Archive for the ‘Tesla’ Category

Tesla’s Model 3 loses coveted Consumer Reports recommendation

February 21st, 2019
Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images)

Last year, Tesla won a Consumer Reports recommendation for the Model 3 thanks to a last-minute upgrade to its braking software. But on Thursday, the magazine rescinded its endorsement of the vehicle due to poor results in its customer survey.

"Model 3 owners in our spring survey sample reported some body hardware and in-car electronics problems, such as the screen freezing, which we have seen with other Tesla models," wrote CR's Patrick Olsen. "The latest survey data also shows complaints about paint and trim issues. In addition, some members reported that the Model 3's sole display screen acted strangely."

"The vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data," a Tesla spokesperson told Consumer Reports in an emailed statement.

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Tesla’s top lawyer leaves after two months—but don’t worry

February 20th, 2019
Man in T-shirt and sunglasses waves at crowd before speaking into microphone.

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2018. (credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla announced Wednesday that it is replacing general counsel Dane Butswinkas, who had been on the job for only two months. Tesla Legal Vice President Jonathan Chang will take the job.

The groundbreaking electric carmaker has suffered a number of senior executive departures in the last couple of years—and some were of surprisingly short tenure. Last September, Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton announced that he was leaving after less than a month on the job.

Tesla short-sellers have revelled in this kind of news. Especially last year, as Tesla was struggling to ramp up Model 3 production and Musk was dealing with the fallout from several self-inflicted problems, critics portrayed each departure as the latest sign that rats were fleeing a sinking ship.

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Shell buys Sonnen, Tesla’s competitor in the home battery business

February 15th, 2019
A worker assembling a Sonnen battery.

Enlarge / An employee working for the manufacturer of solar batteries, Sonnen GmbH, in the Bavarian village Wildpoldsried, southern Germany, is pictured on July 5, 2016. (credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, oil major Royal Dutch Shell and German energy storage company Sonnen announced that Shell would acquire Sonnen for an undisclosed amount.

Sonnen has been one of the top competitors with Tesla's Powerwall in the US home battery market. The company built its base in Germany, attaching batteries for self-consumption to homes with solar panels. Sonnen now claims 400,000 batteries installed in households in Germany, the US, and Australia.

The company's assets include proprietary software that optimizes a home's battery use in combination with solar power.

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Posted in battery, Biz & IT, electricity, Energy, science, Sonnen, stationary storage, Tesla | Comments (0)

In 2017, the feds said Tesla Autopilot cut crashes 40%—that was bogus

February 13th, 2019
In 2017, the feds said Tesla Autopilot cut crashes 40%—that was bogus

Enlarge (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has egg on its face after a small research and consulting firm called Quality Control Systems produced a devastating critique of a 2017 agency report finding that Tesla's Autopilot reduced crashes by 40 percent. The new analysis is coming out now—almost two years after the original report—because QCS had to sue NHTSA under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the data underlying the agency's findings. In its report, QCS highlights flaws in NHTSA's methodology that are serious enough to completely discredit the 40 percent figure, which Tesla has cited multiple times over the last two years.

NHTSA undertook its study of Autopilot safety in the wake of the fatal crash of Tesla owner Josh Brown in 2016. Autopilot—more specifically Tesla's lane-keeping function called Autosteer—was active at the time of the crash, and Brown ignored multiple warnings to put his hands back on the wheel. Critics questioned whether Autopilot actually made Tesla owners less safe by encouraging them to pay less attention to the road.

NHTSA's 2017 finding that Autosteer reduced crash rates by 40 percent seemed to put that concern to rest. When another Tesla customer, Walter Huang, died in an Autosteer-related crash last March, Tesla cited NHTSA's 40 percent figure in a blog post defending the technology. A few weeks later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk berated reporters for focusing on stories about crashes instead of touting the safety benefits of Autopilot.

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Volkswagen’s Electrify America will buy Tesla Powerpacks to manage peak demand

February 4th, 2019
The upper half of a charging station.

Enlarge / An Electrify America charging station. (credit: Electrify America)

On Monday, Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America announced a partnership with Tesla to deploy Powerpack batteries (the utility-grade version of the stationary storage, Tesla Powerwall) at 100 charging stations throughout the US.

The plan is to use the 210 kilowatt (kW), 350 kilowatt-hour (kWh) batteries as local reserves during periods of high demand, when utilities might charge a company like Electrify America higher rates to provide electricity. On particularly hot days as utilities struggle to meet the needs of air conditioning, for example, higher electricity rates can kick in. That's where reserves of power can help a company like Electrify America shave down the amount of power it's demanding.

The Powerpacks are modular, and a press release from Electrify America says that the company may add more Powerpacks to certain locations over time. Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Electrify America, said in the same press release: “With our chargers offering high power levels, it makes sense for us to use batteries at our most high demand stations for peak shaving to operate more efficiently. Tesla’s Powerpack system is a natural fit given their global expertise in both battery storage development and EV charging."

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Posted in battery electric vehicles, cars, charging, Energy, EVs, stationary storage, Tesla, Volkswagen | Comments (0)

Tesla still in the black: More cars delivered, smaller profit than last quarter

January 31st, 2019
Tesla cars lined up outside of Shanghai dealership.

Enlarge / This picture taken on March 17, 2015, shows Tesla Model S vehicles parked outside a car dealership in Shanghai. (credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Tesla released its fourth-quarter financial letter for 2018, and the results were pretty much as expected: the company is in the black for the second quarter in a row, albeit with a smaller profit than last quarter, despite record deliveries of vehicles. The company recorded revenues of more than $6 billion and costs of revenues at more than $5.7 billion. After operating costs, the company posted $210 million in net income, with $139 million of that attributable to shareholders.

The fourth quarter of 2018 was an important one for Tesla's automotive business, because it capped off a year of aggressive Model 3 production ramping just before the company's Federal Tax Credit was retired on January 1, 2019.

Tesla has had debt on a number of convertible bonds come due in recent months, and it's preparing for a massive, $920 million bill to come due March 1. But the car maker says that it can comfortably pay back these debts with its cash on hand. The company said it paid back a $210 million convertible bond in Q4 2018. In its shareholder letter (PDF), Tesla stated "We have sufficient cash on hand to comfortably settle in cash our convertible bond that will mature in March 2019."

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Elon Musk’s private jet appears to make frivolous flights, per Washington Post

January 30th, 2019
The same plane Musk often uses.

Enlarge / A Gulfstream G650ER executive jet sits on display on the second day of the 14th Dubai Air Show. Musk, too, owns a Gulfstream G650ER. (credit: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Flight data obtained by The Washington Post shows that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a private jet that logged about 150,000 miles in 2018. While many billionaires have private jets, Musk's jet stands out in the number of trips it made and miles it logged, the Post reports.

Perhaps most egregious, the plane logged a number of 20-mile trips, repositioning from the south side of Los Angeles to the north side. "Tesla said Musk never used the plane to fly between different spots in Los Angeles," the Post reports. Instead, the jet would make the 20-mile repositioning flights to meet the CEO at a closer airport.

Flying is an extremely carbon-intensive activity, made worse when only a few people are transported rather than many are on a commercial jet. According to the Post, the 150,000 miles that Musk's jet flew represents roughly 250 flights. Although it's not always clear that Musk was aboard every flight, the CEO's private jet made 100 more flights than the private jet of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (and owner of The Washington Post).

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Tesla gets green light to sell Model 3 in Europe

January 22nd, 2019
Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018 at the Tesla store in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018 at the Tesla store in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images)

Tesla has cleared the final regulatory hurdle to selling the Model 3 in Europe, allowing the electric carmaker to begin shipping the vehicles to Europe. Reuters reports that RDW, the automotive regulatory authority in the Netherlands, has signed off on the Model 3. Under EU rules, regulatory approval in one country allows Tesla to sell its cars across the EU territory.

EU law requires an automaker to get "type approval" for each vehicle it wants to sell in the European Union. Tesla shipped several production Model 3s to RDW, which put them through a battery of tests. They checked that the vehicles met all the requirements of EU law: brake performance, lights, crashworthiness, emissions, and so forth.

The approval comes just in time. A Belgian news site reports that Tesla is expected to ship as many as 3,000 cars a week to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for subsequent distribution across the continent.

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Report: Toyota and Panasonic to create an electric car-battery spinoff company

January 21st, 2019
A Toyota Prius battery

Enlarge / This photo taken on June 5, 2009, shows Toyota Motors' third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle battery module displayed at Panasonic's EV Energy headquarters in Kosei, Aichi, prefecture. (credit: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Toyota Motors and Panasonic have agreed to set up a joint-venture company to manufacture vehicle batteries, with Toyota owning 51 percent of the company and Panasonic owning 49 percent.

Ars Technica contacted both companies to confirm the report, and we'll update this story if we hear back.

Nikkei reports that Panasonic would transfer ownership of five battery factories in Japan and China to the joint venture. The joint venture would start operations "in the early 2020s," and it would start producing "batteries with 50 times the capacity of those now used in hybrid vehicles, aiming to bring down production costs through higher volume," according to Nikkei.

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Posted in batteries, battery electric vehicles, cars, Energy, fuel, panasonic, Tesla, Toyota | Comments (0)

Elon Musk announces Tesla layoffs, warns about weak Q4 profits

January 18th, 2019
Tesla CEO Elon Musk visiting China in January 2019.

Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk visiting China in January 2019. (credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla is cutting its workforce by about 7 percent, CEO Elon Musk announced in a Friday morning email to employees. Musk said that the cuts are necessary to help Tesla cope with what Musk described as an "extremely difficult challenge: making our cars, batteries and solar products cost-competitive with fossil fuels."

Tesla's stock price fell more than 9 percent on the news.

Tesla grew its workforce by 30 percent in 2018, according to Musk, but that growth turned out to be unsustainable. And Tesla is facing a number of headwinds in the coming months.

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