By John Addison (updated 5/22/12; original 2/8/12)
I’m sitting behind the wheel of this new Tesla Model S wishing that I could drive it away. I can’t. This prototype does not have a drive system. It is on display at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit, getting serious interest from attending CEOs and venture capitalists that can afford the $59,400 starting price. The price starts at $79,400 for the model with a remarkable 300 mile electric range.
Tesla plans to ship 5,000 of the Model S in 2012 starting this June 22. Tesla has the backlog. It has the massive Fremont, California, manufacturing facility. It is betting the company that it can ship this year and bring in billions because after shipping 2,500 of the Tesla Roadster, sales end for the exciting two-seat sports car that started the modern freeway-speed electric car revolution. Tesla has shipped over 2,000 Roadsters whose production has depended on suppliers who are completing their contracts and ending production for Tesla. The most notable is Lotus, which will no longer produce the body for the Tesla Roadster.
Tesla (TSLA) stock price is holding high, valuing the company at over $3 billion. Investors are betting that Tesla will ship the Model S on time, even though it was 2-years late with the Roadster.
The zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds Roadster is likely to become a collector’s item. If you bought one for $120,000, you may be able to sell it in a few years for more than you bought it. Who knows?
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 liftback. Tesla positions the Model S as full sized, but the 6-foot, 3-inch gentleman in the backseat insists that I describe it as 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.
Tesla will have no trouble securing the first 5,000 buyers who represent less than 10 percent of electric car buyers in 2012. One is Craig who currently drives a Roadster and is looking forward to taking delivery of his Model S with a 300-mile range. He hopes. He’ll have two Teslas and finally sell his Prius. As I talk with Craig, I’m surprised that he has never used a public charging stations. He had never needed one. His Roadster gives him 250-mile electric range in real life driving. He is optimistic that the Model S with its larger battery will give him a 300-mile range of real world electric driving.
Model S options range include 160 mile-range with 40kWh lithium battery, 230 mile-range with 60kWh battery, and 300 mile-range with 85kWh battery. Maximum speed is zero-to-sixty in 6.5 seconds with 40kWh, 5.9 seconds with 60 kWh, 5.6 seconds with 85kWh, and 4.4 seconds with 85kWh performance models. Deliveries are scheduled to start this summer for the higher-priced 300-mile range vehicles.
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.
Craig is one of about 10,000 Model S reservation holders who has made a deposit and is eager to take the sedan for a drive. He doesn’t mind that his reserved roomy Model S takes 5.6 seconds to go from zero to 60. He doesn’t mind because he’s keeping his 3.7 second Roadster.
By John Addison (5/6/11)
Tesla recent quarterly financial results show progress on several fronts. Over 1,650 customers are now driving the Tesla Roadster, the impressive electric car with a 240-mile range per charge. Customers have driven these 100-percent electric cars more than 11 million miles. Tesla will soon have over 2,000 customers who have paid over $100,000 for their Roadster.
The Model S Sedan is on track for completion and customer deliveries mid-2012. A much bigger market is expected for this premium sedan that starts at $57,400 and has an optional $20,000 battery pack with that gives the car a 300-mile range. When Tesla begins delivery of the Model S, over 50,000 electric car customers will be driving their Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and other electric sedan competitors. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 7 passenger capacity, switchable battery, and options to triple the electric range of competitors. A new generation of lithium batteries is at the heart of the vehicles range of 160 miles with optional packs that provide 230 and 300 miles of range per electric charge. 4,600 customers have already placed reservations for the Model S with a starting price of $57,400.
CEO Elon Musk stated, “Our Model S alpha build proceeded as scheduled during the quarter. In fact, our engineering and manufacturing teams have now completed the construction of all of our Model S alpha vehicles, having finished the final alpha in April. These vehicles are successfully undergoing the planned cold weather brakes testing, ride and handling evaluation, safety validation, electrical integration, and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation,” continued Musk. “As has been our plan, we will continue testing this quarter with a particular focus on durability and systems integration as we prepare for our beta build later this year. Overall, we remain on track for first customer deliveries of the Model S in mid-2012.”
Tesla Progress with Toyota RAV4 EV and Daimler Electric Cars
Tesla is also making significant progress as a battery and electric drive system provider. Tesla delivered a record number of production battery packs and chargers for both Daimler’s Smart fortwo and A-Class vehicles for the fourth quarter in a row. Daimler increased its total orders for the Smart fortwo electric drive components from 1,800 to 2,100 sets. All of these will be delivered in 2011. Daimler owns 5 percent of Tesla.
Tesla successfully completed the initial milestones for the development of the powertrain system for the Toyota RAV4 EV and remains on schedule for the completion of the development portion of the program. The powertrain system includes a battery, power electronics components, motor, gearbox and associated proprietary software. Toyota owns 2 percent of Tesla stock. Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive
Meeting product deadlines will depend on staying on-track in opening its new factory in Fremont, California – The Tesla Factory. Intensive site preparations are underway at each of the stamping, plastics, and paint shops as the facility is being prepared for the upcoming Model S beta build. Equipment testing in carefully controlled manual modes of operation has begun in both stamping and plastics shops, with robots and other automation equipment scheduled for installation later this year. Installation of the hydraulic press line remains on schedule for manual operation in the second quarter.
Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced its preliminary unaudited financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2011. Revenues for the first quarter of 2011 were $49.0 million, a 35% increase from the $36.3 million reported in the prior quarter. Gross margin improved to 37%, up from 31% for the prior quarter. Net loss for the quarter was $48.9 million as compared to $51.4 million in the prior quarter on a GAAP basis.
Like its Roadster, Tesla has been growing the company at zero to 60 in four seconds. Revenues are strong, but profitability is not in sight as the company invests for high growth and big plans for the Model S and Model X.