A Tragic Loss

On May 7th, 2016, Joshua D. Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S crashed into the side of a tractor-trailer, leading to an NHTSA investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot feature.

According to the statement released on Thursday by Tesla detailing the accident, both the car’s Autopilot system and the driver failed to apply the brake pedal leading up to the collision with the tractor-trailer.

Tesla

Tesla

Joshua Brown was an active fan of his Tesla Model S and its Autopilot feature, posting a video to his YouTube channel of the technology in action. In Tesla’s official statement Brown is referred to as a friend of the EV community. Brown was a Navy Seal who later started his own tech company, Nexu Innovations Inc. You can read his obituary here.

At the time of the accident, there had been witness reports that a Harry Potter movie could be heard playing in the car after the crash. However, this has now been verified in a new police report coming out today. Sergeant Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol said a DVD player was found inside the wrecked Model S after the crash, according to a phone interview with the Associated Press.

 

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Tesla Model S with aftermarket modifications costs $205,000

Who knew it could get any better? Seriously, the Tesla Model S is one of the most amazing cars sold today and bar none it is the best electric car available in the world. Yes, the Model S is sold at premium prices but what you are paying for is the most state of the art disruptive electric automotive technology ever invented.  Jalopnik auto blog recently shed some light on a US based aftermarket company called TSportline who has the honour of being the world’s first electric car accessory tuner specifically focusing on the Tesla Motors brand.  Check out their promotional video which reveals what a $82,000 upgrade on an already existing $123,000 Model S price tag looks like.

2013 Tesla Model S battles 2014 Corvette Stingray on dragstrip

Unless you have lived in a cave for the past year, you know that Tesla and their Model S is the hottest car in the world. From its incredible technology, top safety record to Consumer Reports going on record saying it’s the best car they have ever tested it does not get any better than this. Now, before you all jump over me about the NYT’s review and the Model S fires and there have been a few of them there is one important thing to remember.

As a car enthusiasts, the most important aspect of the Model S is that it looks good and it’s darn fast…..This is why I along with thousands of other folks want a Tesla Model S. It produces zero emissions and provides 416 horsepower and  443 lb ft of torque all available off the line.  Check out this new very cool video of a 2013 Tesla Model S P85 take on a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z51 at a drag strip in Palm Beach Florida.

We don’t want to spoil it for you but back in 2012 we did a another story where a Model S did a similar battle with a BMW M5 so the Model S has been down this road once before.

2014 Chevrolet Volt

Having  reviewed the 2012 Chevrolet Volt back in the summer of 2012 we were curious to see how it compared to the new 2014 model. Upon first glance the two models are very similar in look and feel but after driving the 2014 version for a week it does seem more stately overall.

Chevrolet Volt

2014 Chevrolet Volt

Throughout both experiences I really enjoyed driving the Volt and most of all it is just so fun and convenient not have to go to a gas station.  Unlike pure battery electric cars like the Nissan Leaf or even the Tesla Model S, the Volt plug-in hybrid can be driven straight across the country if you desire, while only having to fill up the gas tank every 500 km or so.  Behind the wheel, the driving mechanics of the Volt are top-notch with ample torque through acceleration and a low center of gravity which provides a sporty “eco” feel.  As well, for a small sedan it feels sturdy and carries a genuine confidence even on our snow-covered winter roads.

During the test week, I drove back and forth to work for five days while plugging it in a few times in my garage. The cost for the overnight charge is approx $2-3 according to most industry sources so it’s not exactly going to put your utility bill through the roof. In addition, the number of public charging stations is only going to rise as there are now ~ 200 stations in Ontario with more coming all the time. For full details on  these public charging station locations see the following map.

Having a short commute of only 20 kms round trip makes the Volt a perfect vehicle for the city dweller like me. However, one thing I did notice was the electric range was slightly effected in the cold December temperatures which is to be expected with electric power. The Volt’s gas engine actually turns on initially when the car is started in below zero degree temperatures (Celsius) to assist with heating of the engine.  However, in spite of this, the fuel use was negligible as after the week the fuel gauge had not moved.

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt interior

The news just keeps getting better for the plug-in 2014 Chevrolet Volt which now costs $3,000 less than it did initially since Chevy Canada cut the price from $41,545 to $38,595. However, along with the healthy $3,000 drop, there is also the combined purchase incentives available in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia that increase the Volt’s value. For example, here in Ontario, the current incentive value is $8,231 (CAD) resulting in the Volt’s starting price being reduced to $30,364 (CAD).  At this price, it’s surprising GM is not selling more Volts as it really is a practical car for a variety of consumer audiences.

Something else consumers should be aware of is the fact that the government of Ontario also offers up to $1000 towards the purchase and installation of a level 2 home charger as well as the green licence plate which provides access to the HOV lane network even with only one occupant up until June 30th, 2015.
Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Many people are not aware of the Volt’s overall practicality as a four-door, four-seat hatchback with tons of storage space.  Having packed the Volt with our Christmas gifts along with ski and snowboard equipment, I can honestly say it has almost as much room as our 2008 Ford Escape.  With the rear seats folded down it is quite cavernous in the back compartment.  The only real drawback as a result of its electric power is the loss of the middle rear seat which is taken up by the multiple batteries.

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

The Volt’s interior is very luxurious and includes the typical bells and whistles we have come to expect from a car priced in its range including; electronic stability control, seven-speaker Bose® audio system with subwoofer, 7 inch touch screen display with Turn-by-Turn Navigation, SiriusXM®4 Satellite Radio and the very cool Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users.

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Having reviewed two different models years, I can say with honesty that the Chevrolet Volt is a great all around car with tons of functionality for almost all drivers.  It’s certainly worth looking at closely if you are in the market for a four door sedan. One additional deciding factor about the Volt vs. an efficient gas-powered vehicle is the lower expected maintenance of electric vehicles as a result of them having less moving parts. This theory will be tested by the industry over the next few years as more plug-in electrics hit the market but most experts agree costs maintenance costs should be lower. As well, GM Canada is offering a 160,000 KM or 8 year warranty on the battery which provides owners with piece of mind.

Currently, there are several key competitors for the Volt including the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Motors’ i-MiEV which are both full battery electric vehicles. The Ford Focus EV and the plug-in version of the Toyota Prius also provide more competition on the plug-in side while the new BMW i3 is expected to be available in Canada by mid 2014 although it is priced slightly higher than the Volt.

Elon Musk buys James Bond Lotus Submarine

Our regular readers know we have a serious “bromance” for Tesla Founder Elon Musk so it should be no surprise we had to give this story some attention.  Recently, the Lotus Esprit submarine car used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me was sold at auction in London for $966,560.

Lotus Espirit Submarine car

Lotus Espirit Submarine car

At the time of the sale the buyer’s identity remained a mystery, but Jalopnik has now reported that billionaire genius Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX was the man who purchased it. But it gets better, according to a statement provided to CNN Money Musk was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform from car to submarine so he doesn’t plan to leave it as just a prop. “What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real”.  And seriously, if there is one man in the world that can make this happen it’s Elon Musk.

The history of the infamous Lotus submersible from movie star to collector piece of Elon Musk is equally interesting. As told by the folks at Autoblog, after filming ended in the 70s, the car was shipped to Long Island, NY and placed in a storage container that was paid in advance by the studio for 10 years. However, after the money ran out, the contents of the container were sold off Storage Wars-style in 1989 and won by an local couple. It was shown in public on occasion throughout the years, but its value remained a mystery until being sold last month. While the selling price tag is far from the most valuable James Bond car ever to be sold the Lotus Espirit submarine remains one of the most unique cars ever built.

Sources: CNN Money, Jalopnik, Autoblog.

Elon Musk is the “Thomas Edison” of our day

Yes, we here at RedlineNorth do have a bit of a “Bromance” going on with South African born Elon Musk.  I mean come on, how could you not?

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

He truly is, the Thomas Edison of our time.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Forget Steve Jobs, this is our hero! From his early days as behind the scenes business developer, to the $1.5 billion sale of Paypal to eBay in 2002, to his out of this world venture called Space X and its $1.6 billion contract with NASA as cargo transport provider.

Hello? These two accomplishments are absolutely totally extraordinary on their own but of course he did not stop there.  In 2003, Musk co-founded a “little” electric car company based in California’s Silicon Valley called Tesla Motors.

In 2008, Tesla developed the Tesla Roadster, using a Lotus Elise glider combined with an electric motor to form its first winning combination. After selling approximately 2400 roadsters, Tesla ran out of Lotus Elise gliders resulting in the end of production of the Roadster in January 2012. However, in June 2012, Tesla began delivery of its now popular four-door Model S sedan and with the exception of one controversial New York Times review the Model S has become the darling of the luxury sedan market.  Currently, the Tesla Model S is one of the hottest “it” vehicles and has become a key component of any wealthy gentlemen’s fleet.  As well, the recent demise of competitor Fisker Automotive has helped Tesla place themselves as manufacturer of the “sexiest” electric cars in the world.

Tesla Model S exceeded first quarter sales estimates

Tesla Model S

Mirroring this success, in early 2012 Tesla unveiled its third product, the Model X, targeted at the SUV/minivan market.  The Model X is scheduled to begin production in 2014 and many industry observers are anticipating record sales as Tesla hopes to capitalize on its amazing 2013 run.

In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV and Mercedes A Class, and to Toyota for their electric RAV4 model.

Shifting gears from the automotive world, last week Musk shared his proposal to the world for his Hyperloop, a new form of transportation. The new form of transport is a subsonic air travel machine that stretches approximately 350 miles (560 km) from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would enable commuters to travel between the two cities in 30 minutes, providing a shorter travelling time than today’s commercial airplane. The idea is similar to the tube systems used to transport documents in office buildings of day’s past. Yes, it is certainly 100% way out but Musk continues to be an “out of the box” thinker and with all of today’s challenges we need this type of great thinker even more. Seriously though, this guy is incredible and there is no telling what he’s going to do next.

And if I was a betting man, I would double down on Musk at every chance since he is a proven winner.  Sometimes you truly have to go with your gut as I found out first hand when I wimped out earlier this year on buying Telsa stock, a painful mistake since it is now up over 300%…..Oh well, I can still try and short it…….

Electric Vehicle Price Drop

This week the Globe and Mail reported that both Nissan, GM and Mitsubishi have all recently dropped their prices, or are offering time limited incentives, on their plug-in electric vehicle models.

The new S version of the Nissan Leaf debuting next month will retail at $31,698.  Buyers in Ontario will receive $8,500 back from the provincial government lowering the price to $23,198.  The SV version, was the lowest-priced model in 2012 at $38,395, will now cost $34,998 and will include a Level 2 (240V) charger.

2013 Nissan Leaf (Source: Nissan USA)

2013 Nissan Leaf (Source: Nissan USA)

Likewise, General Motors is offering a $4,000 incentive in the US towards its plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt, which has both a gasoline engine and electric motor. Finally, Mitsubishi Canada is offering between $5,000 and $7,000 off two versions of its full battery electric i-MiEV bringing the base model down to $30,998, or $22,498 in Ontario and slightly higher in Quebec and B.C.

For those interested in making the leap to electric vehicles, now is a good opportunity to make the investment as prices have never been this low.  With the cost of refueling the vehicles in the sub $5 range for most consumers across the country, along with the reduced maintenance costs, some real savings can be had by choosing electric vehicles.  This is not to mention the added benefits of the high torque, quiet ride and low center of gravity.

Although there have been downward pressures in the cost of the lithium batteries that store the energy in these vehicles, the question remains how long these incentives can be offered as the batteries can make up to one third the cost of the vehicles.  Time will tell.

Sources: Globe and Mail, Mitsubishi Canada

Hard Times for Fisker Automotive

Fisker Automotive the maker of the Karma plug-in hybrid electric sports car announced today that it is laying off about 75% of its work force, or about 165 people. This follows the resignation last month of the company founder, Henrik Fisker who started the company along with a partner in 2007.

Fisker Karma

Fisker Karma – Fisker Automotive announces significant layoffs

Fisker hasn’t produced a single vehicle since its battery supplier A123 Systems went bankrupt last year and was bought by the Chinese automotive parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group Corporation. Fisker was in talks with the new owners of A123 regarding a new battery contract.

Fisker received a $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2011 to help the automaker get started.  Today’s announcement casts doubt on the ability of Fisker to pay that loan back.

The quality of the Karma, Fisker’s only vehicle, received some negative press over the past year, most notably from Consumer Reports, which complained of some glitches in both the Karma’s hardware and software.

While the long term viability of electric vehicles in the global automotive market remains positive, it’s inevitable that there will be industry consolidation and company failures along the way as the business model of the new generation of electric vehicles matures.

Meanwhile on a more positive note, Tesla Motors, maker of the Model S a pure battery electric vehicle announced on Monday that Model S sales exceeded 4,750 units in the quarter.  This is higher than the 4,500 units Tesla had forecast and as a result they expect to turn a profit in the first quarter of this year.

Tesla Model S exceeded first quarter sales estimates

Tesla Model S exceeded first quarter sales estimates

Source: The Globe and Mail, The Guardian

Electric Vehicle News

News this week that Volvo will be bringing its Plug-In Hybrid Electric Diesel V60 to the New York Auto Show next week as it is one of the finalists for the 2013 Green Car of the Year Awards.  The V60 is the world’s first production diesel plug-in hybrid. The diesel engine paired with the electric motor and battery offering 50 kilometers of pure electric range will provide a combined fuel economy of 130 MPG. Of course being an electric there will be instant power off the line and the V60 will reportedly do 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds. In addition, the diesel engine will provide that much more range compared to gasoline.  No definitive answer as to whether the diesel version of the V60 PHEV will be coming to North America (Source Autoblog Canada).

World's First Diesel PHEV

V60 World’s First Diesel PHEV

Volkswagen also recently announced that it will be launching a pure electric version of its up! car. The Volkswagen e-up! will use the new Combined Charging System which will use a single plug for charging at Level 2 and Level 3. Unfortunately, the e-up! won’t be coming to North America at this point, however, other electric models from Volkswagen are expected to make it over to this side of the Atlantic including the e-Golf. Unlike the V60 the acceleration performance of the e-up! will not be as pronounced and will reportedly reach 0-60 mph in 14 seconds.  This is relatively slow by North American standards, however, it will travel 93 miles on a single charge which is very respectable as far as electric vehicles go.

Volkswagen e-up!

Volkswagen e-up!

Nissan Leaf warranty to now include battery capacity loss

Nissan USA announced yesterday that all existing and future Nissan Leaf’s sold in the US will have the battery covered under warranty for capacity loss for the first five years, or 60,000 miles of ownership. That is, if the battery capacity declines by over 30% (providing less than 9 out of the available 12 bars on the gauge), the battery will be fixed or replaced under warranty.  Nissan is the first electric vehicle manufacturer to offer such a warranty and could be a game changer.

Nissan Leaf owners to gain warranty coverage for battery capacity loss

Nissan Leaf owners to gain warranty coverage for battery capacity loss

The longevity of the battery contained within electric vehicles has been a concern for some consumers and could have a negative impact on purchases.  Like the batteries powering today’s smart phones and laptops, over time the capacity of the battery will decline due to the nature of the battery technology itself.  This is a common occurrence and depends on a number of factors include but not limited to type of use, extreme temperatures and the number of charge cycles.

While replacing a mobile phone or laptop battery can be expensive, it’s no where near the cost of replacing the battery powering an electric vehicle which makes up a significant amount of the cost of the vehicle itself.   By offering this warranty Nissan is differentiating itself in the electric vehicle market.

Time will tell how much impact this will have on the sales of the Leaf, which to date have not lived up to initial expectations. That being said one could argue the initial expectations for all electric vehicles sales over the short term were exaggerated to begin with.

It will also be interesting to see if any other electric vehicle manufacturer will follow Nissan’s lead and start covering battery capacity loss under the warranty of the vehicle. The Nissan announcement did not include any information on how much this new warranty coverage will cost the company.

Further details on the new Nissan warranty coverage will be communicated in the new year.

Read the original announcement

Source: Automotive News, MyNissanLEAF.com