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Tesla Model S: Elon Musk's sedan tries to take electric cars mainstream

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The concept of electric cars is not a new one, but Tesla Motors and its founder Elon Musk are bringing a whole new mindset to the space — the company's Model S sedan couples the eco-friendly electric engine with performance and luxury that has largely eluded electric vehicles thus far. Follow along with the story of the Model S here, from its announcement back in late 2011 to our two-day test drive up the California coast, and beyond.

  • Tamara Warren

    Sep 8, 2017

    Tamara Warren

    Tesla Model S P100D review: the ultimate status symbol of California cool

    From the driver’s seat of a flaming-red Tesla Model S, a young teenage boy sends a text message: “Gotta charge my car see you in the AM.” It’s a scene from the family-friendly movie Disconnected, in which the Tesla Model S plays a starring role.

    The lead character Shawn, played by Bridger Zadina, makes an eight-hour journey from Los Angeles up to Santa Cruz. Shawn, who is too young to have a driver’s license, steals the car from parents’ garage in an act of rebellion and desperate teenage desire: he needed an escape route to reach his crush. There’s a scene that depicts his journey, window-down, wind whipping, as the gigantic 17-inch Tesla screen guides him on his journey up the Pacific Coastal Highway 1, a symbolic break away from the control of his helicopter scientist parents. The only snafu: because he’s driving a Tesla, mom and dad can track his whereabouts using the Tesla app from a phone.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    May 31, 2015

    Dante D'Orazio

    Tesla loses fight with dealers to sell its cars in Texas

    Tesla doesn't just make unique cars — it has a pretty unique way of selling them, too. The company handles sales directly, meaning there are no dealerships. And as you might expect, powerful auto dealers across the United States are not a fan of that business model. Unfortunately for CEO Elon Musk, it appears he's just lost a political battle in Texas over the right to sell Teslas there.

    The Texas State Legislature has failed to vote on two separate bills that would have allowed the electric car company to sell its cars directly to customers. The bills were designed to bypass an older, dealer-backed law on the books that prohibits manufacturers from direct sales. Such laws exist in a number of states, such as West Virginia, Arizona, Connecticut, and Michigan. Musk successfully lobbied to have a similar law reversed in New Jersey, and he was attempting to pull off the same feat in Texas.

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  • Josh Lowensohn

    Oct 10, 2014

    Josh Lowensohn

    This is Tesla's D: an all-wheel-drive Model S with 'autopilot'

    It's a typically warm fall night in Los Angeles, and just after sunset Elon Musk takes the wraps off "the D." This isn't a lewd joke much of the internet imagined: it's the company's new dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version of its Model S sedan, one that promises faster acceleration, and better performance in inclement weather — one of the S' biggest weaknesses. And as Musk would like everybody to know, it's fast. Really fast.

    "We're able to improve everything about the car," Musk says after summoning the car's chassis from beneath the stage while thumping music flows out over a large crowd of people who have spent the past hour sipping free drinks.

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  • Chris Welch

    Jul 10, 2014

    Chris Welch

    Car thief becomes first person to die in a Tesla Model S crash

    Elon Musk can no longer say that no one's ever died in a Tesla automobile crash. But few people will be pointing fingers at the electric car maker for this senseless tragedy. Earlier this month, 26-year-old Joshua Slot managed to successfully ride off with a Model S he'd stolen from a Tesla service center in Los Angeles, but police quickly spotted the luxury vehicle and gave chase. According to Park Labrea News, the high-speed pursuit was eventually called off after officers were involved in a fender bender of their own, leaving the police department strained for resources and without any feasible way of catching up to Slot. Reports claim he was traveling at speeds of "nearly 100 mph," but losing the police tail apparently didn't convince Slot to hit the brakes.

    Instead he sped on, eventually colliding with three other vehicles and a pair of street poles. The final impact was severe enough to "split the Tesla in half" and eject Slot from the car's remains. The Tesla's front section wound up in the middle of the road and caught fire. Its rear portion flew through the air with such force that it slammed into the side of a local Jewish community center and became wedged there.

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  • Josh Lowensohn

    Jun 6, 2014

    Josh Lowensohn

    Tesla could resume sales in New Jersey with new zero emissions bill

    A new bill that passed New Jersey state assembly today could allow Tesla to resume sales there, just two months after a statewide ban went into effect. The state Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee today approved A3216, a bill that lets companies sell their zero-emission cars directly to consumers with certain strings attached. Those include limiting the number of dealerships to four, as well as offering one or more service facilities to make repairs, reports The Star-Ledger.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Mar 28, 2014

    Nathan Ingraham

    Tesla adds titanium shield to Model S to prevent battery fires in accidents

    Last year, a few of Tesla's Model S vehicles caught on fire following accidents — a situation that caused a bit of embarrassing public backlash for Elon Musk and his company. Despite the fact that Musk has steadfastly defended the safety of his vehicle, the company has announced a fix for the cause of the reported fires. In a post on Medium, Musk details a new titanium shield and aluminum deflector plates that protect the underbody of the vehicle — all cars produced after March 6th will have this new safety system in place, and existing vehicles can have it added free of charge.

    Musk says that the company tested the new protective shield 152 times, hitting objects like a concrete block, a steel alternator, and a three-tow hitch, none of which caused any damage to the car. The added weight of this new safety system shouldn't affect the car's longevity — Musk says it'll only have a 0.1 percent impact on the vehicle's range. If you want to see these tests in action, Musk posted a number of GIFs detailing these collisions in his Medium post — they were shot with high-speed cameras attached to the underside of the vehicles during testing.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Feb 26, 2014

    Nathan Ingraham

    Tesla announces plans to build battery-producing 'Gigafactory' in the US by 2017

    tesla 765
    tesla 765

    Being able to produce massive batteries is a core part of Tesla's electric car business, and the company has just announced plans to get even better at that. The company just announced plans to build a "Gigafactory," a US-based facility that'll focus on manufacturing lithium ion batteries — and Tesla's plans for this factory are highly ambitious. By 2020 Tesla says it hopes its Gigafactory will produce as many batteries as were produced worldwide in 2013.

    To meet that goal, Tesla will be partnering with other battery-manufacturing partners in an effort to improve the economics of scale and reduce costs — the company says after one year of operation, it expects the per kWh cost of its battery pack will drop by 30 percent.

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  • Russell Brandom

    Jan 27, 2014

    Russell Brandom

    Tesla connects US coast-to-coast supercharger network

    elon-musk
    elon-musk

    Electric car maker Tesla has connected the eastern and western portions of their supercharger network, allowing for the first coast-to-coast road trips that rely entirely on the newer, faster model of charger. The company says roughly 80 percent of the supercharger network is now complete, with both coastal legs and much of Texas fully covered. The official announcement came from Tesla Monday morning, but according to the charging network Plugshare, the first supercharger-powered coast-to-coast trip was completed Saturday night.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Nov 23, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    NHTSA tells Tesla there's no such thing as a 5.4-star crash rating

    tesla lead
    tesla lead

    In August, Tesla Motors announced that its Model S electric vehicle had received the highest safety rating in the United States, achieving "a new combined record of 5.4 stars" based on crash test data. There's only one problem with that: the US National Highway Transportation Safety Adminstration, which conducts those tests, doesn't give ratings over five stars — period. So today, the NHTSA is attempting to set the record straight, revising its advertising guidelines to forbid automakers from stating that a car received a higher score.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Nov 19, 2013

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Tesla calls for federal safety investigation of Model S fires

    Tesla has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate recent fires in two of its Model S electric cars. In a blog post, company CEO Elon Musk writes that while he believes the Model S is incredibly safe — any safer car, he writes "would have to possess mystical powers of healing" — Tesla is taking several actions to address the fires, including initiating an NHTSA investigation to determine if a recall is needed. Though the investigation could find defects in the Model S, Musk hopes that the NHTSA will clear his car of fault, potentially heading off the perception that electric vehicles are less safe than gas vehicles.

    Tesla is also modifying the Model S in a surprising way: an over-the-air update. Through a software change, Tesla is able modify the suspension on the Model S, resulting in greater ground clearance when at highway speeds. The change could be an important one, as it was damage to the cars' undercarriage and batteries, caused by striking metallic objects on the road while at high speeds, that caused both fires. A third fire was also reported recently, however it was caused by a crash. Tesla is also extending the warranty on every Model S to cover fires, including ones where the driver is at fault — so long as they aren't actually trying to destroy the car.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Nov 14, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    Power play: how Tesla's unprecedented battery demand could energize US manufacturing

    tesla motors dealership stock 1020
    tesla motors dealership stock 1020

    If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

    So why is Tesla founder Elon Musk thinking about building a giant battery factory in the United States? It’s all about anticipating demand.

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  • Chris Ziegler

    Nov 9, 2013

    Chris Ziegler

    Tesla posts account of driver involved in latest fire: 'I would buy another one in a heartbeat'

    tesla model s
    tesla model s

    After a Model S involved in a collision with road debris in Tennessee caught fire earlier this week, the third such incident in just over a month, Tesla was faced with growing concern — particularly from investors, who sent the stock tumbling on Thursday — that a bigger problem was affecting the wildly popular all-electric sedan.

    Likely looking to short-circuit the notion that the Model S is saddled by an engineering or manufacturing flaw, Tesla has published a blog post today signed by the driver of the latest fire-stricken car, who has nothing but positive things to say about his experience. "While driving after I hit the object until I pulled over, the car performed perfectly, and it was a totally controlled situation," he writes. "This experience does not in any way make me think that the Tesla Model S is an unsafe car. I would buy another one in a heartbeat." The driver, Juris Shibayama, had run over a trailer hitch, which apparently punctured the protective shield guarding the batteries on the car's undercarriage.

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  • Nov 6, 2013

    Vlad Savov

    Tesla's solution to battery shortages is to build its own 'giga factory'

    tesla model s
    tesla model s

    Tesla's ambitious plans for turning electric vehicles into a mainstream mode of transportation will require more power. A lot more power, judging by the latest quarterly report from the company, which included comments from CEO Elon Musk about a potential battery factory that would be owned and operated by Tesla itself:

    Old battery packs would be converted into new ones within this proposed facility, which Musk describes as a "giga factory" that would be comparable in size to "all lithium-ion production in the world." So, the man that introduced us to the idea of the Hyperloop, who happens to dabble in commercial space flight on the side, now also wants to build the world's largest battery factory as well.

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  • Russell Brandom

    Oct 30, 2013

    Russell Brandom

    Tesla opens West Coast supercharger network, promises East Coast network 'in a few months'

    elon-musk
    elon-musk

    Tesla Motors has struggled with range anxiety in the past, but today, the company took a big step towards defeating some of those worries. This morning, the company opened up the first leg of its ambitious Supercharger network, a series of more powerful charging stations made available for free use to Model S drivers. The new West Coast corridor stretches from Tijuana to Vancouver, with particular emphasis on California's Highway 101 and Interstate 5. To celebrate the trip, Tesla sent two Model S drivers on a road trip from San Diego to the network's northern edge, 1,750 miles in total.

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  • Jeff Blagdon

    Aug 20, 2013

    Jeff Blagdon

    Tesla's Model S electric car nabs top US safety rating

    tesla model s
    tesla model s

    Tesla is announcing that its Model S scored top marks for safety according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), not only scoring a perfect five stars in every category, but setting a new record for the combined Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) — a total that can be higher than the five-star scores for top, side, and rear impact. The Model S scored 5.4, beating out previous record holders and for the first time making an electric vehicle the safest car on the road.

    Tesla points out that even though the Model S is a sedan, it scored higher than every minivan and SUV that was tested as well. It also notes that unlike gas vehicles, there's no engine block in the front of the Model S (the electric motor is apparently only about a foot in diameter), giving it comparatively more space to crumple and slow down its occupants, exemplified in the video above. If you'd like to read more about how the Model S managed to score so well, check the source link below.

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  • Chris Welch

    May 30, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Tesla improves Supercharger network to decrease charge times, details ambitious expansion

    tesla model s
    tesla model s

    In addition to widening the reach of its Supercharger network (as CEO Elon Musk outlined last night), Tesla also plans to notch up the amount of power each Supercharger station is capable of producing. During a conference call this afternoon, the company said it's been working to improve the technology behind the Superchargers to cut down on the amount of charging time required to get Model S drivers back on the road. Specifically, Tesla says its latest enhancements allow the Model S to be charged at 120 kilowatts — up from 90 kilowatts. But what does that mean for owners? Approximately three hours of driving time can be replenished in just 20 minutes once the boosted Superchargers — now in beta — become commonplace throughout the US later this summer.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 22, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    Tesla repays $465 million government green energy loan ahead of schedule

    elon-musk
    elon-musk

    Tesla Motors has repaid a $465 million loan to the Department of Energy nine years ahead of schedule, becoming the first of several car companies to repay its share of a multibillion-dollar program meant to spur electric vehicle development. The company announced today that it had made a final payment of $451.8 million, drawn from the more than $1 billion the company recently raised in a major stock offering last week. Tesla recently turned the first profit in its decade-long history, posting income of $11.2 million last quarter after launching its Model S sedan in 2012.

    Tesla's loan was secured under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, created by Congress under the Bush Administration but implemented in 2009. As part of the program, Tesla was given nearly half a billion dollars to develop its electric cars. It was slated to pay back the loans by 2022, but CEO Elon Musk has said from the start that he would likely be well ahead of that deadline. Tesla has also taken pains to distinguish its loan from the "bailouts" offered to American auto manufacturers Chrysler and GM.

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  • Bryan Bishop

    Mar 4, 2013

    Bryan Bishop

    Watch this: Tesla Model S ripped apart in the name of safety

    Tesla Model S jaws of life
    Tesla Model S jaws of life

    It may have been the subject of a much-publicized spat recently, but we found a lot to like about the Tesla Model S when we took it for a spin earlier this year. However, like any vehicle on the road, it's something that police officers and emergency responders may need to deal with should one unfortunately be involved in an accident. In the video below, Brock Archer of Advanced Extrication covers the various challenges electric vehicles present when being handled in such situations — and includes a demonstration of how to properly rip the door, hood, and side panel off a Model S with the Jaws of Life. It's a cringeworthy sight, but the video as a whole is a fascinating look at how practices and procedures must evolve along with the technology we use.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Feb 18, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    New York Times public editor defends Tesla reviewer's integrity, but questions his judgment

    Tesla Model S stock
    Tesla Model S stock

    The New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has responded to Elon Musk's criticism of the Times Tesla Model S review, saying that while the review was performed in good faith, reviewer John Broder did not use "good judgment" when making his now-notorious journey. Sullivan, who handles matters of journalistic integrity and acts as the "reader's representative," quotes a commenter who accuses Broder of either not reading or disregarding the Tesla user manual and suggests that he "didn’t seem to employ the least bit of care or responsibility in fuel management."

    While she disagrees with the commenter's conclusion that Broder ignored instructions to make a more dramatic story, Sullivan essentially concurs that his review was vague and potentially irresponsible: "I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it. Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially." She also says that "Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey, unaware that his every move was being monitored."

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  • Bryan Bishop

    Feb 15, 2013

    Bryan Bishop

    New York Times reporter refutes Tesla's allegations but 'cannot account' for some discrepancies in data

    tesla 912
    tesla 912

    Early today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted a lengthy written response to a negative report by the New York Times on its Model S electric sedan, accusing reporter John Broder of intentionally sabotaging his test drive due to a bias against electric vehicles. Now Broder has provided a response of his own, refuting many of Musk's claims — while still offering some vague responses on several key points.

    Broder states that Tesla representatives told him that he only needed an hour of charging time at a station in Norwich, Connecticut, in order to reach another station 61 miles away — even though the car indicated at 32-mile range at the time (he ended up running out of power before reaching the next station). As for Musk's allegation that Broder drove around a parking lot in a circle in order to drain the battery, Broder says he was actually driving in the dark looking for "the unlighted and poorly marked Tesla Supercharger."

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  • Sam Byford

    Feb 14, 2013

    Sam Byford

    Tesla's scathing response accuses NYT of 'changing the facts' in Model S review

    Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk promised to refute a negative New York Times report on the Model S electric car, and today he's followed through with a lengthy blog post that counters John Broder's "factually inaccurate" criticism. The post includes data that Tesla logged during the test drive, and Musk uses it to make the case that Broder's piece was fuelled by an anti-EV agenda. "We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles," says Musk. "When the facts didn't suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts."

    Among Musk's claims:

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  • Chris Ziegler

    Feb 12, 2013

    Chris Ziegler

    Going the distance: driving the Tesla Model S in the real world

    tesla lead
    tesla lead

    It’s difficult to get comfortable in the driver’s seat of a $100,000 car that isn’t yours.

    The particular Model S I flew to Los Angeles to sample last week was a Signature Performance model. That means that it was one of the first 1,000 to roll off the assembly line (indicated by the “Signature” designation) and is fitted with a high-output electric inverter that can propel the car from 0 to 60 in just 4.4 seconds, a key metric that slots it in with some of the fastest production sedans in the world. It’s a stat I would come to test on numerous occasions over the following 36 hours — within the bounds of the “no street racing” clause I agreed to upon taking delivery, of course.

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  • Chris Welch

    Feb 11, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk accuses New York Times of lying about Model S range anxiety (update)

    Tesla Model S
    Tesla Model S

    Three days ago, The New York Times wrote a scathing critique of the Tesla Model S, testifying that the all-electric sedan couldn't handle cold weather — dying before it reached its destination, even though a driver spent time shivering without a heater. Today, Elon Musk says it's simply not true: the Tesla CEO claims he has hard data which proves the Times faked the conclusion to its story. He insists vehicle logs kept by his company shed light on the truth, revealing that Broder failed to fully charge the Model S and that he "took a long detour" at one stage of his test drive. Musk has reason to be flustered: Tesla's stock price has dipped in the days since The New York Times published Broder's report.

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  • Chris Welch

    Jan 15, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Tesla expanding retail presence with 25 new showrooms in 2013

    tesla supercharger model s
    tesla supercharger model s

    Emboldened by the success of its Motor Trend Car of the Year Model S, Tesla will be plotting out new retail locations this year. The automaker plans to add 25 showrooms in 2013, just about double the 13 it opened last year. Speaking at the ongoing North American International Auto Show, Tesla's VP of sales George Blankenship revealed that approximately half of those will be located in the United States, with the others scattered across the globe. China is among the international locales that will be receiving a dealership sometime this spring.

    Additionally, Tesla also reiterated plans to continue putting in place Supercharger stations throughout the US. Currently it's managed to roll out a paltry eight charging hubs, but insists that it will have both coasts covered within the next few years. Unfortunately the Superchargers remain compatible exclusively with Tesla vehicles, so drivers of other EV cars will need to keep recharging elsewhere.

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  • Amar Toor

    Nov 13, 2012

    Amar Toor

    Tesla Model S named Motor Trend Car of the Year by unanimous decision

    Tesla Model S press 640
    Tesla Model S press 640

    Motor Trend this week named the Tesla Model S its 2013 Car of the Year, making it the first electric vehicle to ever take home the award, and the first winner by unanimous decision. In announcing the award, Editor-at-Large Angus MacKenzie described the Model S as "one of the quickest four-door sedans ever built," noting that it "drives like a sports car," feels as "smoothly effortless as a Rolls Royce," and is more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Prius. "By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile," MacKenzie wrote.

    The Model S, which began shipping earlier this year, won Motor Trend's award over a field of eleven finalists, including the Porsche Boxster, BMW 3-Series, and Lexus GS. "Our aspiration with the Model S was to show that an electric car truly can be better than any gasoline car, which is a critical step towards the widespread adoption of sustainable transport," Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a statement. "Nothing illustrates this more clearly than winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year by unanimous decision against a field of exceptional competitors."

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