Tesla to make battery packs for SMART EV

Tesla to make battery packs for SMART EV
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Musk addresses the audience
Musk addresses the audience
The Smart EV
The Smart EV
The Smart EV
The Smart EV
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January 16, 2009 Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced Tuesday in Detroit that Tesla is producing the battery pack for Daimler AG's Smart EV. The companies, which have been partnering on electric powertrain technology for almost a year and a half, will produce 1,000 vehicles in 2009 and 2010, and Musk said the deal could grow into the "tens of thousands" of Smart EVs after that. Daimler already has an existing relationship with German tier one automotive supplier Continential who will supply a 25kg lithium-ion battery pack, with cells from Johnson Controls-Saft, to be used in the new Mercedes S400 BlueHYBRID hybrid-electric car available from the middle of 2009.

Musk noted that the cylindrical 18650 cells that Tesla used in its battery packs aren't ideal for EV's - he would prefer something 4-10 times the size but the fact is that such cells are not being made in great numbers. AA sized 18650 cells, as used in laptops, are manufactured in high volumes and are proven and reliable, if not originally designed with automotive use in mind. One of the reasons given by GM for A123 not winning the battery supply contest for the Volt is that A123 only manufacture cylindrical cells which are great for power tools but LG can supply the flat prismatic cells that GM wanted because they are more space efficient.

Tesla delivered its first prototype battery pack to Daimler a year ago. The final version of Tesla's battery, which will be built in California, is still under development. The companies did not announce battery capacity, pricing or terms of the deal.

Tesla remains the only production automaker with a highway-capable EV for sale in the United States and Europe. Tesla has delivered more than 150 all electric, zero-emission Roadsters, and there are more than 1,000 people on the waiting list. The Roadster, which gets an EPA estimated 244 miles per charge and charges fully in as little as 3.5 hours, is sold out through November 2009.

200 Kw+ Roadster Sport

Tesla showed off an updated version of their car, the Roadster Sport, at the Detroit auto show. The Roadster Sport comes with a hand-wound stator with increased winding density for lower resistance and higher peak torque (no torque figure was provided). Performance upgrades include improved suspension, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bars and Yokohama Ultra High Performance tires.

Deliveries of the Roadster Sport will begin in late June, with a starting price of $128,500 in the US and €112,000 in Europe. Customers on the waiting list for their "base" Roadster have the option to upgrade to the Sport model. A set of 10 click adjustable shock absorbers and 3 position adjustable sway bars with a swap from AD07 to A048 low rolling resistance Yokohama Ultra High Performance tires might seem a bit pricey considering the $28,000 premium of the Sport model but the hand wound stator makes up the difference. With a claimed 15% increase in peak power now giving a total of 212 Kw (288 hp) 0 to 60 now comes in at just 3.7 seconds compared to the 3.9 seconds for the standard Tesla Roadster. With Roadster version 1.5 more torque was achieved by raising peak current to 850 amps but power remained at 182kw because when amps were increased the voltage was simultaneously slightly decreased. The new stator winding takes full advantage of the increased power handling component upgrades made to the Inverter for v1.5.

Model S unveiled in Febuary

A prototype of the much talked about Tesla Model S sedan should be unveiled at the end of February 2009 with a launch date of 2011. Telsa say they plan to reach volumes of 20,000 per year. The cost will be US $49,500 after a $7,500 EV rebate in the US. Tesla hired Franz von Holzhausen as its chief designer in 2008; he was formerly the director of design for Mazda North America. His first project is to put the finishing touches on the Model S. Tesla were to have started construction of a $250 million facility in San Jose, California in the summer of 2009 but that has now been delayed with no date provided. Building a new vehicle platform from scratch is an enormous task even for well-established automakers let alone a company that has delivered a total of 150 cars. While Californian EV competitor Fisker have subcontracted production to Valmet in Finland who, with over 1 million cars made since 1968, have the support infrastructure in place and currently make over 20,000 Porsche Boxter and Cayman a year, Tesla plan to start from scratch and have yet to secure the fiances to break ground on their site.

Paul Evans

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