Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain – gpgmail


Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Cclose followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”




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SpaceX ‘getting ready’ to fly orbital Starship design with new FCC filing – gpgmail


SpaceX is taking the steps necessary to begin test flying the orbital-class version of its Starship spacecraft, with new documents filed by the company (via Teslarati) with the FCC seeking necessary permissions for it to communicate with the prototype while it’s in flight.

The company filed documents with the U.S. regulatory agency this week in advance of the flight, which lists a max altitude of 74,000 feet, which is a far cry from Earth orbit but still a much greater distance vs. the 500 or so feet achieved by the squat ‘Starhopper’ demonstration and test vehicle that SpaceX has been actively operating in preparation for Starship .

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed that prep was underway via tweet. Musk has previously said that he hoped to follow the Starhopper’s most recent and final successful test quickly with tests of the full-scale vehicle. Like with that low-altitude test, SpaceX will aim to launch and land the Starhopper, with touch down planned just a short distance away.

Assembly and construction of the Starship prototype looks to be well underway, and Musk recently teased a Starship update event for September 28, which is likely when we’ll see this prototype assembled and ready to go ahead of its planned October first test flight window.

Starship is the next generation of SpaceX spacecraft, designed for maximum reusability, and with the aim of creating one vehicle that can serve the needs of current and future customers, eventually replacing both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Starship is also a key ingredient in Musk’s ambitious plan to reach and establish a continuing human presence on Mars.


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Tesla Pushes Pickup Truck Unveiling to November


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Tesla has made incredible headway when it comes to selling electric sedans and sports cars, and the company is going to launch its first hatchback next year. However, Tesla’s next major vehicle will be a tougher sell. The company was expected to show off its upcoming pickup truck this summer, but now the company is looking at a November reveal at the earliest. 

Tesla launched its first electric vehicles in 2008, but things didn’t accelerate for the company until the Model S hit the roads in 2012. While the Model S is no budget offering, it was the first electric vehicle that offered solid performance and a price tag that consumers could justify in significant numbers. The Model 3 launch in 2017 has Tesla on the verge of mainstream acceptance — it has even run through its government tax credit allotment. 

CEO Elon Musk has long teased the company’s all-electric pickup truck, and Tesla even showed an early concept when it revealed the Tesla semi a while back. The vehicle, seen above, has a definite sci-fi vibe. It looks like the most significant departure from the “traditional” vehicle designs of anything Tesla has yet made. The final design could be entirely different, though.

Musk is an unusual CEO in a number of ways. He talks about financing deals that never happen, goes on podcasts to smoke marijuana, and always, always offers unrealistic timelines. That said, Tesla and SpaceX routinely come through on their promises. They just don’t do it as quickly as Musk’s exuberance would lead us to think. In the case of the Tesla pickup truck, Musk now says November is the new target. 

Sadly, that’s all the information Musk is willing to provide at this time, and that came as a reply on Twitter. Come to think of it, that’s another thing that makes Elon Musk a not-so-typical CEO; he loves to announce product news five replies deep on Twitter. In a previous teaser (yes, on Twitter), Musk said the pickup will have a “cyberpunk” vibe. In an interview last year, he said the design “stops [his] heart.”

Whenever the cardiac effects of the Tesla pickup truck might be, the company is running out of time to make good on its promises. Ford is spinning up plans to launch an electric version of its industry-leading F-150 pickup. That vehicle could hit dealers as soon as 2021. While Tesla will probably start taking reservations for the pickup as soon as it’s announced, it’ll probably be at least a few months before any of them are delivered.

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Tesla’s Model 3 interior (even the steering wheel) is now 100% leather-free – gpgmail


Tesla said Saturday that its Model 3 interiors are now completely free of leather, fulfilling a promise made by CEO Elon Musk at this year’s annual shareholder meeting.

Tesla has been closing in on a leather-free interior for a couple of years now. But a sticking point was the steering wheel, which Musk made mention of at the company’s shareholder meeting in June in response to a request from PETA activist.

I believe we were close to having a non-heated steering wheel, that’s not leather,” Musk said at the time.There are some challenges when when heat the non-leather material and also how well it wears over time.”

Musk said Model Y and Model 3 would be vegan by 2020. He wasn’t sure if the company would be able to meet that same goal for the Model S and X.

 

 

Activist shareholders made a proposal in 2015 that Tesla no longer use animal-derived leather in the interiors of its electric vehicles by 2019. While stockholders rejected that proposal, Tesla did begin rolling out more “vegan” interior components in its cars.

The company began by offering leather-free seats as an option. Two years ago, Tesla made the synthetic material standard in its Model 3, Model X and Model S vehicles.


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SpaceX Starhopper Rocket Completes Second and Final Test Flight


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SpaceX has big plans for the Starship that include launching deep space missions and colonizing Mars. Before it can do any of that, it has to finish designing the vehicle. The final Starship will be a sci-fi masterpiece of stainless steel, but the Starhopper is its stubby precursor. This prototype rocket is still plenty sci-fi, though. In its latest and final test, the Starhopper successfully hovered hundreds of feet in the air and landed at the company’s Boca Chica test facility. 

The Starhopper is the first vehicle to use SpaceX Raptor engine. The final Starship will have six Raptor engines, but Starhopper only has one. That’s still enough to lift it above the dusty Texas landscape and set it down gently. The first Starhopper tests took place in the spring of this year, but they were tethered. The rocket flew just above the ground before landing. In July, Starhopper had its first real flight, rising to an altitude of 65 feet (almost 20 meters) before landing. 

Yesterday’s test marks the most impressive achievement for the Starhopper, but it’s also its last flight. The rocket lifted off just after 5PM local time, flying up to an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters) and hanging there for a few seconds. Then, it floated back down to land on a nearby launch pad. The entire operation took just 57 seconds. 

This test vehicle is basically an analog of the old “Grasshopper” prototype that preceded Falcon 9 landings. Starhopper has done its job and now passes the torch to SpaceX’s orbital prototypes, known as Starship Mk1 and Mk2. SpaceX is currently building Mk1 at Boca Chica and Mk2 in Florida. Both rockets will look more like the promised sci-fi Starship, but they might not have the full complement of Raptor engines. CEO Elon Musk has promised at least three, though. They’ll need at least that to reach orbit. 

The test launches of Mk1 and Mk2 will give SpaceX that data it needs to finish the first fully operational Starships, which could begin flying as soon as 2021. SpaceX also needs to work on the first stage launch platform for the Starship, which is known as Super Heavy. The first major test of the Starship will be the lunar orbit mission, financed by Japanese fashion magnate Yusaku Maezawa around 2023. Musk has talked about sending people to Mars as early as the mid-2020s, but that seems a bit overly optimistic.

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Walmart and Tesla are going to try and work things out – gpgmail


Walmart came out swinging earlier this week in a lawsuit that accused Tesla of breach of contract and gross negligence over problems with rooftop solar panel systems installed at the retail giant’s stores.

Now, just days later, the lawsuit has been placed on hold while the two companies try to reach an agreement that would keep the solar installations in place and put them back in service, according to a joint statement issued late Thursday night.

“Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed,” the statement read. “Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future. Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely.”

Walmart hasn’t dropped the lawsuit. The complaint is still on file with New York state court. But the two parties are going to try and reach an agreement that would avoid a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which is aimed at Tesla’s energy unit that was formerly known as SolarCity, alleges that seven fires on Walmart rooftops were caused by the solar panel systems. Walmart asked Tesla to remove the solar panel systems on all 244 stores where they are currently installed and to pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels.

Now, a Walmart spokesperson said it is “actively working towards a resolution” with Tesla.

Neither Tesla or Walmart would explain the details of the negotiations.

The stakes are high for Tesla. Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk  announced a new rental offering for solar power in a bid to reboot the flagging renewable energy business.

Tesla’s share of the solar market has declined since its merger with SolarCity in 2016. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar, installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts, respectively.

Tesla’s renewable energy business includes residential and commercial solar and energy storage products. The company also has a utility-scale energy product called Megapack. While Tesla still produces solar panels for residential use, much of its focus has been on developing its solar roof, which is comprised of tiles. It still operates a commercial business, which targets municipalities, schools, affordable housing, enterprise and agriculture and water districts as customers.

The company doesn’t provide a breakdown of its solar installations, making it difficult to determine if the commercial business is flat, falling or on the rise. Language in its latest 10-Q suggests Tesla is putting a renewed effort into its solar business.

Tesla said it’s working on revamping the customer service experience for solar products, according to the 10-Q. The company said while its retrofit solar system deployments have it expects they “will stabilize and grow in the second half of the year.”


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Walmart sues Tesla for negligence after multiple solar panel fires – gpgmail


Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores caught fire, according to a filing.

Walmart said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in New York state court, arose from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla and the solar panels it designed, installed and promised to promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Bloomberg was the first to report on the court filing. The lawsuit is aimed at Tesla Energy Operations, a division within the clean energy and electric vehicle automaker that was formerly known as SolarCity .

Tesla did not return a request for comment. A Walmart spokesperson said there was nothing else to add beyond the lawsuit filed Tuesday. gpgmail will update the article if Tesla responds.

Walmart has asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer’s rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.

The lawsuit states:

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla. To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final “root cause” analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above. The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forth in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores.

Unsatisfied with Tesla’s actions, Walmart requested in May 2018 that the company disconnect all of the solar panel systems, according to the lawsuit. Tesla complied. However, Walmart alleges that another fire erupted even after the systems were disconnected.

 


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Tesla Begins Renting Solar Panels for as Little as $50 Per Month


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Tesla has worked to bring down the price of its electric vehicles, but there’s only so much you can do to make large solar panels affordable. The company’s solar installation business has lagged in recent quarters, but a new rental program might pique consumer interest. Consumers in several states can rent Tesla solar panel setups for their homes for as little as $50 per month. 

Tesla purchased solar panel installer SolarCity about three years ago when it was vying for the top spot in residential solar power. Tesla sold the systems, which can cost upwards of $30,000, in Home Depot stores for several years, but now it relies entirely on direct sales similar to its electric vehicles. Unfortunately, installations have been dropping. Tesla is now a distant third in US solar power behind SunRun and Vivint Solar which deployed 103 and 56 megawatts of solar power last quarter, respectively. Tesla only installed 29 megawatts. 

Under Tesla’s new rental system, consumers can pay as little as $50 per month for the solar panels. That’s for a “small” 3.8kWh installation on the roof that could generate almost 20 kWh per day in some of the sunnier states. You can only get the rental option in California (minimum $65), Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. The largest installations cost as much as $195 per month (California pricing). 

Tesla estimates consumers will save money even with the smallest installations, but not much. For example, in Arizona with its ample sunshine, consumers can expect to net between $110 and $280 per year after rental fees. The cost of electricity also matters, though. In shadier California where power prices are higher, you could cut your bills by $250-650 annually. 

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the lower out-of-pocket pricing makes it easy for anyone in supported states to get solar panels with just a few clicks. It’s like having a “money printer on your roof,” says Musk. Although, he admits it’s better over the long haul to buy the solar panels. You can’t rent a Powerwall battery system with the panels, but you can buy one and have it installed the same day.

While Tesla doesn’t guarantee you’ll save money with the rented solar panels, that seems like a safe assumption. The one catch is what happens when you decide to stop renting the panels. Tesla will charge $1,500 to remove the panels and repair the roof. The company claims it makes no profit on this process, but that could still erase most of the savings you’ve enjoyed from having the panels.

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Tesla pitches a solar rental program to boost its renewable energy business – gpgmail


Tesla is pitching customers on a new rental offering for solar power as a way to revive the flagging fortunes of its renewable energy business.

Once among the largest installers of renewables in the country through SolarCity, Tesla has seen its share of the market decline significantly since its acquisition of SolarCity three years ago. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts respectively.

That’s likely one reason why Elon Musk took to Twitter early Sunday morning to pitch the new solar rental program.

According to Musk, the new program is “like having a money printer on your roof” for potential customers who live in states with high energy costs. “Still better to buy,” Musk exhorted, “but the rental option makes the economics obvious.”

Unlike SunRun and Vivint, which both used partnerships with homebuilders and retailers like Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco and Sam’s Club to acquire customers, Tesla slashed ended door-to-door marketing and abandoned its partnership with Home Depot. The company began relying almost entirely on direct sales to power its solar business and eschewed the no-money-down lease model, which SolarCity had used so effectively.

Under the new system, Telsa is offering customers the option to rent solar systems for anywhere from $65 for a small installation to $195 for its largest installation. Customers only need to pay a fully refundable $100 charge.

Tesla said the contract can be canceled any time, but it would charge users $1,500 to remove the system once it has been installed.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

 




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SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman bid for US national security launch contract – gpgmail


The U.S. Air Force is looking to lock in its launch providers for national security satellite missions to take place between 2022 and 2026, and the bids for this so-called “Phase 2” procurement contract are now in. The field of competitors looking to become one of the two companies chosen is a who’s who of U.S. commercial launch providers at the moment, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman.

Both Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin are new entrants in this particular launch contracting area, while SpaceX and ULA are existing providers that handle U.S. national security missions. SpaceX additionally has a bit of a head start, since its Falcon rockets are the only proven, certified launch vehicles included in the bids submitted, while ULA has offered up its new Vulcan Centaur, which is tailor-made for the job but not yet certified and flight-proven; the others are still seeking certification.

“SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems capable of carrying out the full spectrum of national security space launch missions and requirements,” said SpaceX COO and president Gwynne Shotwell in an emailed statement, regarding this new bid.

SpaceX clearly sees its Falcon launch system as a key competitive advantage, as it’s flying currently for USAF and national security missions — the company says that this represents the lowest risk for the government overall in terms of providers for this mission, and with known costs, as well.

The Air Force will make its final selection about the two winning providers in 2020.


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