Wednesday, September 23, 2015

VW fraud, Tesla P85D fraud

Popular news these days are VW diesel car emission fraud and Tesla P85D "fraud".

VW fraud

VW "clean" diesel engines were programmed to operate in reduced emission mode by turning on the emission controls when they detected they're being tested. But when the software detected the car was driven normally, it would turn off or reduce emission controls, creating up to 40 times higher emissions than test conditions. Since the lab testing involves fairly constant parameter in steering angle deviation, throttle, speed, and so on, it was relatively easy to detect when the car was being tested.

This was discovered, in part, by an organization that tested modern diesel passenger cars to show that diesel cars are indeed clean in various driving conditions. The "anomaly" was published in 2014, yet it took about a year before VW finally admit to selective (aka, fraudulent) software in about 11 million "clean" diesel engines in Sep. 2015. Fallout range from almost 50% dive in VW stock prices and the resignation of their CEO.

Why did they do this? There are many speculations, but basically boils down to lower performance, higher fuel use, and less reliability with emission controls turned on. Until the fix is in and cars retested, it's hard to know if they are true. But it's certainly possible. At the very least, I can believe lower performance due to emission controls as countless other cars, diesel or gas, faced similar trade offs. One only has to look at big 3 cars from early 1980's to see how awful emission control can be.

Some good may come out of this. For one, gas cars hopefully will learn the lesson and be more honest about their performance and testing. But seeing how large diesel trucks pulled the same trick to fool emission testing while turning off the emission controls in normal driving, gas car testing should be vigilant about keeping car makers honest.

Second good may be potential for more EV adoption. Modern emission controls when implemented correctly is very effective, resulting in very little pollution (still more than EV; will cover this in another post). But this costs performance, fuel efficiency, reliability, and most importantly, higher manufacturing cost. When gas car companies find that keeping zippy and efficient car while keeping the price low is more and more difficult, they may switch to EV. Indeed, VW unveiled several "Tesla fighter" EV in Frankfurt auto show in 2015. Maybe they'll focus more on EV (eGolf sucks!) than throwing more money into now untrust-worthy diesel.

Tesla P85D fraud

Just like VW fiasco was discovered by diesel enthusiasts, some proud Tesla owners tested (raced?) their P85D against gas cars with similar horsepower, and noticed they were not as quick. While 0-60 mph time felt quick enough, 60-90 mph were less than gas cars of much lower horsepower. Supposedly, about 70 P85D owners signed a letter to Tesla regarding the matter, and included such information that P85D should have 7 lb/hp, but it was slower than others that had 8 lb/hp and felt P85D is more like 9 lb/hp car. For comparison, sports motorcycles typically have 5 lb/hp or less.

CTO of Tesla wrote a blog post trying to address the matter. He started off with difference between horsepower and kiloWatt and that EV should be measured with kW instead of HP. This is nonsense deflection of the question at hand. Both are units of power. In fact, if they want to invent a new unit called TMP (Tesla Motors Power), it makes no difference from horsepower.

Then he talks about dual motor set up and how more power is delivered to rear wheel motor under heavy acceleration to get more traction. Fine, fine. But that doesn't address the core issue, which is why is it slower than cars with more weight to power ratio even when traction is not an issue?

Finally, he gets to the meat of the matter which basically boils down to two related facts with third unexpected fact.

1. Unlike other Tesla and cars in general, P85D power rating was simple sum of front motor and rear motor power rating, not the actual power that is delivered by the car when driven. Found on some other posts (not Tesla), their other models reflect the actual power delivered.

2. Although the motors could theoretically deliver the power (I assume some SW tweak would be needed), the battery may not deliver the power. Again found in posts other than Tesla, their other models reflect actual the power delivered, including the battery.

3. This third point is a huge surprise to me, but P85D 0-60 mph time was measured with about 1 ft of start slack, contributing to about 0.2 seconds of faster time compared to standing start. That means instead of P85D insane mode being 3.1 seconds, it would be 3.3 seconds.

While points 1 and 2 are bad enough in that power delivered is not what they claimed, point 3 that directly address the performance is much bigger issue. If this is also true for P90D ludicrous mode, it would put 0-60mph time at 3.0 seconds, slower than Corvette Z06 while costing over $40,000 $14,000 (P90D=$119.2K-$10K=$109.2K, Vette Z06=$95K from Edmunds) more. I advocated for P90D due to it being quicker than any comparably priced gas car (only other car to claim that is SparkEV), but this fact would take that claim away. P90D is just another overpriced, under performing EV in terms of price-performance measure. Then SparkEV is the only EV that can claim to be quicker than any comparably priced gas car. It must feel lonely at the top.

Edit Oct. 2015

Since this post went on-line, I've got some negative responses. Since I rarely get any response on any of my post, this is quite extraordinary. I want to clarify why I consider Tesla claim as fraud, if it wasn't obvious already.

Suppose I take kid's Barbie power wheel and put two electric motors rated at 500HP each, would that be considered 1000HP EV? Obviously not. But if I mounted the motor so that they can drive the wheels while keeping the controller the same power wheel parts, would it qualify? Of course not! Claiming such power wheel as 1000HP EV is fraud. And that is my point behind #1; adding up motor power without regard to anything else is wrong!

But suppose that power wheel upgraded the controller so that it can deliver 1000HP while keeping the battery the same (12V sealed lead acid). I won't bother asking the ridiculous question if it's fraud. And that is my second point; without considering what the battery can deliver, claiming sum of motor power is wrong!

But I'm a realist. Regardless of horsepower, if my power wheel can drive 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, the acceleration that matters in the real world, then I could care less about 1000HP or 1HP. That's why I harped on this third point with more weight. I thought I worded it as "if this is the case", but that seems lost on Tesla zealots. As I was researching that almost all cars use rollout, I got "hate mail". Well, fine. I'm stopping research into the matter, and keeping the wording as is. Read it as you like, but "if this is the case" still stand.

I consider myself a Tesla fanboy; I've liked their products since Roadster. In fact, I was reluctant to call fraud, so I put quotes around it for Tesla. But I call them out when they need calling out. Zealots, on the other hand, would protect their belief beyond reason. Putting blinders on does nothing positive for anyone.

Edit Nov 2, 2015

Well, I just can't seem to leave it alone. It seems Tesla has released revised power figures for P85D that reflect the actual power output in addition to individual motor outputs:

P85D = 463HP
P85DL = 532HP
Front motor = 259HP
Rear motor = 503HP

But far more important 0-60mph figures are as follows: 3.1 (P85D), 2.9 (P85DL). It seems P85DL increased by 0.1 sec. No big deal. It still beats Corvette Z06 by a whopping 0.05 sec!

What's odd is rear motor horsepower is greater than P85D combined horsepower. Battery limitation?!-Tesla-announces-REAL-HP-numbers-for-P85D-and-P90L


  1. Well, Z06 is almost certainly also measured with 1 ft rollout... Almost all american manufacturers do it this way.

  2. "Fraud" is a rather loaded term.

    1. Tesla has been rather careful to state motor horsepower only in their marketing for the P85D. Their performance claims have been based on the 0-60 times, which Tesla has met (with the 1 foot rollout).

    Other Teslas are also rated with motor power - for example, Model S 85D is rated at 259 front and rear motor hp - but sometimes state a total power as well (417 hp for the 85D). Tesla's marketing materials have gone back and forth on whether the total "system power" is stated.

    2. Agreed. The motors likely would need a more powerful battery to reach their full potential. It's possible that a battery upgrade around 2020-2025 may make the car faster, but the current battery cannot deliver the full 750+ hp.

    3. 0-60 testing is typically done with a 1 foot rollout. The best testers will test both ways and tell you which is which, but frequently it is listed as a single number and the testing methodology is not specified.

    As an example: Chevy claims the Spark EV will do 0-60 in 7.2 seconds.

    None of the media blogs have been able to match that time; Motor Trend claims 7.5 seconds, Edmunds claims 7.5 seconds, C&D claims 7.9 seconds. (no word on whether they tested with a 1 foot rollout or not)

    Show me where a Corvette Z06 is tested at 2.95s 0-60 explicitly without a 1-foot rollout before you claim the P90D is slower.

    P90D starts at $118000 cash price, not including the $7500 federal credit. Corvette Z06 starts at $79400. Price delta is not "over $40k", even before the federal tax credit ... not that many people will cross-shop a ~5000 pound sedan and a 2 seat sportscar.

    "Then SparkEV is the only EV that can claim to be quicker than any comparably priced gas car."

    Spark EV starts at $26k? Plenty of cars are faster than that at that price point. I assume you mean before the federal tax credit, since that's the basis by which you compare the Model S to the Corvette.

    Ford Fiesta ST ($20970 MSRP) does 0-60 in 7.1 seconds, or 6.8s with 1 foot of rollout.

    Fiat 500 Abarth ($22495 MSRP) 7.1s 0-60, 6.7s with 1 foot of rollout.

    5th-gen Camaro is on its way out the door, but the V6 model ($23705 MSRP) would do 0-60 in 6.1s, or 5.7s with 1 foot of rollout.

    Mini Cooper S 6.3s, 6.0s with 1 foot of rollout. $24100 MSRP for the 2 door S.

    Ford Mustang Ecoboost ($25395 MSRP) does 0-60 in 5.9s, or 5.7s with 1 foot of rollout. The V6 is a couple grand less and produces similar times.


    1. 1. Other cars show the full horsepower delivered, not just the motor rating sum. Granted, dual motor setup of Tesla D is different, but to deviate from common norm that without explicitly stating as such was fraud.

      2. We agree that it's a fraud for now.

      3. But 1 and 2 are minor if it deliveres 0-60 time. After all, who cares if a car has 1 HP, but does 0-60 in 2.8 sec. In light of yours and anon comment, I'll have to investigate more.

      I'm going to modify P90D MSRP. Not sure where I got 135K from, but it's obviously wrong.

      SparkEV is only sold in subsidy states, and vast majority take advantage of subsidy. Talking about non-subsidy MSRP is wrong. I suppose this can also be called fraud, but in good sense. As such, comparing to $26K cars make no sense. $7.5K fed + $2.5K CA = $10K subsidy, which makes SparkEV $16K. In extreme case where they qualify for both $7.5K fed + $4K CA + $1K local, it can be as low as $13.5K ($12.5K without DCFC is a toy, not a car), but I use typical figure rather than most optimistic.

      SparkEV 2014 is different from 2015. Most (all?) of those tests were based on 2014 model. I think chevy had 2014 at 7.5 sec vs 2015 7.2 sec. But even that doesn't matter as there's no car that's quicker 0-60 than SparkEV in it's price range (under $20K).

      But Corvette is quicker than P85D, although as I mentioned before whether it's quicker than P90D is up the in air until I find out more. Personally, I wish you're right that P90D is quicker than Corvette.

  3. P90D or P85D are more expensive than Corvette, with or without subsidy. I don't know why you state I use pre-subsidy when I go out of my way to point out that post subsidy should be used with EV throughout my blog.