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Tesla Battery Supply Deal for Think Scuttled

2 November 2007

Tesla Motors has opted not to pursue the development of battery packs for Think Global, according to Darryl Siry, Tesla Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service.

In May, Tesla Energy Group, a newly-formed division of Tesla Motors, announced an agreement to supply Think Global with lithium-ion battery packs (derived from Tesla’s battery pack design for the Tesla Roadster) for the Th!nk City cars. That supply agreement covered the development and delivery of battery packs starting in December 2007 and continuing through 2008.

After Michael Marks became CEO of Tesla Motors, one of the first actions he took was to inform Think that we would not pursue the development of battery packs for them at that time because we had to be focused entirely on our own vehicle programs. We hope to work with Think in the future, but for now it is important that we stay focused on our own vehicle programs.

—Darryl Siry

In October, Think Global announced it had selected EnerDel as the supplier of choice for prismatic large format Li-ion batteries that will be used to power its Th!nk City electric vehicles. (Earlier post.)

To counter a growing perception that problems with the Tesla battery pack were behind the delays in delivering the electric Roadster—and Think’s shift to EnerDel—Siry wrote that:

The primary cause of our delay has been and continues to be issues with durability and reliability of the transmission, as we have reported before.

November 2, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)

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Maybe Tesla should have consulted with John Weslund (sp?) of White Zombie fame. IIRC, his electrified Datsun has 2 motors bolted together with a switch to throw between serial/parallel. Or could be done with motor windings.

Theory - meet reality.

The White Zombie used brushed DC motors - I'm not sure if the same could be done with two AC induction motors, although I'll confess I've thought of doing the same thing before.

Best they stay focused on the current roadster and not try to be an OEM for others.

I doubt that Tesla's problem is the differential; I'll bet it's the gear shifting system.  Dual motors would just double the number of gear shifting systems required.

I'm starting to get worried about these guys. I sure hope Tesla succeeds, they've got the Ansari contest coming up.

Okay,

I have to say it!

I'm sorry but as much as I like to see Tesla succeeding in their endeavors, if one looks carefully this company did not build anything. They got a vehicle from Lotus (minus the engine), they got their electric drive from AC Propulsion, and the battery pack who knows from where... They better step up to the plate and perform otherwise they are going to be in big trouble if they can't deliver their famosu roadster...maybe too much hype and PR...typical of companies funded by Silicon valley VCs...it's all a spin, but where is the substance?

Good luck Tesla; I hope you'll make it!

FS

I have to agree with Fred. Tesla may get the initial orders out the door,but the volume and the margin is just not there for the amount of overhead required for automobile manufacturing.
But thank you Tesla for giving the industry a wakeup call.

Fred - less than 20% of the car is carryover lotus parts. Also, the motor, battery pack and power electronics are all manufactured by Tesla. We do license some technology from ACP that relates to how we use the inverter for charging but nothing on our car is purchased from ACP. This is all discussed in detail on our website www.teslamotors.com.

Tony,

It is hard for me to be impressed by you saying you are building the motor and power electronics. Induction motors have been around for a very long time and an off the shelf unit with some minor case modifications could easily be substituted, in addition the power electronics, specifically pwm vector flux vfd's are very much mature in industry, then it's just a matter of repackaging and re-laminating the buses. Also, as much as it's fascinating that you were able to get 6800 cells to work and be able to monitor them, that certainly can't be a long term solution, nor one I would even want to consider next year.

I don't want to say that you need to be making all or even most of your components, but I'd like to see some vehicles soon.

As for the transmission, I am not sure if a clutch is being used or not, but if so then I think you are overlooking a great advantage of an ev. If there is no clutch, to me it still seems silly to have an electrically actuated manual, why not modify the design of standard manual transmission, use speed matching on the motor instead of a clutch and have shift sensors on the shaft of the stick. Then the motor can be directly connected to the transmission, you could still use existing transmission designs with fewer gears, and probably reduce overall component costs.

That rant completed, I still wish you and the company the best of luck and I hope you succeed.

Is the efficiency penalty of not using a 2-speed really that bad? What is the 0-60 time using just the existing 2nd gear without using first?

If anyone's still reading this, White Zombie's owner is John Wayland. Here's the White Zombie history.

AC Propulsion's tzero has sparkling performance with a single-ratio transmission, but its top speed is limited by the maximum RPM of the motor.  Tesla probably figured that they wouldn't have a marketable product with such a limited top speed.

Fred has a lot of good points. Anyone that thinks producing a new consumer product is easy should go ahead and try it. Liability and gov't regulation represent huge obstacles. Volume or specialty manufacturing is an incredibly cash intensive undertaking. Even Elon has limits to how deep his pockets are, and with his ventures into SpaceX, I wonder how long the spigot can stay turned on - even with outside cash infusion. At best, I see Tesla being in play if they get their product to market and satisfy their customers. Reality has a way of turning dreams into bankruptcy. That said, Tesla is the most promising auto startup that I've ever seen. Their credentials are above reproach.

There is really no reason for some of you at this point to have so much doubt about Tesla. They are not far from their proposed schedule and its certainly not surprising that there are a few hickups along the way - its still early in the game. Fred, why is there such a problem with Tesla obtaining some of the parts elsewhere or modifying them? All US automobile manufacurers outsource many of their components. There really is no basis for such a "criticism". If after a year Tesla hasn't delivered then there will be reason to worry.

Marcus,

Rational criticism is much needed here. I have been a "lurker" on this web site for a while and have noticed that much of the stuff posted here might as well have come from an alternative universe. Since I am not into flaming and all the other juvenile stuff that gets on many boards I will summarize my feelings and then shut up. Tesla is a wonderful company, but so is Plug Power, Capstone Power, Buell motorcycles, and the like. I have no doubt that they will bring a product to market, but I have grave doubts as to their profitability. They will continue to burn through cash until the company is cheap enough to be acquired by a private equity firm like Cerebus. Then, who knows what will happen. Take my comments as you may, but we have seen a lot of very promising technology die at the starting gate or halfway through the race. Tesla has my upmost respect. I'm not half as intelligent as the engineers and businessmen running it, so hopefully, I'm wrong.

"typical of companies funded by Silicon valley VCs...it's all a spin, but where is the substance?"

Intel
Sun
Google
Apple
Hewlett Packard
Genentech
Silicon Graphics
AMD
Red Hat
Facebook
Yahoo
Microsoft
Dell
AltairNano...

getting dizzy.

ALL THAT WE ARE GETTING IS PROTO TYPES, STUDIES AND RESEARCH AGREEMENTS ON ELECTRIC HYBRIDS ETC BUT NO IS PUTTING ANY PRODUCT IN THE MARKET, PL GIVE NEWS ON MARKET INTRODUCTION PRIORITY.

getting dizzy.

You'd get dizzy if you listed all the monumental failures, which outnumber those by at least 100 to 1.

Pets.com, anyone? How about a little Webvan?

"The primary cause of our delay has been and continues to be issues with durability and reliability of the transmission, as we have reported before."

How can that be, with only 2 gear ratios, and smoother torque characteristic of an electric motor vs. the explosive power pulse of the ICE?

Just make it a manual transmission without an engine-to-transmission clutch, and connect the motor directly to the transmission. EV never needs to idle its motor. Then, provide just a manually-operated single synchromesh clutch between the two gears, and drive-by-wire gas pedal mechanism that allows the on-board processor to automatically adjust the motor rpm to match the car speed at the next gear ratio before the synchromesh clutch is allowed to engaged to the next gear. Voila, ultra-smooth shift, very sporty, imperceptible and will last forever. No clutch pedal and no clutch to burn, ever!

Fred's comment was that "Silicon Valley VCs... it's ALL spin." My reply begs to differ. And success to failure rates in any new endeavor will be lopsided. People spent well over 2000 years inventing flying machines before Kitty Hawk. Should we stop developing EVs or alternative energy because there are going to be some crash and burns?

Glass half full.

People spent well over 2000 years inventing flying machines before Kitty Hawk. Should we stop developing EVs or alternative energy because there are going to be some crash and burns?

People spent over 2000 years inventing flying machines? And you're comparing this to battery cars? Just because someone can formulate a concept doesn't mean the technology base is there to help them make that concept a reality. Specifically, one specific company's success or failure is independent of the technology environment they work within.

Anonymous: "Just because someone can formulate a concept doesn't mean the technology base is there to help them make that concept a reality."

Consider the concept of aerodynamic lift which requires little technology, rather a complete understanding of wing design as demonstrated by birds in flight far longer than 2000 years.

In any case there remains a high failure to success rate in new technology which has not seemed to prevent innovation or enthusiasm for its propagation.

Dear GR,

I have no doubt that many of today's succesful companies were/are funded by AV-VCs.

However; here's the issue:

A] Why can Tesla attract more money then and truly burst through their mechanical issues if the product os that good...why not then?

B] My point of VC spinning is based on personal experience. I cannot say names, but I was/am still involved with start-ups and succesful IPO companies, but the issue here is that before you go our there "running" you gotta learn how to walk. If Tesla was my company, I would it kept it quite UNTIL I am 100% sure that everthing works properly and that I am actually able to deliver the product without hesitations. Tesla most likely will get over this little speed bump, but in my view, they should make sure that instead of running the corp. like all SV-VC funded typical PR spin models, and deliver delays, to focus on getting the product to work right and to deliver it to all those people who signed in to get one before anyone else can!

There's a new EV company; PEAR Motors, and I understand that unlike Tesla, they do not go our and publicize their future vehicles like crazy, but work hard to make sure the vehicle[s] is going to be be a good product and a product that people will be able to use without concerns. Also, they are NOT funded by VCs as far as I know, which means that they don't have to answer to others while they try to put their production in motion.

Anyway, I have nothing against SV-VCs, I just would prefer if Tesla left the VCs model outside the door and focus on getting this vehicle on the road instead!

My own opinion of course...

FS

PS: To Tesla: I am aware that you guys manufacture some/most of the parts. I know about ACP licensing agreement for their drive technology...in my view, drop the two gear shift and get simpler in your mechanical design...things work much better when they are simple and usually they don't break as much!

Sorry about the many typos; I am writing this after a too much coffee.

"AV" is supposed to be "SV"

"our" supposed to be "out"

"they should focus..."

Sorry I type too fast.

FS

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