By John Addison (9/24/12)
More than 12,000 customers have made reservations and $5,000 deposits for their new Tesla Model S. The first thousands of these all-electric cars being delivered have a 265-mile range (official EPA rating). In real world driving, the range is 300 miles if you stay below 55 miles per hour. This is not a plug-in hybrid. It is slightly amazing.
Premium car buyers are not deterred by the Model S starting price of $59,400 with a 160 mile-range with 40kWh lithium battery. Most popular has been the 300-mile range with 85kWh model that starts at $79,400, before federal and state tax incentives.
The Tesla Model S is a beautiful sedan that seats five and maybe a couple of more small kids in the trunk area. The 60/40-split back seat can be folded down to make room for luggage, snowboards, mountain bikes and everything you desire for a road trip. The Model S has the designs of a classic sedan like the BMW 7 or Audi A7. The Model S has the cargo flexibility of a hatchback. Tesla positions the Model S as full sized, but one 6-foot, 3-inch gentleman insisted that it was midsized.
You feel a bit like a jet pilot looking at the 17-inch display, which follows your preference of displaying navigation, entertainment, range, and vehicle functionality.
The range is a marvel of technology innovation including an advanced lithium battery pack that lies below driver and passengers. The battery placement lowers the cars center of gravity and is likely to support excellent handling and stability. The induction electric motor does not use rare earth materials, unlike most competitors including Nissan and GM. The beautiful new body is aluminum to reduce weight and thereby extend range.
Tesla Expands to 24 Retail Locations Across USA and other Countries
This fall, Tesla Motors is opening 10 new locations across North America. The first at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York opened on September 21. Tesla’s unique retail concept demonstrates the benefits of driving electric with enticing visuals, interactive displays, and design studios where customers can design their own Tesla Model S on a large touchscreen and then view it on an 85-inch video wall.
“All retail locations have Tesla’s Model S premium sedan on display, and many have dedicated test-drive vehicles where we will offer customers the opportunity to experience the exhilarating performance and superior handling of Model S,” said George Blankenship, vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience.
The next store opening is in the Boston area at Natick Mall, followed by the opening of a second store in the Chicago area at Westfield Old Orchard. Additional locations are planned in October and November at Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, New Jersey; The Mall at Short Hills, Morristown, New Jersey; Westfield University Town Center, San Diego, California; Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida; Tyson’s Corner, McLean, Virginia and Westfield Topanga, Topanga, California. Tesla will also open its first Canadian store at Yorkdale Shopping Center in Toronto, Ontario in November.
After these openings, Tesla will have 24 locations in North America and 34 worldwide. Tesla will continue to expand its retail network into 2013, supporting the mission to engage and inform people about Tesla and driving electric.
With the most energy-dense battery pack in the industry and best-in-class aerodynamics, Model S has the longest range of any production electric car in the world. Model S comes with three battery pack options to fit the unique needs of different drivers. The 85 kWh Model S has received a U.S. fuel economy rating of 89MPGe and a range of 265 miles from the U.S. EPA.
Five Tesla Models by 2016
Tesla is selling the last of the 2,500 Roadsters that it built. In case the Model S top acceleration of zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds is not fast enough for you, then you can still get zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds with a Roadster.
Tesla is now taking reservations for the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy 5/7 seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla will use flexible manufacturing to make the Model S and Model X on the same platform. Deliveries start in 2014 for the Model X. The fully refundable reservation payment is $40,000.
By 2015, Tesla is planning on a smaller sedan that will compete head-on in price with the Nissan LEAF and new electric car offerings from Ford, Honda, and others. Expect Tesla to continue to deliver sleek sedan styling, with hatchback cargo flexibility, and premium interior. This smaller sedan will be the first to use a third-generation Tesla vehicle architecture that also will be used in 2016 in a smaller crossover and in a sports car replacement of the Roadster.
The Tesla Model S is manufactured in Fremont, California, at the edge of Silicon Valley. Tesla is expanding production from the current 80 cars per week, as it continues hiring and adding advanced robotics to the ultramodern factory.
Lithium-battery cells and packs continue to fall in price each year. This trend, coupled with Tesla ability to build multiple models in volume using common battery packs and platforms will drive prices down in future years. More car drivers will buy what they have been waiting for – an all-electric car with a 300-mile range and no compromises.
By Tom Bartley (3/24/11)
My two weeks were up yesterday and I had to pass the car to the next Clean Fuels Coalition board member. I liked the experience and it saved me money. This dual fuel (electricity and gasoline) Prius is all about having a nice ride and being energy efficient. The car I drove was a Toyota factory prototype that was essentially a 2010 basic Prius modified to accommodate a 5kW Lithium ion battery that could be charged through a power cord from an external 110 VAC standard 20 amp circuit.
I liked the car. If you are not a numbers person, skip to the Nice Ride section.
When I plugged the charging cable into my external 110 VAC house socket it tested out ok, but after 5 minutes of charging it tripped the GFI breaker and it wouldn’t reset without tripping. I tried a different circuit and everything was fine. I have not yet diagnosed the problem. The current draw was 12 amps leading to 3 hours for a full charge (3.96 kWh). This is less than the full battery 5 kW capacity and is probably part of the battery management strategy that stays away from the top and bottom SoC (State of Charge) to assure a long battery life before replacement. The dash board display indicated 14 miles as an estimated average full usable charge EV range. (The 14 mile EV range estimate could vary significantly depending on elevation change, speed, and driver style.) This works out to 3.54 miles/kWh or 283 Wh/mile. The larger battery capacity in the Plug-in Prius makes the normal hybrid mode even more efficient by providing more storage to recycle deceleration energy while going down grades or slowing from high speed driving.
This compares to manufacturer estimates of 240 Wh/mile for the Nissan Leaf and 400 Wh/mile for the Chevy Volt. While the larger capacity battery packs in the Leaf and the Volt qualify for a $7500 federal tax credit, this Prius is projected to have a $3000 tax credit. I estimate the price of the Plug-in to be somewhere in the $33,000 price range to compete nicely with the Volt.
I managed to drive 423.1 miles on the 6.762 gallons of 87 octane E10 that I pumped into the gasoline tank. With the current high prices, I paid a total of $26.67. So, here are the petroleum numbers:
The electric numbers will only show up integrated into my overall utility bill at a cost of 15.5 ¢/kWh. I estimate the efficiency of the car, including the battery losses, at an average 300 Wh/mile leading to an electric cost of 4.65 ¢/mile. How does this add to my total cost/mile? Most of my trips were less than 15 miles. I had one long roundtrip over 75 miles of mostly high speed freeway driving. I can only estimate that 20% of my miles were electric. The onboard display indicated that 12% of the previously driven 12,000 miles were driven in EV mode. Adding (20% of 423.1 miles) 84.62 miles @ 4.65 ¢/mile results in $3.93 for electricity yielding a total cost of $30.60 for 423.1 miles or 7.2 ¢/mile. In comparison, my Toyota Sequoia SUV at about 29 ¢/mile ($4.00/gal / 13.6 mpg). That makes for a whopping $92.00 fuel savings over two weeks! That’s some nice extra pocket money. True, this is not the whole picture and did not include purchase price and maintenance costs, like the cost of the batteries, but the immediate impact is significant. Also, knowing that my cost was less I drove more miles than I otherwise would have.
Side Note: I found the fuel economy displayed and calculated by the on-board computer for each car was optimistically overstated as 77.7 mpg for the Prius and 15.6 mpg for the Sequoia. One mitigating factor is that I may not have received a full tank of gas with the Prius. The odometer should be accurate because, according to the owner’s manual, the Prius automatically calibrates the odometer (using the GPS navigation system?) to compensate for tire wear.
Overall, I liked the Plug-in Prius and didn’t want to give it back and I love the power of my 2004 Toyota Sequoia Limited and a 1970 classic big block Chevy Corvette, both with their high power V8s and plenty of “go-power” torque throughout the driving speed range. The Prius Plug-in compares favorably with my many ride-n-drives in electric vehicles, hybrids, and high priced hydrogen fuel cell hybrids.
For the driver’s pleasure the Prius has push button selection of three different driving modes, ECOnomy, normal, and PoWeR. At first these different settings seemed to be scaling the accelerator pedal movement to better match the drive style, i.e., more push to get smaller acceleration in ECO, and less push to get greater acceleration in PWR. However, the actual driving experience felt like the PWR mode actually allowed the drive system to put more torque into the drive wheels to the point of spinning the tires with engine and electric motor combined. Knowing that electric motors produce max torque right from the “get go”, I expected more performance of the line without much push on the accelerator, but, because I wanted to stay in EV mode without starting the engine, I didn’t ask for more start up acceleration by jamming the pedal to the floor.
The PWR mode was fun to drive in urban traffic congestion at all speeds. The normal mode was comfortable in almost all driving environments easily keeping pace with other standard 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder gasoline engine cars, especially in the 25 to 50 mph speed range. I wouldn’t recommend the ECO mode in heavy traffic. The ECO mode was there to sooth my energy conservation conscience when I was sharing the road with only a few other drivers. Cruise control is available to make it even easier.
This car has a sports car feel and it’s easy to parallel park. The ride is smooth, the suspension is tight, and the steering is responsive. Braking is very responsive.
The gear shift lever has a D for normal forward movement and a B to select more coasting drag. I think the B should be the default position because it felt like I was able to capture more of the deceleration and braking energy into the batteries for recycling. I also liked the B more positive control feel of the car before I had to use the brake pedal.
Rather than a “gear shift” lever it is really a joy stick that always returns to a fixed center position. The position of R and D was a safety problem for me. The position of R at the top or forward and D at the bottom or back is traditional for many transmissions’ gear selection. However, because the control lever is on a raised center console deck and almost horizontal it felt more like a joy stick where DRIVE would be forward and REVERSE would be back. Several times I selected the wrong direction while backing out or parking. Fortunately, it was at low speed and the annoying repetitive beep of reverse provided a helpful alert
Driver Displays and Steering Wheel Button Controls
The main display panel looks like it is digital and programmed for the subject matter information. It is sunk into the middle of the dash for, what looks like, the best viewing of all the vehicle occupants, not just the driver. I had two problems with that positioning. With everything offset to the right side of the driver’s view, the separation between the left and right turn signal indicators is too small to see clearly without taking my eyes of the road to look at the actual arrow. Also, one of the information displays gives immediate feedback to the driver about the torque demands and the EV and hybrid modes of charging and discharging the batteries. Again, the information was not easily seen, down and off to the right, without taking my eyes off the road. Placement in front of the driver would be a nice improvement and a heads up display would be superb.
The standard parts of the driver display included gasoline fuel level, digital speed (analog and digital would be even better), turn signal indicators, odometer, real time mpg, and various mode indicator lights. Being somewhat of a techie, I would have liked to see the engine rpm and temperature; and the electric motor rpm and some appropriate critical temperature. Battery SoC in addition to the estimated EV miles would have been nice too. The display has five selections stepped through by one of the steering wheel buttons:
1. Battery level and number of EV miles, and horizontal bar graph showing real time torque demanded by the accelerator pedal. This display was useful in raising my awareness of the energy effects of changing elevations up and down hils, and the effects of air drag at higher highway speeds.
2. A graphic of the car showing the real time energy flow between the engine, electric motor and battery.
3. Longer term averages of fuel economy
4. Percentage of miles driven in EV mode.
5. Settings that could be cycled through and changed with the same steering wheel display button.
Additionally, when I put my finger on one of the steering wheel buttons there are two cool looking pop up displays that illuminate the button functions. However, if I have to take my eyes off the road to see the pop ups, I can just as easily look at the steering wheel. The left hand steering wheel button was like my Sequoia, operating the radio modes, presets, and volume. The right hand steering wheel button operated the display selection, trip odometers and resets, temp up and down for heating and A/C, and recirculate control for ventilation. I found the temp and recirculation controls redundant to the other same controls close by on the dashboard.
Lights, Wipers, Mirrors, and Visibility
I am spoiled by the light sensing automatic turn-on head light control in the Sequoia. This basic Prius did not have them and several times I had to return to the car to turn off the lights. As in many other cars, these controls were located on the turn signal lever. The emergency 4-way flasher control was a nice big button on the console.
The interior lighting was superior with several different automatic modes that anticipated the entry and exit of the vehicle. It took a while to discover, but just pushing on the light lens is a nice switch feature. Also a nice touch is an indirect beam of light out of the ceiling that illuminates the console while driving at night.
One place that could use a light is the electric charging compartment to illuminate the socket and cover. It would have made it easier when I was trying to insert the charging plug at night in the dark.
I had one wiper and lights problem that turned out to be pilot error. California law requires the headlights to be on any time the windshield wipers are on. While driving in the rain one day I did this only to have the driver display go dim and unreadable. The automatic dimming control expects a reduced ambient light level if the head lights are turned on. The manual dimming control is a thumbwheel on the left side of the dash. If the thumbwheel is advanced into the maximum brightness détente, the display will stay bright even if the headlights are turned on.
The electric positioning left and right external mirrors are the same as my Sequoia, but the control was located on the left side lower dash panel next to the display brightness thumbwheel instead of the center console. From my best position setting of the outside rear view mirror without repositioning the mirror I couldn’t see the curb position when parallel parking. Ok, it is a little picky.
The visibility out the rear window from looking at the inside rear view mirror has an irritation shared by almost all Prius drivers. The rear spoiler required for that nice low aerodynamic drag coefficient puts a horizontal bar across the rear vision. For the extra mileage at highway speeds it was acceptable, but I never got used to it. I heard that some late model Prius’ may be offered with a camera and a screen that I hope eliminates the bar in the view. My recent experience driving a Volt exposed a similar bar. Adding additional irritation to me was the manual lever for day/night viewing of the mirror. The automatic transitioning of my Sequoia mirror is another nice thing to have.
Driver visibility is good except for two blind spots at the rear corners. I solved this problem on the Sequoia with the addition of small round stick-on wide-angle mirrors to the standard outside mirrors. I elevated the driver’s seat to its highest level for my best outside viewing angle.
Navigation and Entertainment
Your children and grandchildren will love the screen and controls. I liked the large navigation screen, which automatically shifted from a light background to a dark background when the headlights were turned on. After reading the navigation manual for over an hour I decided that I was not going to become a proficient operator during the time I had the car. To prevent driver distraction, several of the functions were not available while the car was moving.
The angle of display has a cute little shift control to help minimize glare reflections. The whole display tilts forward to expose the CD insertion slot. It looked like only a single CD at a time. I prefer the 6-CD changer I have in the Sequoia. The sound system was great when using the radio.
Other Amenities and Comments
Keyless entry, locking, and start-up were new and enjoyable for me. I now look at my other keys as archaic. Three people could fit in the back seat with reasonable comfort, but only two could be there to have the cup holders that were in the center pull down armrest.
The center console cover had a latch that slid back to expose a cup holder in addition to the one with it’s own cover door in front of it. More pulling on the latch exposed a compartment with a tray and a 12 VDC 120 W power socket and an aux port for and iPod. What at first confused me was that the latch had to be depressed again to slide the cover forward for complete closure. I forgot and left my Bluetooth wireless phone earpiece in the tray because it was not completely visible.
In front of the console under the joystick platform is an open tray that has another 12 VDC socket along with switches for the heated seats. I found the switch placement inconvenient for the driver but ok for the front passenger. The heated seats get hot fast! While more pleasing for the leather seats in the Sequoia, the seat heaters may not really be necessary for the soft cloth seats in the Prius.
Normally, the car was ready to go in total EV mode after putting my foot on the brake and pressing the START button. However, I found that leaving the front defroster selected from prior driving caused the engine to start after pushing the START button.
There are upper and lower glove boxes for added flexibility.
All four side windows have automatic up and down modes. I quickly closed the windows after trying them down during highway driving. The car body aerodynamic airflow is sensitive to window position and my ear drums were taking a beating.
The steering wheel has a “scope” adjustment in and out for comfortable arm positioning.
Fortunately, I had my Sequoia experience to understand the Toyota HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) control strategy. The only difference was that the Sequoia has a knob for setting the desired temperature rather than the up and down buttons of the Prius.
Best Electric Car or Hybrid Car
In 2012 there will be several plug-in car models to choose from, each slightly different to match the driver’s needs and wallet. From the ones I have driven, going from low to high purchase cost:
- Mitsubishi iMiEV – All electric (no petroleum) short range no frills basic gets the job done, smallest, lowest weight and most efficient. Low cost because of credits and grants.
- Nissan Leaf – All electric (no petroleum) medium range, excellent feel and performance, virtually no service required, perfect for urban commutes and short trips, some longer trip options. Lower cost because of credits and grants.
- Toyota Prius – The standard with great mpg and long range, but doesn’t utilize grid energy
- Toyota Prius Plug-in – Better mpg and hybrid efficiency, long range and short EV range
- Chevrolet Volt – High end luxury quality feel, performance, and features, serial hybrid design has lower efficiency and mpg.
Top 10 Electric Cars including Plug-in Hybird
By John Addison (10/5/10)
I settled for a test ride in the CODA, not a test drive. CODA was taking people for rides at the Santa Monica Alt-Car Expo, but not letting them drive, in contrast to hundreds of potential buyers test-driving the Nissan LEAF.
Sorry, but CODA did not appear to be worth $44,900 in contrast with the more sexy, more fully appointed Nissan LEAF priced at only $32,780. Both pure battery-electric cars are targeting 100-mile ranges. CODA with 33.8 kWh lithium battery pack is likely to have a better real world range than Nissan with 24 kWh battery pack. You can also charge the 2011 CODA twice as fast at 6.6 kW/h, instead of 3.3 kW/h with the 2011 LEAF. With the 2012 LEAF both will have the same charging speed.
Riding in the CODA felt like being in my Civic Hybrid, a nice but an ordinary 4-door 5-seat sedan. OK features, but nothing special. The ride felt like a conventional sedan, but nothing special. The legroom was a little more cramped than in the LEAF and Chevy Volt. With CODA you get an off-the-shelf chassis and assembled drive system; with Nissan you get a car built from the ground-up to be a unique battery-electric, right down to the ECO mode and driver telematics. At least CODA is using respected drive system suppliers such as Borg Warner, UQM electric motors, Energy CS, Delphi DC-DC, and Lear on board charger.
CODA currently has batteries made in China in a joint venture with Lishen Power Battery. The CODA sedan is sub-assembled in Harbin, China, and shipped to the US for final assembly in California. CODA is trying to secure DOE loans for at least $400 million to build a battery and vehicle assembly plant in Columbus, Ohio, for production starting 2014. The company’s pitch is that this could create 2,000 jobs in the U.S., although these might be at the expense of 2,000 Nissan LEAF battery and assembly jobs in Tennessee, or 2,000 Ford electric car and battery jobs in Michigan. Competition will get intense. The good news is that more lithium batteries and electric cars will be built somewhere in the U.S.
VCs and private investors such as former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson are making $100 million bet on CODA getting fed funding and having an IPO. Tesla’s market cap of $2 billion has encouraged investors. But without fed money the limited vehicle warrant of 3 years or 36,000 miles might be safe, but customers may have doubts about the company being there for the 8-year or 100,000 mile battery warranty.
Buyers who can afford to pay $45K for an electric car with extra range are more likely to step-up to the Tesla Model S at $57,000 and get more range, upgradeability, premium features, and a certain wow factor. If car drivers want extended range, and balk at $45K, then they may go with a plug-in hybrid.
CODA needs to weigh its strategy options. It’s pricing demonstrates that China partners will not help it win the cost battle with companies that make cars by the millions such as Nissan, Ford, and soon Toyota and Honda. The range issue may get CODA a few thousand buyers, if it can deliver much better range than the LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and other EVs coming to market at savings of $12,000. CODA needs to be more distinctive for consumers, or to deliver custom vehicles for fleets like taxis and emergency responders, to justify the big price premium. There will be multiple winners in the electric car market. The race is on.
- Vehicle range 90 to 120 miles
- Top Speed 80 mph (electronically limited)
- Charge Time 6 hours from 220V (30AMP) 2
- Occupancy 5 passenger
- Limited Vehicle Warranty 3 years / 36,000 miles
- Limited Battery Warranty 8 years / 100,000 miles
- Battery Chemistry Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4)
- Battery Configuration 728 cells (104s7p)
- Battery Energy 33.8 kWh
- Nominal Battery Voltage 333V
- Motor Power 100 kW/134 hp
- Motor Torque 300 Nm /221 lb-ft
- Single gear transmission
- Drive Ratio 6.54:1
- DC:DC Converter 2.2 kW @ 13V output
- Charger 6.6 kW / 240VAC input or 1.3 kW / 110 VAC input (back-up charging)
- Air Conditioning 2.0 kW cabin cooling
- Steering Four-wheel independent with front and rear MacPherson struts
- Wheels 17-inch 5-spoke wheels with 205/45/RF17 tires
- Rack-and-pinion with electric power steering
- Turning Radius 17.5 ft (curb)/18.6 ft (wall)
- Wheelbase 102.3 inches
- Headroom (front/rear) 38.7/36.6 inches
- Shoulder Room (front/rear) 53.0/52.0 inches
- Legroom (front/rear) 42.3/31.7 inches
- Overall Length 176.1 inches
- Trunk Space 20 cubic ft
- Overall Width 68.5 inches
- Passenger space 82 cubic ft
- Overall Height 57.6 inches
- Curb Weight 3,682 lbs
- Entertainment Standard features = satellite-ready AM/FM/XM radio with MP3, iPod,® iPhone® and USB connectivity
- 8-inch color touch-screen featuring turn-by-turn navigation with available real-time weather and traffic updates
- GreenScreenTM system that monitors driving efficiency
- Bluetooth® hands-free phone system
- vehicle security system