Car vs Plane: A Surprising Result

The 1.8-mile runway at Avalon Airport, located southwest of Melbourne, was the setting for a unique test of innovation, speed and power. It was a battle that put two examples of engineering achievement against one another. A Qantas Boeing 737-800 aircraft vs. a Tesla Model S P90D. The 737 boasts over 50,000 pounds of thrust and once leveled out in the air, it can approach almost 550 MPH, 200MPH shy of the speed of sound. The Model S can crank out 762 horsepower with its two electric engines and can hit 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds. That’s .1 of a second slower then a Bugatti Veyron. Although it doesn’t fly, it’s nice knowing that you have the quickest four door sedan ever built.

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Model S head to head with the 737

The Model S launched off the starting line, leaving the 737’s two engines still roaring to life. Plane vs car. Pilot against driver. The Model S is tough to catch on the start but the gap is narrowed as the 737 storms down the runway. Both the Model S and 737-800 travel neck and neck as the 737 reached take off speed of 140 knots (160MPH), roughly the same as the Model S’s top speed of 155 MPH. The shadow of the 737 began to cover the obvious earlier winner on the ground. The Model S was only overtaken at the last moment when the aircraft did what it was designed to do: fly.

Aside from seeing who would win, what was the point of this runway duel?

Australia’s airline service, Qantas, and California based electric automotive manufacturer, Tesla Motors, are starting a partnership to drive innovation for their customers and sustainability in the transport industry. In the upcoming months Tesla and Qantas will introduce the following services and benefits for their customers: Exclusive Qantas events for frequent flyers that allow the customer to check out new Tesla vehicles and technology, Qantas club membership for Model S owners, Tesla Powerwall connectors at Qantas valet facilities in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, allowing Model S and X owners to charge while they travel. Furthermore, Qantas will be Tesla’s airline of choice in Australia and will offset all of Tesla’s domestic travel emissions as part of “Qantas Future Planet Program.” Meetings will occur regularly between both companies to explore future opportunities regarding sustainable transportation.

In an interview with Alan Milne, Qantas’s Head of Environment and Fuel, he stated “Both of our companies are passionate about continuing to push the boundaries of customer service, innovation and sustainability in the transport industry. We’re huge admirers of the way Tesla has transformed the electric car sector as a premium brand and we look forward to sharing our understanding and advance the work we started in 2012 on biofuels as an alternative to jet fuel. What better way to celebrate working together than having a unique race – car vs. plane”

I take it Milne doesn’t watch Top Gear very often if he is referring to this as a “unique race” but none the less, a brilliant video!

Watch the video here:

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The Model 3, Believe the Hype?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple months, you have probably heard that Tesla is releasing details on the fourth model in their car lineup at the end of this month. Tesla’s referring to it as the Model 3. The car will go into production in late 2017 and will cost $35,000 before tax incentives. This will be Tesla’s first car that appeals to a larger market price point and will help Tesla in reaching their goal of producing 500,000 cars by 2020.

So what do we already know?

As far as the look of the car goes, it’s expected to be a sedan, similar to the Model S that is already on the road. Tesla has done a great job keeping the design under wraps. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stated at an event in late 2015 that the Model 3 will be roughly 20% smaller then the Model S.  We probably wont see the distinctive falcon wing doors that the Model X offers.  The biggest question I have had regarding the Model 3 is how long will the charge last? The base line Model S has a minimum range of 240 miles per charge. I imagine the Model 3 wont go quite that far due to the smaller battery to keep the cost low. Tesla has to provide a battery that offers enough mileage per charge where the driver wont get range anxiety every time they get in the car. Musk has been quoted saying that “200 miles should be the minimum range for any electric car.”

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Model 3 Concept Idea

On February 10th, Musk stated that Tesla will be holding back on some of the features offered in the Model S in order to bring the car to market quicker. “In retrospect, it would have been better to do fewer things with the first version of the Model X, and then roll in new technologies over time” Musk said during a Tesla conference. It’s safe to say we probably wont be seeing the notorious 17” screen in the center console found in the Model S and X. Unfortunately, some of Tesla’s most talked about features cost thousands of dollars, making them impractical for a moderately priced car. For example, Ludacris mode that allows the Model S to go 0 to 60 in just 2.8 seconds, costs an additional $10,000 dollars and the autopilot feature adds $3,000. These two features alone cost almost half of what the Model 3 will be priced at after tax incentives.

At the $35,000 price point, the Model 3 will cost roughly half of what a baseline Model S costs. Fortunately, those interested in purchasing a Tesla will receive a $7,500 tax deduction, bringing the price down to $27,500. Some states like Arizona, Delaware and Tennessee offer additional $2,500 credit. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of cars coming into market now are $34,000, so Tesla is coming it at the perfect price point. Tesla is starting to take preorders for the Model 3 April 1st (not an April Fools joke) with a down payment of $1000. Even if you are the one of the first to throw down a payment towards a Model 3, increasing production takes a while so it could easily be early 2018 until you lay eyes on your Model 3. Musk has always been a little overly optimistic about when Tesla products will be ready for release.

Tesla Model X: Apocalypse Proof

 

Tesla released the third model in their automotive line up in September of 2015. It’s called the Model X and it brings a familiar, yet refreshing design.  The Model X is a full size crossover SUV that was built off the platform of the Model S. Tesla was originally going to release the Model X back in early 2014 but wanted to reach the Model S production target of 20,000 cars for the year, so pushed it back yet again. To the surprise of no one, November 2014 came around and Tesla announced they would once again push back the release date of the Model X until Q3 2015. Sales began in September and 208 lucky owners received their Model X by the end of the year.

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Elon Musk standing in the second row

The first exterior difference that stuck out to me was the Model X’s lack of a grille. The Model X is an electric car, meaning it has no need for a front air intake to cool the combustion engine. That being said, I believe the Tesla design team did an excellent job making the front of the model X aesthetically pleasing, even while opting out of an artificial grille. The most distinct design feature the Model X offers its occupants are the falcon wing doors. These doors rise upwards and out rather than gullwing doors that only open outward. The advantage of falcon wing doors is that the opening radius is only 12 inches. That means when you find yourself in a tight parking spot, no need to worry about getting trapped in the back seat.  Additionally, these falcon wing doors allow occupants to stand in the second row, allowing easy access to the third row when loading heavy objects like booster seats. Lastly, the Model X uses the largest piece of glass in a production vehicle. The Model X windshield extends over the driver of the car and concludes at the B-pillar. This gives a convertible-esque feel to the Model X and removes the need for a sunroof, which the falcon wing doors would prevent.

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17 inch center display

The Model X interior is a direct representation of all the bells and whistles you would find inside a Model S. Once you step inside you will be greeted by the beautiful 12-inch digital dashboard display located behind the steering wheel. It might be hard to keep your eyes on the puny 12-inch display when you glance to your right (left in the UK) to find a 17 inch display that controls every aspect of the car.

At first glimpse, you might not expect the Model X to be the most powerful SUV on the market, but never judge a book by its cover. The Model X comes in two different configurations the 90D and the P90D. Both configurations have the same battery and both are all wheel drive. The 90D has two electric motors that ­when combined do 520 horsepower. The P90D takes things a step further and bumps that rear electric motor to 503 horsepower. At the end of the day, the P90D brings to the table over 700 horsepower and 713 lb-ft of torque. You better get used to seeing the P90D badge on the rump of the Model X.

The Model X only offers a 90kWh battery. Equivalent battery sizes are offered with the Model S but due to the Model X’s heavy weight, it takes a toll on the overall range. The P90D has an EPA rated 250 miles of range, while the 90D has 257 miles of range. The difference of range between the Model X is roughly 10% less than the Model S.

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Falcon wing doors

 

Safety has always been the forefront at Tesla Motors. One risk that all SUV’s face is rollover during an accident. This is due the majority of the weight being above the wheels. Thankfully, Tesla use large battery packs that keep majority of that weight under the floor. This creates a low center of gravity making the Model X exceptionally more difficult to rollover. With no engine in the front of the car, the nose of the vehicle can absorb more head on impact without crushing the main cabin.  Aside from an incredibly well built structure, the Model X has a litany of add-on safety features from emergency breaking systems, autopilot functionality, and lastly, but not all, the Model X offers a cabin air filtration system. This keeps the occupants inside breathing fresh air while the apocalypse is occurring outside.

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Model X Windshield

If you are someone considering purchasing one of these elite vehicles, you’ll have to be patient. Tesla currently has more than 20,000 reservations for the Model X and you may have to wait for new order forms in 2017. That’s the first thing to consider when purchasing a Model X, the second being the price. The 90D configuration goes for a cool $132,000 and the P90D is $142,000. Not an inexpensive car but Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla says a 70DkWh battery is on its way which begin at $80,000. Still…not that inexpensive.

The Model X plays a large role in the expansion of Tesla, helping them get 50,000 cars a year up to 75,000-100,000. The Model X will help better situate Tesla in the future when they reveal the Model 3, their base line model starting at $30,000 that will appeal to a larger audience. Only time will tell if the Model X will do its part for Tesla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look Ma, No Hands

In October 2014, Tesla began production of the Model S with self driving technology implemented into the car. This technology consists of a forward looking radar and camera, twelve long range ultrasonic sensors, positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction, at any speed, and lastly a high precision digitally controlled electric braking system. Though in its infinite stages, this was the beginning of autonomous driving.

A year later in October 2015, Tesla released software update 7.0 which delivered a variety of new safety and driving feedback modules. These modules work hand in hand with automated driving hardware features previously available in the Model S.  With new software features, Tesla represented the only automotive company that offers its customers a fully integrated autonomous driving system.

What makes the 7.0 update such a game changer though? Well let me tell you! The feedback modules installed now allow Tesla to use Big Data to further increase the safety and performance of autonomous driving.

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Tesla Model S Dashboard

The feedback modules consist of the camera, radar, ultrasonic, and GPS. When these systems are turned on, or in other words, when using autopilot, it sends real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet. This means that these systems are continuously learning and improving upon itself. Look at yourself not as the owner of a Tesla, but a master trainer. Autopilot’s current features include: “ability to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, manage speeds using traffic aware cruise control, internal digital control over brakes, steering, and electric motors. This helps prevent collisions from the front and sides as well as stopping your car from driving off the road.” Additionally, if you are looking to parallel park, simply pull along side the available spot, and the Tesla will park on command.

Even a month after the release of update 7.0, Tesla owners already started reporting noticeable growth in the autopilot capabilities. On the Tesla Motors Club forum, a P85D owner noticed that the Tesla had began following the highway more accurately and learning what exit ramps were.

“So far I have a little over 300 miles on autopilot, mostly 20 miles at a time on my commute to and from work. The first day when I was in the right lane, as I approached exit ramps, it would dive for the exit ramp. I quickly learned to apply torque to the wheel to hold the car on the interstate until I had passed the exit. Each day the system seems to have less tendency to follow the exit ramps as I pass. The last two days it only gave a momentary wiggle and moved over maybe six inches towards the exit ramp then it recovered and moved on down the road. This morning it gave only a very slight hesitation, so little that I did not have to correct it at all. I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly. I wonder if it is getting more information on this section of road or if it is changing how it reacts to any exit ramp?” – username: Mobe

Present day, Tesla is gathering about one million miles of data per day. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stated, “The capability will [keep improving over time] both from a standpoint of all the extra drivers but also in terms of the software functionality” Tesla has taken leaps of faith in the past trying to persuade the public that electric transportation is the future. Now, I can only expect Tesla to take similar measures with autonomous driving is next.

Bowie Points, Audi!

Houston, we have a problem. Audi’s new commercial, “The Commander” was too good! Super Bowl 50 was this past Sunday and I couldn’t tell you if I was more excited for the game or the advertisements. Companies like Heinz and Snickers had already given their audiences a taste of what to expect during the Super Bowl.  Earlier that week they had released previews of their ads prior to the game. Many ads have followed the expected humorous route, making sure it had stayed deeply rooted in viewer’s brains long after the game. That wasn’t the case for Audi.

Audi blasts off into space with the new R8 V10 Plus advertisement! On a serious note, the ad portrays a former astronaut who seems dissatisfied with life. He is unable to rekindle a flame that was once lit during his space exploration. Seen with an absent look on his face, the former astronaut pays no Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.04.20 PMattention to the food set beside him. Unaware that car headlights just flickered outside behind him, the former astronaut’s son arrives at his home. “Ok Commander, come with me…” the son requested. A walk outside reveals the R8 V10 Plus in all of it’s glory. As you look into the former astronaut’s eyes you can see the excitement returning into his life. Right before the engine ignition button is pushed, David Bowie’s “Starman” can be heard from a distance entering the scene. Bowie points, Audi!

maxresdefaultAudi’s marketing team made numerous ingenious decisions when creating this ad. The first decision: comparing the R8’s hasty acceleration to the acceleration of a space rocket. From the viewer’s perspective this paints a beautiful picture of how quickly this automobile will bring its occupant’s from zero to sixty. Secondly, this ad resonates on an emotional level with it’s audience. The retired astronaut is only able to experience the power of the R8 due to the son’s concern for him.

To conclude, I believe this advert really hit the nail on the head. Each year, the Super Bowl plays a handful of car commercials but once the Vince Lombardi Trophy is won, TV go’ers walk away remembering no more than a few. Audi did a great job this year creating memorable content that connected well with prospective Audi owners.

Watch the full 1:30 commercial:

Goodbye S8. Hello S8 Plus.

563x317_AS8_151008[1]I have been a fan of the S8 long before its leading role in the Transporter Refueled. Even though it was unfortunate not seeing Jason Statham, the abundance of action scenes including the S8 made up for it. I always found it strange why Audi was never discussed when talking about luxury super sedans. Rivals like BMW or Mercedes Benz – AMG were always mentioned first.  This could be due to the infrequent sighting of an S8 or it could be the that Mercedes – AMG models are revving so loudly that it muffles the S8’s alluring characteristics. This year, Audi has delivered something new to change the super sedan market forever. It’s called the S8 Plus, and you may want to sit down before reading the numbers it can produce. 605 horsepower and 517 lb-ft of torque. Yes, you read that correctly.

The 2015 predecessor S8 had 520 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque inside of a 4-liter twin turbo TFSI engine. The S8 Plus discovered an additional 85 horsepower and 35 lb-ft of torque in 2016. The S8 Plus is now well past R8 territory and still able to fit 5 full sized adults inside the cabin comfortably. That’s not all it offers under the hood. The 4 liter turbocharged TFSI has an over-booster that increases the torque from 517 to 553 lb-ft. Guaranteed to glue you to the back of your seat at no extra cost. 0 – 60 happens in 3.6 seconds, or about the time it took you to read this sentence.

It seems that the Germans have been up in arms about the S8’s top speed of 155 miles per hour(MPH). It just wasn’t quick enough for their Autobahn antics. Thankfully the S8 Plus has been de-restricted. The Plus now offers a “Dynamic Package” that bumps the top speed up to 189.5MPH, which I will round up to 190. This package comes standard in the German market, but if you know somewhere in the States where you can legally drive 190MPH, feel free to purchase the dynamic package add-on for a cool $11,000. This package is available in all markets, so you can expect to get a good look at the S8 Plus’ quadruple black tip exhausts before it vanishes into the distance wherever you live.

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How does the S8 Plus stand out in a crowd? External appearance modifications are small but distinctive. Naturally, the S8 Plus is equipped with Audi’s unparalleled Quattro all wheel drive system keeping the 21-inch titanium wheels grounded. A black optic exterior package gives prospect Plus owners the option for a matte black grille and carbon fiber mirror housings. Smoked taillights, carbon fiber air inlets, a black gloss diffuser wrapped in carbon fiber, and four gloss exhaust outlets make up exterior packages. Interior packages consist of; night vision assist, cold weather package, Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system, alcantara headliner, rear seat entertainment, ambient interior lighting, front seats that have massage features – and that’s only the beginning.

So, where does the S8 Plus price point begin? At $114,900 dollars. If you are considering the additional packages that were discussed above, you could be looking more in the range of $150,000. This is no inexpensive toy but for the substantial changes made and a baseline price starting at exactly the same as the 2015 S8, it’s safe to say nobody will be missing the outgoing S8. Welcome S8 Plus.