• Dec 13th 2007 at 8:49AM
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On Wednesday December 12, Tesla Motors held a open town hall meeting for all of its customers. The meeting was hosted from San Carlos and made available via conference call to everyone who has put down a deposit. I spoke with Darryl Siry after the meeting, and he said a full transcript will be posted on the company web site shortly. In the meantime, frequent commenter here on ABG and elsewhere Tony Belding took notes and posted them on the Tesla Motors Club discussion board. Chairman Elon Musk and new CEO Ze'ev Drori provided an update on the status of the company and Roadster.

The weak link in the Roadster remains the transmission. The problem of surviving the process of shifting gears while the motor remains at full torque is a tough one to overcome. Both of the first two suppliers proved to not be up to the task. There are now two other transmission suppliers working feverishly in parallel to develop a robust transmission. In spite of these issues, production unit number one has been built at the Lotus factory in Hethel, England. That's Musk's car and it does not have a finalized transmission. Musk fully expects to have to replace the transmission in a few thousand miles. Continue reading after the jump.

[Source: Tesla Motors Club, Tony Belding]

In fact, in order to get production going, Tesla is considering shipping early cars with transmissions that they expect to fail and a slightly reduced performance calibration. Once the final transmissions are available, these early vehicles would be retrofitted with new gearboxes and software. Speaking of software that is still being tweaked, the previous test that yielded a 245 mile range was erroneous. Latest testing now puts the range in the 220-230 mile region.

In response to a customer query about increasing top speed, the response was that higher speed stability would require more downforce. The problem is that downforce is a trade off with drag, and that would cut the range too much.

From a business perspective, the plan remains the same, with management intent on staying independent. While another funding round is in progress, Elon Musk remains committed to the venture. Even if every other investor decides to pull out their money, Musk said he would personally back the company. Until things settle out with the Roadster, plans for future cars like the WhiteStar will not be finalized. Any future products will be electrically driven but may contain a range extender in addition to a battery. Check out all of Tony's notes and the responses at the discussion board.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yanquetino: The Tesla Roadster's motor (248HP) is much more powerful than the one found in the EV1 (137HP), the RAV4 EV (67 HP), and the tzero (200HP). I wouldn't even count the tzero, as it never faced the durability challenges of a production vehicle.

      Rojo: I've never heard of a CVT that can withstand 13000 RPM...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Darryl is a tool. His insincerity is so painfully obvious. He has no experience in this industry and really should go back to selling insurance. Tesla needs strategic PR now, and not some idiot who seems to self-promote through getting people fired. What is Tesla thinking with keeping this guy on board?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Travis Rassat: EVs don't _need_ a transmission, but having one enables you to have a high top speed _and_ good acceleration. For a $100,000 Tesla Roadster, those performance characteristics are important to earn the price tag.

      The Tesla transmission doesn't have a reverse gear; it spins the motor backwards.

      Although non-sports-car Teslas don't necessarily need a transmission, it's logical that future models will include it as a competitive advantage.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It was a modified EV1, with a different gear ratio, that went 183 MPH, not a stock version. The modified version would accelerate too slowly to be useful anywhere except in Bonneville. The reason the stock version had to be limited to 80 MPH is because it only had one gear. And 80 is fast enough for most people, but not fast enough to charge $100,000 for.

      I feel it is unfortunate that Martin was let go, but I wasn't there so I don't know the whole story.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Does the "delivery" of a defective "production" car to the Chairman of the company really count as a milestone, or is it just a publicity stunt to be able to say they started "delivery" in 2008 like they had promised?

      After the way they kicked Martin Eberhard out of his own company, they luster has worn off of Tesla.

      (Note to Matin: In the future, NEVER EVER INCORPORATE if you want to keep any your business.)
      • 7 Years Ago
      They're using Mass Production techniques that are inefficient. Why don't they use Lean? It's faster if they would let both suppliers work together and not fight each other for the tranmission prob. That's why American automakers and Tesla alike have unnecessary supplier problems and on-going shaky relationships with them. WHAT A PITY. They can't learn until they come to a crisis or waste billions of dollars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thanks for the replies about my transmission questions. I can understand the need for the differential/gear reduction, but wasn't so sure about the need for multiple gears. Makes sense now! Thanks!
      • 7 Years Ago
      The EV1 could reach 184 mph but was limited to 80 mph and didn't have a transmission per se.

      For something so radical as a new electric car out of Silicon Valley, they probably should have taken baby steps first, i.e. a single gear transmission, but hindsight is wonderful.

      It's clear that the only problem with production is the transmission, and that as Yanquetino suggested, it was likely not Martin's idea in the first place to have a dual mode tranny. I still can't figure out for the life of me why they tossed him off the train. At the very least he could be blogger in chief.
      • 7 Years Ago
      OhmExcited: I think we're on the same wavelength here. For the life of me I can't imagine why they didn't just go ahead and produce the Roadster according to Martin's original vision, i.e., a single-gear drivetrain, Lotus's higher doorsills, off-the-shelf headlights, etc. Not that Musk's pet peeves wouldn't be "nice" to have, but... couldn't he have been patient enough to incorporate such changes into the NEXT model of the Roadster, say, in 2013? Just doesn't make sense when you think of it. Buyers would be driving them right now! So sad. And the biggest irony of all is that Martin ends up being shown the exit. Sheesh.
      • 7 Years Ago

      Well, yes, I know that the HP was lower in the EV1, the RAV4-EV, and the tzero. But that wasn't my question. What I wondered about was their transmissions.

      AC Propulsion claims that, with its 200 HP, the tzero will go 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Yow! I don't know what its top speed is, but whatever it uses for a transmission doesn't seem to dampen its acceleration. And I believe that the EV1 (well, an Impact) set a high speed record for an EV. So... what do/did they use for a transmission?

      Plus... AC Propulsions claims that the tzero's li-ion battery pack can go 300 miles on a charge. That's quite the combination of power and range, despite the lower HP than the Roadster. True, only two are in private hands on the streets, so durability remains unproven, but... whatever it's got sounds like it might be worth emulating.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So if my memory serves, the transmission is 2 forward speeds, no reverse (no need, just reverse the motor).

      The reason they have 2 speeds is for 0-60 time. With the low gear, the car can do 0-60 in 4 seconds, but tops out at 70-75mph I think. With the high gear, it can't do 4 seconds, but has a top speed of 120mph. According to the people at Tesla I talked to a while ago, the car drives great in high gear all the time.. but doesn't do the insane 4 second off the line time.

      It's hard for car companies to give up those critical benchmark times.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Actually, I believe the reason it should have a transmission is for efficiency. Electric motors are most efficient when they are spinning quickly; situations that require lots of torque at low speeds, like starting from a stop, normally uses a lot of electricity and significantly shortens range. Sure, you *can* get good torque by throwing lots of power at the motor, but it'll be very wasteful. Gears allow the motor to do that while using less power, greatly helping range.
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