Photo: Tesla Motors
So What's Going on With Tesla These Days?
Tesla Motors has been fascinating many greens every since the electric Roadster was unveiled on July 19th, 2006 (but the company was founded in 2003 and spent about three years working in stealth mode). Since then there has been lots of successes, but also lots of failures. The company entered a new phase of its life a few months ago with the launch of its second EV, the Model S electric Sedan, and a lot has been happening at Tesla Motors since then. Here's an overview of recent Tesla news, with everything from technical prowess to tales of betrayal.
Photo: Kent Schnepp
March 27th, 2009: The Tesla Model S Electric Car is Unveiled
The unveiling of the Tesla Model S electric car didn't go exactly according to plan (Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, leaked some photos of the Model S a few hours before the official event), but the reaction was generally positive.
TreeHugger covered the launch here: Tesla Model S Electric Car: 300 Miles Range, Seats 5+2, 0-60 MPH in 5.6 Seconds (Slideshow)
Speed freaks rejoice, it's not because the Model S can seat 5 adults (and 7 if you count the space for baby seats under the hatch, though I'm not sure how often that feature will be used... But Tesla markets the car as "seating 7") that it's slow.
0 to 60 mph: 5.6 seconds, and an upcoming sports version should bring that to "under 5 seconds".
Range is 300 miles, though there will be different battery options, with less expensive ones giving you a range of 160 or 230 miles. Charging time is 4 hours with a 200-volt power outlet, but a quickcharge can be done in 45 minutes and the Model S was designed so that the battery could be swapped in 5 minutes (not clear what kind of infrastructure would be needed for that, but it's certainly a nice future-proofing feature). There will also be a 440-volt charger for even faster recharge.
March 29, 2009: The Tesla Electric Roadster Shows Its Range at the Rallye Monte Carlo d'Énergies Alternatives
At the beginning of May, Tesla had a good occasion to showcase the performance and range of its electric Roadster at the Rallye Monte Carlo d'Énergies Alternatives. The Tesla EV performed admirably, but the most interesting result of the race was that after 240 miles the battery pack still had juice left over:
the race started at 7 AM on Saturday morning, and that the blue Tesla Roadster's battery showed 397 kilometers of range (246.6 miles), only 7 more than the 390 km race (242 miles). It would be a real challenge to get to the finishing line (and the Tesla's electrical plug had been sealed to make sure that no cheating took place).
Stopping only for bathroom breaks, the Tesla reached the finishing line after 387,6 kilometers (240.8 miles), and the counter said that there was enough juice left in the battery for 61 kilometers (38 miles). Very impressive for a car rated with a maximum range of 244 miles.
March 29th, 2009: David Letterman and Elon Musk Play Electric Car Good Cop/Bad Cop
A big publicity coup for Tesla and the Model S was getting on the Late Show with David Letterman (as well as showing off the Model S show car in NYC). Dave seemed very impressed with the electric car, and directed all his anger and skepticism at GM and the Chevy Volt (which prompted Bob Lutz to go on the show to defend the Volt).
Photo: Tesla Motors
May 12th: Tesla Announces More Than 1,000 Reservations for Model S Electric Car
Some might have thought that a $50k car wouldn't have many takers in this economy, but the Tesla Model S isn't just any car, and so it's not that surprising that the reservations rolled in rather rapidly even two years before production begins.
Tesla is also working hard at convincing people that the Model S isn't as expensive as it might look at first:
But sticker price is only one part of a car’s total cost of ownership. If you account for the much lower cost of electricity vs. gasoline at a likely future cost of more than $5 per gallon, the Model S is equivalent to a gasoline car with a sticker price of about $30,000, such as a Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, or even a Toyota Avalon or BMW 3-Series. Those savings are realized immediately if you lease a Model S, so there is no need wait years to earn back the price difference.