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Cars model-x-falcon-wing-doors

Published on May 16th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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What’s Delaying Tesla Model X Production? Falcon-Wing Doors? Weight? Performance?

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May 16th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

model-x-falcon-wing-doors

In last week’s quarterly report, Elon Musk admitted that Tesla Model X production might be pushed back. Are the falcon-wing doors holding up the Model X? Or is the extra weight of the Model X and its all-wheel drive system reducing range too much for customer expectations?

No doubt, the falcon-wing doors are one of the coolest features of the Model X, able to open up in the same amount of space as standard doors, but with better accessibility. However, as members of the r/teslamotors subreddit are quick to note, the falcon-wing doors stand in the way of utilizing roof racks that buyers of SUVs are want to utilize. While many members of the tesla subreddit are quick to point out that roof racks also adversely affect aerodynamics and thus, range, the whole point Tesla is trying to make is that its electric cars are no-compromise vehicles.

It isn’t just roof racks that are causing issues with the Model X. Elon Musk has gone on record as saying that getting the falcon-wing doors to properly seal against wind and rain is proving difficult, and that it is “damn hard” to design a beautiful-yet-functional SUV. Then there’s the issue of weight. The Tesla Model S is a hefty car, coming in at between 4,400 and 4,700 pounds (give or take), and even with an aluminum body and chassis the Model X is likely to tip the scales at close to 5,000 pounds. Even with a 85 kWh battery pack, the Model X might be struggling to exceed even 250 miles of range. Add to that the extra weight and decreased efficiency of the standard all-wheel drive system, and the Model X might be suffering from range anxiety of its own.

Of course that’s nothing that a larger battery pack can’t fix, though the roof rack thing might be a bigger issue to resolve. Still, the fact that the Tesla Model X has been conspicuously absent from the auto show circuit this year isn’t exactly encouraging news. As it stands, volume production is tentatively slated to begin the second quarter of 2015, with the first design prototypes completed by the end of the year. Hopefully this is the last delay before Tesla’s next big vehicle debut, as there are a lot of people waiting for their Model X.

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Wayne Williamson

    I really hope they didn’t miss the boat on this one. There really was no reason to add the future “wow” thing(funky doors), especially if it made something more difficult to produce. Just having a second version suv with awd probably would have been enough wow.

    • QKodiak

      The reason they are offering only AWD is that the initial uptake on the 2WD Model X’s was really low, much like the 40kWh Model S’s. So, Tesla made the business decision that it wasn’t worth it build a few 2WD Model X’s when most everyone opted for the more profitable AWD version.

      The reason for the falcon doors is to make things better. “Normal” doors make it hard to get out of tight spaces, Sliding doors work well, but the low roof is in the way when entering, and the door is still in the way in a tight spot. The falcon wing doors solve both issues, and look super cool; which is quite important for a $100,000 vehicle.

  • QKodiak

    Tesla has already said the the Model X will have ~10% less range than the Model S, which puts it at a 238 mile range for the 85kWh version and 188 miles for the 60kWh version. So duh; Tesla has already told us that the Model X can’t do 250 miles. If they add a few cells to the Model X pack to make 65 and 90kWh packs, they can negate the range loss. The 60kWh version could be problematic for owners trying to travel in the dead of winter, but the 85kWh one would be fine.

    Considering that the Model X will be an $75K+ luxury/sport CUV, owners will probably baby it, much like Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne GTS owners do their high dollar conveyances. Roof racks on a $100,000 vehicle are a no go. Besides, the Model X has a frunk and a trunk, meaning more cargo space when full of passengers than any equivalent SUV, CUV, crossover, or minivan.

    The performance of the Model X will be staggering with its AWD system without affecting efficiency in normal driving. The Performance version could potentially put out 665 lb-ft of instant torque (if front motor adds 50% more torque) to all the wheels, launching it from 0-60 mph in less than 4 sec.

    • Benjamin Nead

      It’s obvious, QKodiak, that you’re a serious Tesla fanboy. That’s OK. I probably would be as intense as one as well, if I made about 10 times my current annual salary. This isn’t to say that I resent what Tesla is doing. Far from it. I hope we’ll have lots of electric vehicles on the roads displacing their gasoline counterparts sooner than later and I honestly don’t care who is making them. That Tesla wants to eventually manufacture more affordable ones gives me some optimism for their long term intensions.

      The Model X, though, makes me continually question the viability of the whole luxury SUV conundrum . . . basically a bad lifestyle leftover of the 1990s, regardless of power source. They come equipped with 4WD, yet it’s recommended they’re never to be taken off the road. What’s the point?

      And, if your wanting to move people in luxury, why would you ever need to accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than 4 seconds? Wouldn’t the fine Corinthian leather of the interior be awash in Champagne and caviare? The few times I’ve been chauffeured around while wearing a tuxedo, I was rather thankful my driver wasn’t wanting to drag race the guy in the lane next to us (no felicitousness intended in the last statement, as my wife and son – both professional Classical musicians – are often dressed rather formally while being carted around with musical instruments that are worth about as much as a luxury automobile. They always appreciate a smooth ride at posted speed limits. )

      I don’t doubt that the frunk on the X provides lots of useful cargo space and, yeah, we don’t use the roof racks on our minivan all that often. Let’s just hope that the X’s fancy double hinged doors doesn’t prove to be the vehicles main liability. Things like this and paint-peeling acceleration are the proverbial icing on what should be the cake of any battery powered vehicle.

      • Benjamin Nead

        I’ll add here that I’ve double-checked the phrase “fanboy” on the Urban Dictionary web site, QKodiak. I didn’t mean to advance anything overly-insulting by using that term, and i’ll apologize in advance if you took it that way. I’ve used, for instance, Apple computer products for almost 2 decades now and my Windows-using friends call me a Mac fanboy in light-hearted jest, even though I don’t universally love everything Apple markets.

        Back to the Model X . . .

        Purported cargo carrying capability:

        Like all too many multi-tasking vehicles, the sloping rear deck robs much cargo space at the expense of styling. This is why the boxy minivan aesthetic will always win in regards to shear volumetric utility and anything with a more streamlined look simply doesn’t. So, I find it a bit disingenuous when Tesla’s chief designer, Franz Von Holzhause, tells us that the Model X “has the functionality and roominess of a minivan, the style of an SUV, and the performance of a sports car.” You and I both know that simply can’t be true.

        I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night skit (fake commercial) for the Paradox: simultaneously the most spacious and compact car on the market that is both an elegant white sedan and a sporty red coupe (oh, how I wish an online video of this one was available, but at least we still have a typed transcript) . . .

        http://snltranscripts.jt.org/94/94bparadox.phtml

        The door thing:

        Bird-wing doors (I’ll call them that since, clever marketing verbiage aside, gulls and falcons both have wings that hinge in the middle as well on their root ends) are going to be a challenge. I, again, wish Tesla well and hope this current design feature doesn’t bog them down in regards to moving forward with other projects. It’s a bit precarious to have one of your models falter when you’re only sell two to begin with. The GMs, Toyotas and Fords of the world have a lot more “lemon latitude” to play with than Tesla.

        When you own cars for extended periods (instead of just a couple years,) you tend to get pretty good at spotting things you know are going to be troublesome over the long run.

        I had to have one of the doors replaced on my 1995 Saturn a few years ago and it really wasn’t done with the greatest precision. It tends to hang a little lower than the other three and leaks during a stiff rain. Fortunately, I can take it to a body shop and probably have it tweaked for less than a hundred bucks, as it’s a standard, simple two hinge design. But, yeah, do I even want to put that much money into a car that I’ll probably sell within a year for maybe $400? I’ll live with the funky door for now. It still open/closes. locks and beach towels work well enough for the occasional errant water entry.

        One of the two sliding doors on out ten-year-old Mazda minivan
        has a rough track that requires a particularly strong wrist to properly close. It’s also the one door that doesn’t lock electronically any longer and we have to remember to do that manually when wanting to secure the vehicle’s interior. We’ve had it serviced, but the problems tend to return after a few months of normal use. Sliding van doors are slightly more complex that conventional hinged car doors and, hence, more expensive to service. Add a simple electric component to the mix (remote locking) and your service bill goes up exponentially.

        So, yes, I look at the bird-wing doors (sorry) on the X – complete with electronic deployment sensors – and see a design far more complex than the two more conventional choices described above. I also see long term woes: twice as many moving parts and related electronic gadgetry that is, perhaps, four or five magnitudes more involved than my minivan’s (faltering) remote electronic lock.

        Forget the initial buyer, who will trade in his/her Model X in a few years after purchasing and move on. No, it’s the next owner who will have the door break on them. Maybe their 16 year old son will run it into a mailbox one day (hopefully while not testing out the 4 second 0-to-60 marketing claim) and squish the car ever so slightly on one side. Or maybe it happens on its own without any particular calamity. But one of the doors will stop sealing, the 2nd set of hinges won’t articulate correctly any longer and the electronic deployment of opening height sensors will no longer work at altitudes of, say, 1200 to 6300 feet above sea level (despite firmware updates) causing the door to flip up to full vertical every time.

        • QKodiak

          The sloping rear deck is more for aerodynmics than styling. The Model X is not a minivan hence which is why it doesn’t sacrifice everything on the altar of interior space. Note: there are NO $100,000 minivans on the market.

          What is impossible with an ICE design becomes possible with an all-electric powertrain, despite your nonsensical and mutually exclusive example. As I already stated before, the Model X with all seats occupied offers more cargo room than any other SUV, CUV, crossover, or minivan. That is a fact is due to the frunk, made possible by EV technology.

          The performance aspect is an important one in order to sell a vehicle in this price range. Needs are less relevant than Wants in luxury vehicles. Besides, people can do what they want with their money. If they want to waste it on something they don’t need, more power to them. It’s called FREEDOM!

          Tesla’s AWD system will improve performance and handling. If you think AWD systems only make sense for off-road applications, you are mistaken. AWD is desirable in less than perfect road conditions encountered all winter long.

          Your ramblings about the falcon wing doors are irrelevant. If it malfunctions, Tesla will fix it for FREE. It you break it, it’s like anything else. You have to pay to get it fixed. The automatic sliding doors on most minivans are just as complicated as the Model X’s falcon wing doors, and yet, there are hundreds of thousands of them on the roads today operating without issues. Your argument that complicated is always worse and prone to failure doesn’t hold up reality. Besides, Tesla has the best engineers in the industry working on it.

          • Benjamin Nead

            Full disclosure, QKodiak, please. Are you a paid employee of Tesla Motors? Just curious . . .

          • QKodiak

            I wish, but no. I’m not an employee-just a Tesla nut. My real job is being an Avionics Technician and A&P Mechanic on aircraft.

          • Benjamin Nead

            Well, Telsa could make good use of your expertise in sales! I work in radio these days and have a past career restoring stringed musical instruments. The only planes I’ve worked on were little balsa ones I’ve built and flown . . .

            http://archivesite.jetex.org/scripts/yabb2/nph-YaBB.pl?num=1236409786;start=all

            I’ll reiterate that Telsa is certainly a force of good in advancing electric cars. My only problem with them is that they are still talking exclusively to a financially very well-healed audience and don’t have much to offer for the rest of us yet. Hence, I’m going to be largely unmoved by the Model X, but simply hope it’s successful enough in the marketplace that the promised follow-on project – the lower priced sedan – gets here without too much further delay.

          • QKodiak

            Although I can’t afford any Tesla right now, I’m excited about them because of what they represent for the future. Tesla’s vehicles are also a showcase to the world of what is possible using EV technology. The more Model S’s and X’s sell, the quicker Tesla will be able to bring the (more) affordable Gen III platform to market. Combating misinformation on the net and talking to people about it is my way of helping the process along.

            Most of the other EVs by the mainstream automakers seem to be caricatures. I mean seriously, why do they all have to look so strange? and why only 70-100 mile ranges?

  • apsley

    I’ve always thought that the gull wing doors were a bit of a risk in terms of actually getting them to work, and there is what I call the “deLorean factor”: the doors remind us of another company which produced a car with gull wings doors that went bankrupt.

  • http://archonic.com Joshua Mark

    Keep in mind this thing has a “frunk” and the space inside this thing is guaranteed to be huge. The model S has no problems with skis and surfboards. This largely gets rid of the need for roof racks. For the 1 or 2 times that you need to put a mattress on the roof, perhaps then you’ll have to put up with exiting the front doors or the rear.

    Personally I’m wondering what happens when the vehicle rolls. Getting out a conventional vehicle is a problem when it rolls as well, but it seems this would be a bigger issue in the Model X. Perhaps there’s a crashed “limp” mode where each joint in the falcon wing door is free to move.

    • Liz G

      If it’s anything like the S, which it probably will be; it will be virtually impossible to roll.

      • http://archonic.com Joshua Mark

        Good point!

    • Leon Kirby

      The Mercedes SLS has gull wing doors, and safety regulations require that the doors be operational if a vehicle is on its roof. MB equips the car with explosive bolts that are triggered by the door handle being used in a rollover that pops the door off it’s hinges.

      http://www.autoblog.com/2009/11/17/video-mercedes-benz-sls-amg-crash-test-video-shows-off-explodin/

      • Raymond Ramírez

        I hope it doesn’t suffer what Astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom did in his “Liberty Bell 7″ Mercury capsule: unintentional door explosion. The capsule sunk in 1962 and recovered over 40 years later!

  • Jean-Baptiste Segard

    Apart from the roof rack, what happens in a garage where the ceiling stands at 2 meters or 6’6” ? From the picture it looks like 2.4 meter is required. Could be OK in the US, but not so sure in many other places ?

    • Benjamin Nead

      Yes, Jean-Baptiste, I’ve wondered about this myself. The most common picture of the Tesla X . . .

      http://i0.wp.com/evobsession.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/tesla-model-x-back.png?resize=550%2C386

      . . . shows those doors fully extended upward in a garage with about the highest ceiling I’ve ever seen. There are many garages in the US where the Model X won’t work.

      I really wish Tesla the best, but the X does absolutely nothing for me. If it flops, I hope it doesn’t sink them. A simple minivan would carry more cargo/passengers and sliding doors are far more practical than the exotic gull-wings. The all-wheel-drive system also seems like an unnecessary extravagance. The upcoming (formerly named) Model E “affordable” sedan speaks to me far more directly as the car that is needed now.

      • eugah

        Maybe instead of having them on the roof they could put racks on brackets on the side. Probably wouldnt work for a Kayak, but skis or a bicycle perhaps…

      • eugah

        Or. You could just use one door when you have things that need to go one the roof….They open up so wide, its not much of a sacrifice, IMHO.

        • Benjamin Nead

          Or . . . some auto manufacturer – any auto manufacturer – should simply build a plain vanilla minivan that’s an EV or PHEV and that isn’t simultaneously trying to be an off-road vehicle and sports car all at once.

          Elon Musk is correct when he states that “it is damn hard to design a beautiful-yet-functional SUV.” My point is, why bother? There are certain vehicles where form should simply follow function.

          If you have to worry that your “utility” vehicle is not able to utilize roof racks, have to strap things onto the sides or not use the doors on one side (the latter two totally defeating any sort of inherent advantage that a gull-wing door design is supposes to provide,) you’ve totally surrendered to fashion over function.

          The best minivans are boring-looking boxes with cavernous sliding doors and a massive rear hatch. Trend-setting auto journalists tell us that this isn’t what we’re supposed to want. But trend-setting auto journalists don’t carpool 6 kids during the week or bring home 4X8 sheets of plywood and bags of garden mulch from the big box store on Saturdays. The only thing we really need now is a way to get the decidedly untrendy milk-carton-on-wheels minivan moving with batteries instead of gasoline.

      • QKodiak

        The rear hatch of the Model X opens up to the same height as the falcon doors. If you can’t open the rear hatch of any SUV in your garage, what do you do? Unload the car before you enter the garage. Simple. The falcon wing doors have proximity sensors to prevent them from hitting the roof or other objects. They can open part-way if you have a garage roof that’s low.

        Who is the world puts junk on the roof of a $100,000 vehicle? The Model X is not a rugged off-roader either. It’s meant to be a fast, efficient, luxury conveyance for up to 7 adults, or as an alternative to those who can’t bend down or won’t fit into a Model S.

        • Raymond Ramírez

          I agree! It is a special American SUV, not a common import box. If someone wants a SUV to carry stuff on the roof, there are other products out there, especially Jeeps.

        • Michaeljc8

          Hmmm, I know plenty of people who strap kayaks and surf boards on their $100,000 range rovers and go off-roading, but I agree with you that the Model X is just a fancy van or station wagon which is why I think they should call it a crossover because it is neither sport nor utility if I can’t strap anything on the roof or get to that great surf or camping spot.

  • Kagetoki Kariya

    “However, as members of the r/teslamotors subreddit are quick to note, the falcon-wing doors stand in the way of utilizing roof racks that buyers of SUVs are *want* to utilize.”

    Its ‘wont’ not ‘want’, though they are pronounced the same.
    Won’t, wont, want only two of these rhyme.

    • Michael B

      It’s “it’s”, not ” its”, though they are pronounced the same. “It’s”, ” its”, “ice cream”: only two of these rhyme. LOL.

      • Kagetoki Kariya

        Thanks for correcting my punctuation. You should note that it’s not possible to confuse it’s/its with ice cream. I didn’t want my comment to be misconstrued because won’t and wont appear so similar.

        There was no malice in my comment though I can’t say the same for yours.

        • Michael B

          http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's-It_Ice_Cream

          Well, I was sort of trying to be funny, but with a bit of an inside/regional joke, so it was probably not the best way to make my point.

          Or maybe it was, because my point was (and is) that we all make mistakes!

    • Matt

      “that buyers of SUVs will want to” ;)

    • bedrockq

      Grammar nazi’s are people who cannot find anything better to do with their obsession.

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