Monday, October 26, 2009

Some thoughts about Tesla Motors

For those of you that follow me on Facebook, you know that I was luckily enough to be invited to a very VIP event prior to the opening of the Tesla Motors gallery in Boulder this past Friday evening.

Here are some things that I learned and observed:
  • Elon Musk (co-founder of Pay Pal and CEO and major investor in Tesla) is a committed guy and very well-spoken. He fielded questions from a small, but influential group of people with aplomb, converting technical questions into easily understandable answers that not only provided digestible technical information, but showed his passion for the brand. Furthermore, he was very approachable at the individual level and I enjoyed the few minutes that he spent speaking with me.
  • Tesla currently only produces their roadster and the sedan is still a couple of years off. All of the profits from the sale of the roadster are plowed back into the development of the sedan -- they are using a limited production, expensive showpiece to fund mass market vehicles, so everyone that purchases a roadster becomes an investor.
  • Colorado currently offers a $40K+ tax rebate that, combined with Federal tax incentives, brings at total of $50K+ in rebates, provided that you receive delivery of the vehicle by December 31, 2009 in Colorado -- this is a pretty powerful motivator as it cuts the price of the roadster by about 50%.
  • Tesla did receive $400mil+ as part of the whole bailout program, but Elon claims that they have not experienced any problems with government involvement from the investment; the "problems" that they have with government entities are the strict regulations and "hoops" they have to jump through to be able to sell the cars as drivable in the Unites States.
  • Repairs for Tesla automobiles are currently performed by "Repair Rangers" -- basically the repair guys make house calls at the price of $1 per mile for travel plus the cost of repairs.
  • Tesla is not only manufacturing their own vehicles, but also providing electric drive trains to others, notably the forthcoming ElectricSmart.
  • The timelines for production are considered "impossible" by normal automakers -- their cycle for the sedan is 3 years from concept design to production.
  • Individual consumers cannot purchase "beta" models of new production automobiles, but those that put down deposits on the forthcoming sedan will be invited to take rides in pre-production models.
  • In talking with representatives of EV cell manufacturers and other alternative energy source manufacturers, you truly could, given enough money at this point, install a solution in your home that would power your Tesla with no fossil fuel required.
  • The environmental manufacturing cost of vehicles, according to Elon, with some exceptions, is roughly equal to the retail cost, so the environmental manufacturing cost of a Tesla at around $100K is about the same as a $100K Lotus.
  • Tesla aims for 5-star crash ratings for all of its vehicles, and those ratings get harder to achieve each year.
The cars themselves are gorgeous and are made for Tesla by Lotus, so they are similar in size to the Lotus Elise, though the cockpit seems a little bigger and there are definite exterior and interior design differences. Fully loaded, the Tesla Roadster Sport will run you about $150K and it looks fast just sitting still. Due to the nature of the engine and drive train, the Roadster Sport does 0-60 in 3.7 seconds (they actually were postulating that it did closer to 3.5-3.6 seconds in the higher altitude due to the thinner air and drag; the altitude has no effect whatsoever on the engine performance) because every bit of torque is available from the second you hit the gas.

Link -- Tesla Motors

PS -- the food and space at The Kitchen in Boulder was spectacular and I was glad to meet Kimbal, the Chef-Owner and Elon's brother; I look forward to returning for a great meal.

PPS -- If you want to schedule a test drive in Boulder, call Tony Longhurst at (303) 440-3758 and he'll take care of you.

PPPS -- If you have been looking at buying one of these and want to chat about me purchasing one on your behalf prior to December 31, drop me an e-mail as I am a Colorado resident eligible for the tax incentives.

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