Tesla Unveils a "Mass Market" Electric Car, but It's a Long Way From the Sales Lot

By Eliza Strickland | March 27, 2009 10:05 am

Tesla sedanThe Silicon Valley startup that’s seeking to revolutionize the automobile industry has unveiled the prototype for its all-electric sedan, which the company, Tesla Motors, describes as the first mass market all-electric car. But the cars won’t be rolling off the assembly line any time soon–because the company hasn’t built the assembly lines yet. Tesla couldn’t build a factory for the sedan, called the Model S, until it rounded up more money, which became more difficult over the last year as the economic climate worsened.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, says he hopes the first cars will be delivered to customers in 2011. The company plans to produce 20,000 cars a year. However, Tesla has yet to secure finance for the project. It says it is confident of negotiating a $350 million US government loan from the $25 billion bailout package approved by the Department of Energy last year. The government fund is intended primarily to help struggling carmakers to make more fuel-efficient cars [Times Online].

Tesla has already produced one all-electric car, a sports car with a considerably higher price tag. The Tesla Roadster was a low-slung, $109,000 rocket ride, with a body based on the Lotus Elise and capable of going from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds…. [Tesla Motors] claims to have sold 1,200 Roadsters, with 250 delivered to wealthy, tech-savvy eco-enthusiasts in such places as Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and New York [Business Week]. 

The Model S, a sleek four-door, will sell for a base price of $57,400, but Musk says a federal tax credit brings that price down to $49,900. The basic model will be capable of driving 160 miles before the battery requires recharging, which will take about 45 minutes. For an extra (and as yet undisclosed) price, customers can opt for a 230-mile or a 300-mile battery.

There’s the rising competition in the electric car marketplace. The Model S will hit the market at the same time as a flurry of new “plug-in hybrid” vehicles, including GM’s Chevy Volt, which will run on electric power and gasoline. Nissan, Toyota, and Ford plan similar fuel-efficient offspring [Business Week]. Automotive analyst Jim Hossack says the Model S has potential market appeal. But with all the ferment in the auto industry … Hossack said it’s impossible to predict which technology will triumph. “Nobody really knows what the winning technology is going to be,” he said. 

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Image: Tesla Motors

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Mary Shael

    Tesla has let America down. They need to go away now and let the others take the lead:

    These car guys just lie and lie.. Chrysler and GM said “Oh everything will be rosy if you just give us billions in bailout and now we know they fully knew they were going to go bankrupt, they were just hyping it up in order to grab some more cash, Tesla is the same but more. So let me get this right, the Tesla head guy paid GQ magazine to write an article about how arrogant he is and ditched his smart wife and left her with 5 kids for a teenie bopper that he was cheating with and announced a battery deal that was really just an R&D contract and has multiple lawsuits against them by other companies, and may have a car that causes cancer from battery EMF and has created a pool of past staff that write endless blogs about how bad they are and then raised prices because they had no idea how to build a car and lied to the City of San Jose and their customers and applied for their only source of funds without even reading the rules that told them in advance they should never try to build a factory and is trying to sell an insanely expensive car in a depression while every investor has deeply reviewed them and turned them down and Musk won’t even put his money in (of which he has hundreds of millions) and all of their technology has now been superseded by Fisker, Bright and others… ?? and Tesla employees are so ready to jump ship that Musk spies on them with fake internal emails… hmmmmmm

    Cheating:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/21/profile-of-paypal-an.html

    Battery Deal:
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/08/16/some-complete-speculation-on-the-daimler-tesla-deal/

    Lawsuits:
    http://valleywag.gawker.com/380125/tesla-finds-the-electric-car-business-is-a-litigious-one

    Cancer:
    http://www.saxton.org/tom_saxton/2009/01/tesla-price-increase.html

    Bad karma from the start:
    http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/11/tesla-s-musk-calls-cofounder-the-worst-individual-i-ve-ever-worked-with-

    More problems:
    http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/more-sparks-from-tesla/

    http://greenfuelsforecast.com/ArticleDetails.php?articleID=683

    http://erith1.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/tesla-single-handedly-sets-back-the-electric-vehicle-industry-by-10-years/

    Pissing off the customers:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/tesla-to-angry-customers-its-all-about-us/

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    The only way a Deeetroit Volt will sell is if it includes an automatic coffee maker. Balancing loads in hybrid autos is high art, hardware and software. Deeetroit couldn’t balance a spreadsheet. Deeetroit is the Microcrap of manufacture.

    One presumes all these mobile 400 ampere flows will have Enviro-whiner degaussing spoilers to protect overhead pidgeons from unknown hazards re magnetic navigation. Save the pigeons!

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    http://www.aptera.com is about all I have to say on this subject.

  • Pat

    I think I am a pretty average consumer. And I think if I would buy it, then many people would.

    The main problem with the Volt (and Tesla) is the price. Any plug-in (or all electric) will have to come in under 30K or it won’t have mass appeal (like the Prius).

    I personally would prefer a plug-in hybrid to all electric. I do make the occasional trip of 500+ miles. And I don’t want a car that has that limit. I think many consumers feel this way.

    I think a plug-in hybrid that averages 40+mpg and costs no more than 30K would be a winner. Make it about the size of a Ford Edge, and you will have a blockbuster. Easier said than done, yes. But just stating the realities of the consumer mind as I see them. I just know the Volt will fail, mainly because of price, and the industry will say, “See? Consumers don’t want them. We’re going to continue to build the old gas hogs”.

  • http://www.staple-austin.org Chris

    at least this one is kind of pretty.

  • Terry W

    The Aptera does not hold a candle to this one. The Aptera is good functionally, but let’s face it the styling is over the top for mainstream acceptance. The Tesla though is ready for prime time just as is.

    Change Brake Rotors

  • http://haveonedream.wordpress.com/ John bank

    good content. Electric car is best way in the future.

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