The Model S opens a new chapter in automotive history. Tesla Motors is the Silicon Valley start-up that jump-started the electric car industry with its 2 seat superfast electric Roadster that began selling in 2008.
The Model S is a 4-door sedan that has beautiful austere styling with European influence. It is highly refined and highly sleek delivering an incredible CD of 0.26, on an aluminum chassis with a total curb weight of 4000 pounds.
Tesla points out that both the drivetrain and battery are floor-mounted. This creates two special opportunities. It allows the hood to function as a second trunk and the battery pack the capability of being quickly swapped out, should charging infrastructure go in that direction.
There are also three on-board charging options, 120V, 240V, and 440V with the latter allowing a charge within 45 minutes. Tesla states that this rapid charge feature could conceivably allow a driver to go across country if they could find rapid charging stations along the way, and charge up in as little time it takes to have a meal.
Three battery options will be available. The standard carries 160 miles of charge, and there are 230, and 300 mile versions.
The interior of the car is spacious too. It has seating for 7, and when the rear seats fold down, the car could carry both a 50 inch flat screen TV and a surfboard simultaneously. There is also a radical 17 inch pure LCD touchscreen instead of a console. This eliminates the use of buttons and since it is 3G enabled, allows the use of Google Maps, Internet radio and what is certain to be a myriad of other web-vehicle technologies. Drivers will be able to communicate with the car remotely via iPod too to check their state of charge.
The car is rear wheel drive and can do 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. A sports edition will deliver performance well under 5 seconds, and the single gear transmission offers responsive handling. An all-wheel drive version is under development.
Pricing of the car is set at $57,400, which after government tax credit of $7500 brings the functional price down to $49,900.
Tesla is now taking orders online, and hopes to build 20,000 per year beginning in third quarter 2011. Production depends on $350 million in Department of Energy loans that the company expects to receive, which it requires to build the factory.
One can also order the car at Tesla’s dealerships now in California and Chicago. Additional locations are expected in New York, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC, London, and Munich in 2009 and 2010.