Tesla Motors is notoriously stingy with information about its cars and future plans, to the great frustration of news-hungry Model S owners and fans.
But in a Q & A session in Norway on February 1, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the company's CTO JB Straubel revealed several intriguing tidbits about the Model S, the upcoming Model X electric SUV, and the company's planned mass-market Model E sedan.
2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' open
Among the Model X highlights:
The Model X will have the same wheelbase as the Model S, and its length will be within 5 cm (about 2 inches). Width will be the same too. The Model X, of course, will be considerably taller than the Model S.
The Model X will actually have a lower drag coefficient than the super-slick Model S. But because of its increased frontal area, the total drag will be higher. Combined with a slightly heavier weight, the Model X will have an energy consumption about 10 percent higher than the Model S. (Musk did not say whether the Model X battery size would be increased in order to maintain the same range as the Model S.)
The production Model X will definitely have the eye-catching "falcon doors." The double-hinged doors will be equipped with sensors that will adjust the opening sequence to avoid hitting any nearby objects. "If you can fit your Model X between two other cars, the doors will open," said Musk.
The duo also discussed future upgrades to the current Model S sedan:
AWD will be an option on the Model S, but not until the Model X is in production in early 2015. According to JB Straubel, the AWD system in the Model S will be "an efficiency-neutral option." In other words, it won't reduce the car's rated electric range. That's never happened in a gas-powered car.
Upcoming software updates for the Model S will include a hill-hold function, as well as manual setting of the ride height over a much wider speed range. Farther down the road, Musk said the Model S would be equipped with guidance lines on the back-up camera and an adaptive cruise control.
The production Model S will soon come off the line with improved front seats. "The seats should be more comfortable," said Musk. A modified spring force in the cushion will allow the driver to sink lower into the seat. The new seat is designed so it can be retrofitted to older cars. Musk also said that a second, more comprehensive seat upgrade is about a year away.
2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station on NY-to-FL road trip [photo: David Noland]
And they covered some more general topics as well:
Most Supercharger DC quick-charging stations will be upgraded from the current 90 or 120 kilowatts to 135 kW in the not-too-distant future.
Responding to questions about the carbon footprint of the electric-car manufacturing process--in particular, its lithium-ion battery cells--Tesla has done an internal study of that process for the Model S. According to Straubel, the results were surprisingly good: The Model S will essentially offset all the carbon emissions from its manufacture in less than 10,000 miles of driving--a far lower figure than some critics have claimed.
Tesla is shooting for a battery cost for the Model E of 30 to 40 percent less per kilowatt-hour than the Model S. This will help Tesla hit its price target of $30,000 to $40,000, competitive with the BMW 3-Series. Part of the cost reduction will presumably come from the huge "giga-factory" Tesla envisions to build Model E batteries.
You can watch the full video of the Q+A in Oslo above. Tesla Motors Club also published a full transcript of the Oslo session.
Musk and Straubel held a similar "town hall" session in Amsterdam the following night; that video can be viewed here.