California electric-car upstart Tesla Motors Inc. said today it has started taking orders for its Tesla Roadster from Canadian customers willing to pay the hotrod’s luxurious price tag.

But recession or not, there’s no shortage of interested buyers for the emission-free sports car, said company spokeswoman Rachel Konrad. More than 1,000 Canadians have subscribed to an online newsletter looking for the latest updates from Tesla, which is named after inventor Nikola Tesla, who invented alternating current technologies that made it possible to transmit electricity over long distances. This led to the creation of the modern electricity grid.

“We have a huge number of people from Canada asking to be first in line,” said Konrad.

They’ll have to pay somewhere around $120,000, though, and half of that must come up front as a $60,000 (U.S.) deposit. In return, they’ll get the first highway-capable electric car produced and sold in North America.

Tesla said it will start delivering cars to Canadian customers in the fourth quarter, initially from retail and service facilities opening in New York and Seattle over the coming few months. Eventually, the San Carlos, Calif.-based company plans to open facilities in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Tesla is producing about 10 Roadsters per week and has already delivered more than 200 to U.S. customers. The Roadster, which competes directly with high-performance vehicles from Porsche and Ferrari, can travel from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in four seconds.

“The Tesla Roadster competes with any sports car in its class for acceleration yet is twice as energy efficient as a Toyota Prius,” the company said.

High-profile customers to date include George Clooney, Michael Dell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Canadian billionaire Jeff Skoll, who is also an early investor in Tesla.

On March 26, Tesla’s four-door sedan, the Model S, will be unveiled. It’s expected to sell at a base price of $57,400 (U.S.) and will be available for sale in the second half of 2011.

The company said Canada is an ideal place for electric vehicles because the majority of electricity generation comes from emission-free sources, particularly in the provinces being targeted.

A Roadster recharged from the current Canadian grid through a standard household outlet, on average, would have 85 per cent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, the company said. That number climbs to 98 percent in Quebec, B.C., and Manitoba where hydroelectricity is the dominant form of generation.

“Canada is the poster child for the electric vehicle,” said Konrad, who said Skoll was among those who pushed for sales into Canada.

Elon Musk, Telsa’s chief executive and chairman, also has Canadian connections. Musk emigrated from South Africa as a teenager in the late 1980s and went directly to Kingston, where he enrolled at Queen’s University. He eventually transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to found e-commerce company PayPal before it was purchased by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

Musk’s mother is also Canadian, born in Regina, and most of his extended family still lives in Saskatchewan, where Musk once worked on a wheat farm when he first arrived in Canada at the age of 17.

Asked whether the battery packs in the Tesla Roadster can handle punishing Canadian winters, Konrad said most of the extreme cold-weather testing was done on a frozen lake in Sweden, which shares a similar climate to Canada. Norway and Denmark are also among Tesla’s top European markets.

“After getting caught in a freak snowstorm in New York City in November, I can personally attest that it performs well in snow,” said Konrad.

A number of car manufacturers, large and small, are rushing to introduce electric cars or plug-in hybrid vehicles over the coming few years, including giants Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler.

It was the Tesla Roadster, according to General Motors vice-chairman Bob Lutz, that motivated his company to develop its Volt electric car, which expected to hit he market in 2010.



Vallejo is aggressively working to attract a “green tech” car manufacturing plant to Mare Island, though a different location may already be a foregone conclusion.


“We’ve had contact with them as recently as a week ago,” said Jason Keadjian, spokesman for master developer Lennar Mare Island.


“Clearly, Mare Island offers a number of competitive advantages, including large buildings and infrastructure, the ability for expansion and a skilled work force, as well as a tremendous location within the Bay Area,” Keadjian added.


The San Carlos-based Tesla Motors is one of many companies the developer’s broker has been in contact with, Keadjian said. In fact, Tesla is a company it has been “aggressively pursuing since 2006,” he said.


In January, Tesla, which produces electric-powered cars, announced that its search for a new California site would begin again after a San Jose site was rejected for economic reasons. That city was the second recently contemplated by company officials, who had first looked to a New Mexico site in 2006.


Tesla’s business, which allows car owners to drive without fueling up at gas pumps, would fit nicely with Vallejo’s reputation for using solar energy, Vallejo City Councilmember Stephanie Gomes said.


“It would really be fantastic for us and Mare Island,” she said. “Maybe that could work into a niche for us.”


Mike Ammann, president of Solano Economic Development Corp. in Fairfield, would hardly be surprised if Tesla

Motors officials were again eyeing Mare Island as a possible site to develop.


He said Tesla, while considering Vacaville and San Jose, had previously scouted the former naval shipyard, with its dozens of airplane hangar-sized buildings, as a possible place to set up a manufacturing facility.


Ammann said details of the Obama administration’s Economic Recovery Act, which the president wants to sign today, will factor into the company’s decision to locate at Mare Island — or at another abandoned military base in California, such as Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda or Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.


He said Tesla officials are seeking $300 million to $400 million in start-up costs but cautioned the Bay Area-based firm, while a leading contender for the cash, is competing against several other electric vehicle companies for largely the same amount of taxpayer money.


“If Tesla takes the federal dollars, the location would have to be what’s called a ‘brown field,’ an old military base, like Mare Island,” said Ammann, adding, “It’s more than likely” that the federal government will encourage, if not require, companies to locate on the old military bases.


“There will be some kind of criteria, if they take the money,” said Ammann. “Obviously, Mare Island and others will be in the game.”


He said Vacaville and San Jose are considered “green enterprise zones” and are unlikely though possible sites for a Tesla plant, given the federal guidelines.


Vallejo Community Development Analyst Annette Taylor said city officials renewed their efforts to attract the company last month after hearing that San Jose site was “not feasible, given current economic conditions and poor venture capital environment.”


“Because Tesla is a desirable company, the city is doing whatever we can to bring it to Mare Island,” Taylor said.


In early communications, company officials indicated they were looking for a site very close to their South Bay home base. Keadjian, of Lennar Mare Island, said he did not know if that plan had changed.


Recent news reports have indicated that the company is closing in on a favored site, though a Tesla spokeswoman reached Friday would not disclose any details.


“(Tesla) have not gone back out to the market since they announced that their previous commitment in San Jose had fallen through,” Keadjian said Friday. “So, we have updated them with information about Mare Island … We’re not taking anything for granted; it has been announced that they were close to making an agreement in the past. It’s not over ’till it’s over.”


The San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.

Last we heard, Tesla was reevaluating some business decisions as it sought to become a thriving, profitable enterprise in 2009. In a lengthy newsletter sent out to over 60,000 subscribers today, CEO Elon Musk has laid out a torrent of news. Most notable are the imminent openings of retail locations in Chicago and London’s Knightsbridge district, with four other locations slated to open before the year’s end. Additionally, a street-drivable prototype of the Model S four door sedan will be unveiled on March 26th, with production scheduled for 2011. We’re also informed of updates on the Smart car / Daimler partnership, a few new interior options for the Roadster, a battery replacement program and the new extended warranty. Chances are, Tesla owners have already digested all of this, but those looking in from the outside should certainly have a peek at the full letter just after the break.

Tesla to be Profitable by Mid Year

The $40M financing round completed in December was twice the amount Tesla needed to reach profitability. Moving forward two months later, we remain on track with our cost reductions and production ramp, so it appears highly likely that Tesla will meet the goal promised to those investors of becoming profitable by mid year.

The main reason for this confidence is that Tesla is already in the fortunate position of being sold out until early November, something few automakers can claim, and will soon be sold out of all 2009 production. While we have had some cancellations due to buyers experiencing personal financial difficulties, new orders continue to flow in every week from the United States and Europe. We have now produced more than 200 Roadsters for customers and there are more than 1,000 customers still awaiting delivery.

Due to our order backlog, it seems that owning a Roadster can be a good investment. Last September, as the financial and real estate markets began crashing, a Roadster was sold at the Sonoma Paradiso in California wine country for $160,000, well above the current list price of $109,000. Many Roadster owners who have taken delivery of their cars have already decided to purchase a second Roadster or Roadster Sport because they like the first one so much.

The continued strong demand is driven by the fact that the Tesla Roadster has no direct competitors. It is faster than almost any sports car on the market (our Roadster beat a Porsche GT3 on the Top Gear test track) and yet uses less energy and has a smaller carbon footprint than a Toyota Prius, even if you assume the worst possible case where all electricity comes from coal.

I expect sales demand to strengthen further as this awareness grows. After all, what’s the point of driving another exotic sports car when it is slower than a Tesla and damages the environment? Already, the Tesla Roadster is the car of choice among the technology, business and Hollywood A lists – this year’s Academy Awards will be a lineup of Teslas – and we have never had to give a discount to anyone.

Many customers also appreciate the fact that profit from their purchase goes towards helping Tesla develop more affordable, mass market electric cars. The same cannot be said for those who buy gas-guzzling sports cars from other automakers.

And owners aren’t the only ones impressed with the Roadster. Road & Track was the first auto enthusiast magazine to perform third-party, instrumented testing on the Roadster; they were “pleased to see its extravagant claims confirmed.” The Washington Post’s Warren Brown gushed, “Wheeeeeee! If this is the future of the automobile, I want it.” Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times had perhaps the most colorful description we’ve seen to describe the Roadster’s scorching acceleration: “God has grabbed me by the jockstrap and fired me off his thumb, rubber band-style. Wow.” And we’ve also had a torrent of reviews in Europe, where deliveries begin this summer – including a Le Monde story with our favorite headline: “Le chic électrique.”

Unveiling the Model S and DOE funding

On March 26th, at the Tesla design studio located within the SpaceX rocket factory, we will unveil a street-drivable prototype of the Model S four door sedan. Our objective with the Model S was to create one of the most functional, intuitive and beautiful vehicles on the road. Tesla Roadster customers and select VIPs invited to the event will have an opportunity to judge for themselves firsthand whether we have succeeded.

Regarding funding, I am excited to report that the Department of Energy informed Tesla last week that they expect to disburse funds from our $350M Model S loan application within four to five months. The Obama administration has thankfully made it a top priority to move quickly on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, as this will both generate high quality jobs in the near term and lay the groundwork for a better environment in the future.

This will keep us on track for production to start in 2011. As a gesture of gratitude for their early support, Roadster owners will receive a $10,000 discount off the price of the Model S Signature series and automatically be first in line for the sedan.

Daimler Partnership

We announced last month at the Detroit auto show that we have been working with Daimler (maker of Mercedes) for over a year to create an electric version of the Smart car. Daimler has contracted with Tesla to build the battery packs and chargers for an initial run of 1,000 cars. Pending the results of that test fleet, the relationship could expand to tens of thousands of cars per year.

This is a very significant endorsement of both Tesla’s technology and our financial strength by one of the world’s most respected automotive companies. Daimler would not feel comfortable depending on us for this program if they felt that either our technology was easily replicated or that we were in financial danger.

Daimler was the first company to commercialize the internal combustion engine and has become a benchmark for automotive quality and reliability. It is an honor that they chose to work with Tesla after a thorough investigation of other options. The deal is likely to be the first in a series of strategic partnerships between Tesla and other auto manufacturers to engineer and produce electric cars.

My goal for Tesla from the beginning was to do whatever we can to help end the world’s addiction to oil. We’ll do that by making cars directly, helping other automakers develop cars, and serving as an example to the rest of the industry. Although the Roadster is still the only highway capable production electric car for sale in the United States, it was very encouraging to see that the central theme of the Detroit auto show this year was electric transportation. J

New Tesla Sales & Service Centers to Open

We have reached agreement on Tesla store leases in Chicago and London’s Knightsbridge district, and we are close to finalizing locations in Manhattan, Miami, Seattle and Munich. All six facilities will open this year, and in the following months we’ll provide details about individual store opening parties. These new stores will offer prospective customers the chance to see and drive the Roadster in person – and they underscore Tesla’s commitment to looking at the auto industry with fresh eyes. Unlike traditional franchise dealerships, Tesla owns its stores and controls the customer experience. We think you’ll agree that our stores are a refreshing change from the way most people have bought cars for the last 50 years.

Roadster Sport

Tesla is now taking orders for the Roadster Sport, an even higher performance car that does 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. It comes with a hand-wound stator and increased winding density for lower resistance and higher peak torque.

The tires are upgraded to Yokohama Ultra High Performance and the suspension features adjustable dampers and anti-roll bars tuned to the driver’s preference – allowing for both softer and firmer rides than the standard Roadster. Deliveries are expected to begin in late June.

Upgraded Roadster Interior and Other Options

Tesla will soon offer an Executive Leather Interior that raises the level of luxury in the Roadster’s cabin. We are also offering a Clear Carbon Fiber Exterior Package to add an additional level of sportiness and highlight the lightweight material that makes up the Roadster’s body. Currently, the only exterior clear carbon fiber touch on the base model is the roll bar cover – but many customers and fans have asked if we could reveal more of this exotic, braided material. These packages will be available starting in June.

Battery Replacement Program

One of the top questions customers ask about the Roadster is, “How long will the battery last and what will it cost to replace?” Tesla engineers have determined that a Tesla battery pack should last approximately seven years or over 100,000 miles under normal use.

Customers may pay $12,000, €10,000 or £9,000 up front and in return receive a replacement battery pack after seven years. Customers will also have the option of replacing the pack earlier at a premium or later for a partial refund. With the low production volume of the Tesla Roadster, the current replacement price of the pack is almost three times that number. The main reason for the relatively low cost up front — and why this is a smart purchase — is that we are arbitraging the relative cost of capital between Tesla and our typical customer.

Extended Warranty to Double Standard Period

Many customers have also asked to purchase an extended warranty. We now offer a doubling of the standard warranty, which means an additional 3 years and 36,000 miles or 60,000 kilometers, for $5,000, €4,000 or £3,800.

This covers everything on the car except the battery pack. Should the motor, power electronics, HVAC or any other major system need to be replaced, this will be money well spent, and it provides peace of mind to many customers.

Teaser Shot

Tesla just dropped word yesterday that a drivable prototype of its Model S sedan would be unveiled on March 26th, but the automaker has now gone one step further and let loose the first official teaser image of what we can only assume is said prototype. In true teaser fashion, there isn’t a whole lot to see, but as AutoblogGreen points out, it is fairly evident that the Model S is at least shorter than the rival Fisker Karma, and it seems to boast a larger passenger compartment to boot. Hit up the link below to check out a higher res shot, and don’t be surprised if Tesla continues to tease this one out right up until that March 26th launch date.

Electric luxury car company Tesla Motors is on target to be profitable and to demonstrate a “street-drivable” prototype of its next car next month: the Model S sedan.

CEO Elon Musk sent out a detailed update to subscribers of its monthly newsletter, boasting about a backlog of orders for its Tesla Roadster sports car and assuring company watchers that the company is on sound financial footing.


Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in a Roadster

(Credit: Tesla Motors)

“We remain on track with our cost reductions and production ramp, so it appears highly likely that Tesla will meet the goal promised to those investors of becoming profitable by mid year,” Musk wrote.

The company raised $40 million in December last year and at the same time admitted to being low on cash. It also had to scrap plans to raise money through an initial public offering on the stock market.

Musk said the company plans to show off a prototype of the Model S on March 26 at the California factory of SpaceX, Musk’s space tourism venture.

The Model S is a four-door, all-electric luxury sedan that Tesla expects to start manufacturing in 2011. A ballpark price the company has stated is $60,000. The list price on the Roadster is $109,000.

In a significant financial development, Musk said that Tesla expects to receive $350 million in Department of Energy loans to build a factory for the Model S within four to five months.

Company representative Rachel Konrad said that Tesla’s DOE loan application is in the “later stages” but the company has not yet gotten confirmation that it will receive the loan. “The DOE is evaluating Tesla’s financial viability and technical merits. The DOE is doing its due diligence, and we are very optimistic about a relatively expedient timeline for disbursal of funds,” Konrad said in a statement.

In an interview last Friday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he is trying to expedite the loan-granting process at the DOE in an effort to revive the economy.

Musk said that the Roadster is sold out for 2009, meaning that Tesla has received orders for all of the cars that it can produce. The Tesla Roadster Sport, which accelerates a tad faster than the Roadster, is set for delivery in late June.


The Tesla Roadster at Tesla’s Mountain View, California store.

(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET Networks)

It has reached agreements to open Tesla-owned stores in Chicago and London’s Knightsbridge district and is plans to open outlets in Manhattan, Miami, Seattle and Munich.

Musk also detailed a battery-swapping program for current owners, where they can prepay to get a discount for replacement battery after seven years.

The life and durability of batteries is something of an unknown for electric vehicle manufacturers and customers, leading some automakers to consider battery-upgrade programs.

“One of the top questions customers ask about the Roadster is, ‘How long will the battery last and what will it cost to replace?’ Tesla engineers have determined that a Tesla battery pack should last approximately seven years or over 100,000 miles under normal use,” Musk said.

Tesla Motors has signed a deal to supply power train components to Daimler for an electric version of the German auto giant’s Smart mini-car, called the Electric Smart EV, which is expected to be available within two years.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced the deal at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday. On Sunday, Tesla unveiled a higher-end Sport version of its Tesla Roadster electric sports car.

Tesla will supply the battery pack and on-board charger for 1,000 Electric Smart EVsr, a company representative said on Tuesday. Musk told told The Detroit Free Press that Tesla has been working on the deal for about a year and a half.


Tesla showed off the power train and battery pack of the Tesla Roadster at the North American International Auto Show this week.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET Networks)

“If the 1,000 vehicle fleet makes sense and the economics are compelling, that will expand to tens of thousands of vehicles per year,” Musk was quoted saying. Daimler “sees the electric Smart as being a large percentage of EV (electric vehicle) sales.”

Tesla is ramping up production of its first car, the Roadster, while looking to earn money through its power train business. Daimler is its first auto manufacturer customer.

A deal between Tesla and Daimler had been rumored for months.

In August, Financial Times Germany reported that the supply agreement was for electric Smart cars planned for a pilot to test lithium-ion battery Smart cars and a network of charging stations in Berlin, Germany.

Don’t even bother with that BRABUS overhaul, as you can now get a Roadster with 15 percent more peak power and a 0 to 60 time of 3.7 seconds right from the factory. Out of seemingly nowhere, Tesla Motors has just announced the lovingly refined Roadster Sport, which arrives with a hand-wound stator and increased winding density for lower resistance and higher peak torque. You’ll also notice Yokohama Ultra High Performance tires, improved suspension with adjustable dampers and anti-roll bars that will be tuned to the driver’s preference. The automaker is taking orders now in the US ($128,500 and up) and Europe (starts at €112,000), with deliveries slated to begin in late June — oh, and if you’re currently on the waiting list for a standard Roadster, you most certainly can scratch the upgrade itch.

It turns out that weaning the auto industry off gasoline isn’t as simple as turning out electric cars from a factory.

Auto industry executives say they will couple their first mass-market electric cars with a big dose of community outreach, with the hope of making the new generation of vehicles more desirable and convenient to consumers.

Car companies intend to target places where governments are willing to provide incentives to purchase plug-in electric cars and install charging stations. Utilities, too, need to be involved so that the grid doesn’t become stressed by a rush of cars.

General Motors is already coordinating with industry partners, community leaders, and utilities to ensure that the apparent strong demand for the Chevy Volt–due in November 2010–will have the infrastructure to back it up, said Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director of the Chevy Volt.

“We are looking at communities that exist that are willing to put all the pieces together,” Posawatz said at the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s Conference & Exposition earlier this month. “To me, the Volt is a remarkable product. But, if the other stuff–the communities, etc.–isn’t there, then we run the risk of failing.”

Private-public partnerships
The financial industry bailout bill (separate from the auto industry aid package that failed to pass Congress) helps clear the cost hurdle for plug-in electric cars. Depending on the size of the battery, consumers and businesses can get up to a $7,500 tax credit starting next year.

But that financial incentive isn’t quite enough to rapidly spur mass adoption, say auto companies.

Municipalities or states could create incentives to install charging “pedestals” in urban neighborhoods or other public spaces. Similarly, businesses or parking lot owners could install charging ports.

With a good charging infrastructure in place, auto makers hope that mainstream consumers–rather than only adventurous bleeding-edge buyers–will have a positive experience with plug-in electric cars.


A charging pedestal from Coulomb Technologies.

(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks)

Nissan, for example, is readying what it considers a mainstream sedan, with the usual amenities of modern cars like on-board navigation and heated seats. That’s a break from electric cars that are already available, such as the pricey, $109,000 Tesla Roadster or existing neighborhood electric cars that can’t go highway speed.

Because it is a mainstream product, Nissan will stage the car’s initial introduction in the fall of 2010 in region’s that have the right infrastructure in place, said Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan Americas. That will help it prepare for “mass market” availability in 2012, he said.

It is establishing “public-private partnerships” with governments and utilities in an effort to ensure things like favorable permitting and available inspectors for charging stations, Perry said. So far, it has agreements with Tennessee, Oregon, and Sonoma County, Calif., to set up a network of charging stations in public places.

“As we think about the individual consumer, you don’t want it to be an open question–Ok, I want an electric vehicle, what do I do? We want to have those answers,” said Perry. “It’s not a technical hurdle. It’s more a coordination and logistics hurdle.”

Nissan is considering a battery swapping program, something that start-up Better Place plans to set up in a number of countries, Hawaii, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The idea is to avoid the problem of a car’s limited battery range by having a network of spots–they would resemble car washes–where drivers can swap fresh batteries in for depleted ones.

Other auto makers are taking a similar region-by-region approach. Mitshubishi’s electric subcompact, the iMiev, has been testing a fast charging infrastructure with seven Japanese utilities capable of replenishing battery charge to 80 percent in 30 minutes, said David Patterson, senior manager for research and development at Mitsubishi Motors in North America.

The cars will be available commercially in Japan next summer. Mitsubishi also plans to run tests as fleet vehicles with California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Smart charging
Utilities, meanwhile, need to be involved in electric car roll-outs to hammer out technical standards and ensure that the grid won’t be over-taxed by the added load of electric vehicles.

The Electric Power Research Institute said in a study that the the U.S. power grid could accommodate many electric cars, all while improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A spike to 60 percent market share in 2050 of plug-in electric vehicles would use between seven and eight percent of grid-supplied electricity, it found.



Click on the image to see a photo gallery from the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s Conference & Exposition earlier this month.

(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks)

However, an analysis from the Oak Ridge National Laboratories found that rapid penetration of plug-in vehicles could require construction of dozens of more power plants if utilities can’t control when vehicles are charged. If millions of consumers recharge their cars during peak times, such as early evening, utilities might not be able to meet demand with existing power plants.

The technical solution to this problem is so-called smart charging software which will allow utilities to remotely control when vehicles are charged and at what pace.

During the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s Conference & Exposition, General Motors and smart grid start-up GridPoint remotely dialed into GM’s Warren, Mich., testing labs and altered the charge rate on a Volt. GridPoint earlier this year bought V2Green, which developed software specifically for utilities to deal with electric cars.

“The last thing you want to do is charge on peak,” said GridPoint chief strategy officer Karl Lewis, who warned that on-peak charging could lead to higher electricity prices. “We envision a compact between the utility and the consumer to incentivize consumers to do off-peak charging.”

A utility could, for example, offer what’s called time-of-day pricing, where consumers would get cheaper rates to charge a vehicle after midnight when demand is low.

On a technical level, the protocols and standards for charging electric cars en masse still aren’t settled. For example, auto makers are waiting for guidelines from the Society of Automotive Engineers International on fast-charging methods, which can make a significant difference in charge time.

Using a car charging device at 240 volts will fill the Chevy Volt’s batteries in three hours, versus eight hours if out of a standard 120-volt U.S. household socket.

Building a “geek squad” to install 240-volt charging boxes at people’s homes is one example of the services that will smooth the way for electric cars, said GM’s Posawatz. “There are a lot of opportunities and possibilities for different people in the value chain,” he said.