James Herne "Tesla e-motions"  

James Herne

Tesla e-motions

Model S 85

Powerful electric cars are not just super fun to drive, they help to preserve the atmoshpere and show you are a caring person. When you drive an internal combustion engined car after driving Model S, you think you have landed in some historic vehicle - it is hard to understand why we need engines built from thousands of parts. We forget that electric cars were made already more than 100 years ago - the different fully electric and hybrid Lohner-Porsche models, for example. In addition to the fascinating performance, similarly important in the Model S is the user interface and the instruments that look future. But they are actually not the future, they really are the present day for Tesla cars already since 2012, just that other manufacturers are stuck in the past.




Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors was named after electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). Serbian by his parents, he was born in the Empire of Austria (in nowadays Croatian town Smiljan) and moved to the USA in his late twenties to work for Thomas Edison.

Tesla electric car company was co-founded by Elon Musk. He made his first millions in 1999 when he sold his share in the web software company Zip2 which he had co-founded in 1995. Following the sale, Musk co-founded another internet company which merged with PayPal. In 2002 PayPal was bought by ebay. In 2002 Musk had also founded a company called SpaceX which develops and manufactures space launch vehicles. SpaceX has become the most successful private space technology company in the world.

Tesla Motors Inc. was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard, Elon Musk, Marc Tarpenning, JB Straubel and Ian Wright. The position of Chief Technical Officer is held by Jeffrey Brian Straubel. The biggest shareholder and product architect is Elon Musk. He became the CEO in 2008.

In 2008 Tesla Motors stepped into the world of car manufacturers with a Lotus Elise-based electric sports car called the Tesla Roadster. Although the Roadster created the image of a sports car company, this was a marketing trick to gather fame and have people talk about the brand. It was later found out that the real business plan was to produce electric family cars. The Tesla Roadster weighed 1235 kg which was hundreds of kilograms more than the Lotus Elise, but still light compared to other sports cars (despite it having the very heavy battery pack on board). The high torque electric motor ensured supercar acceleration. The top speed was limited though because the manufacturer was an American company (no high speed roads in USA) and in order to save weight the car was built without the gearbox (just a fixed ratio transmission was used). With the list price of over 100.000 USD, the Roadster was quite expensive and every first owner should be admired for taking the bold step to go electric and for helping to start Tesla Motors! More than 2000 electric Roadsters were bought before the production was terminated in 2012. On the same year the first Tesla Model S was delivered.



The Tesla Model S looks like a Mazda. No wonder - Head Designer Franz von Holzhausen worked for Mazda before he joined Tesla.

Looking at the Model S, you understand it is not among the most beautiful cars, but when thinking as a financist, you understand the design is perfect - it is acceptable to a very large group of people. While the exterior design is more or less acceptable, inside it looks very good - inner beauty first!


Battery range and performance

The 85 kWh battery pack consists of 16 modules (14 in the flat floor section and 2 stacked up front) and weighs approximately 540 kg. The battery has 8 year warranty against malfunction (warranty does not cover the natural loss of capacity as it ages). After 8 years it is possible to buy a new battery pack for a special price. The car can be fitted with larger battery pack than it left the factory with, but that would add weight. For many people the smallest battery pack is enough.

All gearboxless electric cars are more economical at city speeds than at highway speeds. A test in ideal conditions with all onboard consumers off at 65 km/h constant speed led to a 685 km distance record for the 85 kWh battery pack.



The officially announced driving ranges are measured according to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standards. The NEDC ranges are approximately 15% more optimistic than the EPA ranges although even the EPA ranges are difficult to achieve in real life. Still, the Model S ranges are more than enough for 95% of the days (even with the smallest battery pack). If you don't like flying and need a car for long trips where you have no time to spend on charging your electric car, an ICE (internal combustion engined) car could be rented for that rare occasion.


Electric motors and their locations

In the non-Performance model with 4WD, the rear motor is smaller than in the rear wheel drive version and the front motor is also small, so the dual motor version doesn't have double the power.



The performance of Model S is defined by the combination of electric motor(s) and the battery pack. Cheaper models have more motor power than the battery pack can squeeze out from them and similarly the Performance models could be even quicker given a more powerful battery pack to them.


Production

Made in California, the European models are also made in USA, but then dismantled to some extent, transported to Europe and put together at Tesla's factory in Tilburg in the Netherlands. American and European standard equipment and options packages are the same.

Interestingly, Tesla Motors is not patenting its inventions as Tesla wants other manufacturers to produce more electric cars. The more electric cars are produced the more popular they become and with better design on the next models, Tesla will probably keep its lead position among the new electric car manufacturers. Tesla is also a component manufacturer and has produced components for Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Toyota and others already since 2013.


Tesla can look down on every other electric car manufacturer - and rightly so!


The front luggage compartment is something that Porsche drivers are used to








Optional air suspension set at the lowest level






The door handles come out when the driver approaches the car








'85' tells the car has the 85 kWh battery pack. No 'P' (Performance) means it is a standard version and no 'D' (Dual motor) means it has only one motor and that means it is a rear wheel drive version, which sporty drivers always prefer over the four wheel drive cars.




Flat underbody




Optional glass roof












Optional glass roof


The seats shown here are not as supportive as in premium European cars, but luckily Tesla started to offer Recaro seats at some point




No analog instruments, no buttons, just two large displays that set Model S apart from other cars






With 30% of the battery left you have 113 km range in the 85 kWh model


The clear central touchscreen and its ease of use are just phenomenal


Adjustment of the air suspension


Adjustment of the glass sunroof




After you have driven this American car and tried its most convenient user interface, you agree the European premium cars use the technology from the previous century




The navigation system uses Garmin and Google maps


























Optional rear-facing child seats can be folded into the cavity


Third row seats extracted from their hide-away. This option includes a stronger rear bumper




Ludicrous acceleration

Driving a Tesla I can describe as driving a Porsche - every press on the accelerator (not gas) pedal makes you grin! If you haven't driven a powerful electric car, you don't know what you are missing. Period.

Tesla Model S PD with Ludicrous Speed Upgrade accelerates exactly as insanely as the fastest Porsche supercar ever made, despite the Model S being a much heavier family car. I have experienced different Teslas and I'm not afraid to say, the acceleration of the PD version made me feel sick. Tesla has reached the limits of 'usable performance' much quicker than expected.

The only problem I have with the electric cars is their weight. But that is my problem - I haven't heard a single SUV driver complaining about the weight of their vehicles. Still, my standpoint is that best cars weigh less than 1500 kg. I remember well when I drove a Lotus Elise many years ago - despite its micro motor, its sub 900 kg weight made it so good to drive that I found myself thinking "Lotus is the new Porsche for me". When lighter batteries will be invented, electric cars will become fun to drive also on the race tracks.

© James Herne

Many thanks to electric car enthusiast Kristjan Sinisoo for letting me drive his cars!


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