By on February 10, 2015

Tesla Model X

The oft-delayed Tesla Model X is currently set for a Q3 2015 launch, two years after it was originally supposed to enter showrooms. How did this happen?

Green Car Reports offers three reasons for the gull-winged crossover’s delay from its anonymous sources, the first being the bane of all electric vehicles, range. Tesla had hoped to pull 250 miles from the 85-kWh model by using side-view cameras in lieu of door mirrors. However, doing so would require some changes to safety standards, standards that are currently under-study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With nothing on the horizon, the automaker will have to find those miles elsewhere for now.

Another issue is the rear “falcon” doors. While keeping the elements out has been solved, side-impact protection and structural issues remain. With expectations of safety to be equal to the Model S, the doors would need strong interlocking beams to protect the rear passengers, at the expense of increased weight and possible consumption of precious interior space. In turn, the doors’ torsion springs have to better spread the weight through the narrow spine of the aluminum roof, lest warpage occur. The automaker may end up using more expensive titanium to get that it needs out of that part of the crossover.

Finally, the dual-motor powertrain has to be able to tow “a trailer with a couple of motorcycles or personal watercraft.” Doing so would require extensive cooling measures to ensure the electric motors can sustain the output needed to two for miles/hours on end, which means foregoing the glycol-coolant system in the Model S P85D for refrigerant to actively remove the heat.

While Tesla claims the Model X is “on track for a Q3 launch,” Green Car Reports‘ sources point to production beginning as late as 18 to 24 months from now, a timeframe that would overlap the low-cost Model 3’s projected production start.

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33 Comments on “Sources: Three Challenges Behind Tesla Model X Delay...”


  • avatar
    ydnas7

    or it could be that Tesla has over $200m in deposits and a need to maximize margin.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i have to ask, why not go with conventional mirrors and doors?

    why do stuff people dont want or need?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Exactly. Push forward with the cameras, but release a traditional product first. For the gull wing doors, I thought they were silly from the start (and I’m not convinced that they are even operable in most garages). It seems awfully late for design work–they ought to be at the manufacturability/execution phase by now.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You mean you don’t want to park carefully and miss the garage door rails, bike handlebars, and everything else leaned up against the wall?

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        IF you don’t have a garage that can fit this car you probably can’t afford it… Elitist I know but these things ain’t cheap. This car, with the doors open is probably still lower than a full size SUV anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          SunnyvaleCA

          “If you don’t have a garage that can fit this car you probably can’t afford it”

          I live in the Bay Area, the most popular place on earth for these types of electric cars (and now trucks). A mere $1.5M house in Palo Alto won’t even always have a garage. Or, if it does, it might more accurately be described as a carriage shed because the thing is 90 years old.

          A garage wouldn’t be useful anyway. Since the house probably only has 80 AMP non-grounded electrical service, you’ll be charging at the free employee charging while at work. Yes, here in the Bay Area our save-the-world employers are blissfully offering free charging at the highest possible electrical usage times, kicking in all the most polluting additional power generation. (Note this does have the benefit of people being able to commute twice as far to work, since they can charge at home and work!)

          Do those doors swing like on the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing? If they do, it’s a huge liability in a parking lot if someone happens to park next to you.

    • 0 avatar
      Steinweg

      Ya the doors; is that even appealing to anyone besides 6 year old boys? So you have to park it in a garage, because otherwise you’ll be chipping the snow and ice off the goddamn roof just to get in. But you can’t enter the back of the car while inside the garage because rails/ceiling. What’s wrong with normal doors? Coach doors even?

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Two reasons
      – Marketing. It’ll stand out and draw attention
      – Ease of entry. The door and even most of the roof are out of the way on entry and exit.

      The downside is safety and weight/rigidity. Having just a narrow bar for the top of the roof gives you next to no torsional rigidity without adding a ton of weight. Perhaps most of the chassis rigidity comes from the battery pack thickness so they can get away with it here. In a traditional car though, with one layer of floor, it’s a mess. Imagine twisting a paper towel tube, and then cutting off the top half and trying it again.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Speaking of – do they have a solution in a rollover accident for these doors? I know Mercedes puts explosive hinges on their SLS gullwing models.

        I wonder if they didn’t consider sliding suicide doors instead Peugeot 1007 style. Those have a cool buzz factor, are completely unique to the market, and are far less complicated.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    1. The mirrors story is BS; they wouldn’t make that much difference.

    2. Falcon doors. Some features aren’t worth the trouble. Even if I had such a car, I couldn’t park it in my garage because of these doors.

    3. Cooling. This isn’t rocket science :) so there must be something else going on. Battery heat might be a bigger problem.

    If they can’t ship an X this year, Tesla might be in serious trouble. And don’t worry, the 3 won’t appear until 2018 or so, so it won’t overlap with the X.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      You are so right. This is fishy as hell, starting with point 1.

      I’d like to see someone run a calculation on how many inches of driving range the mirror issue costs this vehicle. It’s gotta be in the dozens!

      Oh well, the interwebs never tire of vaporware…

    • 0 avatar
      celebrity208

      Not BS. Mirrors account for 3%-6% of total aero drag. Assuming rolling resistance is significant we can discount the mirror effect from 3-6% to 2-4%. If they’re looking to get 250mi in range then 4% off 250mi is 10 miles. Small for sure but in the EV range world every mile counts.
      10 miles > dozens of inches.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I see in the photo this is a 3-row vehicle. Really? How is there going to be any room for people back there in that tiny space, and with that roof line? And where will the luggage/groceries go back there?

    It looks like they shoved seven seats in something smaller and less practical than a CRV.

    And as far as I know, this will be the first-ever four door gullwing vehicle. I can’t imagine the wind noise at speed.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Tesla has delayed product before. I seems to me they do not take the easy path. Once they have resolved certain challenges, like motor cooling, what will they be able to do with those solutions? Pick up truck?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Tesla produces losses.

    R&D costs are fully expensed under US GAAP, so increasing R&D spending directly decreases profit or (in this case) increases losses.

    The delays are part of the effort to reduce the losses and manage cash flow. When money is tight, R&D reductions are normal in a business like this. But that doesn’t make them good.

    The question that you should be asking is: What is being spent to develop the next Model S? A real car company would have started working on a replacement model no sooner as the first one was launched. Assuming that Tesla intends to keep selling a Model S in the future, it should be spending money on it right now, yet you can bet that they aren’t.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      The Model S has no real competition and, with the exception of range, is widely regarded as one of the roomiest, best handling, safest, fastest accelerating vehicles in its price range. Best to put the R&D into the Model 3. Then, for the next S, they can use the new generation batteries, some reliability improvements, and new styling to go along with AWD and self-driving features.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Cars take years to develop. Tesla is already behind the curve.

        • 0 avatar
          carve

          I’m aware of that, but Tesla is a small niche company, and they dominate their niche. For the time being, they are better off spending their limited resources widening their product line and developing economies of scale.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re not getting it.

            Tesla doesn’t have enough money for R&D.

            Tesla delays product launches and invests too little in R&D because it doesn’t have a choice. Not enough money.

            This inadequate investment is not some kind of virtue or neato cool feature. The high cost of R&D is one of the main reasons why automakers are large and why they partner up in order to pool resources.

        • 0 avatar
          carve

          …and they’ve produced a superior product on their limited R&D. I agree it’d be great if they had the resources to work on the next Gen Model S and the Model 3 at the same time, but if they’re forced to choose one…which they are…the 3 is the better choice right now. The S was a great way to show their technical chops, work out problems with limited volume, and make a Tesla a status symbol. The 3 is how they’ll capitalize on that.

          Nevermind the fact that they continue to do yearly upgrades to the Model S

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re cheerleading for the company.

            I’m pointing out the business problem, which is a more useful exercise than is shilling for somebody else’s business.

            You can give Tesla high-fives all day long, but that doesn’t do anything to negate the points that I’ve made about the lack of funds and the implications for product development.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            I acknowledged it’s a problem (although smaller than you suggest, with the iterative upgrades the S gets regularly, long lead on the competition, and the dominance in their niche). Are you suggesting the better solution is to stop development work on everything else so the can focus the money on the next-gen S, or they should just close the factory now if they can’t swing R&D on 3 cars at a time?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You’re not getting it.

    Tesla doesn’t have enough money for R&D.

    Tesla delays product launches and invests too little in R&D because it doesn’t have a choice. Not enough money.

    This inadequate investment is not some kind of virtue or neato cool feature. The high cost of R&D is one of the main reasons why automakers are large and why they partner up in order to pool resources.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    Is the Model S profitable on a per unit basis? Or do they actually cost more to produce than they sell for? I thought the X used a lot of S DNA with mainly just a new body set on top of an existing drivetrain and battery. If they’re losing money with each sale then the Model X isn’t really delayed, they’re just managing expectations to keep their stock price from going in the tank. Is this a car company or just an expensive hobby? Deadlines always slip, a little. But a two-year delay, and now possibly four, is something else. They are either idiots or they are lying, pick one.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Tesla’s gullwing type doors are just another sign that people who live in the sunnier climes have as yet been unable to even imagine what living in a snow zone is like. If gullwing doors were any good for anything, we’d have had them as front doors on our houses hundreds of years ago. Google has the same kind of imagination problem, and is even admitting their autonomous crap doesn’t work in snow.

    Join those two companies together, and watch what happens when two clueless outfits combine to produce vehicles of ultimate uselessness. With built in WiFi and LTE. Ooh. And a cappuccino machine and energy drink bar.

    These days, frippery substitutes for solid design.

    It’s been a hundred years and nobody has even managed to come up with a decent windshield wiper. Now there’s something worth striving for. Today’s approach would be to design an app to join the millions of useless ones already available, so let’s make windshield wipers electronic at once. And as a bonus, maybe the solution would keep the myriad sensors of an autonomous car clean as well. At the moment, a rear view camera around these parts is an utter joke!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      A good point. The doors look so cool that if they were useful and practical, they’d be on normal cars by now. The S-Class would certainly have them.

      Instead, every car that’s had them has either been a complete failure or a halo super car (I count the SL gullwing as a halo.)

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