Tesla unveils groundbreaking electric car
- 300 mile range
- 45 minute QuickCharge
- 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
- Seats 7 people
- More Cargo space than station wagons
- 2X as efficient as hybrids
- 17 inch infotainment touchscreen
US automaker Tesla Motors unveiled its state-of-the-art five-seat sedan here Thursday, billed as the world's first mass-produced, highway-capable electric car.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said the company, which last year released a breakthrough two-seater roadster, aims to have its sleek "Model S" sedan rolling off assembly lines by 2011.
The futuristic zero-emission vehicle will be powered by lithium-ion battery packs capable of between 160 and 300 miles (257 and 482 kilometers) per charge.
The car has an anticipated base price of 57,400 dollars but will cost less than 50,000 after a federal tax credit of 7,500 dollars, Musk said.
While the price tag is steep compared to other mass-market sedans, Tesla has stressed that tax incentives, relatively inexpensive maintenance and refueling will make the car competitive with cheaper rival sedans.
Musk told reporters that he hoped the car would lead a new generation of vehicles which would help the auto industry wean itself off of foreign oil.
"What we really wanted to show the car industry is that it is possible to create a compelling electric car at a compelling price," Musk said. "We hope the industry will follow our lead."
"It's incredibly important that we wean ourselves off oil as soon as possible and that we make the transition to electric vehicles rapidly."
Musk said Tesla aimed to manufacture around 20,000 units per year from an undisclosed factory location in Southern California and said the vehicle could be charged at home in just four hours.
"Even at 20,000 cars per year we won't come close to affecting the electricity grid and you will be able to charge this car at home.
"It's capable of taking a wide range of currents and voltages, and the charge is built into the car so you don't have to worry about 'Is there a charger at the destination that I'm driving to?'," Musk said.
Tesla said its new model would become the "car of choice for environmentally conscious and discriminating drivers throughout North America and Europe." It expects to roughly split initial sales between the two continents before expanding into Asia in 2012.
Tesla's other zero-emission car, the two-seat Roadster, is on sale in Europe and the United States.
The company said last year it had ramped up production of the high-performance vehicle, with a price tag of about 100,000 dollars, due to soaring demand.
Tesla, founded in 2003, specializes in the environmentally-friendly, electric cars that several car manufacturers are starting to produce.
Thursday's unveiling comes against the backdrop of a US auto industry in crisis while President Barack Obama has said his administration wants to see a million electric cars on the roads by 2015.
Auto industry analysts were cautious about whether Tesla's "Model S" suggested that the future of the US auto industry was electric, saying hybrid vehicles and low fuel prices could stymie their growth.
Jim Hossack of California-based AutoPacific Consulting said Tesla's latest prototype was "something of a technical marvel" but questioned whether it could revolutionize the US auto industry.
"The problem is our fuel price. If you're going to launch an electric vehicle you probably want to do it in a market where fuel prices are high," Hossack told AFP. "At the moment in the US, they're cheap, a quarter of what they are in Europe or Japan. Hybrids might be better positioned to be the dominant technology."
While production of the "Model S" would demonstrate that it was possible to make a mass-produced electric car, Hossack noted that "we can also put a man on the moon. And it turns out it's expensive."
"A 50-60,000 dollar four-door sedan is not going to to turn the world on its head," he said.