Upcoming Q&A with Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen - submit your questions!

Upcoming Q&A with Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen - submit your questions!

Later this month we'll publish a blog post featuring a Q&A with Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen about Model S design as we wrap up the Alpha phase. Have a question about Model S design, the process, or approach? Post your questions here for a chance to get them answered!

We know you have many Model S questions, and we will do our best to answer all of them in the coming months. For this Q&A, please tailor your questions to styling and design.

Timo | May 18, 2011

@ncn, from your other thread I second: manufacturer approved snow tires (studded tires here). We have snow about half a year here. And also second (third? fourth?) that front license plate bracket.

perbakken | May 19, 2011

Will there be servo steering? The roadster does not have this and it is quite heavy on the steering.
Will there be a theft alarm included?
What about the surplus heat from the batteries - will this heat be used for heating the cabin when necessary?

Mike_ModelS_P457 | May 20, 2011

I know I already have a question post, but a few more questions, more design specific, came to mind...

From a 3D design point of view, did you have anything that inspired you in the design of Model S? Was it all about cars or were there other shapes / objects which pushed the design forward (e.g. "shark like")?

Also, in the video interviews I've seen you say that as an EV there are so many more options for design. Did you feel constrained by the legacy of ICE based automobile design; specifically things like the hood area and overall shape of the car or the wheel base length?

Lastly, if you have to choose one color combo for interior and exterior that really articulates the look and feel of the Model S, what would that be? I've noticed there is now a red/crimson prototype out there, but assumed that had more to do with the evolution of the Tesla branding - BTW that car looks amazing in red/crimson!

Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope Tesla does more like this on topics like technology and innovation.

Thumper | May 21, 2011

I just realized from roadster posts that the car runs the air conditioning during fast charging. My question is, can you set the charge rate low enough that it doesn't make noise if you don't need a fast charge? How loud is it at different charge rates.

Denis Vincent | May 21, 2011

Brilliant functional and esthetic design of the Rims for the Model S, I see them drawing air across the Disc Brakes to cool them as well as potentially cooling the battery and creating a "vaccum" underneath the vehicle that would, in essence, improve drag coefficiency and "Ground effects ".

David70 | May 21, 2011

Interesting point Denis.

I see that the rims on the left side of the car draw air from under the car, but are the rims on the right pitched the opposite way to draw air outward also? Can anyone point to a link showing the right side of the car when stationary?

As for cooling the brakes, I can't believe that would be an issue. The only time brakes would overheat for a long enough time to be a problem would be on long downhill stretches. On the Tesla that wouldn't happen unless the car was already so fully charged that regenerative braking can't happen.

David70 | May 21, 2011

I Just found some photos showing the right side. The air is pushed to the inside of the car on the right side, defeating the idea that a "vacuum" would be produced under the car.

Timo | May 21, 2011

Alpha pictures? Others don't count (unless there is already beta in roads).

Ramon123 | May 21, 2011

Loved your design of the Solstice and Sky. Is there a Model S convertible in the near future?
Is Tesla actively pursuing the German DBM-Energy batteries?

David70 | May 21, 2011

A followup thought on the rim design. Even though I don't think it's likely necessary to be needed for brake cooling, it might be helpful in the cooling of the battery pack.

Maybe this is something that Franz might address, as it is related to design, although possibly functional as well.

txjak | May 22, 2011

That one reminds me of Leno's Ford Focus EV

Trnsl8r | May 22, 2011

I saw a video where the door handles on the prototype are shown in action.

It made me a bit worried. I can't help thinking that this looks like a case of form over function. The mechanism looks a bit slow. What if you need to open the door quickly? What if you get your fingers stuck in the handle when the door handle slides back in? Will the door handles still work if the car loses power, say in an accident?

I'm as forward thinking as the best of them (case in point, I wagered five grand on a reservation), but I think a traditional door handle would do the job just as well or better. Thoughts?

Trnsl8r | May 22, 2011

Considering the planned child seat in the back, how is the crash resistance in the back?

I would hate to get rear-ended while carrying the world's most precious cargo in the rear-facing kids' seats, but if it happens, how will the model s hold up? What design measures did you take? Will you have a crash test to show it?

Denis Vincent | May 23, 2011

Had a chance to see and place my order for the Tesla S at the Vancouver Sustainability Expo,weekend of May14th. Had the privilege to meet "Jerome", "The Guy"in charge of production, a bright and articulate engineer who went on and on about the dedication of the Team and how demanding and unrelenting Musk was regarding design details, tolerances and Quality control measures. I drive an Audi Allroad introduced in 2001,the first true LUV,no longer available in North America since 2005. The car came with a Height Adjustable suspension which allows the driver to increase the ground clearance by 10cm.,this gives the vehicle more clearance than a BMW X5.(It also came with two third row rear facing back seats) The undercarriage was extremely well designed incorporating front and rear skid plates, symmetrical exhaust\muffler placement, no protrusions whatsoever....however,it does not compare to the undercarriage of the Tesla S, which looks like the top side of a table turned upside down! Which brings me back to the designs of the rims...Jerome made it very clear that the design team avoided the use of "gizmos" such as fixed or retractable "bat wings" that only detract from the esthetics. I do believe however, that creating a vacuum underneath the vehicle with a Turbine Rim Design would significantly improve aerodynamics, drag coefficients and ground effects, performance of which would increase with speed. I'm hoping the Design Team at Tesla are able to rethink the nine blade impeller rim design to address this concern. To create bilateral symmetry, the rims on the right side would have to be mirror images of those on the left otherwise the vehicle may, at high speeds, have a tendency to track to the left..!?... Now that Tesla has taken it upon themselves to reinvent the automobile, I think its incumbent upon them to reinvent The Wheel! For those of you who haven't seen the car "in person", you are in for a is drop dead gorgeous!! P.S. I believe the Height Adjustment suspension should be incorporated into the 4 Wheel Drive Tesla. Incidentally, Audi 8's have aluminium bodies.

David70 | May 23, 2011

You may still be right about reducing air pressure below the car, especially since it seems from your observation that the undercarriage is so smooth.

Increasing the normal airflow under the car with a lateral component from the rims in addition to the usual backflow (which probably almost acts like a Venturi) could indeed add to the effect. I had been thinking that the rims on the right would have to be mirror images to work properly, but in terms of reduced air pressure might still without doing so. OTOH, as you've noted, it could cause tracking problems, if they weren't made mirror images.

wtrask4 | May 23, 2011

Complete iPhone/iPad integration... requested. Will the Model S have it?
- want to run navigation apps, pandora, iPod, MapMyRide, etc...
- sure some of these might be in the "tesla" version, but the UI and ease of use will it be there? Will you be as flexible and upgradeable as the rest of the IT market?
- heck, just plug your iPad into the dash in place of the enfotainment center... then create your own special Tesla App and advertise with Apple. That will get Tesla mainstream!

Performance Version?
- 0-60mph specs for the various battery packs (less car weight faster speed)
- 300mile at 5.6sec
- 230mile at ???
- 160miles at ???

More Alpha Images
- love to see the crash test images
- love to see Beta designed car
- love to see the 3rd row (I've got 3 kids and DON'T want a Mini van!)

Demo a Battery Swapout
- I'm debating on a smaller battery pack, and renting the larger pack when I go on vacation
- How plausible will this be. Do you see the seattle store having enough 300-mile packs to swap out.

Tom A | May 25, 2011

Can you provide us a Model X teaser?

Volker.Berlin | May 26, 2011

May is almost over and we are all eagerly waiting for the promised blog post. Since this post still seems to be in the works, I assume it is in order to place two more questions:

I think keyless access and probably even keyless go can be taken for granted with the Model S. But which technology will you use for the key? Radio, RFID, NFC? A combination of these or something entirely different? And, most interestingly, what is the reasoning behind your decision?

Here is a thread with some thoughts regarding this topic:

And a related question: What other methods or technology will be in place to ensure that only authorized people can drive away with the Model S?

perbakken | May 26, 2011

It would have been nice if it was possible to set the car to some kind of highly reduced effect when needed. This to make sure that if someone is borrowing the car you still have some kind of control. If for example one of the kids in the house (or your spouse...) is to borrow the car, this function would have been not only desireable, but maybe also necessary...

TJK | May 26, 2011


I know the Roadster has a "Valet Mode" that restricts the top speed to 50mph and does a few other things. I would assume the Model S would have something similar. Check out this video, the valet part starts at 1:35.

Straight Shooter | May 26, 2011

Will the car accept a roof rack? In not, you need to rethink that. How am I going to take the family skiing?

Will the car accept a trailer hitch? If no, why not? If yes, what is the recommended max towing capacity? most folks will want to tow something small like a snowmobile or a jet ski. We may need to tow a bunch of Nissan Leafs to the closest electrical socket as their 70mile range won't work in real life.

Volker.Berlin | May 26, 2011

We may need to tow a bunch of Nissan Leafs to the closest electrical socket as their 70mile range won't work in real life.

Emergency charging from battery to battery ("mouth-to-mouth resuscitation" ;-) should be more efficient than towing. I assume that towing a Leaf needs more additional energy than the Leaf needs to move by itself. But I may be wrong...

scoosba | May 26, 2011

First off I am loving the looks of the alpha. What was something you would have loved to have seen in the exterior design that was maybe too progressive for a mainstream launch of a vehicle that is already so unique?

I am interested in the storage dimensions of the front trunk and the rear storage area. I have a lot of gear and would love to use the Model S for adventures. Many campgrounds already have high amp outlets for trailers and campers so they would be great for charging as well.

Also I am interested in what the drag numbers are showing and how much sticking some bikes on a hitch mount rack might effect range.

Thanks Franz

murraypetera | May 26, 2011

Will the Model S have:

1. auto lock doors after reaching ~10mph
- I have this on a current car and love this feature
2. talk to home network to send data (wifi)
- driving directions to gps
- charge data
- maintenance data
- Sync music/video up from home media server
- send gps data back to see where the car was.
- ability to clear all this type of data on command including speed/break, etc. data
- etc...
- Ability to remotely ask the car where it is (in case of theft or absent minded parking)
3. USB ports for charging phone's etc.
4. Power ports (110vac), 12dc front, middle, rear of car
5. kids would love dvd player in back of seats, I don't
6. Manual access into car if FOB or remote unlock does not work
7. Manual start override (key, override to FOB if FOB is key)
8. Ability to tell charger when to charge to take advantage of lower energy rates at night
9. Thermal glass (dual pain to drastically reduce heating/cooling requirements)
10. Ability to use phone data network instead of requiring setting up phone account just for car.


msiano17 | May 26, 2011

When is the Q&A actually happening? Month is over on Tuesday...

saccuanjohn | May 26, 2011

Will the Model S have a EV EXTENDED RANGE GENERATOR TECHNOLOGY system, like this

Timo | May 27, 2011

No, because that system doesn't work. If it would then that would be a perpetual machine. Don't believe everything you see in youtube.

Marra | May 27, 2011

I got a question about the blue-shine in the frontlanterns as shown in pictures of the Model S Alpha, but only the one with silverpainting it seems!

Then my question is, will the blue-shine in the frontlanterns make it to production? If so, will it only be on the models with silver painting, and will this blue-shine be available world wide?

I was directed here from the question-thread, and I hope you could post an answer on the blog!

thanks in andvance


VolkerP | May 27, 2011

+1 for the leaf tow idea!

Volker.Berlin | May 27, 2011

Yeah, and actually you can charge it that way... ;-)

Designtime | May 29, 2011

Does anyone know when the answers will appear for these questions?

msiano17 | May 29, 2011

I would like to know timeline information for when options may be released, when official pricing will be released, delivery expectation.

Also, pricing for options and financing/leasing alternatives.

Will each store have a Beta build? If so, test-drivable?

Volker.Berlin | May 29, 2011

Designtime, no. At least nobody outside Tesla. But "later this month" almost certainly refers to May 2011.

Timo | May 29, 2011

Two days to go...

smorgasbord | May 30, 2011

I hate having to be pragmatic about such a beautiful car, but by their very nature, sedans have to be practical.

I realize the low batteries (and the way they're done in the Model S reminded me of the Eliica 8-wheeled battery powered concept car) help weight distribution, but please consider mundane real world clearance issues. The Model S's ground clearance is published as under 4.5"! That's 1.1" less than a 2011 BMW 535i, and even 5/8" less than the Tesla Roadster! What's the lowest point on the car?

While speed bumps in many jurisdictions are leagally limited to 4", some exceed that. Many road to driveway lip and angle combinations can lead to scraping on low-slung vehicles, especially with long wheelbases. I'm even concerned about twisty mountain roads that switchback. Have you taken the Alpha version up Bear Creek Road or Gist Road in the local to you Santa Cruz mountains? Given the low ground clearance, are there skid plates or other measures to protect the batteries?

What is the clearance from bottom of door to road? Sidewalk curbs can be over 6", and no one wants to get into a vehicle only to find that the door can't then be closed.

Have you considered active suspension technologies (ride height that adjusts based on speed) as a potential solution? Ride high at low speeds, then lower as speed increases.

Are the tire sizes still 245/35ZR21 and 285/30ZR21? Will alternate rims to accomodate snow tires be available?

Interior-wise, there's a posted video of a test drive showing the infotainment center in use while driving. Are there plans to do something to address the glare? It seemed pretty bad.

That said, congrats on keeping the curb weight under 2 tons, and making the car beautiful, yet with low drag.

Denis Vincent | May 30, 2011

Hey Smorg, you may want to read the thread I posted on May 23rd....I do agree with you regarding ground clearance, the vehicle I saw had minimal clearance but did have an extremely clean undercarriage. I do believe however that a redesigning of the Impeller Turbine Rim could possibly and passively help in addressing this concern..?....

Timo | May 31, 2011

"Later this month" next year? This month is going to be over really soon.

Volker.Berlin | May 31, 2011

But in Finland sooner than in Californa.

I like to see it this way: Since Franz is trying hard to provide satisfying answers to all of the questions in this thread, it may take a bit longer than expected... One thing is for sure: The longer the wait, the greater the expectations with regard to the detail and substance of the answers.

mnx | May 31, 2011

I'm not sure if this is the place to ask but a discussion here: on maintenance triggered a question. Since many Tesla drivers will rely on regen for the bulk of the braking needs, have you thought about using Stainless, Aluminum or Ceramic rotors? (To limit rust/corrosion on the brake rotors)

txjak | June 1, 2011

Please post a link to Franz's blog post here when it appears.

Thank you.

Thumper | June 1, 2011

It's not like Tesla rotors get no use at all. Rotor corrosion is only a problem when cars sit unused for long periods. Even then it is a minimal problem that does not require a design solution. Aluminum even in its toughest alloys and anodized is unsuitable for rotors. It is subject to galling. I am unaware of it ever having been used in a car application. Bicycle rims are brake surfaces but the pads are essentially rubber and pad wear is very rapid.

txjak | June 2, 2011

OK, since we have no answers yet, here's another question.

Will the warranty require that the vehicle be brought to a Tesla service center on a schedule?

ncn | June 6, 2011

Seconded on the "clearance to bottom of door". This and the underclearance are both very worrying. The car NEEDS NEEDS NEEDS 6 inches of underclearance. Roads in much of the US are in terrible condition, and they're going to get worse because local road budgets are underfunded and states and municipalities are engaging in deferred maintenance. A bad-condition speed bump or vertical curve on a hilly road (and we have both here) requires a bit of underclearance.

The door clearance is of course, affected by the underclearance, and is equally important. In this area, most roadside parking spaces leave the car sloping downward on the curb side (because of the gutter). The curb itself can be upwards of 6 inches above the road surface, but in order to open the door you need even *more* clearance due to the direction the car is angled; less than 10 inches from ground to the bottom of the door and you bang the bottom of the door on the sidewalk (which is OK), less than 8 and you may not be able to get out.

The car needs to be able to drive on real, mixed-quality Northeastern US roads, not just on pristine paved-yesterday expressways and boulevards.

Timo | June 6, 2011

What about legally required front license plate placing in the car? There doesn't seem to be good place to put the license plate there. Lower part of the front has air gap where actual cooling air is taken and placing license plate there would cause drag and make airflow to cooling less clean. Not to mention that it would be ugly with the plate.

Timo | June 6, 2011

That above question is definitely something that needs to be addressed, and it definitely is a design-question, so please include answer for that in the blog (whenever that appears). This is not optional but a requirement in here.

David70 | June 7, 2011

The front plate is required in WA state also.

perbakken | June 7, 2011

And Norway

txjak | June 7, 2011

Did Franz quit?

Kallisman | June 7, 2011

Seems to be room for a license plate on the front cone, but would need some adapter to fit. Maybe there will be an optional cone with flat space for the license place.
On my Alfa Romeo it had to be placed a bit on the side, and ruin the symmetry of the front.

cablechewer | June 7, 2011

I too want to know about the front license plate. Will it be in the middle of the chrome circle just below the Tesla logo? That might not look very good (a lot may depend on the shape and colour of the plate).