Did Tesla screw the pooch?

As my loyal readers know, I’ve been a fan of the Tesla electric cars, both the Roadster and the Type S Sedan.

It does appear that they do appear to have a serious design flaw.

If you let the bloody things sit too long the battery will completely discharge and can’t be recharged!

If it hits that state, it’s a very expensive brick.  Has to be carted back to the factory and have the batteries replaced.

Cost estimates for that procedure range from $30,000 t $40,000.

It is flaws like this that are blocking widespread acceptance.

Oh, and that high end luxury car price tag.  You won’t see a lot of electric vehicles until they are price comparable with a used mini-van.  That is what it’s going to take to have soccer moms drive them.

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Yet another electric car.

The Aptera looks like it just rolled off a SciFi movie.  It’s three wheeled and streamlined to squeeze every last mile out its 13-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. A hundred mile range is what they are guaranteeing, and that is with two adults and the AC running.  Even though it has front wheel drive, I wouldn’t want to drive this compact trike in any sort of snow or ice.  I’m probably not the first person to think this, because the initial roll out will in California, followed by Florida and Texas.   The list on this will probably run no less than $30-35K and probably be over $40K.

If it starts flirting with $45K, it will be close to the low end prices of the Tesla Type S, which is an electric luxury sedan. The Aptera is a compact with a big trunk.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Motors has announced their Model S sedan. This is a four door vehicle with a price tag less than half of their electric Roadster. Availability is targeted for late 2011 and has several improvements over the Roadster besides the reduced price tag and two additional doors.

It has seats for five adults, a hatchback and additional trunk space under the hood.  The range depends on the battery pack installed. They come in  in 160-mile, 230-mile or 300-mile range models.  Using a standard 110-volt wall socket, expect recharge times in the four hour range, which all things considered isn’t too bad.  You can hook your charging outlet up to a timer and recharge during non-peak hours in the middle of the night.

Like it’s older Roadster brother, the Model S is capable of decent performance. Zero to Sixty in six seconds.   The first models will be rear wheel drive, with four wheel drive coming in later models.

If this isn’t geeky enough for you, toss in a 17″ touchscreen and 3G wireless.  Yes, you will be able to stream Pandora while crusing around in your performance electric sedan.  If Tesla tosses in a WiFi hotspot option, you can chat on Skype as well.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford has had a hybrid SUV, but it never has done very well sales wise for a variety of reasons.

They are trying again, but this time they seem to have done a bit better.  Their hybrid version of their popular Fusion seden has been tested against other hybrids twice and so far has come out on top.  

US Today and Car and Driver magazine both gave it top marks against domestic & foreign hybrids, including the Pirus.

US Today got to where the rubber meets the road, “OK, let’s just get it out there: The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid is the best gasoline-electric hybrid yet. What makes it best is a top-drawer blend of an already very good midsize sedan with the industry’s smoothest, best-integrated gas-electric power system. It’s so well-done that you have to look to the $107,000Lexus LS 600h hybrid to come close.”  Bottom line, it just drives better than the Pirus.  Car and Driver says it’s “fun to drive.”

Kudos to Ford!

Telsa Motors expands its business

Telsa Motors has signed a contract with Daimler to supply the electric power train for Daimler’s Smart mini-car.

A good move for Telsa, since it opens up another revnue stream.

Toyota picks up another segment of the battery market.

Jeff Soyer, who sells Toyota cars BTW, points out that Toyota owns a 60% stake in Panasonic’s battery division.  A smart move, since it is that Panasonic division that makes the batteries that Toyota uses in its hybrid electric cars. 

Now Toyota is about to aquire Sanyo.  Sanyo is the other major producer of batteries used in hybrid electric cars.

I wonder where Chevy is planning on getting the batteries for their Volt hybrid electric car from?

Update: Chevy announced that LG Chem will provide the lithium-ion cells for the battery packs in the Volt.   GM has also signed a deal with the University of Michigan to open the largest battery lab in the country.  Battery tech, and the cost of electricity, are the gating factors in widespread hybrid/electric vehicle acceptance.

Lithium-Battery tech improving

One of the big advantages of Lithium Batteries over nickel metal hydride is that there is more room for improvement with the Lithium models. 

A team in South Korea has “developed a nanoporous silicon electrode that could at least double the charge capacity of a lithium battery–essentially doubling the range of an electric vehicle. And unlike previously reported silicon anodes, the one created by Cho’s team can charge and discharge rapidly.”

The charging part is important.  Current plug in cars have eight hour plus charge times when plugged into standard current.