Tesla Wants To Build A Leaf Competitor
May 28th, 2013 2:34 PM Share
Elon Musk is turning his sights towards the Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Motors founder says his ultimate goal is for a sub-$40,000 car that’s better than Nissan’s EV, and he’s hoping to make that happen within 4 years.
The Detroit News quotes Musk during a Bloomberg interview
“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people,” he said. “And you have the Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car. I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”
The long-rumored mainstream Tesla product is being targeted for a 200-mile range.
Published May 28th, 2013 2:34 PM
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Nissan does have a bit of a head start on the "mass market" compact electric car. In four years time they most likely will have a newer model out that will be better, even substantially better. Elon Musk has an uncanny ability to produce results though.
I don't think making a Leaf with a 200-mile range is going to be any big breakthrough - the problem with EVs is not range, it's charge time. As long as EVs are city cars - commuter cars, whatever you call them, people will just bring them home and plug them in every day - the 3400-lb., 80-mile Leaf range, with an 8-hour charge time at 230V/40A is just fine with them. Having a 3650-lb. Leaf with a 200-mile range and a 20-hour charge time at 230V/40A is not going to move the car to a different use category - it's not going to make it more than a city car. I suspect that even giving it fast-charge capability so it has 200-mile range with a 2-hour charge time would not, either. As long as your automotive use profile has you only charging at night, at home, the car's refueling characteristics are an advantage over ICE cars. As soon as your use profile starts to include charging away from home, while-u-wait, the refueling characteristics become a very, very large liability compared to ICE cars. The only reason the Tesla S is somewhat a success as a road car due to the Supercharger network (in that tiny part of the country the network exists) is that there are few enough of the cars out there that they can show up at the Supercharger, counting on spending 1.5 - 2 hours charging, and are able to hook up right away and go grab a bite - so it matches their expectations. As soon as they show up and find all the charger bays taken, so that now they're looking at spending an extra hour or two, that all goes out the window. I think the future growth of EVs, barring any moonshot breakthrough, is in producing the best 100-mile-range city/commuter/second car you can make. Keep it VW Golf-sized, get the weight and size of the powertrain as small as you can (compared with an EV powertrain that now weighs 1.5-2 times as much as in an ICE car) congruent with that 100-mile range, and you're golden.
The high-power-charging network (I don't like the term "Supercharger" but if Tesla wants me to use it badly enough I will) will continue to expand, especially if they keep selling progressively more cars.
Many have commented on the cost of repairing/replacing the battery. I don't know about the service record of Lithium-ion batteries such as the Leaf uses. But in the case of the Prius and Escape Hybrid the NiMH batteries are lasting over 8 years without repair, and are retaining something like 85% of original capacity after 300,000 miles.* (Many are used for taxis in North America.) So basically the battery is good for the life of the car. So few batteries are needing replacement that they are available from wrecks for about $1000. And has been said, individual cells can be replaced. Basically, it's a myth/non-issue. Electrics will also benefit financially from low to minimal upkeep costs for the drivetrain and brakes. As for purchase price, some will pay lots more than "makes sense" because they believe in the external benefits of electric cars, just as many others pay thousands extra for cars that meet their need to speed up suddenly, or have the latest gizmos, or are BIG, etc. *How is this done? Most of us have experience with household rechargable batteries lasting only a limited time. Batteries used in cars are treated with kid gloves, being heated and cooled to stay in their most preferred temperature range, and never going below something like a 40% discharge level or above a 65% charge level. This is the reason behind their extraordinary longevity.