New Motor City, Part II

Ariel Atom

You can argue that Tesla Motors does not have true automotive heritage. Their CEO previously ran a company that built e-book hardware. In the new world of automotive engineering, that might not matter. The Wrightspeed X1 is a 100% electric vehicle that sports a proven chassis design from England. The coachwork is based on the Ariel Atom, a two seater that advertises itself as having no doors, no windscreen and no roof. The only problem is that the X1 is for “proof of concept” only. It is not a production model. And that’s a good thing since it’s unlikely to pass US DOT certification without a windshield.

The X1 prototype is just the beginning. It meets its design specs of 0-60 in 3 seconds, 170 mpg equivalent; and at 1536 lbs, is only 36 lbs over the design target of 1500. It really does raise the performance driving experience to a new level, even for racing drivers. No clutch, no shifting, precise and immediate control of torque in drive and braking, perfect traction control…first gear takes you to 112mph…

In recent track testing, on street tires, it achieved the following performance:
0-30 mph: 1.35 sec
0-60 mph: 3.07 sec in 117 ft
0-100 mph: 6.87 sec
0-100-0 mph 11.2 sec
Lateral g: 1.3
Braking g: 1.2

With performance like this, an electric racing league is not an unreasonable idea. Daytona races for 500 miles. That’s a distance that Martin Eberhard says is in Tesla’s future. The 24 hours of Le Mans might be more difficult to do, but it’s an admirable goal. In the short term, I’d love to see the Tesla Roadster burn rubber with the Atom Ariel (gas or electric) in the quarter mile. A few laps around the oval might be fun, too.

Tesla’s CEO isn’t going to invest in racing just yet, but he admitted to encouraging a Tesla “skunkworks” project that aimed to make a race-worthy ride. He said that electric race cars are “inevitable.” Start your engines…


Fat Tuesday


Precious grapefruits

Originally uploaded by *atrium09.

New Motor City

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” Alan Kay

Martin Eberhard

MIT/Stanford’s VLAB project had an interesting panel last Tuesday. The focus of attention was my hometown favorite, Tesla Motors. No, I don’t live in Detroit, I live in San Carlos, at the northern end of Silicon Valley.

Tesla is producing a limited quantity of high performance sports cars that will be available this Fall. The Tesla Roadster is a 100% electric two seater that’s faster than a Ferarri from 0 – 60 mph. No word how it does around corners, but the low center of gravity provided by the lithium ion batteries should be an advantage.

The batteries are the same ones used in most laptops. This was Tesla’s out of the box moment. Unlike other attempts at building a 100% electric car, they decided to use commodity laptop cells. They’ve engineered an optical network for battery management and a cooling system to prolong the battery life. Tesla warrants the battery pack for 100,000 miles.

Tesla doesn’t differentiate itself on technology alone. Their business model is based on a direct relationship with the consumer. They will not franchise dealerships. The value of the customer relationship is too great according to Martin Eberhard, Tesla’s CEO. He lamented that some states had laws that protected car dealership’s position in the automotive sales and distribution network and prevented a manufacturer from selling directly to the consumer. That’s why Tesla won’t sell product in Texas.

The Tesla Roadster will be remembered as a limited production, hand built, two seater in the Lotus tradition. In fact, Lotus is assembling the final product in the UK with motors from Taiwan and batteries from Thailand. I’m sure the end result will be quite collectable.

To build the nextgen, Tesla closed a deal to construct a manufacturing plant in New Mexico. That plant will build “Project Whitestone“, a 4 or 5 passenger sedan that will get the equivalent to 110 miles per gallon with a 500 mile range. They expect to sell 10,000 of them by 2009. That many Whitestones will take 7 million Li batteries. That’s more than Dell used in 2006 for all of their laptop production. The era of “cheap batteries” is ending.



Nullsoft Bios


I’ve been a fan of Winamp for years. I finally gave into the dialog box and decided to upgrade. I clicked OK and ended up learning a little bit about the crew at Nullsoft. May they live long and prosper!

Cuba Embraces Open Source

The New York Times has an interesting article on Cuba’s attempt to quit its Microsoft habit. The Cuban government is turning to Linux in a big way.

“HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s communist government is trying to shake off the yoke of at least one capitalist empire — Microsoft Corp. — by joining with socialist Venezuela in converting its computers to open-source software.

Both governments say they are trying to wean state agencies from Microsoft’s proprietary Windows to the open-source Linux operating system, which is developed by a global community of programmers who freely share their code.

”It’s basically a problem of technological sovereignty, a problem of ideology,” said Hector Rodriguez, who oversees a Cuban university department of 1,000 students dedicated to developing open-source programs.”

It will be interesting to see if the US government tries to position open source as a less patriotic choice. Anything is possible in this post 9/11 world.

Pain and Suffering 2.0

I read a tragic story published by The San Francisco Chronicle on today. It told the unfortunate tale of a crash scene photo of a decapitated corpse. The image was released by the California Highway Patrol and soon proliferated online.

Family members said they suffered emotional distress after the graphic photos of the October accident appeared on the Internet. They said the photos’ release exposed them to e-mails and text messages from people taunting them with pictures of the girl’s decapitated corpse.

If true, an argument can be made that the Internet increased the family’s suffering. It’s bad enough to see the photos online, but to get less than sympathetic email and text messages adds to the family’s pain and suffering. The family is seeking $20 million, so it appears their lawyers see cash in the connected nature of web 2.0.

One wonders how their email address and/or phone number (assuming the text messages were SMS) were found by the miscreants. I expected the journalist on the story to dig a little deeper, but then again, it’s just an AP feed that the Chron reprinted. Looks like a case of lazy journalism to me.

Mashups For The Masses

It’s been a while since I’ve been as enthusiastic about a bit of software as I am about Yahoo Pipes. Yahoo raised the bar in the feed aggregation business with this GUI for aggregating and filtering multiple content feeds. It is astonishingly easy to use.

Thanks to a nice quickstart tutorial by Mr. Speaker, grokking the potential is easy. Drag out the modules, enter some data in the fields, and connect them together. Tinker toys for today.

Yahoo Pipes!

The ease with which you can filter aggregated content is very nice. The criteria by which you filter will change as additional microformats are adopted. My Yahoo won’t go away, but I won’t be using it anymore. Pipes lets me fine tune my content selections. In that sense it lets me personalize my media. If you think about multimedia feeds (blogs, video, audio, pictures) some interesting possibilities start emerging.

Yahoo says it’s a beta, but the Filter module felt more alphaish to me. I’m sure it will be fixed, along with their provisioning. The server was down today as the word spread and the clickstream turned into a torrent.

Pipes takes mashups to the masses. ‘Bout time!