It’s not rocket science. Well, maybe it is. Using his other big venture, the Space X rocket factory, as a background, Tesla Motor Co. CEO pulled the wraps off the company’s next new product, the Model X crossover.
Sharing the same basic platform as Tesla’s upcoming Model S sedan, the new 3-row, 7-seat crossover is a visual standout with its unusual “falcon” rear doors. The unusual design allows them to be operated in even a tight parking spot, unlike traditional gullwing doors. And it provides easy access to the crossover’s two rear seats.
The Model X is set to be the second mainstream offering from Tesla which plans to bring its first, the Model S sedan, to market later in 2012. The Model X is expected to follow within a year.
The crossover will use the same pancake-style battery layout, with the lithium-ion pack mounted in the platform beneath the passenger compartment. One difference is that the small, 40 kilowatt-hour pack offered in the Model S won’t be available for the Model X. Crossover buyers will have the choice of a 60 or an 85 kWh pack.
Because of the added weight – the Model X expected to add as much as 15% to the sedan’s 4,700 pounds – and increased aerodynamic drag, range will likely drop about 10% or more. That would mean something on the order of 215 miles for the small pack, 270 for the larger.
Nonetheless, Musk promised that, like the Model S, the Model X will deliver some serious performance along with at least twice the range of competitors’ battery cars. He suggested that 0 to 60 times could be in the range of just 4.4 seconds.
Like the Model S, the new crossover will be a high-tech showcase, with a variety of advanced safety and infotainment systems. That includes a positively huge 17-inch touch-screen display that will operate many of the vehicle’s systems.
But the feature most likely to catch the eye – and, we bet, the interest of potential buyers – will be the falcon doors. Unlike the traditional, single-piece gullwing, Tesla’s electrically powered design has two articulating sections that can stay close to the Model X body as they swing open. But once they do there’s enough room that Musk actually stood on the sill with his head not hitting the door.
The Model X also features a surprisingly roomy rear cargo compartment. And its air suspension will allow the vehicle to rise slightly over rough or snow pavement.
Charging times, meanwhile, are reportedly as little as four hours using a high-amperage, 220-volt charger. But because that system actually requires more juice than the typical American home now can deliver most buyers would likely see charging times that could range from eight to even 15 hours or more, depending on how much power they can supply.
While final pricing for the Tesla Model X hasn’t been announced, pricing is expected to be in the range of what Tesla plans to charge for the Model S. With the small battery pack, the sedan will debut at $49,900 taking into account a $7,500 federal tax credit. A top-line Performance Model, with the 85 kWh battery, will carry a sticker of $94,900 – or $87,400 after accounting for the federal tax credit.
Tesla is betting that the price tax is low enough to put the new Model X within reach of many mainstream buyers – while the added range will overcome traditional worries about electric vehicles.
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