From the start, Tesla has been the only automaker that focuses solely on the design, production and sale of both the electric vehicle powertrain components and full-scale electric vehicles (EVs). Tesla remains the only car company that is producing and selling highway-capable EVs in serial production, as opposed to production of prototypes or evaluation fleets, in either Europe or North America. As of this spring, Tesla was rolling fifteen cars a week out of their plant, though most of these were custom-ordered cars built to meet owners specifications.
Named after the Serbian physicist and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, the company took inspiration from more than his name. The carmakers flagship vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, uses an AC motor with a design that is a direct descendant of Nikola's original 1882 specification, which, legend claims, came to him in a fever dream induced by exhaustion when he was working as an inventor and engineer in Austria-Hungary.
The Tesla Roadster isn't special merely because it uses it's namesake's original design, however. It was also the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first non-spec EV to have a working range of more than 200 miles per charge.
According to company specifications, the base model Roadster accelerates from zero to 60 mph in under four seconds, and company-provided environmental analysis says it's twice as energy efficient as the hybrid-car poster child, the Toyota Prius.
While the Tesla Roadster is a true performance vehicle, with a performance price upwards of $94,000, the company has begun development of another, more family friendly model as well. This car, known as the Model S, is an all-electric sedan that was originally unveiled in March 2009.
The Model S will have three different battery pack options giving it a range of up to 300 miles per charge. As of March 2010, about 2,000 Model S Teslas have been reserved, and the company expects to begin delivery of them sometime in 2012. Less expensive than the sporty Roadster, the Model S has an estimated base price of $57,400, though customers in the United States may be able to use a federal tax credit to reduce the price to $49,900.
Tesla in the Future
In May, 2010, Tesla Motors purchased a stake in a Fremont, California assembly plant formerly operated by NUMMI, a joint venture of Toyota and General Motors that never made it off the ground. The Model S will be assembled at that site.
In a statement to the press in May, 2010, representatives of Toyota said that it had agreed to purchase $50 million of Tesla common stock once the EV automaker had completed its planned initial public offering.
As well, the two companies have stated that they will be cooperating on the development of electric vehicles, as well as parts, production, systems, and engineering support for EVs.
With over 500 employees in several sites, Tesla's future is tied to a total commitment to electric vehicles. According to the corporate website, it believes its designs will help lessen global dependence of petroleum-based transportation, and drive down the cost of electric vehicles."