sporty, pretentious versions of ordinary diesel sedans, are awfully uncomfortable. They’re built for the Autobahn and smooth Teutonic roads, not for our cratered stuff. The Tesla? It was compliant, smooth, like it was flowing slightly above the surface. And yet, it wasn’t floaty in the way old American cars or Citroëns are. It was alert, agile and offered loads of grip, and fantastic traction out of the corners. It was possible to get the rear slip just a little bit, and with ESP off and more courage, it would probably go sideways nicely.

And it was fun to drive, even with these rather low limits in place. It didn’t feel heavy, and even the steering felt nice – not really feelsome, but nicely weighted. After a while, I started wondering: Who the hell did the suspension tuning on this thing? The Model S felt polished, refined… it felt finished. I’ve driven too many cars from established carmakers that felt like the development team just packed their bags at the 80% (cough, Alfa, cough) to believe that this was developed and tuned by a start-up car maker with no budget.


With its combination of compliance and comfort with grip and agility, felt distinctively British. If I had to liken the Model S driving experience to any other car I’ve driven, I would say it’s much like the Jaguar XK – just a with maximum torque from 0 rpm. And it was not only similar to the XK, it was generally Jaguar-ish. And I would bet that the suspension development of the Model S took place on British roads, which are a lot like ours – broken, bumpy and unsettling to most German performance sedans. Bear in mind that the car I tested wasn’t equipped with “Performance Plus” sports package, which includes a stiffer suspension.

So, is the Tesla just another flash in the pan, or does it stand a chance of “making it”?  Will it be a fad, or are we looking at the automobile’s future?


Frankly, I don’t know. This very much depends on many factors far beyond the scope of my review. The price, the cost of recharging, the real-world range, the development of better batteries…

But there’s one thing I know. If you can live with the range limitations – with a real-world range of over 200 miles (based on owner’s words), many two-car households can – the Tesla Model S is a great car. Would I choose it over an equivalent Jaguar, BMW or Maserati? I don’t know. But it would be a serious contender, based on driving experience alone. The feel of the electric motor may be a bit of a novelty, but I suspect it will also be very addictive. Competitors offer large V8 engines, burbling and gargling like some monster from the past. This feels like the future – and while I absolutely love the sound of a good V8, I would be tempted to trade it for this. For the first time ever, you can buy an electric car because you like it, not because it’s electric.

Photo credit: Ondřej Zeman,

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, and serves as editor-in-chief at After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.


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Vellum Venom Vignette: 2013 Awards Edition Tue, 17 Dec 2013 14:00:00 +0000 tesla

In a few days, TTAC’s editors will present their best and worst automotive picks of 2013. Today, Sajeev Mehta brings you his winners and losers in the field of design. Winners and losers below the jump.

Best Styled Car of 2013: Tesla Model S.  What happens when you have no rulebook, no badge engineered platform to start with?  Tesla’s impressive engineering and PR Buzz machine aren’t the only factors in the Model S’ shock and awe: it embodies the classic long hood and short deck proportioning that’s made so many cars so classically lovely.  It’s the same gospel spoken by everyone from Edsel Ford to Ettore Bugatti. The similarly styled Porsche Panamera only dreams of this low stance, subtle detailing and 1970s Italian concept car like flair in those hatchback hindquarters. Which proves that a clean sheet of vellum is a beautiful, beautiful place to start.

Worst Styled Car of 2013:  Not as easy, but the Honda Fit fits the bill. Not only is the second generation Fit a bloated redesign, the small Honda’s once quirky and cute details now suffer from gigantism. The biggest problem? Super excellent DLO FAIL, stealing defeat from the hands of victory: cars in this class justify a day light opening with a black plastic triangle (Sonic, Accent) with their low asking price.  Or be outstanding like the Ford Fiesta, using sheets of glass instead.  But no, the Honda Fit liked both ideas, having a huuuge DLO FAIL with both the plastic triangle and a rather large sheet of glass ahead of the front door. Congratulations, you’ve witnessed The Failing At Fail.

 Best Styled Truck of 2013: The RAM dodges Chevrolet’s cliché truck overstyling and Ford’s “Blue Collar Audi” design sensibilities for something…logical. Yes, the RAM is another modern truck that’s a caricature of its former self.  But in a world where cars jack themselves up to mimic CUVs, CUVs try to look like trucks and trucks imitate Peterbuilts, the RAM keeps some semblance of sensibility with subtle head/tail lights, logical hood/fender/bed flares and a gunsight grille that doesn’t try to be cool…because it’s been cool for almost 20 years.

 Worst Styled Truck of 2013: The Infiniti JX is one of the best examples of “overstyling” in modern automotive history. With every clumsy lump and flabby fold, the JX embodies everything wrong with the Crossover Utility Segment: trying too hard to evolve from the gritty blue-collar machines from whence they came, yet still remaining in the classic 2-box SUV design.  The ridiculous kink in the D-pillar’s quarter window says it all: you gotta know when to walk away from the vellum.

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Following Tesla Success in Sept. Nissan Leaf Tops Norway Oct. Car Sales Mon, 04 Nov 2013 12:00:27 +0000 Tesla_Model_S_Nissan_LEAF_Peugeot_iOn_Buddy_Th!nk_in_Oslo_2013_cropped

Spurred by tax breaks, free recharging stations, free parking and other benefits for EV drivers worth up to $8,100 (about 6,000 euros) a year per car, electric cars are doing very well in Norway. Reuters reports that Tesla’s Model S was the best selling car in Norway in September and Nissan’s Leaf was the market leader in October. Last month 716 Leafs were sold, a 6% market share, beating out the Toyota Auris and the VW Golf. For the year, the Leaf is the fourth best selling car in Norway with 3.2% of the total market.

The small country is an ideal place for EVs, and those of its 5 million residents who chose to drive electrically enjoy generous subsidies, free parking and recharging locations, free tolls and access to bus lanes to avoid heavy traffic.

In September, 616 Model S EVs were sold by Tesla, but that was a onetime blip due to a shipment of backlogged orders. In October Tesla sold 98 cars.

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Peter DeLorenzo: Sources Say Tesla Batteries Not Sufficiently Protected Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:00:31 +0000 Tesla-ModelS-platform

Reports from unnamed sources critical of competitors are not the most reliable, but Pete DeLorenzo says according to his sources within the auto industry a design shortcoming is the reason why the batteries in two Tesla Model S cars have recently started fires following collisions. Presumably DeLorenzo’s source or sources are within General Motors because they compare the way the battery pack is housed in Tesla to the way the Chevy Volt does it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stressed how his company protects the battery pack with 1/4″ thick armor plating underneath the car, but DeLorenzo’s source says that is essentially a band-aid solution to the fact that the battery pack itself has only a single protective shield, compared to the three layers of wrapping that the Volt’s battery pack has.

From DeLorenzo’s Autoextremist site:

What I’ve found out about the Tesla is this: There is a reason for fires upon impact with the Model S and it has nothing to do with the batteries themselves but how the batteries are – or are not, as the case may be – protected in the vehicle.

We all know Elon is a genius and that Tesla is the miracle of the new automotive world, but the fact remains that the miracle workers at Tesla skipped a step. It’s something that GM – you know, that tired old rust-belt auto company from a bygone era – learned while developing the Volt. The GM engineering team zeroed in on a critical area of concern with the Volt’s batteries when it came to protecting them upon impact, something like, “Gee, if someone were to really crash one of these things there could be a problem with the batteries, so, we better do something about it.” So the GM development team triple-wrapped the Volt battery pack to reduce the chance of “piercing” during accidents.

And guess what? The “piercing” of the batteries is exactly what caused the two post-crash fires in the Model S. Why? The Tesla development team chose to single-wrap the Tesla batteries, thus leaving the batteries less protected and more exposed during incidents, which is a giant heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good, when it comes right down to it.

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Tesla Awards Panasonic 4-Year $7 billion Battery Cell Contract Anticipating 500% Increase in Production Thu, 31 Oct 2013 09:00:34 +0000  


Tesla Motors has used exclusively Panasonic lithium ion battery cells since it started selling electric cars.

Tesla Motors has used exclusively Panasonic lithium ion battery cells since it started selling electric cars. 2010 photo.

Panasonic Corp., which already is the largest supplier of lithium ion batteries for the electric car industry, has announced that it has signed a new contract with Tesla to supply battery cells for the Model S and upcoming Model X electric vehicles. The Japanese company will supply 2 billion 18650 form factor lithium-ion cells worth up to $7 billion over the next four years. Panasonic has been Tesla’s exclusive supplier of battery cells since it started selling its first EV, the Tesla Roadster.



Since Tesla has used 200 million cells over the past two years, the contract indicates a significant ramp up of production is planned, a five-fold annual increase. Tesla has said that it expects to deliver about 21,000 Model S cars this year and that the Model X crossover will go on sale at the end of 2014.


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A Second Tesla Model S Burns Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:30:21 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

A second Tesla Model S has burned following an accident, this time near Merida, Mexico. Tesla Motors issued a statement saying the customer was unhurt after crash in which the Model S hit a concrete barrier. The accident occurred on October 19 according to local news reports that say that the luxury electric car was speeding and “hit a raised pedestrian crossing and briefly took flight before crashing into a wall and tree.” Photos and video posted of the crash’s aftermath show the front end damaged and flames burning the car.

“We were able to contact the driver quickly and are pleased that he is safe,” Liz Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokesperson, said Monday in an e-mailed statement. “This was a significant accident where the car was traveling at such a high speed that it smashed through a concrete wall and then hit a large tree, yet the driver walked away from the car with no permanent injury.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week that it found no evidence that the October 1 fire that engulfed the front end of a Model S in Washington state after the car hit metal debris that punctured the battery pack was not due to any defects or violations of U.S. safety standards.

According to Tesla, both customers plan to purchase new Model S cars to replace their burned Teslas. “He is appreciative of the safety and performance of the car and has asked if we can expedite delivery of his next Model S,” Jarvis-Shean said about the owner of the car that burned in Mexico.


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Federal Regulators Will Not Investigate Tesla Model S Fire Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:16:49 +0000 2013-Tesla-Model-S-fire-2

In an e-mailed statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it has decided against launching a formal investigation into the Washington state fire early this month involving a Tesla Model S. The electric car ran over some metal debris that punctured the front battery pack, sparking the fire. NHTSA said that it found no evidence of violations of federal motor vehicle safety standard or that the fire resulted from a vehicle defect. While the agency did not conduct an on-scene investigation of the Oct. 1 fire due to the partial shutdown of the federal government during the congressional budget impasse, after consulting with Tesla, regulators decided that no investigation was needed. Just a few days ago, on Oct. 22,  NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the agency was “gathering data” on the fire, which resulted in a complete writeoff of the Model S.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the carmaker had no immediate response to NHTSA’s decision. In an October 5th blog post, CEO Elon Musk insisted that the Model S was safe, saying that the fire resulted from an unusual crash that would have resulted in a fire in a gasoline car as well.

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Still Not Ready For The Rental Counter: EV Rentals Fail To Thrive Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:01 +0000 Tesla_Supercharging_in_Gilroy

Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Enterprise Head of Sustainability Lee Broughton note that while customers were “keen” to give electric power a go, range anxiety led many a renter to return the car for one where they know the infrastructure is there to meet. On average, a renter will spend almost two days with an electric-only car versus a week with a conventional road warrior. Currently, the St. Louis-based rental car business has 300 electric cars in their overall fleet, all Nissan Leafs. The figure is down 40 percent from the target of 500 of the cars set by Enterprise back in 2010.

Despite the overall lack of demand in this emerging rental market due to lack of infrastructure and larger-capacity batteries for extended range, competitor Hertz added the Tesla S to its Dream Cars lineup in September for their customer base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The daily rate to feel like Elon Musk is $500; Enterprise offers the S in their Exotic Car Collection for $300 to $500 in the same locations, with three currently in the lineup available. The Leaf offered by Enterprise goes for $55 to $140 a day depending on location.

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Tesla Stock Gets Double Whammy From Analyst Downgrade and Model S Fire Fri, 04 Oct 2013 12:00:28 +0000
The price of Tesla Motors stock took a double hit this week as an influential analyst downgraded the company’s investment potential almost simultaneously with the viral spread of a Model S electric car burning in Washington state after running over metal debris in the road. On Wednesday morning, the Robert W. Baird company changed its rating on shares of Tesla from “Outperform” to “Neutral”. Around the same time Wednesday, Jalopnik posted a cellphone video of the burning Model S. As the video spread throughout the online automotive community and Baird analyst Ben Kallo’s report spread through the financial community, Tesla stock prices declined all day on Wednesday, finally finishing down 12.05 at $180.95 on volume that was higher than average for the stock.

The Baird report said that Tesla stock had peaked in value and that changes in the investment structure of the EV startup made the stock less attractive to investors. Kallo’s report said, “Although we continue to be bullish on TSLA’s long-term prospects, we think the stock appreciation reflects its technological leadership and several milestones that could contain execution risk. We would look to become more constructive on execution related pullbacks or significant advances in battery technology.” With the stock’s 470% gains and the end of the year approaching, institutional investors may have taken the report as a signal to secure their gains and cash out. Another report on Tesla from Bank of America said that pension funds and other large investors were exiting Tesla. CNN reported that small investors were buying those shares, a move seen by analysts as negative.

Regardless of the stock fluctuations and a drop in market value of approximately $3 billion analysts say that Tesla should still have no problems securing financing for current operations and for the development of the Model X crossover and the mass market EV that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised. Still, as a maker of only electric powered cars, Tesla is far more exposed in the event of problems with EVs than those established car companies that are exploring electrically powered cars and trucks.

Tesla cars have been driven for a combined 113 million miles, according to the company, and the Washington state fire was the first case of a Tesla battery pack burning, which puts the rate of burning Teslas at 1/10th the rate of fires in conventional gasoline or diesel powered cars. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks catch fire one way or another every year in the U.S. with little attention, isolated fires involving cars such as the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and the lithium ion batteries used in the new Boeing Dreamliner have drawn considerable interest and possibly created a marketing obstacle for electric cars. Those few EV fires followed recalls by Apple for far more numerous fires involving the lithium ion batteries used in laptop computers. Though the most successful of the EVs and hybrids, the Toyota Prius, uses nickel-metal hydride battery cells, the automobile industry has been moving to lithium-ion, as used in the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Ford C-Max. Li-ion batteries have better energy density and discharge characteristics. The are also lighter than NiMH batteries

After releasing his valuation report and the video of the fire going viral, Ben Kallo considered the impact of the fire. “Tesla’s a very controversial stock and this will give fodder for the bears. They’ll say this is going to slow down sales.” While short term the fire may hurt Model S sales, Kallo and other analysts still expect that Tesla will see strong demand going forward.

On their part, Tesla officials said that the battery and the car worked as designed, keeping the fire under control and allowing the driver time to pull over and safely exit the vehicle. “The fire was caused by the direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack,” Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean said. “Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle,” she added. Panasonic Corp., which makes the Model S’ batteries, declined to comment.

While Tesla insisted that the burning Model S worked as designed, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said that there has to be a “design issue” with the Model S if an object striking the bottom of the car could lead to a battery fire.

Tesla’s battery pack uses standard form factor lithium-ion battery cells similar to those used in laptop computers. As a result, the combined battery pack takes up most of the underside of the Model S. By comparison, EVs from established car companies use custom sized battery cells so the finished battery packs can be packaged more compactly as in the T-shaped battery pack located in the middle of the Chevy Volt.

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Tesla Model S Burns Causing Stock Price Jitters Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:08:53 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

After photos were published of a Tesla Model S in Washington state burning following a collision, with a subsequent 9.1% dip in the price of Tesla stock, the company issued a statement. The car, “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle,” the EV startup said. For the day, Tesla shares fell 6.2 percent, or $12.05, to close at $180.95 in New York trading on Wednesday. The decline was biggest one day drop in Tesla’s stock price since July 16. Analysts attributed the steep decline on their opinion that the stock was already overvalued, making it susceptible to any bad news.

The company said that the damage sustained was contained within the front end of the car, that the passenger compartment was not compromised in any way and that  the Model S performed as designed. “This was not a spontaneous event,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

The driver, who was not injured, pulled over after the car informed him to do so, and then smelled something burning. After exiting the car he called emergency responders, who had some difficulty extinguishing the blaze. At first the fire appeared to be under control, but it reignited and when firefighters decided that water seemed to be intensifying the fire, they switched to a dry chemical fire extinguisher.

To put out the fire,  which took place in the front of the car after the driver hit some metal debris, disabling the car, firefighters first dismantled the front end of the Model S and put holes into the battery pack. When that wasn’t effective they used a circular saw to cut an access hole to the battery and extinguished the fire.

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NHTSA Pushes Back On Tesla’s ‘Safest Car Ever’ Claims for Model S Thu, 22 Aug 2013 14:30:46 +0000 BSO2QDqCUAEigGZ

The general and automotive press was buzzing in the past couple of days about Tesla’s Model S acing crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, following a Tesla press release claiming that the Model S is the safest car ever tested by that agency. Now, NHTSA is throwing some cold water on Tesla’s claims that the Model S earned more than five stars, the agency’s highest score. The car performed well, NHTSA says, but not off the charts as claimed by Tesla. The implication that Tesla is exaggerating the crash test results follows the company’s release of what it said were profitable financial results, though the figures did not follow generally accepted accounting procedures. NHTSA also released video of the Model S undergoing crash testing.

“The agency’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program is designed to provide consumers with information about the crash protection,” NHTSA said in a statement. “NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star ratings.”

Tesla based its bragging on how it calculated the Vehicle Safety Score data provided to manufacturers, yielding a 5.4 rating according to the company.

Clarence Ditlow, the director of the Center of Auto Safety, who had a role in developing the five-star schema, told ABC News that while the Tesla Model S did perform well in the crash tests the company’s spin on the data was misleading. “No matter what, you can’t say it’s the safest car ever tested, just that it had the best overall test score of any vehicle tested by NHTSA.”

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Tesla S Sets NHTSA Crash Testing Score Record, Goes to Eleven (Well, 5.4 Stars to be Exact), Breaks Roof Testing Machine Wed, 21 Aug 2013 19:35:19 +0000 model-s-five-star-safety-rating

Chart courtesy of Tesla Motors

While General Motors is thumping its chest because the new fullsize pickups from Chevrolet and GMC are the first to earn an overall 5 star crash test rating since the standards were upgraded two years ago, Tesla is trumpeting the NHTSA crash testing results for their Model S, saying that the luxury EV achieved the best safety rating ever of any car tested by the highway safety agency. Not only did the Model S earn an overall five-star rating, but the Model S earned 5 stars in every testing category. While 5 is the maximum rating that NHTSA publishes, manufacturers are provided with the overall Vehicle Safety Score, whose scale goes higher, and Teslas says that the Model S’ VSS was 5.4 stars, the highest ever achieved.

The EV company says that score is the best of any recorded by every car sold in the United States, a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. It also is better than all SUV and minivans as well. The company attributes the high scores in part to a more effective front crush zone made possible by the fact that there is no engine up front in the Tesla, which is driven by a fairly compact electric motor mounted near the rear axle. Another feature that the company claims makes the Tesla safer is a double bumper installed on cars ordered with an optional third row seat for children. Side impact performance, significantly better than the five star rated Volvo S60, is attributed to multiple aluminum extrusions nested in the Model S’ side rails.

The Model S performed particularly well in the rollover test because the location of the vehicle’s traction battery under the passenger compartment results in a very low center of gravity. During normal testing the Model S could not be made to roll over so the test had to be modified. The results indicate that the Model S will protect its passengers from rollover risk about 50% better than other top rated vehicles.

Should the Model S be made to roll over, the roof should protect the occupants well. During roof crush testing, the Model S broke the testing machine after withstanding more than 4 times the force of gravity. Tesla attributes that high performance to B pillar reinforcements attached with aerospace graded fasteners.

In announcing the results, Tesla said that while their initial testing showed that the Model S would achieve the 5 star rating when tested in standard locations, they verified that even if the car was tested at its weakest points, it would still earn the maximum rating. No doubt because fire safety has been an issue that was raised with the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma, Tesla’s press release on the Model S crash results also stressed that the car’s lithium-ion battery experienced no fires before, during or after NHTSA testing. The “after” was a reference to a fire that broke out in a Chevy Volt three weeks after it was crash tested by NHTSA in a fully charged condition.

Tesla also said that they are unaware of any fatalities that have happened in real world collisions involving either the Model S or the Tesla Roadster.

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Tesla Surprises Analysts With Second Quarterly Profit – Depending How You Do The Math Thu, 08 Aug 2013 14:53:51 +0000 Robots

Defying analysts’ predictions that Tesla Motors would report a quarterly loss of $0.17 a share, the EV startup instead announced that it had a second quarter profit, after adjustments, of 20 cents a share, according to non-GAAP principles. On the news, Tesla stock went up 13% in after hours trading.

When using GAAP principles, Tesla posted a net loss of $30.5 million for the quarter. Revenue related to car sales dropped from the first quarter by over $150 million to $401 million, reflecting deferred revenue on financed vehicles. Last year for the second quarter Tesla posted revenue of $26.7 million and a $105.6 million loss.

On a non-GAAP basis, Tesla said second-quarter net income totaled $26 million, excluding special items and $100 million in gross profit with a gross profit margin of 22 percent. That gross profit does not include a lot of overhead items like r&d, and sales and administrative costs. With those factored in, Tesla said it had an operating loss of $12 million for the quarter.

Part of the company’s bottom line has to do with the sale of zero emissions credits to other car companies. In the 2nd quarter, Tesla sold $51 million worth of ZEV credits and an additional $18 million in “other regulatory credits.” The company said that it ended the first half of fiscal 2013 with $746 million in cash on hand, up from $214 million at the end of the first quarter and $210 million a year ago. Tesla also rolled its lease accounting into this quarter’s results, something not allowed under GAAP. That helped Tesla arrive at the profit that they’ve been touting.

Net income was up 70% from the first quarter to $26 million, on 5,150 deliveries to customers, in line with Tesla’s earlier announced 20K/yr production rate on the Model S. The company says that it increased production in the quarter by 20% to 500 Model S cars, so actually current production is closer to 25,000 annual units.

Tesla said that it will open “several more” dealerships in the next year, one of them being their first store in China. It’s not clear if that dealership will be factory owned or not. Export markets are currently a focus of activity at Tesla. Deliveries of the Model S to Europe began this week. If needed as they expand into new markets, Tesla says that production could exceed 40,000 cars by the end of next year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company getting Asian variants of the Model S ready, a right hand drive version for Japan and a Chinese model with an “executive back seat” instead of the “family back seat” used in other markets. Those cars will be on sale by the end of 2014

Tesla shares, which closed at $134.23 on Wednesday, went above $150 in after-hours trading following the news.

In other product news, Musk said that the next Tesla, a mass market sedan to be priced at $35,000 (without government subsidies), will have a 200 mile range. He also said that the company will be working with its suppliers as it ramps up production. “You can’t give people a car that’s 99 percent complete,” Musk said. “Some suppliers are not set up for volume production. We’re striving to become demand-limited, rather than production-limited.”

You can view the financial results (PDF) that included a Q&A session with Musk here.


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EV Trade Group Touts PEV Early Market Penetration Success, Tesla Model S Has 8.4% Share of Entire U.S. Luxury Segment Mon, 05 Aug 2013 16:35:44 +0000 tesla-model-sa_r

The Electrification Coalition (EC), a trade association of companies involved in the business of electric vehicle,s released a report last week prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers touting strong sales of plug in electric vehicles for the first 2 1/2 years that they’be been on the market in the U.S.. Reportedly consumers are embracing PEVs much faster than they started buying hybrids when those first went on sale more than a decade ago. The report particularly noted the success of the Tesla Model S, saying that single model had an 8.4% share of the entire U.S. luxury market for the first six months of 2013.


Key findings of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report were:

  • More than 110,000 PEVs have been sold in the U.S. since January of 2011.
  • Twice as many PEVs were sold in that 20 month period than the hybrids sold in a corresponding period after their first introduction.
  • Uptake rate of PEVs is 3X what it was for hybrids during their first three years on the market.
  • The Nissan Leaf has 3.3% of the subcompact market segment.
  • PEVs have a higher customer satisfaction rate on nearly all measured items.
  • Battery costs are expected to drop by 50% by 2020, with an expected price of $300-325 per kilowatt hour.
  • The Tesla Model S took 8.4% of the U.S. luxury car market for the first half of 2013 and sold more units than “several in-class competitors including the Audi A8, BMW 7-series, and Mercedes S class”

Those last two bullet points are somewhat in contention. Last month, Bill Alpert of Barron’s wrote, “Industries and governments around the world have spent billions on battery research, but few expect to trim electric-car battery costs by more than 20%-30% by the planned 2016 launch of Tesla’s car for the Everyman.” Tesla is planning on selling a $30,000 EV for the mass market. As for the Model S, it’s been pointed out that while it can cost as much as a flagship German luxury sedan, it more directly competes with the segment just below the flagships (depending on your point of view, this could mean anything from a BMW 5-Series to a Mercedes-Benz CLS to an Audi A7).

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Capsule Review: 2013 Tesla Model S (85 kWh battery) Tue, 02 Jul 2013 20:32:29 +0000  

Sergey Brin's pink Tesla


(or, the interior monologue of a tech geek thinking about buying an overpriced electric car)

In 2007, we spent a year living in the San Francisco Bay Area while I was on sabbatical at Stanford and SRI (it’s good to be a professor.) My five-mile daily bike commute from Redwood City took me through Atherton, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods around. Of course I had to worry about all the expensive German car drivers running me off the road while distracted by their brand new iPhones, but I also saw a seemingly disproportionate number of gleaming Maserati Quattroportes. I started thinking of them as the Honda Accord for the rich stylish nerd set.

For this summer’s family vacation, we headed back to our old stomping grounds, staying in Redwood City again, seeing old friends, and watching lots of expensive cars drive by. After a solid week there, I didn’t see a single Quattroporte, but I saw a whole lot of the Tesla Model S. It seems the rich stylish nerds have found their new love.

Much like I did three years ago with the Tesla Roadster, I went back to the Tesla dealership in Menlo Park and asked about test driving a Model S. Apparently I lucked out and one was immediately available. (Normally you need to schedule these test drives beforehand.) I’d been emailing Tesla’s press people months in advance, since I really wanted to spend my whole vacation week in a Model S with the hopes of writing a piece for TTAC about the full week’s experience. Tesla’s press people totally flaked on me, so a regular test drive was the best I could manage.

How much of a verdict can I reach in a half-hour behind the wheel, driving a mix of city, highway, and mountain twisties? A couple things are clear. The Model S is a really fun car to drive. Much like the Tesla Roadster, the Model S really takes off. There’s just zero latency between stomping your right foot and feeling the power of the force flowing through you. It’s a liberating experience. My skeptical wife, who also took a turn behind the wheel, was similarly impressed, far more than she was expecting to be. Similarly, the road feel is fantastic. The Tesla handles like a high-end German car, and entirely unlike the floaty, nebulous Nissan Maxima that Hertz gave us. Make no mistake, the Tesla is a proper luxury performance grand touring car, well worthy of comparison to the best the Germans have to offer. If I was the founder of multiple dot-com IPOs, living beyond the economic concerns of mere mortals, I’d be driving a loaded Model S.

Sadly, I have limited funds. Could I still justify a Model S? Can it be a rational purchase? The closest comparison to the Tesla is probably the Audi A7, something that’s already twice the price of our current family hauler, but hey, I’m worth it, right? Both The Tesla S and the Audi A7 have a hatchback, giving you lots of usable storage. 0-60 times are pretty much the same. (The regular Tesla Model S with the 85kWh battery lines up nicely with the A7 and the Tesla Model S Performance blows away the Audi S7, at least on paper. For this review, I’ll consider the A7 vs. the “non-performance” 85kWh Tesla that I’d be most likely to buy. That’s also the Tesla that I test-drove.) The operative question: if you’re willing to pony up for an Audi A7, is it rational to instead buy yourself a Tesla Model S?

Were I to buy a Model S, there are a bunch of options that I’d need (yeah, “need”). Grand total for me: $84,220, after the U.S. federal government’s $7500 tax credit and before paying an electrician to install the plug in my garage. How about an Audi A7? Configured in a vaguely similar fashion, I get $65,000. (You can load up an A7 to cost just over $80,000 without trying too hard.)

If you line up the two cars, feature-by-feature, you have to work pretty hard to justify the nearly $20,000 premium for the Tesla. Tesla’s biggest improvement over the competition is its massive touch-screen telematics package. It’s something you can immediately operate without reading the manual. The Audi MMI system, with buttons, dials, and touchpad handwriting recognition (!), seems like you’ll never figure it all out. Both systems will inevitably demand enough of your visual attention to be a serious driving hazard, but at least an untrained passenger will have a fighting chance in a Tesla. I’m a bit more concerned with how well each car will fare through a hot Texas summer. The Tesla lets you turn on the A/C from your smartphone before you’re anywhere near the car. That’s a serious win if you can remember to do it. Conversely, the Audi (top of the line “prestige” model only) has ventilated front seats, which are the greatest thing ever on a hot day (and not available on the Tesla). The Audi pulls ahead with standard AWD (not very important for us, but critical if you deal with snow and ice) and has optional gadgety features that Tesla surprisingly lacks, like adaptive cruise control, heads up display, etc. The Tesla wins on being stunningly silent and being electric. (No really, electric is cool. Fun, even.) If you live in California, the Tesla lets you have a magic sticker for using the carpool lanes even when you’re driving solo. That alone might be decisive for some buyers.

You can try to play the “electricity is cheaper than gas” game, for which Tesla has a handy-dandy online calculator. My wife and I put 10,000 miles a year on our primary car. A Model S might then save us $2000 per year relative to the fuel costs for an A7. Ten years for a electric car purchase to start becoming relatively cheaper than the gas car? That’s not good enough. What about one of my colleagues who has a 60 mile daily round-trip from one of the distant Houston suburbs? He might put 20,000 miles a year on a Model S, leading to a financial break-even in five years; that almost works. (FYI, he just recently bought a brand-new BMW 328i after carefully considering then rejecting the Tesla.) Tesla makes the argument that they will be more reliable than a traditional car by virtue of not having fluids to change, timing belts to wear out, and so forth. Certainly, regular maintenance on that Audi can get quite pricey once the warranty period is expired; notably, another colleague of mine had an early 2000’s Audi Allroad Quattro, and its turbocharged engine suffered some very expensive failures; but then who really knows about the Tesla? How well will the battery pack hold up in the heat and humidity of Houston? Will the unnecessarily complex pop-out door handles have early failures? Will the Tesla’s leather-wrapped dashboard shrivel up and need to be replaced every three years, like the BMW Z3 Coupe I once owned?

In the back of my head, I’ve got a list of things that might flip me into the Tesla column. Can I drive it from Houston to visit my parents in Dallas? Tesla announced a charging station somewhere half-way up I-45 to open “this summer,” making that drive entirely feasible. How about a “valet” mode to keep hot-rod parking attendants from abusing our expensive car? Tesla had it in the Roadster, but not yet the Model S. What about parking in tight spaces? Tesla has a basic backup camera, but no parking distance radar, fancy 360-degree cameras, or even an electronic overlay on the backup camera to put its fisheye view into a more usable perspective. How about a ground sensor or even a “GPS fence” trigger so the air suspension will automatically lift the car up when it gets near our steep driveway? Today you’ve got to push buttons on the screen, while I would prefer it to happen automatically, since if you forget once, you trash the car’s pretty schnoz. Of course, Tesla has been adding features as software upgrades, so at least some of this could well happen later, but Tesla naturally won’t guarantee anything.

Regardless, Tesla has built a truly great car. For the price-insensitive buyer, particularly somebody who wants the extra zoom-zoom of the Model S Performance ($109,220 loaded, after tax credit) without the V8 mileage penalty that comes with a car like the Audi S7 ($94,925 loaded), and with the Model S Performance blowing the Audi S7 out of the water, at least on paper, the Tesla is going to win the sale. For somebody trying to make a rational purchase of a luxury car (which is, if you really try to think about it, a pretty irrational thing to do), the real action will happen in a few years, both when Tesla releases their allegedly $40,000 “Blue Star” model, and as well as when current Model S cars start showing up on the used market.

Speaking of the used market, what about those beautiful Maserati Quattroportes? If you poke around on eBay and look at completed auctions, the handful that actually find buyers, you can see a car that once cost well north of $100,000 is now selling used with low mileage for a third or less of its original selling price. A new Quattroporte likewise commands a significant price premium over “comparable” German luxury performance cars, just like the Tesla Model S. I don’t know how many people there are out there willing to pay a premium for a fashionable luxury performance touring car, but it would appear that the Tesla is conquering this market quite effectively, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area. This also suggests, however, that when the new hotness comes along, Tesla could be out of fashion just as quickly as it came in.

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Tesla Dodges A Legislative Bullet Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:30:20 +0000 450x307xTesla-Japan-Picture-courtesy-cleveland.com_-450x307.jpg.pagespeed.ic.XfzUsQfxqK

A proposed law that would have eliminated Tesla’s ability to sell cars in New York state has died on the vine, after lawmakers adjourned their legislative session without taking any action on the bill.

The bills, introduced in both the lower house and state Senate, would make it illegal for an auto maker to operate a dealership in the state, and any current licenses would be ineligible for renewal, save for those issues prior to July 1, 2006, which would be grandfathered in. Tesla has faced various legislative battles in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Massachusetts, and Minnesota and has so far succeeded only in Minnesota.

Tesla would have had to close their three stores and two service centers in New York if the bill passed. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the bill in the upper house, reportedly proposed a separate measure to make an exception for Tesla, echoing a “compromise” from Mark Scheinberg, the head of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association. Scheinberg told Automotive News that he had offered to extend the grandfathering date, but Tesla refused. Even so, he denied trying to put them out of business, since, after all, Tesla could still establish a franchised dealer network.

According to AN, Tesla denied ever receiving the compromise – and even if they had, they would have rejected it.


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Video: Tesla’s Battery Swap In Action Fri, 21 Jun 2013 13:49:17 +0000

Those of you wondering exactly how Tesla’s battery swap technology works, here’s your answer. The fully automated system, said to be akin to a carwash, supposedly takes just 90 seconds. To prove the point, Tesla did a side-by-side comparison with an Audi A8 at a fuel pump. It should be noted that the A8 has an enormous 23.8 gallon tank. As Bertel points out, the battery swap system isn’t cheap – but for the folks who are buying a Model S anyways, it’s not a big deal.

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MyFord Touch Doesn’t Need Buttons Wed, 19 Jun 2013 15:16:31 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.34.18 AM

I’m slow to embrace technology. When people say this in modern times, it usually means that they only have 274 iPhone apps and they’re still stuck using the iPad 3. But when I say it, I mean that, sitting on my desk as I write this, is an actual bill, being paid with an actual check, in an actual envelope with an actual stamp.

Undoubtedly, many of you are sitting there in awe. At this point, you’ve already decided to share this article with your friends, which probably involves Tweeting it on Spotify or possibly Pinteresting it on Google Plus. But I’m not entirely sure what any of these things are, largely because much of my online correspondence is done through – gasp! – Yahoo Mail.

By now, you’re howling at my stupidity as you simultaneously wonder: What the hell does this have to do with cars? Fortunately, the answer is: a lot.

You see, I recently had three press cars in a row that were equipped with MyFord Touch. For those of you even more behind the times than me, MyFord Touch is an in-car infotainment system that the automotive press is hailing as the actual spawn of Satan. For proof, these are a few excerpts from magazine articles on the subject:

• “MyFord Touch is like cutting your eyeballs with a razor blade, only obviously much worse.” – Motor Trend

• “MyFord Touch is almost as awful as those people who pay bills with checks.” – Popular Mechanics

• “One night, when the Explorer was parked in my driveway, MyFord Touch got out of the car and bit the head off our neighbor’s cat.” – Car & Driver

• “Ladies and gentlemen: we have a new leader.” – Spawn of Satan Monthly

So we all agree MyFord Touch is awful. In fact, I was sort of expecting President Obama to tell Charlie Rose that it’s really MyFord Touch, not the NSA, that’s responsible for all this spying. The press would’ve accepted this verbatim and we could all return to our normal lives, which apparently involve conversing with our friends and the occasional NSA agent.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think MyFord Touch is so bad. Yes, folks: someone whose most-used iPhone app is the calculator finds MyFord Touch to be logical, simple, and responsive. In fact, I’ve now tried MyFord Touch three times, in three different cars, over several weeks, and I’ve discovered that I even like the little sound it makes when you click something.

But as an unemployed writer who subsists on Cheetos, I don’t think Ford is particularly interested in my opinion. And so, after years of angry criticism, they will soon add knobs and buttons back to MyFord Touch, making it easier to use and less distracting. This upsets me, largely because I had just figured out how to use it.

There’s also an entirely different reason it upsets me: Tesla.

Tesla, as you might know, currently uses a screen that is roughly the size of a Bloomberg Terminal, and approximately as complicated. I know this because I am an expert on the Model S, having seen several in traffic.

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.35.12 AM

The Model S’s screen is actually considerably worse than Ford’s, because it incorporates every single vehicle function and also the Internet. Even on the MyFordTouchiest Fords, there were still a few controls on the center stack, and by God the Internet was nowhere to be found. But in the Model S, you can’t change even the radio preset without going to the screen, which is annoying because it means you must minimize the porn you’re watching.

But here’s the interesting part: no one bitches about Tesla’s screen. Actually, it’s even worse than that. Our friends at Consumer Reports, who somehow found the time to stop rolling over the Isuzu Trooper to test MyFord Touch, derided the system as being “too much like a computer,” noting that “it works OK statically, but when you’re driving it diverts too much attention away from the road.” They later went on to say “we wouldn’t recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary.”

This is all well and good, and it reeks highly of the sort of folks who pay their bills by mail, so I’m in support. But less than six months later, the very same people called the Tesla Model S – home of the screen that was deemed too large to serve as the jumbotron at American Airlines Arena – the “best car ever.” They gave it a 99 out of 100, noting that its only flaw – a one-pointer – was the center-mounted touchscreen. The center-mounted touchscreen that’s half the size of the one they wouldn’t wish on their adversary when it’s mounted in a Ford.

So my question is: how the hell does Tesla get away with it when Ford so clearly can’t? Are Tesla owners simply better equipped to deal with the rigors of operating such a system? Given that many of them are coming out of BMWs, I find that hard to believe.

No, I think it’s that we expect our futuristic Teslas to come with an enormous screen, while we want our good ol’ Fords with good ol’ American buttons. And to that, I must say: come on, people. Get with the times. Now, I have to go mail my bills and buy a CD.

@DougDeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Tesla Confirms Battery Swap For Model S Tue, 18 Jun 2013 17:13:35 +0000 batteryswapTesla’s long-rumored battery swap technology will get its first reveal Thursday night, according to a Tweet from Elon Musk himself.

The Tesla battery swap project has been in the works for some time, with the Model S apparently having the capability for battery-swapping from the get-go. There are a few issues that come into question here; what kind of technology will be used to help swap a 1,200 pound battery in under 5 minutes? What level of automation will be used? How does this conflict (or complement) with the whole Supercharger network? We’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

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