30 March 2009

She’s electric

Tesla reveals the Model S, its all-electric super-saloon, but it won’t reach the road until 2012. Eh?

Tesla Model S

See more Tesla Model S pics

The Model S, Tesla’s long-rumoured all-electric four-door, has arrived. Well, sort of.
 
Tesla has revealed the production version of its sort-of-seven-seater super-saloon at its Californian headquarters, but here’s the rub: customer cars won’t be built until the end of 2011.
 
This is a pity, because the Model S is shaping up to be a proper cracker. First off, just look at it. Not bad for an upstart company, eh?

Especially considering the tortuous history behind its design: Tesla originally commissioned Henrik Fisker (of Aston fame) to design the Model S, but ended up rejecting his designs and creating the car in-house, sparking a feisty little legal dispute.

Yes, there’s more than a hint of Jaguar XF about the Model S’s rear, but that’s hardly something to complain about, is it?
 
Especially not when you see the numbers. Like the Tesla Roadster, the Model S is driven by a liquid-cooled electric motor, putting power to the road through a single-speed transmission. The motor draws its power from a floor-mounted battery pack, which will manage a theoretical range of 300 miles, though shorter range, cheaper battery packs will also be available.
 
Despite the extra weight of the Model S, that’s a full 56 miles more than the Roadster thanks to 2,000 extra battery cells, boosting the overall total to 8,000. The Model S also manages a lower drag coefficient than the Roadster, improving efficiency.
 
Tesla says that even the biggest-batteried Model S can be fully recharged in four hours from a 220-volt charger at a cost of as little as $4 in the States. The company is also looking at the possibility of investing in a battery-swap infrastructure at service stations, though that would require significant government aid.
 
Performance isn’t too shabby, either: the Model S will hit 60mph in 5.6 seconds and nail the quarter-mile in 14 seconds flat, though top speed is a more modest 120mph. Tesla boss Elon Musk says that a later ‘Sport’ version will manage the 60mph in significantly under five seconds, putting the Model S right into M3/C63 AMG performance territory.
 
The Model S is significantly larger than both, however. It sits between the BMW 5- and 7-Series in length, with five full-sized seats plus a pair of occasional, rear-facing child seats in the boot. Given the slant of the rear deck, they’ll be very, very occasional seats. There’s kit on board, too: Tesla is promising a 17-inch flatscreen display and 3G internet access.
 
Tesla is quoting a list price of just under $50,000 in the US, which includes a $7,500 green tax break. That translates to about £40,000, though it’d be optimistic to imagine the Model S will be that cheap if it reaches the UK.
 
Prepare for a long wait, though. Even US customers won’t get their Model Ss any time before 2012 – Tesla has struggled to keep up with demand for the Roadster, while financial restructuring within the company has further slowed operations. Here’s hoping it can deliver.

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