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Tesla Motors To Suspend Roadster Production

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the vacation-time dept.

Transportation 401

Wyatt Earp writes with news that a recent SEC filing from Tesla Motors revealed the company plans to stop production on its electric Roadster (and the Roadster Sport as well) in 2011. This will leave the automaker without any cars to sell until the launch of its Model S sedan (financed in part by $465 million in DoE loans) in 2012. Tesla plans to resume production of Roadster models "at least a year" after the Model S arrives. From Wired's Autopia blog: "'As a result, we anticipate that we may generate limited, if any, revenue from selling electric vehicles after 2011 until the launch of the planned model S,' the company says in the SEC filing. That may not be a problem if S production starts on plan and goes off without a hitch, but if Tesla hits any snags, things could get ugly fast — a point it concedes in the filing. 'The launch of the Model S could be delayed for a number of reasons and any such delays may be significant and would extend the period in which we would generate limited, if any, revenues from sales of our electric vehicles.'"

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Uh oh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970698)

Let's hope they don't screw the pooch... We need companies like Tesla to prove electric cars can be viable alternatives to prevalent gasoline vehicles...

Re:Uh oh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970720)

There isn't anything for them to prove. They aren't an alternative.

It's either price or range. Can't have both. I'm not spending $50k+ on a vehicle and I'm not driving one with less than a 300mi range.

Re:Uh oh (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970780)

I agree with you, but I would qualify it by saying that they are not an alternative "right now"; hopefully the price will go down and the range will go up as technology improves over time. Right now you are paying more money for less car with electric-only vehicles.

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Re:BEAUTIFY SLASHDOT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971064)

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Re:Uh oh (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970838)

http://www.bts.gov/publications/bts_special_report/2007_10_03/html/table_02.html [bts.gov]

not very recent, and does not answer the question of how often very long trips occur, but still, range does not seem to matter a whole lot.

I think the issue is more about getting to a point where it makes economical and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use, and rent a fuel car for longer trips.

Re:Uh oh (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971148)

Even more true outside the USA. Most people in the UK who drive to work consider a 30 minute trip to be a pretty long commute. The kind of roads that they drive along generally have a 30 mile per hour speed limit, although some may be as high as 70. That makes a 15-35 mile trip about the maximum. If you can recharge it in an hour and it comes with a 50 mile range then that would cover most people who drive to work. People who regularly travel for work should really take the train for the long part of the trip and pick up a car closer to the destination, but unfortunately our government has spent the last 80 years dismantling our rail system and it's going to be a lot of effort to repair it.

Re:Uh oh (1)

memoriesofgreen (784598) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971278)

I like most people in the UK consider my commute of around 40 - 60 minutes about normal. I generally drive on average about 60mph. I could easily (if the law allowed) reach speeds in excess of 100mph. Can you explain your assumptions?

Spoken like a city boy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971318)

"and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use, and rent a fuel car for longer trips"

And that doesn't really make sense for a huge part of the country where we go to the store once a week for food, and fill up a van. We have to haul stuff to our property to maintain buildings, fields, etc.

I said "city boy" and I'm joking a bit. But I'm doing that show you that the way you live and where you live is up to you and is neither right nor wrong. Please give everyone else the same benefit of freedom to choose where and how they want to live

Re:Spoken like a city boy (2, Insightful)

slaingod (1076625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971368)

By 'huge part of the country' I assume you mean by area, not population. And he said 'car' not 'truck' or 'van', which serves a different purpose (carrying things as opposed to carrying people). Now you may only have a van or truck for financial and convenience reasons, but when someone defines their market, and you then say 'but there are other markets' as your counterpoint...it isn't really germaine.

Re:Uh oh (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971372)

it makes economical and practical sense to have an electric car for daily use.

Then it becomes a tradeoff between the real estate cost of living in the city and the fuel cost of living in the country. Anonymous Coward has a bit of a point here.

and rent a fuel car for longer trips

That is, if you can rent a car at all. A lot of places won't let people under 25 rent a car, and a lot of places won't let people rent a car if the trip crosses state or province lines.

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971432)

Long trips happen often enough to require a second car payment. Well, fuck that. Does it really make sense for me to have 2 car payments so I can have a coal burning electric car on the overloaded socal grid, and still have a payment for a second car to go climbing every 2-3 weeks?

Re:Uh oh (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970864)

Correction, they aren't an alternative to you, but then again most vehicles aren't an alternative for you anyway. I hear you have these things called legs and feet. The mileage seems nearly infinite, and it's free. Can't compete with free, right?

Bicycle > walking (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971032)

I hear you have these things called legs and feet.

Not everybody comes with those. See, for example, this video [youtube.com] and this video [youtube.com] .

The mileage seems nearly infinite

It's slow, it has no climate control, the carrying capacity is far lower than the trunk of a sedan, and food isn't free. A cheap bicycle is a distinct improvement; it quadruples my speed and range and roughly doubles food mileage, but it still lacks climate control so it's not so useful in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere right now.

Re:Bicycle walking (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971248)

Add the fact that two wheels are impractical bordering on insane to drive on all that frozen Climate Change currently covering the a large fraction of the northern hemisphere. This day it was another 50cm of it in parts of Western Europe and we rather need snowmobiles or 6-wheelers right now to get anywhere.

Assuming constant gas pricing.. (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970964)

Your assessment of utility might change at some point in the future. @$5/gal, $6/gal..

Re:Uh oh (3, Insightful)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971292)

My Grand Prix only has about a 300 mile range of city driving, but the advantage is that I can replenish its fuel supply in about 5 minutes at any number of fueling stations located strategically throughout the city. With the electric car, when your battery is dead, it's dead and you're going to be spending hours, or perhaps all night, waiting for it to recharge. That's not a viable alternative to gasoline-powered cars in my opinion.

Re:Uh oh (3, Informative)

TheTyrannyOfForcedRe (1186313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971396)

With the electric car, when your battery is dead, it's dead and you're going to be spending hours, or perhaps all night, waiting for it to recharge.

The car in this story will do a full charge in 45 minutes not hours.

Re:Uh oh (1)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970818)

It's ok, there's another company with an even better electric car. I'm heavily invested, you should consider it as well. Electric car [slashdot.org]

Re:Uh oh (0)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971062)

We need companies like Tesla to prove electric cars can be viable alternatives to prevalent gasoline vehicles...

They've already proved the opposite. If electric cars were a viable alternative to conventional, internal combustion engined vehicles, they wouldn't need hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money to keep them in business. Electric cars may be viable someday, but we're not there yet and a corporate welfare queen isn't going to produce it.

-jcr

Re:Uh oh (4, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971132)

If electric cars were a viable alternative to conventional, internal combustion engined vehicles, they wouldn't need hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money to keep them in business.

Oh, then by that standard there are damn few companies worldwide (and none in the US) producing viable ICE-powered cars.

Re:Uh oh (2, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971364)

It's not corporate welfare. It's the government allowing the companies to benefit from the relatively (compared to the status quo) positive impact electric cars have on the environment. Without these subsidies and without similar taxes on gasoline cars, gasoline cars will have an unfair advantage since some of the cost of the cars (pollution) is offloaded onto all of society.

I don't get it. (1)

dr_strang (32799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970716)

That's a pretty crappy business model.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970736)

Yep, or Roadster was making no money or there were some strings attached to that DoE loan.

Or Just Maybe... (2, Interesting)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970778)

Or they need to retool their existing plants so they can start producing the model S.

Re:Or Just Maybe... (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970842)

Probably this, along with using the existing workers. The roadster was never going to be a mass produced vehicle, so it makes sense at some point to stop production and build something different using those same resources.

Re:I don't get it. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970960)

Or Lotus pulled the platform

Re:I don't get it. (5, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971158)

Correct. [lotusenthusiast.net]

Re:I don't get it. (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971268)

Mod parent up, this a primary if not the only reason for this development:

"Referring to Lotus’s plans to produce the next Lotus Elise and Exige, the statement from Tesla said, “we do not plan to sell our current generation Tesla Roadster after 2011 due to planned tooling changes at a supplier for the Tesla Roadster”."

Re:I don't get it. (4, Insightful)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970862)

Its a brilliant business model: Sell $2 million worth of roadsters to generate publicity and get the hang of building electric, get a 400+ million dollar low interest loan, throw the dice on getting a product out and if you win you're rich. If you lose declare bankruptcy and retire on the salaries you paid yourself from the loan.

If they tried to actually build cars they might get another $2 million in revenue which might get them one million in cash flow but it doesn't even compare to the $400 million they can play with courtesy of the government and it distracts the company from paying attention to the $400 mill project.

These guys are brilliant hypesters with good government management skills.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970890)

missed a couple of zeros - 200 mill vs. 465 and cash flow of maybey $100M. Concept still applies

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970916)

Just because a car is way out of your price range, doesn't make it hype.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

clintp (5169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970978)

Anyone old enough to remember Osborne Computers? This is similar to the business model they used. And this is why only the old timers will remember them, and as a cautionary tale.

Tesla Motors is doomed to be just a $1600 question in Double Jeopardy.

Killing yourself with good intentions (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970730)

When Subaru came out with their 2010 Legacy model they brought out the big guns and re-engineered the body design completely. Subaru redesigns the Legacy on a five year timeline and instead of building on the tried and true Legacy platform, they designed the new Legacy around the WRX STi platform. The result is a car with a great engine, large interior, and aggressive styling.

The other result is terrible sales.

No one likes the new exterior. It resembles Honda's generic styling more than Subaru's conspicuously different styling. No one buys a Legacy because they want to drive an Accord.

You can't build a city by burning it to the ground. You need at the very least a Granary and a Marketplace so that you can grow your population while making income. This allows you to finance all the other fun stuff you want to do like developing war trolls or building sorcerer's guilds. Without the basic income stream, you're just going to get screwed when some bear rushes in and eats all your citizens because you don't have even a single halberdier around to guard the town.

This is a bad idea that will put Tesla out of business soon. I feel almost bad for all the people who prepaid.

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (2)

JDHannan (786636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970846)

I don't know what I did to never ever have mod points for like 2 years or something, but I've never wanted them more than I do right now.
I love Master of Magic with all my heart

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (4, Funny)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970932)

Thanks.

I love you too?

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (1, Insightful)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970934)

Volkswagen fell into exactly the same trap with the Jetta. Where the Jetta used to have a distinct look that many really liked, their most recent iteration looks nothing short of what might be produced if an Audi raped a Corolla. The new generic body styles for the Jetta and Legacy have done nothing for their respective images.

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971094)

What would be the difference if the Audi and Corolla made sweet love to each other?

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (1)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971204)

That wouldn't have been an atrocious, horrible act that should never have happened in the first place.

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970936)

You need at the very least a Granary and a Marketplace so that you can grow your population while making income.

Are you seriously still playing Caesar?

This allows you to finance all the other fun stuff you want to do like developing war trolls

....war...craft?

or building sorcerer's guilds

I'm starting to think you've got alot of RTS mechanics floating around your head at this point

Without the basic income stream, you're just going to get screwed when some bear rushes in and eats all your citizens because you don't have even a single halberdier around to guard the town.

I got it! You're Stephen Colbert posting from the past!

Re:Killing yourself with good intentions (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970982)

If I prepaid, I would certainly be massively pissed off. But a lot of these rich fuckers who can actually afford a Tesla Roadster will never notice the money. Still, they are jerking their customers around. They probably would have done better with a higher price tag. The kind of people who can afford it would pay anyway.

More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (5, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970732)

The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car. Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche. The best that they (and the taxpayers) could hope for is for them to be bought by one of the major auto manufacturers. Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people? If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles. If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970796)

Mod up. I can afford a Tesla, and I think it's insane that this is getting subsidy.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970840)

one could see it as a long term investement. Testla will make the tech more mainstream, simply by producing "many" cars. This will lower the price for similar cars for the average person.

So one could see that investement as a R&D investement

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971300)

By that logic, you could justify billions of tax dollars for each and everyone and the classic avenue of Statism. An entanglement of state and corporations was called Fascism by Mussolini himself and as we have state and corporations entangled enough as it is, we don't need more of it.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

barberousse (1432239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970854)

That's what I thought of all the car and bank subsidies. What's your point? At least, Tesla car are better for the environment.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (3, Insightful)

drgruney (1077007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970822)

It's called the trickle down effect. When cars were first made they were toys for the wealthy. Now every schmo thinks they are entitled to own 4 wheels and an engine. It doesn't matter how much electric cars cost, if they are made the technology will eventually become common enough for everyone to have it.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (5, Insightful)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970848)

Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche.

Agree, and strongly disagree.

"Cars are a niche, people will always ride horses for transportation."

"Computers are a niche, they take up a whole room, there isn't really demand for more than six or so of them."

"Planes are a niche, they're useful in war but that's about it."

We the taxpayers should finance this company, and not bail out the "big 3" (two, really, Ford didn't need as much help), because they're proving that they can make something revolutionary that will work its way down to being affordable to everyone. The big 3 are just doing more of the same. And slower.

And besides, it's not a gift, it's a loan.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971168)

And besides, it's not a gift, it's a loan.

No, it's a gamble. If the company goes bankrupt, the loan will never be repaid so it retroactively becomes a gift. I'm fairly sure that people gambling with other people's money was one of the causes of the current financial mess...

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971246)

Care to cite what bail out funds Ford got?

It's a loan only up to the point that they need to file for bankruptcy. I think you should take a little time to familiarize yourself with how that system works.

And Tesla Motors will occupy a spot in the automotive museum right along side of the DeLorean... you can bet on that.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971346)

Care to cite what bail out funds Ford got?

Not very good at reading comprehension, are ya? He went from 3 to 2, and then explained why he wasn't counting Ford among the remaining 2.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971400)

To be fair, GM with it GM Volt is on to something...

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (4, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970852)

Well, if it was generally that easy, I'm sure they would have done it sooner. The fact of the matter is, for any startup, you need to target the rich to not only bring down the price of economies of scale, but to pay off for the R&D initially. Yes, there's still R&D going on, but their biggest hurdles are out of the way.

To suggest that they're just a boutique manufacturer for only the wealthy shows ignorance on your part. That isn't their primary goal. Their primary goal is eventually make an affordable electric car for everyone that has style, performance, and still have the vehicle give a good range. They've done the really expensive car. Now they're doing the sort of expensive car. Next they'll do the even cheaper version. This has been their stated road-map for quite some time.

Besides, the government subsidizes all sorts of things, some things I'm sure you couldn't initially afford until cheaper variants came out. Are you against that too?

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970860)

You don't start by making a $2,000 car. You start by making a $100,000 car, then a $50,000 car, then a $35,000 car....

Compare to OLPC (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971086)

You don't start by making a $2,000 car.

Unless you're Nicholas Negroponte and you launch the whole netbook fad by trying to get the cost of building a laptop down close to 100 USD.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Interesting)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971378)

You don't start by making a $2,000 car. You start by making a $100,000 car, then a $50,000 car, then a $35,000 car....

If you do enough of something, then you get good at it. Costs like engineering can be spread over a line of cars.

If there were only one _____ car it would be outrageously expensive; however, there are many.

--

Paper tape calculator with keys taped down. The boss walks in. "What is that?"
The answer: "Its calculating my salary in real time."

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Insightful)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970880)

Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche.

I do not agree. They started business as a niche product with the aim of introducing products at a lower price point that could sell in larger volume. That cannot be done in one huge step. If they succeed with the S model, the next model will be higher volume and lower cost.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970906)

Because it's not just about you.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970914)

The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car.

We're talking about a group of people who tend to buy luxury cars with poor mileage, so it's a good idea to get them into something efficient. These are also the people that others want to emulate; if the roadster is any indication, the Model S will be driven by celebrities first. Cigarettes became popular in the USA only after the smoking industry paid Hollywood to include smoking scenes in movies. The same is true of Diamonds, which are a semi-precious stone whose supply is controlled to make it precious.

Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche.

ESL?

Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people?

They shouldn't be. However, taxpayers have actually financed limits on emission controls: California had a master plan for forcing automakers to produce less-polluting cars, and the federal government threatened to sue California if we did so. As a kid I used to be against smog laws. Then I grew up a little and woke up to the fact that everything we do affects someone else, and that my convenience or taste in autos should not impact another's breathing. Right now I'm in Panama, where there are no emissions controls. Cars with 2.5 liter or even smaller diesels put out dramatically more unburned hydrocarbons (and presumably, every other kind of pollution) than my 7.3 liter IDI diesel, in my 1992 F250. I've had a low-grade persistent cough since I got here, and it has only gone away since coming to Bocas town, on an island peninsula. The big difference here is the lack of cars; there's hardly any here because nothing is very far from anything. Another big difference of course is the lack of burning; it's not so agricultural here, and what there is isn't handled in the "green revolution" factory farming manner, it's more natives picking [naturally] organic fruit. Now I love emissions laws, even the periodic retesting.

Where does this rant lead? The benefits from Tesla motors are twofold. One, we're getting EV research at what is probably the bottom dollar. Two, we're getting EVs into the hands of some of the most influential people in the world; those persons who the whole world sees in the media. This will necessarily have the result of increasing demand for EVs.

If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles.

The public has never demanded accountability for subsidies before, why would they start now?

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970918)

The good news is that the $450 million cost the average taxpayer about $0.30

(I'm assuming ~ 150 million taxpayers, and using the middle quintile from this page as 'average':

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8885/EffectiveTaxRates.shtml [cbo.gov]

And I say that more in the spirit of not worrying about individual programs than I do in the spirit of thinking there is anything reasonable about current levels of government spending vs tax revenues (and when I say current, I mean the last 40 years more than I mean this particular, particularly egregious, year)

)

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970988)

If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

If the banks are such good investments, why can't they raise their billions and billions dollars instead of completely unconditional loans and gifts from the government?

The biggest difference I see, is that Tesla has a viable business model, whereas the banks' business models seem to be "siphon money into CEO's pockets". Granted, that's a pretty viable business model for the CEOs, but not really for anyone else.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971124)

A bunch of big banks in the U.S. raised money and paid back the government because they didn't like the conditions that came with the loans they had gotten.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971004)

The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car.

True, but a "sports car" is not what everybody wants anyway. And, have you priced a full-sized SUV recently? Saddly, many people spend close to 50k for conventional gas / disel "family" vehicles.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (5, Insightful)

avilliers (1158273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971012)

The Tesla model S sedan will retail for $50,000+ which means that less than 20% (and that is being very generous) of Americans will be able to afford this car. Tesla is a niche and it will always be niche. The best that they (and the taxpayers) could hope for is for them to be bought by one of the major auto manufacturers. Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people?

It's new technology; even if this model never takes off the expertise can spill over. It's not like giving money to Ford to keep more Mustangs on the street. It's a potential benefit even if the parent business fails.

It's a pretty good way encourage technology development. A lot of private people think they may be able to make it profitable eventually, they've put in their money, so the government leverages work that may prove valuable beyond the short-term by giving loans. No new government buildings needed, no new bureaucracy you can't kill.

I don't know enough about Tesla or the industry to say if this particular one is the best use of money, but it's not unique or anything. Corporations often get subsidies for new tech; basic research just doesn't get done at measurable levels these days in private industry. Bell Labs isn't what it used to be.

If the government subsidizes heavily so that average people can buy this particular car then you have to explain why the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market for private automobiles.

The "picking winners and losers" thing has really become a meme. Government policies necessarily determine winners and losers all the time, of course, with zoning laws, housing subsidies, mileage standards, public roads, wars for oil, leasing out of federal land, tarriffs, and so on.

If we (ie, the people through the government) chose to spend massive subsidies on electric cars, it would be because we thought the benefits (noise, local pollution, energy flexibility, global warming) outweighed the costs. We'd be saying that cars that spew out those pollutants are "losers," and it's worth paying for them to get off the roads. That is fundamentally a government business--making decisions about the common areas in communities.

If Tesla is such a good investment then why cant they raise $450 million from the private equity market instead of from taxpayers; 99% of whom will never sit behind the wheel of a Tesla?

Because, obviously, a good investment for the government is not the same as a good investment for a private investor. We don't expect corporations to identify candidates in kindergarten and pay for their schooling through 12th grade and college. They'd never get their money back, at least not in a free labor system, but society as a whole benefits.

Your points are really all cookie-cutter stuff, by which I mean they apply to any government intervention, not just Tesla, not just for putatively rich people. But even in freshman college micro-economic models, concepts like externalities might justify state intervention, and in the real world, actual or de facto subsidies for other industries require it. Given this specific intervention is a loan, not some recurring grant and not regulation, which will let the company live or die in the market (as evidenced by the actual story), do you have any actual reason to oppose *this one*, and not just all?

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (0, Redundant)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971114)

It's a pretty good way encourage technology development.

Bullshit. If you want to encourage technology development, then let people keep their money and invest it as they see fit, rather than having their money diverted to failed companies for political reasons. Tesla is not a viable business.

-jcr

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (3, Interesting)

avilliers (1158273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971162)

Bullshit. If you want to encourage technology development, then let people keep their money and invest it as they see fit, rather than having their money diverted to failed companies for political reasons. Tesla is not a viable business.

-jcr

Sorry, the fact is that major technology jumps in modern history have government intervention, from vaccines to biotech to railroads to the internet. I know it doesn't match the way some people want things to work, but not much I can do about it.

Private money goes mostly to short term, 3-5 year horizon projects. You don't need to subsidize those (not that we don't, through IP law), but any technology that has longer time to profitability needs help.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971354)

Many other major things in modern history had something to do with government invention and usually some million people died in the ordeal.

Keep the market competitive, keep contracts honored, protect the goddamn borders and then some. Everything else is pissing the taxpayer's money away for issues of political importance, more often than not political capital. Once you enable political capital to be a viable alternative to monetary capital, you will notice that people are constantly producing political capital, because it's so easy to write pamphlets, manuscripts, ideas, manifests and declaration and so incredibly hard to have a viable business running.

Trust me: never allow anyone to pay in "good will" or "good will" quickly replaces hard cash for everything. As "good will" cannot provide free lunches, even large economic bodies like the Warsaw Pact can go bankrupt within a decade if they rely on that.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971426)

I wish I had mod points for you.

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971016)

So their first car retails for >$100,000, and their second will be around $50,000 (which, after tax rebates, will be in the 40's) and they have stated that they will have an even cheaper car in the future, and your not seeing how the price declines relate very much to how technology drops in price?

Little things like once they build a plant, they can make their own cars, instead of buying a LOTUS, ripping it apart, and then putting there parts in could really, really drop the price. Look at the volt. Its not that far off in the price range. Is GM a boutique manufacturer?

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971240)

I like your first point; however your second point - isn't that kind of wrong?

I would highly expect that Tesla would be buying the Lotus frame seperately - if they were buying the entire car, they'd be close (if not over) their asking price for the roadster just by purchasing the vehicle to strip...

Re:More Publicly Financed Toys for the Wealthy (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971102)

Why should the taxpayers be financing car production by boutique manufacturers for wealthy people?

Because the only way to lower prices is to increase production.

In the early days of gasoline cars, they were made by by "boutique manufacturers for wealthy people".

Little by little, as the industry matures, electric cars will get more affordable.

DoE loan (4, Insightful)

doug141 (863552) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970782)

Taxpayer bears the risk of default, Tesla execs get to keep any windfalls of development, all the while drawing their salary against the loan. Doesn't sound like the best deal for the taxpayer to me.

Re:DoE loan (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971088)

Taxpayer bears the risk of default, Tesla execs get to keep any windfalls of development, all the while drawing their salary against the loan. Doesn't sound like the best deal for the taxpayer to me.

Geeze dude, you make them sound like the American banking system. They aren't that bad, they might actually produce something useful, that being cars.

Re:DoE loan (1)

avilliers (1158273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971182)

The government isn't supposed to invest in these things to make a profit. It's supposed to invest in them, like DARPA projects, because the overall benefits might be good for the state.

If it were a good deal in strictly financial terms for the government, then it'd be a good deal for private investors, and the government shouldn't be involved.

Re:DoE loan (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971196)

If they're successful then more Americans start using power from hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, and so on power produced in the USA, instead of oil imported from the middle east. More money stays in the US economy and the government takes its cut every time it changes hands, so it's not like there's no benefit to the taxpayer if it's successful. It would be nice if the execs shared a bit more of the risk though...

Re:DoE loan (0, Flamebait)

J_Omega (709711) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971418)

disagree/agree. If successful, more Americans start using electric to power their cars -- Today, it probably WOULD come from COAL.

Chapter 11 ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970786)

They better not share crucial suppliers with the big manufacturers.
Here's what's going to happen otherwise:
Launch gets delayed multiple time because components are not ready. Tesla skidding towards Chap 11. Daimler or another real player snatch up Tesla at a bargain.

I know what this needs... (2, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970788)

This needs a car anaolgy!

All of their eggs, into one mobile basket.... (2, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970858)

You have to give 'em credit for courage. Moving away from the incremental change model transforms the consumer's unacknowledged secondary role of beta tester into that of alpha tester, so they either get it right the first time or they likely become a blip in automotive history.

Re:All of their eggs, into one mobile basket.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30970970)

courage, in this case, equals stupidity

Quixotic business plan (4, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30970974)

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that the Model S will fail not because Tesla Motors is staffed by idiots (it isn't), and not because the gubmint won't support electric vehicles, but because fully electric vehicles cannot be competitive with liquid-fuel vehicles.

Forget unit prices, horsepower, yadda yadda, here's the only statistic that matters:

Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg
Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

Vehicles are unique among energy technologies in that they typically have to carry their energy source around with them. So energy stored per mass is the most important figure of merit for vehicle propulsion, and electric vehicles are inherently 45 times worse than their liquid-fuel competition.

To compensate for that factor of 45, serious sacrifices have to be made: either you accept a huge reduction in vehicle range, a huge reduction in vehicle performance, or you spend ridiculous amounts of money reducing drag and friction -- spending that shows up in the final price of the vehicle.

I predict that electric vehicles will never be able to overcome the energy density barrier and become popular, until either liquid fuel is no longer a readily available competitor, or vehicles no longer have to carry their own energy supply (think electric trains.)

And if you think you'll be able to convince the public to stop using gasoline "for the good of the planet", or for any reason other than prohibitive cost, I think you're probably naive. I've been trying to think of times when humans gave up an energy source for any reason other than cost vs performance. The only example I can think of is human slavery, and we had to destroy half of a nation to convince them to give it up.

Re:Quixotic business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971026)

Here's my question, and yes it's backwards thinking.. but if you ripped out the electric motors and battery pack, what size engine could you shoe-horn in there.. and if it's a decent sized setup could you imagine the horsepower to weight ratio?

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971106)

OMG! Brilliant! It would look almost exactly like this: hhttp://www.lotuscars.com/eliseSC.html

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971138)

Here's my question, and yes it's backwards thinking.. but if you ripped out the electric motors and battery pack, what size engine could you shoe-horn in there

Whatever is in the regular Lotus.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971140)

You can buy one of those from Lotus.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971128)

Of course, there are those who can afford and will buy such an electric vehicle if only to offset their guilt about the amount of crud their factory on the other side of the planet is pumping out.

I.e., pure cost analysis may not be applicable - with the long-term result that research is being done to change that cost analysis result. Not to mention, gasoline is indeed a finite resource; substitutes such as ethanol, in turn, require that growing space remains available which in turn relies upon the assumption that humans will show some sense and quit breeding at faster than replacement rates - which is not a good bet.

How much energy gets to the wheels? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971154)

Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

Is that with or without lithium's fivefold advantage in how much of the energy actually gets to the wheels? When you recharge the lithium, all the thermodynamic inefficiencies of an Otto cycle heat engine are already paid for at the power plant. In addition, as Anonymous Coward pointed out, you don't need to lug around the heat engine itself.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971156)

Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population. If I need to expound, let me know, and I will just ignore you because you're just a troll; if you really cared about this issue, you'd get this already.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971216)

Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population.

How/where do apartment dwellers recharge? You can't run an extension cord out the 5th floor window.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971266)

Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population

But they won't, and that's the problem. Everyone looks at daily commutes and says, hey, that's all people need to do to drive, but they always leave out the weekends, where people tend to drive much, much more, than on weekdays.

And, even the daily commute thing is a bit of a joke, because a lot of people have to run errands after they leave work.

There is a reason that 350 miles is the range of a car - and that's because its about how much range you need for driving for a day. Once fully electric cars can go 300 - 400 miles on a charge, they'll be a drop in replacement for the auto for genuinely most people. But, they won't, and so what's well have is hybrid vehicles.

Really, if daily commuting was all Americans used transportation for, rail would be everywhere. But Americans are not utilitarian drivers, they drive because they enjoy it.

What's really nutty about the whole thing is that, we haven't even really begun to research what a gasoline fuel cell might look like. I mean, what if you could get gasoline to "burn" but harness the photons produced by combustion directly to produce electricity, rather than heat?

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971366)

Haven't we covered this myth already? I think the rebuttal goes like this: Oh, shucks, EVs will only suit the needs of 95% of the population

But they won't, and that's the problem. Everyone looks at daily commutes and says, hey, that's all people need to do to drive, but they always leave out the weekends, where people tend to drive much, much more, than on weekdays.

No. Most houses which include a commuter also have multiple vehicles. One EV and one Plugin-Hybrid or just gasoline car would still dramatically improve most households' vehicular energy consumption. And I live in California, where there's more cars than licensed drivers, and your argument falls down even harder.

And, even the daily commute thing is a bit of a joke, because a lot of people have to run errands after they leave work.

We're going to have some way for people to charge their cars at work, but that's not an unsolvable problem.

Re:Quixotic business plan (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971284)

Forget unit prices, horsepower, yadda yadda, here's the only statistic that matters:

Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg
Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

Vehicles are unique among energy technologies in that they typically have to carry their energy source around with them. So energy stored per mass is the most important figure of merit for vehicle propulsion, and electric vehicles are inherently 45 times worse than their liquid-fuel competition.

Ooh, but you were so close. You're right that "energy stored per mass" is the most important metric, but you completely flubbed what energy and what mass. See, the hypothetical energy contained in the fuel doesn't all go to the tires, and the car doesn't just have to carry around its energy source, it also has to carry the mechanism for turning that potential energy into kinetic energy.

What matters is delivered energy divided by total mass.

Once you factor in the weight of the engines, and the inefficiencies of those engines, thing the comparison becomes much closer. It still favors gas vehicles, but not to the extent that you can say EVs can never compete, especially since they're getting closer and closer.

Re:Quixotic business plan (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971296)

Energy density of lithium batteries: 1 megajoule/kg

Energy density of gasoline: 45 megajoules/kg

That's a slightly misleading statistic, because it doesn't include the mass of the engine or drive train in the calculation. Electric cars are much simpler mechanically. You need to compare the mass of fuel, a fuel tank, engine, gearing, and drive train to the mass of batteries plus electric motors and then see how much power you've got for both. The electric car comes out a lot closer when you do this.

Then you need to factor in the fact that you can charge an electric car at home. How many trips does a tank of petrol give you? A week's worth of typical driving? Then if your electric car has only half of the range but can be charged overnight then it's competitive.

Finally you need to compare the cost of the energy and the efficiency of generation. Energy conversion from chemical potential energy a battery to kinetic energy via an electric motor is a lot more efficient than converting hydrocarbon fuel into kinetic energy via an internal combustion engine. Electricity can come from burning hydrocarbons, but it can also come from things like solar, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric and tidal power. Technology keeps making these forms of power cheaper, but scarcity keeps making hydrocarbons more expensive. When 1MJ of petrol costs twice as much as 1MJ of electricity, it makes a difference. Petrol sold in the USA is about 36.6 kWh/US gal, so at $3/gallon that's 0.08 cents per kWh. That's pretty close to the cost of electricity. Once you factor in the relative conversion efficiencies, you pay a bit less per unit of kinetic energy from an electric motor than you do from an internal combustion engine at $3 per US gallon of petrol. When petrol hits $5 per US gallon (which is cheaper than it is in the UK) then it's a lot more expensive than electricity.

The Roadster is too heavy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971050)

All the batteries, and placement, add too much weight to the Roadster.... And the recharge time is currently too long.

Both of these things would be solved if they used a hydrogen fuel cell, to generate the power for the electric car. Very efficient, will allow people to fuel as they go, and eventually the power source can be switched to a battery when one is produced that is competitive... Its win-win, and as an added plus would significantly decrease the cost of production, so more of us can afford it....

A Jim Cramer moment (0, Offtopic)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971082)

I can't get Jim Cramer's cameo on Iron Man out of my mind. "It's a car company... that doesn't make cars! Sell! Sell! Sell!"

I can't wait (4, Funny)

sbrown1038 (778875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971112)

until 2012 to see the S car go.

Re:I can't wait (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971150)

until 2012 to see the S car go.

      Or you could enjoy one tonight at your local French restaurant?

Re:I can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30971350)

Trading Places was a great movie.

duke nukem forever paint job (1)

AFormalEvent (966445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971194)

i hope it comes with a duke nukem forever paint job.

And this guy wants to build a spaceship? (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30971210)

So basically, here's the career guide for you. Take all the credit for PayPal at the right time, with the right partner, sell for a ton of money, build a car company that rarely makes any cars, a space ship company that can't launch anything, write a big check to Obama, and the next thing you, the Democrat's Bernie Madoff will wind up with a contract for all manned space flight.

What a joke!

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