Elon Musk hopes to conquer electric car range limits by 2020

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

4 things to know about Tesla’s Model X.

Range anxiety may keep you from driving an electric car right now, but Tesla chief Elon Musk doesn’t expect that to be a problem for very long. While the EPA is promising to toughen up emissions tests in the aftermath of the Volkswagen cheating scandal, Tesla founder Elon Musk has a slightly different take: Gas is dead and it’s time to go electric, people. “Well, I think it’s more the opposite,” Musk replied. “What Volkswagen is really showing is that we’ve reached the limit of what’s possible with diesel and gasoline.Tilburg, Netherlands: Tesla chief executive Elon Musk on Friday called for fossil fuel-powered cars “to be tested at random,” as German giant Volkswagen’s worldwide pollution cheating scandal continues to reverberate around the globe. “The obvious move is to pick cars at random and then test the emission in transit,” said Musk at the unveiling of the US-based electrical carmaker’s new plant in the Netherlands, the first in Europe.

Volkswagen, reeling in the fallout after being caught lying to emissions regulators and millions of motorists about its supposed “clean diesel” engines, has at least one promising route to recovery from the self-made debacle. When grilled about driving distances in a Danish interview, Musk revealed that he expects the battery technology to improve at a rate of 5 to 10 percent per year, which could lead to some massive range gains in a relatively short space of time.

Musk’s comments come in the wake of revelations that Volkswagen equipped 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide with software that can switch off those pollution controls — except when it detects it is undergoing official testing. “Clearly emissions-testing needs to be more rigorous,” Musk said after the shock report, which has thrown the focus on electrical cars and its environmental advantages. After delays and much hand-wringing, the first Tesla Motors Inc. all-electric Model X vehicles will roll out of the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory door on Tuesday. And that would be forging the most aggressive path of anyone to the mainstream electric car, to bring the cleanest of clean-car technologies to the masses. The CEO notes that people have already driven the Model S up to 500 miles on a charge at slow speeds, and that this could extend to over 600 miles as soon as 2016, and a whopping 746 miles by 2020. While it’s doubtful that you’d get these figures blazing down the highway, Treehugger’s back-of-the-napkin math suggests that this should still lead to a realistic range of 382 to 483 miles.

Apple’s move is intended to insert itself in a grand competition unfolding at the end of the decade, involving almost every major carmaker on the planet, including GM, BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar, not to mention Tesla. VW and Apple are on sharply differing trajectories—Apple, with $200 billion in the bank, seemingly has no limits on its potential; and VW, in a potentially existential crisis that has already cost the jobs of the CEO and other senior executives, is likely to owe billions of dollars, and may face criminal charges. Instead, this is precisely the outcome that Musk has relished—the creation of an ecosystem in which millions of electric cars are sold by numerous automakers every year around the world.

He believes that cautious regulators won’t permit self-driving cars on their roads for another 1 to 3 years after that, and some regions will be more welcoming of autonomy than others. They have lost some ground in the past three months (down 2.5%), but that performance compares with losses of 5.5% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.05% so far this year, losses of 1.1% in the last 12 months, and a crushing retreat of 7.5% for the index in the past three months. They also have to shell out $5,000 to reserve the car, which is double the amount for buyers looking to reserve a Tesla Model S (such buyers are looking at a November delivery date for their sedans.) The wait was even longer for the early adopters, who made the first reservations in 2012. You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you. Before the current crisis, VW was already positioning itself for the electric convergence: Now-ousted CEO Martin Winterkorn had said that in 2018, the company would launch an inexpensive electric sedan, an SUV, and a hatchback.

When the owners of those first “Signature” models received their invitations to configure their cars, however, it became known that those one-of-a-kind founders’ cars would cost at least $132,000 ($144,000 with add-ons such as the “ludicrous” speed mode and other accessories. John Paul MacDuffie, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Quartz that VW might up its game by cutting the price of its electrics, and subsidizing the reduction with the profits from its gasoline-fueled cars. The X, like the top-of-the-line Model S P85D, can also be upgraded to the “ludicrous speed” mode, which makes the cars faster — they can go 0-60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds rather than 3.1 seconds. And, putting the cars themselves aside for the moment, VW could volunteer to help resolve the shortage of fast-charging stations, another weakness at the moment for the electrics market. On the same day Musk tweeted about the pricey X, saying that Tesla will be taking orders on the Model 3 in March 2016 and that the car will cost $35,000.

That’s in line with cheaper electric cars such as General Motors Co.’s GM, -0.10% Chevy Volt, which is scheduled for redesign, and Nissan Motor Co.

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