TIME Autos

Tesla’s New Models Will Be Around 50% Cheaper

CEO Elon Musk said the next generation of Teslas would retail for as little as $35,000, around half the price of existing models

+ READ ARTICLE

Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed that the company’s next generation of vehicles would retail for as little as $35,000, or roughly half the price of existing models.

Musk unveiled the price as well as the name of the new electric vehicle, Tesla Model 3, in an interview with Auto Express.

The savings, he said, would come out of a thorough redesign of the vehicle that will cut the size down by 20% and install lighter, cheaper batteries from Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory. It would also limit the range of the vehicle to roughly 200 miles, compared with a range of 265 miles for the Model S.

Tesla tapped British engineer Chris Poritt, formerly of Aston Martin, to oversee the design of the new vehicle, and most essentially its new battery technology, which could put electric cars in the same cost bracket as gas guzzlers.

Tesla expects the Model 3 to launch by 2017.

[Auto Express]

TIME Innovation

Elon Musk Pledges $1M to Tesla Museum

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk Visits Beijing
CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk attends the television show "Dialogue" taping at Zhongshan Park in Beijing on April 21, 2014. ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

The billionaire CEO of Tesla Motors received a tweet asking for a donation. He responded, big time.

The man who tweeted Elon Musk to request a donation for the Tesla Museum got his answer Thursday. The Tesla Science Center, which cartoonist Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal.com has led a multimillion-dollar fundraising drive for, revealed that the billionaire founder of Tesla Motors had called Inman personally to pledge $1 million to the museum and build a Tesla “supercharger” station in the parking lot.

Back in 2012, Inman had raised nearly $1.4 million on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to repurpose the building in Shoreham, New York, which was the site of inventor Nikola Tesla’s last laboratory. But the Center still needed $8 million to refurbish the building, where in 1901 Tesla had begun a project to send messages and electric power around the world by wireless transmission — a project that he never completed.

So Inman tweeted a direct appeal to Musk, who replied encouragingly:

The appeal worked. What’s more, Musk’s donation comes just in time for the inventor’s birthday, who would have turned 158 years old today.

TIME Autos

Toyota Charges After Tesla With New Fuel-Celled Car

A challenge to Tesla

Toyota unveiled its 2015 hydrogen fuel-cell sedan on Wednesday, its closest competitor yet to Tesla’s fully-electric Model S.

The car will launch in Japan and cost seven million Yen (almost $70,000), but will not reach U.S. and European markets until the summer of 2015. The company known for the fuel-efficient Prius is one of the first to challenge Tesla after Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced that he would not initiate any patent lawsuits against competitors using his revolutionary technology.

But Toyota will not be going fully electric.

“Hydrogen is a particularly promising alternative fuel since it can be produced using a wide variety of primary energy sources, including solar and wind power,” the company said. “When compressed, it has a higher energy density than batteries and is easier to store and transport. In addition to its potential as a fuel for home and automotive use, hydrogen could be used in a wide range of applications, including large-scale power generation.”

The new sedan boasts a cruising range of approximately 435 miles and a refueling time of less than 3 minutes—leaving only water vapor in its wake.

MONEY deals

Drive Your Dream Car This Summer Without Spending a Fortune

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid courtesy of Porsche

What, you're not filthy rich? Don't let that stop you from driving a Porsche, Lamborghini, or Tesla this summer. It's even possible to drive a Porsche for free.

OK, free-ish. (See below—booking a room at a luxury hotel is required.)

When it comes to getting behind the wheel of a world-class sports car or luxury ride, it’s handy if you have either a trust fund or a seven-figure salary. Or both, of course. But with a little creativity, along with the willingness to turn the keys back over to their rightful owner after your time at the wheel is up, you too can afford the opportunity to hit the gas and hug turns in the primo dream vehicle of your choice. Here are some suggestions for making the dream come true:

Tesla Model S courtesy of Tesla

Do a Car Share—a Really Nice Car Share
Car sharing services such as Zipcar and RelayRides are often presented as affordable alternatives to owning a car, or renting via a traditional operator, for that matter. And while the peer-to-peer car sharing scene is dominated by basic, boring vehicles (2008 Camry anybody?), there are some genuine luxurious and sporty rides that average Joe owners are willing to rent to total strangers.

In California, several members of the Getaround car sharing service are willing to part with their Teslas at rates ranging from $25 to $100 per hour. RelayRides is also known to attract members renting out Teslas, BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and at least one Porsche for somewhere between $99 and $299 per day. As for Zipcar, the world’s largest car sharing membership operator, it tends to have vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Ford Focus, with the odd Audi A3 or MINI here and there.

Who’s to say your dream car has to be a Porsche, right? But if it is …

Get a Porsche Free with Your Hotel Room
From spring through early winter, Porsche is pairing up with select hotels like the Four Seasons Chicago that are providing guests with an amenity way better than any terry cloth robe or mint on the pillow: It’s a free stint behind the wheel of one of the world’s great sports cars. Guests are welcomed to book a two-hour drive during their stay in a choice of a Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, 911 Carrera S Cabriolet or Cayenne GTS, at no additional charge.

Driving itineraries are being suggested by another partner in the program, Forbes Travel Guides, in order to maximize opportunities for scenic views and the chance to put the gas pedal to the floor. Porsche Destination Drives, as the program is being called, is available to guests at the Four Seasons Chicago from June 14 to July, and the famous Grand Del Mar in San Diego from July 26 to August 23. After that, the Porsches move on to hotels in San Francisco and Scottsdale to wrap up the tour.

Snag a Super Deal on a True Supercar
Gotham Dream Cars, which has 38 locations around the country, has a number of different driving packages that let customers take the wheel of an exotic car. And since its drives are all on tracks, speedsters can indeed drive these cars like they were meant to be driven—in excess of 100 mph. The least expensive package is the Dream Car Sprint, which consists of three laps around an autotcross rack and normally costs $249. With a deal posted at Travelzoo, though, you’ll get the same package in your choice of a Ferrari F430 or Lamborghini Gallardo for $125. Lookout for Groupons in your area too; they’ve been known to pop up with a price of $99 for the Dream Car Sprint package.

Rent One from, Like, a Rental Car Company
Big rental car brands such as Hertz and Enterprise have locations devoted strictly to high-end luxury and sports car rentals, and the rates may be cheaper than you imagine. In southern California, for instance, Enterprise charges around $200 per day for cars like the Audi A5 convertible, BMW X5, and Chevy Camaro SS convertible. A Porsche Boxster goes for around $250 daily, and a Corvette rents for roughly $350. If that’s too rich for your blood, a much smaller rental car agency, the discount outfit Sixt, works with some luxury and sports models, including muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro, and show vehicles from Cadillac (Escalade), Mercedes, and BMW, with rates starting in the $55 to $60 per day range.

TIME Autos

Tesla’s First SUV Will Hit the Road Early Next Year

Tesla Model X
The Tesla Model X is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 2013. Stan Honda--Getty Images

Tesla Motors will begin shipping its first SUV early next year, the company revealed in an email to customers this week.

The Model X, which was first unveiled more than two years ago, is still on schedule to be delivered in early 2015, Tesla says — for customers who reserved it in advance, anyway.

The Model X will retain many of its prototype features that initially got car fans excited. The SUV’s signature falcon doors, which open upward instead of outward, will make it to the final version of the vehicle, as will all-wheel drive and optional third-row seating.

Right now Tesla’s flagship vehicle is the Model S, which sold about 22,500 units in 2013. The company is still scaling up the production of the Model S; it will likely take the rollout of the Model X slowly as well.

TIME Companies

Tesla Stock Takes a Tumble After Lower Profits

The company expects to deliver more than 10,000 more vehicles this year, but high costs rattled investors.

Tesla stock fell approximately 9% Thursday morning before partially recovering a day after the company announced a big drop in profits.

The maker of high-end electric cars said Wednesday that revenue rose in the first quarter but costs tapered profits. Tesla earned $17 million last quarter, down from $45.9 million in the previous quarter.

Billionaire CEO Elon Musk said operating expenses, including research and development and sales and administration costs, will continue to grow in the next quarter. That growth will be partially fueled by development for Tesla’s new crossover-utility vehicle Model X, which is expected to go on sale next year, CNN Money reports. The company’s expansion into China and construction of a new battery factory also weighed down on profits.

The company aims to deliver 35,000 vehicles this year, up 55% from last year.

At 10:35 a.m. ET Thursday, Tesla stock was down $11.60, or 5.8%, to $189.75.

TIME

Better Fuel Efficiency Is Hurting the Most Efficient Cars of All

A Toyota Prius hybrid car.
Toyota Motors / AFP / Getty Images

Why aren’t sales higher for electric vehicles and hybrid plug-ins? A big reason has to do with the technology that EVs are supposed to replace, the internal combustion engine.

Last year, Nissan Leaf sales more than doubled the total from 2012. Sales for the entire plug-in category, which includes pure battery-powered vehicles like the Leaf and gas-electric hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, nearly doubled as well last year.

Even so, automakers have recently launched major incentives and price-cutting measures in order to win over potential buyers. And the reason they’re doing so is that sales, while on the rise, haven’t been as strong as many had hoped.

“EVs have been a disappointment, compared to what we expected,” Morgan Stanley analyst Ravi Shanker flatly said, according to Automotive News. “Their cost hasn’t come down enough. Batteries haven’t gotten better. And gas prices haven’t gone up like everyone expected. And at the same time, the automakers have done a great job of making the internal combustion engine better.”

Yes, some of the explanation for why electric vehicles aren’t selling better is directed squarely at plug-ins themselves. As skeptics have pointed out since EVs hit the marketplace, the limited driving range, high initial price, and/or slow and inconvenient charging procedure of plug-in cars are deal breakers for many drivers.

But as Shanker noted, underwhelming plug-in sales can also be partially explained by the other parts of the equation affecting consumer car-buying decisions. When gas prices are high, and the assumption is that they’ll keep on increasing, opting for an electrified car makes more and more sense as a long-term money saver. Likewise, when comparing the costs of commuting and running routine errands in a battery-powered car versus an old-fashioned gas guzzling SUV or sedan, the EV can seem like an especially savvy move for the household budget.

What’s hurting plug-in sales, however, is that gas prices aren’t sky high, and few experts today are forecasting the impending arrival of $5 per gallon like they were two years ago. The other factor is that gas guzzlers are disappearing, with new studies indicating that half of the new cars sold this year get 23 mpg or better, and new cars now averaging over 25 mpg thanks to improved efficiency in the internal combustion engine, as well as automakers (and buyers) generally embracing lighter, smaller cars.

Amazingly, car dealerships and sales staffers themselves often don’t seem sold on the wisdom of going electric. Secret shoppers from Consumer Reports just concluded a broad investigation of car dealerships and plug-ins, and during the course of visiting 85 dealerships, they found out that few dealership lots have decent selections of plug-ins, and that many sales employees aren’t knowledgeable about EV sales incentives and technology. Perhaps unsurprisingly, sales staffers who weren’t fully up to speed about plug-ins were particularly likely to try to steer customers away from EVs and toward traditional cars powered solely by internal combustion engines.

“Many seemed not to have a good understanding of electric-car tax breaks and other incentives or of charging needs and costs,” the CR report stated, referring to dealership sales staffers encountered by secret shoppers. “Many also didn’t seem to recognize that for people who intend to go with an electric car, the reasons for leasing are broader than for ordinary cars, including that you don’t have to wait until tax time to receive a generous tax incentive.”

If professional car sales employees don’t understand how all of this works, and can’t (or won’t) lay out a simple, sensible case for switching to a plug-in car, and can’t (or won’t) explain the smartest way to do so, imagine how the average consumer feels.

TIME Autos

Here Comes the Next Big Push to Get Drivers to Buy Electric Cars

Japan Nissan
Itsuo Inouye—AP

Everybody understands that one big upside of owning an electric car is that you’ll never have to spend a penny on gasoline. Now, you won’t have to pay for the electricity needed to charge the car either.

Thanks to a new “No Charge to Charge” initiative from Nissan, drivers who purchase or lease a new battery-powered Nissan Leaf will receive a special card that allows them to plug in at public charging stations at no cost whatsoever starting July 1. The program will be available in 25 U.S. markets, which have collectively accounted for 80% of all Leaf purchases thus far, and owners will be able to charge their vehicles for free for two years. Anyone who purchases outright or leases a new Leaf as of April 1 or later is eligible in the participating markets, which include many major cities along the West Coast, as well as Nashville, Houston, and Washington, D.C.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s FuelEconomy.gov site, a Nissan Leaf owner can expect to pay an average of $550 in “fuel cost” annually, based on driving 15,000 miles per year. So Nissan’s program would seem to be the equivalent of a $1,100 bonus for buyers. Whether or not an owner actually realizes such a return will depend a lot on how easy it is to use the public charging stations where plugging in is free. Most electric car owners charge their vehicles at home at night, and Nissan isn’t going to pitch in with any portion of your house’s electricity bill.

Even if “No Charge to Charge” offers less of a return that it initially seems like at first glance, the program obviously makes it more enticing—and more cost-effective—to buy a Leaf, so it could push some potential buyers off the fence. “The net effect here is it really increases the utility of the Leaf for the driver,” Norman Hajjar, research director for the electric-car app creator Recargo, said of Nissan’s new initiative, via the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nissan’s move comes at a muddled time in the electric car market, when Tesla is clearly the runaway success at the high end of the field, and when a wide range of less expensive EVs, plug-ins, and hybrids continue to vie for consumer attention. Despite the arrival of more and more plug-in models into the market, hybrids and electric cars remain a very small niche, representing around 3% of new car sales.

In a statement that’s about as definitive as you can get, Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com, told the Detroit Free Press, “Plug-in vehicles aren’t going away, but how many will sell, at what price and using which technology, is yet to be determined.”

The Nissan Leaf ended 2013 on a high note, with its best sales month ever in December: 2,529 units sold, bringing the year’s total to 22,610, more than double the amount in 2012. But the disappearance of end-of-year incentives, combined with brutally cold weather that hurt all auto sales, resulted in a big electric car sale slump in early 2014. According to MarketWatch, there were 918 Chevy Volts and 1,252 Nissan Leafs sold in January 2014, compared to 2,392 Volts and 2,529 Leafs the previous month.

Leaf sales have rebounded with the onset of warmer weather, including 2,507 units sold in March, its second-best month ever, and a 12% increase over March 2013. For the first three months of 2014, meanwhile, sales of the gas-electric hybrid Volt decreased by 15% compared to the same period in 2013.

In any event, it’s clear that for any plug-in to achieve true mainstream appeal, some work needs to be done to convince the average driver of the cost-effectiveness of an electric car. Basically, the cars need to be cheaper to own and operate, or automakers need to do a better job of proving to consumers that these vehicles are indeed cheap to own and operate.

Throwing in two years’ worth of free charging, as Nissan is doing, certainly helps the equation. So does the tried-but-true practice of simply lowering the retail price. That’s what Nissan did in early 2013, which resulted in the automaker selling twice as many Leafs in 2013 that it did the previous year. And that’s what GM is planning for the next Chevy Volt, with the recent news that an entry-level Volt should hit the market for the 2016 model year with a list price starting at around $30,000—roughly $10,000 less than the base price of the original Volt.

TIME Automotive

Feds Close Tesla Investigation

Christie Appointees Ban N.J. Direct Sales for Musk's Tesla Cars
A Model S with sits on display at the Tesla store in the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, NJ, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Emile Wamsteker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is happy with the electric car company after it agreed to install more shields underneath its vehicles to prevent roadway debris from damaging its batteries and sparking fires

The United States’ federal highway safety regulator has closed its investigation into battery fires in Tesla’s Model S electric cars.

“A defect trend has not been identified,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in its report this week.

The regulator opened the investigation after three battery fires last year raised questions about the vehicle’s safety. The NHTSA said Tesla has made sufficient design tweaks to “reduce the frequency of underbody strikes and the resultant fire risk.”

TIME Tesla

Tesla’s War With the States Shifts Into Overdrive

Christie Appointees Ban N.J. Direct Sales for Musk's Tesla Cars
A Model S is displayed at the Tesla store in the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J., on March 12, 2014 Emile Wamsteker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The electric car maker run by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk is fighting powerful auto interests in states across the U.S. for the right to sell its cars directly to consumers, upending the traditional dealership model

Tesla’s campaign to sell its electric cars directly to consumers shifted into high gear this week as state lawmakers debated Tesla-related bills while powerful auto lobbyists braced for a fight. In New York, a measure designed to ban Tesla from opening new stores passed a key hurdle, while in Arizona, lawmakers pushed a bill to make it easier for Tesla to sell its cars without establishing a dealer network.

The escalating conflict underscores Tesla’s role as a disruptive force in the U.S. auto industry, not only because the company’s cars don’t use gasoline engines, but also because Tesla is trying to upend the dealership-franchise model that has underpinned the automobile industry for decades. That model — and laws protecting it — emerged in the 1930s as a way for automakers to build a national sales and service force and help foster local economic growth.

Tesla sells cars directly to customers through its own retail locations — much like Apple does with its high-tech products — whereas other car companies rely on independently owned dealerships for sales and service. Auto-industry lobbyists say this model protects the public by ensuring consumer choice. They also warn that if Tesla is allowed to skirt the franchise model, consumers could be left in the lurch without a local service location if the electric-car maker goes bankrupt.

Tesla is currently barred or restricted from selling its cars directly to consumers in several states, including Texas, Arizona and, as of last week, New Jersey. In those states, the company operates “galleries” where consumers can inspect Tesla cars, but employees are prevented from discussing pricing or offering test-drives. After inspecting a Tesla, consumers in those states can purchase a vehicle online.

(MORE: Tesla CEO Rips New Jersey Over ‘Backroom Deal’ Auto-Sales Ban)

New York state assemblyman David Buchwald will hold a press conference on Friday joined by Tesla officials and environmental advocates to oppose the New York bill, which Tesla says would end the direct sale of its cars in New York. The bill, which passed a key New York state Assembly committee on Wednesday, and is backed by several dealership associations, would stifle innovation and limit consumer choice, according to Buchwald.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would allow Tesla to sell cars in the state without establishing a dealer network, reversing a ban that dates back to 2000. “This is a great opportunity for us to send a message that we welcome business and we welcome Tesla here to Arizona,” state representative Warren Petersen, the bill’s sponsor, said in comments cited by the Associated Press. “We shouldn’t deny our consumers from being able to purchase a product if they want.”

The Arizona bill highlights an awkward situation facing lawmakers there. Arizona is one of four states that Tesla is considering for its planned 10 million-sq-ft (900,000 sq m) lithium-ion-battery factory, which would supply the company’s California electric-car-assembly plant. Tesla plans to invest $2 billion in the new battery facility, dubbed the Gigafactory, and says it could employ as many as 6,500 workers at the plant. Earlier this week, Arizona’s entire U.S. congressional delegation sent Tesla a letter touting the state as an “ideal choice for this revolutionary factory.”

But even as Arizona officials woo Tesla over the Gigafactory, the company is prohibited from selling its cars directly to consumers in the state. (Texas, another candidate for the Gigafactory, also bars Tesla from selling its cars directly to consumers.) According to Arizona state senator Bob Worsley, the bill allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers is “not a quid pro quo,” he told the AP. “I want the message from our state to be that we welcome the opportunity to work with large successful companies with this size market cap.”

Tesla is battling powerful state auto-dealership interests across the country. In Ohio, the state Automobile Dealers Association waged an unsuccessful legal fight to shut down Tesla’s two existing locations in Cincinnati and Columbus. Now the group is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would prevent the company from expanding to new retail locations by blocking auto manufacturers from obtaining dealer licenses.

Back in New York, the anti-Tesla bill is headed for a full vote just days after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which is composed of political appointees selected by Governor Chris Christie, blocked Tesla’s ability to sell electric cars through its own retailers in that state. In response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk charged that auto-dealer lobbyists “cut a backroom deal” with Christie “to circumvent the legislative process.” Jim Appleton, head of the N.J. Coalition of Automotive Retailers, shot back by claiming that Musk was having a “hissy fit.”

Musk mocked the “consumer protection” rationale that was presented. “If you believe this, Governor Christie has a bridge closure he wants to sell you!” Musk wrote in a company blog post. “Unless they are referring to the mafia version of ‘protection,’ this is obviously untrue.’”

As a result of the new rule, New Jersey residents will soon have to go out-of-state or use the Internet if they want to purchase a Tesla vehicle. Musk urged would-be Tesla buyers to visit the company’s New York City store or its King of Prussia, Pa., location near Philadelphia.

For his part, Christie blamed the New Jersey state legislature for effectively banning Tesla from selling cars to consumers directly in the state. “I’m not pushing Tesla out; the state Legislature did,” Christie said at a town-hall meeting, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “I have no problem with Tesla selling directly to customers, except that it’s against the law in New Jersey.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser