Electric car specialist Tesla Motors has unveiled its second production model in addition to its Roadster. The ‘Model S’ is described as a family sedan that carries five people, travels 300 miles per charge and will sell at just under US$50,000 – with production planned to begin in 2011.
The firm said it ‘will likely be world’s first mass-produced, highway-capable EV’.
Tesla says the Model S, which carries its charger onboard, can be recharged from any 120V, 240V or 480V outlet, with the latter taking only 45 minutes. By recharging their car while they stop for a meal, drivers can go from LA to New York in approximately the same time as a gasoline car, Tesla claims.

The floor-mounted battery pack is designed to be changed out in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank, allowing for the possibility of battery-pack swap stations, it says.

The floor-mounted powertrain also results in ‘unparalleled cargo room and versatility, as the volume under the front hood becomes a second trunk’. Combining that with a four-bar linkage hatchback rear trunk and flat folding rear seats, the Model S can accommodate a 50-inch television, mountain bike and surfboard simultaneously, Tesla maintains. This packaging efficiency gives the Model S more trunk space than any other sedan on the market and more than most SUVs, it says.

“Model S doesn’t compromise on performance, efficiency or utility – it’s truly the only car you need,” said Tesla CEO, Chairman and ‘Product Architect’ Elon Musk. “Tesla is relentlessly driving down the cost of electric vehicle technology, and this is just the first of many mainstream cars we’re developing.”

Tesla expects to start Model S production in late 2011. The company believes it is close to receiving $350 million in federal loans to build the Model S assembly plant in California from the Dept of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.

The anticipated base price of the Model S is US$49,900 after a federal tax credit of US$7,500. The company has not released options pricing. Three battery pack choices will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge.

Tesla claims that if you were to lease and then account for the much lower cost of electricity vs. gasoline at a likely future cost of US$4 per gallon, the ownership cost is similar to a gasoline car with a sticker price of about US$35,000.

The standard Model S does 0-60 mph in under six seconds and will have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph, with sport versions expected to achieve 0-60 mph acceleration well below five seconds, Tesla says.

Tesla is taking reservations online and at showrooms in California. Tesla will open a store in Chicago this spring and plans to open stores in London, New York, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC and Munich later this year.

See also: Dave’s Blog

From the archive: Q&A with Tesla’s ‘Car Guy’