By Jueseppi B.
Tesla Motors, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based company that designs, manufactures and sells electric cars and electric vehicle powertrain components. Tesla Motors is a public company that trades on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol TSLA.
Tesla Motors gained widespread attention by producing the Tesla Roadster, the first fully electric sports car. Its second model is the Model S, a fully electric luxury sedan. Still expensive, it is substantially cheaper than the Roadster.
Tesla also sells electric powertrain components, including lithium-ion battery packs, to other automakers, including Daimler and Toyota. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has said he envisions Tesla as an independent automaker, aimed at eventually mass producing fully electric cars at a price affordable to the average consumer.
Tesla Motors is named after electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla. The Tesla Roadster uses an AC motor descended directly from Tesla’s original 1882 design.
The Tesla Roadster, the company’s first vehicle, is the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production EV with a range greater than 200 miles (320 km) per charge. The base model accelerates 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.7 seconds and, according to Tesla Motor’s environmental analysis, is twice as energy efficient as the Toyota Prius. Since 2008 Tesla has sold more than 2,250 Roadsters in 31 countries through March 2012.[ Tesla began producing right-hand-drive Roadsters in early 2010 for the UK and Ireland markets, then expanded sales to right-hand-drive markets of Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Tesla will sell the Roadster until early 2012, when its supply of Lotus Elise gliders is expected to run out, as its contract with Lotus Cars for 2,500 gliders expired at the end of 2011. Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011.
Tesla unveiled the Tesla Model S all-electric sedan on March 26, 2009 with an anticipated base price of US$57,400 before any government tax credit or subsidies. The Model S will have three battery pack options for a range of up to 265 miles (426 km) per charge. In October 2011, Tesla reached its limit of 6,500 reservations for the Model S and retail deliveries began June in 2012. Tesla currently employs almost 900 full time employees and is aggressively recruiting employees for positions in the headquarters in Palo Alto, California; at its European headquarters in Maidenhead, UK; and at an increasing number of sales facilities throughout North America and Europe.
Since 2012 the Model S is manufactured at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, an assembly plant formerly operated by NUMMI, a now defunct joint venture of Toyota and General Motors. Tesla purchased a stake in the site in May 2010 for US$42 million, and opened the facility in October 2010.
Current corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, California
One of Tesla’s stated goals is to increase the number and variety of EVs available to mainstream consumers in three ways: Tesla sells its own vehicles in a growing number of company-owned showrooms and online; it sells patented electric powertrain components to other automakers so that they may get their own EVs to customers sooner; and it serves as a catalyst and positive example to other automakers, demonstrating that there is pent-up consumer demand for vehicles that are both high-performance and efficient. General Motors’ then-Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said in 2007 that the Tesla Roadster inspired him to push GM to develop the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid sedan that aims to reverse years of dwindling market share and massive financial losses for America’s largest automaker.
In an August 2009 edition of The New Yorker, Lutz was quoted as saying, “All the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is 10 years away, and Toyota agreed with us — and boom, along comes Tesla. So I said, ‘How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can’t?’ That was the crowbar that helped break up the log jam.” Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk won the 2010 Automotive Executive of the Year Innovator Award for hastening the development of electric vehicles throughout the global automotive industry.
The Tesla Roadster has a base price of US$109,000, €84,000 or GB£86,950 (not including numerous tax incentives, credits and waivers). Tesla’s goal is to sell EVs to mainstream consumers at more affordable prices—but Tesla purposely aimed its first production vehicle at “early adopters” so that the company could optimize the technology before cascading it down to less expensive vehicles. The company’s subsequent car, the Model S sedan, is anticipated to begin production for the 2012 model year with a base price of US$57,400 (or US$49,900 after a US federal tax credit), roughly half that of the Roadster. The company then plans to launch a US$30,000 vehicle, codenamed BlueStar. Tesla also builds electric powertrain components for more affordable cars including the lowest priced car from Daimler, the Smart urban commuter car; the lowest priced car to carry the Mercedes badge, the A-Class hatch back; and the lowest priced SUV from Toyota, the RAV4.
Aiming premium products at affluent “thought leaders” is a well known business strategy in Silicon Valley and the global technology industry, where prices for the first versions of cellular phones, laptop computers and flat-screen televisions start high but drop in subsequent product cycles. However, this approach has been relatively rare in the global auto industry, where the prevailing business model has been one of mass production in assembly plants optimized to build hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year with comparatively low sticker prices. According to a blog post by Tesla CEO, Chairman and Product Architect Elon Musk, “New technology in any field takes a few versions to optimize before reaching the mass market and in this case it is competing with 150 years and trillions of dollars spent on gasoline cars.”
Tesla began producing right-hand drive Roadsters in January 2010 and sells them in the UK, Australia and parts of Asia.
The single-speed Tesla Roadster’s interior comes with a push-button gear selector in the center console.
Tesla Motors’ first production vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, is an all-electric sports car. Since 2008 Tesla has sold more than 2,250 Roadsters in 31 countries through March 2012. The car has a range of 245 miles (394 km) per charge on average according to testing done by Tesla. On Oct. 27, 2009, the Roadster driven by Simon Hackett drove the entire 313-mile (504 km) segment of Australia’s annual Global Green Challenge on a single charge, at an average speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). The Tesla Roadster can accelerate from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in under 4 seconds and has a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).
The base price of the car is US$109,000, €84,000 or GB£87,945. The cost of powering the Roadster is estimated at US$0.02 per mile, compared with roughly US$0.25 per mile for a comparable gasoline powered sports car.
Prototypes were introduced to the public in July 2006, and the Tesla Roadster was featured on the cover of Time in December 2006 as the recipient of the magazine’s “Best Inventions 2006—Transportation Invention” award. The first “Signature One Hundred” set of fully equipped Roadsters sold out in less than three weeks, the second hundred sold out by October 2007, and general production began on March 17, 2008.
Since February 2008, when production first began, two new models have been introduced, one in July 2009, and another in July 2010. Both new models feature various upgrades. In January 2010, Tesla began producing its first right-hand-drive Roadsters for the UK and Ireland, then began selling them in mid-2010 in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
Tesla will sell the Roadster until early 2012, when its supply of Lotus Elise gliders is expected to run out, as its contract with Lotus Cars for 2,500 gliders expired at the end of 2011. Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011. Featuring new options and enhanced features, the 2012 Tesla Roadster will be sold in limited numbers only in Europe, Asia and Australia. The next generation is expected to be introduced in 2014 and will be based on a shortened version of the architecture developed for the Tesla Model S.
Tesla Roadster Sport
Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5, the company’s fourth-generation Roadster.
Tesla began taking orders in January 2009 for the Roadster Sport, a higher performance sports car based on the Roadster.
Tesla says the Roadster Sport accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.7 seconds, compared with 3.9 seconds for the standard Roadster. The Roadster Sport price starts at US$128,500 in the United States and €112,000 (excluding VAT) in Europe. Deliveries began in July 2009. The Roadster Sport is the first derivative of Tesla’s proprietary, patented powertrain.
The Roadster Sport has been acclaimed by Engineering Editor Kim Reynolds of MotorTrend, whose magazine recorded a 0-60 mph of 3.70 seconds and a quarter-mile test at 12.6 sec @ 102.6 mph (165.1 km/h). Reynolds called the acceleration “breathtaking” and said that the car’s sales confirm “Tesla as an actual car company. …Tesla is the first maker to crack the EV legitimacy barrier in a century.”
In the March 2010 print edition of British enthusiast magazine EVO (p. 120), editor Richard Meaden was the first to review the new right-hand-drive version of the Roadster Sport. He said the car had “serious, instantaneous muscle.” “With so much torque from literally no revs the acceleration punch is wholly alien. Away from traffic lights you’d murder anything, be it a 911 Turbo, GT-R or 599, simply because while they have to mess about with balancing revs and clutch, or fiddle with launch controls and invalid warranties, all you have to do is floor the throttle and wave goodbye.”
Tesla began production of its Tesla Model S
sedan in 2012, and deliveries to retail customers began in June 2012.
The Model S features a 17-inch (430 mm), customizable touchscreen with wireless Internet access and remote-programming abilities.
Retail deliveries of the Model S in the U.S. began on June 22, 2012, at a special event held at the Tesla Factory in California. The sedan was originally code-named “Whitestar.” Tesla is building the Model S in Fremont, California in an assembly plant formerly operated by NUMMI, a now defunct joint venture of Toyota and General Motors. As of March 2010, Tesla has already taken about 2,000 reservations for the Model S in North America and Europe, and plans to build 20,000 units per year in the Fremont Plant.
The Model S is designed as an alternative to cars such as the BMW 5 Series, the Audi A6, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with an anticipated base price of US$57,400. Tesla plans to sell the car worldwide and will introduce regional pricing closer to the beginning of deliveries in June 2012. Tesla is planning on having three options for battery packs, allowing customers to select from 160 mi (260 km), 230 mi (370 km) or 300 mi (480 km) per charge before it must be recharged. The EPA official range for the 85 kW·h battery pack model, the first trim launched in the United States market, is 265 mi (426 km).
On March 26, 2009, Tesla unveiled the Model S design to the public by introducing a concept version of the car in the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. This car included a touch-screen dashboard with wireless Internet access and remote-programming abilities. It seats five adults (plus two children in rear-facing child seats) and has a 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) time of 5.6 seconds. The Model S Performance does it in 4.4 seconds.
Tesla, as part of its collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, is building electric powertrain components for the Mercedes A-Class E-Cell, an electric car with a range of 200 km (124 mi), and 214 foot-pounds force (290 N·m) of torque. The 36 kWh battery pack will contain approximately 4,000 individual lithium-ion cells. Daimler is not expected to lease the electric version outside of Europe. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-Cell was unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Only 500 cars will be built for trial purposes in Europe beginning in September 2011.
In late 2007, Tesla began working with Germany’s Daimler AG on powertrain components for an electric version of the German company’s Smart two-seater city car. Tesla is producing the battery packs and chargers for an initial 1,000-unit fleet of EV Smarts. Daimler has not released details about the vehicle’s pricing or timing. The two companies announced that they were working together on the Smart in January 2009.
Toyota RAV4 EV crossover SUV
Tesla Motors and Toyota announced in July 2010 that the two companies have signed an agreement to initiate the development of a second generation of the compact Toyota RAV4 EV. Toyota plans to introduce the model into the market by 2012.
A second generation RAV4 EV demonstrator was unveiled at the October 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. Toyota is building 35 of these converted RAV4s for a demonstration and evaluation program that will run through 2011. The lithium metal-oxide battery and other powertrain components are supplied by Tesla Motors.
Minivan, crossover, utility fleet van, cabriolet
Tesla Motors also announced in June 2009, along with their loans from the DOE, that they plan to build electric family-sized minivans, electric SUV crossovers, and electric fleet vans for municipal governments. The utility van and cabriolet are expected to be based on the Tesla Model S platform, along with the Tesla Model X crossover SUV.
The company is supplying battery packs for Freightliner Trucks‘s Custom Chassis Electric Van.
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