Tesla Motors has nothing but undeniable design hits in its two-vehicle portfolio. We know this is true because there has been very little written about how bad the Roadster and the Model S look. We're about to see if the company can make it three in a row when the wraps come off the Model X at a special event February 9 in Los Angeles. Getting our first visuals of that crossover will certainly be interesting, but it's really just a part of what Tesla is calling "The Year Of The Model S." The Model S, after all, heralds a new Tesla brand, so the Model X needs to "have the same design cues" while also expanding Tesla's lineup.

A lot of people would love a minivan but can't bring themselves to buy one, so they drive an SUV.

Those are the words of Tesla's vice president of communications, Ricardo Reyes, who told AutoblogGreen during the Detroit Auto Show that the Model X will be a true seven-seater that combines "the functionality of a minivan with a cool SUV/crossover package. A lot of people would love a minivan but can't bring themselves to buy one, so they drive an SUV." Tesla wants to offer an alternative to the traditional SUV bodystyle just as it offers an alternative electric powertrain. The move into utility vehicle territory, also marks the end of an era of sorts. The car that brought electric vehicles roaring back to life – Tesla's iconic Roadster – is about to go the way of the dodo.

Right now, Tesla's Fremont factory (the former NUMMI plant) is still building beta versions of the Model S as it gets ready for the first production versions. Because of this, Tesla is confident that Model S deliveries will start in the U.S. this summer as scheduled, and that means that Tesla will sell the last Roadsters here soon. Reyes told AutoblogGreen in an email:

From the beginning, the Roadster was conceived as a limited production vehicle. Our original agreement with Lotus was for a glider run of 2,400 vehicles. Due to continued demand, we increased production into 2012 for a total run of 2,500. We decided to continue offering Roadsters in the markets outside the United States where Model S deliveries start later. Model S deliveries are on schedule to begin in the United States in mid-2012. They will follow in Europe about six months later.

To date, the Roadster sold well over 2,000 units around the world, with "approximately half" sold in the U.S., but the car is about so much more than giving a few thousand wealthy people a thrilling, emissions-free car.

"We are here because of the Roadster," Reyes said, talking about Tesla as a company. "Because the Roadster so quickly changed everyone's viewpoint on what an electric vehicle could be, an electric car became desirable."

tesla roadster 2.5

And now people are desiring the Model S. The vehicle configurator only went online a month ago and Model S customers are just beginning to pick their options, so Reyes said he does not yet have a good breakdown on which of the three battery sizes will be the most popular. The 1,000 Signature editions of the Model S are all sold out, he said, which indicates that the 300-mile range option might be the popular choice when the first full batch of Model S orders comes in (2012 production of the Model S is also sold out). An important thing to note is that Tesla is now counting on people to stick with the battery pack they buy with the car and not rely on battery swapping for special occasions. This goes against something that Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last year:

When people take an occasional two-way long distance trip, they'll get a replacement pack and then pick up their original one on the way back. The issue of giving up your one-year old pack for a three-year old one goes away.

In Detroit, Reyes stepped back from this idea, saying, "I don't think people should buy a car thinking I'll buy this one now and if I decide to change options later I can go get a new battery. It's designed to have a removable battery, but the way we're looking at it, that's mostly for servicing."

Just as Tesla needed to come up with its own charging system when the Roadster was introduced, the company has its own plan for taking EVs on road trips: it's called Supercharging. This is the name for Tesla's DC fast-charging option that will allow a ten-percent-to-90-percent charge in 45 minutes, Reyes said. He added that it wouldn't take many Superchargers to give drivers of the higher-range Model S vehicles the ability to drive from coast to coast, but the low-end Model S with a 40-kWh battery pack, for example, won't be able to Supercharge.

Chart of Tesla battery size options with several Model s's along bottom of frame

"The solution to when people want to take a road trip for the 300- and 240-mile range packs is going to be charging and supercharging," Reyes said, describing the network Tesla is talking about building. "If you look at an 'H' system [in the U.S.], the most popular routes on the west coast, the east coast and then cross-country, and then you have little spoke systems along the way, you pretty much cover the country with not that many systems," he said.

How many make up the "not that many" that it would take to blanket the country coasts "pretty well"? Reyes said it's fewer than 30 locations. (*UPDATE: Reyes emailed to say this number is just to cover the coasts.) Once this basic network is in place, more out-of-the-way routes could get Superchargers. Reyes notes that the cost to put in one of these Supercharging stations is "a fraction" of what it costs to put in a new gas station. Some possible routes? D.C. to New York; D.C. to Boston and San Francisco to Los Angeles, to name just three. "Suddenly, the whole 'I can't take road trips,' and range anxiety and all these red herring arguments are essentially obliterated at that point," Reyes asked.

Suddenly, the whole 'I can't take road trips,' and range anxiety and all these red herring arguments are essentially obliterated.

With Supercharging and the Model S, Tesla is trying to redefine what's possible with an electric car – again. The Model X is the next step. For now, Tesla just has a driving prototype and a design prototype for the Model X (photographers, keep your lenses peeled), which suggests many details about the vehicle are up in the air. One thing that is certain is that the Model X is going to introduce an all-wheel drive option, because "Tesla wants to keep innovating," Reyes said. It is also likely that the Model X will have a range of battery size options like the Model S does, but since the X isn't due for a few more years, it's too early for numbers. "It's impossible to predict how quickly technology is going to advance," he said. "We have good partners like Panasonic that continue to do research. We keep supplying them with real-world data from Roadsters and from other companies that we partner with. As far as what we offer [in the Model X], it's too early to tell," Reyes said.

Then there are the far-off future plans for the next-gen Roadster. This car is coming, but at this point, it's not much more than a flicker in Musk's eyes. Currently, Reyes said, Tesla's entire focus is on finalizing the Model S betas and getting the Fremont factory ready to start production. Any leftover oxygen will be used on the Model X, which means any next-gen Roadster work sits on a dark, cold back burner. Someday, though, this will change, and when it does, we'll be watching.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 62 Comments
      RussellJ
      • 3 Years Ago
      Please make sure the "minivan" has sliding rear doors! I'm driving a modestly tricked out Toyota Sienna now but the one feature I enjoy almost daily are the power sliding doors...great when your arms are full and it's starting to rain. The AWD option is great. Spiff up the styling a bit and you can sign me up now. And spare me the "minivans are for soccer Moms" spiel. I have yet to meet anyone who, upon seeing my van, makes such a comment. Style and practicality CAN go hand-in-hand; you just have to have an organization with the vision to make it happen. Here's hoping Tesla has that vision.
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @RussellJ
        It would be neat if Tesla offers buyers a choice of sliding or hinged doors on the Model X, don't know if they will. Still looking forward to see what they've cooked up.
        lasertekk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @RussellJ
        I can't believe I still see that cliche about minivans. I have a problem with being seen in an suv, with all the social baggage it carries. Like you need a hammer to drive in a nail, you need a truely versatile utility vehicle like a minivan if you have kids. It's the right tool for the job.
          Nick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @lasertekk
          Do you reall? I grew up in a family of 4, and we had a corolla-sized 4-door car. It was large enough for us 4 and our baggages.
          skierpage
          • 3 Years Ago
          @lasertekk
          Forget kids, a minivan is a wonderful way for 5-6 adults to travel in comfort and style. But car buyers are apparently morons more afraid of what their car will "say" about them than getting what suits their needs, and so they have to drive a jacked-up uncomfortable crappy-handling tank so no one will think they're a dull suburban parent. Prius v is chipping away at American buyers' stupidity, I hope Model X blows a hole in it.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      a little late in the game for Tesla to realize the importance of a fast charge network. probably not a good idea to change plug for every model either. I would use chademo and add credit card payment such that other EVs could use the network and help pay for it. or simply chademo compatible, just a matter of two hoses or an adapter.
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        So far, there are 3 contenders for rapid charging - Chademo, Tesla Supercharge, and that SAE effort. Chademo is already in use, currently limited to Nissan and Mitsubishi EVs but other manufacturers might pick it up. It requires a separate socket, and it is not clear whether an adapter would allow use of a Chademo charge outlet with vehicles without that special socket. Tesla Supercharger uses the same socket as their regular chargers, making it neater and more compact than Chademo. It also supplies more power than Chademo, allowing it to charge larger battery packs more quickly. It is not clear if vehicles with a Chademo socket or SAE socket could use a Tesla Supercharger with an adapter, as the technical details have not been announced. the SAE design is still sort of "stuck in committee", they've shown a prototype socket that is an overgrown version of their standard charging socket design. Without the technical details finalized, it's hard to say how fast it could charge, and if it could be adapted to use on cars with Chademo or Supercharger sockets. If the SAE keeps dawdling, as seems likely, either Chademo or Supercharger will gain enough market share to become the defacto standard instead.
          electronx16
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Good observation about the power restriction of Chademo. According to Wikipedia Chademo can only deliver up to 62.5KW which would make it completely unsuitable for fast charging large batterypacks and will make fastcharging smaller ones never really all that fast. It seems unwise to settle for a standard that will result in EV's will never having practical long range capability thus limiting the scope for EV adoption. Good thing Tesla is trying to set it's own standard and hopefully they will succeed.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      Very nice post on Tesla! Thank you very much! One bone to pick though: "The car that brought electric vehicles roaring back to life – Tesla's iconic Roadster – is about to go the way of the dodo." If you mean going away for a couple of years, and then coming back better and cheaper than the original, then yea, the Roadster is going away. But the right bird for that would be the Phoenix, not the Dodo. *grin*
        • 3 Years Ago
        @PR
        Yeah it will be phased out for a few years and then it will be coming back. By then way, way, way better... in every relevant sense. :)
      FREEPAT75014
      • 3 Years Ago
      These Tesla guys have a real vision. When idiots believe they c
      • 3 Years Ago
      300 mile range... you have my attention at long last. Unfortunately it's only at a steady 55mph, and it's in a horrendously expensive vehicle, but it does at least satisfy one of my main conditions for considering an electric car as a viable choice - being able to do enough of a one-way long distance trip (or there-and-back dash on a medium distance one) either on one charge, or with only the most token of topups (an extra 5kWh, say) halfway or at the turn-around point, that I will be thoroughly stiff, sick and tired of being at the wheel at the end of it, and ready to park up, hook up, and drop into bed for the night, either at home, my destination, or an overnight stop enroute. And if, say, the journey was 240 miles (I have a particular one in mind), you could probably just about make it at a steady 70mph cruise with a brief stop halfway. That's damn good going, and I concede the victory to them. 85kWh is an awful lot to charge up, mind. Off a regular home UK plug (higher rated than a US "level 1"), it'd need almost 24 hours...
      skierpage
      • 3 Years Ago
      During the Tesla IPO roadshow the CFO explained how Tesla would be profitable: they hope for 45-55% "uplift" over base price (sell fancy models, sell expensive options, sell overseas at higher prices) , and sell 20,000 a year. As Tesla already sold $40,000 reservations for their first 12 month's production of (expensive) Signature models and nothing on the market competes with the Model S at any price, it's possible they will achieve both targets. Deepak Ahuja is sticking to this line, from October: "What we have predicted is that by 2013 we will be at steady state production of 20,000 units and at that point we’ll be fully profitable."
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      C'mon Tesla . . . crank up that assembly line. Prove my skepticism wrong. I'll be happy to be wrong.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I expect production to start on time. even if it would be a couple of months late that's of no concern. the issue is the profit margin and the sales volume. if those two are in order the rest is unimportant. if they are not in order, Tesla motors is going bye bye.
      SpeedyRacer
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Model S is a beautiful car, I look forward to driving it. Hopefully it will drive much better than the extremely uncomfortable Roadster. What really worries me about the Model S is how the batteries are laid out. They are liquid cooled and form the entire floorpan of the car. This means there are batteries surrounded by flammable liquid coolant at the perimeter of the Model S's flanks. They are vulnerable to side impacts there. It would just depend upon the height of the impact and what kind of other protections they may or may not have built in. Tesla's approach is 180° different from the Nissan LEAF, which does not use liquid coolant and encases the batteries where they receive the absolute best protection. I am afraid Tesla prioritized elegant packaging over safety. Hope I'm wrong. I would not want them to poison the market for EVs.
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        And to dispel the Model S flat battery FUD you apparently want to keep spreading: Have a look at the Leaf pack. It is a flat under-the-floor pack with flat stacked modules inside a metal enclosure. http://rpmedia.ask.com/ts?u=/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/40/Nissan_Leaf_012.JPG/200px-Nissan_Leaf_012.JPG The Model S's pack is ALSO a flat under-the-floor pack with flat modules (just not stacked on each other) inside a metal enclosure: http://www.emmaactive.com/_customelements/uploadedResources/motorandbat.jpg http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=1023&d=1300800408 However, it is NOT the pack that provides strength in a side crash for the Leaf, but rather the cross members on the floorpan of the car, so the flatness of the pack is irrelevant to the safety of it: http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=3896 The Model S has even larger cross members on its floorpan: http://www.motorvision.com/images/720x480/29468/model-s-tesla.jpg So far their pack design is almost identical (there is a floorpan with steel cross beams to provide impact protection and the battery is mounted under that floor pan). So now the point of contention is the proximity of the battery pack to the side of the car. The Leaf's battery pack width is 1188mm; car width excluding mirrors is 1770 mm. That leaves: (1770-1188)/2 = 291mm of space on the side of the pack. http://www.mynissanleaf.com/wiki/index.php?title=Battery,_Charging_System The Model S uses 245mm tires, and from my previous picture of the pack, it is clear the battery pack is inside the inner sidewall of the tire. http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/6423-21-quot-Tires?p=84512&viewfull=1#post84512 So the Leaf has at most 291-245 = 46mm or 1.8 inches of extra space on the side of its pack (I'm assuming there is no extra gap between the battery and tire for the Model S, although it appears there is). The Leaf just looks like it has a lot more space on the side because the Model S is wider (1963-1770mm=193mm or 7.6 inches wider), and has wider tires (245mm vs 205mm or 40mm/1.75in). I don't see how that makes the Model S significantly less safe, esp. given how even the tunnel design of the Volt (which has an much, much bigger gap than both) didn't help it at all!
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          Damn. Nice post Jake. You nailed it.
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        I'll copy and paste a response I made earlier, because SpeedyRacer seems to want to continue his FUD about coolant: "In the right conditions, coolant can be flammable (because the 50% of Propylene glycol antifreeze usually in coolant is flammable in the right conditions). However, I still see it as much safer in a battery pack than near a hot engine in a ICE car, because the battery never reaches anywhere near the ignition point of coolant which is about 700 degrees Farenheit given the pack is kept near room temperature, while an engine, esp. the exhaust temperatures can definitely reach past 700F. Plus it is in a 50/50 mix almost all the time (which greatly reduces its ignition potential), so coolant is very rarely a fire starter even in ICE cars. So that flammable point is mainly just FUD from SpeedyRacer. The danger of coolant in an EV is not from its flammable property, but rather because it can cause short circuits. This was the cause of the Volt's fire: "During a portion of testing in which the vehicle is rotated upside-down, coolant leaked onto printed circuit board electronics on top of the battery. But it was only three weeks later that those conditions, plus a still-charged battery, resulted in a short circuit and fire. " http://ev.sae.org/article/10528" And a comment by Ladson: "The LEAF has a liquid cooling system. Its coolant capacity is 7 quarts. The following components are liquid cooled: on-board charger, DC-DC converter, motor's inverter, and motor. Cooling flows through those components, in that order, before arriving back at the radiator. Two electric pumps in series pump coolant from the radiator past the coolant reservoir, into the pumps, then back out to the on-board charger." Given the Volt fire was caused by coolant shorting out a battery control board, the Leaf isn't necessarily any more safe from coolant than other EVs!
        Actionable Mango
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        I am pretty disappointed that BEVs even need a liquid cooling system. I remember one of things I really liked in "Who Killed the Electric Car" was when the mentioned the nearly complete lack of maintenance requirements. All the crap that is required to support an ICE (such as a liquid cooling system) simply didn't exist and therefore didn't need to be maintained.
        usbseawolf2000
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        Liquid cooling became a problem for Volt because the electronics (sensors and BMU) inside the battery shell, were exposed without lamination. As long as there is an extra layer of lamination protection, liquid cooling should be safe. BTW, Volt fix did not address the root issue. It was strength enough to pass the government test.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @usbseawolf2000
          That is a good point. But I thought the real problem was the big 5 inch gash that a chunk of metal made, ripping a hole in the battery pack and opened up a path for the coolant to create the short circuit. I agree that GM's fix was to just avoid having the battery get a big hole ripped into it for the test, and really didn't solve the underlying issue. But I don't understand how the lamination would fix the problem of a big hole being made in the battery pack?
        stephenpace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        Others have already addressed the main points in your question; however, I would just like to add that I think you should be more worried about gasoline vehicle fires than ev ones. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010 there were 185,000 vehicle fires that claimed 285 lives. Tesla Model S batteries are individually small and triple fused, and I'll happily take the protection of a (projected) 5 star safety rated vehicle over a similar sized gas one. http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=953&itemID=29658&URL=Research/Fire%20statistics/The%20U.S.%20fire%20problem&cookie_test=1
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        The liquid coolant isn't flammable, it's probably water and antifreeze based, just like the coolant in other cars. There is a potential for short circuits if it leaks, however. The battery pack is part of the rigid and strong floor structure, it got a 5 star crash test rating in front, rear and side impacts. There are coolants that are both non-flammable and non-conductive, they've been used for specialized electronic devices for decades, but I suspect such coolants would be too expensive for automotive use.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Chris M -- Thanks for the clarification. That helped my research. I just got done reading up on the Volt NHTSA fire, and what I understand from the crashed Volt test, even the liquid coolant itself wasn't a good enough conductor to cause the short-circuit. It wasn't until enough water evaporated away to leave salt crystals that there was enough conductivity for there to be a short-circuit. So to be overly technical, it's the coolant residue that seems to be conductive, not the actual liquid coolant? Even then, I haven't seen anything one way or another that would say that Tesla uses the same coolant as GM. Heck, I have to buy 4 completely different coolants just to top off the gas vehicles I own. There really isn't any reason to assume that Tesla and GM use the same coolant for EV's when car makers can't seem to agree on one coolant for gas cars either.
          Chris M
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Interestingly enough, pure distilled water is non-conductive, but add impurities and the conductivity increases dramatically, the higher the concentration of impurities, the higher the conductivity.. Salts, minerals, acids or alkalis can all turn water into a conductive liquid.
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        Where did you get the idea that Tesla's battery coolant was flammable?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        1) The liquid coolant used in Tesla Model S is NOT flammable. Where did you get that idea? 2) Tesla packages each individual cell in a steel cylinder- effectively insulating each battery for best possible protection 3) Tesla Model S will be released with 5-star safety rating in each crash test category. That's better than 99.9% of all gas cars. So, I see your anxiety as completely unfounded :)
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      after seeing revenge of the electric car I'm sort of rooting for Tesla motors to survive. not because I like the direction Elon's going or the business plan or that he's a good guy but he seems to have struggled quite a bit with it. of course he might have struggled a lot less if he had watched the cost and appreciated energy efficiency but still.
      • 3 Years Ago
      i like it very much, i hope that everyone could drive it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is it just me that think Model S looks like Spriou's Turbot? http://www.arrakis.es/~espiru/spirou/krister/pics/bil/turbot1.gif
      Jack Renauer
      • 3 Years Ago
      Rest assure that the next roadster will apply the design language being developed by Von Holhauzen. This guy is simply the best in the business at this point. Mazda always had pretty good design, now it's great and it's because of Franz. All because of Franz IMHO.
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