Tesla Will Get Trampled by the Mass Market

Bespoke no more - Picture courtesy Bloomberg

When Tesla confirmed that it will sell its new Model 3 for as little as $35,000 — $25,000 with government subsidies — it seemed like a step toward realizing the “secret master plan” that founder Elon Musk laid out a decade ago: “To enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”

If so, what explains the company’s dismal earnings report on Wednesday and the 40 percent plunge in its shares this year?

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Tesla’s NOx Problem: Model X Delay Explained?

Model S - Picture courtesy Tesla

As the maker of tailpipe-free electric vehicles, Tesla is perhaps the last auto manufacturer you’d expect to struggle with an NOx emissions problem. Yet like any other auto manufacturer, Tesla operates factories which produce a variety of emissions including the NOx carcinogens at the center of the recent Volkswagen scandal. In fact, Dailykanban has discovered that Tesla has self-reported an NOx noncompliance at its Fremont, CA factory that may be contributing to delays in the production of the firm’s new Model X SUV.

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Despite Barra’s Denials, GM Diesel Test Results Indicate VW-Style Cheating

DUHzafiraWEB

We’ve suspected for some time that more automakers would be caught up in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, and the first new perpetrator has apparently been identified: General Motors. GM CEO Mary Barra’s insists that VW-style software cheating on emissions tests “is not a condition that exists in our vehicles,”  but the German environmental group Umwelthilfe has sponsored tests that throw that claim into serious doubt [English press release in PDF format here].

In testing of the Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi, performed at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, GM’s diesel engine passed NEDC cycle NOx tests performed on a two-wheel (single-axle) rolling road but emitted two to four times the Euro6 limit for NOx when the same test was performed on a four-wheel rolling road. This strongly indicates that a software “test mode” exists for this engine, although Opel insists that “The software developed by GM does not contain any features that can detect whether the vehicle is being subjected to an emissions test.” But, says International Transport Advisor Axel Friedrich,  “I have no normal, technically plausible explanation for the emission behavior of the Opel vehicle.”

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Don’t Feed The “Ban Driving” Trolls

They see me trolling...

Cars and the people who love them have taken a bit of a trolling in the last week, as autonomous car car firms and the people who love them become increasingly convinced that a sea change is in the offing. The trolling began with a Buzzfeed article that told car fans to “go f*ck a tailpipe” if they think their love of driving outweighs the moral obligation to reduce the 1.2 million lives that are lost each year in cars, and things took off from there. The latest salvo, from Fusion, argues that driving should be made illegal within 15 years. Though self-driving cars are unquestionably the most consequential challenge to face cars in their more than hundred years as a cornerstone of modern society, the conversation around this massive opportunity needs to become a lot more pragmatic and constructive if we’re going to make the most of it.

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Behind The Volkswagen Scandal, A “Car Cold War” Simmers

The still-unfolding Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has earned the largest German automaker more than a week of public opprobrium in the US media, as American owners, regulators and commentators rush to condemn the most blatant case of regulatory evasion in recent automotive history. In Europe, however, the outrage at VW’s emissions manipulation is tempered by a certain amount of realpolitik. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has given voice to European suspicions by suggesting that American automakers are fueling the scandal for competitive purposes, and German officials have made it clear that they intend to “contain” the scandal. Grievances over auto industry issues have long been a source of friction between President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Volkswagen scandal has brought tensions old and new spilling out into the open.

 

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Tesla Battery Swap: CARB’s Bridge To Nowhere

Tesla and California’s Air Resources Board are standing by the controversial “fast refueling” credits that are directing as much as hundreds of millions of dollars to the California-based electric car maker for its little-used battery swap capability. At the same time, both Tesla and CARB admit that battery swap has not shown much promise and CARB staff tell Daily Kanban that they tried to completely eliminate the credits out of concern over Tesla’s “gaming” of the system only to be overruled by board members. The tension between Tesla and CARB’s defense of ZEV credits earned by Tesla’s battery swap capability and their apparent lack of optimism about the technology going forward confirms the fundamental concerns that surfaced in Daily Kanban’s initial investigation: battery swap credits seem to have done nothing to advance the cause of ZEV adoption, Tesla appears to have gamed the credit system for huge financial gain, regulators show little interest in ending Tesla’s obvious abuse and the public remains under-informed about the entire situation.

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Tesla Battery Swap Unused Over Busy Holiday Weekend

In response to a wide range of questions about Tesla’s battery swap program, raised primarily by Alberto Zaragoza Comendador of the blog Doubting Is Thinking, Daily Kanban has conducted an online and on-the-ground inquiry into Tesla’s battery swap program that failed to alleviate our concerns that the electric car maker’s battery swap capability exist largely as a way to maximize California ZEV credit revenue.  A four-day investigation of Tesla’s only battery swap station over the Memorial Day weekend revealed no evidence that the station is actually being used to swap customer batteries. Though our investigation did not conclusively prove that the station is not being used at all, it is yet another data point in a large and growing body of evidence indicating that Tesla is not serious about deploying battery swap as a viable option for customers.

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Tesla And Its Customers Find It’s Not Easy Being Green

Tesla Motors and its customers are famously proud of their environmentally friendly image, but their anti-carbon and anti-oil sentiments are apparently not as absolute as their public statements and vanity license plates might suggest. In the course of investigating Tesla’s Harris Ranch, CA battery swap station, Daily Kanban found that Tesla’s solution to peak demand for grid-powered Superchargers that are also on-site does not involve stationary battery storage or customer battery-swapping at its only swap station. Instead, the company relies upon  backup Superchargers powered by diesel generators. Moreover, several Tesla customers were observed charging from the noisy, carbon-emitting backup generator even when the standard Supercharging station had numerous plugs available. This oddly un-green charging option, foisted on customers as a result of Tesla’s lack of desire to make its battery swap capabilities widely available, in turn raises unanswered questions about the environmental claims Tesla has made about its entire charging network.

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