I drove a Tesla Model S yesterday. I’m just about speechless. Finally it’s the 21st Century. Our jetpacks have arrived.
Saw it way out in an empty part of the parking lot at work, and ogled it a long time. Then saw it again on the street, with a friend of mine driving it! Yesterday he let me take it for a ten mile spin around the office parks and freeways.
It’s an amazingly big car, way bigger than my Prius. Stunning appearance in real life. Low, sleek, carved. Chrome door handles are perfectly flush. Click the keyless remote, they glide out a few inches for your hand to pull. Inside, tons of space for five adults, a big hatchback space behind that, plus a trunk under the hood.
photo: Tesla Motors Club
Push the start button and boot it up. The huge 17″ iPad-like console display comes up with a Google map of your area and your music and comfort choices, or graphs of your power usage, expected range, etc. Behind the wheel another big sharp display with concentric speed (mph) and power (kW) gauges, and a smaller usage/range graph. Push the column stalk down for Drive, give it a little pedal, and it’s quite smooth, docile, fully controlled. Steering is precise and a bit heavy. It feels exactly like the luxury sedan it is, plus exquisite smoothness and silence.
Give it more pedal, you get more push. More pedal, More Push. More pedal, MORE PUSH! Silent, effortless Hand of God force, perfectly smooth, like gravity. In four seconds you’re going 60 mph. Let up on the pedal and you feel a smooth firm force slowing you down. Let it up more, and more force slows you down. It’s one pedal driving, you just use the brakes to hold it stopped. Driving the Tesla Model S is just a total joy, a dream come true.
The power train and batteries are all underneath. That 85 kWh battery pack in the floor has over 7000 Panasonic lithium ion cells with nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathodes, good for 265 mile range (EPA). My friend has easily taken 200 mile round trips in his car. A three-phase AC induction motor (invented by Nikola Tesla of course) drives the rear wheels directly through a single reduction gear ratio. Model S comes in four levels of power, range and price. I drove the top of the line Performance model, all they delivered in the first 1000 cars. It starts at $84K before US federal EV rebate, options typically take it over $100K. 4640 pounds, with all those batteries. 416 hp (310 kW) at 5000-8600 rpm, 443 ft-lb (600 Nm) torque at zero to 5100 rpm. That’s right, 443 ft-lb torque instantly on tap at all legal speeds. Zero to sixty in 4.4 sec, standing quarter mile in 12.6 sec, top speed 130 mph.
Tesla’s base Model S starts at $54K before rebate. It has a 40 kWh battery pack, 160 mile range, 235 hp and 310 ft-lb torque. Sixty in 6.5 sec, 14.7 sec quarter mile, 110 mph tops. EV’s are funny that way, since torque is proportional to current at given voltage, it’s ultimately the maximum current you can draw from the battery pack that determines performance. More batteries = more range = more current = more torque.
5,350 Model S cars have shipped in its first six months up through February, and they’re at full production now, 400 cars a week. Yes, it’s a very expensive car today. Remember what a good PC cost 20 years ago? It’s a tenth of that now. The first color TVs were over $4K in today’s money. Cars like the Tesla Model S that normal people can afford are coming, in good time. (Actually my friend isn’t particularly wealthy, he just has different priorities.)
Tesla Model S is a milestone car. All the car of the year awards are totally justified. It is not just an astonishing luxury sports sedan, it’s a perfectly capable all-around car for anyone to drive, take on long trips, anything. 250 mile range. Recharges in as little as 30 minutes. And hey, it’s Made in USA. If this is the future, I want to live a long, long time.
PS: I didn’t take any pictures of the car I drove, normally I only snap old cars. These are from the Tesla Motor Club. I’ll get some photos myself next week, and maybe replace these.
Sorry to cross-post, but since this was moved from the Corvette comment thread, I’ll re-post my comment here:
I wouldn’t bank on Moore’s Law to make these affordable. The improvement of batteries happens at a much slower pace than the improvement of semiconductors. CPUs get faster and cheaper every year, but laptop batteries are still only good for a few hours.
Plus: There are two kinds of products that are capable of chemically storing large amounts of energy: Batteries and bombs. As power density increases, batteries become more bomb-like. Just ask the folks at Boeing.
Thanks for cross-posting, I’d welcome repeat comments from the others too. Funny how once in a while a comment turns into a full-blown post.
Strictly speaking you’re right about Moore’s Law, that’s about semiconductors, which in fact enabled the motor controller power transistors and all the processors that make this go and keep it safe. As for batteries, thanks to laptops, cellphones and EVs, they are riding a similar exponential curve, starting about 20 years ago and rising at a slower rate. There are so many promising new battery technologies, especially in nano-materials, it’s very likely we’ll get another factor of two or three improvement in the next decade.
You left out a third kind of energetic product: gasoline tanks.
hello Mike this is jd me and Raymond grew up together drop me a line
There are also slow-discharge capacitors. I don’t know the underlying technology, but my Busch & Müller dynamo hub bicycle lights use it. Drive a few metres, stop, and the lights stay on. Turn them off, leave the bike in a shed for a month, go back, flip the light switch and on they go, for about a minute. No batteries. Quite baffling.
it looks like an updated intrepid to me…a dodge intrepid. maybe a jaguar, but it looks like every 4 door short snubbed trunked car out there. Where are the original looks?
Glad I’m not the only one who looks at it and thinks “Chrysler”.
Having never seen any of the cloud cars, I thought Jag XF
Same cloud cars are unknown here Jags look like that.
They’re quite distinctive in traffic. Fairly generic shape aside, I can always immediately recognize them when I see them on the road.
Spending a lot of time in Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto, I seem to see precisely two every day. Some can be accounted for as test drives or company cars from the nearby headquarters and sales outlet, but I also see plenty with standard license plates, so I know at least some are in private hands. I already see them far more often than (equally distinctive) Volts, which seem to wander by my eyes about once a week. Fisker Karmas are still pretty scarce. I see maybe one per month.
Intrepids were LH models, one size bigger than Cloud cars. Stratus being Dodge entry in the segment, to Chryslers Cirrus.
I would really enjoy test driving a Tesla, but considering it costs more than everything I own combined, I probably won’t be getting one anytime soon. 🙂
I’ll race you to Vegas in my old Pathfinder that gets 25mpg. You pay me a buck for every mile I beat you by.
I’d take you up on that as long as we both start 100 miles outside LV 🙂
I sat in one at a local cruise-in a few months ago and it just amazed me. After the Prius, Volt, and Fisker Karma, I was convinced no one could build an electric with a flat floor. It really felt like a Buick (a real Buick, not today’s American Opel) from twenty years in the future. That being said, I’d still prefer a Buick from twenty years in the past, but VERY few modern cars are capable of getting my attention.
So does it REALLY charge in 30 mins? And does it REALLY go for 200 miles on a charge? With all the hype and all the fuss over that newspaper article, it is hard to separate the fluff from the facts. It would be nice to hear confirmation from an owner that these things are possible.
I could care less about all the doo-dads and gadgets like a 17″ screen and motorized door handles. All that crap will break in 3 yrs anyway. I realize they have to have that stuff to attract buyers at the price point… people spending $100k expect a car to impress their neighbors. But if they can get a Leaf to go 200 miles and recharge in 30 mins then they will have something.
Something else they apparently felt they needed to attract buyers – a ginormous fake grille. Even at the alleged cutting edge of technology, the customers reject form following function.
Well, fast charging it will increase the inevitable deterioration of the battery’s capacity. And range is inevitably subject to conditions, with this caveat: the range of an EV is intrinsically more variable than the mileage/tank range of a conventional gas car.
That means one has to consider the factors that will impact range more carefully, especially since the consequences of not doing so are likely to be more problematic, at least at this stage of the infrastructure.
Like I said in the piece, my friend has taken several 200 mile round trips no problem.
Thirty minute charging is through Tesla’s level-3 high power “Superchargers”, which are appearing along I-5 and I-95 so far. These will spread over the coming years.
Faster refueling is about all the conventional car has left on its side just my 2c worth.
A 30 minute charge won’t bring the pack up to full capacity. The higher the batteries state of charge the slower it charges. Range does depend on of course the driving conditions but more importantly which battery size you choose. But yes you can gain a significant charge in 30 minutes.
Correct. Tesla says the Supercharger adds about 150 miles range when full charge range is 250.
I like the car but haven’t driven it. I also like Elon Musk’s style. Too many reporters and journalists from the old media are bully prima donnas. They can say whatever they want and punish you if not treated right.
If Musk had let the NYT report stand we would not be privy to new and highly detailed info on real range, superchargers, etc. New media like CC isn’t pissed off and continue to cover the car fairly. It’s funny to watch the old dogs in their rumpled feathers pile on Tesla for no other reason than the guy had the balls to stand up for his product.
It’s a new car and new way to treat the media. About time.
That rear end if very Jaguar XFish
The wagon tails are even more similar
Great review, thanks for sharing.
I drove along next to one of these for a few miles last weekend on I-85 in Atlanta. It was the first I’ve seen in person and very striking. Compared to the other conspicuous consumption douche-mobiles rolling around these days, It actually looks cool. It was having no problem keeping pace with Atlanta’s usual 80-90 mph traffic.
I have yet to see one of these. As I understand it, cold weather could be its biggest challenge in conquering the real world.
I talked to someone from Nissan about the Leaf when it first came out. He said the biggest cold weather challenge was keeping the passengers comfortably warm. Reduced battery life is a factor, but warming the cabin is a bigger one, according to Nissan.
So the Leaf is able to pre-warm the cabin when plugged in and has heated seats, in the hope that if your tushie is warm you won’t mind a colder ambient temperature.
Possibly. Or you could move to Aucjkland, NZ – I’be been living here 15 years and never seen snow ;P
Interesting post from “Mr Tesla” here: http://www.teslamotors.com/fr_FR/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-plan-just-between-you-and-me
While I’ve not driven one, there is a Tesla showroom two blocks from where I live and these cars are becoming fairly common on the streets of Santa Monica. I took a walk after reading this piece and saw – parked on the street or in traffic – two Teslas, a Fisker Karma, and a Ford Focus EV within an eight block area. The Tesla is too big and the limited range makes it a second or third car for most who can justify spending money for one. Take the Tesla to Trader Joe’s for yogurt and the Jag – with a full tank and the A/C set on 70 – to Vegas.
funny that you mention vegas — it is ~ 280 miles from LA, so just out of the Tesla’s range…
I wonder if they ever thought about constructing a level-3 charging station somewhere mid-way along the route (yes, there are gas stations even out there! )
I like the look of it, and I’m very impressed by the 200-mile range, but I’d much rather have a plug-in hybrid.
The ONLY reason this technological marvel is at all affordable is the various government subsidies that have gone to Tesla and its consumers….this isn’t a viable long-term business model, imho…
Oil proucers also get government subsidies, so that argument could said to be meaningless. New technology is often helped along by incentives though, nothing wrong with that.
I do not see myself as owning any of the Tesla cars. Too expensive, and if one is more in the second hand market, these can become risky with sudden unexpected battery replacement and what not. Nevertheless, I applaud the risk taken by Mr. Musk, and the product he has been able to bring to market. And even though I have mostly been a pessimist about electric vehicles in general, Tesla is the first time that pessimism have turned around to optimism.
The car looks awsume, and I would actually really like to own one.
I read alot of people complaining about this car and company, as if just because YOU don’t have it in your budget to afford one, it’s useless. Wtf? I think Elon Musk deserves some credit for his risk taking, and hopefully, it could lead to a mainstream car down the road.
Your description of your road test of the Tesla reminds me of a test drive of a Chevrolet Volt that I did about a year ago. I was greatly impressed by it. The complete silence and instant torque of the drivetrain, without any need for internal combustion engine intervention, made me think, “This is the future.” I thought that it was not only more economical than a conventionally powered car; it was also BETTER. Many people criticize it for being uneconomically expensive, and it is almost 50% more expensive than a typical family sedan in its size class, but the drivetrain points the way to the future.
I also thought that the most appropriate use of the Volt’s drivetrain would be in a heavy SUV that could benefit more from its reduction in gasoline usage, and that an Escalade would be appropriate as a vehicle that buyers are willing to pay a premium for already. GM did announce that it was developing a Tahoe with a Volt-derived drivetrain, but there has been nothing about an Escalade version.
We pay $10 per gallon a Volt makes sense much earlier in its life here and we finally got Holden badged Volts.
These have been popping up a lot around Boston. I can safely say this is one of my dream cars – heck, maybe this IS my dream car!
A reason for me to stay in school…
Can’t wait until this technology becomes more mainstream. The instant, shove-in-the-back torque that electric motors provide, and the lack of auto-transmission dithering, is today’s answer to the ‘big block’.
The sound of a powerful electric motor winding itself out is also something to behold. It’s Luke’s landspeeder in real life.
I just hope they find a way to replicate the three-pedal manual experience – even if it’s artificial – for us traditionalists.
“(Actually my friend isn’t particularly wealthy, he just has different priorities.)”
Anybody who has a descretionary $100K to spend on a car is wealthy by any meaningful definition of the term. “Priorities” my ass. Unless he’s living in it, it’s an indulgence that’s not an option for the overwhelming majority of the population of this country.
A five year note on this car would have the same monthly payment as an upper-middle class mortgage. Just one of many possible “priorities” could be made by a single engineer or attorney with excellent credit, who’d rather have a Tesla Model S and rent a modest apartment for five years. Once the car is owned free and clear, then think about buying a house. If its body is kept free from rust, a battery pack every decade is the only thing to wear out. An electric car has so few moving parts, it can literally last forever.
Just challenge the standard assumptions of what people choose to spend their income on.
I wouldn’t say that the battery pack is the only thing that can wear out. Just like an ICE powered vehicle it has friction brakes, wheel bearings, axle shafts, climate control systems and a host of other things that are not going to be subject to less wear just because they are on an electric car. Yes the friction brakes can last longer if the driver learns how to maximize the use of regen braking and minimize the use of the friction brake.
A little regen braking helps a lot. After 140K on my 2001 Prius it still had about 50% left on the original pads.
Also, the base model is $60k. Same money as a BMW 535i or a Mercedes E-class with a few options.
Steve – I am the person in question. I agree that I am wealthy by the standard of “the majority of the country” and especially compared to “the majority of the world”. My partner and I both work very hard and probably will until we die. We have no children. We generally try to live frugally and the Tesla is equal to several years of our “discretionary” spending (probably 5 years, but I’d have to check). It’s the most money I’ve ever thrown away at once, and hopefully will cover my transportation needs for the next 8-10 years. The car it is replacing was bought 14 years ago.
I think Mike’s point is that I do not have a trust fund nor do I earn substantially more than many people he considers “normal”.
My point is that having $100K to throw around (financed or otherwise) after a certain age is no accident. Live on the budget of a college student for as long as possible, invest most of your waking life in your career, and let compound interest do the rest.
What exactly is your point?
I’m wondering what happens when one of those7000! Lithium Ion batteries decides to short out. What is the life expectancy of the battery and replacement cost? Do they lose 5-10% of their storage capacity each and every year?
the pack is managed on the cell level. A shorted cell (unlikely to happen in high quality Panasonic cells) would be removed from the loop, and the car would have 1/7000th less capacity. The pack is arranged with blocks of cells (around 56 cells in each block, I think) wired in parallel. The blocks are then wired in series. The net result is no single cell failure can take out the pack, and no single cell ever sees high amperage. The car is 360 HP with a 375 volt (nominal) pack, so it draws about 725 amps at full throttle. Divide that by 56 parallel cells, and you’ll find that the most abuse an individual cell could ever be put through is 12.75 amps for 2 seconds. Cruising on the highway with the a/c on would pull 0.002 amps from each cell. Thats a pampered life to live.
Wow, that’s the detail I crave. Where did you find it?
I used to work on electric cars for a living.
Thanks, Jim. Very informative post; glad to hear that a driver won’t be stranded if and when something like this were to happen.
A gentleman who lives not far from me has a white Tesla S. I’ve seen him out driving it around quite frequently this winter. Photos don’t do the car justice… in the flesh it is quite striking, especially so in white, and has a presence unlike anything else on the road. Very impressive.
I admire Elon Musk and think that this is a much better thought out car than the Fisker. Motor Trend has driven a Tesla from LA to Vegas and posted it on Youtube btw so it can be done. Also, the naysayers and “nothing can replace gasoline” crowd has to remember that the only thing you can count on in life is change.
Yeah they drove to Las Vegas with no AC on to save energy,
It’s also worth remembering that the engineering that goes into the drivetrains of cars like the Volt and Tesla is very much applicable even if other storage media were used. If fuel cells start to outstrip batteries, the basic engineering of everything but the fuel cell system is already done. While battery-electric cars are still somewhat impractical, they are working the kinks out of the rest of the vehicle – remember the original two-speed transmission in the Tesla Roadsters that never worked out?
I can’t help but think that a Tesla Model S with smaller batteries but with the addition of a small gas turbine and fuel tank would make this car just about perfect and well worth the price tag. I can’t swing the $100k full-bore version but the base model is well within my reach. The problem is that I would want to use the luxury car for long trips and that just wouldn’t do the job. For going to work, I’m just fine in an old beater.
How hard was it to get used to driving with only one pedal? How quick will it stop just letting your foot of the go pedal? I would think there would be lots of screeching halts during the learning phase.
Easy for me, but then I’m an EV fanatic. The regenerative braking is never strong enough to come anywhere near to screeching. This car’s owner has a nice game to see how long he can go without needing the brake pedal. On my little loop one time I didn’t get lined up to get on the freeway soon enough and needed to brake to join that lane smoothly.
This thing first showed up on my Radar when I spotted one in Truckee a few months ago. I see Leafs fluttering about Reno and I’ve seen a few down in the Sacramento area but until the S nothing had the range to make it over I80 on Donner.
Adam Carolla recenetly took a Model S out for a spin and was impressed:
Given another 4-6 yrs for another product cycle I’d consider purchasing something at 35-40k. I’m a bit leery of Lithium battery longevity, but other than that that EVs have a potential to dramatically lower the fuel cost of driving. Right now my Mk5 Jetta TDI 5M costs me $.09-.11 per mile in fuel. Filling the “tank” of an with cheap 0000-0600 off peak electricity has the potential to drive this down to $.02-.04
Adam Carolla recenetly took a Model S out for a spin and was impressed:
Here’s an idea: let’s stick with actual classics, please. I used to frequent several other automotive blogs and grew very weary of the constant EV rah-rah. Face it…they’re not there yet, won’t be for a long time, and by the time they are, we won’t have enough sustained generation capacity to support the load of everyone charging their cars all the time (if the Greens have their way…and those people all believe we ALREADY use too much electricity).
Indeed, this site is Curbside Classic and I don’t want it to blur out into the new car space at all. Very rarely a car appears which is certain to be a classic from birth. This car is getting all the COTY awards, and enough have been sold already we can be sure a few will be curbside in 2038.
There is already plenty of baseload generating capacity while we’re sleeping to charge up millions of EVs no problem. If we could just get a little spine as a nation and mass-produce the new passively-safe nuclear reactors, we’d have all the energy we could use and beat climate change in the process. (Guess I’d better duck and cover again now 😉
This is true. My electricity utility has been replacing their old baseline generating equipment with new units that they can shut down at night. There is little so little demand for electricity at night that it makes financial sense for them to spend the extra money to install equipment that can be modulated to demand.
Incase anyone wants to fact check me, here you go: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=16026
I haven’t seen the Tesla haroldingpatrick mentioned yet in Atlanta, I do enough Atlanta driving to see it eventually and go Wow! That’s that Tesla CC was talking about.
I think this car is rare/distinctive enough to be worth a Curbside Classic, new or not. I’m not personally buying the EV rah-rah- I need something with longer range as A) I can easily drive 300+ miles in a day, B) I would not spend more than $25K for a car C) I need something that 10 years hence, Rick at the corner shop can fix cheaply and D) I don’t approve of the statement that electric cars make, but $54K for 160 mile range is . . . impressive, especially in a world of $35K Fusions and the next Impala is rumored to top out at around $40K.
At a certain price point, you’re buying sizzle rather than steak. You get a lot of toys once you get past a certain price point and mainly, image and the ability to impress others. I would be WAY more impressed by this thing, objectively, technologically speaking, than the latest CZQ-357R tarting up a midsize sedan or deforming it into a crossythingy. I can see this causing real damage to struggling “luxury” brands like Lincoln and Acura.
I know where your sentiments lie. I won’t denigrate them.
I WILL posit: What YOU want…should I be forced to buy?
…or subsidize, with taxes out of my earnings?
Answer at your leisure. Flames will be ignored.
Tesla Motors got an interest-bearing loan of $465 million from the US government in 2009. They judged it to be a good investment in the public interest to support an emerging industry and energy independence, and they (we) expect the loan to be repaid, like other automaker loans have been.
Now Tesla has 2000 employees and growing, and its stock is worth $4.2 billion. Looks like we made a good investment.
Also, as mentioned previously, the oil industry is subsidized by the U.S. government. $1.7 billion per year. Puts Tesla’s loan from the government in perspective.
Autoblog: “Musk vows to repay Tesla’s federal loans in five years, not ten”
Most of the tax code attempts to subsidize or penalize behavior. That’s a fact of life.
Do you have children? A mortgage? Have you ever taken a deduction for donations to charity? Do you deduct your state income taxes on your federal return?
The EV tax credit is small potatoes compared to these subsidies.
For the record, Tesla Motors paid off their government loan in full today, nine years early.
“In addition to payments made in 2012 and Q1 2013, today’s wire of almost half a billion dollars ($451.8M) repays the full loan facility with interest. Following this payment, Tesla will be the only American car company to have fully repaid the government.”
Model X SUV deliveries start next year.
One of my clients very graciously let me take a spin in her Model S, just like the car here. The car has revolutionized the car industry and it benefits will get into mainstream cars soon. The Tesla is an amazing drive, the almost silent push of the electric motor is a real rush and the thing rockets to speed like a Corvette. It’s really an amazing piece of pure engineering but my cyclical saysold on one hand says they’ll lose money on every car. On the other hand, the one I drove was owed by a wealthy Chinese woman, who knows what is hip and what is not. She tells me hands down the Model S is cool. The Chique factor can’t be overlooked and it will sell a lot of cars to a lot of wealthy people.
The thing that makes me wonder about their business model is not the profit per car but how their free fast charger stays free. If the car really sells well and lasts a fairly long time the cost of energy could really eat into the long term profitability of the car.
The hip factor definitely helps with the launch volume and pricing, but it is a double edged sword as usually a item’s hipness is short lived.
Ive very little interest in new cars but this one is very different to the rest. If it makes it down here the price will likely double so only the wealthy could afford to buy one but @ $2.15 per L for gas electric makes a lot of sense, hell I get 16kms per litre of diesel and the Tesla makes my car look expensive to run.
I just watched “The Aviator” this weekend again, great movie if you havent seen it. At the end when they had Mr, Hughes being interrogated by the Senator for being a war profiteer he gave the best answer in that ALL airplane manufacturers had taken development money for planes that didnt fly.
Kinda like the electric car companies. Some worked, most didnt. This one did.
We should never allow politics to cloud development in our minds, that was why the world was called flat for so many years.