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Down the Road

Let me begin by saying I am a big fan of TM and a reservation holder. I have no doubt the “S” will be an amazing car and a game changer for the auto industry.

My big concern is the economics of battery replacement. TM, by law, has to make (available) OEM parts for at least 10 years. However, there is no guarantee that these batteries will be better or cheaper – only available.

Batteries will evolve: range and power will increase, while weight, size, charging, and price will probably decrease. Newer models will reflect these advancements. Where will this leave us early adapters? Many forum readers ASSUME they can switch out their ‘old’ batteries in the future for an 85Kwh+ new battery for a fraction of today’s battery price. This may or may not be true or possible.

The bottom line. We may hope and assume that these advancement will positively benefit us… but there is no guarantee. I don’t want to find out in 8+ years an 85Kwh replacement battery will be $50K but a 125Kwh generation II battery is $25K. I understand TM has to move onwards and upwards,. I need to know where I stand… down the road. Obviously, TM does not have a crystal ball but they can give us a guarantee that future batteries will be compatible at a competitive price.

My questions are:

1. Will new technology advancements be compatible with our early “S and X?

2. Will replacement batteries reflect both the newer technology and better pricing?

3. TM Battery Warranty. Will I get a new battery, with a new warranty, or a pro-rata adjustment?

It is important to me to know up front how TM will address these concerns. This to me is a deal breaker, not cup holders or center console.

Not to put too fine a point on it but these are the dangers inherent in buying a first release vehicle from a young company. No amount of positive commentary from TM would change my assessment of the risk. This is about the risk tolerance of each individual reservation holder. If your purchase of the vehicle is based on satisfactory answers to each of the questions you noted then I don't think you'll be purchasing because (except for #3 to a certain extent) there's really no way they can be answered.

Basically what JohnQ said.

I have expectations based on the platform apparently being used in S and X but no guareentees that some other tech could come along and blow the expectations away.

What if new battery tech requires sunlight and fresh air for 40x the power and capacity? Then the whole design changes and the platform is dead.

These are all legitimate concerns. The answer may be found in how well TM supports the Roadster, now that it will soon become a "legacy" vehicle. My gut hunch is we won't have to worry about obsolescence for a very long time.

Since the battery packs are made of thousands of 18650 battery cells, as long as the new technology exists within an 18650 battery cell, we should be OK. The software should be upgradeable for the new battery cell technology.

If the new technology is not within an 18650 battery cell, a physically identical and compatible battery pack should be able to be built by TM or an aftermarket company.

The rest of the power train only see VOLTS and AMPERES. It could not care less about how they are produced.

If TM reads this and I am incorrect, I hope they will inform us of my folly.

If Tesla is rational, then the answer should be that Tesla will take care of their early adopters by continuing to provide improved batteries for a long time into the future. Why? Because of the reputation effect. If 2012 customers are screwed in 2020, what will buyers in 2020 think about their future treatment? And what impact will that have on their brand selection?

But there is a serious concern that the particular geometry of the Model S/X skateboard will be used only for a few years. As Tesla moves on to newer models, it will certainly introduce new battery geometries, and could easily phase out the Model S/X skateboard. Will it really be worth their time to keep making new batteries for us? Will they release the technical specs so that third parties can make them for us?

Tough questions, and important reality checks.

I'd love to drive this car till my 2yr is ready to drive... If in 10-15 years I can buy a battery pack that would be amazing... I'm rooting for Tesla!

Their business plan showed a skateboard design with 4-5 cars on the platform... so that at least gets us 2 years between models x4 cars (X, roadster, blue star, etc) or ~8years down the road. Which equals the battery warranty time on the model S. It will be telling when the Model X battery warranty is announced.

It is in Tesla's interest to make sure owners of older Teslas can continue to get replacement batteries. If customers can continue to get batteries for older Teslas, it only makes people more excited to buy a new Tesla. I believe Tesla will facilitate the replacement of batteries in their older cars. I think they will design updated batteries for the original Model S in parallel with their development of advanced battery packs for future vehicles. Fortunately, battery packs (and battery advances) are amenable to the slight changes in geometry that a modified future 'skateboard' will require. Just another benefit of an electric powertrain.

I read that you can purchase a future battery for a Roadster with the car for something like $12k. I would be suprised if they did not offer a similar option for the S.
If you are concerned about needing a new battery at a lower price then you might want to consider taking that offer.

I would be more concerned about Tesla going bankrupt than battery costs. I can go to Batteries R Us and buy a battery for all of the laptops I have owned in the past for about $80 each, or less. Places like that may even have rebuilt Tesla batteries by that time. I go there to buy new batteries for my old old APC UPS except now I get double the backup time off the new batteries. The batteries are a lot cheaper than the OEMs.
You would only want to buy that kind of replacement battery once your warrenty expires.

Normally, products start expensive and then the price goes down. I see this happening to the model s battery. Maybe someone will creat a new battery utilizing a new material that gets 1000 miles per charge and that battery may be expensive but I feel in the future, litium ion batteries will still be produced and will be cheaper.

I cannot think of any design that would be better than the skateboard design. It takes up no room and it makes the car stable. I see them using that in all the cars that they produce.

Tesla motors go bankrupt? I feel they are over the hump. They are going to start seeing substantial income from the sale of their model s, they already have another vehicle ready (X) AND I feel they will have a prototype bluestar vehicle available to showcase at the end 2013 for limited production at the end of 2014 with full production available in 2015. I feel at this point, it is more probable for a buyout than bankruptcy. If there was a buyout offer, it would be interesting to see if Tesla accepted.

@petero - Could you provide the reference for US law that says a manufacturer must supply parts for 10 years? I have looked high and low, yet find no such law.
Appreciate your help,

Sorry about the spelling errors in 1st paragraph of my earlier post. I had the whole thing typed and hit submit but it didn't post. Had to re-type the whole thing.It was a fustrating situation!

In Canada the manufacturers are also required to supply parts for ten years.

I have found no law that requires this so called 10 year back stock of replacement part. Many other forums seem to say it is a policy of many car manufactures. GM for example would take part from returned leased vehicles, refurbish them and sell them as factory refurbished for cars that did not sell well. Of coarse that is just another rumor from another forum.

Other comments were that typically after 5 years the manufacturer would not offer the part simply because the part is and was manufactured by another company in the first place.

I doubt this 10 year policy is true or at least not in the way people think it is true. I can have any part on any piece of equipment from any year manufactured at several different place..... it's the cost that I can not afford.

There was a part at the Taum Sauk pump storage electic plant here in Missouri that I had to get replace.... 25 of them actually. I had to take it 200 miles to a fab shop and have it made from scratch. It was not cheap but Ameren was writing the check. I would hate to need a custom computer part. Batteries I am not concerned about since there will always be rechargable batteries.

If someone else can provided this mythical 10 year law that would be great. I saw in a forum where some said it used to be seven years and they posted a link to another forum with no proof just people saying it was 7 years.
http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/ubb/get_topic/f/20/t/...

Here is everything I could find on cars and Federal laws. Anyone want to sift thru it?

http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/fmvss/index.html

As someone who computerized auto dealerships in the late 70's to the early 80's, I recall that there was a requirement for dealerships to provide original replacement parts for a number of years, but deregulation in the 80's took care of that.

Is the “S” more like a “laptop on wheels” or an automobile? We have very different expectations for each… down the road.

Robert.Boston. makes a very good point. I sincerely hope TM looks after us early customers, because it will have an impact on future customers.

BruceR. Sudre. I haven’t forgotten you, still searching where I found this tidbit.
However, whether TM, Panasonic, or another company makes the compatible battery that “S &X” use, they will be available. Hopefully at a price we can live with or the person you sold your “S/X” to.

I was told when I was restoring a 68 250SE coupe MB that they will supply parts for any of their cars, for a price. I don't know if it is true. Not all supposedly high class companies continue to support their product. I absolutely cannot find replacement brake hoods for 1990 Campagnolo Athena brake levers. Ugh.

Three years, when I needed a new headlight/wiper switch for my 1976 Datsun 280Z, I could not find one anywhere in the USA. I finally located the part last year near my home. Many parts are no longer available for the Datsun.....but thirty six years is a long time to stock all the parts.

Thumper. StephenK. BruceR. Sudre. It was not my intention that this thread focus on how long auto parts are available or how easy it is locate them. I am concerned that many forum contributors feel they will be able to upgrade to a better battery for a much lower price. I’m saying, this may not be true or possible. I feel there will be a supplier of “S and X” batteries (even if TM doesn’t offer it directly). I am not convinced that 8 years from now you can buy a 85-125Kwh (or whatever size) for $ 8-12,000. I worry that it will cost you $40K to replace the battery in your $15K “S.”

Thumper. Funny you should use the MB example. Three years ago we bought a 1972 280 SE Sedan (4.5). Vintage cars are always work in progress. Our old world, non-dealer, German, mechanic prefers to find “pre-owned” (used) parts when we need it. Perhaps this will help. I don’t think the above site will be very helpful on Italian racing bicycle parts.

http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/enthusiast/classic_center#module-3

@petero I am not convinced that 8 years from now you can buy a 85-125Kwh (or whatever size) for $ 8-12,000.

125kWh / $12000 is $96/kWh. Should be cheaper than that then. Some techs talk already about $125-200/kWh and just 8% drop each year makes that $200/kWh $108/kWh. 8% is slow estimate based on old techs. It is more like 16% than 8% now.

I wouldn't worry about that. Consider how much your computer memory did cost you 8 years ago. Same thing: better manufacturing techs for nanotechs. Just a bit slower pace. Li-ion batteries are nowhere close to theoretical max, there is lot of room to improve and with BEV:s getting better and more common also manufacturing automotive-grade batteries increase forced by market forces. He who owns best batteries wins the race.

There are two forces pressing prices down: mass production volume increase and technological advances.

@petero, "My big concern is the economics of battery replacement. TM, by law, has to make (available) OEM parts for at least 10 years"

While I understand that batteries are your concern, I was pointing out that there is no law that I know of that requires a manufacture to produce spare parts of any kind for any product. It is good business practice though.
If there is a law it might be on the warranty side. If TM warranties something for 8 years they must have it available to honor the warranty or refund the cost.

Sudre. You are very tenacious. No matter what I say, you only focus on the 10 years.

YES! There will be a replacement battery for our "S" in the 8-12 years! That is not the point I was making

@Sudre - I beleive you have hit the nail squarely on the head. There is no such law that manufacturers have to stock spare parts. It's a myth. Been searching NHTSA website and the Federal Code of Regulations with absolutely no hint of any such requirement. However, there are definetly laws that mandate that they honor their warranty and that they support emmission control. The warranty is a legal document requiring them to return to normal working service those items covered under that warranty. Most of the time that means ensuring the parts are available to make that repair.
The warranty for 8 years on Model S battery will gurantee that batteries will be available for a long time. As long as TESLA is still in bussiness, they need to honor that warranty. So add 8 years to 2013, then add 8 years to 2014 for Model X. Will they change battery mechanicals that fast on the Model X? I'm betting not and so add 8 years to 2015. We are already up to support in 2023 and I am a strong beliver that TESLA will grow and prosper and thus this battery platform will continue out even further.
As to price? My crystal ball says we will see a gradual price per kWh decline like we have seen in the past. I expect to pay less for a replacement pack than the original, but still see no evidence of a sea change in price on the horizon.

BruceR and Sudre. Still seeking more sources for my “10” years statement. Tomorrow, when my dealership opens I will speak to the service manager to confirm or deny.

Until then:

http://www.chacha.com/question/how-long-are-auto-manufacturers-legal-req...

Chacha (who ever they are) says 10 years.

@petero

It takes a certain temperament to be an early adopter, and the more expensive the item, the more challenging it is. While it would nice to have Tesla provide us with definitive answers to all of our many questions, there comes a time in the life of an early adopter where we simply have to commit to an act of faith with imperfect information.

In the case of the Model S we like to focus on the battery issues, but in reality the car is subject to any number of other uncertainties which, when viewed through the benefit of hindsight, could render our purchase ill-advised. Even if Tesla in good faith provided us with positive and definitive answers to your battery questions, a major uncertainty still looms for any startup company, and that is viability. Any positive answers we receive from Tesla regarding battery issues, or any other issue for that matter, become meaningless if Tesla follows the fate of most automotive startups.

Tesla has provided us with some guidance with regard to some of your questions, but I fear they won’t be definitive enough to satisfy your requirements.

Tesla has gone on record regarding the uncertainties in battery pricing. On their Fact page they state, “Given rapidly changing battery technology, it is impossible to accurately forecast the cost of future battery replacements.”

They have also discussed their approach to battery development in their recent 10-K filing.

“We intend to incorporate the battery cells that provide the best value and performance possible into our battery packs, and we expect this to continue over time as battery cells continue to improve in energy storage capacity, longevity, power delivery and cost. We believe this flexibility will enable us to continue to evaluate new battery cells as they become commercially viable, and thereby optimize battery pack system performance and cost for our current and future vehicles. We believe our ability to change battery cell chemistries and vendors while retaining our existing investments in software, electronics, testing and vehicle packaging, will enable us to quickly deploy various battery cells into our products and leverage the latest advancements in battery cell technology.”

I believe these types of statements are going to be the best we can reasonably expect in response to your first two questions.

To be an early adopter one really needs to have a certain degree of tolerance for dealing with uncertainties. However, if you are still uncomfortable with this level of uncertainty, then perhaps purchasing a Model S isn’t something you should consider at this time.

Larry

@Larry C. -- Well said. As early adopters of a new technology, we have to recognize that it simply isn't possible to reduce uncertainties to zero and/or eliminate the risk of doing business with a young company. If uncertainty and risk plague a potential buyer with worry, the Model S is not the car to buy at this time.

The skateboard is a design pattern that is so innovative and has so many benefits (e.g., ease of manufacturing, vehicle performance) that it is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. However, battery tech will change. In ten years, it's entirely possible that TM will be using an radically different battery chemistry, and that the dimensions of the skateboard will be modified (but the skateboard pattern will remain). However, if there are, say, 100,000 Model S's on the road by, say, 2020, I think we can be reasonably sure that TM would retrofit the new battery tech into the original Model S skateboard structure. That will allow 2012 Model S owners to replace their batteries, even if L-I is no longer viable and 2020 Model S's have different skateboard dimensions.

According to Stephen Smith of TM.......Replacement battery packs will be available many years down the road in order to support customers. There are laws in place that govern the length of time a vehicle must be serviceable and have parts available, even if the company were to go defunct. Stephen Smith was not able to verify the length of time at this moment. Whether the battery pack will improve or utilize even further advanced cell technology is yet to be seen.

Larry;
interesting that they mention changing vendors; I'd been wondering if their hookup with Panasonic would de facto tie them to whatever Panasonic had on offer.

BTW;
re that improvement/annum %. Ever heard of the quickie accounting rule of thumb, called "the rule of 72"? Basically, the product of the number of periods and % (compound interest rate, growth, etc.) to double is 72. So if it's 8%, it will take 9 yrs for capacity to double, or cost/kwh to halve. If it's 17% (my calc for the last 2 yrs.), then it's a bit over 4 yrs. Splitting the difference is 6 or 7 yrs.

Personally, I think that within 10 yrs one of the "10X" breakthroughs supposedly already in the labs will make it to market.

lgagliardi@worl... | March 10, 2012

Sorry about the spelling errors in 1st paragraph of my earlier post. I had the whole thing typed and hit submit but it didn't post. Had to re-type the whole thing.It was a fustrating situation!

If you're using Firefox, get the Lazarus add-on. It saves all your entries as you type. Default retention is 14 hrs., but I've set mine to 54 weeks. Just because. ;) It also stores the exact URL you were on at the time, so you can use it that way, too.


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