Can Tesla Motors Do No Wrong With its Model S?

Tesla Superchargers
Charge for free in a Tesla with its Superchargers
Tesla Superchargers
Charge for free in a Tesla with its Superchargers

Reading the news, it would seem Tesla Motors can do no wrong with its Model S.  Let’s not forget, Tesla has overreached in the past.

Tesla Motors, the Californian startup that could and did, is shaking up the automobile industry.  From selling directly to consumers, upsetting an entrenched automobile dealership union, to designing an electric sedan that matches many gasoline cars with top notch safety ratings, can Tesla Motors do any wrong?

Tesla Motors, The Ever Surprising Act.  Just when you think you have Tesla Motors pegged, the company throws another club in the air.  The Model S sets the bar high for sedans in general, and electric cars.  Using common batteries, the same that power the laptop your are probably reading this with, to your cell phones, its Model S outsold the luxury competition.  Even Motor Trend ranked it as car of the year 2013.

Another Club in the Air.  Last year, Tesla threw another club in the air by tackling the white elephant in the room, improving its electric charging network.  The company could have installed some Level 2 (240 V) charging stations and a few fast chargers, then tapped itself on the back, but instead it went further — much further.  It decided to install a SuperCharger network for its Model S along the busy San Francisco – Los Angeles highway 5 corridor, as well as the 101.  To date, there are 18 Superchargers stations, and 27 by the end of this summer.  By fall they will reach into metropolitan areas, ideally giving its owners a coast-to-coast possibility by winter 2013.  By 2014, it wants to reach 80% of the US population and parts of Canada, and by 2015, 98% of the US population and parts of Canada.

SuperCharge it!  What’s so special about Tesla SuperChargers?  The proprietary SuperCharger system is a DC rapid-charging system boosting about 100 kW of charging power to Model S owners.  A top of the line Model S 85 kWh gets 150 miles, 240 km of range in about 30 minutes, and a full charge 1 hour, enough for a lunch break.  The best part is, you can “SuperCharge” for free — if you own a Model S.

Swap That Battery Pack.  A few months ago, Tesla surprised us with yet another club in the air.  We were told the Model S was designed with battery swapping in mind.  What this means is that you can swap out your depleted battery pack for a fresh new one in about a minute and a half.  CarNewsCafe was at the official unveiling, see our Tesla Shows Off Sexy Battery Swap.

Five Star NHTSA Crash Ratings.  What else could Tesla dazzle the media with?  How about achieving the highest crash safety rating?  According to the company, the Model S did so well in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA that it broke the highest crash rating record … it virtually broke the roof of the crushing system.  To put this into context, only 1 percent of manufacturers achieve this level of safety.  The NHTSA gives the Model S a five star rating.

Can Tesla Motors Do No Wrong?  Elon Musk, CEO and founder, has already infuriated a few with his ebullient comments.  This time Tesla oversteps the boundary of a big “no-no” by boasting an eyebrow raising Vehicle Safety Score, VSS of 5.4.  Unfortunately, more than five doesn’t exist, as the NHTSA sternly reminds Tesla Motors in this release: “the NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5. However safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers. The S scored a record 5.4 VSS rating and set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.”

L’enfant terrible of the Californian startup should be frightening the automobile industry, as GM’s CEO Ackerman duly noted in an article but Tesla also needs to be careful.  No matter how bright a company is, it is always a few steps away from off-comments and boasting until the competition starts to hit back.  Fortunately for Tesla Motors, there isn’t really any competition yet.

Should carmaker see Tesla Motors as a car company?  They shouldn’t, and it isn’t.  Tesla Motors is a technology company that wraps its product neatly into a beautiful sedan.  The sum of Tesla’s parts is more than a traditional carmaker.  It is an energy provider, an energy management company, a traditional car company for electric vehicles.  Will mainstream, traditional carmakers ever be able to catch up to the Tesla Motors juggernaut?  Unless they wake up soon, probably not.  Still carmakers have something Tesla doesn’t, a number base of blissfully unaware car buyers.

Nicolas Zart
Born and raised around classic cars, it wasn't until Nicolas drove an AC Proulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Eager to spread the news about those amazing full torque electric vehicles, he started writing about this amazing technology and its social impacts in 2007. Today, Nicolas covers renewable energy, test drives cars, does podcasts and films. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he made in those industries. His articles are also published on Teslrati, CleanTechnica, the Beverly Hills Car Club and Medium. "There are more solutions than obstacles." Nicolas Zart