Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Cclose followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”

Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Cclose followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”

Audi’s off-roading electric concept would be perfect for Tatooine

Concept vehicles are a staple of the auto show circuit. And while most will never end up as a production vehicle, they can provide insight into an automaker and clues to where it’s headed.

Over at Audi, designers and engineers might have had a distant planet in mind. Or at least an expanse of wilderness.

The German automaker unveiled Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show the Audi AI: TRAIL quattro, a concept electric vehicle designed for the “future of off roading.” The “Trail” off roader is one of four concept vehicles that Audi has presented at various auto shows since 2017. Other concepts included a sports car, luxury vehicle and one designed for megacities.

Audi argues that these concepts aren’t efforts of futility. Instead, the company says it these four vehicles show how Audi vehicles in the future will be designed for specific use cases.

“In the future, customers will be able to order any of these specialist Audi models from an Audi on-demand vehicle pool to suit their personal preferences and requirements and to lease them for a limited period,” the company said in its announcement.

Audi takes this idea of the on-demand subscription further by noting that vehicles will be configured to suit individual preferences of customers who use this still non-existent and totally conceptual on-demand product. All the essential customer information would be stored in the myAudi system and accompanying app, the company said.

In the video below, Audi’s head of design Marc Lichte explains the thinking behind these concepts.

 

In the case of the Audi AI: TRAIL, designers put an emphasis on exploration and seeing the surrounding environment. It even comes with five drones, which aside from replacing the headlights, can provide other tasks such as lighting up your camping area or picnic spot.

The all-electric concept, which has a range of up to 310 miles, is about 13.5 feet long and 7 feet wide and is outfitted with beefy 22-inch wheels. And because it’s a vehicle meant to off road, designers gave it ground clearance of 13.4 inches. This concept, if it really existed beyond the showroom floor, can ford through water more than half a meter deep. The range of the vehicle does drop on rough roads to about 155 miles, which would theoretically (if this vehicle actually existed) make wilderness travel more difficult.

[gallery ids="1880216,1880211,1880220,1880215,1880212,1880213,1880210,1880221,1880214,1880207"]

The battery unit is integrated into the floor providing a spacious interior that sits four people. Glass surrounds the cabin to provide unrivaled views of the environment, whether it’s an earthly vista or the binary sunset over the fictional Tatooine desert.

The remaining exterior body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, giving it a total weight of 3,858 pounds.

The concept vehicle is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and all-wheel drive. What you won’t find are any screens for streaming video. This concept was designed for viewing the outside world.

The interior, which uses recycled materials, is scant. There are pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation.

The second row features seats that are designed to function like hammocks — and can be removed and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

Drones as headlights!

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the inclusion of five rotorless electrically operated drones, which serve a variety of purposes. The drones, which have matrix LED lighting, can dock on the roof to get more power with the inductive charging elements.

Audi calls these drones Audi Light Pathfinders because of their ability to fly and illuminate the path ahead. These drones, Audi says replace headlights altogether. When the vehicle is parked, the drones can be used ti light up the surrounding area.

Occupants control the drones through their smartphones in this theoretical use case. The on-board cameras can generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into “eyes in the sky,” Audi says.

Here’s every angle of the Porsche Taycan Turbo S in pictures

Four years ago, Porsche showed off a concept that would mark a turning point — in investment, R&D and product trajectory — for the German automaker. The reaction to the Mission E, as it was called then, prompted Porsche AG to push forward with a plan to not only develop one electric car, but commit billions of dollars towards electrification.

On Wednesday, in a debut held in three countries simultaneously, the world finally got to see the first fruits of its strategy.

TechCrunch was in Niagara Falls for the splashy reveal. We have all the details of the two Taycan models introduced Wednesday including the pricing, power and performance stats. And of course, we have a side-by-side comparison of the Taycan versus a Tesla Model S. We even provided a timeline (along with photos) of Porsche’s development  of the Taycan.

Now here are more photos of the Taycan Turbo S on stage in Canada.

[gallery ids="1877459,1877460,1877467,1877481,1877461,1877480,1877477,1877462,1877463,1877464,1877466,1877468,1877469,1877470,1877471,1877473,1877476,1877478,1877479,1877485,1877488"]

 

Tesla Autopilot was engaged before 2018 California crash, NTSB finds

A Tesla Model S was in Autopilot mode —the company’s advanced driver assistance system — when it crashed into a fire truck in Southern California last year, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Reuters was the first to the report on the contents of the public documents. A final accident brief, including NTSB’s determination of probable cause, is scheduled to be published Wednesday.

The crash, involving a 2014 Tesla Model S, occurred Jan. 22, 2018 in Culver City, Calif.  The Tesla had Autopilot engaged for nearly 14 minutes when it struck a fire truck that was parked on Interstate 405. The driver was not injured in the crash and the fire truck was unoccupied.

Tesla has not commented on the report. TechCrunch will update if the company provides a statement.

The report found that the driver’s hands were not on the wheel for the vast majority of that time despite receiving numerous alerts. Autopilot was engaged in the final 13 minutes and 48 seconds of the trip and the system detected driver-applied steering wheel torque for only 51 seconds of that time, the NTSB said. Other findings include:

  • The system presented a visual alert regarding hands-off operation of the Autopilot on 4 separate occasions.
  • The system presented a first level auditory warning on one occasion; it occurred following the first visual alert.
  • The longest period during which the system did not detect driver-applied steering wheel torque was 3 minutes and 41 seconds.

In the 2018 crash into a fire truck, the vehicle was operating a “Hardware Version 1” and a firmware version that had been installed via an over-the-air software update on December 28, 2017. The technology provided a number of convenience and safety features, including forward, lane departure and side collision warnings and automatic emergency braking as well as its adaptive cruise control and so-called Autosteer features, which when used together

While the report didn’t find any evidence that the driver was texting or calling in the moments leading up to the crash, a witness told investigators that he was looking down at what appear to be a smartphone. It’s possible that the driver was holding a coffee or bagel at the time of the crash, the report said.

Autopilot has come under scrutiny by the NTSB, notably a 2016 fatal crash in Florida and a more recent one involving a Walter Huang, who died after his Model X crashed into a highway median in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also opened an inquiry into the 2016 fatal crash and ultimately found no defects in the Autopilot system. NTSB determined the 2016 fatal crash was caused by a combination of factors that included limitations of the system.

The family of Huang filed in May 2019 a lawsuit against Tesla and the State of California Department of Transportation. The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, alleges that errors by Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system caused the crash.

Tesla’s Model 3 interior (even the steering wheel) is now 100% leather-free

Tesla said Saturday that its Model 3 interiors are now completely free of leather, fulfilling a promise made by CEO Elon Musk at this year’s annual shareholder meeting.

Tesla has been closing in on a leather-free interior for a couple of years now. But a sticking point was the steering wheel, which Musk made mention of at the company’s shareholder meeting in June in response to a request from PETA activist.

I believe we were close to having a non-heated steering wheel, that’s not leather,” Musk said at the time.There are some challenges when when heat the non-leather material and also how well it wears over time.”

Musk said Model Y and Model 3 would be vegan by 2020. He wasn’t sure if the company would be able to meet that same goal for the Model S and X.

 

 

Activist shareholders made a proposal in 2015 that Tesla no longer use animal-derived leather in the interiors of its electric vehicles by 2019. While stockholders rejected that proposal, Tesla did begin rolling out more “vegan” interior components in its cars.

The company began by offering leather-free seats as an option. Two years ago, Tesla made the synthetic material standard in its Model 3, Model X and Model S vehicles.

Tesla promises up to 30% lower rates with new car insurance play

Tesla said Wednesday it has launched an insurance product, promising owners of its electric vehicles to deliver rates 20% and even as high as 30% lower than other insurance providers.

For now, the product known as Tesla Insurance, will only be available to owners in California. The business will expand to additional U.S. state in the future, Tesla said without naming where or providing a timeline.

The announcement follows Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s promise back in April that the company would launch an insurance product “in about a month.” At the time, he said it would be “much more compelling than anything else out there.”

The company argues that Tesla Insurance will be able provide insurance at a lower cost by leveraging the “advanced technology, safety, and serviceability of our cars.” In short, Tesla is saying that it deep insight and familiarity with its own vehicles gives it a better understanding of the technology and repair costs. This helps eliminate fees taken by traditional insurance carriers.

Tesla says the cost of each policy will be based on an individual’s driving record and “other factors that can typically impact a person’s insurance rates.” The company says it won’t, however, use or record vehicle data, such as GPS or vehicle camera footage, when pricing insurance.

That policy seems in direct conflict with Musk’s comments during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts in April when he said Tesla has an “information arbitrage opportunity, explaining that it’s able to capture driving data, giving the company direct knowledge of the risk profile of the driver and car.

If customers want to buy Tesla insurance they might have to agree to “not drive the car in a crazy way,” Musk said at the time. He later added that they can drive crazy, they’ll just have a higher insurance rate.

Tesla insurance won’t cover commercial services such as using the vehicle for ride-hailing or car-sharing services.

Owners looking to insure multiple Tesla vehicles may also be eligible for further discounts, the company said,

Existing Tesla customers in California, and eventually owners in other states, are able to purchase a policy through a dedicated webpage. Customers ordering new vehicles can request a quote prior to delivery once a VIN has been assigned to their Tesla Account, according to the company.

Porsche Taycan sets fastest 4-door electric car record at Nürburgring Nordschleife

Porsche’s upcoming all-electric Taycan has set a narrow, yet notable record lap time at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife test track in Germany.

The company said Monday the Porsche Taycan, which will debut Sept, 4., completed the 12.8-mile course in 7 minutes and 42 seconds. This is the fastest lap for a four-door electric vehicle. The record time was set in a pre-series Taycan driven by Lars Kern.

But it’s not the fastest lap for any electric vehicle. That honor goes to Volkswagen’s ID R electric race car, which completed the course in 6:05.336 minutes. The previous record was set in 2017 by Peter Dumbreck, who was driving a Nio electric vehicle.

Still, it’s a zippy time for any vehicle. Porsche has set out to show the speed and endurance of its first electric vehicle ahead of its debut. Porsche says its record run at Nürburgring-Nordschleife and an endurance test the Nardò high-speed track show the Taycan can both.

Earlier this year, Porsche tested the Taycan’s ability to do successive acceleration runs from zero to 62 miles per hour. A video shows 26 successive starts without losses in performance. The average acceleration figure from the timed runs was under 10 seconds, according to Porsche. The difference between the fastest and slowest acceleration runs was 0.8 seconds, the company said.

The German automaker also drove 2,128 miles at speeds between 128 and 133 mph within 24 hours, only stopping to charge the battery and change drivers, at the Nardò track in Italy.

At Nürburgring-Nordschleife, development engineers started driving a Taycan around in a simulator to test and evaluate its performance on a virtual race track. Porsche said one of the main goals was determining electric energy with thermal management, which form an important contribution to achieving the lap time.

Porsche is aiming to prove to its existing customers, many of whom have never driven or owned an electric vehicle, that the Taycan will meet the same performance standards as its gas-powered cars and SUVs. It also hopes to attract new customers to the Porsche brand.

It appears the company is on the right track, if the thousands of reservations for the Taycan convert into actual purchases.

The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV now has a 259-mile range thanks to some cell chemistry tinkering

The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV now has 259 miles of range, a 9% increase from previous year models of the electric hatchback, according to the EPA.

To get there, the company focused on cell chemistry, not the battery pack. The GM brand did not add more battery cells or change the battery pack or the way it is integrated into the vehicle structure, a spokesperson confirmed.

Instead, Chevrolet’s battery engineering team made what the company described as “impactful changes to the cell chemistry.” The changes to the cell chemistry allowed the team to improve the energy of the cell electrodes, and ultimately enabled them to squeeze more range out of the battery.

The increase pushes the 2020 Chevy Bolt ahead of the Kia Niro and the standard range plus variant of the Tesla Model 3, with 239 and 240 miles of range, respectively. Other versions of the Model 3, the long-range and performance, have a much longer 310-mile range. It’s also just one mile better than the 258-mile range Hyundai Kona EV. Nissan Leaf Plus, the laggard in the group, can travel 226 miles on a single charge.

That might not seem like much. But in this small, yet growing pool of electric vehicle models, jumping from 238 to 259 miles could help Chevrolet sell more Bolt EVs next year. It could also cannibalize sales this year.

The electric vehicle has never been a top seller for the GM brand, particularly compared to its top-selling SUVs and trucks. It has beat out some of its other Chevy models and sales are high enough for the company to stick with the compact hatchback for now.

GM delivered 23,297 Chevy Bolt EVs in 2017, the first model year of the electric vehicle. But the following year, deliveries fell 22%, to 18,019. Sales have rebounded in the first half of the year.

The 2020 model year, which will be offered in two new exterior colors, is expected to arrive in dealerships later this year. The base price of the electric vehicle is $37,495, which includes destination and freight charges. Tax, title, license and dealer fees are excluded.

Inside the Porsche Taycan’s minimalist, all-digital interior

Porsche has taken the wraps off of the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a minimalist and sleek interior for the modern digital age.

Porsche released Thursday several images of the interior. Earlier this week, TechCrunch was among numerous media outlets that had a chance to get an up close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.

Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the inside details and what stood out.

911 design lines

At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of deja vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the pictures below, which shows a clean and sleek dashboard.

The 911 DNA is evident. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.Taycan Interior 2

The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically-operated louvres found most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel that is located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.

Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and then a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.

 

Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to TechCrunch about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although there are plenty of passenger features here as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.

The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited, polarizing filter.

Porsche-Taycan-Interior-instrument

The digital instrument cluster is the highest point of the dashboard in the Porsche Taycan.

The Instrument Cluster

Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers can also remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”

This pure mode displays only essential information such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.

Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. TechCrunch wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine it a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.

Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.

All The Screens

The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.

From the central screen and moving to the right, is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche. The company is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display and testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.

Dark Mode

Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. TechCrunch doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that is emanates from so many vehicles these days.

Interior colors and leather-free options

Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which TechCrunch viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan, a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.

The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.

The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told TechCrunch that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then Porsche won’t use the vegan term.

Apple Music and more

Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple  Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show a home, vehicle and messages button, which will lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used so the driver doesn’t need to glance at the screen.

Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.