• Jan 5th 2011 at 6:04PM
  • 22
Electric automaker Tesla Motors announced that its upcoming Model S sedan will incorporate two Nvidia Tegra chips to handle computing and graphics processing for the vehicle's 17-inch touch screen display as well as the car's instrument cluster. Nivdia's Tegra chip was specifically engineered for mobile applications that require low power consumption, while also demanding intense graphical performance. In this case, what's good for your phone is good for your plug-in car.

Tesla claims that the Tegra's "exceptional energy efficiency" is "a critically important feature for electric cars." By selecting a chip that draws less energy, the automaker hopes that more of the Model S' battery power can be used to extend the vehicle's overall range.

Back in 2008, Nvidia co-founder and chief executive officer, Jen-Hsun Huang, spoke with Earth2Tech regarding the Tegra line :
You have to deliver these elements with almost no power. If you boil it down to where the CPU, the GPU, and all the individual processors dissipate almost no energy so you could wind it up like a wristwatch or recharge it with the temperatures of your skin, you could make a mobile computing device that fits in your pocket. So we started with a blank sheet of paper and five years later we have Tegra.
The Model S' 17-inch touch screen – claimed to be the largest ever in a production vehicle – will feature intense 3-D graphics that rely on the performance of Nvidia's Tegra chip.

[Source: NVIDIA]


Tesla Motors' Model S to Feature NVIDIA Tegra Processors

Power-Stingy Tegra to Run All-Electric Sedan's Infotainment, Navigation, Instrument-Cluster Systems

LAS VEGAS, NV--(Marketwire - January 4, 2011) - CES 2011 ­-- NVIDIA announced today that NVIDIA® Tegra™ processors will power the infotainment, navigation and instrument-cluster systems in the Tesla Model S, the first sedan built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. Built around the driver, the Model S is the premium sedan, evolved. Its infotainment system features a 17-inch touch-screen center console -- the largest display ever in a car -- providing vivid 3D graphics.

In addition to its unrivaled graphics capability, the Tegra processor provides exceptional energy efficiency, a critically important feature for electric cars. One processor will be used to power the infotainment and navigation systems, and another for the instrument cluster.

The infotainment and navigation systems feature:

* 17-inch high resolution display, the largest display ever in a car
* Responsive touchscreen with a fully intuitive user interface
* Connected navigation with live traffic, points of interest and weather
* Touchscreen-based climate-control system

The all-digital instrument cluster features:

* Ultra high-resolution, driver-friendly 12.3" LCD display
* Advanced 3D graphics providing data about the vehicle

CES 2011 attendees will be able to view the Model S outside the Las Vegas Convention Center in the Central Plaza, booth # CP7.

Visit NVIDIA's booth in South Hall 3, booth # 31431 to learn about how NVIDIA is working with Tesla Motors to bring visual computing to tomorrow's cars.


"Model S is designed for performance-oriented efficiency. NVIDIA allows us to use the highest graphics with the lowest energy use."
- JB Straubel, chief technology officer at Tesla Motors

"The Model S is a modern marvel -- a blend of beauty, performance and efficiency. Tegra's combination of graphics power and energy efficiency make it a perfect match for the Model S."
- Dan Vivoli, senior vice president at NVIDIA

About Tegra
NVIDIA Tegra is the world's first mobile superchip, with eight dedicated computing cores. These include the ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, the world's only ultra-low power NVIDIA GeForce® GPU and the world's first mobile 1080p HD video processor.

These features enable it to offer extremely realistic 3D graphics and advanced multimedia functionality and premium-quality accelerated user interfaces. Its auto-grade version has undergone specific testing for the automotive market and passed the industry-standard AEC-100 qualification for reliability, adhering to certain operating temperature ranges. It also offers a complete toolset for engineers to quickly build visually-appealing user interfaces.


NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) awakened the world to the power of computer graphics when it invented the GPU in 1999. Since then, it has consistently set new standards in visual computing with breathtaking, interactive graphics available on devices ranging from tablets and portable media players to notebooks and workstations. NVIDIA's expertise in programmable GPUs has led to breakthroughs in parallel processing which make supercomputing inexpensive and widely accessible. The Company holds more than 1,600 patents worldwide, including ones covering designs and insights that are essential to modern computing. For more information, see www.nvidia.com.


Tesla's goal is to produce increasingly affordable electric cars to mainstream buyers - relentlessly driving down the cost of EVs. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla has delivered more than 1,400 Roadsters to customers in North America, Europe and Asia. Tesla designs, develops, manufactures and sells EVs and EV powertrain components. The Tesla Roadster accelerates faster than most sports cars yet produces no emissions.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm with 2 Wheeled Menace.

      This savings is insignificant. These processors are made for devices with about a 10-30Wh battery. The Model S has about a 30kWh battery. That means the drain from this CPU is so low compared to the battery size that it fades into the background, it could only make any difference when the vehicle is not in use (when sitting parked) and even then I don't think it would be noticeable.

      On top of this, I don't really want a 17" touch screen instead of actual center stack tactile controls. I can understand why Tesla would do it, it'll save them a ton on custom tooling costs. But I'm not actually impressed by the bragging.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The touchscreen is the worst thing about the second-generation Prius. If you want to fine-tune the climate control settings, you have to go through the touchscreen, taking your eyes off the road and reaching for the appropriate control. (Oh, and you have to put it in Climate mode first.)

        The steering wheel buttons offer climate control on/off, temperature up/down, recirculate, and front/rear windshield defog. If you want to inhibit air-conditioning, control airflow direction or change fan speed, you have to use the touchscreen. I've found it's a lot easier to just not fiddle with those settings.

        The third-generation has arrays of buttons instead, though they could have made the buttons more distinct from one another rather than being a near-seamless surface.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If the touchscreen were as good as the iPad, it would rock. The Prius screen sucks wind.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Excellent.. this should add about 0.0025 miles of range.
      Good thing they are going with an ONLY 17 INCH screen, that should save power too.

      < /sarcasm >
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Sarcasm aside, a smaller display or no display at all would save more power. "

        LED screens use much less power and have come down in price.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have to agree. Any appropriate processor is going to have a negligible effect on the range of this vehicle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly why would you want a 17" screen in your car again? Are we doing the mutlplayer Halo battles while we drive or something? LOL
        • 4 Years Ago
        An LCD (they are not really LEDs, just LCD screens with LED "backlighting") use about 50W. That is not a lot, but if you're stuck in rush hour traffic for driving back and forth to work every day, it does reduce your range by a couple of miles every week. And I'm talking about the screen itself, not including the processor and any other ancillary parts that make that 17" screen go.

        Not a biggie, but as Geronimo said, it all adds up....and this is not the only "vampire" in the car sucking juice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sarcasm aside, a smaller display or no display at all would save more power. Perhaps Tesla will take that approach to improve range on their "affordable" model when it is rolled out, about 4 years from now.

        Still not a big factor in range, though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I see that a little bit different. Take a close look at the IRD. If every taxpayer was justified for exemption from tax because his contribution is negligible, the majority would not make any contributions. But a little bit here and little bit there and a little bit everywhere adds up to huge sums. TESLA is going in the other direction; theyre not adding they're detracting but the priciple is the same. They have to start somewhere and in the end it'll all add up.
        • 4 Years Ago
        But still, do you understand the faulty logic here?

        It's like putting a 72in. LCD tv in your living room and telling your family it's more efficient than the 35" CRT that's been sitting there previously.

        Meanwhile it uses 1 watt less and a 36" LCD would use 1/3rd of the energy as the larger set..
      • 4 Years Ago

      I'm actually quite glad to see the change to larger screens in cars.
      However, it is more than just a little disingenuous to talk about how the low power processor you've chosen will enhance range in the electric car you just put a 17" monitor in the dash of.

      If that is the case then I fully expect to see pixel Qi or mirasol type display with fully reflective mode to save screen energy - at the least.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm a 2d/3d graphics programmer and this is more meaningful than you think. Without a GPU, the processor's FPU (floating point unit) would be overtaxed, resulting in higher power consumption. This is why Android devices (no GPU) cannot power a 10inch device for 10 hours like the Apple iPad (embedded GPU).

      Plus, with the new Google vector maps, you can get a real-time 3d representation of a route.

      Also, GPUs can be used to do real-time high-end image processing, so for example, it could be used to enhance the image on the parking camera to help in night vision or to do obstacle detection.

      This is very exciting.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Backlighting the 17 inch screen is going to take 3 times the power of backlighting a 10" screen (which would still be large by automotive standards), and will probably offset any savings they gain from the Tegra processor.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. Although compared to the total power, the savings may be small, you save energy 1 watt at a time, and the engineers are looking at everything which consumes power.
        As for why bother with a large screen, I can see many potential uses, and non doubt as larger screens come into use, more will be found.
        After all, who needs more than a 22" TV screen? ;-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        The higher power consumption would not be noticed. You're talking about blowing through another two Watts maybe.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Backlighting the 17 inch screen is going to take 3 times the power of backlighting a 10" screen"

        LCD yes...LED no.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is nothing but NVidia bragging about a design win. You wanna extend range? Don't put such a big screen and fancy graphics processor in there. The only way this extends range is in comparison to putting in one of their power-eating gamer GPUs in there. But only an idiot would do that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      And good thing it will have "intense 3-D graphics" or we might not figure out how to drive it!

      At least you can watch a movie while it's charging without slowing down the process much...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why did Tesla take on the effort and expense of designing their own infotainment/telematics system? There are entire companies that just make OEM systems (e.g. Becker) and plenty of good aftermarket units. Tesla and Fisker both seem to have an attitude that they can do better than people who have far more experience than them.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice that the car has video game quality graphics, but shouldn't we be watching the road instead of the 17" screen?
      • 4 Years Ago
      a 17" screen in a car, seriously. I want to like you model S, I really do, but if this thing uses a touchscreen for all climate and radio controls, I'm gonna go insane, what's the point, more distracted drivers? Come on now. Think people think, this is a ergonomic nightmare.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X