On Thursday, Tesla Motors unveiled their new all-electric four door sports sedan, dubbed the "Model S" at the SpaceX Rocket Factory in Hawthorne, California. So is this the all-electric game changer we've been waiting for?
The Model S is significantly different in form and function from the sprightly Lotus Elise-based Roadster in two major ways. First, it can fit more than two people, so it has far more use than simply driving one friend around at a time in your new-fangled all-electric gizmo. Second, and most importantly, with a price tag of under $50K for an all-electric luxury sports sedan, they're actually accessible to people other than the ultra-wealthy.
With delivery of the cars starting in 2011, the Model S is the embodiment of Tesla's claim that electric cars are ready to come into the fold among their gas-powered counterparts.
With seating for up to seven people, a gorgeous 17-inch center console display with an always-on 3G internet connection, a 0-60 time in under six seconds, and a top speed of 130mph, the Model S sounds like the best of all worlds. Tesla's Chief Designer, Franz Von Holzhausen, makes the claim that with the reduction of operating costs by switching to an all-electric vehicle, the cost of ownership of a Model S is roughly the same as a new gas-powered Ford Taurus. And it goes without saying that this car far outstrips a Taurus in nearly every aspect.
I say "nearly" because when it came to the battery range and charge times, details started to gray out quickly. Current specs state that the Model S will come standard with a 160 mile battery life, but can be up-optioned to a 300 mile extended battery somewhere down the line (utilizing 8000 cells rather than the current 6700 used in the Roadster), with a different leasing situation based around those extended life batteries. Again, details are currently a little sparse at this time.
All in-car functions are controlled through this 17-inch touchscreen display.
It was also welcome news to hear about a "Quick Charge" solution that Tesla is working on, which should charge the car from empty to full charge within the time it takes you to have a leisurely lunch. Again, only time will tell how accurate that estimate is.
Tesla is already taking deposits for the Model S and states that there will be 2000 "Signature Edition" models available at launch - half allocated to the U.S., the other half to Europe. A Tesla rep would only state that the Signature Edition would feature a "unique options package," but considering the car isn't scheduled to hit the streets for at least another year and half, we've got plenty of time for the details to emerge as they become available.