By John Addison (updated 5/22/12; original 2/8/12)
I’m sitting behind the wheel of this new Tesla Model S wishing that I could drive it away. I can’t. This prototype does not have a drive system. It is on display at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit, getting serious interest from attending CEOs and venture capitalists that can afford the $59,400 starting price. The price starts at $79,400 for the model with a remarkable 300 mile electric range.
Tesla plans to ship 5,000 of the Model S in 2012 starting this June 22. Tesla has the backlog. It has the massive Fremont, California, manufacturing facility. It is betting the company that it can ship this year and bring in billions because after shipping 2,500 of the Tesla Roadster, sales end for the exciting two-seat sports car that started the modern freeway-speed electric car revolution. Tesla has shipped over 2,000 Roadsters whose production has depended on suppliers who are completing their contracts and ending production for Tesla. The most notable is Lotus, which will no longer produce the body for the Tesla Roadster.
Tesla (TSLA) stock price is holding high, valuing the company at over $3 billion. Investors are betting that Tesla will ship the Model S on time, even though it was 2-years late with the Roadster.
The zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds Roadster is likely to become a collector’s item. If you bought one for $120,000, you may be able to sell it in a few years for more than you bought it. Who knows?
The Tesla Model S is a beautiful sedan that seats five and maybe a couple of more small kids in the trunk area. The 60/40-split back seat can be folded down to make room for luggage, snowboards, mountain bikes and everything you desire for a road trip. The Model S has the designs of a classic sedan like the BMW 7 or Audi A7. The Model S has the cargo flexibility of a liftback. Tesla positions the Model S as full sized, but the 6-foot, 3-inch gentleman in the backseat insists that I describe it as midsized.
You feel a bit like a jet pilot looking at the 17-inch display, which follows your preference of displaying navigation, entertainment, range, and vehicle functionality.
Tesla will have no trouble securing the first 5,000 buyers who represent less than 10 percent of electric car buyers in 2012. One is Craig who currently drives a Roadster and is looking forward to taking delivery of his Model S with a 300-mile range. He hopes. He’ll have two Teslas and finally sell his Prius. As I talk with Craig, I’m surprised that he has never used a public charging stations. He had never needed one. His Roadster gives him 250-mile electric range in real life driving. He is optimistic that the Model S with its larger battery will give him a 300-mile range of real world electric driving.
Model S options range include 160 mile-range with 40kWh lithium battery, 230 mile-range with 60kWh battery, and 300 mile-range with 85kWh battery. Maximum speed is zero-to-sixty in 6.5 seconds with 40kWh, 5.9 seconds with 60 kWh, 5.6 seconds with 85kWh, and 4.4 seconds with 85kWh performance models. Deliveries are scheduled to start this summer for the higher-priced 300-mile range vehicles.
The range is a marvel of technology innovation including an advanced lithium battery pack that lies below driver and passengers. The battery placement lowers the cars center of gravity and is likely to support excellent handling and stability. The induction electric motor does not use rare earth materials, unlike most competitors including Nissan and GM. The beautiful new body is aluminum to reduce weight and thereby extend range.
Craig is one of about 10,000 Model S reservation holders who has made a deposit and is eager to take the sedan for a drive. He doesn’t mind that his reserved roomy Model S takes 5.6 seconds to go from zero to 60. He doesn’t mind because he’s keeping his 3.7 second Roadster.