Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tesota or maybe Toyola?

Logged onto New York Times and was amazed to see that there is a tie up between Toyota and Tesla.
See link
They plan to produce the sedan EV in the NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. NUMMI is close to where I live and I'm happy to see something happening to this shuttered plant.
Its good news for Tesla and for Toyota. Hopefully, this will be a fruitful relationship.
I've visited Tesla and sat on the passenger seat of their roadster (I suppose they did not trust me with a $100,000 car). It's an amazing ride. Its easy to fall in love with the car and the concept (the price tag notwithstanding). Despite Toyota's recent troubles, I've always thought they are very good at what they do.
Lets hope that this move will get us closer to an EV I can afford (and trust me, if I can afford it, so can you).



  1. Hello, Venkat. My question is about PbC battery.
    FireFly battery has gown under. Whats going on with this technology? I think this type of battery may be ideal for ebike today. Is it right?

  2. I'm just happy to see the NUMI plant getting some use.

  3. Unfortunately production would not happen until 2012. While the governor suggests that it would create >1000 green jobs, I'm not sure whether the number also include materials scientists and engineers from the batteries side.

    I wonder if there are production plants starting up in other parts of the USA and how soon they will be open for business?

  4. Venkat SrinivasanMay 25, 2010 at 4:54 AM

    Roman- I do not know what the back story is of the Firefly closure (I did read that its was lack of funding. Sounded like a problem similar to Imara). I had seen data on cells that had carbon-Pb (but maybe not from Firefly) and it looked really good. Again, there are probably details that we are not aware of. for ebikes cost would be a big issue, assuming taht these are for the Chindia (borrowing a term for the China-India "problem") market. Lead-acid would make sense, although I wonder if the way these re discharged would really be helped by having a carbon-Pb system.
    Anyway, this is the second greentech storage startup that has gone under; there will be more before the dust settles. There is probably a few books that can be written 3 years from now on this topic.
    On the NUMMI plant: The >1000 jobs appear to be more manufacturing jobs, not R&D jobs. I think Tesla plans on all R&D to be in Palo Alto and manufacturing at Fremont.

  5. This American Life did a fantastic report on the history of the NUMMI plant and how GM and Toyota partnered there in the 80's.

    Interesting lesson there for Tesla.

  6. BBC News has an article called "Promise, but daunting challenges for electric cars"...

    One claims that the Japanese are at least a year ahead... Any feedback on that comment, and whether the US can match up by 2012 as well as adopting the smart grid?

  7. Venkat SrinivasanMay 25, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Jim B.- I did listen to the "this american life" segment on NUMMI. really interesting. Highly recommended.
    The bbc article on EV is at

    Japanese have decades of experience with Li-ion; a lot longer than the US companies. It will take time to catch up. The US has pretty good technology ideas, but has been weak in manufacturing. DOE's funding to the battery companies via ARRA is *supposed* to help. Time will tell if this is a "golden gate bridge" or a "bridge to nowhere" (although I think the golden gate bridge is a bridge to nowhere :-) who wants to go to the North bay anyway? :-) )

    On smart grid and charging batteries for EVs at night- it theoretically a good idea and should be done anyway. But we have to get cheap electric cars first.


  8. This would be cool if it goes ahead. I love tesla's. The roadster looks a bit weird, but the Model S is great.

  9. Here's the thing...

    Tesla is a boutique car and for it to remain news worthy, I think it needs to stay that way.

    By introducing affordable cars (sub 80k), then they begin to lose their mystique.

    I'm not convinced that this Toyota partnership is all that good (just yet).

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention though.

  10. I also sat in a Tesla a few months back, and it is indeed a splendid automobile. That being said, I think they need to maintain their "luxury" status to truly be successful long-term.

  11. ...and I might mention, it is a great thing when a previously closed plant re-opens. We are experiencing it here in northern Indiana, and with the extreme downturn in the economy a couple of years ago, the re-opening is a wonderfully positive occasion.

  12. A number of things come to mind on this post.

    First, there has been a ton of public money and likely private money poured into this already, so if there is some developed technology to move the electric car market along, it needs to be brought to the market.

    Second, you have to bring the price of cars down somehow or this just becomes a perk for the rich that want to hug trees.

    Electric cars, for the most part, aren't going anywhere in terms of market share yet for a whole bunch of reasons, so perhaps these guys can start to turn the tide of consumer opinions and interest on the subject.

    Third, if you need to incorporate best practices and more efficient production, who better to work with than Toyota. They have their recent warts like everyone else, but all in all they are on the top of the pile for producing quality at a good price.

  13. Agree with some of the earlier comments, especially price is an issue. We all pay for the development of these alternative ways of movement.

  14. Would be great to see production plants starting in the whole of the USA, and far beyond. How fast the sales will evolve is to be discussed, but good to see positive signals for this type of movement.