Auto industry Tesla Model S

Published on October 24th, 2014 | by Steve Hanley


European Auto Makers Target Tesla

October 24th, 2014 by  

Tesla Model S

Tesla has only sold about 50,000 of its Model S sedans, but the shock waves set off by Elon Musk’s upstart car company are reverberating throughout the board rooms of auto makers around the globe. According to Germany’s Manager Magazine, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi are working overtime on new models to fend off the challenge from Tesla. All three companies want their new electric models to have at least 400 kilometers/240 miles of range.

Porsche’s new electric vehicle will be a smaller version of its Panamera sedan. Since the Model S is roughly the same size as the Panamera, Porsche must believe the power of its nameplate will be enough to offset the Tesla’s advantage in interior room. The electric Porsche will not be in showrooms until 2018 at the earliest.

Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche is anxious to see his company offer a car that can compete head to head with the Model S, one that is about the size of the current E Class or S Class sedans. The problem for the Stuttgart team is their battery is too big to fit into any of its current models so they must engineer a completely new car for the task. Don’t look for the anti-Tesla Benz anytime before 2021.

Over in Ingolstadt, Audi is not planning to tackle the Model S head-on. Rather, CEO Rupert Stadler is focusing his company’s efforts on building a car to compete with the soon to be launched Tesla Model X. The electric Audi SUV will not be available until late 2017 at the earliest, it’s believed.

Surely Elon Musk and his management team must be snickering up their sleeves to think their tiny company is causing industry giants such as Porsche, Mercedes and Audi to spend billions developing products to compete against them. In an interesting side note, Daimler sold its remaining stock in Tesla just this week, realizing a $780,000,000 windfall. Some analysts think the sale marks the end the Mercedes/Tesla partnership that saw Tesla contribute its technical skill to the development of the Mercedes B Class electric vehicle, as the two companies move into a more adversarial role in the marketplace.

Will Porsche, Mercedes and Audi be able to meet the Tesla challenge? If you are in the car business, these are interesting times.



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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Steve Grinwis

    By the time the Mercedes 240 mile electric is out, the Tesla will be a 350 – 400 mile range, and have 20 minute recharges thanks to it’s newly rolled out 300 kW supercharger network.

    • BlackTalon53 .

      Until room temperature superconductors are found, charging will never be much faster than it is right now. There is a physical limit to how much power you can push through a cable that even a petite woman or frail older person can still lift on her own, quite regardless of battery or charger tech.

      • Steve Grinwis

        There is such a limit, but we’re miles off it. The limit of today’s fast chargers is entirely on battery pack thermal dissipation, and chemistry limits, not ‘size of conductor’ problems.

        The supercharge cable is fairly light. It’s about an inch around, and it’s capable of delivering 155 kW, and can probably scale up to 170 kW.

        Tesla has already stated that they should be able to scale supercharger technology up to 720 kW, using a 1500v, 480 amp circuit. That would involve a cable roughly 1.5″ in diameter to be able to deliver that. That’s roughly the same size and only marginally heavier than a gasoline hose and nozzle. Have you seen a small woman have issue with a gasoline nozzle?

        Don’t forget, most electrical cable you see is rated to be run inside insulated walls and not overheat, so cables that are open to air can be made significantly smaller for the same current rating.

        So, no, we don’t need superconductors yet… We need batteries more resilient to high charging currents.

        • BlackTalon53 .

          Have you got a link to that statement? I’m pretty sure the 380V(?) the supercharger can currently crank out is close to the maximum that can be handled safely by just plugging it in somewhere without a qualified expert standing by to supervise it.

  • VazzedUp

    I don’t doubt that they will catchup and produce equally compelling cars (good news for all), but the Tesla Supercharger network will give them an advantage for many years to come.

  • Steve Hanley

    I agree with both distinguished gentlemen. I was thinking to myself while composing the article, “These guys are targeting the Model S as it exists in 2014. By the time they get their own cars on the market, they will be 3 – 5 years out of date.”

    The most important feature of any electric car is its battery. (D’uh) And Tesla is on a path to be far ahead of the rest of the industry in terms of battery size, power, weight and price for the foreseeable future.

    Is Tesla an example of disruptive technology? You bet your sweet bippy it is! ; )

  • philb

    If Audi, Mercedes and Porsche plan on being competitive they cannot only match Tesla today in 3 to 5 years that says something. I think that only BMW has shown they can in relatively short order develop a competitor. I really believe that Mercedes really does not have interest in the electric car market as their investment in Tesla seem to look?

    Same goes for Toyota but in the case of BMW they really are stepping up their game even though there really is only the i3 right now. BMW wants to access the Supercharger network it sounds like and some of Tesla technology in return for their advance materials technology.

    Recent breakthroughs in lithium-ion battery technology could shorten charge time to 20 mins or less. Its a good time today to be leading in the electric car industry for Tesla and BMW it seems?

  • Albertico

    This is years away still, I don’t even know why it’s worth discussing now. Let’s see a concept first at least, so I know they are serious and not just spilling vaporware.

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