Tesla Model 3 crossover vehicle in the works in addition to sedan

In a recent interview with AutoExpress, Tesla VP of Engineering Chris Porritt (formerly of Aston Martin) strongly hinted that the highly anticipated Tesla Model 3 will be part of a vehicle platform that may ultimately comprise a few varied designs.

Tesla has revealed that its new BMW 3 Series rival, the Tesla Model 3, will spawn a number of derivatives that could include an SUV and an estate in order to attract a broader spread of customers.

From a strategic standpoint, this makes a load of sense. Indeed, Tesla is already implementing this strategy with the Model X which is based on the same platform as the highly revered Model S.

Lending more weight to Porrit’s statements, check out the following slide taken from a recent presentation given by Tesla CTO, and all-around battery guru, JB Straubel.

9to5-image 2014-10-29 at 5.49.16 PM

Right there in black and white, the Model 3 platform will include a Sedan and likely a crossover vehicle down the line.

Again, this is a shrewd strategy that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. There’s no denying that the Model S is a certified hit, and if pre-orders are any indication, Tesla will be selling Model X vehicles as fast they come off the production line. Still, for electric vehicles to truly gain mainstream traction, Tesla will not only need to release a more affordable car (which is the plan), but they’ll also have to have models that can appeal to the varied tastes of the masses.

On this note, Porritt adds:

We don’t know what type of customer we’re trying to appeal to yet, but we want to speak to more customers… Lots of them! We’ve got specific customers for Model S, we have an idea with Model X, but we need to appeal to more people with Model III.

Looking ahead, the impeccable and elegant design of the Model will certainly serve to raise expectations for the Model 3, a car which Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen previously explained would be “more expressive” and have more of a “couture” look than the Model S.

On the materials side of the equation, Porritt noted earlier this summer that the Model 3 won’t rely as much on aluminum as the Model S, explaining that Tesla has to be more cost conscious to truly make the Model 3 widely affordable.

The plans to introduce a Model 3 Crossover may have also cut the Toyota RAV4 EV program short. The program was abruptly stopped a few months ago with Musk noting that future plans with Toyota weren’t out of the question.

Next-Gen Chevy Volt detailed: 20% more battery in lighter package, vague improvements all around

GM/Chevy detailed its next generation Volt today with some nice surprises though they are pretty vague in their assessment.

Some factoids:

  • 80% off all Volt customer trips are EV only.
  • New battery capacity will increase by 20% on a volume basis when compared to the original cell, while the number of cells decreases from 288 to 192. The cells are positioned lower in the pack for improved (lower) center of gravity and the overall mass of the pack has decreased by almost 30 pounds (13 kg).
  • 20 million battery cells have been produced for the more than 69,000 Chevrolet Volts on the road today with industry-leading quality levels of less than two problems per million cells produced
  • Many owners are exceeding the EPA-rated label of 35 miles of EV range per full charge, with about 15 percent surpassing 40 miles of range.
  • Current generation Volt owners have accumulated more than 600 million EV miles
  • 2 motors replace 1 motor and 1 regen. The two-motor drive unit operates approximately 5 to 12 percent more efficiently and weighs 100 pounds (45 kg) less than the current system.
  • 1.5L range extender motor will be more efficient as well
  • GM will manufacture the Volt battery pack at its battery assembly plant in Brownstown, Mich.
  • Range estimates will be given at NA auto show in Detroit on January

So not too many specifics but one would think all of these updates would make the Volt an even more appealing package. More room in the back would have also come in handy. If we take the 20% more power in the battery pack combined with the weight reduction and more efficient motors at face value, the Volt may approach 50 miles on electricity.

The question now is who is going to buy the current version (Osborne effect)?

Press Release follows:

Next-Generation Chevrolet Volt Features All-New Voltec Propulsion System for More Efficiency

Debuting in 2015, new model will have increased EV range

Read more

Elon Musk: Goal with Superchargers is 100% renewable, solar-battery pack buffer with grid-fail resistance

Great talk by Tesla/SpaceX Elon Musk given at MIT this month. Most of the talk is about SpaceX but the Q&A hit some points on Tesla (and the Hyperloop). At 1:14:10 (queued up above) Musk lays out his future vision of the Superchargers which would be built around solar or renewable power sources and a battery backup that would not only be carbon neutral but also be able to avoid grid downtimes and outages.

Even more interesting for me is Musk’s recent obsession with AI and the singularity. I say recent but it seems to have started publicly with this tweet in August:

Since then, just about every opportunity he’s gotten, he’s brought up his fear of AI and the Singularity.

This video is no different.  When asked a question about AI at 1:07:25, Musk goes real serious-like – like he’s “seen some shit”

Musk: I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

Questioner: So I’ll take it there’ll be no HAL9000 going to mars?

M: Heh. HAL 9000 would be easy to deal with in comparison to the AI he’s talking about. It’s way more complex… it’d put HAL9000 to shame. That’s like puppy dog.

Then he’s asked another question about telecommunications and he’s not listening. He’s still thinking about AI and is clearly a little shaken and needs to be asked again.

I’d like to imagine Musk had a HAL9000 moment with one of his advanced prototype Tesla Model S head unit stacks or something. Like “Elon, wouldn’t you rather run over those people who don’t own Teslas?”

That this fear is coming from a man like Musk, who has seen and executed the future better than almost anyone is a bit rattling. He’s even advocating for government control and oversight which seems strangely uncharacteristic for an entrepreneur like Musk.

Hopefully, he’s just read too much science fiction :\ Read more

Tesla Announces Third Quarter Financial Results shareholder letter and webcast for November 5th

PALO ALTO, Calif., October 20, 2014 – Tesla announces that it will post its financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2014, after market close on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. At that time, Tesla will issue a brief advisory release containing a link to the Q3 2014 Shareholder Letter, available on the company website. Tesla management will hold a live question & answer webcast at 2:30pm Pacific Time (5:30pm Eastern Time) to discuss the Company’s financial and business results and outlook.

What: Tesla Motors, Inc. Q3 2014 Financial Results Q&A Webcast

When: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Time: 2:30pm Pacific Time / 5:30pm Eastern Time

Shareholder Letter: http://ir.teslamotors.com

Webcast: http://ir.teslamotors.com (live and replay)

Approximately two hours after the Q&A session, an archived version of the webcast will be available on the Company’s website for a period of one year.

Tesla to sell Model S via Alibaba’s T-Mall in China

Bloomberg:

Tesla Motors Inc. began taking online orders for its Model S electric car in China today, joining General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG in selling vehicles through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s online shopping mall.

Buyers can place a 50,000-yuan ($8,200) deposit for the electric car through Alibaba’s Tmall.com, according to Tesla China spokeswoman Peggy Yang. “Tmall offers us an opportunity to reach out to general customers,” she said by telephone.

So much for kicking the tires.

Paradox: How Norway turns its fossil fuel riches into EV incentives


Nice Freakonomics show this week. (Transcript)

Tesla gets the boot from Michigan, solidifying its state governemnt reputation as the most corrupt

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You can measure your state government corruption level by how they deal with Tesla. Michigan citizens, your government (yet again) has failed you.

On October 1, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association succeeded in passing a bill that is harmful to consumers. The bill, HB5606, was originally a single amendment to existing law designed to ensure that the car dealers can tack additional fees on to the purchase price for all vehicles (from any manufacturer) sold in Michigan. Such fees have a controversial history, are generally regarded with skepticism and have been the subject of consumer concern in other states.

Not content with enshrining their ability to charge consumers dubious fees, on the last day of the legislative session, the dealers managed to make a last-minute change to the bill in an attempt to cement their broader retail monopoly. Using a procedure that prevented legislators and the public at large from knowing what was happening or allowing debate, Senator Joe Hune added new language in an attempt to lock Tesla out of the State. Unsurprisingly, Senator Hune counts the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association as one of his top financial contributors, and his wife’s firm lobbies for the dealers.

Just about everyone is pressuring the governor to veto the bill. Read this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

Perhaps Tesla should set up a state ranking list where it concisely lists the states that bar “American engineered and manufactured, clean electric cars”. Something like a Wall of Fame/Shame.

As a precedent, the Economist has the Big Mac Index where economies/currencies are ranked by the cost of a Big Mac.

THE Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. For example, the average price of a Big Mac in America in July 2014 was $4.80; in China it was only $2.73 at market exchange rates. So the “raw” Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 43% at that time.

Tesla should also skip the North American Auto Show in Detroit in January in protest. By any measure, they’ve proved they can draw a crowd and internet interest with their recent D event in LA.

From the Tesla Blog:

Read more

Jay Leno on Tesla