The Model S and Tesla Roadster may indicate what’s to come for EVs.
Small though they may be, sports cars generally tend to be gas guzzlers. In terms of miles per gallon, there are those that get in the 20s, but many are in the teens—no better than an SUV or truck. Then there are electric vehicles, which use no gas but tend to only go about 30 or 40 miles per hour. That’s why, for some environmentalists—those who can afford the $109,000 price tag—the Tesla Roadster may be their first sports car.
“They might buy this despite the fact it’s a sports car,” says Tesla spokesperson Rachel Konrad.
The Roadster is an electric vehicle (EV) unveiled in 2006 that can travel 244 miles off one charge. It will be on display at the Tahoe greenFEST on July 11.
“It goes zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds, which is a pretty unique thing, and it doesn’t use any gas,” says Mike Walden of Sierra Green Building Association (SiGBA), which is organizing the greenFEST. “You can have some fun, go fast and you’re really not hurting the environment at all.”
Konrad says the Roadster is set to be profitable for Tesla as of next month. “For the past 30 or 40 years, the main huge automakers have said, ‘Sure, we can make this little science project as an electric vehicle, but we can’t sell it commercially and make a profit.’ Well, guess what? We’re going to do that next month. So the demand of the Tesla has sent a clear message to the auto industry that electric vehicles are the future.”
Another form that message has taken came with news in late June that Tesla was to receive $465 million in federal loans from the Department of Energy to speed production of its Model S sedan. The Model S is a spacious EV that seats five adults and two children, goes zero to 60 in less than six seconds, with a cost around $50,000 after consumers take advantage of a $7,500 tax credit on it—and without all the oil changes and maintenance of a car with an internal combustion engine. Also benefitting from the loans is Ford, with $5.9 billion to go toward improving the fuel economy of vehicles like the Focus, Escape, Mustang, Taurus and F-150. And Nissan is to receive $1.6 billion to retrofit its plant to build an electric sedan that’s yet to be named.
Tesla will use the money for a new assembly plant and battery plant in California, where they’ll build the Model S sedan. Konrad says it’s “on track to be the first mass-produced electric vehicle ever.”
“For the last 100 years, consumers have had no choice about the fundamental propulsion system of their car,” says Konrad. “It’s only been in the last few years with the Toyota Prius that consumers have started to think differently about their cars. Thinking that maybe the type of power of their car is something they should consider, just like they consider getting a two-door or four-door.”
Currently, the Roadster is the only highway-ready EV, but Tesla expects to start construction on the Model S in 2011. They’ve already taken 1,200 orders for it.
“It just shows there’s a lot of pent up demand for electric vehicles that are stylish and practical,” says Konrad. “Hybrids are a transition step, but we’re moving to a place where personal transportation is beyond oil.”