This is the Tesla Model S. Pundits laud it as the rescuer of the automotive industry, and ecologists rave over the redemption of smoggy skies. Not only will it deliver U.S. auto manufacturers from the bottom of aficionado's Top 10 lists and gas-hoarding sheiks, it is going to save Tesla Motors, Inc.
The Model S is the second production vehicle to be unleashed by Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley-based corporation renowned as the industry's drama queen. Despite their small size, they have made some big waves, winning the 2009 Globe Sustainability and Innovation Award and enduring numerous lawsuits from irate investors following failed deadlines and consistent losses. In fact, Tesla has never posted a profit, and is currently operating under a growing deficit at $236 million. Investors, however, are confident in Tesla's pledge as evidenced by 2,000 reservations as of February 2010 - each with a minimum $5,000 down payment - and a successful January 29, 2010 IPO. However, Franz von Holzhausen and his team have yet to finalize a production prototype. After all, the Model S is barely one year old.
Codenamed "White Star" among Tesla insiders, the Model S debuted at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California in March, 2009 and is due for production in 2012. Rather than targeting Lamborghini or Aston Martin sycophants as did the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, the Model S is targeted towards the BMW 5- and 7-series, Audi A-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class customers. In 2010, Tesla announced the impending discontinuation of the renowned Roadster. The hope for Tesla lies in the bucket seats of a four-door sedan that looks vaguely reminiscent of the Maserati Quattro Porte. But not just Tesla - the Model S is hope for all of us.
Automobiles spew pollution into the atmosphere every second they run. Inefficient engines release hydrocarbons, creating ozone - responsible for smog, eye irritation, lung infection and respiratory problems - and carcinogenic materials. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to smog and increase acid rain. The well-known greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is a common threat, and its toxic sibling, carbon monoxide, is a typical visitor to patients with cardiac issues. Both gasoline and diesel engines release tiny particulate matter, which shortens lifespan and vastly increases chances of cancer and birth defects. Zero-emission electric vehicles, like the Model S, produce no direct pollution.
Selling for a base price of $49,000, after factoring in Federal tax credits, the 7-passenger (five adults, two children) Model S runs on some impressive ecological technology. It uses high-density lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries, which can be charged using 110v, 220, or a 480v QuickCharge system, capable of recharging in 45 minutes. Three battery packs are available, with 160-mile, 220-mile, and 300-mile ranges respectively. Tesla has not revealed how battery pack selection will affect the base price. After 100,000 miles, the batteries should retain 60-65% of their full storage capacity. $4 "fills" it up, and best of all: zero pollution. Breath freely.
The technology only begins with the propulsion system. A customizable 17-inch touch screen controls the driver's amenities, including radio, HVAC, navigation and other services. Google's 3G internet, HD satellite and Pandora radio services complete the electronic luxury. Other features include 21-inch wheels, full power accessories, trip computer, leather upholstery, split-folding rear seats, a security system, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and traction and stability control.
Numbers can be quite prosaic, but the Model S adds its own aplomb. Despite its 3,285-lb curb weight, it rockets to 60-mph in 5.9 seconds, brakes from that speed in 135 feet and tops out at 120-mph. A 4-wheel independent suspension and possible AWD complete the Model S's ultra-modern resume.
The automotive industry is about to revolutionized from within. As evidenced by the Model S, electric vehicles are practical alternatives to gas-guzzling, polluting vehicles. Electric vehicles can compete with gas-powered vehicles, clean cities, and free America from petroleum bondage. With crossed fingers, Tesla hopes the same.