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.

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.

New Android Phones

The makers of the G1 announce that they are working on three new Android based phones.

Details only on one.  About the same size as the G1, but no physical keyboard.

I’m interested to see how Google responds to the latest iPhone firmware announcement.

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!

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.

Tesla and the bailout

A “technology writer” at the NY Times attacks Tesla Motors, taking more from their editorial page than the tech pages should, at least IMNSHO.

Jason Calacanis disagrees also and has written a rebuttal article.

He makes a few strong points:

Yes Randy, the first version of technology tends to be expensive.
Personal computers used to cost $5,000, flat-panel TVs were $10,000
and–gasp–the first decade’s worth of solar panels were not worth the
price. You’re a *technology* journalist at the New York Times. You
understand all too well that expensive technology becomes commodity
technology within 10 to 20 years of its inception.

Personal computers now start at $200. Of course the first version of
an all-electric sports car is going to be expensive.

What’s the problem here exactly? You’re saying that America could have
a brand new startup car company that produces an affordable car that
goes an absurd range just 10 years from now? The cost is a $400
million dollar loan? You’re problem with this is what?

Read the whole thing.  Jason makes a strong case against a weakly written article.  A fairly obviously politically biased article too boot.   Randall Stross is yet another example of why the NY Times star (and stock) is falling so far, so fast.  My advice, forget Stross. Get Boston Globe tech reporter Hiawatha Bray out there to test drive the Tesla Roadster.  You’ll get an honest tech review instead of politically motivated hit piece.