Multiple Tesla Models Get Upgrades

Tesla has been busy updating several of its models. The Model 3 gets a grab bag of small changes while the Long Range Plus versions of the S and X will hit the UK.

The exterior of the Model 3 gets a few revisions like stain black trim for the door handles, window trim and side repeaters. Buyers can now get sport wheels in 18” and 19”. There is also a Uberturbine 20” wheel option meant to increase efficiency.

The Model 3 interior. The gloss black on the center console and dash was replaced with a matte finish. Other changes include satin black sill plates, metalized scroll wheels on the steering wheel, and graphite seat controls.

The center console makes room for two wireless smartphone charging pads. The visors are now magnetic. The glove box gets two more USB-C ports and one extra USB-A. Borrowing the new HVAC pump from the Model Y with other tweaks—which Tesla claims now makes it the most efficient mass-production car. The range was pushed from 254 miles to 267 miles. The long range variant jumps from 347 miles to 360 miles. The performance model goes from 329 miles to 360 miles.


Auto Start-Up Lucid’s “Air” Might be a Tesla-Killer

Lucid, an EV star-up, is calling its all-electric Air sedan more efficient, faster and more spacious than Tesla’s Model S.

The company claims it has a “breakthrough” in EVs and that it isn’t just batteries but lots of “big picture thinking” that has added up to their Tesla killer, the Air.

Lucid says that the Air is an impressive 17% more energy efficient than any Tesla model which allows great range with fewer cells.

The Air looks much like the 2016 concept Lucid released with some changes to the exterior including larger side mirrors and curved screens in the interior.

The EPA-rated range of the Air is 517 miles on a single charge according to third-party testing. If true on release this would dwarf Tesla’s industry-topping 402 miles its Model S is rated at. The Air also claims to take the Model S in speed; the Air takes a quarter mile in 9.9 seconds where as Tesla’s fastest quarter mile is 10.4 seconds.

The company claims its 900-volt architecture can charge 300 miles in 20 minutes, with its higher rate is 2 miles per minute.

Standard Air models will start $80,000 all the way up to a limited “Dream Edition” that would cost $169,000. The GT version of the Air with a 517 mile range will sell for $139,000 and a Touring version of the sedan with a 406 mile range will sell for $95,000.

The higher end models are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2021. The lower priced models will role out in the fourth quarter of 2022.


How to Tune Up a Tesla: The New Custom Car Fad

To some, driving clubs for electric cars and owners wanting to “sup them up,” are foredrawn conclusions of the electric vehicle era. To others, perhaps not. However, both are a growing trend.  

But where does one go and what does one do to “sup up” an EV? The Tesla model S can already do 60MPH in 2.4 seconds which is faster than most other vehicles regardless of their energy source.  

Where is answered by a company called Unplugged Performance which is coincidently right next door to the Tesla headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Their guarantee? That their modifications to your EV wills have seconds off your best times.  

Up until recently electric vehicles have been off the radar of aftermarket improvements, but with the growing popularity of racing EVs making them faster seems a natural evolution.  

Ben Schaffer, company co-founder, came from a career wherein he modified popular Japanese cars like the Nissan GT-R and others. While Unplugged isn’t the only name in the game, they are best known. They also run a group for Tesla owners, and they organize track days for Tesla drivers all over the country.  

But how do you tune an electric vehicle? Modifications do not include adjusting engine settings. The modifications often have to do with weight or aerodynamics and include items like carbon fiber parts, new wheels, sports tires, performance breaks, shocks, suspension and more. These kinds of modifications give racers an edge over a stock car, though not in the manner of a tuned gasoline engine.  


Smart Cars, Dumb Drivers

If you weren’t already aware Tesla has been working on a feature they’ve dubbed “Smart Summon.” This feature allows Tesla’s to navigate a parking lot to an owner’s location totally unmanned. Which might immediately sound like a scary idea to some, while anyone who has every forgotten whether they parked in area Blue 7 or Pink 9 of a giant amusement park lot might look at it as a godsend.

Not without a shade of irony and probably not to the surprise of some, people have already started doing some really stupid things with “Smart Summon” (which isn’t even out of beta yet).

One YouTube user “Dirty Tesla” (who is a Model 3 owner) uploaded a video in which he tries to walk in front of the vehicle while the Smart Summon feature is engaged. Luckily, the Model 3 is smarter than this particular owner and its cameras see Dirty Tesla before it runs him over. However, on the second try the vehicle looks as if it is going to roll over its owner’s toes as he comes at the car from a blind spot.

Undoubtedly this is not the kind of beta testing Tesla is encouraging. And does it need to be said that this is a terrible, awful idea? (Just in case, this is a really bad idea!)
Tesla’s own release notes on their Version 10 upgrade (the one featuring Smart Summon) states specifically that the owner is responsible for the vehicle at all times and should keep it in their line of site as it may not see all obstacles.

Even drivers using the Smart Summon feature responsibly have had minor accidents using the new Smart Summon. One Twitter user, David Guajardo, reported someone dinged his Model 3’s bumper while he was trying to test Smart Summon.

Tesla’s Auto Pilot to Be Questioned in Court Again

Tesla’s auto pilot software is again being tested in court.

Floridian Shawn Hudson is suing the electric vehicle producer, following an impact with a handicapped vehicle on Florida’s Turnpike that devastated the front end of his Tesla Model S.

Hudson guarantees the crash—which occurred while he was doing around 80mph on Autopilot—left him with “serious wounds” and is looking for an unspecified amount money. The claim likewise asserts that Tesla is deceiving customers into trusting its Autopilot framework can securely transport travelers at high speed.

In May, Tesla settled a legal claim from drivers who had purchased autos with Autopilot 2.0, a component that cost an additional $5,000 per vehicle, and which the drivers said was hazardous and unusable. In the settlement, Tesla put $5 million out for legitimate expenses and to repay purchasers of the improved Autopilot bundle from 2016 and 2017 with installments of $20 to $280.

While Autopilot’s upgraded highlights are Tesla’s steady strides towards building up a completely self-driving vehicle, it merits rehashing that they are not self-driving yet.

Tesla Investigated (Again) by NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has engaged in its fourth active investigation into a crash involving a Tesla. This time considering a fatal incident on Tuesday where in a Model S left the road and crashed into a concrete wall.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB, has launched another in a series of four active investigations involving Tesla crashes. This time focusing on a crash where a Model S went off-road and crashed into a concrete wall. The investigation is focused on the battery fire caused by the crash. Of the other investigations another is about a battery fire and the other two are about the autopilot system.

The latest crash killed two teens, Barrett Riley and Edgar Martinez. Tesla stated that it was a “very high-speed collision and…Autopilot was not engaged.”

Musk/Tesla’s Bold New Financial Plan

Elon Musk of Tesla Inc. received a new compensation plan from his company with payments depending largely on the company’s stock prices.  Tesla is also about to report on massive cash losses, however. The plan is much the same as it has been: when Tesla’s stock goes up, Musk owns more of it

The big surprise is the company’s projections–its market value, they think, will increase by 12 increments. They say starting at $100 billion and going as high as an astonishing $650 billion. The surprise, the company’s current market value rests at only $59 billion.

However, Musk, maybe more so than the company, is taking all the risk. If the company hits none of its goals, Elon Musk doesn’t get a thing. Musk’s mental investment is hard to gauge. Already being a billionaire, Telsa’s success isn’t wrapped up in, necessarily, in the Chief Executive Musk’s financial well-being.



Musk upbeat about the future of artificial intelligence

When it comes to AI, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has strongly urged caution recently. But, on Thursday, Musk also confirmed that Tesla is developing its own artificial intelligence software and hardware as the company continues its push toward a future of autonomous driving. What’s more, Musk is confident that his own company’s work on AI will be fruitful, as the CEO boasted about the products’ potential at a machine learning conference in California yesterday.

Talking about the work of Jim Keller, Tesla’s vice president of hardware, Musk said at the conference: “Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world,” according to CNBC. Tesla currently uses chips supplied by Nvidia to power its Autopilot hardware, but Musk’s announcement signals a move away from the partnership.

Musk also reportedly predicted that it will only be two years until fully autonomous driving is available with the new Tesla-developed AI systems, and that the technology will be “an order of magnitude better than humans” within three years, according to Salesforce scientist Stephen Merity, who was at the conference on Thursday and tweeted parts of Musk’s conversation.

Musk was also busy this week stoking competitive fires with regard to his plans to transport humans to Mars with SpaceX rockets. On Thursday, Musk responded to a boast from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who predicted that the first person to set foot on Mars would arrive in a Boeing rocket. Musk, who has been vocal about his desire to reach Mars and even colonize the Red Planet, responded to Muilenburg in a tweet that said, simply, “Do it.”


Can Tesla Make Good on New Promises?

Tesla’s November 16 introduction of both the new Tesla Semi and the Tesla Roadster managed to impress even observers used to the electric carmaker’s lofty ambitions. When they come to market, the Roadster will be the fastest-accelerating production car in the world, and the Semi will deliver more range, for a lower price, than almost anybody expected.

Those and other promises would be difficult or impossible to fulfill with batteries on the market today. At current battery prices, Bloomberg estimates the battery for a freight truck with 500 miles of range would cost more than $100,000, but Tesla estimates that the entire truck will only cost $180,000.

Similarly, the power and range Tesla is promising for the Roadster will take a battery more than twice as big as anything in a current Model X or Model S.

Tesla says the Semi will be able to suck up 400 miles worth of juice in 30 minutes, but that would mean charging more than 10 times faster than Tesla’s current best chargers.

The Semi isn’t set to hit the road until late 2019, and the new Roadster isn’t due until 2020. Battery prices and sizes have dropped dramatically in the last five years, and many projections have them dropping by another half by then. The same goes for power density, meaning that by the time the Roadster and Semi go into full-scale production, batteries may well be good enough to do what Elon Musk is promising. A Carnegie Mellon battery expert speaking to Jalopnik agreed that the Roadster’s performance benchmarks were at least theoretically plausible, though they might also require advances in tire technology.

Announcing products years before perfecting the technology needed to make them work is certainly an unorthodox approach. It’s unlikely to appease critics of Tesla’s rapid spending, who tend to see displays like the Roadster reveal as media stunts aimed at raising badly-needed cash.

Walmart Puts in Truck Order with Tesla

According to an article in Motor Trend, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., who operate thousands of trucks, said Friday they had reserved Tesla’s truck, which Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed at an event in Hawthorne, Calif., on Thursday. The first highway-ready vehicles aren’t due out until 2019, but the company is taking $5,000 deposits.

The Semi is designed to run up to 500 miles on a single charge, and incorporates Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system, which the company said could allow big rigs to travel in autonomous convoys with other of its trucks. The company did not provide a sticker price, but said the truck would be cheaper to operate than diesel rivals and could potentially cost less than transport by rail.

Walmart has preordered five units for the U.S. and 10 for its Canadian division, and sees potential for the trucks to help meet company targets for lower emissions, a spokesman said Friday. The company has one of the largest private fleets in the U.S., with some 6,000 trucks. Walmart has tested other new vehicle technology, including diesel-electric hybrid trucks and some that run on liquefied natural gas or other alternative fuels.

The Semi’s 500-mile range on a single charge exceeds what some analysts had expected but could still limit its use on long-haul routes, at least until a nationwide network of charging stations is built. The battery’s weight could also be an issue, as heavier trucks can carry less freight. Tesla says it is planning to build a global network of “megachargers” where truckers could recharge vehicles in about 30 minutes, gaining another 400 miles of range.