What's the biggest problems with the Tesla Model S? According to some, it's the huge battery pack.
Let's start with some facts. Tesla says the Model S will be offered with three different battery ranges: 160, 230 and 300 miles. The smallest battery pack will be 42 kWh, the middle one will be around 70 kWh and, as we heard last year, the biggest Model S battery will be between 80 and 95 kWh. That's enormous, to be sure, and skeptics can criticize it for being too big, too expensive or too slow to recharge, but Tesla has long claimed that it has enough time to figure out how to make it work, even though it's the first company to try something like this.
In fact, during the recent Detroit Auto Show, we talked with Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes, who said that having three pack sizes for the Model S will make sense for electric vehicles in 2012, when the Model S is scheduled to arrive:
But not everyone understands this, which brings us to Paul Eisenstein's article on the Model S over on The Detroit Bureau. Paul is a friend of the site, but after the jump we'll address some of the things he said about the Model S and its battery packs.
Where were we when the Roadster was introduced and where are we now? We're not begging battery manufacturers to allow us to put their batteries in our car. We're not begging people to please supply us with these batteries so that we can make this car that is unproven up to this point. It's a completely different world.
Eisenstein's main criticism of the Model S' battery packs, especially the largest one, is the "problematic numbers" of recharging the pack. He writes:
By the time the Model S is available in 2012, Model S drivers will have four choices to fill up an empty battery pack when they're out and about: standard 110V outlets, public Level 2 240V chargers, DC Fast Chargers and battery swaps. No matter which battery pack you choose, you will not need to recharge during most normal commuting days. In day-to-day driving, the miles you burn getting to and from work and out for dinner will be easily, painlessly refilled while you sleep when using the common 240V home charging set up. The only time you'll need to fill up the entire pack is when you head out on a long road trip (and, as plug-in advocates have long argued, electric vehicles aren't for everyone, all the time. If you need to go cross-country, then rent a gas-powered car or plan for a relaxing trip).
The larger Model S, with its huge 300-mile battery, would, at best require about 14 hours to get back on the road – at best. ... That is, unless an owner were ready to head out on only a partial charge. But, at that point, what would justify paying the huge price premium for the extra kilowatt-hours?
Eisenstein is right that DC Fast Chargers, which can fill a pack to 80 percent in a comparatively short time, are currently quite rare, but they're more common than any mention Eisenstein makes of the fact that the battery pack in a Model S will be swapabble. It's odd he doesn't mention this important feature of the car in an article focused on the battery packs themselves.
What a swappable battery pack means is that all the worry about the high cost of the 300-mile pack is nothing more than crocodile tears. Don't want a 300-mile battery pack? No problem. That's why it's an option, and if you change your mind, you can have a big pack installed at any time. Granted, both 440V DC chargers and swap-out stations (or Tesla dealerships) require infrastructure, but if there's one thing that anyone following the green car scene quickly learns is that this industry moves ridiculously fast. There are plenty of problems and potential pitfalls to getting plugged in, but we're not comfortable betting against the possibility that there will be at least some places where DC charges are common come 2012.
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]