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.

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.

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.

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.

Tesla Model S Sedan delayed for six months

Tesla Motors has announced that it will be using the $40 million of in convertible debt financing it just recieved to “accelerate production” of its current roadster model.   It has shipped 50 so far, but still has a back log of 1,200 orders.

Tesla Motors still plans to build their headquarters and a plant in San Jose to build their Type S sedan.  The release of the at sedan has been delayed six months.  This pushes the release out to 2011.  

The Type S is being billed as luxury sedan.  For $60,000, it better be really nice.

The Chevy Volt is still scheduled for a 2010 release with a more modest $30,000 price tag.

Even with gas prices dropping, I still see a market for electric and plug in hybrid cars.  The memory of $4 a galleon gas will still be there and there is the “cool” factor.

Taking a quick look at the Volt

Chevy is looking at an electric sedan that uses a gasoline motor to charge the car’s battery.

This is very different than existing hybrids and all electric cars like the Tesla roadster.

Current hybrids have two complete drivetrains, electric and gas powered.  The electric motor is only good for low speeds and has to be supplimented by the gas engine to drive at highway speeds.

The Volt has a single drivetrain.  The electric motor is the only one connected to it.  The gas engine is only used to charge the battery. The battery in the Volt is also smaller than that of the Tesla Roadster.  The Tesla range is limited by the ability to charge it.  Tesla claims a 200+ mile range, but it has to be plugged in to recharge.

The battery in the Volt is only designed for a 40 mile range.  After that, the gas engine is used to recharge the battery, even on the go.  Chevy claims that on a full tank (6-7 galleons of gas), the Volt has a 400 mile range.  Even at $4.00 a galleon, seven galleons will cost $28.   I’ve seen gas at $3.50 a galleon, so that cost drops to $24.5.  That’s a cost of $0.06 to $0.07 a mile.  Compare this to a four banger getting 30 miles to the galleon highway.  13.3 galleons to go 400 miles.  At $4 a galleon, that’s $53.20 in gas or $0.13 a mile.

Now the Volt won’t have the performance of a Tesla Roadster, but it won’t have its $100,000 price tag either. Chevy is looking at a  price between $30 to $40 thousand.   The Volt will be able to venture beyond it’s power cord was well, much like current hybrids.

It will be at least another year before the Volt hits the street.  So there probably will be some changes from the current planned release.

Tesla Tech

The MIT Technology Review has a look under the hood of the electric Tesla Roadster.

Some the interesting things found there include the alternating-current induction motor and the lithium-ion battery cells.

The motor is of the type advocated in the late 19th century by Nikola Tesla, and has several mechanical advantages over a DC motor.  The lithium-ion battery cells give more power for the volume than  nickel-metal hydride batteries.  The nickel-metal hydrides are what are typically used in gas-electric hybrids, such as the Pious.

Unlike the gas-electric hybrids, the Tesla roadster can go from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, without putting a dime the pocket of Middle Eastern oil tyrants or Central American Socialists.