The first Tesla Model S sedan will roll off the maker’s new assembly line in mid-2012 and carry a base price of $57,400, which would drop to $49,900 after federal tax incentives of $7,500.
Tesla will offer a wide-range of options – including a choice of three battery packs capable of delivering up to 300 miles per charge, according to the Silicon Valley start-ups Vice President of Sales George Blankenship.
“It is clear that our customers would like to keep up with progress as we work towards first deliveries in 2012,” the executive writes in a new blog post that follows a meeting with 50 current Tesla Roadster owners at the company’s newest dealership, in Milan, Italy.
The first so-called “Alpha” engineering prototypes began road testing in December, noted Blankenship. Preparations are now underway for “Beta” models, which are described as “production-intent,” or essentially identical to what Tesla will produce when manufacturing gets underway in mid-2012 at the factory the company acquired last year.
That facility, originally opened by General Motors, operated, for the last quarter century, as the NUMMI joint venture between GM and Toyota. GM abandoned the factory following its 2009 bankruptcy, and Toyota decided to walk away from the facility a year later. It then agreed to sell the suburban San Francisco assembly plant to Tesla as part of a new alliance between the Japanese giant and the small battery-car company.
“We expect to produce approximately 5,000 units in 2012 as we ramp to full single shift production capacity of 20,000 units per year in 2013,” explains Blankenship.
The first of 1,000 those sedans will be the North American Model S Signature Series, he adds. They will be equipped with a 300-mile lithium-ion battery pack, as well as “unique badging and an extensive complement of options.”
Tesla has been hoping to overcome what the industry describes as “range anxiety,” the fear many potential buyers have that they won’t have enough range to get through their daily duties. Most current and planned battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, have targeted range of 80 to 100 miles per charge. But the base Model S will push to 160 miles.
Tesla has not yet provided details of the battery system it will utilize, though senior company officials told TheDetroitBureau.com, in January, that they have been able to improve the efficiency of the Model S significantly through the use of lightweight aluminum and other steps. The Alpha prototypes require about 300 watt-hours per mile, which would translate into about 60 kilowatt-hours of batteries onboard. (Including about a 10% “pad,” since battery car makers prefer to neither fully charge nor discharge their batteries, which would reduce the pack’s life significantly.)
The 230-mile pack will be priced at $67,400 – before tax credits. It likely will require about an 85 kWh battery pack, including pad.
The long-range, 300-mile battery option will go for $77,400, or $69,900 after the federal tax credit. Its pack will carry at least 110 kWh of batteries, unless Tesla is able to improve the vehicle’s efficiency before the start of production – something Chief Engineer Peter Rawlinson says is a key goal.
Prices could shift a bit before production, according to Blankenship, and Tesla has not yet determined the figure for the Signature Series that will mark production launch.
Meanwhile, the company plans to start delivery to Europe in late 2012 with left-hand-drive models. Right-hand-drive packages will start being delivered to the U.K. and other markets in 2013.
(For more technical information on the Tesla Model S, Click Here.)
Tesla still hasn’t released official technical details, such as performance numbers or charging times. The latter will depend upon what charging system customers opt for. Using a special Level III 440-volt system, which electric vehicle proponents ultimate hope to see in widespread commercial use, a drained 300-mile battery could be recharged in barely an hour. But with a more conventional, 220-volt home-charger, the times might stretch to 15-hours or more.
Tesla will offer a super-fast, 220-volt 75-amp home charger that could trim the time to around 5 hours, but that could require extensive rewiring, as it uses more current than the typical American home.
For the 160-mile battery, home charging times with a 220-volt system will likely range between 3 to 8 hours, depending on the charger used.
Tesla began production of its first vehicle, the 2-seat Roadster, two years ago. It has so far sold around 2,000 of the sports cars, which are based on a Lotus platform, worldwide. The Model S will use a design entirely developed in-house by the California maker.
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