Tesla took the cover off its curvaceous Model S sedan Thursday, the second phase of the Silicon Valley automaker's lofty plan to sell electric cars for the masses.
If the $109,000 carbon fiber Roadster signified the new company's cocksure stardom against Porsche and the Italians - after all, celebrities and rich enthusiasts are on minimum one-year waiting lists - consider the Model S a detente with Tesla's exotic rivals.
The production version of the electric sedan, absent a $350 million loan from the Department of Energy and a manufacturing plant, will be tamer in performance but no less striking in its respective segment when it arrives in late 2011. Hours after embargoed studio photos of the concept car, above, were posted to a Flickr account, Tesla revealed the specifications at the official California launch: a 300-mile range, 45-minute charging, and zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds.
Seven people can cram into the Model S - five adults and two children in a rear-facing seat under the hatch. The entire center console is one massive 17-inch touchscreen LCD, which wasn't demonstrated at the launch. Tesla's bold 300-mile claim, however, will only be met by its longest-range battery (two others will offer 160 and 230 miles). It's likely the 160-mile battery will be standard, and the others will be very pricey options that will see the car soar past the $57,400 base price.
That puts the Model S in the range of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, and other premium sedans. But Tesla buyers can now claim a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, which President Obama announced last week in addition to $2.4 billion in federal grants for electric car and battery manufacturers.
Tesla's grand plan to produce an electric car under $30,000 is no secret, but little more than a dream that's at least four years away, if that early. With the promised 100-mile-per-gallon Chevrolet Volt next year and Ford's 2012 roll out of plug-in hybrids, Tesla will have to compete with a slew of moderately priced EVs (and the 2013 Toyota Prius, which surely will have no less than a big fat "80" on its EPA window sticker).
According to CEO Elon Musk, Tesla is on its way to becoming profitable by mid-year after gathering $40 million in additional financing in December. That bodes well for the young automaker, but as old-timers General Motors and Chrysler can attest, a lot can go wrong in a short span of time. Hopefully nothing does until after April, when the Globe takes the Roadster for an exclusive, exhaustive three-day test in California. Check Boston Overdrive in the coming weeks for more details.
All photos copyright Tesla Motors.
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