With the countdown clock on the Tesla website closing in on the final hours before the maker officially launches its first mainstream product the maker got some reasonably good news from the EPA – an 89 MPGe fuel economy rating for the new Model S, the feds also estimating the battery-electric sedan will get up to 265 miles per charge on its largest, 85 kWh battery pack.
The numbers aren’t quite as good as some had anticipated, especially considering Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been flaunting the company’s own forecast of a 300-mile range for the big battery pack – and 160 and 230 miles per charge for the smaller packs also offered Model S buyers.
Meanwhile, the 89 MPGe might sound great when compared to a conventional, gas-powered sedan but it lags well behind the 118 MPGe rating the EPA recently gave the new Honda Fit Electric, the 112 MPGe numbers for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Ford Focus Electric’s 105 MPGe or the 99 MPGe earned by the Nissan Leaf.
Then again, those are all smaller vehicles than the Model S, which Tesla claims can squeeze in room for seven passengers. And the EPA-rated range for all those vehicles has come in lower than what the manufacturers had predicted. With the Leaf, for example, Nissan had been projecting a range of as much as 100 miles but the government test cycle whittled that down to just the 73 mile figure posted on the battery car’s Munroney window sticker.
In the real world, both mileage and range can vary widely depending upon a variety of factors including driver behavior and weather conditions. Battery cars use up a significant amount of energy when a motorist switches on its electric heat in winter, for example. And, like hybrids, they often do better in stop-and-go driving, where energy can be regenerated, than on high speed roads.
What’s significant about the Model S is that even its smallest, 40 kWh lithium-ion battery will deliver significantly more than 100 miles per charge – as much as double the range of the other models listed above. There’s also a mid-range, 230-mile battery. Meanwhile, Tesla will also offer a special tech package that boosts the range of the big 85 kWh battery by 20 miles, the maker claims.
The base car will start at $57,400 – $49,900 after deducting the federal $7,500 tax credit. A top-line Performance Model, with the big battery, goes for $87,400 — $79,900 after the tax credit.
All versions of the new Model S sedan – as well as a Model X crossover to follow next year – will roll off Tesla’s new assembly line in Fremont, California. That facility was original a General Motors plant and, until 2009 served as the based for a joint venture between GM and Toyota. Toyota inherited the facility after the Detroit maker’s bankruptcy then sold it to Tesla.
The Japanese giant has a growing relationship with the California EV maker, Tesla producing the driveline for the new Toyota RAV4-EV. Tesla also has ties to Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG.
The first production Model S actually rolled off the line earlier this month and was delivered to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, a major Tesla investor. The second set of keys was handed over to Elon Musk, founder of both Tesla and the private rocket firm Space-X. The rest of several 100 customers who’ve placed deposits for the vehicle will have to wait until this coming Friday for retail deliveries to begin.