Tesla Electric Car Makes Pit Stop

By dancurranjr On December 11th, 2010

As they stepped out of the sleek, hand-built, carbon fiber Roadster, Danielle Molleur of Summit and her daughter Madeleine, were all smiles. “I can understand why there’s so much excitement and why we put our money down on one,” said Danielle, one foot still in the Tesla’s futuristic cockpit.

On Saturday, Summit residents interested in checking out, and test driving, Tesla’s innovative, high performance sports car were able to do so during the manufacturer’s national Go Electric Roadster Tour. All they had to do was make an appointment with Tesla’s representative, Michael J. Sexton, and meet at the Grand Summit Hotel.

“We’re not your typical type of automotive company,” said Sexton. “Our (business) model is very much like Apple. We go out into the marketplace with the vehicle and present it to prospective clients. We want people to experience the car, and the response is overwhelming. Today, my first drive is at 10 and my last drive is at 3. We’ll probably do 10 drives in Summit, altogether. And that’s a good manageable amount.”

The buzz around Tesla and its car has truly reached a fever pitch. In a climate where consumers are increasingly concerned not only with economics but also with reducing their impact on the environment, it’s easy to understand why.

The Tesla doesn’t need a single drop of gasoline and produces zero fumes. Twice as efficient as a typical hybrid, the Roadster is a pure, electric sports model. It accelerates from 0-60 in a mere 3.7 seconds, with a maximum speed of about 125 mph, and a range of up to 245 miles on a single electric charge.

Although the base model price is $106,000, Sexton is quick to point out that the car qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500 and that there is no sales tax on the vehicle, in the state of New Jersey.

According to the company, the Tesla’s sales numbers have been growing steadily ever since the company went public in June of this year. There are currently more than 1,400 Roadster owners in the world. Together, they have driven more than 8 million electric miles — saving more than 400,000 gallons of gas and 21,000 barrels of oil, in the process.

Named after the Serbian electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla, the company took its inspiration from the great inventor, who also happened to be the father of AC (alternative current) power. The Tesla has an AC induction motor.

“It was always a dream of Tesla’s to have a fully electric vehicle. At the turn of the 20th Century, he tinkered with electric vehicles. There was the Baker electric vehicle and he toyed with that — how to make that run without even using batteries,” added Sexton.

Tesla will be coming out with a four-door sedan version of the Roadster in 2012 — the Model S. This one will have a range of up to 300 miles. That’s the model that Danielle Molleur has actually committed to buy.

“The nice thing is that you buy one of these and you’re done. I mean, there’s no gas and an electrician can fix the engine. And no combustion engine. No spewing all kinds of stuff in the air. We have to move in that direction. Even Kuwait and Dubai are putting in solar fields. They know that the end is coming for fossil fuels,” she stressed.


GM’s ‘Reinvention’ Starts With $25 Million Battery Lab

By dancurranjr On June 16th, 2009

hybrid_battery_packGeneral Motors took a big step toward its reinvention as the “New G.M.” today when it opened what it calls the largest automotive battery laboratory in the United States, a move the struggling company believes will hasten the development of electric vehicles.

The GM battery lab is located at its sprawling Warren Technical Center campus outside Detroit, Michigan.

GM invested $25 million in the 33,000-square-foot Global Battery Systems Lab to develop and test the drivetrains underpinning the Chevrolet Volt and other hybrid, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The automaker believes the facility, at its sprawling Warren Technical Center campus outside Detroit, Michigan, will help make it a market leader in battery and EV technology.

“The new global GM battery lab will benefit consumers across America by helping us advance the development of battery technology in the United States and put cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road more quickly and affordably,” CEO Fritz Henderson said in a statement.

“Our new lab improves GM’s competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles.”

The lab’s opening comes one week after General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and vowed to reinvent itself as a leaner, greener company focused on fuel efficiency.

It also comes as major automakers align themselves with battery manufacturers to bring cars with cords to market. Volkswagen, for example, recently signed a deal with Chinese auto- and battery-maker BYD, and Daimler bought nearly 10 percent of Tesla Motors last month.

The Global Battery Systems Lab is four times larger than the cramped quarters where engineers had been working on the lithium-ion battery pack used in the Volt. It employs more than 1,000 engineers.

The operation features 160 test channels and 42 thermal chambers that subject batteries to real-world driving conditions and temperarture variations. It also has 32 battery cyclers, “treadmills” used to deplete and charge the packs repeatedly.

“This facility is state-of-the-art and represents one of the largest and most capable battery test labs in the world,” said Jim Queen, vp of global engineering. The lab has a maximum power capacity of 6 megawatts.

The lab also features a thermal shaker table for testing the structural integrity of each pack and a battery tear-down workshop for failure analysis and reverse-engineering competitors’ batteries.

The Global Battery Systems Lab is the crown jewel in GM’s battery program, which includes labs in Mainz-Kastel, Germany and Honeoye Falls, New York.

General Motors is working with LG Chem on the battery that will provide the Volt with an all-electric range of 40 miles, and it has a joint deal with Compact Power and LG Chem to continue developing the technology.

GM also has joined the University of Michigan in creating a battery-specific engineering curriculum and a battery lab in Ann Arbor.

GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week and is radically scaling back its operations, but work on the battery lab started in December 2007 shortly after GM started developing the Volt. Construction started in August and engineers started testing batteries there in January.

The company plans to open a factory somewhere in Michigan to begin producing batteries by the end of 2010, at which point the Volt is slated to start rolling off an assembly line at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly factory.


Future Auto Industry Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV) and Electric Cars

By dancurranjr On April 20th, 2009

plug-in-hybrid-car-phevSeveral automakers are developing plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric cars that could help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. Many industry officials say the goal is a worthy one but will be difficult to meet. A look at the work by some auto manufacturers:

GENERAL MOTORS CORP.: General Motors is set to produce the Chevrolet Volt, an extended range electric plug-in, in late 2010 in limited numbers. The Volt is the centerpiece of GM’s attempt to take the lead in electric vehicles and will have a lithium-ion battery and electric motor that can take the car 40 miles on a single charge. A gasoline engine will kick in to power a generator to extend the Volt’s range beyond the 40 miles. GM has not yet announced the price of the car, but the cost is expected to be $30,000 to $40,000.

TOYOTA MOTOR CORP.: Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries later this year. Of those, 150 will go to U.S. lease and fleet customers. The plug-in is expected to operate in a similar fashion to the current Prius model by using both gasoline and electricity to propel the vehicle. Toyota is also developing the FT-EV, an all-electric vehicle that is expected to have a range of 50 miles and be on U.S. roads by 2012.

CHRYSLER LLC: Chrysler has shown off five different electric-drive vehicles developed by its high-tech ENVI unit and said it plans to start selling one of the five models next year. The electric car prototypes include a Dodge sports car, a Jeep Wrangler and Patriot, a Chrysler minivan, and a concept version of an electric-powered sedan. The automaker is testing the vehicles simultaneously and recently announced that Massachusetts-based A123Systems will supply the lithium-ion batteries for the company’s extended range gas-electric cars and its all-electric cars.

FORD MOTOR CO.: Ford is planning to produce a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle beginning in 2012 and has been testing a fleet of vehicles through partnerships with several utilities around the nation. Ford has said it intends to bring a battery-electric van to market in 2010 for commercial use, a small battery-electric sedan developed with Magna International by 2011 and a plug-in electric car by 2012. Ford has said Johnson Controls-Saft will supply the battery system for their first production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

NISSAN MOTOR CO.: Nissan has outlined plans to mass-market electric vehicles by 2012, and to make the cars available on a wide scale in Israel and Denmark in 2011. Nissan’s all-electric car will be sold in late 2010 and have 100 miles of pure battery range. Nissan has developed partnerships with states and utilities to promote and develop electric vehicle charging networks.

TESLA MOTORS INC.: Tesla is selling the Roadster, an electric sports car which starts at $109,000 and can travel 244 miles on a 3.5-hour charge. The California automaker is developing the all-electric Model S sedan, which is expected to sell for $60,000 by mid-2011.

FISKER AUTOMOTIVE: The California automaker is releasing its $87,900 Karma plug-in luxury sports sedan, a four-seater with solar panels, in October. The plug-in can drive gas-free for 50 miles. Fisker is also developing the Karma S, a convertible expected in 2011.

SOURCE: The Associated Press

Tesla CEO Critical of the Chevy Volt

By dancurranjr On April 11th, 2009

chevrolet-voltPayPal founder Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors.  Recently he unveiled the Model S 4 door all-electric sedan shown above to much fanfare.  The car exists only as a prototype but the company hopes to mass produce it if it can obtain a $350 million dollar government loan to build the assembly plant.

Tesla has already been producing the 2-seat electric Roadster and has plans to eventually build inexpensive electric cars and partner with automakers.  GM vice chairman Bob Lutz has even credited the company with inspiring him to develop the Volt.

But one thing that stands out is Tesla has no plans to build an extended range electric car like the Volt.

GM-Volt.com had the chance to ask Elon Musk why.

What is your feelings about the range-extender concept of the Chevy Volt and why have you not considered it it any of your products?

We looked closely at a range extender architecture for Model S. It ends up costing about the same in vehicle unit cost, a lot more in R&D and a lot more in servicing. Also, although performance is ok when both battery and engine are active at the same time, it turns really bad when the battery runs out and an undersized engine is carrying all the dead weight of the pack. Essentially, a REV is neither fish nor fowl and ends up being worse (in our opinion) than either a gasoline or pure electric vehicle.

An important consideration that people without a technical background don’t understand is that you can either have a high power or a high energy cell chemistry, but not both. Since the battery pack in a plug in hybrid like the Volt has to generate the same *power* as a much larger battery pack in a pure electric vehicle, it has to use a low energy cell chemistry.

That means a 40 mile REV pack is not 1/5 the size of a 200 mile pure EV pack, as simple proportionality would suggest. Another factor is that the REV pack is forced to do three to four times more cycles that a pure EV pack and is (obviously) hit with five times the current per cell during acceleration and regen braking, which forces the REV pack to be derated considerably.

The net result is that a 40 mile REV pack is roughly half the size of a 200 mile EV pack. On top of that, you have to add the engine, generator and all the interconnects between engine and battery. It ends up having about the same mass and worse packing efficiency than a pure EV, plus you still have to deal with all the environmental issues of a gasoline engine.

SOURCE: GM-Volt.com

Once Declared Dead, The Electric Car Returns

By dancurranjr On April 9th, 2009

teslaOn a warm day with the top down, Steven Mortazavi was breezing along when his eyes locked on the rearview mirror.

A Philly police car was on his tail. Mortazavi wasn’t speeding, but the cop followed him into a parking lot, paused behind him, and then – whew! – moved on.

“He is so dying to give me a ticket,” said Mortazavi, an Allentown, Pa., pain-management physician.

It had to be the car: Bright red. Sleek and curvy. Built for speed, it can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds and top out at 125 miles an hour.

All on an electric motor.

And all for, oh, $109,000.

Mortazavi came to Philadelphia this month to test-drive a Tesla, the Silicon Valley sports car that may well be the first production electric car to not just get onto U.S. highways, but stay there.

The nation has been down this road before, as explored in the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

But now it’s being reborn, in a dozen ways. Virtually every major auto manufacturer has a version in the pipeline.

Proponents see electric vehicles as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil while countering air pollution and climate change.

Energy experts also see them acting as an array of mini storage sites for electricity, with two-way plugs potentially able to feed energy back into the electrical grid during times of peak demand.

President Obama has said he wants to get a million plug-ins on the nation’s roads by 2015. Recently in California, he toured a U.S. Department of Energy electric car test site and announced $2.4 billion in federal funding for vehicle and battery manufacturing.

The cars can’t really be called emission-free because they are powered by electric power plants that have emissions. But several studies have shown electric cars are cleaner than conventional gas-powered ones because there are more restrictions on industry’s “long tailpipes” than on the short tailpipes of cars.

The most recent progression toward electric vehicles started with hybrids – not electric per se, but close.

GM is on deck next, promising a plug-in hybrid called the Chevy Volt in 2010. The four-seater will cost up to $40,000 and will go 40 miles on a charge before a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the batteries.

At least seven others – Saturn, Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, Audi, Hyundai and Volkswagen – have plug-in hybrids in the works.

Full-electric vehicles are promised from BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Chrysler, which is working on a minivan, a Jeep, and a sports car.

Most are due from 2010 to 2013, so prices have not yet been announced.

Eight small entrepreneurial companies are going all-electric, and a Jetson-like three-wheeler, the Aptera 2e, is due this year, ballparked at $25,000 to $45,000.

“Everyone is saying they’re going to add electricity in some way, shape, or form,” said Jay Friedland, legislative director for the nonprofit advocacy group Plug-In America. “We are absolutely, positively rooting for them.”

The big question, however, is whether all these big plans will come to fruition. A prototype is one thing. A mass-market product is another.

“The biggest challenge is getting a lot of electric vehicles on the road, reducing costs, and seeing how consumers like them,” said Constantine Samaras, an engineering researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Tesla’s stance, Samaras said, is “We’re here. We’re real. We have cars.”

Now, Tesla faces the challenge of scaling up, Samaras said. But can it? “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Launched in 2003, Tesla began production a year ago. The plan was to compete not at the economy end of the market, but at the top. Tesla promises pizzazz, not thrift.

Until now, most Americans equated electric vehicles with wimpy cars “that couldn’t even get up a hill,” sniffed Joe Powers, a Tesla manager who plans to open a New York showroom in months. “Tesla’s goal was ’Let’s shatter those preconceptions.’”

Indeed, at a recent electric-car confab in Montgomery County, Pa., Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff flashed a photo of himself behind the wheel of a Tesla, noting, “There’s no question the electric car can be the sexy car.”

Adding eco to speed is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too proposition.

One telling feature: The trunk capacity is described not by how many grocery bags can fit, but whether a golf bag will. (Yes. Just.)

A 3½-hour charge gives the twin-seater a range of roughly 244 miles.

To reserve a production slot, buyers have to put down $9,900 (until about a week ago, it was $60,000) and wait nearly a year. Tesla has delivered about 265 vehicles, with 1,000 more on order.

The path has been potholed, but Powers said the private firm expects to be profitable by midyear.

If the roadster becomes successful, he said, Tesla can “map that DNA” onto cheaper models – like the $57,400 Model S sedan, larger and more practical.

Buyers of both the roadster and the sedan are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit.

Tesla also has applied for $450 million from a U.S. Department of Energy loan program aimed at producing fuel-efficient cars.

Most of it would build a factory to make the sedan, with production expected by 2011.

Early buyers – most were in California – included honchos of Microsoft and Google.

But it’s not really clear whether customers value the greenness or the sports-car aspect more.

Don Auker, who owns a software company in Lebanon, Pa., likes the green and is expecting Car No. 227, in twilight blue, within weeks. Good thing. It’s been a bit chilly lately on his Vectrix, one of several electric motorcycles on the market.

Joe Camarata of Woodbridge, N.J., a sales rep for makers of fire, burglary, and security systems, drives a Viper. “It rocks.” But he likes the Tesla’s moves even better. Electric? Swell. “But for me, it’s all about speed.”

David Brussin of Berwyn, Pa., the chief executive officer of Monetate, a marketing technology start-up, falls somewhere in between. He loves sports cars, “but this is the only one I could drive with a clean conscience.”

Barry Stott, an aviation consultant, was drawn to the car partly because he’s intrigued by Tesla’s “visionary” chief executive officer Elon Musk, also a co-founder of PayPal who is venturing into solar power and space travel. But Stott’s practical side has kicked in, and he said he might wait for the sedan.

If a Tesla is too pricey, Friedland said, just wait. “If your car is still working, hold on to it,” he said. “The next generation of cars is what you want to get.”

SOURCE: Boston Herald