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Transportation Technology

Tesla Motors To Suspend Roadster Production 401

Posted by Soulskill
from the vacation-time dept.
Wyatt Earp writes with news that a recent SEC filing from Tesla Motors revealed the company plans to stop production on its electric Roadster (and the Roadster Sport as well) in 2011. This will leave the automaker without any cars to sell until the launch of its Model S sedan (financed in part by $465 million in DoE loans) in 2012. Tesla plans to resume production of Roadster models "at least a year" after the Model S arrives. From Wired's Autopia blog: "'As a result, we anticipate that we may generate limited, if any, revenue from selling electric vehicles after 2011 until the launch of the planned model S,' the company says in the SEC filing. That may not be a problem if S production starts on plan and goes off without a hitch, but if Tesla hits any snags, things could get ugly fast — a point it concedes in the filing. 'The launch of the Model S could be delayed for a number of reasons and any such delays may be significant and would extend the period in which we would generate limited, if any, revenues from sales of our electric vehicles.'"
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Tesla Motors To Suspend Roadster Production

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  • Uh oh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope they don't screw the pooch... We need companies like Tesla to prove electric cars can be viable alternatives to prevalent gasoline vehicles...

    • Re:Uh oh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @11:57AM (#30970720)

      There isn't anything for them to prove. They aren't an alternative.

      It's either price or range. Can't have both. I'm not spending $50k+ on a vehicle and I'm not driving one with less than a 300mi range.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I agree with you, but I would qualify it by saying that they are not an alternative "right now"; hopefully the price will go down and the range will go up as technology improves over time. Right now you are paying more money for less car with electric-only vehicles.

      • Re:Uh oh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:13PM (#30970838)

        http://www.bts.gov/publications/bts_special_report/2007_10_03/html/table_02.html [bts.gov]

        not very recent, and does not answer the question of how often very long trips occur, but still, range does not seem to matter a whole lot.

        I think the issue is more about getting to a point where it makes economical and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use, and rent a fuel car for longer trips.

        • Even more true outside the USA. Most people in the UK who drive to work consider a 30 minute trip to be a pretty long commute. The kind of roads that they drive along generally have a 30 mile per hour speed limit, although some may be as high as 70. That makes a 15-35 mile trip about the maximum. If you can recharge it in an hour and it comes with a 50 mile range then that would cover most people who drive to work. People who regularly travel for work should really take the train for the long part of t
        • by Anonymous Coward

          "and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use, and rent a fuel car for longer trips"

          And that doesn't really make sense for a huge part of the country where we go to the store once a week for food, and fill up a van. We have to haul stuff to our property to maintain buildings, fields, etc.

          I said "city boy" and I'm joking a bit. But I'm doing that show you that the way you live and where you live is up to you and is neither right nor wrong. Please give everyone else the same benefit of freedo

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by slaingod (1076625)

            By 'huge part of the country' I assume you mean by area, not population. And he said 'car' not 'truck' or 'van', which serves a different purpose (carrying things as opposed to carrying people). Now you may only have a van or truck for financial and convenience reasons, but when someone defines their market, and you then say 'but there are other markets' as your counterpoint...it isn't really germaine.

            • By 'huge part of the country' I assume you mean by area, not population.

              The population of the country, or the population of the United States Senate that wrote the paycheck of the DOE that made this loan? Representation in the Senate is biased toward states with smaller populations, especially the thinly populated plains states located between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. Even a state with the minimum 60,000 people would get its representative, two senators, and three Presidential electors. That's one reason why these rural "other markets" have a voice in the

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by The_Wilschon (782534)

            Slow down, cowboy! (see what I did there? ;) Nobody in this discussion is looking to prevent you from driving whatever you like, living wherever you like, or living however you like. Let's recap.

            An AC said that we need Tesla to prove that electric vehicles are a viable alternative to gasoline vehicles. Another (presumably not the same..) AC said that EVs are not a viable alternative because they either cost too much or have too small of a range. Then obarthelemy cited a study and claimed that the stud

          • by BoberFett (127537) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:07PM (#30972414)

            Just imagine how much cheaper it would be to put gas in your truck if all those city folk weren't using any at all.

        • by tepples (727027)

          it makes economical and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use.

          Then it becomes a tradeoff between the real estate cost of living in the city and the fuel cost of living in the country. Anonymous Coward has a bit of a point here.

          and rent a fuel car for longer trips

          That is, if you can rent a car at all. A lot of places won't let people under 25 rent a car, and a lot of places won't let people rent a car if the trip crosses state or province lines.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by floodo1 (246910)
          I've been advocating a similar strategy with regards to trucks for years now. Most of the people that I know that own trucks only use them as a truck occasionally. Most of the time they use them for simple transportation, which could easily be accomplished by a much less polluting (and cheaper to operate) car. I've long wondered when the day will come that these people have a small car for their daily needs, then rent a truck for their occasional needs.
          • Re:Uh oh (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Dare nMc (468959) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @03:35PM (#30972686)

            I would really like to see trailers with electric wheel motors, for cars. You can't tow a 2000 pound trailer with a 1500 # car, because the trailer would drive it off the road in a emergency stop. A hybrid trailer could have the batteries and motors, and never use the car's brakes and help with accelerate... We could rent just the trailer. Then again too many people never learned to drive with a trailer.
            Especially a hybrid RV trailer, the main reason I have a 3/4 ton pickup.

      • by Kneo24 (688412)
        Correction, they aren't an alternative to you, but then again most vehicles aren't an alternative for you anyway. I hear you have these things called legs and feet. The mileage seems nearly infinite, and it's free. Can't compete with free, right?
        • I hear you have these things called legs and feet.

          Not everybody comes with those. See, for example, this video [youtube.com] and this video [youtube.com].

          The mileage seems nearly infinite

          It's slow, it has no climate control, the carrying capacity is far lower than the trunk of a sedan, and food isn't free. A cheap bicycle is a distinct improvement; it quadruples my speed and range and roughly doubles food mileage, but it still lacks climate control so it's not so useful in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere right now.

          • Add the fact that two wheels are impractical bordering on insane to drive on all that frozen Climate Change currently covering the a large fraction of the northern hemisphere. This day it was another 50cm of it in parts of Western Europe and we rather need snowmobiles or 6-wheelers right now to get anywhere.

      • Your assessment of utility might change at some point in the future. @$5/gal, $6/gal..

      • Re:Uh oh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @01:08PM (#30971292)

        My Grand Prix only has about a 300 mile range of city driving, but the advantage is that I can replenish its fuel supply in about 5 minutes at any number of fueling stations located strategically throughout the city. With the electric car, when your battery is dead, it's dead and you're going to be spending hours, or perhaps all night, waiting for it to recharge. That's not a viable alternative to gasoline-powered cars in my opinion.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          With the electric car, when your battery is dead, it's dead and you're going to be spending hours, or perhaps all night, waiting for it to recharge.

          The car in this story will do a full charge in 45 minutes not hours.

          • Re:Uh oh (Score:4, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:13PM (#30974976) Homepage

            And Th!nk just demonstrated 15 minutes for 80% charging. Which the Subaru R1e supports, too. And the Leaf supports 30 minute charging for the same. The BYD F3DM takes 10 minutes to 80%, and the E6, 10 minutes to 50%. And on and on.

            Rapid charging is becoming a reality. Yes, rapid chargers are going to be rarer than slow chargers, as they're more expensive (similar to gas stations on a per-pump price), and about the size of a vending machine. But we don't need them to be as common as gas stations, because they're only really needed for when you go on long trips. In your everyday life, you start each day with a full charge and never have to even think, "Gee, do I need to get gas today?", then have to go out of your way, sometimes in adverse weather, to go fill up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Idiomatick (976696)
          Hours probably but not all night. It doesn't matter though, we only need batteries to be a tiny tiny bit better. They don't need to be unstoppable machines. They just need to outdo the driver. If you plug it in for a lunch break, a piss break or two, and overnight when you goto sleep... you are getting CLOSE to being able to drive forever. The main issue is that plugs aren't everywhere yet and there isn't a nice set up. So long as companies are sticking in lots of these outlets as they do renos it shouldn't
      • Re:Uh oh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @01:42PM (#30971560)

        Yeah, but like 90% of Americans travel less than 25 miles a day for their commute. For the minority who do need to be able to travel hundreds of miles, then an electric car isn't for you. But for the rest of the crowd it's perfectly fine.

        The "limited" range is a just another tactic by the oil and car industry to keep these things from ever getting popular. If your job is a 5 minute drive away and you make a weekly grocery trip 15 minutes away, why the Hell would you need a car with a range of 300 miles? Vacation/family trip, rent a car, take a train, bus, etc.

        The range isn't going to improve if people don't buy the damn cars to help fund R&D - with real-world data as well - for future generations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Deanalator (806515)

        If you are worried about running out of charge while driving through rural areas or something, why not invest in an EV Trailer?

        http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm [evnut.com]

        It's a bit heavy, but it essentially temporarily turns your car into a hybrid when you need a gas engine for longer trips etc. They will likely become less useful as quick charge stations and battery swap stations become more popular, but it is a good temporary solution.

    • It's ok, there's another company with an even better electric car. I'm heavily invested, you should consider it as well. Electric car [slashdot.org]
  • That's a pretty crappy business model.

    • Yep, or Roadster was making no money or there were some strings attached to that DoE loan.
      • Or Just Maybe... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kneo24 (688412)
        Or they need to retool their existing plants so they can start producing the model S.
        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          Probably this, along with using the existing workers. The roadster was never going to be a mass produced vehicle, so it makes sense at some point to stop production and build something different using those same resources.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or Lotus pulled the platform

    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:15PM (#30970862) Journal

      Its a brilliant business model: Sell $2 million worth of roadsters to generate publicity and get the hang of building electric, get a 400+ million dollar low interest loan, throw the dice on getting a product out and if you win you're rich. If you lose declare bankruptcy and retire on the salaries you paid yourself from the loan.

      If they tried to actually build cars they might get another $2 million in revenue which might get them one million in cash flow but it doesn't even compare to the $400 million they can play with courtesy of the government and it distracts the company from paying attention to the $400 mill project.

      These guys are brilliant hypesters with good government management skills.

      • missed a couple of zeros - 200 mill vs. 465 and cash flow of maybey $100M. Concept still applies

      • by clintp (5169)

        Anyone old enough to remember Osborne Computers? This is similar to the business model they used. And this is why only the old timers will remember them, and as a cautionary tale.

        Tesla Motors is doomed to be just a $1600 question in Double Jeopardy.

      • Re:I don't get it. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:00PM (#30975410)
        Interesting speculation, but after reading about Tesla's founder Elon Musk [comcast.net] I think you're wrong. He made a fortune on PayPal and could easily have called it quits and retired rich. Instead he doubles down again and again, pouring his own money into Space-X and Tesla. He's an engineer and he what he has accomplished so far, and looks poised to accomplish, is quite amazing.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @11:59AM (#30970730)

    When Subaru came out with their 2010 Legacy model they brought out the big guns and re-engineered the body design completely. Subaru redesigns the Legacy on a five year timeline and instead of building on the tried and true Legacy platform, they designed the new Legacy around the WRX STi platform. The result is a car with a great engine, large interior, and aggressive styling.

    The other result is terrible sales.

    No one likes the new exterior. It resembles Honda's generic styling more than Subaru's conspicuously different styling. No one buys a Legacy because they want to drive an Accord.

    You can't build a city by burning it to the ground. You need at the very least a Granary and a Marketplace so that you can grow your population while making income. This allows you to finance all the other fun stuff you want to do like developing war trolls or building sorcerer's guilds. Without the basic income stream, you're just going to get screwed when some bear rushes in and eats all your citizens because you don't have even a single halberdier around to guard the town.

    This is a bad idea that will put Tesla out of business soon. I feel almost bad for all the people who prepaid.

    • by JDHannan (786636)
      I don't know what I did to never ever have mod points for like 2 years or something, but I've never wanted them more than I do right now.
      I love Master of Magic with all my heart
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Evil Shabazz (937088)
      Volkswagen fell into exactly the same trap with the Jetta. Where the Jetta used to have a distinct look that many really liked, their most recent iteration looks nothing short of what might be produced if an Audi raped a Corolla. The new generic body styles for the Jetta and Legacy have done nothing for their respective images.
    • You need at the very least a Granary and a Marketplace so that you can grow your population while making income.

      Are you seriously still playing Caesar?

      This allows you to finance all the other fun stuff you want to do like developing war trolls

      ....war...craft?

      or building sorcerer's guilds

      I'm starting to think you've got alot of RTS mechanics floating around your head at this point

      Without the basic income stream, you're just going to get screwed when some bear rushes in and eats all your citizens because you don't have even a single halberdier around to guard the town.

      I got it! You're Stephen Colbert posting from the past!

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If I prepaid, I would certainly be massively pissed off. But a lot of these rich fuckers who can actually afford a Tesla Roadster will never notice the money. Still, they are jerking their customers around. They probably would have done better with a higher price tag. The kind of people who can afford it would pay anyway.

    • by mpyne (1222984) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:15PM (#30971812)

      You can't build a city by burning it to the ground. You need at the very least a Granary and a Marketplace so that you can grow your population while making income. This allows you to finance all the other fun stuff you want to do like developing war trolls or building sorcerer's guilds. Without the basic income stream, you're just going to get screwed when some bear rushes in and eats all your citizens because you don't have even a single halberdier around to guard the town.

      This may be the best Master of Magic analogy I've ever seen. (btw if you've never played it, get DOSBox and a second-hand copy of the game pronto)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      I want your children. Biologically, it's not going to happen, but right now? I'm ready to give it a shot. You, sir, are composed entirely of Win.
  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @11:59AM (#30970732)
    The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car. Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche. The best that they (and the taxpayers) could hope for is for them to be bought by one of the major auto manufacturers. Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people? If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles. If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?
    • Mod up. I can afford a Tesla, and I think it's insane that this is getting subsidy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drgruney (1077007)
      It's called the trickle down effect. When cars were first made they were toys for the wealthy. Now every schmo thinks they are entitled to own 4 wheels and an engine. It doesn't matter how much electric cars cost, if they are made the technology will eventually become common enough for everyone to have it.
    • by Thing 1 (178996) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:13PM (#30970848) Journal

      Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche.

      Agree, and strongly disagree.

      "Cars are a niche, people will always ride horses for transportation."

      "Computers are a niche, they take up a whole room, there isn't really demand for more than six or so of them."

      "Planes are a niche, they're useful in war but that's about it."

      We the taxpayers should finance this company, and not bail out the "big 3" (two, really, Ford didn't need as much help), because they're proving that they can make something revolutionary that will work its way down to being affordable to everyone. The big 3 are just doing more of the same. And slower.

      And besides, it's not a gift, it's a loan.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        And besides, it's not a gift, it's a loan.

        No, it's a gamble. If the company goes bankrupt, the loan will never be repaid so it retroactively becomes a gift. I'm fairly sure that people gambling with other people's money was one of the causes of the current financial mess...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rob the Bold (788862)

          No, it's a gamble. If the company goes bankrupt, the loan will never be repaid so it retroactively becomes a gift. I'm fairly sure that people gambling with other people's money was one of the causes of the current financial mess...

          Every loan is a gamble in the sense that is might not get paid back. That's part of the reason you charge interest. You do your due diligence, diversify your lending and presumably you mitigate the risk. And yes, loaning other people's money is pretty much the way it's done. There's nothing inherently problematic about that. The practice isn't exactly new either. Remember the "Parable of the talents" from the bible? The boss man returns from his travels to find that the "worthless" servant has buried

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        To be fair, GM with it GM Volt is on to something...

    • by Kneo24 (688412) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:14PM (#30970852) Homepage

      Well, if it was generally that easy, I'm sure they would have done it sooner. The fact of the matter is, for any startup, you need to target the rich to not only bring down the price of economies of scale, but to pay off for the R&D initially. Yes, there's still R&D going on, but their biggest hurdles are out of the way.

      To suggest that they're just a boutique manufacturer for only the wealthy shows ignorance on your part. That isn't their primary goal. Their primary goal is eventually make an affordable electric car for everyone that has style, performance, and still have the vehicle give a good range. They've done the really expensive car. Now they're doing the sort of expensive car. Next they'll do the even cheaper version. This has been their stated road-map for quite some time.

      Besides, the government subsidizes all sorts of things, some things I'm sure you couldn't initially afford until cheaper variants came out. Are you against that too?

    • You don't start by making a $2,000 car. You start by making a $100,000 car, then a $50,000 car, then a $35,000 car....
      • You don't start by making a $2,000 car.

        Unless you're Nicholas Negroponte and you launch the whole netbook fad by trying to get the cost of building a laptop down close to 100 USD.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sulphur (1548251)

        You don't start by making a $2,000 car. You start by making a $100,000 car, then a $50,000 car, then a $35,000 car....

        If you do enough of something, then you get good at it. Costs like engineering can be spread over a line of cars.

        If there were only one _____ car it would be outrageously expensive; however, there are many.

        --

        Paper tape calculator with keys taped down. The boss walks in. "What is that?"
        The answer: "Its calculating my salary in real time."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Walter White (1573805)

      Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche.

      I do not agree. They started business as a niche product with the aim of introducing products at a lower price point that could sell in larger volume. That cannot be done in one huge step. If they succeed with the S model, the next model will be higher volume and lower cost.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car.

      We're talking about a group of people who tend to buy luxury cars with poor mileage, so it's a good idea to get them into something efficient. These are also the people that others want to emulate; if the roadster is any indication, the Model S will be driven by celebrities first. Cigarettes became popular in the USA only after the smoking industry paid Hollywood to include smoking scenes in movies. The same is true of Diamonds, which are a semi-precious stone whose supply is controlled to make it precious.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MartinSchou (1360093)

      If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

      If the banks are such good investments, why can't they raise their billions and billions dollars instead of completely unconditional loans and gifts from the government?

      The biggest difference I see, is that Tesla has a viable business model, whereas the banks' business models seem to be "siphon money into CEO's pockets". Gra

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car.

      True, but a "sports car" is not what everybody wants anyway. And, have you priced a full-sized SUV recently? Saddly, many people spend close to 50k for conventional gas / disel "family" vehicles.

    • by avilliers (1158273) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:33PM (#30971012)

      The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car. Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche. The best that they (and the taxpayers) could hope for is for them to be bought by one of the major auto manufacturers. Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people?

      It's new technology; even if this model never takes off the expertise can spill over. It's not like giving money to Ford to keep more Mustangs on the street. It's a potential benefit even if the parent business fails.

      It's a pretty good way encourage technology development. A lot of private people think they may be able to make it profitable eventually, they've put in their money, so the government leverages work that may prove valuable beyond the short-term by giving loans. No new government buildings needed, no new bureaucracy you can't kill.

      I don't know enough about Tesla or the industry to say if this particular one is the best use of money, but it's not unique or anything. Corporations often get subsidies for new tech; basic research just doesn't get done at measurable levels these days in private industry. Bell Labs isn't what it used to be.

      If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles.

      The "picking winners and losers" thing has really become a meme. Government policies necessarily determine winners and losers all the time, of course, with zoning laws, housing subsidies, mileage standards, public roads, wars for oil, leasing out of federal land, tarriffs, and so on.

      If we (ie, the people through the government) chose to spend massive subsidies on electric cars, it would be because we thought the benefits (noise, local pollution, energy flexibility, global warming) outweighed the costs. We'd be saying that cars that spew out those pollutants are "losers," and it's worth paying for them to get off the roads. That is fundamentally a government business--making decisions about the common areas in communities.

      If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

      Because, obviously, a good investment for the government is not the same as a good investment for a private investor. We don't expect corporations to identify candidates in kindergarten and pay for their schooling through 12th grade and college. They'd never get their money back, at least not in a free labor system, but society as a whole benefits.

      Your points are really all cookie-cutter stuff, by which I mean they apply to any government intervention, not just Tesla, not just for putatively rich people. But even in freshman college micro-economic models, concepts like externalities might justify state intervention, and in the real world, actual or de facto subsidies for other industries require it. Given this specific intervention is a loan, not some recurring grant and not regulation, which will let the company live or die in the market (as evidenced by the actual story), do you have any actual reason to oppose *this one*, and not just all?

    • So their first car retails for >$100,000, and their second will be around $50,000 (which, after tax rebates, will be in the 40's) and they have stated that they will have an even cheaper car in the future, and your not seeing how the price declines relate very much to how technology drops in price?

      Little things like once they build a plant, they can make their own cars, instead of buying a LOTUS, ripping it apart, and then putting there parts in could really, really drop the price. Look at the volt. It
      • by karnal (22275)

        I like your first point; however your second point - isn't that kind of wrong?

        I would highly expect that Tesla would be buying the Lotus frame seperately - if they were buying the entire car, they'd be close (if not over) their asking price for the roadster just by purchasing the vehicle to strip...

    • by MpVpRb (1423381)

      Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people?

      Because the only way to lower prices is to increase production.

      In the early days of gasoline cars, they were made by by "boutique manufacturers for wealthy people".

      Little by little, as the industry matures, electric cars will get more affordable.

    • The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car. Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche. The best that they (and the taxpayers) could hope for is for them to be bought by one of the major auto manufacturers. Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people? If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles. If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

      I have a general comment: Porche makes and always has made sport cars. They've been steadily increasing profits, year after year. They steadily also increased their holdings of VolksWagen Group (to somewhat over 35%) until they merged. So, even if you "only" make luxury cars, you can make profits that are in the same order of magnitude, or even better than, the traditional manufacturers. In fact, Porsche was arguably more solvent than some US car manufacturers have ever been.

  • DoE loan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doug141 (863552) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:05PM (#30970782)

    Taxpayer bears the risk of default, Tesla execs get to keep any windfalls of development, all the while drawing their salary against the loan. Doesn't sound like the best deal for the taxpayer to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642)

      Taxpayer bears the risk of default, Tesla execs get to keep any windfalls of development, all the while drawing their salary against the loan. Doesn't sound like the best deal for the taxpayer to me.

      Geeze dude, you make them sound like the American banking system. They aren't that bad, they might actually produce something useful, that being cars.

    • Re:DoE loan (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:56PM (#30971196) Journal
      If they're successful then more Americans start using power from hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, and so on power produced in the USA, instead of oil imported from the middle east. More money stays in the US economy and the government takes its cut every time it changes hands, so it's not like there's no benefit to the taxpayer if it's successful. It would be nice if the execs shared a bit more of the risk though...
  • by Canazza (1428553) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:06PM (#30970788)

    This needs a car anaolgy!

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:15PM (#30970858)
    You have to give 'em credit for courage. Moving away from the incremental change model transforms the consumer's unacknowledged secondary role of beta tester into that of alpha tester, so they either get it right the first time or they likely become a blip in automotive history.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:29PM (#30970974)

    I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that the Model S will fail not because Tesla Motors is staffed by idiots (it isn't), and not because the gubmint won't support electric vehicles, but because fully electric vehicles cannot be competitive with liquid-fuel vehicles.

    Forget unit prices, horsepower, yadda yadda, here's the only statistic that matters:

    Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg
    Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

    Vehicles are unique among energy technologies in that they typically have to carry their energy source around with them. So energy stored per mass is the most important figure of merit for vehicle propulsion, and electric vehicles are inherently 45 times worse than their liquid-fuel competition.

    To compensate for that factor of 45, serious sacrifices have to be made: either you accept a huge reduction in vehicle range, a huge reduction in vehicle performance, or you spend ridiculous amounts of money reducing drag and friction -- spending that shows up in the final price of the vehicle.

    I predict that electric vehicles will never be able to overcome the energy density barrier and become popular, until either liquid fuel is no longer a readily available competitor, or vehicles no longer have to carry their own energy supply (think electric trains.)

    And if you think you'll be able to convince the public to stop using gasoline "for the good of the planet", or for any reason other than prohibitive cost, I think you're probably naive. I've been trying to think of times when humans gave up an energy source for any reason other than cost vs performance. The only example I can think of is human slavery, and we had to destroy half of a nation to convince them to give it up.

    • Of course, there are those who can afford and will buy such an electric vehicle if only to offset their guilt about the amount of crud their factory on the other side of the planet is pumping out.

      I.e., pure cost analysis may not be applicable - with the long-term result that research is being done to change that cost analysis result. Not to mention, gasoline is indeed a finite resource; substitutes such as ethanol, in turn, require that growing space remains available which in turn relies upon the assumpti

    • Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

      Is that with or without lithium's fivefold advantage in how much of the energy actually gets to the wheels? When you recharge the lithium, all the thermodynamic inefficiencies of an Otto cycle heat engine are already paid for at the power plant. In addition, as Anonymous Coward pointed out, you don't need to lug around the heat engine itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population. If I need to expound, let me know, and I will just ignore you because you're just a troll; if you really cared about this issue, you'd get this already.

      • Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population.

        How/where do apartment dwellers recharge? You can't run an extension cord out the 5th floor window.
      • by tjstork (137384)

        Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population

        But they won't, and that's the problem. Everyone looks at daily commutes and says, hey, that's all people need to do to drive, but they always leave out the weekends, where people tend to drive much, much more, than on weekdays.

        And, even the daily commute thing is a bit of a joke, because a lot of people have to run errands after they leave work.

        There is a reason that

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population

          But they won't, and that's the problem. Everyone looks at daily commutes and says, hey, that's all people need to do to drive, but they always leave out the weekends, where people tend to drive much, much more, than on weekdays.

          No. Most houses which include a commuter also have multiple vehicles. One EV and one Plugin-Hybrid or just gasoline car would still dramatically improve most households' vehicular energy consumption. And I live in California, where there's more cars than licensed drivers, and your argument falls down even harder.

          And, even the daily commute thing is a bit of a joke, because a lot of people have to run errands after they leave work.

          We're going to have some way for people to charge their cars at work, but that's not an unsolvable problem.

          • by tjstork (137384)

            No. Most houses which include a commuter also have multiple vehicles.

            But that's not the point I made. My point was that an EV is not a drop in replacement for another car, and your rebuttal is what? You have to have two cars? What if I only want one car?

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Forget unit prices, horsepower, yadda yadda, here's the only statistic that matters:

      Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg
      Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

      Vehicles are unique among energy technologies in that they typically have to carry their energy source around with them. So energy stored per mass is the most important figure of merit for vehicle propulsion, and electric vehicles are inherently 45 times worse than their liquid-fuel competition.

      Ooh, but you were so close. You're r

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @01:08PM (#30971296) Journal

      Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg

      Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

      That's a slightly misleading statistic, because it doesn't include the mass of the engine or drive train in the calculation. Electric cars are much simpler mechanically. You need to compare the mass of fuel, a fuel tank, engine, gearing, and drive train to the mass of batteries plus electric motors and then see how much power you've got for both. The electric car comes out a lot closer when you do this.

      Then you need to factor in the fact that you can charge an electric car at home. How many trips does a tank of petrol give you? A week's worth of typical driving? Then if your electric car has only half of the range but can be charged overnight then it's competitive.

      Finally you need to compare the cost of the energy and the efficiency of generation. Energy conversion from chemical potential energy a battery to kinetic energy via an electric motor is a lot more efficient than converting hydrocarbon fuel into kinetic energy via an internal combustion engine. Electricity can come from burning hydrocarbons, but it can also come from things like solar, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric and tidal power. Technology keeps making these forms of power cheaper, but scarcity keeps making hydrocarbons more expensive. When 1MJ of petrol costs twice as much as 1MJ of electricity, it makes a difference. Petrol sold in the USA is about 36.6 kWh/US gal, so at $3/gallon that's 0.08 cents per kWh. That's pretty close to the cost of electricity. Once you factor in the relative conversion efficiencies, you pay a bit less per unit of kinetic energy from an electric motor than you do from an internal combustion engine at $3 per US gallon of petrol. When petrol hits $5 per US gallon (which is cheaper than it is in the UK) then it's a lot more expensive than electricity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jimicus (737525)

        Then you need to factor in the fact that you can charge an electric car at home. How many trips does a tank of petrol give you? A week's worth of typical driving? Then if your electric car has only half of the range but can be charged overnight then it's competitive.

        While I seldom make trips which are so long I have to refuel partway through the trip, I'd be making such trips a lot more often with a car that has a 150 mile range rather than a 350 mile range.

        And herein lies the rub - refuelling partway through the trip takes a few minutes with a petrol-engined vehicle. It takes hours with an electric vehicle.

        (I can only think of one regular trip which I'm likely to make which may pose a problem - the 130 mile trip to visit my mum. Problem is, she has no off-street par

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blindseer (891256)

        It's also more than just $/mile for fuel. If it takes 15 minutes to fill up a hydrocarbon tank and 15 hours to fill up a lithium-ion battery then a vehicle's effective range is quite limited. The limited range might not be much of a concern for 90% of commuters but if one is in the business of long distance trucking then the downtime for refuel is going to become an issue.

        Some of the issues of lengthy recharge times can be addressed by swapping batteries but that would require an infrastructure to exist.

        T

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke (6130)

          if one is in the business of long distance trucking then the downtime for refuel is going to become an issue.

          If you're in the business of long distance trucking, then the vast majority of our ICE vehicle fleet -- the part that EVs are aiming to replace -- is completely inappropriate for you to begin with! Yeah I don't think truckers are going to be driving the Tesla Model S, and I don't think anyone has been implying that they would.

          For the people who only need a commuter car, a pure EV is imminently pract

    • by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @02:22PM (#30971868)

      Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg
      Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

      You forgot a few things:

      a) Electric engines are on average about 4 times as efficient as petrol ones. If we use your numbers that then implies you need 11kg of battery to replace a kg of petrol.

      b) Electric engines are much lighter than ICEs, so some of the weight gain is compensated for this way.

      c) Electric cars in principle needs no transmission, gearbox, catalyst, exhaust system, raidator, starter engine etc... that knocks off a heck of a lot of weight.

      Basically when you take into consideration the weight reduction from the much simpler drive train of an EV it is ore than enough to add in hundreds of kilograms of batteries. The problem is cost, not weight/energy ratio.

  • by sbrown1038 (778875) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @12:45PM (#30971112) Homepage
    until 2012 to see the S car go.

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