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First Look: Tesla reveals electric family car

Way of the future: The Tesla Model S is due for production in 2011.

Tesla reveals $72,500 Model S family car with 480km-plus range

30 Mar 2009

CALIFORNIAN start-up car-maker Tesla Motors has unveiled a new electric family sedan that could revolutionise the automotive industry if it lives up to its own hype.

The Tesla Model S will go on sale in 2011 for $US49,990 ($A72,500) after a US government tax break of $US7500 ($A10,900).

Tesla intends to build 20,000 a year for sale in the US and Europe.

It claims the Model S will seat seven, have a range of 483km (300 miles), accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than six seconds and be recharged in just 45 minutes.

These are staggering figures, which if carried through on, could change the automotive landscape and clear the way for widespread take-up of electric vehicles.

Tesla, which recently announced a deal with Daimler to co-develop 1000 battery packs and chargers for Smart, says it is counting on a $US350 million ($A507 million) loan from the US government to assist with the Model S development and production.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Model S was the first of several mainstream cars the company was developing.

“Tesla is relentlessly driving down the cost of electric vehicle technology,” he said.

Mr Musk claims the S electric car would cost about the same to purchase and run as a regular family sedan.

“Would you rather have this car or a Ford Taurus?” he asked at the launch.

55 center imageTesla is referring to the S as the world’s first mass-produced highway-capable electric car.

Officially it is a four-door sedan, but actually has a hatchback tailgate.

Two of the seven seats are in the boot, facing backwards and are presumably only for children.

Tesla says its chassis and panels are made from aluminium to keep weight down to around 1800kg, around 545kg of which is accounted for by the battery pack.

There is no word on whether the chassis is unique or sourced from another car-maker.

It runs a 23cm long water-cooled electric motor linked to a floor-mounted battery back, and sends its power through a single-gear transmission.

Tesla has not specified the make up of the batteries, but hints it would use lithium ion phosphate cells similar to the Tesla Roadster.

It says the S would have 8000 battery cells (up from 6000 in the Roadster) and that they would be improved with more advanced cell chemistry and greater volumetric efficiency.

The top speed of the Model S will be limited to 209km/h.

While the S would be capable of a 483km (300 mile) range, the standard vehicle would come with a smaller battery back capable of 257km (160 mile) range.

Those who are prepared to spend extra will be able to choose the optional 370km (230 mile) mile or the range-topping 483km (300 mile) battery pack.

The Tesla S would be able to be charged from any 120-volt, 240-volt or even 480-volt outlet. The 45-minute recharge time promoted by Tesla could only be achieved with a 480-volt outlet.

Currently, no public recharge stations in the US have 480-volt outlets, but Tesla says it is discussions with infrastructure providers about this.

The company says the battery pack in the Tesla S can be removed faster than a car’s petrol tank could be filled, suggesting the possibility of battery pack swap stations.

Tesla says it is yet to determine the warranty for the S, but suggests it will cover the battery pack for between seven to 10 years. Mr Musk says replacement battery packs would likely cost “well under $US5000” ($A7270).

As the motor and battery packs are mounted in the floor of the Tesla S, it promises to be a spacious vehicle.

With no engine under the bonnet, that space can be used as a secondary cargo storage area.

The boot, when the third row of seats is folded into the floor, is large enough to accommodate a 50-inch TV.

It features a split-fold second row of seats, which opens up a cargo area large enough for a mountain bike.

Tesla says the S will feature a 17-inch touch screen with 3G internet connectivity, which would also allow customers to remotely check the vehicle’s state of charge using an iPhone or computer.

Tesla is taking orders for the Tesla S online and in showrooms in California. It plans to open a new showroom in Chicago, New York, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC, London and Munich this year.

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