Good Karma, bad Karma

When Tesla burst onto the automotive scene with a lithium ion powered sports car, it was a breath of fresh air, the Apple of car-dom. It could be, in the words of Joseph Schumpeter, creative destruction in action. As always, it brought a ‘duh, why didn’t I think of this before’ moment in automotive boardrooms worldwide.

The Tesla Model S

As electric car start-ups, Tesla and Fisker have always vied for the mantle of the successful electric car start-up. Yet, Fisker has had a lot more stumbles than Tesla, particularly with vehicle fires. So why is that? Tesla started off by applying an innovative concept, using lithium ion batteries (like the kind we have in notebook computers) to create a purely electric car. It chose to minimize the risk by using the Lotus Elise as a base and swapping out the engine for banks of batteries. This mean’t that Tesla did not have to spend time designing the car, it merely designed the powertrain and optimized the wedding of the two. And caught the world’s imagination.

The Tesla’s elegant and simple interior

Fisker on the other hand, chose to style and design the car and incorporate two powertrains – one a GM Ecotec engine and an A123 designed lithium ion battery. The concept, maddeningly complex even for a traditional OEM, is a tall order for a start-up. Yes, the Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid just like a Chevy Volt. It’s got ‘grab your eyeballs’ styling, weighs a portly 6000 lbs and is, as is the case with exotic sports cars, high maintenance.

The Fisker Karma

Now, Tesla is spreading its wings by bringing us the Model S. The Model S is a 5+2 seater Mercedes E-class sized sedan with the handling of a sports car. No, I am not an advertising copywriter. By putting its heavy batteries under the floor, Tesla has gifted it with a low center of gravity. And it’s one speed gearbox means you have max torque available at a standing start.
A 160 to 265 mile range depending on battery capacity, can quell your range anxiety. By allowing it to charge on a range of voltages and offering a plethora of charging options including ‘superchargers’ Tesla aims to make charging as painless as possible.

By making everything work together seamlessly, it seems Tesla has borrowed a page from Apple’s play book. It already has impressed editors at Motor Trend, who have given it the ‘Car of the Year’ award. Let us see if it grabs the North American Car of the Year award this year.


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