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Tesla to Take on BMW M5 with Model S

Battery sedan will nip 60 in 4.5 seconds – if you’re not worried about range.

by on Oct.03, 2011

Tesla plans to deliver BMW M5 performance with its upcoming Model S Sport.

Tesla is determined to put to rest the old canard that green cars can’t be fun to drive.  If that message didn’t get through with the maker’s high-power, low-volume Roadster the California start-up hopes you won’t miss out on the fact that its upcoming Model S won’t just be fast but will be able to rival the new BMW M5 when it comes to launching off the stoplight.

Now, there’s a direct relationship between performance and range, so there are likely to be plenty of hyper-milers when Tesla introduces its Model S sedan next year, but for those who think green and mean, they can opt for the Model S Sport version, which will cut the car’s 0 to 60 times down from an already respectable 5.5 seconds to somewhere between 4.4 and 4.6 seconds, according to the Silicon Valley start-ups CEO Elon Musk.

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“The goal with the Model S was to build the best car, not just the best electric vehicle,” Musk told Green Car Reports. “It can seat seven, has got two boots, a really low center of gravity; no-one thought any of this was possible. I’m proud of this car and it’s a revolution that I hope the rest of the industry will follow.”

The seven-seat configuration is one that Tesla had signaled before, though it remains to be seen how the production car will actually achieve that goal with reasonable comfort.

Meanwhile, Musk provided some other hints – and a few clear details – of what’s in store when the battery car hits market.  Among other things, Tesla has bumped range up to as much as 320 miles with one of two optional extended-range battery packs it plans to offer.  Originally, the goal was to offer a stock 160 miles, with 230- and 300-mile battery options.

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The South African-born Musk, who made his money as a co-founder of the PayPal service, didn’t provide extensive details, though it appears the largest pack will contain somewhere around 85 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries, but it will use a new, advanced formulation, Tesla officials previously hinted, to reduce size and weight – if not cost.

The size of the battery comes as a surprise and reflects significant recent efforts – including new aerodynamic wheels – to improve the efficiency of the Model S.  Based on comments made by senior engineers earlier in the year, achieving a 300-mile range would’ve required a battery in excess of 100 kWh.

Significantly, Musk and his development team appear to have decided to borrow a page from the Better Place handbook – the Israeli-based company that is working with Nissan on a unique system that allows an electric vehicle driver to swap out batteries when the one in the car runs down.  Musk says the Tesla Model S will have a battery-swap capability and suggested there will be locations set up on freeways to do a quick swap rather than a long charge.

While the 320 kWh batteries might be able to be recharged in as little as 4 hours using special, high-power chargers, using more conventional chargers, such as the 4 to 7 kW systems most common at home or in public use, would require as much as a day to recharge a fully-drained battery.

Musk revealed details about the Model S during a preview for early reservations holder held in Silicon Valley.

The company is taking $5,000 reservations on the Tesla Model S, which it says will start at $49,000 after the $7,500 federal tax credits for battery vehicles.  The high-performance Model S Sport, however, will push north of $80,000.

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7 Responses to “Tesla to Take on BMW M5 with Model S”

  1. dsm363 says:

    A few points:
    1) the Better Place model is not a priorty for Tesla. They are looking for DC charging as a much cheaper way to accomplish the same goal.

    2) The 300 mile pack can be charged in as little as 45 minutes (not 4 hours) with the DC charger (95 kW) according to Tesla’s website and their engineers who were at the event.

    3) The Model S does not have a 4 to 7 kW charger. It has one, maybe two 10 kW onboard chargers allowing up to 240V 80A for charging.

    4) Tesla says the Model S will start at $49,900 (after the $7,500 federal tax credit)

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      In fact, per point 4, I forgot to point out in the latest article the $49,900 is after tax credits. That price is noted, as is the $80,000 for the Sport edition.
      Per 3, the Model S can have whatever charger onboard Tesla wants to install. If the source is a charger with a lower rating that is what power the Model S will be able to draw from. Most public charging stations are significantly lower-power than the 80A you like to cite. If you have a 10A or 20A circuit that’s what you’re going to charge at. And so, as I have said repeatedly, you have to recognize what is out there in the real world. People are going to charge up in public and so, while you might advertise: “Under ideal circumstances you can charge in as little as….x hours, your charging times will likely be significantly slower under most circumstances, especially when using public charging facilities.”
      Per 2, first to correct you, Tesla is now calling it a 320-mile pack. Until the EPA issues its own numbers let’s go with the Tesla number or use a flag of caution as in, “Tesla is now claiming it has improved the pack to deliver 320 miles range under xx conditions. It has not been certified by the EPA yet.
      Also per 2, with all the key competitors citing times ranging from 20 minutes to 45 minutes on Level III chargers to 80% capacity with packs ranging from 16 to perhaps 30 kWh, I have a huge amount of skepticism about the 45 minutes claim offered by Tesla. I have found no one independent of the company who yet buys the claim. Could they be right? Could that work with anyone’s Level III up to some unique charger Tesla will install in 3 locations, or such? I will have to wait and see. Until then I will flag that with a large note of caution.
      Finally, working backwards, Tesla and Musk are the ones who raised the swappable battery prospect now apparently being built into the Model S. I didn’t suggest this would be nice or necessary (though Dan Neil has so argued). Apparently, Tesla is saying it WILL set up such swap stations.
      I’ll go put the caveat about pricing into the story. One always has to remember that prices quoted aren’t quite what they seem with battery cars.
      Paul A. Eisenstein

  2. dsm363 says:

    I said it can charge at up to 80A, not that this is common. Most of the J1772 public chargers are at 240V 30A. The point being that the current generation Leaf can’t take full advantage of the 30A while the Model S can.

    Per Tesla’s website, they are still calling it a 300 mile pack (

    At the base price of $49,900 (after US Federal Tax Credit), Model S comes equipped with the 160-mile range battery pack.
    The 230-mile range option is priced at about $10,000 more than the base and the 300-mile option at about $20,000 more than the base.

    I agree, they should be more clear with advertising “using common level 2 30A chargers, the car can gain X number of miles of range an hour”

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Yes, they are still calling it 300 officially, even if Elon is saying something else. (Surprised?)
      Thanks for acknowledging my point. I have tried to always note that there are upside numbers that could, under ideal circumstances, be much more owner-friendly. But these are still limited in access and should NOT be the basis — or at least the sole basis — by which we discuss charging times, etc.
      And, lest you think I am picking on Tesla, note I have pointed this concern out for a number of other makers. I have lately begun receiving releases for battery cars claiming, ie, 2-hour charging times. When I then see they have 16, 20, 30 kWh packs that’s an immediate red flag. Yep, a lot of makers are now trying to quote for media consumption Level III times or advanced Level II numbers that they can’t really support or justify.
      Paul E.

  3. dpeilow says:


    I think quite a few of us tried to tell you that the battery would not be 100kWh back when you last raised this topic.

    The humble pie is in the mail.


    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Hi, D,
      See my earlier note: based on conversations with Tesla’s chief engineer who confirmed a specific energy consumption per mile the raw number would have needed to be a minimum 90kWh PLUS a pad based on the fact that Tesla would NOT use 100% of the batteries full charge. At a 10% pad that would have been 100+ kWh. I confirmed in my earlier stories and in my replies to said comments that I was told Tesla was trying to find ways to reduce their energy consumption with the Model S. But until this week Tesla did NOT indicate they had achieved that goal. I can only go with what THEY have stated and, again, until now they specifically gave me a figure that would’ve been 100+ kWh.
      That said, I remain highly skeptical of the latest figures. They would mean having cut energy requirements per mile from 300 mWh (if memory serves…I do not have the notes on this laptop) to barely 255 mWh, a huge improvement by any means no matter where you get it. Not impossible but I look forward to hearing them explain how. That 255 number, incidentally, would suggest about an 80 kWh battery plus pad.
      Let’s also see what the EPA rates the vehicle at. I don’t accept the magical reality numbers many battery makers have come up with, ie 100 miles on Leaf that no one gets. It’s good the EPA has been pressing for something more realistic. A number that requires you to absolutely drain the battery til it is dead even in limp-home mode is pretty questionable, as is a number that would be determined under maximized driving conditions and driving styles that no one will use, hence the gap we keep seeing between EPA and initial maker estimates.
      I will be curious to see if the final EPA figures climb back closer to a 300 mWh/mile figure and lower the claimed range.
      If not, let’s here from Tesla how they pulled off a real miracle since they quoted me numbers in January.
      Paul E.

  4. [...] a 0 – 60 time of around 4.5 seconds and a very low center of gravity, the Tesla S Sport may be able to give the BMW M5 a run for it’s money – as long as it’s a short run before  the batteries [...]