Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Eastern Front Musk Mirrors Napoleon

Consumer Reports bought a Tesla Model S and took delivery last month.  Of course they never told Elon they were doing this and they bought the car using an alias.  I wonder why Elon is not crying to Bloomberg and CNBC that Consumer Reports is faking it?  I guess Elon decided that fighting one Eastern front with the NYT was enough.

Consumer Reports provided an article that “Winter chills limit range of Tesla model S”.     The model S had a range of approximately 180 miles per consumer reports with the day time temperature of 45 degrees F and night temperature at 30 degrees F.  Remember poor John Broder drove in temps that were 30 degrees F daytime high and 10 degrees F at night.  The Consumer Reports car also had the all glass panoramic roof option.

Consumer Reports showed in their article the model S achieved an energy usage of 0.381 kilowatt hours per mile.  Very similar to but a little higher than what Broder achieved using the logs Elon surreptitiously collected during Broder’s test drive.  The data Consumer Reports provided show that the car travelled 176.6 miles using 67.3 kilowatt hours.  The reporter stated he had charged the car as fully as Tesla allows in cold weather and had zero miles of range for the last three miles of his trip back to the office.  He also turned off the climate control and said “anxiety” kept him warm.

Today Elon told the world  "The Tesla team and I are brainstorming this week how to correct the misperception that they have created in the market about how well our car performs in cold weather," he wrote. "That too, will take money and time."

Elon you simply need to agree that in the cold winter of many cities in the USA, Canada, Europe, China, and Japan the range of the vehicle is severely reduced and the idea of a panoramic full glass roof is a massively dumb option for folks who live in areas where temperatures go sub-freezing.  This is no “misperception” this is reality.  Elon the other reality is that you are again out of working capital.  You may think all your sweet talking will save the company but your balance sheet stinks and you need a massive equity infusion.

It is quite amazing how closely Musk has a face that looks like Napoleon.  Perhaps John Broder looks like Wellington?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

More Gasoline Less Ethanol

The one point I missed in my previous blog is that corn ethanol production in the USA is also down since last year.  In the first 45 days of 2013 the quantity corn ethanol used for blending into gasoline dropped by some 145,000 barrels a day compared with the same period last year.  This is due to the drought, the poor corn crop, and the high price of corn.

The cellulosic ethanol pipedream has turned into a nightmare with almost none of the alchemic cellulosic ethanol produced.  In the past few months Dr. Chu therefore has presided over increased shale gas and oil production in the lower 48 states, reduced bio-ethanol production, virtually no cellulosic ethanol production, increased domestic gasoline usage, and increased exports of refined petroleum products.

Dr Chu not only did you blow DOE money on lithium ion batteries and electric cars, blow money on Solyndra and Ivanpah, you also got played like a cheap violin by the oil companies who are increasing shale oil and gas production, increasing refined petroleum exports, charging Americans more for refined products, and using less bio ethanol.  The results are 180 degrees out of sync with your intended policy of producing energy from anything other than fossil fuels.  The only stated goal you achieved is to make gasoline expensive and you certainly did.

Who will replace Chu?  I have no clue who President Obama will nominate.   If I had the choice I would ask Boone Pickens to take the job for a maximum of 18 months and let him hire and fire like crazy and bring some order to the chaos at the department of entropy.  President Obama will probably choose another scientist who has no managerial skills and the department of entropy will continue to remain clueless if not Chuless.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chu Goes To Stanford America Goes Back To Gasoline

Dr Chu will return to the Bay Area and will take a post at Stanford where he will hold a joint appointment in the Physics department and the Medical school.  No doubt Dr. Chu is a bright guy, and as long as Stanford does not let Chu invest their endowment money, his appointment is going to serve the university well.  Bye bye Dr. Chu and not a moment too soon from the department of entropy of these ignited states.

Yeah the United States continues to burn gasoline.  The energy information agency (EIA) reports that  for the first 46 days of 2013 gasoline usage was up 2.8% compared with the same period last year.  This equals an additional 231,000 barrels of gasoline being used each day.   This also corresponds with increased exports of refined petroleum from the US to other countries that have increased by 153,000 barrels a day over last year’s figures.

This increased gasoline usage and the increased export of refined petroleum explains the increased price of gasoline in the USA.    The average national price of regular gasoline reported by the AAA is $3.78 per gallon.  This is up 48 cents a gallon since the start of the year.  The President may want to ask Chu before he resigns at month’s end to flood the market with Codas, Fiskers, Teslas, Volts, and Leafs to reverse the gasoline tide.

But wait, if the increase in gasoline usage is because citizens actually have jobs to drive to and that the US earns a margin on refining crude oil and exporting petroleum products there may well be a silver lining in the high gasoline price.   My personal usage of gasoline has not increased over last year and given that mid-grade costs me $4.35 a gallon I still drive my car as little as possible.  I checked the odometer on the old 1999 C 280 and it stands at 114,399 miles.  On June 29, 2012 I reported the odometer hit 111,111 miles.  In almost 8 months I have driven the car 3,288 miles.  Don’t blame me for the price of gasoline.  You can just blame me for the state of the world.

Boeing claims they can fix the fiery battery problem by increasing the space between the lithium ion cells and using a fire proof housing for the battery pack.  I am not sure the FAA will go for this solution.  The Airbus has given up on lithium batteries and will use alternate safer chemistry.   Elon Musk needs some lithium pills after the dreadful fortnight at Tesla.  The Chinese reported that sales of pure electric vehicles in that country reached 11,375 units for all of 2012.  But Elon is opening up a Tesla store in China soon using the money the DOE, his suppliers, and his future customers gave him.
Sorry this blog goes all over the place but these statistics tell us a few things. 
Gasoline remains king as a transportation fuel. 
Pure EV vehicles are not selling like hot cakes anywhere

I drive sparingly in an old car to save money for healthcare

Dr Chu will prove that those that can’t do, teach


The oil companies are making money while the whole EV supply chain is painted red.  Elon should change his name to Chev-Ron and he may pull off the save of the century in preventing his Teslacle from dropping.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tesla’s Earnings Call – The Reality For Us and The DOE Loan

Tesla claims net reservations for their Model S stood at over 15,000 units on December 31, 2012.  George Blankenship (VP Sales) stated that 25% of the reservations were from outside North America.  This implies 11,250 reservations remain in North America.  If Tesla can produce 4,500 cars in the first quarter, the average waiting time is 2.5 quarters or 7.5 months if all those in line actually buy a car they reserved.  Musk stated the “average wait time now for a car is about five months.”  This means one third of those who have reservations drop out when it is actually time to pay up and receive the car.  I have no clue how long the folks outside North America will wait for their car.

Musk also stated that the wait time for very high end reservations is between six and eight weeks.  This means that Tesla is giving manufacturing preference to the folks who have reserved a higher price vehicle over those who have reserved the base version “Peoples’ electric car.  Note the DOE really intended the $450 million loan to Tesla for the purpose of the Peoples’ electric car and not support the over-sized egos of the 0.1% that are “very high-end”. 

Musk also stated the following in breaking down what capacity battery packs are being ordered:

“more people are ordering the larger battery pack than we thought. It seems to be that like, items like listen 10% of people are ordering the 40-kilowatt-hour pack. That’s interesting. I’m not saying that can change in the future but that’s what we’re seeing right now. So maybe 10% or less.

A majority of people are ordering the big battery pack actually which is -- and I wouldn’t count on that in the long term. But a majority of people are actually, one-third percent are ordering the 85-kilowatt-hour pack which is a positive surprise. And hopefully, that continues, I mean, that’s the best experience somebody can have with the car. So hopefully that keeps going into the future.”

OK the $50,000 peoples’ car with the 40 kwh battery is being ordered by approximately 1,125 North Americans (10% of 11,250).  One third of these folks will not actually go through with the final purchase, leaving only 754, the first of whom will only start to receive their cars in the late summer when the 40 kwh model first becomes available.  Perhaps Tesla will produce and deliver all of the 754 Peoples’ Model  Ss by the end of the year.  Again Dr. Chu’s genius is at work.  $450 million in DOE loans to get 754 Peoples’ Model Ss to we the people in 2013 if all goes well and according to Elon Musk’s business plan.
Perhaps Tesla will raise a ton of equity and perhaps they will have a profitable year (2013) but delivering only 754 Peoples’ cars in 2013 to the people (the 99.9%) who are represented by Dr. Chu and the DOE is disgraceful. 

What will be worse is if Tesla does not raise a ton of equity and or Tesla does not have a profitable year.  Then the $450 million will evaporate just as the DOE loans to Ener 1, A 123, and Solyndra evaporated.  Dr. Chu is the real culprit, Elon Musk is just an opportunist.

Of course not one of the ten Wall Street analysts on the earnings call cared to challenge Mr. Musk with this line of questioning. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tesla Loses Money – Musk Becomes Deranged About Profitability

Tesla announced their 4th quarter and yearly results today.  Again the company has no working capital and had a bigger than expected loss for the quarter.  They claimed to have sold 2,400 Model Ss in the quarter and claimed to have $294 million of automotive sales.  Tesla may sold a few remaining roadsters but for simplicity sake let’s divide the $294 million by 2,400 cars and we have a simple statistic that the average selling price of each Model S was $122,500.  Let’s call it $120,000 even. 

OK so the DOE financed the majority of Tesla’s balance sheet.   The DOE debt now stands at over $450 million and the total assets of the company are $1.1 billion.  The second largest source of financing for Tesla has come from suppliers that are being paid far more slowly than Mr. Broder drove on the Connecticut Turnpike.   These suppliers are now owed $343 million.

Musk claims he will be profitable in the next quarter and that all is good in Tesla Town.   The DOE needs to ask where are the $50,000 electric vehicles that Mr. Musk promised?  His company is limping along on borrowed money from the tax payers and suppliers, and is selling cars for $120,000.  This is not the intended purpose of the loans Dr. Chu gave Tesla.

Mr. Musk had all sorts of electronic eavesdropping equipment in the car given to Broder of the New York Times for the test drive.  I suggest that Dr. Chu and the Inspector General of the DOE start placing some folks as well as electronic eavesdropping equipment inside Tesla and let we the people know what is going on with the company for, of, and by the 0.1% .

I really don’t care that Tesla fibs about their range.  I don’t care that CNN and CNBC go along for the ride.  But I do care that Tesla rapidly produce the $50,000 People’s Electric Car as we were promised this by Tesla, our elected officials, and Dr. Chu.    Of course I know the $50,000 People’s car will have a 40 kilowatt hour battery and will be lucky to go from DC to New York City (230 miles) with 2 stops at superchargers on a cold winter’s night.  These superchargers will need to be in Delaware at the Cavaliers Country Club (Route 1 and the DE Turnpike) and at the Intersection of 195 and the Jersey Turnpike near Allentown NJ.

Mr. Musk I suggest you soon provide Mr. Broder with one of the 40 kwh Stripped Down Model Ss without a panoramic roof that he can retest the People’s Electric Car driving from the White House to the New York Times HQ.  Also please commence building the two superchargers at the locations I have suggested, Else Mr. Broder will have to report that he got stranded again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

CNBC Tries To Recreate Tesla Test Drive

Today (February 19, 2013) CNBC the business news arm of NBC had its reporter Phil LeBeau reenact the fateful test drive of the Tesla Model S that John Broder of the New York Times performed three weeks ago.   The problem with the reenactment is that the weather today is 20 degrees (F) warmer than the chilly day Broder set out on his eventful drive (50 F versus 30 F). 

The press has simply missed the point of Broder’s report.  Broder did not set out to out the Model S on its range he simply set out to report on the fast charging stations Tesla is now promoting as part of their service offering.  Fortunately for us thermodynamicists the day Broder chose for the drive was a very cold day with daytime highs of only 30 degrees F and nighttime lows of 10 degrees F.  This is the kind of winter weather a Bostonian expects, a Chicagoan thinks is spring, and a Californian pays millions of dollars for a shack to avoid.

For me the weather Broder encountered was a realistic test of how much energy is sapped out of the batteries in the EV simply to keep the cabin warm.  I blogged in late 2011 that EVs were not suited for highway driving on cold North American winter’s days or nights.  

Highway driving at speeds of approximately 65 MPH implies a significant amount of heat loss from the vehicle especially through the windows (non-insulated surface of the vehicle).  The heat convection away from the vehicle’s surface is forced due to the high velocity of the air rubbing the surface.   In my 2011 blog I described that the heat transfer from the vehicle to the surroundings can be modeled and should approximate 40 watts per degree Kelvin of heat loss per meter squared of glass surface on the vehicle.  The degrees Kelvin of temperature difference between the interior of the vehicle and the outside air determine how many joules of energy transfer happen each square meter each second.

The CNBC test was performed with an outside temperature that is 20 degrees F warmer than when Broder drove.  This is about 11 degrees Kelvin warmer.  Hence the heat loss per second per meter square of glass was 440 joules greater when Broder drove.  The model S Broder used had the added option ($1,500) of an all glass panoramic roof.  LeBeau also had this option on his test car.  With the panoramic roof the car has a window surface area in excess of 6 square meters (63 square feet) and Broder’s drive required an extra 2,640 watts of heating to attain the same interior temperature as LeBeau.   This is like running two hair dryers at full blast full time while driving.

If one uses 2,640 watts for an hour one uses 2.64 kilowatt hours of energy sucked from the battery for the purpose of heating.  LeBeau reported his total time between DC and Boston was 8 hours.  With 1.5 hours stopped for charging LeBeau was on the move for 6.5 hours.  If the trip required 6.5 hours of driving a total of 17.16 extra kilowatt hours of battery power is needed simply for the sole purpose of heating the vehicle when the outside air temperature is 20 degrees F colder than it was today. 

The EPA rates the Tesla at 90 MPGE on Highway which equals 0.374 kilowatt hours per mile.  If LeBeau actually could have driven 245 miles on a full charge as the car reported to him he averaged 0.347 kilowatt hours per mile.  Phil LeBeau is no lead foot.    Per Tesla’s logs, Broder averaged the efficiency that the EPA predicted but had he driven on a 20 degree warmer day he too would have matched LeBeau’s performance.  Broder is also no lead foot.

Note I simply performed the calculation using the glass surface area.  The car’s cabin has significant metal surface area that also will lose heat to the surrounding air.  Since the car has carpets and door panels the loss through the metal surface is lower but could equal another 5 to 10 miles of range in the 540 mile trip in 20 degree F colder weather.

The results of this real comparison show the following:

Broder did not fake the problems with his test drive.  It was simply a case of cold weather and poor communications between Tesla and him.

Electric cars are not well suited for long distance highway driving in extremely cold weather. 

Don’t buy the panoramic roof option if you live in Boston.

CNBC should have performed the same drive in the same winter weather so as to not compare apples to oranges.

The Tesla cannot achieve 265 miles of range on a single 85 kilowatt hour charge in 30 degree F weather, the range is approximately only 225 miles.

In 50 degree F weather the range with an 85 kwh battery is approximately 245 miles as Phil LeBeau proved today

Tesla claimed 300 miles range (55 mph and no climate control) is not achievable under real driving conditions.

The EPA should investigate how they rate the Model S as 88 MPG City, 90 MPG highway that would result in a maximum range of 245 miles, yet Tesla claims a 265 mile rating from the EPA??
Phil LeBeau was dressed in a warm winter jacket inside the car while he test drove, I guess he was not toasty warm in the cabin of the Model S?

Here is a post on Tesla’s website dated November 29, 2012.  The temperature of that date was much like today’s temperature.  The Tesla owner pretty much achieved similar mileage as LeBeau (0.351 kilowatt hours per mile) and also drove very conservatively and used the heater sparingly.

Terry and Kevin | NOVEMBER 29, 2012
I live in NY and travel to VT frequently. Just completed my first drive on one charge of 220 miles each way. Range is definitely an issue here, as the 265 mile max range on full charge with the 85 KW battery will just get you to southern Vermont with no real battery life to spare. This is driving at 50-55 MPH, with mostly cruise control on where ever feasible. As for heat in the cabin, it works well, but if you increase the temp setting on the dash, it'll definitely decrease your range further. I averaged 351 wh/mile on each leg of my trip, driving VERY conservatively. Heating the interior is a real drain on the battery range, although using seat heaters (Front only available) is more efficient. Good luck to those sitting in back.

In summary Broder wrote an accurate and honest article about the Model S in cold weather conditions and Tesla does not attain the 265 mile range in winter in New England.  Broder achieved 225 mile range in 30 degree weather, Terry and Kevin as well as LeBeau achieved 245 mile range in 50 degree weather.  None of these drivers were toasty warm. 

My 1999 C280 keeps me toasty warm and I could do the 445 mile trip in 6 hours that LeBeau took 8 hours to accomplish.  My two hours of saved time and being toasty warm are worth more than the 70 bucks of gasoline I would have spent.  I am not sure 8 hours of Phil LeBeau’s time in worth the publicity Tesla will claim with this test drive that in no way replicated Broder’s ordeal.  

Broder was bloody lucky he did not report for the Winnipeg Free Press and did not try the test drive in Manitoba.