2013 Automobile of the Year: Tesla Model S

A. J. Mueller

Supercharging the electric car

by Eric Tingwall

An 85-kWh battery puts the Model S's range on par with conventional cars, but recharging still can't match the speed and convenience of pumping gasoline. Despite that, Tesla intends to make long-distance, multi-charge road trips possible with a network of high-speed chargers that can inject 150 miles of range into the battery in thirty minutes. These Superchargers bypass the car's onboard equipment and feed 400 volts of direct-current electricity straight to the battery through a thick, vinelike cord. Interestingly, the hardware that transforms the electricity from alternating current to direct current is the same as what's carried in the car for 120- and 240-volt charging. The difference is that a Model S has one or two 10-kW chargers onboard, while the stationary Supercharger system uses a stack of twelve units that can produce a total of 120 kW.

Supercharger hardware comes standard on the 85-kWh Model S, and it's a $2000 option on 60-kWh models. Either way, owners are entitled to free electricity from the Superchargers for the life of their car.

Some Supercharger stations will be paired with solar-panel-clad carports supplied by SolarCity, another Musk outfit. This arrangement gives owners a clear conscience when it comes to the environmental impact of their electricity sources, as Tesla claims the photovoltaic panels will feed more electricity into the grid than the Superchargers will to cars. Today, there are just six Superchargers scattered throughout California, but Tesla claims that owners will be able to drive from San Diego to Vancouver, Miami to Montreal, and Los Angeles to New York, stopping at Superchargers along the way, by next year.

Electric cars

The long, (mostly) slow struggle.

//1830s The first rudimentary electric vehicles emerge, powered by one-use power-storage units. The four-stroke gasoline engine is still four decades away.

//1859 Rechargeable lead-acid storage batteries are invented in France.

//circa 1890 William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa, produces the first American electric car. Powered by 24 batteries, it has 4 hp and can go 20 mph -- double the top speed of Karl Benz's gas-powered Patent-Motorwagen. Maximum range is 40 to 50 miles.

//1899 Belgian Camille Jenatzy hits 65.8 mph in La Jamais Contente, his missile-shaped electric car.

//1900 Electric cars account for more than a third of all sales in the fledgling U.S. auto market and prove especially popular in cities.

//1909 Thomas Edison perfects his nickel-iron battery and markets it to automakers.

//1912 Electric cars lose their most compelling advantage -- convenience -- when Cadillac introduces "the car that has no crank."

//1913 A Detroit Electric travels 211 miles on a single charge, setting a new record. Range of 80 miles is more typical. Prices start at about $2650, equivalent to $61,300 in today's dollars.

//by 1920 High cost, limited range, and cheap oil contribute to a sharp decline in electric-car sales.

//1940 Detroit Electric, which had shifted to commercial vehicles and outlasted all of its competitors, finally goes out of business.

//1974 The Florida-built CitiCar debuts and offers about 30 miles of range. It's relatively popular, finding more than 2000 buyers in its first two years. But the homely, plastic-bodied two-seater does nothing to improve the greater perception of electric cars.

//1996 General Motors begins leasing the EV1, the first modern electric car. Range starts at 70 to 100 miles. An upgraded version with nickel-metal-hydride batteries goes on sale three years later with 100 to 140 miles of range.

//2003 The California Air Resources Board ends its initiative to require zero-emissions vehicles. GM, along with Toyota and others, ceases production of electric vehicles soon thereafter. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, Tesla is born.

//2008 Despite several fits and starts, the Lotus Elise-based, lithium-ion-battery-powered Tesla Roadster goes on sale. Then-chairman Elon Musk promises a scratchbuilt BMW 5-series competitor within three years.

//2009 Tesla, along with several other firms, receives millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. It uses the loan to develop the "Whitestar" (the Model S) and to acquire Toyota's shuttered plant in Fremont, California.

//2010 The Nissan Leaf brings the electric car to the mainstream. We name the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt the 2011 Automobile of the Year.

//2011 The Fisker Karma wins our 2012 Design of the Year.

//2012 The introductions of an electrified Honda Fit and Ford Focus, a Tesla-powered Toyota RAV4, and, of course, the Model S, make for the busiest year in electric cars since the early twentieth century.

Fifty years at Fremont

From Chevys to Toyotas to Teslas

by Ronald Ahrens

The factory in Fremont, California, where the Tesla Model S is built, has always been cutting-edge, with operations continually tinged by government involvement. Constructed near San Francisco Bay's backwaters in 1962, the "four-in-one" Fremont Assembly Plant represented General Motors' greatest effort to avoid monopoly prosecution. If GM made Chevrolets alongside Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs, how could the Justice Department carry out its threat to spin off Chevy as a separate company?

Two years after job one, GM head Frederic Donner came to Fremont, announcing a $2 billion worldwide manufacturing expansion. Governor Pat Brown also attended and delivered "quite a political talk and tossed out figures that were a great deal bigger," Chevy chief Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen wrote.

But GM proved a vulnerable monopoly. Fremont closed in 1982. Thanks to a GM/Toyota joint venture, it reopened in 1984 as New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. Toyota used NUMMI to evade import restrictions threatened by Congress. Meanwhile, GM learned lean manufacturing practices. The Toyota Corolla (rebadged as the Chevy Nova and the Geo Prizm), the Toyota Matrix, and the Pontiac Vibe were among roughly eight million vehicles produced before the partnership ended in 2009. Toyota subsequently struck a deal with Tesla that included factory space, California offered tax incentives, and Tesla landed a $465 million federal loan.

Tesla paid $42 million for the factory in May of 2010 and an additional $17 million for machine tools and spare parts.

"We had this megafactory, and we wanted to take full advantage of the infrastructure in order to manufacture at very low cost," said Gilbert Passin, Tesla's vice president of manufacturing. He noted that Tesla also salvaged tooling at bargain prices elsewhere in the distressed auto industry. While a new plant at a greenfield site typically represents an investment of at least $1 billion, Tesla probably has less than one-third that amount tied up in Fremont. Passin said 95 percent of all Model S parts are made in-house, an uncommonly high amount in an industry that relies heavily on outside suppliers.

Visiting last summer, we saw that only a portion of the five million square feet of floor space was in use. In an upstairs clean room, about 350 employees -- some of whom formerly worked for NUMMI -- put together battery packs and electric-drive components on two shifts, while another 450 workers sporadically assembled bodies and chassis on ground level. (Corporate headquarters lies across the Bay, in Palo Alto, and the design center is in Southern California.) The Tesla factory's innovative modular assembly process relies on so-called "smart carts" to carry the bodies through assembly, automatically raising or lowering as needed and periodically recharging while traversing the line. This method turns away from the traditional use of overhead conveyors, saving millions of dollars. Meanwhile, each newly purchased robot typically performs five different tasks, and advanced artificial intelligence allows one to install the Model S's panoramic roof by analyzing a digital image.

Tesla hoped to ramp up to eighty cars per shift by the end of 2012, but during our walk-through, it was quiet enough to hear a silver dollar drop.

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The Model S Performance comparator says it only puts out 362hp. It does not. It produces 416 hp and 443 lb. ft. of torque.
Only 39% of the US rid is powered by coal. The rest is a blend of natural as which is set to overtake coal soon, nuclear, hydro, solar, and other. With an ICE-powered car, you have no choice but to use fossil fuels. However, an electric car can use electrons sourced from anywhere. Many EV owners have installed solar panels or live in places where their power is produced by solar, wind, and hydro. You don't have that option if you have a gas car. Every gallon you buy funds terrorism and nations that hate us. National security is the biggest reason people buy electric cars; that and not using gas, thus saving money and not polluting. By getting a Tesla Model S, people who would have gotten a Mercedes S-class save money. By getting a $22,000 Nissan Leaf, people who would have gotten a $20,000 compact car save money. And time I might add because it is always full of electrons in the morning.
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Very interesting information provided! Much to learn about the issue and good ads. We wish you all a happy fruitful new year! May god bless you all and USA! (After all the end of the world never came!) Now you know why the Mexicans can't cross the line so easy *lol*.__________________________Buy Steroids Online
The 85KW battery option has enough range that you can drive straight
from Vegas to LA no charging. You charge overnight at your hotel/motel
then take off and hit the road. Since I-15 is packed on the weekends,
you will be sitting on the freeway, not using battery juice, while in a
gasoline car, the engine will be burning fuel. In 10 years there will be
supercharging stations all over the US and Tesla will sell every
vehicle with supercharging capability. Yes I am partial, my family is
from Serbia, the homeland of the Great Nicholas Tesla.
As I have had a first touch and feel of the Model S today , and have been in the U.S. Auto Industry for 20 plus years,this car with some direction could be made more affordable and hitting Elon Musk's target of 81 vehicles per shift will definitely start filling more orders quickly. This is history repeating itself in the electric auto industry,except this time and these American Made Tesla's will become more and more popular. This country is already one to three years away from using Natural Gas to power previosly powered Gasoline engines. This is definitely the right time for an excellent high quality vehicle like the Tesla to become more mainstream. Start looking for more production,therefore more jobs  and higher profitability. This should make the creator of Paypal his next Billion or Two very Quickly!!Whoever thought just 30 years ago that Apple and Microsoft would be wealthier than General Motors,and here we are !!Great Job Tesla Designers and Creators,that is The Automoblie Thinking That Wins The Award for CAR OF THE YEAR!
I am so tired of car culture but atleast these electrics make less noise and don't burn oil/gas
US Aeroengr
EVs are the ONLY technology which can free us from the grip of big oil. And if they try to jack up the price of electricity, we can just put up our own PV cells. Let's put down the crude oil coolaid, and stop worrying about what a bunch of crazies in the middle east will do next. As for the politics, you can love the tea party tax revolt and EVs both. The tiny subsidies EVs get is NOTHING compared to the blood, sweat, tears and treasure we spend daily on oil.
Car of the Year? Hmmm, car of the year is a car that most of only make what it costs. Hmmm, would have been my choice for this award to? What? Is O'blowzo's brother, the editor of this rag?
@BMW guy:I partially agree with you. I live in Austria, Europe, and here it seems to be easier to go on a trip and recharge the car whilst having lunch or a break on the autobahn.The distances are not that big as in the US.The number of charging stations is increasing.Nevertheless the research of the technology of electric car driving is still at the beginning and the way to search for better and other technologies than the fossil fuels is absolutely right.The market segment where the Tesla Model S is operating is on the same level as a BMW 525 or Mercedes E500 BlueEfficiency regarding the Engines Power.And in this competition, the Model S is CHEAPER than the cars mentioned before. And even much cheaper when you compare the consequencial costs, e.g. the insurance.How far do americans usually go with the car when they make a weekendtrip?
BMW guy from SMF
OK, politics aside - it is a cool car as cars go, but will take some time to make work for everyone. I do think the fuel cell is more practical, if just for the following reasons: 1 - Supercharger? It won't work, period. Imagine 25 people in Los Angeles drive to Las Vegas on a Friday afternoon (reality there are probably more like 20 or 30 thousand on a Friday night). They stop in Barstow (or whereever) to eat a quick dinner or snack and get a recharge. BUT there are only 3 or 4 or 5 recharge stations in the WHOLE town. What then? Patiently wait for a few hours until your slot opens up? Won't happen, not when you pay that much for a car ...2 - City recharging stations. I saw this at the Sacramento airport a few months ago - an electric car with it's charging cord thrown over the hood and another car getting juiced up instead.I seriously like the new technology and ideas, but just don't think the day to day details make it work for everyone.
Hmm, Automobile has an Automobile of the year award?Interesting...
@ Jagster911Which hydrogen car do you think should be awarded car of the year? How much does it cost? Where are the reviews?
@GoDiesel How many reservations do the Leaf and focus electric or volt have? Because model S has 13 000, and it is just now starting to appear in europe. Which fuel cell car from this year do you think deserved the title, and how much did it cost?
The advanced powertrain in this car is basically the same as in the roadster. That's why they call it a proof-of-concept. The LOAN from the DoE was for the production of the car itself, why would the DoE give money to somebody to produce a one-off or limited production car, no matter how powerful it is? And Musk has said he doesn't like the government picking winners, and only took the money because it was already there. Maybe they would have gone bust without it, but maybe not, musk has said the loan from daimler was much more vital than the DoE for the survival of the company.
scstude5@aol.com, you've got a few problems with your statements:You: They are now requesting additional infusion of funds from the Federal Government. Truth: Tesla is paying back the government earlier than required by the gov't loan. They had a secondary stock offering recently, and the stock price is higher since the secondary.You: Take a look at sales of the Chevy Volt, there aren't enough buyers willing to invest in this technology to make this vehicle viable. Fact: There are about 260 car models for sale in the U.S., and the Volt is #130 in sales in that list. The Volt is THE median car, and increasing every month. In fact the Volt is outselling the Prius vs. the Prius's first two years of sale. And Prius sales started at an economic boom time with a much larger new-vehicle market. The Prius is now third best selling cars/brand in the world. The Volt is on a track to surpass that, indicating that there is a very viable market. The jury's out on Model S sales, but there is a market.
new inventions often face rejection, ridicule, acceptance and then praise.model S is one of them.
Fascinating! Not the article, which was fantastic, by the way, but the comments. I'm been on the political side of EVs for a full decade now, and I've read a lot of EV stories. There are always a few serious EV haters out there who sound alike. They say really stupid things like the fellow "GoDiesel" and the two following him. I've seen these comments before, almost word for word. These guys are clearly paid shills who lurk on EV stories trying to discredit the technology.What's fun is that we have about 40,000 plugin cars in the U.S. now, and growing fast. All of these people are clued in to the truth, and stories like this one pretty much confirm it for the masses.Electricity, eventually all renewable, will be the energy that moves us in the future. Those of us who have experienced it know this. Those who don't are either paid to try and stop us, or just haven't tried it yet. Clearly, it's inevitable.
Firstly, anyone that is a true car guy would appreciate the Model S as an automobile regardless of it's powertrain it is an extremely impressive vehicle. The obtuse points of view shown in the comments here are from people that would love to have one of these things and are just jealous and annoying. GIVE ME A BREAK you poor conservative losers.
Many people keep pointing to the Volt somehow being a failure. This year to date, the Volt has sold more than 13,500 USA delivered vehicles in this model year alone - a 700% increase over the same period last year. To put that in full perspective, the Volt, on US sales alone the Volt is number 131 in total units sold for the year among all US cars sold new at dealers today. This puts it ahead of the Audi A6 and all models of the BMW 7 series combined for the same period, nationwide. As those of you who often vote against your own interest say, good things often start with rich and move down to the rest of us. Musk's strategy to start out in the luxury car market is brilliant. Sell electric cars to those who buy them as choice and leverage that to give practical electric transportation to the rest of us in the not so distant future. Nobody has to have a $75,000 BMW, but many people choose to buy one. Same for the luxury electric car.
What a joke! A limited capability car that only the 1% can afford? Rich boys toy! This is not even funny. How is this possible when the Leaf, Volt, C-Max are struggling to get enough buyers to justify their existence? Wake up and put down that Kool-Aid liberals. I believe electric cars are here to bridge the gap between gas powered and something better in the future, possibly fuel cell.
Folks, this is simple. No matter how much people want electric cars to be viable, no matter how idealistic, utopian or downright stupid people want to be, electric cars based on batteries will /never/ be viable technology. The simple fact is that it takes more energy to construct the car and charge the battery than you save. Gasoline is far better at storing potential energy than batteries. It's actually economically efficient to convert oil into gasoline and then burn it. No amount of hand-wringing or feelgoodism will change the physics.
They believed in the EV II I mean Volt to and look where it is. I dont know why they are wasting time with these cars when the future is going to be fuel cells.
What an awesome choice, and a landmark in a new direction for US engineering, oil-free transportation and green energy.Certainly, the Tes Bag crowd won't pull their heads out of the posteriors, but for the rest of the, I hope this leads to wider and wider adoption of oil-free cars, and thus the price of those cars becoming more economical and even more capable (quite a high mark with this car!).Tesla did take a loan from the government, and recently announced that they will pay it back early. Does this mean that everything will end well? Of course not; clearly a Romney White House could put us back the the Stone Age of oil for at least another 4-8 years. Obviously, Tesla would quite possibly fail then. Or a design feature may prove fatal, however things are looking good there.
Tesla Model S Car of the Year, You have got to be kidding me. A product from a company on the brink of bankruptcy which the US Federal Government provided 465 million to allow them to produce the Model S. They are now requesting additional infusion of funds from the Federal Government. Take a look at sales of the Chevy Volt, there aren't enough buyers willing to invest in this technology to make this vehicle viable. This will be another Solyndra.
Congratulations Tesla, welcome world to the next generation of transportation. No more EV1 snafu's... Thanks Elan.
actually Jagster, you need to read the article before responding. range is EPA 5 cycle test of 265. the old 2 cycle test it is 300. electric car range can vary city or hightway.the 150 miles is the charge miles in 30 minutes using a tesla supercharger. and yes that 30 minutes will make you wait, but most drivers do that anyways on a long drive. imagine you leave your house with 265 miles. drive 250 miles to a supercharger, plug in, and get yourself lunch, or coffee and use the restroom. before your are done, the car has charged up 150 miles. wait another 30 minutes and you have over 200 miles range again. guess what, most people do not drive on long trips more than 300-450 miles in a day. so you can easily do it in a Tesla. and with minimal extra time because of the charging. (arent you going ot eat if you drive an ICE car??)learn about the car before responding. and also go test drive it. it will change your negative attitude. what will you do when oil is consistently above 125-150 a barrel?
Car of the year, my ass. What? Another electric that goes 150 miles? And, we plug it in between uses? How about a hydrogen car? And the price, like the Volt disaster, is a joke. Honda had 50 mpg cars way back when, with a tiny gas engine. Small and light gets the job done. This 4,000 pound boutique special is a joke, and you guys fell for it. Oh, that half-billion from Uncle Sugar sure let someone have a good time on our dime. Really, guys!
@Oemissions No they just burn coal.
William Jones-Halibut
@US Aeroengr On most days less than 20% of the Tesla S range of 265 miles will be required by most people.   The 16kWHr required can be achieved in California with a 4kW peak solar installation.   If mono crystalline cells with a 25 year warranty were used they would cost about $8000 (bulk cost $2000 per kW).  A full 80kWHr charge will seldom be required.Possibly it makes more sense to leave solar on the roof and the battery as part of a stationary renewable energy system.
@US Aeroengr Let's start drilling here in this hemisphere and forget about both the "middle-eastern crazies" AND the largely coal-powered electricity brought to us via an antiquated grid.
@BMW guy from SMFDo you actually think that people will be taking their $90,000 car on road trips eery Friday night? No, of course not. Every Tesla owner will probably do a few just to see what it's like. Road trips are not this car's big thing though they are possible. It's the other 95% of the time you drive it. What you are doing is called swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat. If you do get a chance to drive one, you will understand why people really want one. It's awesome! About road trips, if you really are that concerned about range, use your other car.

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