The next two years will be an exciting time in the world of transportation. Not only will hybrid cars plug in to charge but battery electric vehicles will be an option at your local car dealership. While there is much debate regarding the range of the first mainstream EVs, there is a new class of electric vehicle that should calm your range anxiety.
Meet the Tesla Model S.
What makes it different from the Nissan LEAF and other BEV offerings? Tesla Motors does a good job of describing this in their own words below:
The Model S is the premium sedan evolved. It will raise the bar of vehicle efficiency, meet the highest standards for safety, and provide more cargo space than any other sedan. It will be as beautiful as it is functional. Here's how we will build it. The Model S will be produced at the new Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Everything from body panel stamping to final quality testing will take place at the Tesla Factory. We will also work to set environmental benchmarks for energy efficiency and emission levels.
Interesting. This reads right out of an ad for a new Lexus or BMW model release. If you read this out of context, you would never know this was referring to a battery electric vehicle. Let's lift the cover and take a closer look at what makes the Tesla Model S special.
Earlier this year, Tesla Motors finalized a loan from the Department of Energy for $465 million dollars to build a plant to manufacture the Model S. By May, Tesla had penned an agreement with Toyota Motor Co. to purchase their NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. Not only did Toyota sell this state of the art plant to Tesla, but after the President of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, drove a Tesla Roadster, they closed a deal later that month to invest $50 million in Tesla Motors. "To put it simply, I felt the wind, the wind of the future," were Toyoda's words after driving the battery electric super car.
Tesla will retool the plant for the Tesla Model S but will retain the Toyota Production System of the NUMMI plant that has proved revolutionary in the automotive industry and has been copied by every major auto manufacturer. The new plant will have the capacity to produce up to 500,000 new vehicles each year. Tesla hopes to produce 20,000 Model S vehicles in the first 12 months and scale up from there.
From the advanced metal stamping to the state of the art assembly line, the Model S will be produced with the same quality control and top of the line components you would expect from a luxury sedan. It will have all of the expected safety features such as crumple zones and air bags as well as any additional features that will help Tesla reach a five star safety rating. (this is one of their goals) What makes the Model S different is it's use of low VOC paints and sustainable practices during the manufacturing process. Of course, the electric drivetrain and state of the art, liquid cooled battery pack make it stand apart from your typical internal combustion engined vehicle.
Once the car is assembled, it will go through a series of quality tests before it is ready for delivery. This includes a rolling test that simulates road test ing that identifies any loose, noisy or misfit parts so they can be replaced or refitted before delivery. A leak test is also performed to identify any sealing issues with the body. Instead of wasting many gallons of water, Tesla will use an ultrasonic test to identify leaks without using up natural resources by spraying the car with water.
What about the range anxiety? Tesla's Model S has three options for battery packs: 160 mile, 230 mile and 300 mile range packs. Pick the pack that fits your lifestyle. In addition, you don't have to sacrifice performance for range. The Model S is capable of 120 mph speed and will reach 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. When it's time to recharge, you can choose from any standard outlet or a dedicated station that can perform a 45 minute QuickCharge. If you have an extra battery pack, with quick-release adapters, the pack can be swapped in around a minute.
Will the Model S sell at a $50,000 price tag? If the sales of the Lexus brand are any indication, the answer is YES. In 2007, Lexus sold over 300,000 vehicles in the US and 500,000 worldwide. The MSRP for Lexus ranges from $35,000 to over $80,000. Based on these numbers, Tesla should be able to find buyers for their first 20,000 vehicles they produce in the first 12 months. Nissan has already sold out of orders for their first 20,000 LEAF BEVs and they only have 100 mile range.
So if you were wondering if the future looks bright in America, I would say it looks brighter than the stark white walls of Tesla's NUMMI plant that will help produce some of the first fruits of the Clean Energy Revolution.