Tesla Death Watch 30: "Violent Understeer"
The worm has turned. The unabashed adulation given the Tesla Roadster and its wide-eyed progenitors has turned into something altogether vitriolic. In other words, payback’s a bitch. Even before the first demo Tesla prototype hit the streets, TTAC called on the media to stop the love fest and wait and see if the company’s product lived-up to the hype (250 miles to a charge! Recharge in three hours! Ready by spring!) The “you can only ride with us but not drive or test” press teasers set off ALL our alarm bells. When Tesla spinmeister Daryl Siry withdrew his offer of a TTAC test drive, we knew the company was full of shit (to use the technical term). In fact, the Roadster STILL HASN’T BEEN FULLY INDEPENDENTLY TESTED FOR SAFETY, RANGE AND RECHARGE TIMES. But the unwinding process has begun. And this shot across Tesla’s bow, via Tony’s Climate Change Blog, could leave a mark.
“I was invited to California this week to test drive a Tesla electric roadster on a closed course. A short course was marked out with cones at a small general aviation airport, and drivers got to try the car out one at a time, each driver getting five runs… Unlike the ABS, the traction control is very obtrusive, and unfortunately the track layout made this shortcoming very obvious. It incorporated a long 180-degree bend during which the car would understeer violently. At least, the Tesla engineer blamed this behavior on the traction control, which in theory can be switched off though we were not allowed to do so for this test. I suspect there might be more to it than that. In any case, it defeats the object of traction control if you have to switch it off to make the car safe.
“Given its price ($109,000) and heritage (it is built by Lotus on a stretched Elise chassis) one would hope that it would be fun to drive, but from my short test I think a Honda Fit might be more enjoyable.” Tony backs off a bit– “Not that there is anything about the car which could not be fixed, especially if they could involve Lotus in developing out the flaws”– but the damage is done.
Steronz on Oct 27, 2008
TTAC - I understand the joy in jumping on bad news about Tesla, but this blog post is just as unsubstantiated as Tesla's own performance claims. It's clear that this Tony guy isn't a race car driver, and terms like "violent understeer" indicate that he has no idea what he's talking about. The car may very well understeer a lot, but I'm not about to trust this guy's word on it. Repeating his uneducated words doesn't really help TTAC's credibility.
Davejay on Oct 28, 2008“Tesla claim that the car has regenerative braking but it really doesn’t, at least not as normally understood. When you lift off, there is some engine braking effect, as the motor functions as a generator, but there is no attempt to capture energy from actual braking.” Arguably, this is a smart decision for the target audience. A person driving a Tesla isn't looking to eke out a few extra miles from a charge; they're looking for performance. When you leverage regenerative braking in the "apply-the-brakes-but-not-really-because-you're-just-kicking-in-the-generator" sort of way, you give up smooth, linear braking feel. In a performance car, that's not the right trade-off, but in a Prius that makes sense. On the other hand, when you lift off the gas, the generator doesn't have to kick in...but they kick it in. You can't really call it "regenerative coasting", though, so I'm not surprised they call it "regenerative braking." Think of it as regenerative braking that stops the moment you explicitly touch the pedal, under the assumption that you want braking feel/performance more than economy at that point...and coast down if you want economy (which is what you should do anyway.) In a way, I think that's even more interesting: they get the range they do without more aggressive regenerative braking! That means for a less performance-oriented model they have that as a range-enhancing option.
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