BMW quicker than Tesla to bring "Bluestar" to the market?

BMW quicker than Tesla to bring "Bluestar" to the market?

Pretty much the specification I'd expect from Tesla's "Bluestar" model. Is BMW stealing the show?

Straight Shooter | 02. August 2011

I just read the first article and there seems to be a whole of dreaming going on here. This car will not compete with anything Telsa makes. Both Telsa cars are several degress of magnitude better. This car is a direct attack agains the Nissan Leaf and it should kill the Leaf actually.

As for the $35k price tag, that fantansy was discovered when I read the line about weight saving of 550-750lbs by using carbon fibre. Oh you mean that incredible strong, hard to work with and extremely expensive high end material? Just a few carbon fibre inserts of today's cars cost $1000s of dollars. Even 550lbs will require a large portion of the car to build entirely from it. In todays market, that translates into $10,000 (probably a lot more) in just carbon fibre. Even mass produced, this will still cost way too much.

Brian H | 03. August 2011

And expect the Bluestar to have comparable range to the current Mod-S, at least, by the time it comes out. Of course, battery tech advances will help all mfrs., so the playing field will be much different by 2015-6.

David M. | 03. August 2011

It's all about Marketing. A long time ago, I loved BMW, but couldn't afford one. It was the ultimate performance sedan company. Then, after the 320, BMW came out with the 318i and I bought one. It was a piece of crap. Their attempt to build a car that the masses could afford resulted in a underpowered, slow, unreliable, embarrassment. Important lesson - you cannot be everything to everybody. I think their low end EV will be another failure.

Tesla will be very successful selling luxury and performance EV cars in the $50K and up price range. If they eventually go below that, it will result in a vehicle with compromises, and MUST be marketed as such, or it will fail as well. If you want to make a $35K EV with less than 150 mile range, you better market it as a "City Car" or a "Commuter Car". Label it for what it is. Otherwise people will expect some of the performance and luxury they see in your other cars and will be disappointed.

Once production ramps up for the Leaf, Nissan would be wise to market it as a "City Car" or "Commuter Car". Then, nobody will criticize the range limitation, because you have already indicated the intended use. Marketing 101.

mwu | 03. August 2011

As new tech progresses and becomes more common, costs reduce and specs increase. I don't have any problem seeing Tesla building a $35k EV with a 200 or more mile range in a few years. As long as they continue to put a heavy emphasis on their engineering it should be a very good car to boot.

David M. | 03. August 2011

Reality Alert! Don't count on any car company selling a $35K EV with a 200+ mile battery before 2018. Current battery tech requires too much space and weight to fit a 200 mile range battery into a compact car. It's tough to make a mid-size EV (including 1,000 pound battery, to go 200 mi) under $50K (ask GM & Nissan). It will require a new battery chemistry. When it comes, it will take a few years of use to bring the price down. Only then will you see a $35K EV with 200 mile range. The good news is you'll see plenty of PHEVs with 200+ mile range before 2018. The Hybrids will sell under $35K, but Tesla is not in the Hybrid business. IMO

mwu | 03. August 2011

Semantics... "a few years," is a rather relative term. I don't see your estimate of 2018 as being beyond what I was expecting. Perhaps I should have used the word several. I don't think a "Reality Alert" is necessary for me, thank you.

Timo | 03. August 2011

@David M., weight or size, no. Roadster is a compact (very compact) car. You can fit current generation batteries in compact car quite easily.

Changing battery chemistry does not require years to use to bring price down, only technology to squeeze it into same form as previous ones. Panasonic 4 Ah batteries are not same chemistry as these current generation Panasonic batteries. I don't expect them to cost much more than these do. They are also nearly twice the density Roadster batteries are, so same range would need half the batteries, lowering battery weight and size quite a bit smaller (less batteries means also lighter support structures needed).

With those 4 Ah batteries 200miles requires roughly 200kg battery pack (Roadster pack is about 450kg), and 200kg of solid stuff does not take much space, it can fit under passenger seats, or in a floor like in Model S.

(Nissan and especially GM do not know how to make decent EV, Tesla does).

Volker.Berlin | 04. August 2011

The Secret Tesla Master Plan is still in action. In the August 2011 earnings call, Musk said (without mentioning the term "Bluestar"):

I've said for many years now that in order to make something, in order to achieve the mass markets, to have something compelling at the mass market level for product, you really need to optimize design and achieve economies of scale. And I think generally you need to do about three significant iterations on a new technology at least. And that's why our strategy has been to start up with the Roadster at low volumes, roughly higher price, and go to Model S mid-volumes, mid-price. And our third-generation of vehicle would be high volumes at a low price. (Elon Musk)

I found the following remark similarly interesting. So there will always be the next model around the corner, always food for the press and the forums:

But we want to come out with a new product every year. And so there will be Model S mostly next year, Model X the year thereafter, another vehicle a year after that and another vehicle a year after that. (Elon Musk)

Source for both quotes:

David M. | 04. August 2011

@mwu sorry, did not intend to be abrasive with comment

@Timo, You're right. 245 mi battery fits into Roadster, but the car costs $109K. Will be quite a while before the cost for a battery like that comes down by 75%. Or maybe a different battery chemistry could make it significantly cheaper to go 200 mi on a charge. I hope I'm wrong, but my intuition says that we won't see a $35K EV with 200 mile range until 2018.

Food For Thought
We may be much more likely to find a battery solution which would allow a 120 mile battery to recharge in 15 minutes. Now that would be a game changer. I wouldn't be spending the extra $20K for the 300 mile battery if I could recharge the 160 mile battery in 15 minutes.

mwu | 04. August 2011

David, no problem.

I agree -- battery range wouldn't matter nearly as much if recharges could be done faster. They say you should give yourself a break driving every 2 hours anyway. A stop to recharge for 15 minutes would be perfect assuming recharging stations are located within every 120 miles or so along the route.

Getting recharge stations set up could be another barrier to entry although I've been reading (I think in another thread here) that there are a few businesses which are already planning on getting them installed. I don't think recharge stations will be the biggest problem, but it's one to think about. A lot of people are going to be waiting for the recharging stations before buying an EV, and some businesses are going to be waiting to install charging stations until there is enough market for it and potentially enough of a standardization on them.

David70 | 04. August 2011

Standardization is going to be the big issue. I suspect Tesla hasn't even decided on what their final standard for the Model S's quick charging port will be. They probably won't until they find out if a U.S. standard is imminent, or they give up and set their own standard. Of course they probably do have their own standard decided, in the even that U.S. standards aren't set before the Model S comes out.

Timo | 05. August 2011

@ David, cost for 200mile battery for $35k car is low enough approximately 2013. In Roadster it isn't the battery that costs that much, it is the rest of the car. It has carbon fiber chassis, and that costs a lot, and they need a margin, which also increases the cost (and they are using old batteries, which probably cost a lot less now than Model S batteries will cost).

200 miles is about 50kWh. With assumed $300/kWh for 4Ah batteries that's $15k for batteries, so there is still $20k to use to build rest of the car (minus margin). Completely doable, though it does require quite good CdA and low rolling losses to reach that 200 mile range.

Reason why Nissan and GM can't make it that cheap is that they are using way more expensive batteries than Tesla.

Timo | 05. August 2011

That's David M., not David70.

Robert.Boston | 08. August 2011

I thought SAE J1772 was pretty much a given for charging standards. No?

Volker.Berlin | 08. August 2011

Timo, actually the Roadster chassis is aluminum, and the body panels are carbon fiber. (Sometimes I like being smart alec ;-)

Volker.Berlin | 18. Oktober 2011

I think I've seen a design like this before:

The entire article screams Model S/Model X. Seems like Tesla is in fact becoming an industry leader, that even BMW is following (without mentioning Tesla's name, of course).

Mycroft | 18. Oktober 2011

I'm just surprised it took so long. Just look at how sad and pathetic the newly announced GM Spark is in comparison. The Spark is yet another EV conversion. What is GM smoking???

jackhub | 20. Oktober 2011

There is an interesting macro perspective on the electric car business. When in engineering school I took a course in industrial history. An interestiing point emerged over and over. Very, very seldom do the dominant players in an industry survive the introducrtioon of a disruptubg technology. Without going too far back there are some recent examples. Carriage companies making autos? Radio manufacturers making TV sets? Business machine companies making computers? Mainframe computer companies making PCs? It should be interesting. I'm betting on Tesla.

Nicu | 21. Oktober 2011

PC makers making phones and tablets ? Yes, there is one notable exception, because they are the disruptor, but the vast majority is running on fumes. Tesla has that great potential of a century to revolutionize personal transportation. But they haven't won yet, the road to go stretches outside of mind's eyes view. It will be a steady uphill seemingly never ending battle, but if they keep the eyes on the ball, they can do it. It breaks down or it booms. I have bet aggressively on the latter (I own many TSLA leaps).

Volker.Berlin | 27. Oktober 2011

First real news regarding Bluestar in a long time (or is it?): It will share the "Third Generation Platform" with the next generation Roadster. The latter is announced to hit the market in 2014, while a car that will attract customers who otherwise might choose a 3 series is targeted for around 2015. A yet more mass-market model (Musk has mentioned 200k units/year in the Business Insider interview) can be expected for 2016. At least that's my interpretation of the meager information revealed in this article, which cites Elon Musk:

Brian H | 27. Oktober 2011

Hm. The statement that "Tesla made a loss on every Roadster sold" can't be true. A condition of the gov't loan was that TM show an operating profit without the assistance, and it did so for one or two months (June/July last year?). That would be impossible with a negative gross margin. I seem to recall a direct cost figure of ~$76K for the Roadster by the time the process was finally smoothed.

The reason Martin got turfed was that it was costing $140K to make the car, and he wouldn't give on some of the measures needed to bring it down.

ncn | 29. Oktober 2011

jackhub wrote: "Very, very seldom do the dominant players in an industry survive the introducrtioon of a disruptubg technology. Without going too far back there are some recent examples. Carriage companies making autos?"
Can't think of ANY.

"Radio manufacturers making TV sets?"
"Business machine companies making computers? Mainframe computer companies making PCs?"
IBM *both* times.

"It should be interesting. I'm betting on Tesla."

I am too, but the fact is that often some of the dominant players manage to make the switch. At the moment Nissan is quite frankly the only one which looks like it has the right attitude; I consider it Tesla's only competition among the mainstream carmakers. I think Tesla may have locked up the upper-end market completely by the time Nissan enters it, but Nissan may lock up the lower-end market before Tesla gets the Bluestar out.

Brian H, there was some confusion and misinformation being spread recently regarding the Roadster operating profits, perhaps due to recirculation of obsolete news reports. I believe the truth is that it was originally selling for $90K and costing $140K to make, but they raised the price by $35K, cut the production costs by $35K, and turned $35K worth of standard features into options, thus ending up with a $70K production cost and a $125K price tag. (Very very roughly speaking.) I have this mental image of Elon telling three separate departments to find him $35K in profits and all of them succeeding. :-) Good practice for everyone at Tesla, actually.

ncn | 29. Oktober 2011

Volker.Berlin wrote: "First real news regarding Bluestar in a long time (or is it?): It will share the "Third Generation Platform" with the next generation Roadster. The latter is announced to hit the market in 2014, "

Again an aggressive timeline! They're designing Model X as we speak for 2013 release, finishing the setup for Model S... they can't possibly have enough expertise to actually start designing the next gen Roadster until late 2012, or perhaps even 2013. And if this is the Bluestar platform, this platform is supposed to be cheaper! Batteries won't have gotten that much cheaper by then...

The 'Model R' might miss its 2014 target; both the Roadster and the Model S missed their *original* targets. (Though Tesla intelligently did not promise any date for the model S until after the factory was purchased, which was the major delay.)

This remains a race to get mindshare and marketshare before the major car companies wake up and start producing good electric cars for general sale, so I understand why they keep pushing the timeline as hard as they can. But I'd expect that they'd need to staff up more and get more funding to hit this timeline.

Oh, one other thought about the "loss on every Roadster" -- due to the low volume, they never did make enough money to cover the original capital costs for designing and tooling for the Roadster, so to that extent the entire Roadster program was run at a loss (though not a per-unit loss). This could be what the reporters mean. Of course, this is not surprising; in some sense the Roadster was an intentional loss leader in order for Tesla to learn how to run a car company. Extrapolating from the Tesla Secret Master Plan, the per-unit profits on the Roadster were clearly thought of merely as defraying the capital costs involved in going through the learning curve necessary to become a car company.

brianman | 29. Oktober 2011

"in some sense the Roadster was an intentional loss leader in order for Tesla to learn how to run a car company."

More than that: to demonstrate that to the world, and to inspire consumers who wondered "can an EV ever be a compelling driving experience, rather than a street-legal golf cart."

'All reserved Signature vehicles have been delivered to customers' will be a huge milestone. Assuming they don't fumble or significantly delay on that deliverable, 2012-2015 will be good years for Tesla stockholders.

Volker.Berlin | 29. Oktober 2011

ncn, the aggressive timeline that I imply when interpreting the news fits well with a statement that Musk has repeated in some interviews, that he wants Tesla to release a new vehicle every year. To me that statement now reads like this: 2012 Model S, 2013 Model X, 2014 Roadster, 2015 3-series competitor, ... more Model S variations (minivan, convertible?), ... VW Golf/Jetta competitor??

Of course this is highly speculative and things are harder in practice than in theory, so I wouldn't be surprised if 2014 or 2015 goes by without a new model from Tesla, but the trend is clear: Tesla is very focused on leaving the niche.

It is obvious that they have to work no multiple projects in parallel to achieve that and in fact are already driving multiple parallel projects now. I think that's quite possible even for a relatively small company like Tesla, because each project is in a different phase. Each phase needs different expertise and different teams, and if they succeed in cleverly interleaving the projects they can keep all teams busy at all times and in fact deliver a new vehicle every year or so. I think I remember Musk even mentioned something like this in one of his many interviews -- that Tesla can run projects in parallel, because they need all the teams and experts in the company, anyway, but not all projects compete for the same resources at the same time because they are in different stages of development. Going forward that way, I have no doubt they will continue to staff up aggressively.

Thanks for the hint on the Model S missing its original target. I looked up some articles from March 2009 and it seems that in fact the Model S was originally announced to start production "no earlier than" 2011. I had completely forgotten about that. Good PR, Tesla! ;-)

Also, thank you for your comments on the Roadster "losses". Makes a lot of sense to me.

Ramon123 | 03. November 2011

Remember how long GM kept claiming that their Volt would cost "under $30K" ? Initial price - $42K. Not even close - killed an enormous number of sales.

jackhub | 03. November 2011

@ncn I hope Tesla makes the tight schedule we have laid out for them, but you raise a legitimate concern.

Yet, as we consideer the response time of the major US auto companies, we might think back to the introduction of the 'compact.' For how many years did we hear them say 'Oh US drivers will never settle for a small car.' They lost at least one if not two entire generations of drivers to the foreign competition who introduced compacts. Most of those drivers have never gone over to the US companies. Of course it remains to be seen, but I do not give the major US companies high marks for taking completely new directions.

As I have noted in another thread somewhere, industrial history shows that dominant players in an industry very, very seldom survive the introduction of a disruptive technology. Think of carriage makers, radio manufacturers, vacuum tube producers, and business machine manfacturers.

Mycroft | 03. November 2011

Jack hub, all you need to do is look at the Spark and the Focus electric to see that the US manufacturers are nowhere close to "getting" it at all. In fact it's history repeating itself with Nissan taking the lead. The wild card of course is Tesla. Go Tesla!!!

jackhub | 04. November 2011

RCA survives only as a trademark used by Sony. IBM sold its notebook business to Lenova several years ago.

Volker.Berlin | 13. Februar 2012

Tesla seems to shift their priorities in a way that I particularly like seeing, getting closer to implementing the next step of The Secret Tesla Master Plan: The next-generation Roadster is delayed in favor of GenIII (Bluestar)!

As much as Roadster fans will be tortured by the prospect of waiting until 2016 for a successor, I congratulate Tesla to publicly reinforce their plans for a serious mass market EV. May this have something to do with announcements from competitors taking up speed? Honi soit qui mal y pense... ;-)

Robert.Boston | 13. Februar 2012

Agreed, VB. Accelerating the GenIII line will help counter a critique I often see whenever Tesla comes up in public discussions: "Tesla's just making cars for the rich, so their cars don't solve the big problems."

Tesla also needs to "turf" the premium product space quickly. This theory is confirmed Tesla's decision to reveal a functioning prototype of the Model X nearly two years before commercial delivery: claim the space, force competitors to catch up. There is no public BEV entry--yet--in large and popular mid-size premium sedan (archetype: BMW 3-series). Tesla should be running hard to be in that space early, if not first.

TikiMan | 13. Februar 2012

I really think that most car companies are banking that oil prices will go down, and or most consumers will adjust their 'lifestyles' to afford the extra $$$ per week on gas (although most salaries have gone down, and or are stagnant).

With that said, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens over the next five years with regard to where auto makers will go with their ICE technology.

Right now, I think Europe is a fairly good indicator of where many current US auto makers are following suit… small, low-HP, butt ugly, and cheap ICE autos.

Tom A | 01. März 2012

Yeah, Tesla did not lose on every Roadster sold. They posted a profit in July of 2010 and their balance sheet was clear to the fact that they would have remained profitable on Roadster sales and powertrain deals. The perennial red ink is simply Model S & X development, as we all know.

The US companies may be dragging their feet somewhat, but the planned electrification announced by Mitsubishi (plug-ins of their CUV and other models are in the works) and Audi (e-tron or e-tron/hybrid powertrains planned for all Audi models) makes me nervous as a Tesla fan and (modest) stockholder. That, of course, is if Mitsu and Audi roll out their models aggressively. Mitsubishi looks like they might, Audi could, if they really wanted to, and Ford and Toyota are probably making the boldest overall plug-in statements so far with popular models coming out with both hybrid and plug-in options, plus a token EV each.

As much as I don't want to admit it, the full hybrids and the plug-in hybrids are going to be the perceived "safe bet" by the typical consumer that can afford a $25k to $35k vehicle (after incentives). I don't like the half-assed feel of messing around with a gas engine at all, and the pollution and increased complexity the hybrid drivetrains provide, loss of space, weight, etc.

However, these vehicles will still be able to tow things and haul loads much better than current EV costs would permit. These vehicles are substantial improvements in efficiency over their ICE-only siblings. They will noticeably reduce fuel consumption and thus pollution and (perhaps) a decrease in US demand for oil.

Ultimately, it is about the most efficient use of energy. In theory, the most efficient use of energy is the least polluting and the most cost effective. Taking everything into consideration, from well-to-wheel, manufacture, net pollution, etc., EVs are it. In fact, to my knowledge, electricity is the most efficient manner of doing "work" (in the physics sense - making something move, spin, or whatever).

So, the remaining human "work" to be done is to improve the generation and storage of said electricity. Both are promising, but worldwide, we are doing better so far with the generation problem than with the storage problem. Here in the US, we're still grounding excess night-time electricity, largely from coal-fired plants that cannot be ramped up and down easily to match demand.

That's where I think, in the long term, Tesla "has it right", whether they survive to see it or not. My material goals in life are to have a modest, efficient home, with a yard, a roof optimized for as many solar arrays as possible, and a pair of Teslas in the garage (85kWh Model S as the long-distance and daily workhorse, if I dare use such a term, and the GenIII Roadster for kicks).

Volker.Berlin | 15. Juni 2012

Some new details on the upcoming i3 which will have its first public appearance during the London Olympic games:

However, the Big Ones are unassertive as ever wrt plug-ins. They are really just testing the waters with half a toe, while Tesla already hits a big splash. I'm very curious where this is going to lead 5 years from now:

"Audi cancels all-electric A2, A1 e-tron due to high price-tag fears"

"BMW getting cold feet with i3 and i8 electric vehicle plans?"

VolkerP | 15. Juni 2012

The third blog entry appears to be complete BS. There are no indications that BMW makes a retreat in the "i" cars. The article mentions no sources at all that you could verify against, nevertheless it spread though the car blogosphere at god speed.

Volker.Berlin | 15. Juni 2012

VolkerP, thanks for pointing it out. In the best case, this (false?) report triggers some reaction from BMW, which then would offer some real news value.

Timo | 15. Juni 2012

It looks like green.autoblog has noticed the same about that last blog entry:

"The BMW i8 is still on the drawing board (despite some rumors to the contrary)"

VolkerP | 15. Juni 2012

More BS. Check these i8 spy shots at Heise Autos. The exterior shape and design has cooled down a lot as could be expected when going from concept to pre-production.

Timo | 15. Juni 2012

That actually looks quite a bit like that autoblog drawing. Not the original concept though with glass doors.

mbcaffe | 15. Juni 2012

bmw has a limited number (700?) electric vehicles on the road for 2 year leases. It does not come close to Tesla

Brian H | 15. Juni 2012

Yes, and that's a "dead-end" lease; all cars will be recalled to the factory for analysis at the end of the lease. Then they maybe begin to do final design tweaks for production -- another year later? That sounds like 2015 before any hit the road. Heck, TM will have had the Model X on the road for a year by then, and be hyping and promoting Gen III! Which will really eat BMW's lunch.

Timo | 16. Juni 2012

I wouldn't be surprised if they have GenIII cars on road by 2015. That's three years from now, and they have factory-related delays figured out now.

I believe only reason why we will not have GenIII cars on road next year is that Tesla is deliberately delaying the process in order to give battery technology time to improve enough that they can make affordable BEV without sacrificing range and/or performance.

Three years from now with current battery tech improvement speed we probably can have 300+ mile range battery pack (~90kWh) at ~$23k if not less. This leaves enough room for actual car to keep costs under $50k even for that 300 mile version.

This battery tech improvement also makes cars lighter which means better range with same amount of batteries. It could be that for 300+ mile you need only 70kWh if the car itself is smallish (like Roadster, not like Smart).

Volker.Berlin | 20. Juni 2012

“All our bottom up calculations, as well as the purchase prices that we hear from OEMs, leads us to a cost level of $250/kWh,” Bernhart explained. “That’s the price level we see in the market for 2015.”

There we are. $250 x 85 kWh = $21k. That's about half of what some assume the Model S battery costs today. In other words: $10k for a 40 kWh battery that should propel the smaller (think Cd x A) and lighter GenIII vehicle significantly further than 160 miles. In yet another calculation, the battery for a 160-mile GenIII vehicle would cost significantly < $10k. These numbers seem to go very well with Tesla's $30k (base price!) GenIII target for 2015.

Brian H | 20. Juni 2012

And just think how far a sooper-dooper 85+kWh GenIII could go ... Timo may get his 500++ mile wish yet!

Volker.Berlin | 16. November 2012
Brian H | 16. November 2012

But Elon has stuck pretty tight to late 2015, early 2016 for GenIII. Consider that it will need high volume, economies of scale, to be profitable. Which means several more assembly lines very early in the game.

I think 2015 will be "filled" with some of the variants on the S (and X?) Elon predicted. Cabriolet, pick-up, etc. Maybe the Sport S, too!

Volker.Berlin | 03. Januar 2013

"Audi scuttles A2 plans"

I wonder what the news is here, though, because the A2 was already canceled before, in June 2012:

"Audi cancels all-electric A2, A1 e-tron due to high price-tag fears"

Bluestar/GenIII will be a pretty lonesome cowboy, once it hits the road.

Volker.Berlin | 03. Januar 2013

But then again: "Audi R8 e-Tron Electric Car Back On Again"

jk2014 | 03. Januar 2013

No one can compete with tesla's range right now, so they're backing out of the game until they can. Once they figure it out, they know they will be able to scale it up a lot faster then tesla and overpower the market. It's up to tesla to scale up and entrench gen 3 in the consumer conscience before the rest catch up.

Brian H | 03. Januar 2013

TM (Elon) is intending to inspire/force the market to go electric. If the majors produce a car as capable as a GenIII at equal/lower price, and sells in volume, then mission accomplished.