Hercules’ Shears

Just how flexible is Tesla’s battery technology? Why aren’t they doing more with it? Why?

2018 Tesla Model S station wagon: source

The Tesla Model S has been on sale for quite a while now: Since 2012 (USA) and 2013 (EU). By all accounts it is a pretty decent vehicle. We have issues here with its appearance though. I’ve always maintained that it’s too conservative a shape in relation to the technology under the skin.

It may very well have been a design that would have been almost contemporary in 2007. It’s now 2018 and the car still looks the same but 2007 is now a really long way back. Actually I don’t even think it would have looked good in 2007 either. There were several much more interesting designs around then that didn’t scare the horses. Water under the Zoobruecke. What I want to ask here today is how one canexplain why the Tesla Model S is sold only as a saloon/hatchback. We all know how tricky it is to develop a coupe from a saloon when the underlying mechanicals are of the traditional ICE sort. Re-arranging the components is necessary to suit coupe proportions. The more coupe it is the less you get to carry over, pushing up the cost.

Corollary: The less the main elements are moved the less successful is the coupe. Fact. How about an easier derivative then? Even ICE cars are routinely converted into estates. Depending on the basic design, an estate need not alter very much of the car below the waistline; all the action is in the roof and rear liftgate. So, readers, can anyone think of a reason why Tesla have not decided to produce a long roof version of the S?

North American readers might have a different outlook: estate cars don’t sell well in the upper premium category. Here in beautiful Europe they still do (the E-class and 5-series sell estate cars by the bucket load). Further, many other saloons are probably sold mostly as estates in Europe. The Mondeo and Insignia are estate cars with saloon variants, you could say. So, why hasn’t Tesla jumped at the chance to adapt their saloony hatch and make some more conquest sales? People like estates, even rich people.

2002 General Motors Hy-Wire: source

The next point is that if making an estate car off the Tesla S is not hard at all, to make a coupe would only be moderately difficult in terms of packaging. Sure, the entire skin of the car would need to be massaged and a whole new set of tools made. So what. I seem to recall that one of the many advantages of an electric car was that such changes or such derivatives were not supposed to be so tricky: the wheels and powerpack are pretty much like a skateboard. Stick a new lid on the top, Bob’s your dad’s brother.

GM made that point with their Hy-Wire concept of 2002 (it was a hydrogen car, I know). And it is not hard to effectively drop a new body on top of an electric platform without having to move around a lot of components. I can imagine a Tesla coupe. It would accelerate faster than an Aston Martin V12 and have the same ludicrously short range. It’d cost less. It could look better than the sub-Hyundai style of the basis saloon. Sorry Mrs Hyundai – it has been a really long time since your cars were less than pretty good looking.

The work of ten minutes: Tesla Model S coupe

Tesla has since launched two other cars so now they have three. That’s quite scant, isn’t it? What I am ignoring in this discussion is that the demand for coupes is near rock bottom. Hell, I don’t even want one but they are nice to look at and it’s comforting to know they are there. They take up less room than crossovers as well.

A counter counterpoint is that demand for coupes is not so low as to make their provision a hiding to nothing. BMW and Audi sell some quite foxy coupes at the moment and they don’t assume losing money as part of their business plan. And if the electric power pack is so very flexible surely it would be easy enough to try to get some more sales by offering more choice. Or is it really the case that electric power packs do not make the provision of vehicle variants so much more easy than doing so with trad power packs? Or is Tesla just too busy to consider the matter. While I am here, let’s have a three door Tesla S estate.

(Post-script: every Tesla S which I have looked at has no rear centre arm-rest. This is hateful.)

Jan 13, 2018: Text amended to remove incorrect use of term “ICE” in places.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Hercules’ Shears”

  1. “Tesla has since launched two other cars so now they have three. That’s quite scant, isn’t it?”

    Not when they’re already struggling to meet demand for ‘just’ three models.

    And what’s an ‘ICE power pack’?

    1. Yes I know what ICE means. I’m just struggling to understand the mention of it in relation to Tesla.

      And lucky you for getting hold of Dolin rouge. All I can find here is the white variety, but there’s always a bottle in our fridge.

    2. Laurent: I shouldn’t worry. Richard just drops these little hand grenades in from time to time to ensure people are paying attention.

      Re: Dolin. You’re a Londoner I believe. Where do you source it? A speciality offie, a trip back to the home country or a very cultured milkman?

    3. Eoin: it is kind of you to cover for me. However, this is what happens when working breakneck at cutting edge of the coalface of automotive writing.

    4. Eoin: Dolin white is available from Waitrose (online and some branches), and quite possibly Tesco also.
      I’ll have to check to see if anyone has had the good sense to add the red to their offering.

    5. Thanks Laurent. Waitrose. Of course. I’ll seek it out on my return to Brexit’s shores. Do keep us posted on the quest for red though…

  2. 1. Tesla’s too busy; Musk is mainly an alt energy waller now. He can’t meet demand for his E-cars, and build quality has been indifferent.

    2. ICE has time limits in much of Europe, so all are racing to improve E-cars. China has the will and muscle to head the pack.

    3. French coupés are common, but always smaller than the Germans’, which get a free run. There’s a particularly racy (and expensive) little Peugeot.

  3. There are at least two third-party Tesla wagon conversions around:



    I’d have to say the British one doesn’t please me at all.

    It reminds me of various coachbuilt estates offered by Ford and Vauxhall in the fifties and sixties which never looked right because the window frames, C-pillars and rear wing profiles couldn’t be altered. Not quite as bad as the 1980 Ladbroke Avon XJ conversion; they should have stuck to bookmaking.

    As an aside, there was a one-off Deauville wagon built for Alessandro’s wife, Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso:

  4. Seemingly the market for estate cars in the US has gone, replaced entirely by SUVs. Tesla has one of those (of a fashion) so they perhaps are indulging their home-market bias by not producing an estate version for us Europeans.

    Interestingly, a small coach builder is trying to build a Tesla estate… but these low-volume efforts are never very satisfactory to my eyes.

    Also, the Tesla Model S, thanks to its five metre long hatchback style and ‘frunk’ already has masses of luggage space. Just how much do you need?

    They have recently announced the Roadster, which appears to be at least as big as the Model S but with more power and much more cramped accommodation.

    I am, personally, much more upset about the lack of an Alfa Giulia estate. The Stelvio holds little appeal.

  5. J.B. Morton wrote a humorous column in the Daily Express under the name Beachcomber.
    It had no theme: simply whatever funny stuff he thought up every day, written on Basildon Bond letterpaper and submitted by post. One item involved a miscellaneous list, one of which was “Corrections: in yesterday’s farming report for “horses” read “cows” throughout.”

    In a similar spirit I need to revise my text where it seems I simply said one thing and meant another.

  6. Conceptually, a Tesla is no more than a modern version of a 1913 Baker Electric. Or more than a dozen US electric runabouts of that era. The power rheostat has been replaced by power electronics/DC-to-AC converters, lead-acid batteries with LiOns, and some fancy-wancy rare-earth magnets give a solid 10% efficiency gain on the motor aspect by using AC rather than DC types. Oh and 4 wheel brakes and independent suspension feature, like many cars. Combine that with a homemade tablet and iffy autonomous features, and you get a “technological marvel”.

    I’ve only seen one Model S, in pouring rain in a parking lot. I thought at first it was a Maser, but as I sat wringing wet in my car next to it, the neurons finally kicked in. Nice looking beast. Considering the outlandish price, no less than I expect.

    The British always seem keen to customise already expensive vehicles like apparently to some eyes dowdy Range Rovers. And many UK hearses are uniquely bizarro to my eye. Putting a walnut dash in a Mini and calling it a Hornet is symptomatic of the disease of fooling others into thinking luxury. But a market exists.

    The personal coupe market and station wagon market is dead in the US, as you say. Americans seem uniquely impervious to trends or fashions in other markets, as if they don’t exist because such “foreign” stuff doesn’t appeal to them.

    But I agree with the idea that a Tesla S two door and a wagon would sell well in Europe. Time to tweet Elon and put a bee in his ear. He might actually make a dollar catering to more than American taste and by adopting a Porsche/Mercedes type of optional extras list.

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