Model X performance... is Elon going nuts?

Model X performance... is Elon going nuts?

“Even though the X is heavier [than the Model S], it will still go zero to 60 miles an hour in about 4.4 seconds,” Mr. Musk said. “And that’s not even the Performance model.”

With that, and the falcon doors, my guts say that Tesla is targeting an extremely focused (read: small) market. Great vehicle for Tesla to show off, but will it contribute to the bottom line?

I have always defended Tesla's strategy in these forums, and I strongly believe in the "Secret Tesla Master Plan", but with this vehicle I can't help the thought: Are they slowing going off rails...? To me, the Model X doesn't fit the bill of the Secret Tesla Master plan. At least that's my preliminary first impression.

Full disclosure: My perspective is from Germany. I may not fully understand the American passenger car market. But does Tesla?

Brian H | February 10, 2012

Too much "city warm-climate" mentality in the design, I think. Perhaps the X design team should get their own digs in North Dakota. The whole concept of "seasons" seems to be alien to these guys.

Brian H | February 10, 2012

But that's quite a teaser! Standard Xes can drag-race Performance Ses on even terms? And will the Performance X match the Roadster Sport? Double the motors, double the fun ...

dborn | February 10, 2012

Range is definitely going to be down. Note, they are not even attempting to quantify it. Double motors will presumably consume close to double power. Single motor, heavier vehicle... maybe not double consumption (over the S) but certainly a lot more than the S.

dborn | February 10, 2012

Note that the car is being aimed at the female of the species? See the blurb on the new "X" page and it specifically states "her".

JayK | February 10, 2012

If they are going after the females, count one (my wife) as unimpressed. I"m not sure I like the look of the X either. It looks kind of like an S that is stretched a bit taller. I don't mind the gull wing doors, but I think the X aesthetically could have made more of a statement.

Nicu.Mihalache | February 10, 2012

@ dborn No, two motors will not consume double energy, will only have close to double power when needed. It may consume slightly more due to extra weight and friction (more moving parts) but may also consume less because each motor could stay most of the time in a power range when it is more efficient.

@Volker As long as they offer it at comparable prices to other premium SUVs and as the performance comes almost for free (even with only one motor it is plenty), why not?

As I have argued less than one year ago talking / dreaming about Model S Sport (not performance)

"I would add that they also have hinted at an AWD, and it makes no sense to build a complicated transmission which would be as heavy as a second motor (and a bit of extra cables + software) – and inefficient. As the battery occupies the floor of the car, the transmission would also modify the chassis. And there is a trunk in front, just use a quarter of it for the second motor (+ PEM + the small gearbox)."

Now we see that we get 4.4s on the normal version of a larger and heavier car with that setup. If we have the same 21% gain from normal to performance version as we do for Model S, the Performance Model X would need 3.5s to get to 60mph. What would that do for an AWD Model S? 5% better than 3.5s ? 10% better ? In any case, we are talking ridiculous (in a good way) numbers for a large sedan.

TikiMan | February 10, 2012

I get it... Tesla is going for the BMW X6m, Infinity FX50s, Porsche Cayenne Turbo performance SUV buyer. I use to own an FX50s, and minus the third row seating and low MPG, it somewhat appears very similar.

Over the last decade, many SUV owners whom never drove their SUV in the dirt, these big-cars became just daily drivers. The 'sport' part came off as more 'sportcar' than 'dirtcar', thus the Sportcar-Utility-Vehicle (SUV) was born. It became a vehicle for the person who wanted a larger four-door vehicle with a sporty look and speed, that you could get a lot of cargo or people in, yet drive it on the highway, and never feel small or slow. Also, for anyone who has a bad back, it's a hell of a lot easier to get in and out of.

As far as the percentage of people out there who would buy an X, I think in the large urban areas of the US, it will sell great IMHO!

michiganmodels | February 10, 2012

@TikiMan - I agree.

Tiebreaker | February 10, 2012

Right on, TikiMan. And dborn.

One auto industry analyst said several years back: "the minivan is a life-stage vehicle, the SUV is a life-style vehicle". Many moms, my wife included, would not step in a minivan, once the kids are out of kindergarten. But a stylish, spacious, fast cross-over (aka SUV) is a different story. With the performance options, now dads will fight for it too...

vouteb | February 10, 2012

Where can I see the (much delayed) webcast video?

Timo | February 10, 2012

@dborn Double motors will presumably consume close to double power.

Double motors drain almost no extra power (unless you floor it) because losses stay nearly the same. Two motors need half the power/motor to gain same net result.

...approximately, there is a bit bigger drivetrain losses due doubled friction sources and bit higher overall drivetrain weight I guess.

Car is less aerodynamic and probably weights quite a lot more due sheer bulk of the car, so those definitely cut the range. I'm guessing 85kWh gives you something between 200 and 250miles at 50mph.

Crow | February 10, 2012

That's why I think this is not going to catch on. SUV drivers want a long distance vehicle. They use it to shuttle their kids to their club soccer tournaments in far off cities, go to the beach, mountains, whatever. Range anxiety is going to huge.

TikiMan | February 10, 2012

I am sure by 2014 when it comes out; it will likely have a bigger battery, as the technology gets better.

But then again, I know a LOT of urban SUV drivers that never drive farther than 30 miles a day (at most).

wtrask4 | February 10, 2012

Watch Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk unveil Model X:

TikiMan | February 10, 2012

I do agree about the gull-wing doors... If you have to drive the kids around in heavy weather (rain and snow) half the year, this is likely NOT the vehical for you.

But then again, I wouldn't want a typical 'soccer-mom' driving anything that goes from 0-60 in under 10 seconds anyway!

jomo25 | February 10, 2012

It seems to me (as Tiki noted above) that the X is intended to compete with the Cayenne, FX50, Q7, X5/6 crowd. It isn't a true SUV for off-road capabilities. Its more of a luxury crossover (thus the X moniker). In that regard, I think they hit the mark. Its what I was expecting. If some were expecting more (or less as it were), then there's sure to be disappointment.

Sudre_ | February 10, 2012

It will be great for road trips. In about 2 to 4 years the charging network should be solid.

My only concern is the door height. They need a sensor on the doors so they don't hit the ceiling in low parking garages. The first thing Top Gear will do is drive into a low parking garage and start banging the doors against the ceiling.
The first thing my wife will do is park it oddly in the garage and take out the garage door opener getting the groceriew out.

It will probably be larger than what my wife likes to drive but maybe in 4 years she can have the S and I'll get the X.

Brian H | February 10, 2012

I guesstimated from the X animated door pic that it required 6" clearance each side, and about 18" above. Not tea bags.

As for aerodynamics, I seem to recall seeing a claim it was better than the S. The blunter rear end? No mirrors?

Timo | February 11, 2012

Can't be better than Model S just because much larger frontal area. Double the front and double the drag. Lack of mirrors probably help with Cd, but not enough to counter the added A.

Rear actually affects more than front in (low speed) aerodynamics. Ideal shape for low Cd is teardrop where the blunt end is at front. That also makes be not believe that particular claim about better aerodynamics than Model S.

jackhub | February 11, 2012

All you folks and the analysts who keep thinking of the Model X as an SUV are missing the point . . . and the market! Tesla and Elon have repeatedly called the Model X a cross-over. They have declared it NOT to be an SUV. The crossover has big attraction in urban areas for moms who want to look cool and older kids who don't want to show up anywhere in a box.

Robert.Boston | February 11, 2012

One report places the range reduction at 10% to 12%.

I'll bet my milk money that the 4.4sec figure is for the Performance version, and that Elon elided his sentences. When he said "and this isn't even the Performance version," I'm fairly to the vehicle they were in, not to the figure he had just quoted. Going below 4.4 secs is just a stupid waste of resources in a vehicle like this.

Brian H | February 11, 2012

Oooo -- I'll take that bet. The dual motors give lotsa torque and a much longer sweet spot than one.

Timo | February 11, 2012

@Robert.Boston Going below 4.4 secs is just a stupid waste of resources in a vehicle like this.

I don't think so. I told someone a long time ago that BEV:s will have insane performance, not because they can, but because they have to.

Larger electric motors are more efficient than smaller ones, and also large battery naturally gives huge power, so if the car has two motors for AWD and large battery it automatically also has insane performance. It is more a side-effect of technology used than goal to reach. Efficiency and power go hand to hand in BEV:s, you don't need to sacrifice one to get the other.

Mark K | February 12, 2012

There are 3 versions: 2wd, 4wd, and 4wd performance.

2wd will be similar to standard S, maybe slightly slower.

4wd will be 4.4 sec because of the added torque and grip of 4 driven wheels.

4wd performance has the potential to go below 4 sec (which is insane - and awesome). It may not be useful but serves to brightline that EVs cannot be matched by ICEs, which helps promote the mission.

There's no efficiency penalty for the extra motor. It its turned off, it freewheels and uses no juice. Of course if you punch it heavily, you'll go through the battery much more quickly.

The only hit relative to the S is from the heavier chassis and larger frontal area. That'll shorten range 10-15%.

The S is more beautiful, and seems like the go-to car unless you need to carry 7 or lots of cargo room, in which case the X offers an unmatched combination of space and efficiency.

Volker.Berlin | February 13, 2012

Elon, are you listening? I apologize. You're still on track, obviously not entirely nuts with performance. That's good to learn:

(Sorry for cross-posting. I think this news is very relevant to the threads where I posted it -- at least I did not start a new thread :-)

BYT | February 15, 2012
Volker.Berlin | February 15, 2012

Right: "The Model X Performance version will accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds."

So, Elon actually goofed when he said "4.4 sec, and that's not even the performance version". Which essentially means that performance of Model X should be 1:1 comparable with that of Model S, with the second motor offsetting additional weight and air drag.

Mark K | February 18, 2012

That press release does appear to contradict Elon.

One other possibility - there may be 4 permutations:

1. 2WD base

2. 2WD performance

3. AWD base

4. AWD performance

It's possible the 4.4 second number is about the same for config's 2 and 3.

(in each case for different reasons: hotter motor / inverter in #2, and twin motor torque in #3)

From a pure physics POV, this is actually plausible.

If that were the case, then both Elon and the press release could be technically correct, and it's possible that config #4 is faster still.

We'll see what TM says as the X gets closer to production.

Remember how the Model S performance spec was unveiled around the time of the beta test drives. TM likes to delight customers with continued surprises.

mvbf | February 18, 2012

The model x price structure is more or less supposed to follow the model s. With the model s the performance aspect of the performance package costs about 10k even though the performance vehicle costs 15k more, right? If AWD costs the same or less than 10k, why would anyone spend 10k for the same performance without AWD? Do you think that option 2 for example would get better range because it would weigh less?

Mark K | February 18, 2012

AWD definitely offers better drive dynamics, and would be the cooler choice for the enthusiast.

There is a range penalty to pay if you have the two motors, but only when you flex those muscles. The combined peak current for two motors is also likely higher than just hotter windings for a single motor, so that would tax the battery more at a less favorable point on the discharge curve.

So it's possible that getting that same 4.4 sec number might deplete the AWD charge faster than the 2WD. If efficiency were perfect, watts-in and-HP out should be no different for each case. But there are battery nonidealities, so they'd probably not match.

The extra motors and beefier power control electronics do add to the bill of materials cost, so TM has to recover their costs if they offer both upgrades. The upgrade prices likely won't be equal, either. The extra drive train costs more than the electronics.

So there may in fact be cost and range variations that might suit different buyers, and config 3 might not fully subsume 2.

Assuming that S and X pricing structures are indeed parallel, another tier in the S line may yet emerge that offers AWD, using X building blocks. (see other threads on this).

That would reconcile the price points, and result in a higher performance tier for both the S and X lines that could boast sub 4 second theoretical performance (like the Roadster) at higher cost.

Whether they do it or not is an open question, but the combined potential of AWD and hotter motors / electronics presents the possibility.

Another way to see it: if they do eventually offer an AWD S, it won't be slower, or cost less than the current 2WD Performance flavor.

Brian H | February 18, 2012

The Model X spec page shows Performance only on dual motors; Option 2 does not exist.

Mark K | February 19, 2012

Sure seems that way right now Brian. If that press release in combination with the summary spec are the final word, 4.4 sec is top of the line, and Elon simply misspoke.

They did leave themselves some wiggle room though. It's curious that you don't see the 4.4 on the spec summary page. Instead it says "when outtfitted with AWD, Model X Performance accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds". Lots of numbers are less than 5.

And then in the press release, it doesn't mention AWD together with the Performance spec of 4.4 sec.

Just seems kind of notable that they didn't simply state the same 4.4 number when they described the AWD Performance combo.

It might just be casual and inadvertent, or they might have wanted to craft those slightly different words carefully.

Also interesting how they kept the Model S Performance quiet until late in the game.

Maybe Elon is crazy ...

like a fox.

GoTeslaChicago | February 19, 2012

Mark K | FEBRUARY 18, 2012
"AWD definitely offers better drive dynamics, and would be the cooler choice for the enthusiast.

There is a range penalty to pay if you have the two motors, but only when you flex those muscles."

I agree wholeheartedly with the first sentence, not sure if the second sentence is correct.

With AWD drive there should be regenerative braking with both the front and rear motors/generators.
Rear wheel drive has regenerative braking only in the rear. Front and rear regenerative braking could probably offset the small penalty of having two motors in the AWD.

What if the gains of front/rear regenerative braking more than offset the penalty of two motors? Talk about having your cake and eating it too! To mix metaphors, the Model X will sell like hotcakes!

Mark K | February 19, 2012

GoTeslaChicago, you raise a good point. You have a larger range of deceleration rates that could be handled by regenerative braking if you can distbribute the job to all 4 wheels instead of just the rear.

In practice though, this gain is likely to be less than the loss from the harsher demand on the battery when you push it to accelerate quickly.

Taken to extreme, the Roadster can double its range if you to keep it at 25 mph or so, and decelerate gradually.

But a really light foot isn't so fun, so the practical case is where you do acc / dec briskly,, and the other losses kick in.

I'm sure the X would get absurdly high mileage too if you stayed in the perfect zone where these factors are optimal. But how could we pass up the joy of using what it does better than anything else you can buy?

That's why I say you'll take a hit only when you flex those muscles.

It's not that the machine is less good than the 2WD S, AWD clearly is better. it's that you won't be able to resist enjoying its benefits.

GoTeslaChicago | February 19, 2012

Hi Mark,

Of course we're trying to make informed speculation here, but it is still speculation.

Here's my 2 cents worth.

Unlike a gas engine I don't think there is much penalty for accelerating rapidly.
As I understand it, the conversion efficiency of an electric motor is fairly constant over a wide range of rpm. At higher speeds, the energy lost is due to wind resistance, and has nothing to do with how rapidly you achieve the high speed.

Braking is a different story. Even with regenerative braking a lot (more than half?) of the energy used in accelerating is lost. Therefore, stop and go driving where you have to brake a lot will enact a penalty, (lessened by regenerative braking), but it is the stopping that does it, not the rapid acceleration.

Of course I won't be able to resist hitting the accelerator when the light changes, but after a couple of weeks I probably won't do it so much when I know that I'll have to stop at another light only a few blocks away. Acceleration to top speed when entering the freeway will be a thrill, and with no need to stop again, any time soon, my conscience will be clear.

Mark K | February 19, 2012

Hi GoTeslaChicago,

You've got the motor efficiency right. Ideally, twice the electric power for half the time results in the same total application of thrust.

The difference is in the battery. The battery impedance (think of this as internal losses), gets worse at higher load.

This is a function of its chemistry and electrode structure. Picture a finite number of tiny holes (electrode receptor sites) for the electrons to exit the cell to get to the motor. If all available paths are full, the rest of the electrons have trouble getting out and some get wasted as heat inside the battery.

The more suddenly you ask high current from the battery, the more prominent this effect. As batteries improve, this effect will be less and will approach more of the ideal you describe. For the event horizon though, this loss is real.

Some months ago, as a sanity check, we did some tests with one of our engineer's Nissan Leaf (also Lithium Ion chemistry like TM). We repeatedly gunned it to 30 mph quickly, but always slowed down gradually to regen efficiently. 30 mph was chosen to dodge aerodynamic drag influences. The battery depletion was significantly worse than if we always accelerated slowly to reach the same speed fot the same total number of miles.

We also use a lot of Lithium Polymer batteries in our work, (similar LiIon chemistry to TM), and you routinely see this. The battery wants to deliver up to a certain rate. Ask for more, and the battery gets hot and dies quicker.

What TM ends up building is speculation, but the physics is not. That's the way these cells work for TM and any competitor (though TM is definitely the best at managing them intelligently).

It's cool to have bigger muscles. Flex them too much, and you get tired.

But then, who could defy?

Model X Performance has such big muscles, and more of them.

And muscles are so cool!

Brian H | February 20, 2012

There was a tech article on new LiIon cell architecture from MIT some time ago, which talked about "banding". Essentially, pre-established channels within the battery to route electrons to "exit tunnels" . Claims of faster charge/discharge, absence of heat penalty, etc.

Lets see if I can find it in my Clipmate records ...

They call it a "beltway" design.

flar | February 20, 2012

With regards to the different comments, perhaps the Model X page is referring to "what they want to advertise for the production vehicle that will be delivered in 2013" vs. "comments about what they've achieved with the specific prototype shown at the press conference"?

Mark K | February 20, 2012

Batteries will definitely get a lot better, both in capacity and in lower internal losses at high load. EV demand will fund these advances.

But this will take several years, not months. You can expect your second EV to charge faster and go farther.

But what TM has done now is very brilliant. LiIon cell performance recently reached sufficient critical mass to enable no-compromise EVs, but only if you integrate the cells very cleverly. So TM buys the best cells available and manages them with very smart technology developed in-house. It's indeed the best in the world - which is why Daimler is buying it.

The result is cars (S and X), that make economic sense now. Not years from now. The S is a 5 / 7 series killer right now. Faster, roomier, safer, unmatched grip, more beautiful and not a drop of gas - all at comparable price points. The X will have lower operating cost than a Ford SUV, yet outperform a Porsche Cayenne.

TM uses classic disruptive change strategy:

Whenever you offer a new technology to solve a big problem, don't just outperform on the key feature (no gas), outperform on all fronts. When you eliminate compromise, you make the consumer decision simple, and drive rapid adoption.

From the beginning with the Roadster, to the S, and now the X, in each segment all TM models leverage this strategy.

Once the S is shipping, you'd have to blow off reality to spend another dollar on old technology for a premium sedan.

Do we need 4.4 sec or faster acceleration? No. But buyers compare models on such specs, and if you beat the ICE cars even there, game over.

The largest SUV audience is low-snow city dwellers who currently buy 2WD SUV's. And minivan buyers rarely ever pop for AWD. These kind of guys never go off-road. A 2WD Performance X is lowest cost way to give them high specs (it's half the parts). That's why I think they'll offer it, and why the exact specs vs. config will remain unconfirmed until they are close to production (also smart strategy).

If smart strategy makes Elon nuts ... whatever he's drinking, I'll have one too.

Timo | February 20, 2012

@Mark K wrote: Do we need 4.4 sec or faster acceleration? No. But buyers compare models on such specs, and if you beat the ICE cars even there, game over.

I said in another thread that very fast low speed acceleration of BEV is more a side-effect of used technology than goal to achieve. It doesn't cost you much more to build 300+kW engine and electronics than 100kW. Bigger motors tend to be more efficient than small ones (unlike ICE). Big batteries just plain give huge power.

As long as you use big batteries you pretty much automatically get a very high performance car. Two motors makes that even easier. It's easy for Tesla to make such a car, so it would be just plain stupid not to make it.

And it just keeps getting easier and easier with new technologies. With battery techs like what Brian H above linked even small batteries give enormous power soon, and electronics get better and better all of time.

Brian H | February 21, 2012

Well, I see no indication there will be a RWD Perfomance X. I think it's an unnecessary complication. If you want RWD Performance, you'll be "stuck" with an S, I think.

Mark K | February 21, 2012

It doesn't cost TM any more engineering to offer the 2WD Performance flavor if they choose to do it. They're already doing a 2WD version, and already have the performance motor and electronics in the parts bin. It's simply a business decision if the demand is there.

Personally, I'm sticking with the S Performance for me, but I'm thinking my wife will discover her new AWD Performance X surprise in the driveway in 2014. It's the safest and most sure-footed family protectobile. And I would steal the wheel from her for weekend trips.

If they offered AWD on the S, I'd go for it across the board on all my EVs. It's just technically better.

Volker.Berlin | February 21, 2012

Just quickly, before this thread turns into an RWD vs. AWD discussion -- there's a very spirited discussion around these issues already going on here:

Butch | February 26, 2012

Here is a video of getting up the driveway at my other home in the Rockies, called Hole in the Wall. The last pitch before the house and after the turn is a 15% grade. All I want is an electric vehicle that can make it up this most of the time in the winter. Even my jeep with air lockers and good snow tires can't make it up after a 2 foot, 60 cm snowfall until its plowed. This video was done in a 4WD Chevy pickup in low range with the transfer case locked.

Volker.Berlin | February 27, 2012

Butch, I left a comment in the RWD thread:

It would be really interesting to try that 15% incline with an RWD Model S or Roadster. Let us know what you learn! ;-)

In that other thread there are also links to videos that show the Roadster perform on snow and ice, some of them showing quite impressive performance stopping half way up a snowy hill and then getting going again.

Robert.Boston | March 3, 2012

FWIW, at the Boston beta event I was told that Tesla had hired a third-party assessment of the Model S performance in snow. They are clearly expecting to publish impressive results.

SMahindra21 | January 23, 2013

Beautiful post. What is wrong with Tesla? Why do they keep targeting other cars? Faster than this, bigger than that... In the end its about price and value. I agree the "go electric" crowd will buy to keep them alive but we live in a real world. The X is just a statement and it does not save the owner any money even though electric is cheaper. Its going to be too expensive. It has a large touch screen, falcon wing doors, and side cameras instead of mirrors. Why add these "new" to automoblies features in one vehicle. I think they are trying too hard to impress people and not being realistic. Get me a full size car with great range and at a good price. Why prolong the Gen III with the X? I hope they are still around to produce a Gen III.

Brian H | January 23, 2013

What's with all the irrational posts? TM is obviously not targeting your and your priorities. 'Bye.

Vawlkus | January 23, 2013

Because its easy to modify the Model S skateboard to build the Model X.

Building a new skateboard thats cheaper than the Model S for Gen III? That's a little bit more work. | January 24, 2013

SMahindra21 >>> "...Why prolong the Gen III with the X?"

One word: Foreplay

I love Tesla's approach on the Roadster, S, X, Gen III.

If they survive -- highly likely, now --- they will literally rule the world.