Schlagwort-Archive: Musk

Tesla Model X: When an SUV can make you vomit while out-accelerating almost every Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini ever made, Modena and Stuttgart have a problem.


I hate SUVs for the same reason I hate houseboats. Bad houses, bad boats. Luxury SUV’s make me sick. Is there anything more American than the idea that you can have it all, without compromise, for a price? You can’t, otherwise Escalades and Expeditions would be running in NASCAR.

Except now you can, because I just took a Tesla Model X P90D to Ojai, California, and for the first time in my life, I wanted an American car.

The Model X P90D represents everything I hate. It’s an awkwardly-proportioned, 5440 pound, electric, semi-autonomous, 7-seater SUV, packed full of technology that cannot possibly last, from a company critics claim cannot survive.

And I absolutely loved it.

Flaws? It’s a new company. If reliability is your concern, lease one and enjoy the most advanced, brilliant and fascinating vehicle in its class. The standard warranty is four years. Prepare for loaners.

The exterior is what it is. If you want the future now, this is what it looks like. If you’re satisfied with yesterday, you already know what’s available today. I think the X is handsome. Ish. Once behind the wheel, I didn’t care.

The Model X P90D gets about 250 miles of range. I’d like 50 more. Was it a problem? Only in my mind. As with any Tesla, you should install a high-speed charger at home. If not, prepare to meet some new friends at your nearest Tesla Supercharging station, and scratch 2-3 hours a week off your schedule.

The interior is spartan, at best. I still don’t buy into the wisdom of replacing all controls with a touchscreen, however large and gorgeous. The seats are the best I’ve ever used, and that includes the 1972 Citroen DS and SM, my personal benchmarks.


The Model X is a vehicle that makes no sense and yet perfect sense, an SUV with 716 horsepower that does 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, or 3.2 with the “Ludicrous” software upgrade.

A Ferrari Enzo does it in 3.14.

When an SUV can make you vomit while out-accelerating almost every Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini ever made, Modena and Stuttgart have a problem. Handling? The X is based on the same platform as the Model S sedan, which means it’s magnificent. Lower the air suspension, set the steering to Sport, and the X shrinks around you. I’ve never felt safe driving an SUV as I would a sports car, until now. Even my old Cayenne Turbo was a brick by comparison.

The Model X is the SUV someone else would have built if they had any balls.

My god, those Falcon doors. Even if the X was utter junk, they could sell a year’s production based solely on these doors. Alas, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to know those will be a problem. If you lease past four years, get the extended warranty.

It has autopilot, which is what Tesla calls its Autonomous Driving suite. Light years ahead of competing systems, it is the only one today that approaches full autonomy. It’ll do 99% of the driving 90% of the time. It has a steep learning curve, but once mastered, autopilot is a revelation. Until Mercedes and Volvo come to the table, everything else is a joke.

The enormous one-piece panoramic windshield makes the cockpit feel like the first row in an IMAX theater. After driving the Model X, every other car feels like you have an eye infection. Why this windshield hasn’t been done before in the US, I don’t understand.

The Model X is the SUV someone else would have built if they had any balls. It is the world’s greatest SUV in a class of one…a class called The Future. The X is to SUV’s what the S is to luxury sedans, which is what Tesla is to the entire car industry: an icepick in the face of convention. Granted, there are stellar cars out there: the Cadillac CTS-V, the Porsche 911, the BMW M2, the Mercedes AMG-GT and the Volvo XC90, but these are jewels in the sediment of an industry left behind by true innovation. I love the Model X not merely as a vehicle, but as a profoundly American vehicle, the automotive manifestation of what this country is supposed to stand for. Ambition. Ingenuity. Confidence.


American inventor mythology is that of someone being told something couldn’t be done, and then doing it. Is there a more American story than Musk’s? The immigrant who became a tech titan, then launched a rocket company, then entered the car business?

The Model X, like Tesla the company, is an example of what happens when you apply that most American of methods to a problem. Throw out the book. Solve it from the ground up. Dealer networks suck? We’ll sell direct. Nowhere to charge? We’ll build our own network, and we’ll make it free. Autonomous Driving? Software updates? Let’s give Tesla owners access to the very best tech, and let’s wirelessly update it all the time.

By these standards, Tesla is the most American car company there is today, and the brilliant Model X is the most American car currently on the market. It is an example of what happens when a company is willing to take risks on our behalf rather than at our expense. Whatever critics may claim about Tesla’s ability to deliver, Musk’s greatest sin is his rush to sell us something truly better, which is why I deem the X worth every penny, flaws and all.

I can’t wait for the Model 3. If you believe in what really makes American great, neither should you.


Why Apple Could Win Big With Tesla’s Giant New Battery Factory


The first Tesla I ever saw was stripped down to the chassis, a bare-metal incarnation of the company’s flagship electric Roadster on display at an event in Silicon Valley. Without the need for an internal combustion engine, the two-seater’s petite frame was dominated by a huge battery. My first thought: “This looks like a giant cell phone on wheels.”

As it turns out, I was more right than I realized.

This week, years after that first sighting, Tesla announced plans for what it calls the “Gigafactory,” a 10-million-square-foot plant for making car batteries. The company hopes that the sheer scale of the operation, combined with the inventiveness of its engineers, will bring battery prices down far enough to finally bring its electric cars into the mainstream.

But it’s not just the prospect of a gasoline-free future that has sparked such excitement about the Gigafactory. The same basic lithium-ion tech that fuels Tesla’s cars also runs most of today’s other mobile gadgets, large and small. If Tesla really produces batteries at the scale it’s promising, cars could become just one part of what the company does. One day, Tesla could be a company that powers just about everything, from the phone in your pocket to the electrical grid itself.

Earlier this month, as rumors swirled that Apple might want to buy Tesla, San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tesla CEO Elon Musk had indeed met with the iPhone maker. Musk later confirmed that Tesla and Apple had talked, but he wouldn’t say what about.

Now that Tesla has announced the Gigafactory, Gartner auto industry analyst Thilo Koslowski thinks it would make more sense for Tesla to talk with Apple about something other than an acquisition. “Depending on the capacity of the factory and who the other investors will be, Tesla could start selling its batteries for other products besides cars,” Koslowski tells WIRED. “This could actually mean Tesla might build batteries for Apple.”

Better Batteries for Less Money

To begin erecting its factory, Tesla said it would seek $1.6 billion in debt financing — money that Apple itself could easily supply from its massive cash reserves. In fact, the world’s biggest company could easily put up the money for the entire Gigafactory, which Tesla estimates will ultimately cost between $4 billion and $5 billion. Though industry analysts say the global manufacturing capacity for consumer electronics batteries is already considerable, the economies of scale that Tesla is promising could give Apple access to a whole different level of efficiency, sophistication, and control.

Unlike many parts of the consumer electronics industry, battery-making factories are, in general, highly automated, which means that labor doesn’t factor significantly into production costs. As anyone who has seen Tesla’s car-making robots in action can attest, factory automation is something the company does really, really well. Deep involvement in the project from the start — say, as an investor — could give Apple exactly the kind of intimate involvement with a key supplier that it relishes. This sort of control defines its approach to products. For consumers, that could mean Apple getting better batteries for its devices for less money, just like Tesla wants to do for its cars.


Even if the Gigafactory never makes a battery for a single iPhone, however, its impact on the future of energy storage could be huge. The company says that, once fully operational, the plant will more than double the volume of lithium ion batteries produced in the world today. Sam Jaffe, a battery industry analyst with Navigant Research, says the price drops predicted by Tesla are in line with his firm’s forecasts, and that the cheaper batteries will bring Tesla closer to achieving its primary mission of making a widely affordable electric car, what Tesla is calling its “Gen III” mass market vehicle, or Model E. “The whole point of that model and the whole point of the company was to make that car,” Jaffe says. “It wasn’t to make sports cars or luxury cars. It was to make a family car comparable in price to a gasoline model.”

To reach that mass market, Tesla hopes to be cranking out batteries for 500,000 cars per year by 2020, supported by the Gigafactory. That’s compared to the 35,000 Model S sedans Tesla expects to make this year. Reaching that goal would mean not only a lot more electric cars on the road but a lot more batteries that would need to be replaced. The batteries that power Teslas are a lot like smartphone batteries: Eventually, they start losing their strength. Unlike smartphone batteries, getting down to 60 or 70 percent of their full capacity isn’t just inconvenient. It could leave drivers stranded. Tesla says it plans to fully integrate battery recycling into the Gigafactory’s operations, which could add to the cost savings.

Powering the Grid

But Koslowski says those old batteries could also become part of a robust secondary market. They could, for instance, store energy generated by home solar grids, which can make use of less-than-full strength cells because they don’t have to go anywhere. Already Tesla is supplying battery packs to SolarCity, the solar installer of which Musk serves as chairman, and the company believes that one day its batteries could even serve as backup energy sources for utilities themselves. Bullish Wall Street analysts even predict that, in addition to buttressing the renewable energy grid, Tesla could combine its expertise in cars, batteries, and digital technology to become a leading maker of self-driving vehicles.

Any of this coming to pass, of course, depends on whether the Gigafactory will actually accomplish what Tesla says it will. To bring prices down, battery industry consultant K.M. Abraham says, Tesla will have to figure out how to make its batteries without pushing up costs for component suppliers who would have to increase their output to meet the car maker’s demands. “Unless you come out with new low-cost materials, the battery prices will remain pretty much the same,” says Abraham, who is also a professor of renewable technology at Northeastern University.

Though details from Tesla are scant, a diagram released by the company suggests it does plan to bring as much of the battery making process as possible within the Gigafactory’s walls. Tesla is also pledging to power much of the plant with its own wind and solar energy, a potential testing ground for using its batteries as part of the electrical grid. Diversifying into different uses could be especially crucial if demand for Tesla’s cars doesn’t hit the company’s own projections. Building a factory on such a massive scale is a huge risk if it only makes one thing, but that risk diminishes if Tesla has the ability to use its expertise to make batteries for many uses. If nothing else, Tesla is creating an unprecedented space just to see what’s possible when energy becomes mobile.

“It’s breathtaking, just the sheer size of it,” Jaffe says of the Gigafactory. “This is so beyond anything by comparison.”