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"BlueStar" with ICE?

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by TEG, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    According to this Businessweek article:
    “…If necessary, the company would be willing to use a small gas engine to boost Blue Star’s range and broaden its appeal….”

    That seems like an "about face" from Tesla's old stance of "all electric or bust".

    A quote from one of Martin's Old blog entries:
    "...Tesla Motors will remain focused on building the best electric cars for the foreseeable future. With each passing year, our driving range will get longer and the argument for plug-in hybrids will get weaker. To hell with gasoline..."
     
  2. Cobos

    Cobos S60 owner since 2013

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    I must say I don't really see this as a problem as such...
    Taking into consideration there might be a misquote here somewhere, taking this at face value I don't see the problem. He is talking about the Bluestar about 5 years into the future. Whatever they say about the Bluestar now, the Whitestar's specs aren't even final so it's pretty much open still. One thing Tesla has said and shown is that they are very pragmatic in the way they handle their technical problems. The problem with the Bluestar is the price point is so aggressive they might have to settle for a pretty crappy battery at least at first and thus they are saying we'll look at all options.
    A very good example is the reception the new Th!nk got in Norway among EV enthusiasts. Th!nk says that the car with the Zebra battery got a 180km range in summer and 90km range in winter due to running the heater all the way. Norway easily has 4-6 months which need a heater and maybe 1 summer month that need AC. People are hoping that Think will offer a small parafine burner you use as a separate heater and thus maintain your range, as that is what most other EV offers available in Norway now offers. Of course in this case it's not really a ICE but a wierd form of hybrid :)

    Cobos
     
  3. Brent

    Brent Member

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    If the article's true, it would seem to be a change in goals. It'd be great if somehow TM could stay on the high road ... but my money's not at stake.

    I read somewhere a quote from Elon to the effect that making Bluestar at the promised price point would be quite difficult. An ICE could well provide a partial solution to the problem, but it would bring up different issues, and might not be in the best long-term interests of the company. I'm sure it's not lost on TM's management that ICEs have higher and different maintenance requirements, and that such engines would pull the company's resources in unwanted directions.

    The brand identity so far has revolved around the new and exciting concept of TM being uniquely electric. So far, it seems, this advantage has overcome battery range and recharge issues, and customers have snapped up everything TM can produce -- even before it produces it. If batteries remain too expensive to make a $30,000 car, but the company can sell everything it makes at $60,000+, then what's wrong with being a luxury car maker? Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Porsche, and others have operated just fine in that space for years.

    But this is all armchair gossip. It seems now that Bluestar is so far out -- with Whitestar being pushed at least into 2010, and Bluestar said to follow it at some distance -- that anything could happen.
     
  4. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    Plan B

    I'm sure that Blue Star as a plug-in hybrid is still "plan B" for Tesla.

    But you know, there's a lot of uncertainty and it may be a much as two years from now before Blue Star even gets into serious design work and those kinds of decisions have to be made. It's really that far in the future, and a lot could happen between now and then.

    For example. . . What will happen with battery costs? I'm confident that mass manufacturing will eventually bring battery costs down -- but that "eventually" might take upwards of 10 or 15 years. If BEVs and PHEVs explode in popularity, battery costs could actually go higher in the short run.

    Another example. . . What if PHEVs like the Chevy Volt and the next-gen Prius hit the market and are a huge success, and everybody's going crazy for them? Is Tesla then compelled to answer with their own PHEV? Or would it be suicidal to tackle GM and Toyota head-on with a fundamentally similar product?

    It's also possible that if Tesla did go PHEV, they might be able to leapfrog over Toyota and GM by using a more advanced form of heat engine: a gas turbine, or Rotapower, or maybe even Stirling engine. (I'm sure they'll be closely watching Th!nk and Dean Kamen's experiments with Stirling engines.) GM and Toyota are both heavily invested in the conventional reciprocating piston engine, and they obviously want to use something they've already got sitting on a shelf -- whether it's well-suited to the application or not. Tesla would be under no such constraints.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, maybe EEStor comes out with an amazing supercapacitor and the whole ball game is changed again, and gasoline is quickly rendered obsolete. You just don't know.

    I don't have all the answers, I'm just pointing out how much uncertainty there is. Alt-fuel cars, and plug-in cars particularly, are a rapidly developing area from both technical and marketplace standpoints.
     
  5. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I even hope that the Whitestar comes available with a range extender option for those that would want an upscale vehicle, but can only afford a single vehicle and would need it to serve a need for long distance travel as well as local commuting.

    Of course, another option would be to co-develop a CUV with a range extender as an upscale model to further increase the potential market.
     
  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    One of the beauties of Tesla is that they are using the simple, elegant technology and staying away from the really complex things (that also happen to pollute). If they did decide to have some sort of combustion based generator, I hope they would find some breakthrough technology instead of the tired, old infernal combustion engine. Tesla is still a tiny company compared to a typical "ICE maker".... Do they really want to have to hire people who design emission control systems, fuel tanks, and all that? I am sure there are people in the Michigan design center with ICE expertise who will continue to offer it up as an option, but I really hope Tesla doesn't go there.

    I hope Tesla is eventually the first to have a multi-spectrum solar panel system actually integrated into the vehicle to self charge. That technology is coming and others have suggested that they will offer it. Sure, cost of new technology is an issue, but Tesla should find creative ways to get inexpensive technology (like they are doing by using laptop batteries) rather than trying to take the easy way of integrating a pre-existing ICE motor.

    Now, many of the big car companies have been preaching fuel cells as the answer. It would certainly be preferable to using an ICE, but so far they haven't proven to be viable for a mass market vehicle.
     
  7. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Mainecoon Butler

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    #7 WarpedOne, Aug 10, 2007
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2007
    I wouldn't say the sky is falling. Elon already said Bluestar project will be harder to pull-off than the Roadster or even WhiteStar. 30.000$ target price means the price of batteries will have to come down considerably. With 6% annualy price decrease in the following 5 year time, the roadster battery price will only drop from 20.000$ to 15.000$. That is still the half of the whole car (Bluestar). Tesla is serious about the project so they are looking at all the options. Maybe they are thinking about halving the battery pack (and so it's cost) and offering an optional range extender trailer with some additional cargo space?

    The trailer could have permanently mounted ICE electric generator with no gearbox and no transmission. It would only generate electricity at constant power and fill the main car batteries. Its efficiency could be quite high (relatively to ordinary ICE cars) and when not needed (normal daily city driving) it could be easily left at home.

    Actually such a trailer offers additional flexibility over onboard ICE. Some customers will do fine with onboard battery pack only and won't need and ICE helper at all. Why force them into paying for it? The trailer could be made a standalone product fittable to more than one single model. Same trailers for Whitestar and Bluestar? Also more than one model could be made:
    - trailer with only ICE generator
    - trailer for "longdriving" with more powerfull generator and some cargospace
    - ...

    In this way Tesla Motors would still qualify as a pure electric car company. All reasoning Martin has done would still hold.
     
  8. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    Batteries

    A couple of things to note about batteries. . .

    I've actually read that Li-ion prices have been dropping about 8% per year, rather than 6%. If it follows that trend, then the replacement cost for a Roadster's ESS would be about $12,000. However, I put no faith in historical trends as a means to predict future prices.

    As always, it will depend on supply and demand. I think it's likely that demand will surge first (after Li-ion begin appearing in hybrids), which will mean prices stay high for a while, and then some years later demand will catch up (as new manufacturing plants come online) and the price will plummet. Eventually the Li-ion cells in a Roadster might settle as low as $2000 for OEMs. It won't happen in time to benefit Blue Star, though. It might happen in time for Tesla's Model 5 or Model 6. (Magenta Star? Burnt Sienna Star?)

    I think Tesla should take a hard look at how short a range might be acceptable in a less expensive, mass-market car. If you accept lower range, then you can get by with a smaller battery pack, and then all kinds of benefits come from that. You save cost on the batteries themselves, and you also reduce the weight of the vehicle. A lighter vehicle can then perform better and also be more efficient.

    I'm very intrigued by the fast-charging system that Phoenix are experimenting with. If you have an electric car that can go 100 miles and can recharge in 10 minutes, and if the fast-charging stations are available in enough places where you travel (which I know is a big IF), that could become pretty practical. Reduced battery capacity makes it easier to design a fast-charging station, it could make them less expensive, which in turn would make it practical to install the stations more widely.

    Tesla have laid out a vision of someday being able to go 500 miles on a single charge, which for most of us (certainly for me) is about as far as we'd ever want to drive in one day. It's an appealing vision, but I just want everyone to understand how far away today's battery technology is from achieving that. It would take at least a 150% improvement in Li-ion energy density, plus you'd still be looking at a very expensive car made from exotic, lightweight materials -- like an aluminum frame and carbon-fiber body, for example. And for most of us, for the vast majority of the driving we do which is *not* long cross-country trips, about 80% of that expensive battery pack would be dead weight.
     
  9. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    There are big differences between what Americans and Europeans would consider tolerable as a "City Car".

    We wouldn't be bothered with something that looked like the Th!nk New City or the Smart For Two. 100 mile range (25kWh?) would be fine since it would spend it's life either sitting in rush hour traffic jams followed by 8 hours plugged into one of two chargers - the one at home or the one in the office car park.

    Can't really imagine the home-market accepting a Bluestar that looked like that. Having gotten away from the "punishment car" image, I feel that the US market will be reluctant to let Tesla try to return to it. Even if the government taxes gas to pay for all those bridge repairs or as an alternative to 35mpg CAFE standards.

    "Weird-looking little eco-cars should be foreign, not American."
     
  10. DDB

    DDB Member

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    Take a look at the Javlon. They've got the Chinese ability to cut major costs. The Javlon is to sell for $32,000...and its prototype will here in the U.S. by September. It doesn't look anything like an eco-car shaped like an egg. Look out everyone.
     
  11. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    For Tesla there is a "west coast style" thing going as well.
    It isn't just what American's want, but Tesla is run by people with upscale west coast tastes.

    If you look at what Silicon Valley and Hollywood types have bought for decades you find a high ratio of BMW and Porsche's compared to the rest of the country.

    I hope (and expect) that Tesla will want more "European style flair" in their product style just like they have with the Roadster.
     
  12. DDB

    DDB Member

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    There's an awful lot of celebs out there buying Toyota Priuses. They seem to want practical. I'd rather have practical (and something that would sell) rather than a conversation piece.
     
  13. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yes, but they want the style too... Some have expressed the interest to buy something as "green" as a Prius but not so boring. There is a market for a Prius with more panache.
     
  14. mt2

    mt2 Member

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    Since the BlueStar is at least four years away, a lot could happen between now and then - and I don't mean just technology. These guys have a lot of business savvy and have demonstrated that they don't mind alliances at all. Hypothetically - and only hypothetically - Tesla could co-develop a PHEV vehicle with TH!NK using Dean Kamen's Stirling engine with their own ESS.
     
  15. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Someone posted this link on the Tesla blog mentioning that Moller has been thinking about small rotary engine generators for hybrids.
     
  16. mt2

    mt2 Member

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    Moller!? It's the 21st Century, damn it. Where's my flying car? In June they announced they found a Romanian manufacturer for the Rotopac, but I remain skeptical.

    Seriously, if I were betting on any type of combustion engine in the BlueStar, I'd bet on the DEKA Stirling. Kamen has a long history of bringing revolutionary products to market. He's already put a CNG powered Stirling in his own City Car and has made it public knowledge that he's in discussions with TH!NK about mass producing it for them.

    Still, I'd rather put the Stirling in my tool shed and power the house and BlueStar with bio-waste and passive solar heat. But if a smaller battery and Stirling make the BlueStar a 'people's car', I say go for it.
     
  17. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Moller also has a smaller version:

    DAVIS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Moller International (OTCBB:MLER) announced today that it has successfully coupled its 150cc Rotapower® engine to a high-performance brushless generator to create a breakthrough in the portable 10KW electric power range. This latest Rotapac Power Module follows an earlier 35 KW very compact Rotapac unit the company developed for the hybrid car industry under a DARPA/CALSTART contract. Both units occupy less than 20% of the volume and weight of existing gen-sets. This remarkable achievement is due to the attributes of the company’s Rotapower engine originally developed for its aeronautical products. The 10KW Rotapac occupies only 1.5 cubic feet and is one-man portable. Existing gen-sets of comparable power can occupy 8-to-12 cubic feet of volume.
    In the emerging Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) market, using either Rotapac would leave far more volume available for batteries. “The Rotapac is a marvelous little package for anyone in need of portable electric power,” said Dr. Paul Moller, founder and President of Moller International. “It can be used in many applications such as home emergency power, construction or transportation.” A single 10KW Rotapac Power Module provides enough electrical power for a number of average size homes during an emergency.
    In recent emissions tests the Rotapower® engine ran equally well on gasoline or ethanol and has demonstrated its potential to run on diesel fuel as well. Previously the Rotapower® engine was able to achieve very low emissions (see “Moller's Rotapower® Engine Produces Emissions Far Below California's SULEV Standard”, September 15, 2006). In these tests it met the California’s Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standards on gasoline and the Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standards on ethanol.
    Moller International is soliciting manufacturers, clients or co-developers who require a very compact portable power source for their applications. For more details please contact Mr. Bruce Calkins, email: [email protected] , Voice: (530) 756-5086 ext. 33, Fax: (530) 756-5179
    Safe Harbor Statement:
    Except for historic information contained in this release, the statements in this news release are forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, which may cause a company's actual results in the future to differ materially from forecasted results. These risks and uncertainties include, among other things, the company's ability to attract qualified management, raise sufficient capital to execute its business plan, and effectively compete against similar companies.
    Rotapower® is a registered trademark of Moller International, Inc. in the US and other countries.
     

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