The Truth About Cars » tesla roadster The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +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 roadster Plug In America Tests Older Tesla Roadsters, Finds Battery Durability Better Than Promised Tue, 16 Jul 2013 13:30:43 +0000 Tesla Roadster battery pack - Tesla Photo

Tesla Roadster battery pack – Tesla Photo

One drawback to cars that run on batteries is that over time and multiple charge/discharge cycles, batteries will lose capacity. Individual cells start to fail to meet specifications and when enough cells go bad, it’s time for another battery pack. Since capacity is directly related to range and since battery packs are expensive to replace, how quickly batteries deteriorate is an important factor in the overall cost and practicality of EVs.

When Tesla first announced their Roadster EV in 2006, the company said that due the company’s proprietary battery management system and design of their lithium-iom battery packs, would ensure that after five years or 50,000 miles, the Roadster’s battery pack would still have 70 percent of it’s rated capacity when new, 53 kWh, enough electrons for a 244 mile range ( 2006 statement  on battery age by Tesla founder Martin Eberhard here). The Tesla Roadster went on sale in 2008, which means there are now roadsters that have been on the road for as long as five years, and I’m sure many that have reached or exceeded 50,000 miles of use. It’s now possible to test Tesla’s claims regarding battery durability. A standard from the laptop industry is that lithium-ion battery packs are still serviceable above 80% capacity.

The independent EV advocacy group, Plug In America (PIA) decided to do just that and their chief science officer, Tom Saxton has reported the results of an owner-reported survey of Tesla battery packs, based on a sample size of 4% of all 2,500 Roadsters made. Plug In America discovered that the Tesla battery packs are performing much better than advertised. After 100,000 miles, double the advertised 70% capacity life, the battery packs have an average capacity of 80-85%.

PIA also tested for climate differences because PIA’s earlier first ever  survey of EV battery life involving  owners of Nissan Leafs showed measurable declines in battery capacity in hot climates. The Leaf has a much simpler battery heat management system than used by Tesla. A surveys of first generation Toyota RAV4 EV owners, which was on sale from 1997 to 2003, in order to measure performance in batteries at least 10 years old, is also underway, as is a survey of Tesla Model S owners but it’s too early for any real meaningful data to be obtained on that car.

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day One Thu, 30 May 2013 22:55:57 +0000 2014 Fiat 500e, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

TTAC has borrowed EVs in the past. Nissan even let us snag a Leaf for a week. Since then, I’ve driven every EV on the market except the Model S. (Not for a lack of half-trying, I call Tesla HQ regularly, but am too lazy to visit a Tesla dealer.) Every time I’ve had an EV, the conversation is more about living with the EV than the car itself. This time we’re doing something different. When the review of the spunky little orange Fiat 500e (I’ve decided to name her “Zippy Zappy”) hits in a few weeks, it will be 100% about the car and 0% about EV trials and tribulations. That divorced conversation is happening this week in daily installments.

EV tech is evolving rapidly from every angle, which is why we’re taking a look at it in this way. When the Tesla Roadster came on the scene it was the first real EV you could buy in ages, but the lacking of a standard charging connector, two seats and a steep price tag limited its commercial viability. Next up we had the Leaf which sported the new J1772 standard charging connector and the first DC quick-charge connector in the USA. Sadly there were zero quick charge stations in America when we last Leafed. Just a year into Nissan’s grand experiment there were significant updates to the Leaf and thanks to California’s zero-emissions mandate we have an EV explosion with just about everyone hopping on the eBandwagon. Are they ready for prime time?

2014 Fiat 500e Digital LCD Instrument Cluster

The 500e is the most efficient EV on the market. That’s not just because it’s one of the smallest EVs available, but also because technology in this field is moving rapidly. The 500e’s motor, batteries, charger systems, etc are all the latest in design and that is what pushes the little Italian to the head of the pack. [Edit: my apologies, the Scion iQ EV is now the most efficient EV, but the 500e is very close] Even so the 500e is capable of only 80-100 miles depending on your driving style, the climate and your Range Anxiety. I suffer from RA pretty badly so my first day in the 500e I drove home with the cruise control set to 64 on the freeway and used my most efficient (and most level) shortcuts possible. Leaving work at 93% full (thanks to not being delivered at 100%) I stopped at the grocery store 41 miles later having consumed 55% of my battery thanks to climbing a 2,200ft mountain pass at freeway speeds. Range estimate: 75 miles, not too shabby and better than the Leaf on the same journey. 10 miles later my EV told me it would take 15 hours to recharge to 100% using the 110V “emergency” charger. I thought about heading to the beach 12-miles away since the weather was amazing but my RA kept me at home where I looked at pictures of the beach on my laptop. What will tomorrow bring?

Fiat 500e Charging, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 2

Day 3

 Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Tesla To Pay Down DoE Loan In 5 Years Or Less Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:27:45 +0000

Tesla announced plans to pay down their $465 million dollar Department of Energy loan in 5 years or less, as Tesla seeks to achieve profitability.

Automotive News reported on comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk while attending a conference in the Washington, D.C. area

That loan currently must be repaid within 10 years, Musk said. Tesla will “codify” a commitment with DOE to reimburse the government within five years or less, Musk added, after declaring that the loan guarantee should be “viewed as a success.”

In addition to Tesla, Ford, Nissan and Fisker all received loans under the $25-billion dollar program Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing program, which was introduced by President George W. Bush.

Ford and Nissan’s loans are worth $5.9 billion and $1.4 billion respectively, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that he expects to be paid back in full by the auto makers, despite other loans that “…may be at risk”. According to Tesla’s 10-Q filing for Q4 2012, the company made its first loan payment of $12.7 million on schedule, with the next payment due in March.

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Romney Dubs Tesla, Fisker As “Losers”, As Tesla Issues Stock To Stay Afloat Thu, 04 Oct 2012 17:53:33 +0000

Viewers of last night’s Presidential debate may have caught Mitt Romney bad-mouthing Tesla and Fisker during his remarks. Meanwhile, Tesla’s new prospectus shows that they’re hardly out of the woods yet, financially speaking.

Last night, Gov. Romney delivered this barb to President Obama

“You put $90 billion — like 50 years’ worth of breaks — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1,” said Romney. “I mean, I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers.”

The remarks came right as Elon Musk and Tesla prepared another stock issue to raise so much needed cash. Tesla’s latest SEC filing declares that

Based upon our current financial forecast, we currently anticipate that if we do not raise the proceeds anticipated from this offering and do not otherwise adjust our operations accordingly or amend the DOE Loan Facility, we may not be compliant with the current ratio covenant for the quarterly period ending March 31, 2013. For the quarters ending September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2013, we currently anticipate that without taking advantage of additional revenue opportunities or making adjustments to our spending, we expect that we will need to seek an amendment from the DOE to modify the fixed charge coverage ratio covenant. Moreover, we currently anticipate that without raising capital in addition to this offering, we would need to seek an amendment from the DOE to modify the total liabilities to stockholder equity covenant for the quarter ending March 31, 2014 and the two subsequent quarters.

While Tesla will apparently become cash flow positive next month, the mainstream media has glossed over the fact that they are also in grave danger of being out of compliance with their DOE loans for as much as 18 months into the future. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good the Model S is. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.

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The Tesla Roadster “Bricking” Story Deconstructed Thu, 23 Feb 2012 17:47:05 +0000

I was originally hesitant to jump on the Tesla Roadster “bricked batteries” bandwagon, and my initial story was written with a sort of cautious neutrality. Further context will be provided by the details that have surfaced in the 24 hours since the story broke. Hope you’re ready to dive in to it all.

Original story here. A quick recap: Tesla Roadster owner Max Drucker contacted Tesla CEO Elon Musk regarding a dead battery in his car. Drucker’s car died after he left his Roadster parked, without leaving it plugged in for two months. The vehicle subsequently died. The car was towed to a Tesla service center and a technician determined that his battery would have to be replaced at a cost of $40,000. Drucker sent an angry letter to CEO Elon Musk admonishing him for poor customer service.

- The Tesla “bricking” story broke on the blog of Michael Degusta. Degusta and Drucker have a long history as business partners. This was not disclosed. I contacted Degusta, who said he would put me in touch with an owner who has had their car “bricked” (he did not say if it was Drucker or one of the other four affected owners) and refused to put me in touch with the Tesla service manager who claimed that, among other things, Tesla was tracking vehicles by GPS without the owner’s consent. I was reluctant to take those claims at face value – now they can’t be independently verified. On Degusta’s blog, he discusses an owner of Roadster #340, who parked his car in a temporary garage, sans charger, while his home is being renovated. This is consistent with Drucker’s emails to Tesla – but also consistent with Drucker at best not following the protocol outlined in various documents (obtained via Green Car Reports) and the Tesla Roadster’s manual, or at worst, being negligent. Drucker’s Roadster wouldn’t have the Tesla GSM connection that can alert Tesla to low battery charge conditions. Those were only installed after the first 500 Roadsters were produced. Degusta makes a big stink about the GPS tracking of the Roadsters, but is on record claiming that, and Degusta is unwilling to back that claim up beyond anecdotal evidence.

- A copy of the Tesla Roadster owner’s manual (covering the Tesla Roadster S and Roadster 2.5. Link is at the bottom of the page for you to peruse yourself), states in numerous places that owners are not to leave their vehicles uncharged for long periods of time, or to drain the battery down to zero. Doing so, the owners are told, will cause permanent damage to the battery, and such damage will not be covered under the Tesla Roadster’s warranty agreement. This is spelled out in numerous places in greater detail throughout the manual. Scans of these pages are available in the gallery below. In addition, there is an agreement which owners must sign at the time of purchase that has the owner acknowledge the responsibility of maintaining a proper battery charge, and that any damage that results from negligence in this area is not covered under warranty. Degusta’s complaints that the “Battery Reminder Card” handed out to owners during servicing don’t contain adequate warnings of the consequences are also misleading, as the consequences are spelled out in the aforementioned documents.

- The Tesla Roadster’s battery, unlike those in the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, is made up of 6831 “consumer commodity cells”, basically laptop or cellphone type cells that combine to make up the battery pack. These batteries use Cobalt Dioxide chemistry, which is the most energy dense, and prone to decaying with time as well as use. This is not the case in the Volt or Leaf, which use different chemistry. In addition, the “state of charge” used by the Tesla pack is different; when a Tesla range indicator displays “zero miles”, it could have 5 percent of the battery life left. If the car is then parked without charging, it may drain to zero, leaving the car “bricked”. A Volt, on the other hand, may actually have one half to one third of the battery pack’s life left upon displaying “zero miles”; it only uses 10.4 kW out of its 16kW battery. Exact figures for a Tesla battery weren’t available, but are said to be much higher.

-It’s theoretically possible to revive a “bricked” consumer cell via slow trickle charging, in the same way that a dead iPod or laptop can be brought back to life if left to charge for a very long time after months of not being used.

So, we know for sure that it’s possible for a Tesla to “brick”. Tesla has admitted it in a statement, but also seems to have provided ample warnings that it could happen and that it can easily be prevented. These measures, along with the structure of the warranty agreement, leads us to believe that a product liability lawsuit is highly unlikely (a former auto industry lawyer we spoke to agreed, though cautioned that California’s Lemon Laws were the most liberal of any of the 50 states).

Of course, Tesla could have replaced the battery pack in good faith (and maybe had Drucker and the others sign an NDA agreement that also absolves Tesla of any responsibility for the pack’s failure), but for some reason, they didn’t. In the gallery below, we have scans of the manual. You can read the manual for yourself here.

Tesla Owners Document. Photo courtesy Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail OwnersAgreementBatteryDocument Page6DataRecording Page7FailureToFollowVoidsWarranty Page8Glossary Page33BatteryTOC Page34ChargeInstructions Page35 Page36 Page37 Page78zerowarnings Page88Towing Page89Towing ]]> 110
Tesla And The Bricked Batteries: What’s Really Going On? Wed, 22 Feb 2012 21:49:48 +0000

Depleted batteries. Unauthorized GPS tracking. $40,000 service bills. Rejected warranty claims. These are just some of the talking points making the rounds of the internet regarding the alleged “bricking” of Tesla Roadsters.

The story began when Michael DeGusta, who operates The Understatement, a technology blog, reported that 5 Tesla Roadsters have “bricked” – in other words, rendered useless, after their batteries depleted completely. The repair (a brand new battery pack) costs $40,000, and if the battery isn’t replaced, the vehicle is totally immobile. The wheels won’t move, preventing the car from even being pushed.

DeGusta hasn’t named any of the owners, and refers to an unnamed Tesla service tech who relays anecdotes of tracking a dying vehicle GPS, and then dispatching Tesla staff to provide on-site assistance that would prevent “bricking”. DeGusta’s article alleges that Tesla repeatedly failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of allowing the battery to deplete fully, that they have been recalcitrant in  fixing the battery under warranty (due to some sly in the warranty itself) and that taking measures like GPS tracking, or using the Roadster’s internal GSM connection to warn owners of low battery levels is being done not in good faith but to protect Tesla’s brand (or, as the pre-web generation would say, reputation). While the “bricking” problem is apparently built in to the battery technology of the Roadster, Model S and Model X, certain EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, are immune from this problem.

DeGusta’s article can be read here – we reached out to him, asking him to put us in contact with anyone who has owned a (or owns) a “bricked” Tesla. So far, we’ve yet to receive a response, but an interview with the involved parties would go along way to shedding further light on the story. The “bricking” problem certainly makes for a great story, but Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra is essential whenever a story breaks online – it would be irresponsible of us to take this story completely at face value without further investigation. And progress has been slow on that front, as none of the parties have come forward, save for Tesla’s PR-tastic statement claiming that yes, “bricking” can happen.


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Capsule Review: 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5 S Sat, 11 Feb 2012 19:16:15 +0000

Back in August of 2010, I had the chance to drive a Tesla Roadster. Since the Model X debuted yesterday, I thought I’d re-visit the original Roadster. It was a lot of fun to drive. Here’s my original review. Thanks to Peter W J Miller for the photography.

Green cars are not supposed to be like this. They’re for hairshirt wearing, bike path populating hippies who are obsessed with how few miles their produce has traveled and whether their child’s Kindergarten is LEED Certified Gold for eco-friendliness. The Tesla Roadster, is not this. It has as much in common with other green vehicles as zero calorie cola does with an all-night cocaine binge.

With an electric motor making 288-hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque, the Roadster can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Sure, that’s not as fast as, say, a Porsche 911 Turbo or Corvette ZR1, but the quoted times for those cars are only valid under perfect conditions and with a brutal launch technique that you would never replicate. On the other hand, the Tesla’s single gear transmission makes repeated sprints a cinch and ensures anything short of a Bugatti Veyron will end up getting shanked.

The fun doesn’t stop when the road starts to curve either. With its Lotus Elise-derived chassis and Bilstein suspension setup, the Tesla feels just like the the Elise albeit with a 700lb weight penalty. Heavier, of course, being a relative term, since the Elise weighs just less than 2,000 lbs, while the Tesla, electric drivetrain and all, is about 2,700 lbs.

With a manual steering system and a MOMO steering wheel the size of a saucer, weaving the Tesla through the corners is a sublime experience, as you grip the wheel tight around the perfectly placed indents (at 9 and 3, with one on each side that let your thumbs point skyward, the way they should), you can slice through turns like a sportbike knowing that the massive torque will be available right away as soon as you’re pointing straight again.

Like all great sports cars, the Tesla is best driven under ideal conditions; glass smooth roads, sunny weather and little traffic. The weather held up, and the car performed admirably in stop-and-go situations, but if you live in an area with poor roads, driving the Tesla might be a bit of a chore. The same amazing suspension that makes cornering so joyous also means that the Roadster is very stiff on all but the best pavement. Fire your chiropractor if you drive a Tesla over railway tracks, potholes or manhole covers, because the rigor mortis-like rigidity and high spring rates will re-align your spine multiple times per second with a sickening thud every time you meet an imperfection in the road.

In city driving, the Tesla is quiet, comfortable and easy to maneuver. The single speed transmission and the progressive nature of the regenerative braking (as opposed to the abrupt deceleration of the MINI E) means that the brakes only need to be used to bring the car to a dead stop mere feet from a stop sign. Slow speed movements and U turns require some muscle thanks to the manual steering, but one easily adapts to this quirk. The biggest obstacle you’ll have to deal with is the mob of people who will stop you at inopportune times to ask about the car.

Unlike many exotic cars, the Tesla seems to inspire goodwill among pedestrians and other motorists. In a town where Bentley Continental GTs and Audi R8s hardly merit a second look, the Tesla will induce the sort of hysteria that is seldom seen outside of a Justin Beiber concert. In the course of three hours I had: three mobs of screaming school children chase me down (including one who shouted “Oh by God a Lotus”); two guys offer me a home theatre system just to sit in the car (I declined); one young gentleman run out of a Foot Locker and ask if I was a movie star (no, but I have a wonderful radio face); untold camera phone snaps and plenty of smiles and waves from cyclists (who are notoriously unfriendly to motorists.) Prepare to feel like you’re on TMZ when you drive this car.

As incredible as it is, the Tesla has its drawbacks beyond the stiff ride. The interior looks good from afar, but for a $100,000 car, it could use some work. Exposed bolts and wiring are present in certain spots, and not in the industrial minimalist style that’s popular in modern architecture. One could say that it’s typical Lotus low-rent charm, but buyers of the Tesla are likely unaware of the spotty build quality that plagues that marque, and it seemed a little insidious to cut corners like this, especially in spots where most people wouldn’t look. The few storage spaces in the cabin are easily accessible, but poorly thought out. During the (admittedly frequent) bouts of rapid acceleration, Blackberries and iPods went flying al over the cabin.

Space inside is tight as well; if you take someone on a date in a Tesla, you’ll be getting fresh just by applying the parking brake or move your upper body. The awkward, race-car like ingress and egress means that female drivers or passengers should avoid wearing a skirt or a dress,lest they aspire to carry on Paris Hilton’s legacy. The trunk might provide enough room for an overnight bag, but the car’s limited range means you’ll be lucky to even get away for dinner.

With an estimated range of 250 miles, the Tesla isn’t a long distance car, and your mileage may vary. Keep your foot pinned to the floor and the number goes down. If you coast along and allow the regenerative braking to kick in, you might see a boost in range. Either way, a nice long drive isn’t in the cards at this stage of electric vehicle technology. Charging takes as little as 4 hours if you use a 220 volt outlet (like your washing machine or stove uses) and a proprietary quick charger sold by Tesla. With a standard outlet like your toaster or hair dryer uses, you’ll be charging your Roadster overnight at a minimum just to replenish the batteries.

Getting into a normal car at the end of the test drive was a major letdown. The whirr of the electric motor, the shove in the backside and the lithe little roadster that seems to pivot around you is replaced by a grunting, belching, feedback-free driving experience. Compared to a traditional gasoline automobile, the Tesla Roadster seems more spacecraft than sports car. Opinions on the viability of electric vehicles are still sharply divided, but driving the Tesla Roadster provides irrefutable evidence that the electrification of the automobile won’t be harmful for those who still enjoy driving.

teslaroadsterthumb Tesla-Roadster-Sport-23 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-22 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-21 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-20 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-19 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-18 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-17 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-16 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-15 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-14 Tesla-Roadster-Sport-13 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5 S. Photo courtesy Peter W J Miller. ]]> 18
Tesla To Go Public; Kill The Roadster Sat, 30 Jan 2010 02:10:44 +0000

Here’s some gutsy news from one of the gutsier companies around. Tesla filed papers for an initial public offering (IPO) today, hoping to raise up to $100 million. In its Form S-1 registration statement with the SEC, the Silicon Valley start up said the stock would be issued “as soon as possible”. That part is not very surprising, coming on the heels of securing a $465 million loan from the DOE to help build the Model S. But deeper in the that filing comes a couple of juicier facts: Tesla has lost some $236 million so far, and plans to kill the Roadster, its only product on sale, in 2011.

Tesla has been selling the Roadster profitably in the past year, so why kill the EV? Because there’s no one to build it after next year. Apparently Lotus is shutting down production of the current generation Elise, on which the Roadster is heavily based. Them’s the the breaks when you outsource production of your car. According to a report in Autopia/Wired:

“We do not plan to sell our current generation Tesla Roadster after 2011 due to planned tooling changes at a supplier for the Tesla Roadster,” the company wrote in the filing.” The Roadster is built by Lotus, so presumably Tesla is talking about changes at the British automaker’s factory in Hethel, England, but we can’t confirm that because Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes declined to comment.

Tesla plans to replace the Roadster, but not “until at least one year after the launch of the Model S, which is not expected to be in production until 2012.”

That represent a major risk factor in Tesla’s income stream, or lack of it. If there are any hitches and delays in the start-up of the Model S, Tesla would face an extended dry spell without any income to speak of. From their filing:

“As a result, we anticipate that we may generate limited, if any, revenue from selling electric vehicles after 2011 until the launch of the planned model S…The launch of the Model S could be delayed for a number of reasons and any such delays may be significant and would extend the period in which we would generate limited, if any, revenues from sales of our electric vehicles.”

And speaking of the Roadster, the SEC filing contains an intriguing detail regarding its profitability: In the financial data summary Tesla says it had a profit margin of 8 percent — not anemic but not good. However, that entire margin seems dependent on zero-emission-vehicle credits, which will not be available by the time the Model S is commercially available.

Since the Roadster was arguably unprofitable even at a drive-away price of between $125,000 and $140,000, it would seem that some unspecified efficiencies would have to be part of the success story for a vehicle with an MSRP touted to be half that — $57,000 before the federal tax credit.

Elon Musk is a risk taker and likes to live on the edge. Tesla’s precarious state should keep things from letting life get dull for him, as well as us. The only remaining question is, do we file this under the Tesla Birth Watch, or revive the Tesla Death Watch?

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