Have you ever wondered if Henry Ford knew that he was making history and reinventing the manufacturing industry when the first Model T rolled off his Assembly line in 1908? I never met the man and have only read the Coles Notes on his life but I don’t think that he ever realized the importance of his idea. I believe that if you told Henry that in 100 years time that 98% of every mass produced product would be manufactured using his revolutionary idea he would have just laughed.
I’m not sure that the same can be said for Tesla as they are not so quietly changing the way the car buying public looks at the Automobile and if they have their way in 100 years 98% of us will all be driving electric vehicles. Ever since Tesla was incorporated in 2003 by co-founder Elon Musk, the company has been on track to be the first to successfully mass produce an electric vehicle for sale worldwide. For our loyal readers you would have already read that GM would have been the first to produce such a car with the EV1. You would then also know of the cars mysterious mass genocide in 2002.
Some automotive journalists think that Tesla’s goal was achieved back in June of 2008 when the company opened its retail showroom in LA. A feat which has been replicated 16 other times in Cities across the globe. Tesla is also leveraging the power of the internet and is selling the Tesla Roadster online through their website, they are also taking pre-order this way for their upcoming models.
I however and not one of those Journalists, in my mind Tesla is only half way to their goal. The one major stumbling block that I constantly am tripping over when I walk up on stage to present them with their achievement award is that the company has not yet had one profitable year. Don’t get me wrong the company is not looking to file chapter 11 bankruptcy or anything like this as they are masters of securing capital especially in the form of Government loans. In fact in 2009 alone the company was approved for $465 million in interest-bearing loans from the US Department of Energy. More recently Tesla and Toyota formed a strategic partnership which saw Toyota purchase $50 million in Tesla common stock. The Company also generated a lot of cash flow when it went public a year ago, trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol TSLA, the IPO raised $226 million.
All of this capital has not been wasted; today there are more than 1,500 Tesla Roasters on the road in over 30 countries. Tesla is saying that collectively they have driven more than 16 million kilometer or 10 million miles, however I’m not sure how this information was collected or calculated. Could Tesla also have found a bug in their software that has the cars leaving a bread crumb trail as they drove from town to town? (Sorry Apply you know I still love you) I’m sure not but the math does make sense so I won’t be challenging the claim. It works out to be roughly 10,500 kilometers or 6700 miles a car which would put each car having charged it’s battery at least 27 times during its time on the road. This could be possible and who knows how many hour of testing they have under their belt during the roadsters development.
It seems to me that this technology is pretty sound and is producing positive numbers, which in turn is creating a wave of positive energy that is being lapped up but Tesla. In fact I have only come across one resounding negative review of the Roadster and that came from three blokes who have a little TV show in England. You may have heard of, it’s called “Top Gear”. This negative review has been shrouded in mystery because when the Tesla Engineers got the two roadsters back from Top Gear they plugged them into the their computers and the readouts were indicating a different story then the one present by Jeremy Clarkson. The controversy came to head when Tesla Sued the BBC Television Program for libel and malicious falsehood. To learn more on the law suit click the link here. The matter is still in court and once settled we will let you know about it here at Car Rolodex.
Could the legal suit be yet another stream of revenue coming into the company? We’re not sure however it wouldn’t surprise us as this company has had to over its 8 year history get that creative with its cash flow at times. No matter what happens; win, loose, or settle the company needs to turn a profit selling what it is manufacturing and that is pure electric cars. Tesla needs to sell a larger volume of cars and the two seat 245 mile/ 394 kilometer range topping Roadster with the removable roof panel will never get the volume sales numbers to balance the books.
This concept is not new news over at Tesla as back in March of 2009 they unveiled in the Tesla Model S. The Model S is the companies’ next step to becoming a profitable sustainable car company. In my mind it will begin to solidify the company as being legitimate and will raise its profile from a one of niche brand to a true car company. No longer will Tesla be considered in the same realm of Kit Car manufactures or Aftermarket Tuner Shops who are creating low volume or one off cars.
If that was your perception of Tesla before that will all change when you see the Tesla Model S Design Prototype that is currently touring select North America Cities now. I had a chance to go see it on Saturday June 11, which conveniently was the first day of the Toronto Show. If you are in the downtown core or if you are interested in Cutting edge technology, I would highly recommend spending 30 minutes seeing the car and talking with the Tesla staff, it will be time well spent and you will not be disappointed. Much like Henry Fords Model T production line this is history in the making.
The car is simply stunning from all angles and looks like the love child of an Aston Martin DB9 and Jaguar XJ. When you look at it from the rear ¾ view I can see some of the new Audi A7 mixed in to the rear and the hatch back opening redefines the definition of cavernous. I didn’t get the specs on how many cubic feet the trunk is but it would rival the majority of SVU’s on the road and dwarfs all other luxury sedans. Then there is the extra cargo volume that can be created when you fold the rear seats down. It was so big that I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get a standard 4×6 sheet of dry wall back there. The Tesla representative even showed me that in the rear hatch there is so much space they have developed optional rear-facing child seats that would then allow for 7 people to ride in the Model S at one time. Wow, it is an impressive engineering feat.
How is this possible you ask? Thank fully I did ask and the Tesla reps explained that because the power train packaging is contained completely within the rear axle and the batteries run the length of the car and are mounded right under the floor. The result was to re-think and improve the areas of the car that were traditionally used by a combustion engine and transmission. Just think about how much space is used in your current car for such items as the engine it’s cooling systems the transmission tunnel linking the engine to the transmission which is sitting between the rear wheels, then there is the fuel tank that sits somewhere under the trunk or rear seats. All of these areas of the car were put on the drawing boards to be re-designed to and in the Model S they have been used for passenger comfort and storage solutions for their stuff. The Tesla engineers have even tweaked the area under the hood which sees itself becoming a second Porsche like trunk. The entire package is really is quite impressive and can truly be appreciated when seen in person. Without a doubt it gives the Model S a leg up on all of the current luxury sedans for sale today.
The fronts seat of the Tesla Model S Design Prototype are also an extremely enjoyable place to live as the driver is greeted with a huge 17-inch touch screen as the center control stack. Forget the classic looking Volvo waterfall center stack. In the Model S the touch screen controls everything from driving modes, climate control, radio and navigation, and has a full suite of voice and data options to leverage its 3G connection. The 3G connection also allows smart phone users to monitor charging status and control the car electronics right from a Tesla App, very geeky and very cool. Look out Audi, Tesla is pushing the envelope in the tech arena and unintentionally have produced the world most expensive tablet ever made.
I know what you’re thinking; it is one thing to have style, interior comfort, storage space, and technology coming out the wazoo. However if the Model S accelerates like a 3 cylinder Geo Metro you can keep it because even if it will save the planet no one will buy one because we have places to go and sometimes we are late. Do not fear the Model S is the full package, to quote the brochure “the single-speed gear box generates instant torque to propel the car from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds”.
Wow right, we can save the planet and still take advantage of the cars amazing flat torque curve. In laymen terms how would it feel to bury accelerator into the floor? Hhhmmm how can I explain it? Okay, you know when you are in a turbo car and you put your foot down and there is that couple of seconds where the turbo has to build up pressure and when it does, whoosh your off like a bat out of hell. Well in the Model S you have that bat out of hell experience every single time you put your foot down. There is no delay, and there is now down shifting. The car is always in the sweet spot of the engines power band and is always ready to go, and go fast I might add. I was told that this car can do the jog to 100 km or 62 mph in 5.6 seconds flat. That is astonishing for a large 4 door saloon with its floor lined with heavy Panasonic Lithium Ion batteries. The location of the batteries is suppose to help with the handling of the car however we will have to take the Model S out for a test drive to see if the suspension can resist the push and pull of the weighty battery pack.
The driving range of the Model S will also be paramount to its success, as what good is a car that you have to be constantly charging especially once you’ve been able to load it up with everything you own. Tesla has addressed this issue by offering 3 different battery range options 260 km (160 miles), 370km (230 miles) and 480km (300 miles) on a single charge. All three battery range cells are sealed units and can be charged by simply plugging into any standard 110v outlet. You would also be able to plug into a 220v outlet which will decrease charging times. The total time that the Model S will take to charge will vary, depending on the connection type and battery capacity/range of the model. Exact times will be presented when the car is released later on this year. The battery range will be an important option that will also determine the price of the vehicle. I do know that the base price will start at $57,000 Canadian. The Model S will also qualify for all of the government incentives offered North and South of the 49th parallel, In Ontario you can expect to take $8,500 of that asking price.
There is no question that the Tesla Model S Design Prototype is pushing the boundaries of style, function, and efficiency as well as breaking the preconceived idea of what an all electric car can be. There are very few all electric cars for sale in the current market place and I personally have not seen one on the road. A fact that I’m sure is affecting the general public’s acceptance of the new all electric car technology. Gaining the public’s acceptance is going to be an up-hill struggle and I’m not sure if Tesla will be able to make it to the top of the mountain all by its self. If the Pure Electric Car is going to be widely accepted other car companies will have to join the fight. Companies that are already developing similar technology like Fisker will have to hurry up and join Tesla, Nissan, and Mitsubishi to get cars into the market place.
I’m sure that Henry Ford had a lot of nay-sayers in his day and age as well. People probably were shouting that the assembly line wasn’t going to be able to ensure the quality of the cars being built on it. They could have been saying that the men working the line wouldn’t be able to work fast enough assembling the Model T as it flew down the line. The same can be said for Tesla and the Model S, this technology is the future of the Automobile and it will be here to stay.
I would highly recommend heading down to the Model S Design Prototype Tour, currently in Toronto to see what our future holds. The event is running in Toronto from Saturday, June 11, 2011 to Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 580 Front St West, you will not be disappointed. Link to the event website here.