Tesla auto news

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Weekly Recap: The divergent paths of Tesla and Fisker

08/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Fisker, Tesla, Electric

Fisker Automotive

There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.

In the wake of Tesla's recent success, it's easy to forget that there were once two California electric carmakers with bright futures.

Remember Fisker Automotive?

Both companies were back in the news this week. Tesla confirmed it will team with Panasonic to build a battery factory, and Fisker won approval of its bankruptcy plan to pay creditors and allow it to have a fresh start with Chinese investors, Wanxiang Group.

There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.

Five years ago, many observers thought Fisker had just as much potential to make a go of it as Tesla. Elon Musk was still known as the SpaceX and PayPal guy who supposedly knew nothing about cars. Fisker, meanwhile, was founded and led by Henrik Fisker, an industry celebrity who designed sexy sports cars like the Aston Martin DB9 and the BMW Z8.

Separated by about six hours of California highway, Tesla and Fisker were billed as the new wave of American manufacturing, two electric carmakers that could do what the Rust Belt-anchored Detroit Three could not. Their rivalry became so heated, Tesla even sued Fisker in 2008 alleging theft of technology, with Fisker emerging as the nominal victor, netting $1.1 million in court fees from Tesla.

As recently as 2012, Tesla only had one car, the Roadster, which was built on a Lotus chassis with an electric-powered motor in place of a traditional engine. It was the definition of a niche product. That year, however, Tesla followed up with another car, the Model S. With an all-electric range of 265 miles and the capability to sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, the Model S was a runaway hit. It had the size and power of a BMW 5-Series, and it didn't burn a drop of fuel.

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Edmunds' long-term Tesla Model S has been wonderful, woeful

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Maintenance, Hatchbacks, Tesla, Electric

Tesla Model S

We generally don't report on other outlets' long-term model tests, but Edmunds just completed a 17-month ownership experience with a 2013 Tesla Model S. It's just too interesting not to share.

The site bought a 2013 Model S Performance model for the added range of its 85-kilowatt-hour battery and tossed on a good variety of options for a total price of $105,005, including a wall charger. In terms of driving the electric hatchback, the folks there seemed to love it. There were a few minor gripes, but for the most part it offered sufficient driving range, plenty of space and generally good quality.

However, the ownership experience was hardly flawless. The journalists there were never quite able to hit the Model S' promised range of 265 miles, with a best real-world result of 230.4 miles during their ownership. Also, while they had it, the Model S had a rash of unscheduled trips for service - seven times - and their Tesla left them stranded by the side of the road once.

These weren't just some minor quibbles, either. The drive unit was replaced three times and the main battery once. That massive center info screen had to be manually reset nine times and was completely replaced once, as well. Edmunds writers forgave some of the faults, though. Their Tesla was an early production model, and some of the fixes were a result of technical service bulletins. They never had to pay for any of it, other than buying a new set of tires.

While this is all anecdotal evidence based on just a single Model S, it doesn't make the Model S sound like an easy car to live with all the time. You can get the full skinny on the love/loathe affair directly from Edmunds by clicking here.

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Elon Musk to get spot on The Simpsons

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Celebrities, Humor, Tesla, TV/Movies

Tesla Motors IPO

It's hard to believe that The Simpsons is moving into its 26th season, but there's good news for auto enthusiasts, especially of the EV variety. The show's executive producer, Al Jean, confirmed on Twitter that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk would have a guest spot on the show in the upcoming season. Even better, it sounds like a pretty significant role.

Elon Musk in ep 1/11 and not a "kiss ass" celebrity guest star turn: Burns tries to kill him, and we reveal Musk's master password.

- Al Jean (@AlJean) July 29, 2014

According to Automotive News, Jean first announced the episode during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con. It's titled "The Musk Who Fell to Earth" and has Mr. Burns somehow losing all of his money to the Tesla boss. With his name prominently in the title, it gives the indication that Elon's role is going to be a lot bigger than just muttering a few lines in one scene and then walking away.

This is technically Musk's second appearance on The Simpsons. An earlier episode featured Elon Musk as a fragrance of the fictional ASK Body Spray. Tesla put up a screenshot of it on their blog and said, "You know you're famous when you get featured on the Simpsons." Apparently, the CEO is an even bigger deal now with this guest-starring gig.

Of course, The Simpsons has made at least two, great contributions to the automotive world - the Homer and the Canyonero. Our only hope is that Musk can somehow feature EV versions of them both in his episode.

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Icon Helios streamliner with Tesla bones is a dream from which we don't want to wake

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Concept Cars, Time Warp, Coupes, Tesla, Design/Style, Electric

Icon Helios Streamliner

Icon Helios StreamlinerWhen it comes to truly, genuinely interesting automotive design and craftsmanship, Icon is one of the finest outfits in the game. We've covered the company and its founder, Jonathan Ward, in the past, and have remarked on just how fully and intricately done the automotive art it turns out is. The company's next big thing, though, is a far cry from the modified Land Rovers and Chevy Thriftmaster pickups.

The sketches you see above are of the Helios, Icon's latest mad creation. While still remarkably early in the planning phases, it's safe to say that the streamlined, Art Deco-inspired, boat-tailed (every vehicle should be boat-tailed) coupe is the company's single most ambitious vehicle yet.

"Although almost all of our projects thus far have been recreations inspired by vintage vehicles, I am fascinated about the concept of revisiting history in our own way," Ward told Jalopnik staffer and former Autoblog editor Damon Lavrinc. "The most interesting way to do this is by celebrating a particular era of design, or design language."

Technically speaking, the era that Ward is referring to never existed.

It's a world where there was no Black Friday, or Great Depression or second world war. Instead, man's fascination with aircraft and aerodynamics soldiered on untarnished by war and poverty, translating to four-wheeled creations so extreme they'd make the radical, rocket-inspired designs of the 1950s blush.

It is a stunning concept as a simple vehicle - you could drop this onto a Honda Civic platform and it'd still be a marvel. But it's Ward's plan for a powertrain that ups the already ample dose of outlandishness inherent in the Helios.

"In keeping with the founding premise at ICON, of fusing vintage design with the best modern drive experience and technology, I can think of no better platform to build this on, than the Tesla," Ward told Jalopnik.

In particular, Ward is targeting the upcoming Model X.

"I want to take the new Model X platform - so selectable AWD, 380-mile range, pure electric - and fuse it with this lost language," Ward said, adding that he's actively trying to score a meeting with Tesla founder Elon Musk and that he "will move mountains to figure out how to get [it] built."

Here's hoping that he can make that happen, because the automotive world sorely needs something this wild, this extreme and this utterly, utterly breathtaking.

You can expand the images above or head over to Jalopnik for a closer look at the Helios. After that, be sure to visit the Comments. We really want to hear from you on this one.

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In China, Tesla Model S is missing one basic feature

07/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Tesla, Electric

Tesla Model S Nav Screen

There were questions about the nav system in the Tesla Model S when the vehicle launched in the US, and there are still people who don't like it. But here's the thing: the US version at least has a nav system. With the luxury electric vehicle now available in China, drivers are discovering that the car is shipping without a working navigation system at all.

As China EV blogger Alysha Webb reports, Tesla's explanation for the lack of a nav system is that "Google maps are not supported." At least the company is working on an alternative map database for the land where Google doesn't work right. We've confirmed with Tesla PR in the US that Webb's report contains an official Tesla response, which includes the following:

Currently there isn't a navigation system in Chinese Model S as Google maps are not supported in the country. However, teams are currently working on a solution with Chinese text and voice recognition. We plan to introduce navigation to Chinese cars later this year (as already communicated to our customers). Once it's available, maps will be pushed to customers' vehicles through software updates.

One interesting quirk is that Tesla can't yet push the updated map to everyone over the air, since, "remote over-the-air software updates are not yet supported in Chinese Model S." Instead, Tesla will have to rely on its backend system to update the EV to what most American customers would consider standard equipment in a car in this price range. You can read the whole thing here.
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Tesla halts production to prep for Model X

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Plants/Manufacturing, Crossovers/CUVs, Tesla, Electric

Tesla Model X

That darling of the electric car world, Tesla, is idling production at its factory in Fremont, CA, for the first time in order to expand the factory in preparation for its future Model X crossover. The $100-million renovation will add 25 robots and upgrades to the body shop and assembly line to support the new vehicle.

Since it will be offering two models simultaneously, Tesla will need to be able to keep up with the pace of demand. "This represents the single biggest investment in the plant since we really started operations and enables us for higher volumes," said Tesla spokesperson Simon Sproule to Bloomberg. The new robots will be able to boost production by 25 percent and will allow the automaker to build the Model S and Model X on the same assembly line. There won't be too much downtime at the California plant, though. The upgrades will be finished within the next two weeks.

With these factory updates, the Model X may finally get its electrically powered wheels on the road. The CUV has been delayed multiple times since its announcement. It was originally supposed to be on sale in early 2014, then later in the year, but now the latest news from Elon Musk places the crossover's launch in the second quarter of 2015.

Until the Model X is on sale, the renovations should also provide a nice lift in Model S assembly. In the company's first quarter financial report, Tesla said that it expected the sedan's production rate to grow from about 700 cars per week to 1,000 per week by the end of the year, with the expectation of selling a total of 35,000 of them in 2014. That should help quell demand in new markets like the UK and expansion in Europe.

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Tesla Model S successfully hacked by Zhejiang University team

07/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Safety, Tech, Tesla, Electric


The $10,000 prize for successfully hacking a Tesla Model S has been claimed. A team from Zhejiang University in China claimed victory at the Symposium on Security for Asia Network (SyScan360) event in Beijing by exploiting a "flow design flaw," whatever that means, to gain access to vital systems including the door locks, horn and window controls, while the vehicle was moving.

The group that was able to hack a Tesla reported its findings to the electric car automaker, so this security breach will hopefully be fixed in short order. The event was welcomed by Tesla, which said it "[supported] the idea of providing an environment in which responsible security researchers can help identify potential vulnerabilities."

Last year, potential security pitfalls of high-tech electric and hybrid cars came to light when the US Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known as DARPA) successfully hacked into hybrids from Ford and Toyota. Questions about the security of the Tesla Model S have been raised before. If you're wondering why all this might be such a big deal, we suggest you watch this.

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Tesla 3 Series-fighter to be named Model III

07/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Tesla, Electric

Tesla Model S

Tesla really is a unique automaker. Usually when a new model is confirmed, there are big press announcements touting a company's latest, greatest vehicle and everything it can do for consumers. Elon Musk's electric car company likes to do things a little differently, though. Instead, the CEO gave an interview about its long-awaited entry-level offering, the Model III, to the UK's Auto Express and confirmed the story on its Facebook page.

Post by Tesla Motors.

Corporate statements doesn't get much simpler and to the point that that. The smaller, cheaper Model III will be aimed against compact premium sedans like the BMW 3 Series and will be unveiled in 2016 before actually going on sale in 2017. According to Musk, the new vehicle will offer a 200-mile range and will carry a price tag of around $35,000.

Musk told Auto Express, Tesla was seriously planning to call it the Model E, until Ford disputed the name. "The new model is going to be called Model 3, we'll have three bars to represent it and it'll be S III X," he said.

Sadly, Musk didn't reveal any other technical details about the Model III. However, it's rumored to be about 20-percent smaller than the Model S. To save money, the platform reportedly uses a more steel-intensive construction than its big brother, and the battery packs are likely to come from the Tesla Gigafactory.

Musk also let slip one last detail while speaking to Auto Express. It turns out that the rumored update for the Roadster is entirely real and involves an upgraded battery pack available to existing owners to boost range from the current 245 miles to around 400 miles. He didn't say when the modification would be available, though.

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Hack a Tesla, win $10,000

07/14/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Safety, Tech, Tesla, Electric

2012 Tesla Model S

In the world of computers, competitions that challenge so-called "white hat" hackers are fairly common. Break into this system in X minutes and we'll give you Y dollars. Rarely, though, does this world cross over with the realm of automobiles.

At the 2014 SyScan Conference, which runs from July 16 to 17 in Beijing, hackers have the chance to win $10,000, provided they can break into the systems of a Tesla Model S. According to BidnessETC, in order to win, a successful hack will need to remotely access the 17-inch touchscreen display (shown above) that dominates the Model S cabin in order to surf the Internet and access the vehicle's controls.

While we're not computer experts, it seems like a tall order. The Model S may maintain a constant data signal via its driver's cellphone, but it seems unlikely that Tesla hasn't installed a comprehensive security system to prevent electronic tampering. Tesla, for what it's worth, has no part in the competition.

It will be interesting to see if there are any successful attempts. As Forbes mentions, hackers have been successful in gaining access to more conventional automobiles, although those attempts were under the watchful supervision of DARPA researchers.

Of course, we'll find out just how potent the company's security efforts are when the conference kicks off next week.

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Chinese businessman's lawsuit vs Tesla heats up [w/video]

07/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, China, Government/Legal, Tesla, Electric

Tesla Model S

Tesla Motors continues to be locked in a bitter trademark dispute with a Chinese man who claims to own the rights to the company's name there. Zhan Baosheng is now suing the automaker in China for trademark infringement, and he's asking for 23.9 million yuan ($3.9 million) in damages, plus for the business shut down all of its Chinese operations.

According to Automotive News, Zhan registered for the trademark in 2006 and was granted it in 2009, which was after the automaker was founded in the US in 2003 but before it began Chinese operations. The two sides have been fighting over the name for years. The business reportedly offered him two million yuan ($322,500 at current exchange rates) to buy the trademark in 2009, but Zhan allegedly came back with an astronomical counter-offer for the equivalent of $32 million.The company also nearly changed its localized brand name in China to Tuosule because Zhan owned the rights to its preferred Te Si La title, but the courts eventually sided with Tesla.

On his Twitter page, Zhan's profile says that he's "the owner of TESLA trademark in China." He also recently tweeted a photo of himself holding the trademark document.

hi, I am the owner of TESLA trademark in China. The trademark is still in my hand, Tesla Motors is lying. pic.twitter.com/IkuPkIIj4k

- Zhan Baosheng (@chinese) June 24, 2014
It seems unlikely for Tesla to lose its Chinese trademark. So far, the courts have ruled in the company's favor over Zhan. According to Automotive News, the country's trademark regulator invalidated Zhan's rights to the name last year. However, he's appealing the ruling. A Tesla spokesperson told Automotive News that the company hasn't been served with the lawsuit from him yet. Scroll down to watch a brief video from Bloomberg going into more detail about the case.

Continue reading Chinese businessman's lawsuit vs Tesla heats up [w/video]

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