While it sounds like Tesla is making strides with addressing the battery life/capacity/size issue, the $50K pricetag puts it way out of the range of practical, mainstream vehicles, in my book, any way. Is this model meant to go up the lower price Nissan Leafs and other less expensive EVs? Doesn't seem like a head to head match.
Acctually, Beth, I have an answer to that. I was at an IEEE meeting where we had a former company executive speak about the car and the company's strategy. Realizing that the battery technology was still way to expensive for a mass market car, Tesla decided on a phased approach. The overall goal was to prove the viability of electric vehicles. That meant getting some on the road and getting real world experience. So, they started at the high end with a vehicle type that would not be a primary commuter car. This was their sports model, which listed at about $100K. The car in the article is the next step, This is a mid-size car that goes up against the BMW 5 Series in size, price and features. As mentioned in the article, the battery pack design is new, and potentially less costly than the battery in the first Tesla.
The whole theory behind this is the new technology adoption curve. A good example is flat screen TVs. Early models, of perhaps 36" size cost over $5K. Today you can buy a 46" or greater with LEDs and 3D capability for $1K or so. New, ultra flat TVs are about to come out that will cost $8K, I have read. There will always be some who are willing to pay for the latest and greatest. As the prodcution ramps up and competitors arrive, the costs come down.
As for the Leaf and Volt, they are not really cheap for what they provide. I think they are both in the upper $30Ks.
Good looking car, but I think you are right, Beth. The Model S seems to be made more for the driver who wants an EV, but also expects to stand out from the crowd while driving it. I can't help but wonder if all these car company's will eventually fall flat in their electric efforts because they are all trying to be better than the rest. At what point do they stop trying to impress with infotainment and other features? Yes, they are cool, but isn't a car just supposed to get you from point A to point B?
Naperlo, in mentioning Tesla's strategy, I wonder if the company introduced a lower-price vehicle (relative to its $100K car) in order to get a higher volume of sales. I can't imagine a car maker could survive long selling cars for $100K. Maybe I'm wrong, but just can't imagine there is sufficient volume at the price point unless you're BMW or Mercedes. Getting vehicles down to the $50k range could make a difference in volume sales.
Thanks for elaborating NaperLou and that strategy does make sense. The 50K range puts it in the same ballpark as other high-end luxury sedans/SUVs like BMWs and Lexus cars and if you consider the profile of early adopters, typically it is the gadget guy (or gal) who wants the latest in new technology, but also wants it nicely packaged in a high-end design. So basically Tesla is betting that the same folks that shelled out the thousands for the flat screen HD TVs before everyone was buying sub $1K flat screens or the pricey tablets before knock-offs hit the market are the ones that will experiment with the "mid-priced" Tesla offering.
Rob, that is precisely the point. The high margin cars help get you started, but will never reach volumes. The battery pack on the origial Tesla, which is a small two seat sports car, cost $25K and weighs 900lbs. It also had a significant range (over 250 miles). Compare that to a Volt or Leaf. As they advance the battery technology, they will be able to bring out cars that compete in price with the Volt and Leaf and conventional hybrids that will open up a mass market. I should think that this is only a couple of years away.
The big, unanswered question, of course, is when will the battery technology advance. Expectations to the contrary, the high-end, sporty electrics/hybrids like Tesla and Fisker have not advanced battery technology. When you look at those companies and run that numbers, that's not surprising. They simply don't have the cash to put into battery R&D. The conventional wisdom appears to be that batteries (capacity and energy density) don't follow Moore's Law and NEVER WILL. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to hear some positive expectations about battery research from a Mercedes engineer I spoke with last week at CES. Please see my story, "CES: Mercedes Foresees Progress in Batteries, Composites.
I agree, Naperlou. Prices will come down with production volume. Using your $25K number, it appears their batteries cost between $500 and $600/kWh. Most experts predict that those costs will drop to around $400/kWh as production volume rises.
Having enjoyed driving kerosene-fired steam cars, it would be fun to try Tesla's coal-fired steam car. Coal fired? Of course! We just don't see the boiler and steam engine since they live at the power station. A truly "green" electric car would charge its batteries from a renewable source. About 20 years ago I designed a solar charging station for a friend's electric car. It used conventional lead-acid batteries but it served quite well for commuting to work and back.
Finally, an electric car that doesn't look like one. No rear "fender skirts" and flat wheel discs. For those that still desire an element of excitement while getting from point A to B, this may just hit the mark.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the country’s longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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