Sunday, March 29, 2009

U.S. Automaker Tesla Unveils 2012 Model S Electric Sedan

Like I've said before, now is the time for upstart American automakers to hit the market with all they've got.

And Tesla is gearing up to so so quite shortly.

With the bloody-marvellous-looking Model S electric sedan.

Wanna see? Then see it here.

Sure looks just about production-ready to me, including the excellent, finished-looking interior.

Just yesterday, we were invited to the unveiling of Tesla's newest battery electric vehicle (BEV) at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, California. The Model S, quite unlike the Lotus Elise-based Roadster, is a 5-door chassis designed and built solely by Tesla and capable of carrying up to seven passengers (five adults plus an optional rear-facing jumpseat for two children).

Powered by a larger water-cooled electric motor, the Model S will hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, says Tesla, with a terminal velocity of 130 mph (a future Sport model is predicted to hit 60 in the 4s). The Model S weighs at 3825 lb. which includes the 1200 lb. of lithium-ion batteries squeezed into the floorpan for an ultra-low center of gravity. The majority of its chassis and body panels are made of lightweight aluminum.

The rear transaxle has a single speed, with forward and reverse summoned through switching the motor's polarity. And although the first Model Ss will be rear-drive, Tesla plans to offer an all-wheel-drive option somewhere down the line.

So what's the range on this puppy you ask? Well, that's up to you. The entry model, which starts at $49,900 (after you subtract the $7500 tax credit) will come with a 42 kW-hr battery storage system designed for up to 160 miles. But you'll have the option of upgrading to a 70 kW-hr battery storage system that'll get you as far as 300 miles on a single charge. This increased range capability over the smaller Roadster's 244-mile maximum is due to improved battery chemistry, better drag coefficient (approx. 0.26 versus the Roadster's 0.35) and a greater overall number of cells (8000 versus 6800).

Well, we'll see soon enough how far Tesla goes. The best part of it? It's all-American.

The big question: Is pure electric the way of the automotive future, or does Chevrolet have the right idea with its plug-in hybrid Volt sedan?

Whatever happens now, one thing's for certain, and that's that the automotive industry is undergoing massive transformation the likes of which it's not seen in a really long time.

And the auto market landscape will look significantly different from what we're used to.