Tesla Motors made the first deliveries of its much anticipated, all-electric Model S sedan Friday, marking what may prove to be a turning point for the upstart company and possibly the electric car industry.
Even more than the 2-seat Roadster that preceded it, the all-new, 5-passenger, premium sports sedan was designed from the ground up to literally and figuratively go where no EV has gone before.
For starters, the base Model S has an estimated range of 160-300 miles between charges, or roughly 1.5 to 4 times that of other battery-powered electrics.
Actual driving range for the base model depends upon which of the three lithium-ion battery options – 40, 60 or 85 kWh — is specified. In the Performance, Signature and Signature Performance versions, the 85 kWh battery is standard.
EPA combined city/highway mileage for the rear-drive Model S with 85 kWh battery is rated at 89 MPGe. While not as high as, say, Ford’s front-drive Focus Electric (105 MPGe combined), it’s still rather remarkable when you consider that the full-sized Tesla weighs in at a whopping 4,647 lb. – a full 1,000 lbs. heavier than the compact Focus. And when it comes to performance, no EV on the market comes close.
Rated at 362 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, the Model S can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.9 to 4.4 seconds, depending again upon the battery installed. Performance models are rated at 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque.·
Aerodynamically, the Model S has the lowest drag coefficient (0.24) of any vehicle currently in production. Handling is superb, due in part to the fact that its battery packs are flat and located beneath the floor, giving the Model S an extremely low 16.5-inch-high center of gravity – unheard of except among exotic sports cars.
Batteries in the Model S are swappable, and, in the case of the 40 kWh pack, guaranteed for 8 years or 100,000 miles. For 60 and 85 kWh batteries, Tesla extends the mileage guarantee to 125,000 and unlimited, respectively.
The charger for the Model S is built into the car. Although Tesla uses a proprietary connector, adapters are provided for 110 and 240 volt outlets, and for public charging stations (J1772). Charging times vary depending upon battery capacity, state of charge and the electrical connection used, but according to Tesla, driving range can be extended anywhere from 5-62 miles for each hour of charging time.
From the outside, there are no obvious or quirky cues to suggest that the Model S is anything but a conventionally powered vehicle. Even the charging port is hidden behind a taillight. The car simply looks like a well-sculpted, premium performance sedan that belongs in a class with the Jaguar XF or venerable BMW 5-series. Which happens to be exactly what Tesla was aiming for.
Presently, only the upscale Signature and Signature Performance models are in production and only 1,000 of those will be built. The base Model S with 60 kWh battery is scheduled to enter production this fall, along with a left-hand drive version for the European market. In early 2013, production will begin on the base model with 40 kWh battery, and right-hand drive cars for Europe and Asia.
Volume will initially be low but gradually ramp up to meet Tesla’s target of delivering 5,000 cars by the end of this year, and 20,000 in 2013. If those numbers sound ambitious for an upstart automaker, consider that Tesla has already received 10,000 customer reservations with minimum deposits of $5,000 for a base Model S and $40,000 for the Signature version.
When available, the base Model S with 40 kWh battery will start at $49,900 after a $7,500 Federal tax credit. Specifying the 60 or 85 kWh battery will add $10,000 and $20,000 respectively, with the Performance version coming in at 84,900.
The upscale Signature and Signature Performance models currently in production – all 1,000 of which have been accounted for – start at $87,900 and $97,900 respectively, after the Federal tax credit.
Unlike the niche-market Tesla Roadster designed primarily to attract attention, the Model S was intended to be a mass-market vehicle designed to drive. And sell. So, with 10,000 orders in hand, the real test for Tesla and the Model S will come next year, when it has to find the next 10,000 customers.