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.
“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.