Monday, August 2, 2010

Tesla Model S - An Electric Dream is Coming

Tesla Motors produces and sells the very expensive but breathtakingly fast all-electric Roadster. Founded in 2003 by a group of Silicon Valley engineers, the Palo Alto, California-based company has delivered more than 1,000 Roadsters since 2008.

Occasionally you may see one on the road (but you won’t hear it). With a sub four-second zero-to-sixty time and a price above $100,000, the exquisite two-seat Roadster will be enjoyed by a few lucky owners.

That’s why the Model S is so important. Designed to hold a family and with a projected price starting at $49,000 (after a $7,500 tax credit), this car will bring fully electric driving to anyone who is considering, say, a 5-series BMW or Mercedes E Class sedan. And with a range of up to 300 miles (with an optional extra large battery) and easy plug-in charging, living with a Model S doesn’t sound like much of an issue.

The Model S isn’t on sale yet, but a lot is already in place for its eventual success. Much of the technology involved in building a reliable all-electric car can be leveraged from the Roadster, so the Model S is not starting from scratch. And Tesla has brought together a world class team of experts with experience in other automotive companies. For example, prior to joining Tesla, Chief Designer Franz Von Holzhausen was Director of Design at the Mazda North American Design Center. Before that, he held the Design Director position at General Motors.

Peter Rawlinson, Vice President and Chief Engineer for Vehicle Engineering, was a consultant specializing in advanced engineering solutions for the global motor industry. In that capacity he worked on projects for Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford, Honda, BMW and Bentley. Before that, he served as Chief Engineer of Advanced Engineering at Lotus.

In May, Tesla purchased the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, site of the GM/Toyota joint venture. The former GM factory produced a variety of Toyota and GM vehicles for decades before becoming superfluous to Toyota after GM’s bankruptcy. Situated close to Tesla Motors’ headquarters, it is a much more convenient location than others that had been considered earlier.

The plant is capable of producing up to half a million vehicles a year—much more capacity than the 20,000 or so Model S cars that are slated for initial annual production. But as part of the company’s goal of bringing electric vehicles to more people, Tesla plans to expand, eventually producing an even more affordable electric vehicle than the Model S.

In addition, Tesla recently announced plans to cooperate with Toyota on the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support. The initial venture will place Tesla’s electric powertrains in the Toyota RAV4 compact SUV. Tesla will learn and benefit from Toyota’s engineering, manufacturing and production expertise, while Toyota in turn will benefit from Tesla’s EV technology and the quick decision-making and flexibility that they have as a small enterprise.

Sound good? Learn more about the Model S at Tesla’s website. You can submit your $5,000 refundable deposit now to place your order to be one of the first 1,000 owners. But you’ll have to wait. The Model S is scheduled to start production in 2012.

“The overarching purpose of Tesla, and my reason for personally funding the company, is to expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a sustainable, solar electric economy.”
- Elon Musk
Chairman, Product Architect and CEO