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WhiteStar Cost-cutting

Discussion in 'Model S' started by Kardax, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. Kardax

    Kardax Member

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    Tesla Motors seems faced with an impossible task in building the WhiteStar. Here's why:

    The Tesla Roadster spares no expense in cutting weight: carbon fiber body panels, aluminum chassis, alloy wheels, and more. It also uses a very low profile and aerodynamic shape to improve efficiency. This work delivers a very sporty 0-60 in 4 seconds and 200+ miles range. At $100,000...

    The WhiteStar could theoretically use all the same construction materials, but it'll need more of everything to seat 4 people and have a trunk. By necessity, it'll be larger, definitely increasing weight and probably reducing aerodynamics. And the result will be $50-65 grand.

    Something's gotta give. The gasoline world cuts costs by using a lot more steel and adding a bigger gas tank to keep the range reasonable. A big gas tank doesn't affect the price of the car. The opposite is true in EVs--batteries are are the most expensive component.

    Does anyone have any thoughts as to what sacrifices Tesla will make in construction of the WhiteStar?

    -Ryan / Kardax
     
  2. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I have been pondering the same things myself. I don't know what they will do.
    I suspect that the carbon fiber body could be too expensive for WhiteStar.
    I expect they will try to use a lot of aluminum, but steel could be less expensive in some places.

    I read that the target performance was 0-60 in 5.7, so given the rough calculation 5.7/3.9*2600 we get roughly 3800lbs.
    It isn't going to offer the same performance levels as the Roadster, so it can take on a few pounds.

    Now I expect they want a lot more luxury features in the Whitestar, so they are really going to have to watch the weight carefully.
     
  3. AGR

    AGR Member

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    The WhiteStar should be the size of a CamCord(Camry/Accord) - 3 Series - C Class - A4 if the WhiteStar is the size of a 5 Series / E class it will be slightly too big.

    The reality might be that the WhiteStar should be a CUV with distinctive styling and an AWD option. Similar to a CX7 - RDX and so on.

    Tesla can buy a new C Class that will be available on Aug 7, and see what M-B is doing to keep weight down still have an excellent safety rating, steel, high strenght steel, aluminum, and a good measure of plastic. Newer cars the entire front end, and rear end is moulded plastic to save weight, and make it easy to have the car assembled.

    There is an appreciable difference between modifying and repowering an existing car to designing and engineering a car from a blank sheet of paper. The time frame is at least 36 months, from the start to producing a car. When does Tesla want to start selling / delivering the WhiteStar?

    By now Tesla should have a preliminary design of the WhiteStar, and start "leaking" the design to get the buzz going.

    They should also have the Roadster finalised, and start making it available to the automotive media and pundits to take it out and beat the you know what out of it, and tell me what you think. Chaperoned road tests in a controlled environment have a limited life span.

    Carbon fibre makes sense in a limited / low production car, plastic is the carbon fibre of volume cars.
     
  4. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I tend to dislike the use of the world "should"... Are you saying "should" as "ideally it would be ___", or "we expect it will be ___"???
    To me, I would like it to be the size of a 3 series, but I gather from Tesla mumblings that it is more likely to be 5 series+ sized.

    If Tesla had used the APX Crossover chassis (like Zap said would be the basis for their Zap-X), then it would be like you described (CX7 like).
    I am convinced that Tesla wants to do a more conventional sedan. I don't think they will have a high seating position, tall roof design like the APX, CX7, etc. In a way the APX chassis would be the easy way to go because Tesla already has a strong relationship with Lotus and the APX is already a good design for a lightweight family vehicle. But Tesla wants to have full control this time, and expects to have cost savings by doing it themselves in the USA.

    To me the WhiteStar is a new frontier for Tesla. The Roadster was done by EV & computer people working with Lotus, whereas Tesla is now going to use the expertise of their new auto industry experts in their Michigan facility. I don't think they can rest on any Roadster laurels. They will need to work hard and fast to take on another large challenge usually accomplished only by companies much larger. I don't know if Tesla will have the space or budget to buy a lot of sample cars to pick apart. I have a feeling they are going to use the shared wisdom of people with a background in this area, and maybe they can figure it out with a clean slate. Tesla is certainly willing to "think outside the box" and try something different and innovative, but they are also trying to get things done fast and cheap by using as much existing commodity technology as possible. I bet the auto engineers working for Tesla in Michigan are being given an opportunity to try new things that are more "personally innovative" than what they would get to do in a low level job at one of the big old car companies. Hopefully Tesla can get a lot of value from some latent talent that was otherwise wasted being a cog in a big lumbering machine.
    Yeah - there sure is - that is why I cross my fingers that Tesla gets the Whitestar right even though it looks like they did all the right things with the Roadster.
    A Tesla press release says "The first cars will roll off the assembly line in the fall of 2009, and Tesla Motors will produce at least 10,000 cars each year. The vehicles will cost $50,000 for the standard model or $65,000 for a premium model"
    According to Wikipedia, "WhiteStar may be introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model"

    (Speculation) Based on the fact that the Roadster seems a tad behind schedule, and the construction of the WhiteStar factory seems behind schedule, I am going to guess that the fall 2009 production date might not happen quite on time (but please prove me wrong!)

    We are getting small leaks of info already. For instance I recently learned the following:
    * It may have a good portion of the ESS batteries flat (under the floor) rather than in a vertical box like the Roadster
    * It is likely to fit 3 child safety seats across in the back.
    * Martin's wife thinks the model looks very nice.
    * They will attempt to design it to get a "5 star" safety rating.

    Yeah - I think Martin and Elon want to spend a little more time driving their VPs before they give it the final blessing to get thrown to the wolves.
     
  5. AGR

    AGR Member

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    I am not in a position to tell Tesla what to do with the WhiteStar, Tesla will do whatever they want however they want.

    A CUV has a wider appeal, and is visualised by customers has more useful in a commuter family car application Women love the high seating position.

    It might be a new frontier for Tesla but a well traveled road for a lot of other manufacturers. The auto industry experts in Michigan gained their experience where? They will need to benchmark a sedan or a CUV everyone else does it.

    The WhiteStar is going to roll off an assembly line in the fall of 2009 30 months from now ??? Lets
    hope so.

    All cars have 3 child seats tethers for the back seat...all cars have 3 seatbelts for the back seat, would you put 3 child seats in the back is a different perspective.

    Batteries under the floor or under the rear seat cushion might work, using a transaxle like the Roadster, with all the accessories and batteries for the accessories under the hood.

    It better have driver, passenger, side impact for the front and rear seats, side curtain air bags, seat belt retractors as a minimum passive safety. Active safety ABS - ESP - Traction control. With the engineers in Michigan renting out enough super computer time to simulate any and every accident eventuality.
     
  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I doubt we can trust this old entry, but this was said before:
    "Its sexy project, Musk says, will allow the company to sell a four-door sedan, to be built in the United States, with a price of less than $50,000, by 2008."
     
  7. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Supreme Premier

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    I remember Elon saying he is quite confident in WhiteStar project. There are some problems to be solved but nothing to hard for 60.000 $.
    He was much more uncertain of The Third Model (BlueStar?) for 35.000$
     
  8. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I wonder what car she's currently driving and whether we could/should consider that as being her taste as to what looks nice?
     
  9. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I think Martin once said he had been driving a BMW Roadster, so perhaps they are a two BMW family. It would make sense that they target the BMW 5 series if she drives one and they want to convert to a two electric car family by engineering direct replacements for their current vehicles.

    My wife is a girl scout troop leader, so she needs a 6+ passenger car, so even Whitestar wouldn't work. We came very close to buying a Mazda5 (with nice dual sliding back doors), but went for the 3-row Highlander Hybrid in the end.
     
  10. CEOswife

    CEOswife Member

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    My daily drive is typically a 2000 Toyota 4Runner. I am the one hauling the kids and their friends around, plus right now we need the hauling capacity for Home Depot runs. I am just about to start major renovations on one of the houses while doing some minor work on the other. I know I should drive a more fuel efficient vehicle, however my old 4Runner runs great, is paid for, and hauls a lot of stuff. It is only 2WD, so the mileage is better than if I had the 4WD version. I am confident it will last until my WhiteStar arrives.

    And by the way, I think my taste is just fine!
     
  11. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    OK, so who picked the BMW 5 series as the example vehicle for Whitestar? Martin? Elon? Those guys both want Roadsters.

    By the way, the electric Ranger pickup I have makes regular runs to Home Depot, Orchard Supply and Costco for our family. I always drove two seat sports cars in my 20s, got the "sports sedan" in my 30s (wanted a Boxster, but needing to transport kids dictated otherwise), and finally got a truck in my 40s due to the need "haul stuff" now and then.

    By the way, with Martin's past business success I would have figured you would just hire contractors to do everything. Glad to hear you still like to be hands on enough to make your own trips to Home Depot!
     
  12. CEOswife

    CEOswife Member

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    You guys do not know my background. I have spent almost 20 years in design and construction, and I have a well-earned suspicion of contractors. With much difficulty, I have managed to hire contractors for our kitchen, bedrooms, and bathroom remodel, as well as the solar installation and roofing. However, most of the other work around the house, Martin and I do when time permits.

    As you can imagine, I have a lot of trouble locating qualified contractors (I was in major construction not home remodel). I had one gentleman come to do a walk thru of my kitchen, bedroom, and bath project. About half way through the walk thru, the guy had the nerve to tell me I scared him because I knew more about what he needed to do than him! He also said that he found my personality intimidating! Hmm that ended that. Never got a bid from him.

    I interviewed another contractor who did not know my background and was not smart enough to figure it out. When I asked him why he had to remove the entire ceiling in the next room to move a non-load bearing wall over 6 inches, he informed me that I would not understand the answer so he was not going to waste his time explaining it to me. This is also the guy who informed me that my husband did not know a damn thing about electricity, and we should leave electrical work to the professionals. He did waste his time submitting a bid which went directly in the trash!

    The contractor we selected starts next month. Mark seems very good, and comes with high recommendations. After he completes the roofing penetrations, the solar installer arrives to install the jacks and complete his roof penetration. After those go in, I call in the roofer. After that, the solar company returns to install the panels and the inverter. We are HOPING to have the entire project completed before Christmas.

    I have two kids, a grouchy old cat, a part-time husband who blows in on the weekends, and two kittens coming from a rescue in a couple of weeks who will all be living in the house during the remodel. Wish me luck!
     
  13. AGR

    AGR Member

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    People in construction / remodeling are very special, hate to be supervised or guided, and love to make a "fast buck".

    The good one's quickly grasp that as a customer you also have an understanding of what is going on, and expectations on how its going to get done, especially the detail work. When the "pieces come together" its work and fun.
     
  14. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    As much as possible I try to be very hands on for remodeling work as well, but sometimes it is best to just get out of the way to avoid the agony.
    (What are the analogies of not wanting to see how sausage is made, or can't make an omelet without breaking eggs)?

    I would assume (perhaps mistakenly) that you would use Solar City for the solar project due to the Tesla tie-in...
    These guys did my Solar install, and I was happy with their work.
    Mark over there is a nice guy who really knows his stuff.

    I also sympathize with those living in a house undergoing a partial remodel. Even with plastic tarps, tape and what not you invariably get dust and noise spreading around to the living spaces. Also your privacy is impacted when contractors are coming and going. Then the kids want to get into the remodel areas.
     
  15. BlackbirdHighway

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    Responding to the original post:

    I don't think that Tesla has to "sacrifice" much in the Whitestar to lower the cost.

    The first thing that will lower the cost is simply the much larger sales volume. Any parts that have to be purchased to produce the vehicle will cost less when purchased in greater volume.

    The second big cost saver is to streamline/automate the production. The Roadster is basically hand made either one at a time or in very small batches. The Ford Focus would probably cost $100,000 if it was built that way. For a first car, that is obviously the way to go, but the Whitestar has to incorporate what they call "Design For Manufacture" or DFM. Companies like Toyota and Honda excel in this. DFM requires a lot of up front time and effort in planning not just the car itself, but how it will be assembled, and how the various subassemblies will be put together. To do this right takes a lot of time and effort as well as experience. I'm predicting that the Whitestar will end up being a bit late to get all the DFM right, but that it will be able to hit the price target without any great sacrifice to the quality or performance.
     
  16. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    Interesting comments. The story of the Roadster is "Oh my God - it's electric". One way to keep the weight down and the media interested is for Whitestar to go with "Oh my God - it's plastic!".

    Recyclable, injection moulded polymers, of course. With low speed impacts, the body panels simply spring back out again. Solid matt colours are easy, but metalic effects would be limited to low volumes of aluminium flakes embedded in the polymer as it is moulded.

    I'm guessing that gloss finishes would need a fair bit of owner maintenance unless someone can come up with a flexible paint finish.

    Terracotta or Stone finishes (like the big plastic planters you can buy from Garden Stores) would really freak people out.

    And talking of freaking people out.....

    http://www.azom.com/details.asp?newsID=7776
     
  17. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Wow, those Rinspeed designs are fairly outrageous and interesting.
     

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