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Friday, October 10, 2014

Tesla’s Most Advanced and Powerful Car Ever

As reported by Wired: Tesla’s next car, the P85D, will have two motors and all-wheel drive. It will match the 3.2 second 0 to 60 mph time of the McLaren F1, one of the fastest cars ever made. And it will be even more efficient than the current, already terrific, Model S.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck. It’s just bananas,” said CEO Elon Musk, who unveiled the D at a crowded event, next door to the headquarters of the other company he helms, Space X.

And for those who settle for the standard Model S over the new Model S P85D, there’s something new: The cars now being produced are stuffed with high-tech safety technologies that will allow the car to automatically avoid danger and even drive itself—kind of.

The Model S P85D shares an exterior with the Model S sedan, and Musk didn’t mention any changes to the interior. What is different is what’s under the skin: A new motor between the front wheels to go along with the one in back. In addition to sending power to all four wheels, which is good news for customers in snowy climes, the system will boost the already impressive acceleration and the top speed. The P85D will get to 60 mph a full second faster than the current top of the line Tesla, the P85. It will max out at 155 mph instead of 130.  

Each of the three versions of the Model S will come as a D model. The price of the 60kWh battery model will go from $71,070 to $75,070 for the dual motor system. The 85 kWh car goes from $81,070 to $85,070, and the P85 jumps from $105,570 to $120,170. Deliveries of the less powerful D models will start in February, the P85D should hit the road in December.

What’s especially impressive is that Tesla managed to improve the car’s efficiency and range, despite the added mass of the second motor. The 85D and P85D will be able to drive 275 miles on a charge, 10 more than the 85 and P85. The range of the 60kWh version climbs from 208 to 225 miles. Musk said the added efficiency is thanks to the electronic system that will shift power between the front and rear motors from one millisecond to the next, so each is always operating at its most efficient point. Tesla has long said it will offer all-wheel drive on its next car, the Model X SUV, so it’s no surprise it’s bringing the technology to the sedan.

But the design and production of a high-performance version of the S is something of a pivot away from what Musk says is Tesla’s ultimate goal: offering a high-quality, electric car that can travel hundreds of miles without recharging, for around $35,000. That long-awaited “affordable” EV will be called the Model 3, and will follow the Model X to market. Tesla’s been quiet about when, exactly, that’ll happen.

Autopilot
In a move that most of the luxury auto market has already made, the car will offer active safety features like adaptive cruise control and the ability to read speed limit signs, stop itself if a crash is imminent, stay in its lane, and even park itself in a street spot or in your garage. (Musk seemed to decide on the spot he wanted the car’s charger to automatically plug in, but let’s give his engineers a chance to take a breath before getting to work on that one.)

These features are provided thanks to new hardware that will go into future Model S cars (and is already in every car produced in the past two weeks). Tesla is adding a radar that can see through fog and snow; a camera with image recognition capability to spot traffic signs and lights, as well as pedestrians; 360-degree ultrasonic sonar; and a system that combines all the data those produce with navigation, GPS, and real-time traffic systems.

The net result will be a car that can be put on “autopilot,” if not fully autonomous mode. Tesla isn’t ready to make the jump quite yet, Musk said, since the safety system can’t be fully relied on, and regulations to handle self-driving cars have to be figured out. But, Musk said, if you fall asleep while driving, the car should be able to get you home safely. If you try to steer into danger, the wheel will resist. Owners will also be able to summon the car to pick them up autonomously, as long as they’re on private property, where DOT and other regulations don’t apply. “The car can do almost anything,” he said.


model-d-inline
The technology behind these systems is likely provided by Daimler, as the two companies have a partnership: Tesla provides batteries for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive car. In December 2013, Daimler said it “has cooperated successfully with Tesla for several years and currently intends to broaden and deepen its partnership in the coming years.” Mercedes offers many of these features on its vehicles, and is working to put a self-driving car on the market by 2020.


This pile of features fully catches Tesla up with the luxury market in the one area where it was actually behind. As impressive as the current Model S is in terms of performance, it didn’t even have any adaptive cruise control, which monitors the car’s distance from other vehicles in addition to staying at speed on its own.

So now that it’s reestablished its position as the true innovator in the auto industry, maybe Tesla can go back to work on building a wonderful electric car more of us can take home.