Tesla’s Revenues, Margins Up, Still Losing Money

To kick off the first quarter of 2011, electric vehicle maker Tesla reported record revenues and gross margins. But given the company won’t be making a profit until well after its second electric car the Model S comes out, Tesla is still losing money every quarter.

Green Overdrive: Inside Tesla’s Model S Alpha

For our latest Green Overdrive show we get an inside look at Tesla’s Model S Alpha program, which Tesla will use to test out design and functionality of its next-generation all-electric car the Model S.

Electric Car 101: Lease or Buy?

If you’re sold on a plug-in car, one of the next questions to answer is whether to lease or buy your chosen model. Here are five things to consider as you hunt for a plug-in car deal that fits your budget, driving habits and preferences.

CHEAT SHEET: Truth About Sky-High MPG Claims for Electric, Hybrid and Mini Cars

The battle of the MPGs kicked into high gear this week with General Motors making the bold claim that its upcoming Chevy Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle, will get 230 MPG for city driving. Nissan countered with an announcement that its 2011 all-electric LEAF sedan will get some 367 MPG — oh, snap! This banter of course raises questions about the validity and relevance of measuring the efficiency of cars that run on electricity in terms of how far they can go on a gallon of gasoline. (Check out the Atlantic, Consumer Reports, EcoGeek and Edmunds’ Green Car Advisor for some thoughtful discussions.)
Fritz Henderson Makes Volt Announcement
While we’re at it, how did GM really come up with that triple-digit MPG, and how does the company’s calculations compare with ratings for cars like the LEAF, gen-3 Toyota Prius, Smart Fortwo, Tesla Roadster and the Fusion Hybrid from Ford, which said earlier this summer that it’s making fuel efficiency improvements a top priority in upcoming lineups? We’ve put together a chart comparing fuel economy claims and methodology for these vehicles to help put them in perspective.
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Tesla CEO Fires Back at Founder, Says Will Respond In Court Soon

Welcome to Round 2 of the latest Tesla Motors feud. The electric car startup’s CEO, Elon Musk, has just written a post on the official company blog countering the claims of founder Martin Eberhard, who alleges that Musk has libeled and slandered him, and that Tesla has breached several agreements over severance, stock options and his Roadster purchase — and Musk makes a few claims of his own about Eberhard’s role in founding Tesla. Musk stops short of a countersuit, but he says Tesla will respond “fully in court soon.”

tesla-roadsters

In addition to announcing that Tesla’s Roadster material costs have dropped to $80,000 per vehicle this month and that the company expects production of the Roadster to “cross over into profitability next month,” Musk has plenty to say about the specific allegations in Eberhard’s lawsuit — mostly centered on his belief that Eberhard “had no technology of his own…and he owned no intellectual property relating to electric cars” when Musk first became involved with Tesla. “Three years later,” Musk writes, “when Martin was asked to leave Tesla, most of the work that he had been paid to do had to be redone.” Read More about Tesla CEO Fires Back at Founder, Says Will Respond In Court Soon

Chronoptimists: Cleantech Is Full of ‘Em

The Urban Dictionary, the user-generated slang web site, recently had a word of the day which I thought was particularly fitting for cleantech companies and entrepreneurs: the chronoptimist, someone who constantly underestimates the time it takes to complete a task (chronologically optimistic.) While entrepreneurs everywhere are guilty of being optimistic about how long it will take them to bring a product to market or raise funding, it seems like the slow nature of some clean technologies and the hopeful way of the do-gooder entrepreneur mean cleantech has chronoptimists in spades. Here are three of them:

Cellulosic Biofuel Makers: If you’re an exec at one of the companies racing to be the first in the U.S. to commercially produce cellulosic ethanol from non-crop plants and biowaste, then chances are, your firm has had to extend its commercial production deadline — maybe even a few times. Companies like Coskata, Verenium and Range Fuels have done so, and could face more hurdles if the economic downturn continues for a lot longer.
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PHOTO: Tesla’s Model S Revealed! …Or Not

As part of the optimistic newsletter from Tesla this week — the one detailing hopes for a cash-flow positive Roadster this summer and a $350 million DOE loan later this year — the electric vehicle startup showed off this sneaker pic of its next vehicle, the Model S. It’s about as revealing as a burka, but hey, it’s something. Here’s a little peek at the car that Tesla plans to reveal on March 26 in Southern California.

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Tesla: Model S to be Unveiled in March

Tesla Motors held the first of two planned town hall meetings with customers this week, where it explained to buyers who have not received pre-ordered 2008 Roadsters why the company has decided to charge for options previously included in the sports car’s base price. But CEO Elon Musk was not there to offer only mea culpas (according to Left Lane News, he did express regret over the way Tesla communicated the new charges). He also revealed details about the planned Model S sedan and Daimler’s (s DAI) electric Smart car, set to use Tesla drivetrains in a fleet of test vehicles.

First, the Model S: Musk reportedly (here, here and here) told customers that the startup will show off a prototype of the long-awaited sedan in Los Angeles as early as March 5 (yes, as in five weeks from now), with production beginning in 2011.

Musk also said that Daimler’s electric Smart car will retail for around $20,000 — the “super affordable” price point he envisioned for a third-generation Tesla vehicle (after the Roadster and Model S) last year. He said in September that the car could be produced with a major automaker. With Daimler slated to roll out the electric Smart in 2010, it just might one-up the Model S for Tesla’s second-generation model.

Tesla to Sell Even More Expensive Electric Car

Some of the first news we heard coming out of the Detroit Auto Show, which kicked off on Sunday, is that Silicon Valley electric car maker Tesla will be offering a high-performance “Roadster Sport” which will cost about $20,000 more than its currently available luxury Roadster. In light of the fact that Tesla has basically put its cheaper Model S on the back burner (with Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently hedging on whether or not the Model S factory was assured), we don’t think going even more luxury is a good direction for Tesla. And it’s another indication that Tesla is being forced to move away from its previous plans to become a more mainstream electric car maker.

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Musk has long maintained that he envisioned Tesla as one day offering a mainstream, even $20,000 or $30,000 electric vehicle, to the masses, and only started building the high-end $109,000-priced electric Roadster as a way to move into a more mainstream electric vehicle technology. Like cell phones or other new technology, he insisted that the way into the electric vehicle market was through a luxury car and that over time the price of building the cars would naturally come down.

But in the face of difficult economic times and an apparent underestimation of the capital involved in becoming a mainstream car maker, Tesla has been forced to hunker down and focus on getting out the long-promised Roadster to customers. And now at one of the biggest auto shows of the year the company is actually moving more in the luxury direction, offering its current Roadster customers the ability to upgrade to the Roadster Sport. Tesla seems like it’s finally waking up from its dream of being an electric car maker for the masses.

Top 10 Earth2Tech Stories of 2008

We’ve brought you the victories and the disappointments of the year in cleantech, and now here’s a top 10 list that’s a little more personal: The top 10 Earth2Tech stories of 2008. The list is a combo of reader favorites — page views and number of comments — along with editor’s favorites, because there were some stories that made me glad to be part of this team this year. Let’s take a look at them in descending order, Letterman-style:

10) Video: Solar + Robots = AWESOME: This post is proof that you shouldn’t edit a green technology website if you can’t celebrate your geekiness. I shot this mini video of these robots stacking solar panels — digg loved it and so did you.

9) FAQ: Thin-Film Solar: You liked it because thin-film solar is confusing and you want to know more about the technologies, the players and the market.

8) 11 Companies Racing to Build U.S. Cellulosic Ethanol Plants: Yes, cellulosic ethanol companies were definitely racing through the first three-quarters of 2008, all claiming they’d be the first to produce cellulosic ethanol. Towards the end of the year that turned into more of a stroll, and in some cases, a crawl. Will the race be declared DOA in 2009? Biofuels sure don’t have the backing they used to and the corn ethanol markets are ugly.

7) Pics of the First Production Tesla Roadster: Sometimes you’d rather see it than read about it. Particularly if it’s the first Tesla Roadster ever made being delivered. Of course nowadays Tesla isn’t even sure if it’s building its factory to produce the Model S, but at one point you guys cared.
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