Tuesday, August 23, 2016

100kWh battery pack coming next month to Model S and X P100D

Elon Musk tweeted today a major product announcement will take a place at noon California time. Many speculated as Tesla has a long list of upcoming products planned since releasing its Q2 earning's results.

The major announcement turned out to be non other but the already hinted 100kWh battery pack spotted few weeks ago by Kenteken.tv on the Dutch government’s automotive authority website RDW.nl. The battery upgrade is confirmed to be coming for both Model S and Model X, but due to the complicated production process involving improving the cell's architecture, Musk doesn't expect Tesla factory to produce more than 200 packs per week starting today, while deliveries will start next month.
Although it may be a 11 or 12 percent increase in capacity, it has really been a 50 percent increase in difficulty.
The new Model S P100D Ludiscrous mode will have a range of up to 315 miles EPA - 21 miles more than a P90D - and will be able to hit 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds, while the Model X P100DL can reach 2.9 seconds with a range of 289 miles. The new P100DL vehicles will come equipped with standard Tesla's Premium Seats while charging time will not be affected from the battery capacity increase.

The Model S P100DL will be priced from $134,500 while the Model X P100D will start at $135,500. A battery upgrade for those who put an order on the P90DL vehicles with a 90kWh battery is possible and will cost an extra $10,000, while upgrading for customers who already own a 90kWh battery will set them back $20,000 due to recycling costs of the old battery.
Musk did hint that bigger packs will be coming in the near future as Tesla is already working on a different cell chemistry to break the 100kWh capacity barrier. He admitted this upgrade is not cheap but it will be contributing to Tesla's long term plan to bring better and cheaper  batteries to the mass market.

Meanwhile, Musk confirmed that Autopilot version 8.0 is near completion and will bring material improvements in the autonomy of Tesla's vehicles.

You can read Tesla's official public announcement on the P100D on Tesla.com

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Elon Musk: Tesla's full autonomy is going to blow people away

Last night, Tesla executives had their Q2 Earning's conference call with shareholders and investors and discussed more in detail what the company has achieved and is planning for the future.

As usual, Elon Musk was answering most of the questions while revealing few tidbits of what the company has in store in the coming years. When asked about autonomous driving, Musk didn't hold back. He confirmed that full autonomy will be Tesla's priority as soon as Model 3 production hurdles are solved. He then criticized certain media outlets for inflating the news when it comes to Tesla vehicles involved in accidents.
...Tesla cannot sneeze without there being a national headline. So I think you don't have to worry too much about whether we'll report it because the media will and then inflate it in size by 1,000. Like last year there were 35,000 automotive deaths in the U.S. How many did you read about?
First, Musk said there needs to be a much higher definition maps than what currently exists in the world in order to have full autonomous cars, something Tesla is currently making good progress on.

Second, when asked about ending collaboration with Israel-based technology firm Mobileye on advancing features related to the automaker's Autopilot, Musk hinted it will be replaced by an in-house hardware technology and there will be a significant announcement on that in the near future.
Musk previously mentioned in his Master Plan: Part Deux that Tesla owners will be able to add their autonomous cars to a ride share fleet with a click of a button through the Tesla phone app and have them generate income while owners are not using their cars. That means self driving cars will be on the road more than previous generations ever been. This will have its own ramifications when it comes to charging and maintenance. However Musk thinks demand for autonomous cars will vastly outweigh the production capability. Currently there are about 2.5 billion vehicles in the world and about 100 million new vehicles produced every year, that's a 20-25 years of fleet turn over per cycle. In order for autonomous vehicles to saturate the market, there needs be a tremendous number of autonomous vehicles produced to break that cycle.

When asked on how Tesla is planning to bring about full autonomy to its fleet, Musk confirmed that it will be coming sooner than people expect and it will surprise everyone. According to the CEO, full autonomy is more of a software limitation than a hardware one. Tesla is currently focused on developing an advanced and narrow AI for its vehicles to operate on.
I want to emphasize narrow AI, it's like not going to take over the world, but it needs to be really good at driving a car. So increasingly sophisticated neural maps that can operate in reasonably sized computers in the car. That's our focus. I'm very optimistic about this. It's exciting, it blows me away, the progress we're making. So I think if I'm this close to it and it's blowing me away, it's really going to blow other people away when they see it for the first time ...full autonomy is going to come a hell of a lot faster than anyone thinks it will.
You can listen to the full recording of the conference call on Tesla's website

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tesla officially finalizes the design of Model 3

Tesla has just published its Q2 2016 Updates for its customers and shareholders. In the letter, the company had more details to share about its future electric vehicle Model 3 soon to be released end of 2017.

The design phase of the Model 3 for tooling, production planning and validation has been completed, as stated in the letter. This falls in line with Elon Musk's interview at Code Conference on June 2nd 2016 where he hinted that the design will be finished in 6 weeks.
All of the Model 3 design is done and we're aiming for - pencils down - about six weeks... and if there are ideas for future cool things we'll have those for version two and three...

Furthermore, during the Gigafactory grand opening, Tesla's President of Global Sales & Service Jon McNeill confirmed to guests touring the factory that the design of Model 3's exterior was completed. The red Model 3 featured at the showroom of the factory had tinted glass, blacking out all the instrument cluster that has yet to be finalized and revealed in the second part of the vehicle's unveiling as mentioned by Elon Musk.

According to Tesla, its "machine that makes the machine" philosophy will be put to the test once the Model 3 is in production phase. Production hours per vehicle are declining and the company is focusing on squeezing as much tools and custom made machines on every inch of the work floor to maximize the speed of vehicle output in its Fremont factory. In addition, the Gigafactory is on target to produce 35GWh/year of cell units by 2018 after the company managed to accelerate construction on the site, allowing it to meet the targeted production volume of 500,000 vehicles in 2018.

Panasonic announced last week it would raise up to $3.86 billion in corporate bonds to bring forward its investment in the Gigafactory.

Tesla's operating expenses are expected to increase by about 30% due to the Model 3 vehicle engineering, design, and testing expenses related to Model 3 supplier contracts. Some of Model 3 production equipment is already going live at the stamping and painting centers, while the body and general assembly centers will be built later this year.

During the Q2 Q&A conference call, Elon Musk confirmed production of Model 3 will start in July 2017, however due to the long list of suppliers and parts involved in manufacturing the vehicle, Musk is expecting some slight delay on that date, hinting that any supplier failing to deliver on time will be left behind.
I don't expect us to be at full production on July 1, but I have to drive all suppliers and internal efforts to that date, knowing that some will fall short. And those that fall short, the suppliers that fall short will be cut out of the picture. And if there are teams internally that fail to execute effectively, we will reorganize those teams. 
You can read the full Q2 2016 Updates here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

SolarCity accepts Tesla's $2.6bn bid proposal

Back in June, Tesla surprised everyone when it announced its plans to buy SolaCity, thus tying a clean energy source to its fleet of vehicles and stationary energy storage and becoming Tesla Energy. A natural step to Tesla's vertical integration philosophy and Elon Musk's master plan part deux.

Yesterday, both companies announced that they have reached a deal where SolarCity stockholders will receive 0.110 Tesla shares per for each share of SolarCity, valuing SolarCity's stock at $25.37 per share. That's 0.112 to 0.121 lower per share than when Tesla made its initial overture to SolarCity back in June.
SolarCity will now have a 45-day "go-shop" period, which runs through September 14, 2016, to solicit alternative proposals. According to regulatory filing, a termination fee of $26.1 million will have to be paid by SolarCity if it ends the deal with Tesla in order to enter an agreement with a third party, and $78.2 million if SolarCity's shareholders reject a buyout all together. Independent shareholders in both companies still have to sign off the acquisition to finalize the buyout. Tesla's CEO and CTO Elon Musk and JB Straubel as well as SolarCity's co-founder Peter Rive recused themselves from voting.

Tesla and SolarCity's joint statement stated that "after comprehensive due diligence in consultation with independent financial and legal advisors, the independent members of the Tesla and SolarCity boards of directors approved this transaction", adding the merger will slash $150 million off SolarCity's costs in the first full year after closing thanks to Tesla's growing national network of 190 retail stores and presence overseas.

According to Musk, those looking to buy a Tesla car will have the convenience of purchasing a rooftop solar system as well from the same shop or online without the usual complicated sales procedures. Tesla is expected to save customers money by "lowering hardware costs, reducing installation costs, improving manufacturing efficiency and reducing customer acquisition costs."

You can read the full statement below:
Just over a month ago, Tesla made a proposal to purchase SolarCity and today we are announcing that the two companies have reached an agreement to combine, creating the world's only vertically integrated sustainable energy company. 
Solar and storage are at their best when they're combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed. 
Now is the right time to bring our two companies together: Tesla is getting ready to scale our Powerwall and Powerpack stationary storage products and SolarCity is getting ready to offer next-generation differentiated solar solutions. By joining forces, we can operate more efficiently and fully integrate our products, while providing customers with an aesthetically beautiful and simple one-stop solar + storage experience: one installation, one service contract, one phone app. 
We expect to achieve cost synergies of $150 million in the first full year after closing. We also expect to save customers money by lowering hardware costs, reducing installation costs, improving our manufacturing efficiency and reducing our customer acquisition costs. We will also be able to leverage Tesla's 190-store retail network and international presence to extend our combined reach. 
Here are some key terms of today's announcement: this is an all-stock transaction with an equity value of $2.6 billion based on the 5-day volume-weighted average price of Tesla shares as of July 29, 2016. Under the agreement, SolarCity stockholders will receive 0.110 Tesla common shares per SolarCity share, valuing SolarCity common stock at $25.37 per share based on the 5-day volume weighted average price of Tesla shares as of July 29, 2016. 
After comprehensive due diligence in consultation with independent financial and legal advisors, the independent members of the Tesla and SolarCity boards of directors approved this transaction. Tesla's financial advisor was Evercore, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz was its legal advisor. The financial advisor to the special committee of SolarCity's board of directors was Lazard and its legal advisor was Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. 
As part of the agreement, SolarCity has a 45-day period known as a "go-shop", which runs through September 14, 2016. This means that SolarCity is allowed to solicit alternative proposals during that time. Each company today filed a Form 8-K with the SEC that provides additional details regarding the transaction. 
While today's news is a big step, it isn't the finish line – we expect the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2016. Before then, the deal must be approved by a majority of the disinterested shareholders of both Tesla and SolarCity voting at each shareholder meeting. We also need to obtain regulatory approval and meet other closing conditions.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Here's what we've learned from the Tesla Gigafactory Grand Opening

Tesla had a Grand Opening party at the Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada on July 29 2016, inviting mainly Tesla Referral Program Winners and their guests to tour the facilities from 6pm for 3 hours and get a good sense of where the factory is headed in the future. During the tour, guests were guided throughout the building where they had the chance to see how Tesla's custom made machines process and produce Lithium-Ion cells and packs from A to Z at the factory, which in turn are destined for Tesla's electric vehicles and Powerwalls.

The factory tour was guided by Tesla teams responsible for designing and installing the machines in the facilities. Guests got a walk through of the process of refining raw materials that end up becoming the battery cells. It all starts at the coating and drying section where a solvent is added to aluminum foil sheets in an oven to create active battery layers on every side. Then a hydraulic press compresses the coil sheets, bringing down the thickness of the electrode layer to roughly the diameter of a human hair without disrupting the flow of the Lithium-Ion particles through it. Those coils get transported on an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) to another section of the factory where they are "jelly rolled" into a cylindrical cells filled with electrolyte and free of any gases. Finally, the cells end up in the Cell Aging section,  there they get their first charge and discharge where chemical reactions occur to create the desired micro-structure of the components and the contact between them in order for the batteries to deliver their full capacity. That process is called Cell Formation. Once these cells are finalized, they are gathered in trays and moved to the assembly room where Elon's machines that build machines demonstrate how battery packs are assembled.

Guests were then escorted to the end of the assembly line where they saw samples of the Tesla's battery packs for Powerwalls, Powerpacks and Tesla vehicles. At the showroom, guests got a glimpse of a finished exterior design of the Model 3 in red with tinted glass, blacking out all the instrument cluster, leaving it to be revealed in the second part of the vehicle's unveiling as mentioned by Elon Musk.
By 9pm, Elon Musk and JB Straubel took to the stage to introduce the Gigafactory. Musk laid out why the factory matters to the world.
It matters if it happens sooner or later, it matters that it happens at scale. The Gigafactory is about being able to make enough electric cars, enough stationary battery packs, that it actually moves the needle from a global carbon production perspective. It has to be big because the world is big. That's why.
In order to make half a million cars per year by 2018, the Gigafactory needs to produce more than the output of Lithium-Ion battery cells currently manufactured in the world, roughly 50 GWh. Currently the Gigafactory consists of 14% of what the completed factory would be, 6 million square feet of ground area. It will be the biggest in the world and second biggest in volume to Boeing's factory in Washington state. It will have 7 other sections built by 2020 to reach an output of 150 GWh, enough to make 1,500,000 battery packs for cars per year. Ultimately, Gigafactory 2.0 and beyond will integrate car manufacturing under the same roof. This means the Fremont factory will eventually be decommissioned or re-purposed.
Elon Musk likened the factory to an advanced computer processor where speed and density are the pillars of its performance. It was designed from the ground up to optimize productivity - from piping to equipment and machinery - with minimum wasted space. The Gigafactory will be one of the first factories to transform raw materials into battery packs under one roof. Historically, this process required materials and products to move between multiple factories around the world. This will minimize the cost of processing raw materials and eventually the cost to produce the final battery packs.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A closer look at Elon Musk's Top Secret Tesla Masterplan Part Two

It's been almost ten years since Elon Musk revealed his initial Tesla secret master plan when he was funding and developing the Roadster's production. The main objective was to make affordable electric vehicles available to the masses while providing a platform for zero emission power generation for Tesla customers as alternative to offset their energy for driving these vehicles.
The [2006] master plan is:
Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don't tell anyone.
Ten years have passed and Tesla has been able to introduce three electric car models to the market while constantly improving range and bringing costs down. It is now possible to purchase a Model S 60 for $66,000 before taxes, while the Model X 60D can be bought for $74,000. The Gigafactory is about to officially open its doors end of July to start producing batteries for Tesla's Powerwall, Model S and X, and approximately 400,000 pre-orders of of the $35,000 Model 3 by 2018.
Meanwhile Tesla has been working on transforming its identity since it announced its plan to acquire SolarCity and become a renewable energy company instead of a car maker. The company just changed its domain name from Teslamotors.com to Tesla.com just two days ago after filing several trademark applications related to converting solar energy to electricity for its new name "Tesla" instead of "Tesla Motors".
Musk unexpectedly tweeted last week that there will be a part two of his master plan and that he would announce it by the end of the week. However, due to his engagement to supervise Space X's Dragon launch, Musk had to postpone publishing the new master plan by three days, posting multiple tweets and apologizing for putting it off.
Today's reveal coincides with Elon Musk's statement at Code Conference when he confirmed that Model 3's design should be ready by mid July. From what we've learned, the new master plan, or "master plan part deux" has some surprising and bold ambitions on top of what we've expected. It revolves mainly around empowering individuals to control the way they source their clean energy and how they select their mode of transportation.

Integrate Energy Generation and StorageBy bringing Tesla and SolarCity together, Elon Musk wants to create a worldwide, smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that works for home owners without today's complications by making installation simple, with one point of contact for service and an integrated phone app.

Expand to Cover the Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport
While we anticipated more consumer vehicles to be introduced by Tesla in the future, such as a compact SUV and a pickup truck, Elon Musk confirmed today that heavy-duty trucks (Tesla Semi-Trucks) and high passenger-density urban transport (Tesla Mini Bus) will be next.
Tesla Semi-Truck is already in advanced stage as a team led by Jerome Guillen - a former Daimler executive who recently returned to Tesla after a leave of absence- is already driving one, Musk tweeted late on Wednesday.
On the other hand, Tesla Mini Bus will be inspired by California's Custom VW Combi design art and involves redesigning the internal areal density in order to maximize capacity for passengers by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways. There will be no need for a driver as one fleet manager will be able to control a group of mini buses while autonomy will ensure a smooth traffic flow. The bus will be able to bring passengers to their desired selected destination through a phone app, fixed "summon" buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don't have a phone.

Elon Musk anticipates that fully autonomous vehicles will require five to six years - or over 6 billion miles (10 billion km) - of field testing before they are approved by regulators. However, Musk believes that Tesla's Autopilot in beta mode is already dramatically saving lives and will continue to improve by learning from real live situations. According to Musk, the beta label will be removed once Autopilot is ten times safer than the US vehicle average. Eventually, all future Tesla vehicles will be equipped with fail-safe capabilities, allowing them to drive safely in case of malfunctions.

Once self driving is approved by regulators, humans will be able to allocate their time spent on driving to other tasks, such as sleeping, reading, etc... According to Musk, there will be no need to focus on lowering the price point after the Model 3 thanks to the machines that build machines. Additionally, car owners will be able generate income from their vehicles when they are not using them by adding them to Tesla's fleet of Uber-like service. Tesla will operate its own fleet in cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars.
In short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:
Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it
You can read Elon Musk's detailed master plan part two on Tesla's website.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Elon Musk: expect a Tesla blog post explaining how Autopilot works

Elon Musk said Tesla has no plans to disable Autopilot after the fatal accident on May 7 that killed the driver, Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old Tesla owner who collided with an 18-wheel semi-truck that pulled in front of him on a Florida highway.

In an interview to Wall Street Journal, Musk confirmed that they are preparing an explanatory blog post, soon to be published on Tesla's website, to educate customers how this features exactly works.
A lot of people don't understand what it is and how you turn it on.
The company reported two weeks ago that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is opening a preliminary evaluation to see if Autopilot worked according to expectations after the recent crash. NHTSA sent the Tesla a letter seeking details of all design changes and updates to Autopilot since its launch back in September 2014, however it has not made any determination about the presence or absence of a defect in the auto maker's vehicles.
Yesterday, The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it is investigating whether Tesla breached securities laws by failing to disclose to investors the fatal crash. The SEC said the inquiry is in a very early stage and may not lead to any enforcement action by regulators.

Additionally, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash to determine whether it reveals systemic issues tied to development of driver-less cars and probes of accidents involving them, an agency spokesman said Monday.

Fortune accused Elon Musk of hiding the news of the accident when they raised $1.46 billion in fresh capital from the sale of its 6.8 million new common stock offering on May 18th. The magazine went on to publish a second article, pointing at the "semi-self driving autopilot" as cause for the accident.

Tesla then published a blog post refuting Fortune's accusations and claimed that Fortune never asked the company why the news about the incident were not made public before the stock offering occurred. Tesla said its investigators finished reviewing the cars logs by the end of May, days after the stock offering went place. It reiterated that more than 130 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged since the technology made its debut in October.

Musk told the Wall Street Journal he did not know about the accident at the time of the fundraising.
What we told NHTSA [on May 16] was just that somebody died--it wasn’t that there was an Autopilot incident. I also don’t think it’s material, but I didn’t know about it.
Musk went on twitter two days ago to explain that Autopilot is categorized as Beta to remind people of its imperfection. He clarified that this feature needs more than 1 billion miles of real world driving experience in order to address the remaining 1% of corner cases that prevents it from becoming a dependable technology.
During his presentation at MIT Technology Review in San Francisco, Tesla’s Director of Autopilot Programs Sterling Anderson spoke about the challenges Tesla faces in order to address those corner cases where drivers cannot yet fall back on autonomous driving
...in our experience, these corner cases, the additional cases where we need to address, require fine tuning of specific pieces of specific algorithms rather than turning a crank on a massive machine that is only guaranteed to capture the large center portion of what is fundamentally a very wide distribution.
He also explained how the adaption to autonomous driving is directly related to the level of reservations of an individual.
many do have reservations... but we have found that people got accustomed with it very comfortably and very quickly, the fact that the car is watching for and addressing in many cases scenarios or corner cases that you might otherwise have had your eyes or attention on, alleviate some of the burden of the driver and allows them to focus more on the higher level of judgement and reasoning tasks that humans are better suited for.
The Owner’s manuals of Model S and Model X states that Autopilot may not detect all objects and since the technology "is designed for your driving comfort and convenience and is not a collision warning or avoidance system." The company, while calling Autopilot the most advanced such system on the road, says it doesn’t turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and doesn’t allow drivers to "abdicate responsibility."

Tesla Model S used by a Dutch Startup Company to empower women from all ethnicities

An all female Dutch startup company, Mama Taxi, is now using three Tesla Model S vehicles as taxis to service businesses in and and around Rotterdam. The company has leased the vehicles from Mister Green (a Dutch company specializing in leasing Electric vehicles), hired six women from different ethnicities (Dutch, Moroccan, Indonesian, etc...), trained them to obtain their license and taught them how to drive the Model S to cover some of the major cities in the Netherlands: Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Schiphol Airport.
Mama Taxi has already serviced companies and charity foundations like KPN and Rotterdams VrouwenFonds, as well as politicians and scholars since its launch last year. Now it is looking to attract private investors to expand its fleet to ten Model S and hire eighteen more women within a year.
Born and bred in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Zizi Fernandes started Mama Taxi Foundation by providing an intensive education and training program called "Drive your own future" mainly to ethnic women who find it difficult to enter the labor market, giving them the opportunity to learn new skills and to work on their personal development. Through this foundation, Zizi founded her own taxi 100 percent electric taxi company in Rotterdam to offer business-class transportation for executives and officials working or visiting the Netherlands, as well as private indivicuals.

Zizi was a banker at ING Bank and has always been committed to social initiatives and non-profits such as dance4life. By August 2015, she set out to start her own company inspired by her grandmother who lives in Guinea-Bissau and goes to the market every day carrying heavy parcels under the scorching African sun. When her grand kids offered her money to use a taxi she refused: "taxi stinks, it is unsafe, you have to share it with ten others and you’re sure to be cheated." Zizi used the word "Mama" for her company, an African term of endearment and respect for grandmothers.
Zizi wanted to give something back to "her continent" of Africa. so she presented her company at the Best Idea of South Africa in 2013 - a competition organized by The Southern African - Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in which contestants are challenged to create an innovative business concept for implementation in South Africa’s dynamic economy - and won. Now she is looking to introduce her business model to the continent and specifically to South Africa.

If you are planning to order a cab in The Netherlands, feel free to book one of Mama Taxi's Tesla Model S through their website. Reservations need to be done 24 hours in advance.