Electric Vehicles — 09 August 2013
This is part of the story, Boldly Going. A Tesla Family Road Trip, From Silicon Valley to LA
Part One: Escape From LA: We went for a fast charge and got much more than we bargained for…
Los Angeles, August 2nd, 2013: It was 2.30pm and the clock was ticking. We were in a race to escape the hellish Friday afternoon exodus from LA, but with 87 miles of charge, we couldn’t make it from Long Beach to Santa Barbara without a top up. So when we pulled off Crenshaw Boulevard, looking for LA’s only Tesla Supercharger, I felt sure we’d made a grave mistake. The building said SpaceX, there were no chargers in sight, and the security guard looked stern.
We were directed around the building, past SpaceX workers wielding heavy equipment, to the Tesla Design Studio where a sleek row of four Superchargers awaited us, only one in use. After a 20 minute pit stop that was more eventful than we expected (more on that below), we were charged and back on the road. Despite traffic building up on the notorious 405 and roadworks in Santa Monica, it was a smooth ride north via Malibu and we made it to Santa Barbara in time for afternoon tea.
Total journey: 124 miles. Total time: 2 hours 50 minutes. Total cost: Free (Tesla Superchargers are currently free).
Now back to that remarkable pit stop.
Feeling scruffy and dusty from camping on Catalina Island, it was awkward asking a passing Tesla employee where we could find coffee. Needn’t have worried. When you’re driving a Tesla, and you’re in Elon Musk’s back yard, it doesn’t matter if your clothes are crumpled, your hair needs washed and you smell faintly of firewood. We were soon ensconced in the foyer of the Tesla Design Studio (which doubles as a classy rest stop for drivers), kids devouring iced water, husband sipping fresh brewed espresso. And me? Ogling my first Model X.
The design is innovative. At first glance, it looks like a Model S, sleek and elegant. Upon further inspection, it’s taller and bulkier, but certainly not the wardrobe on wheels that many SUVs resemble.
Five minutes later, Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s Chief Designer walked in. We’d met briefly when I toured the Tesla Factory last year on assignment for a KQED Radio story, so despite my ungroomed appearance, he was gracious and we had a little chat.
Here are the highlights:
On the Model X
Yes indeed, Franz is spending most of his time on the Model X design. It’s due to be released late 2014. He was vague about progress on the Third Generation Tesla which is planned to retail for around $35,000 and have mass market appeal.
On replacing the wing mirrors with video cameras
Franz confirmed that they’re still in talks with authorities to get the necessary permissions for this innovative change which will make the car sleeker and more aerodynamic (not to mention, presumably free of blind spots). Tesla is at the front of the movement to release this feature, further increasing the range of their vehicles. Side-view mirrors are the elephant in the living room for vehicle drag, typically 3-6% of total vehicle drag. Note that VW’s XL1 turbodiesel, with a similar release schedule to the Model X, uses the same trick.
Photo caption: Tesla’s side-view mirror cameras further shrink Model X’s class-leading drag coefficient.
Franz bemoaned the cumbersome amount of regulations that prevent or delay innovative car design. It’s a topic Elon Musk also discussed with me in January.
Find out more from this Elon Musk Video. “I mean the body of regulation for cars could fill this room. It’s just crazy how much regulation there is. Down to what the headlamps are supposed to be like. They even specify some of the elements of the user interface on the dashboard…some of these are completely anachronistic...” Elon Musk
On the brash new color of Franz von Holzhausen’s Model S
Franz grinned big when we discussed his unique Model S. He said it was parked inside the Design Studio and the color is still “officially” under wraps, yet the stunning “electric blue” is all over the internet. Certainly not my cup of tea, but it works for some.
On Franz von Holzhausen imminent stardom
Although Franz is a low key guy, he’s not camera shy. After our conversation, he posed for a photo shoot for Details Magazine.
Check back soon for Part Two of A Tesla Family Road Trip, Silicon Valley to LA
To LA and Beyond, Space The Final Frontier
I’ll show you our route from Silicon Valley to LA (Long Beach Catalina Express) and how the roomy frunk and trunk devoured all our camping gear, clothes for a week, as well as our son’s starting college necessities, to leave us a roomy, clutter free interior space. Our Tesla adventure wasn’t without issues however. We didn’t opt for the navigation package, so misleading touchscreen information on new Superchargers in Atascadero and Buellton had us scratching our heads; and we had to reboot the touchscreen several times too. More on that soon.
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