Tesla at Turning Point

Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors

The company said in its quarterly earnings announcement that it has achieved a “fundamental turning point” as it transitions itself from a small volume maker of niche electric cars to a company with mass production capacity, able to build and sell 20,000 or more vehicles each year.

This is very optimistic and it remains as a company production target of the company. This is a great jump, as it would be two orders larger than the whole third quarter production of the company. In that same period, the company was able to build just 350 Model S and sell just 250 as well as sell 68 of its Roadsters. All these resulted in gross revenues totaling U.S.$50 million.

The numbers remain small with the production compacted in the last two weeks of the quarter. Tesla in its defense says it is able to build 200 cars per week and at that rate, it would be able to build 10,000 cars in a year. This is the number to make the company cash flow positive and it assumes it sells all those sedans at the projected price of U.S.$57,400. The current price of the Model S is pegged at U.S.$95,400.

The company has spent a great deal of last year upgrading its main factory located in Fremont, California. The former Toyota plant’s retooling is a slow and arduous process and is funded in part by a U.S.$465 million loan from the US Department of Energy and another U.S.$222 million on its follow on offering after the company initially went public.  Another major issue is the multiple suits it is facing claiming that its manufacturer owned showrooms are violative of current U.S. law.

These suits were filed by the auto dealers of America and their respective state associations. Tesla is currently selling its electric cars online and not through franchised independent business dealers. Once bought, the factory delivers the cars directly to the buyer.

In undertaking this practice, two deigned aspects of car purchases are removed, mainly haggling and the buying. The Tesla Stores are educational showrooms where no cars are sold. The dealer groups do not believe this and have lobbied to change state laws as well as prevent the company from opening its stores. The Tesla Stores are viewed as dire threats and the movement has grown to suits filed in four different states.

A different view is being taken by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He wrote on the Tesla website, “In many respects, it would be easier to pursue the traditional franchise dealership model.” This he said would save the company money and thus broaden its distribution coverage. There is a fundamental problem though, he observed, as the dealers would explain the advantages of battery electric cars while relying on conventional vehicles for their profits and sales.

The purpose of the Tesla stores is to let the public learn about the Model S from product specialists no on commission and learn about electric cars in general. The Model S is very different from any other vehicle that it requires a great amount of education before considering a purchase.  Musk added, “Their goal and the sole metric of their success is to have you enjoy the experience of visiting so much that you look forward to returning again. “

As for laws, Musk adds, “We do not seek to change those rules and we have taken great care not to act in a manner contrary to those rules. “ He views the lawsuits filed as ‘starkly contrary to the spirit and the letter of the law.” One case was filed by a Fisker dealer while the other suit is “an auto group that has repeatedly demanded that it be granted a Tesla franchise.”

The Secret is in Supercapacitors

CONCEPTelectricCAR
CONCEPTelectricCAR

When Elon Musk, the creator of Tesla, came to the United States, he was doing research on advanced and highly energy dense materials called supercapacitors at Stanford. He reiterated his interest in these components, “If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that is not batteries, but super-capacitors.” He made these remarks as he spoke at the Cleantech Forum inSan Francisco when asked about the future of electric vehicles.

Supercapacitors perform a similar function as batteries, where they both are able to retain and store energy. In electric vehicles though, supercapacitors are able to efficiently store large amounts of energy that occurs during regenerative braking. When the need for acceleration comes, these supercapacitors would be able to supply the required energy burst at a much faster rate compared to ordinary batteries with a lower system energy loss.

The most common design is called the electric double-layer capacitor, where the electrochemical capacitor with very large energy density. The energy density of a supercapacitor is a hundred times greater than ordinary battery systems. Typically, a battery has a capacitance of tens of millifarads, while a supercapacitor of the same size has the capacity to store several farads.

Unfortunately, hybrid vehicles on the roads today use batteries because supercapacitors still are unable to store the energy storage per pound. For supercapacitors to provide the same amount of energy as batteries for electric cars, as there is a need for a large amount of surface area. This issue though can be resolved through the use of nanotechnology that increases the available surface area in large amounts. This can be designed in a way were conductive surfaces store electrons for rapid use, dispensing with the need to create large expensive thermal management systems to properly control the chemical reactions in the production of energy.

There are two aspects of current research that is being subject of focus and intensity. These include performance improvement together with overall cost. Back in 2000 a 3 kF capacitor would cost around U.S. $5,000 but in 2011, the same supercapacitor now merely costs U.S. $50. Other considerations being sought improved include the high self-discharge rate of supercapacitors and low maximum voltage, thus requiring series connections to achieve higher voltages.

The technology race is still ongoing and we are all in for the ride.

First Model S Delivered

Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors

According to the company’s press releases, the first Model S will be delivered by June 22. The very first Model S off the assembly line though has been delivered already.

The license plate reads TSLA S1 and was delivered to Tesla Board Member Steve Jurvetson. Jurvetson is a venture capitalist that made sure he would get the very first one during the company’s board meeting back in 2010. The regular deliveries are said to commence in a couple of weeks for those who have reserved their vehicles since the company unveiled its plans for the Model S. Tesla CEO is said to be having the TSLA 02, after Jurvetson whipped out his checkbook to pay for the full price at U.S. $87,900 before the CEO was able to do so.

The first batch of deliveries are said to be of the Model S Signature Series, which provides the best performance of the model. It can run from 0 to 60 in just 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 130 miles per hour and a range capacity would be 320 miles. Jurvetson’s Model S is in red.

The Model S SignatureSeries is limited to just 1000 units has two models. The base model is priced at U.S. $87,900 while the performance model costs U.S. $97,900, both coming after the federal tax break of U.S. $7,500. The Model S has an 85 kilowatt hour battery array, allowing for a range of 320 miles at a constant 55 miles per hour speed. It has a QuickCharge system requiring just 45 minutes to fully charge the vehicle with the correct connection. The battery array can also be swapped with accredited battery companies, making for simpler battery recharging activity. The battery options are 40, 60 and 85 kWh, providing for 160, 230 and 300 miles.

Other high end features include an all glass panoramic roof, making the vehicle a convertible car without having the wind blowing in your hair. It is a four door sedan with a sloping roofline providing for a four door coupe look, similar to the Jaguar XF. The wheels come in either 19 or 21 inches sitting in four corners of the vehicle. There is also a 17 inch touch screen on the dashboard, with screen controls for the radio, navigation, HVAC, with options for customization. The package for the vehicle also comes with 3G wireless internet and high definition satellite radio. There is also a back up camera, HID headlamps and a 580 watt audio system.

The interiors are made from chrome-free vegetable tanned Italian leather and 100 percent recycled PET carpeting. It also has ample room for five adults, with an optional rear-facing seats for two small children located in the cargo area. The full car comes in at 3,825 lbs curb weight with a single speed transmission. The braking system is made from the six piston Brembos with up front and four pot calipers at the back. The full braking distance from 60 mph is 135 feet, with an option for all wheel drive in the future.

Tesla Keeps Maverick Role in Electric Car Revolution

ev-plug
ev-plug

Tesla has been known as a non-conformist in its activities in the electric car market. First was its Roadster, a high end all electric car now, it is on the final stages of its sedan, the Model S. It has now decided to keep its own charging system unique away from the standards now being made in the car revolution.

Elon Musk, the CEO of the company, recently unveiled its new combination plug and wall mounted charging unit. The charging plug is of its own designed and took the opportunity to call the J1772 standard plug for other electric vehicles as “absolutely terrible, extremely ugly and low power.”

The J1772 standard plug was designed by SAE International, a consortium of scientists and engineers whose plug design has been deemed standard by other electric car manufacturers. He added, “It looks like it was designed by committee and things designed by committee are not really great.”

With the move, Tesla is hedging its bets. While it declined to provide any price details, the company assured that the charging station would not be super-expensive. The company also has plans to create an adaptor available to connect the Model S to public charging stations that adhere to the J1772 standard. The SAE J1772 standard is an electrical connector protocol that has been generally accepted by many carmakers. The intent for a standardized protocol is to have a common electric vehicle conductive charging system architecture for the differing car designs available in the market.

The Tesla unit is a two toned in a lightweight design that is smaller than the J1772 prototype. The Tesla charger comes in red and may be in colors that match the color of the electric car. The wall-mounted charger can provide 240 volts to the car at up to 80 amperes. The plug has a thin cable that can manage fast charging at 480 volts but there is an option to plug the unit to any 240-volt regular outlet.

According to Musk, the unit is able to provide the charging needs of the Model S. The car is promised to provide 300 miles of range on a single charge. When hooked up to the charger, the battery would be fully charged overnight. For purchasers, the Model S would have would have a standardized 10-kilowatt charger on board the car with an option for a 20 kilowatt unit.

The output may prove to be quite a demand for the electrical supply system of a house. Another issue is its compliance with the standards set forth for onboard chargers with Underwriters Laboratory. This is a non-profit safety and testing organization whose standards have been met by Tesla, according to JB Straubel, Chief Technical Officer for the car company.

Another product offered by Tesla is a direct current fast charger unit able to provide 480 volts, called the Supercharger. Musk announced that the first Supercharger would be installed along Interstate 5 at the Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California in the next few months. The unit is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Supercharger would be able to charge the battery pack of a Model S from 10 percent to 90 percent within 45 minutes. The focus of the company though remains on charging to 50 percent state of charge in half an hour of charging or 150 miles of driving range in half an hour charging for a 300-mile range car.

The Innovator of Electric Cars

Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors

One of the most groundbreaking vehicles on the road today comes from Tesla Motors. Taking their name from Nikola Tesla, this car-manufacturing firm created the first commercially viable production electric car.

The man moving Tesla Motors into the electric car revolution, is Elon Musk. He is the co-founder and head of product design for the company. His best contribution to date is inarguably the Tesla Roadster. To make this cutting edge technology, this visionary’s history contributed to realizing his vision of changing the world.

Born in the United States of South African and Canadian parents, he bought his first computer at age of 10, that he taught himself to program. At 12, he sold his first commercial software, a game called blaster for $500. After completing his early studies in Pretoria, South Africa, he went to the United States to avoid mandatory military service. He justified his move by saying, “I don’t have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African Army suppressing black people just didn’t seem like a really good way to spend time.”

Musk said that he chose the United States because “it is where great things are possible.” He first went to Canada, to his mother’s hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan, when he landed a scholarship to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. He obtained his first undergraduate degree in business and the next year his physics degree. He then went to Stanford for the graduate program in applied physics and materials science but dropped out after two days.

His first foray into commercial success was the creation of Zip2, an online content publishing software for news organizations. He created this business with his brother Kimbal Musk, where it was later purchased for U.S.$307 million in cash and U.S.$34 million in stock options to Compaq’s AltaVista. The proceeds from this sale were used to create X.com, the first online financial services and e-mail payment company, this later expanded to Paypal.com. The company was later brought by eBay for U.S.$1.5 billion on stock.

Despite his success, he still had in his mind the creation of a commercially viable electric car. His main reason he went to Stanford was to create ultracapacitors that would be able to energy to power an electric car. He was initially diverted into other business interests but he kept coming back to Tesla Motors. During the 2008 financial crisis, he provided the funding to keep the company afloat.

The gem in the Tesla Motors showroom is still the Tesla Roadster. His company has been able to deliver 1800 vehicles to over 30 countries. It is now deep in development for its first four door Model S Sedan and has recently unveiled its plans to produce the Model X, specifically for the SUV/Minivan market.

Aside from creating its own vehicle line, Tesla Motors has existing partnerships to create electric power train systems for Daimler for its Smart EV and Mercedes A Class line. Also in its fold is Toyota, where Tesla would create power trains for the first fully electric RAV 4.

Musk’s work on electric cars has been compared to Henry Ford in the early automobile era. The advances spearheaded by Musk on electric power trains has become the market standard and his high end Roadster is still considered the top of the line electric vehicle in its class. He is now in the midst of making the electric vehicle affordable to the common person. Elon Musk is a true electric car innovator, probably the best of his generation.