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Aussie queue for Tesla Model S grows

Tesla test: Alpha testing of Tesla’s Model S electric luxury sedan is almost complete as Beta prototypes enter production.

Tesla Model S enters ‘Beta’ testing as more than 50 Aussies lay down deposits

Tesla logo4 Aug 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

MORE than 50 Australian early-adopters are among the 5000 people world-wide who have already laid down deposits for the all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sedan, ahead of right-hand drive production (and first local deliveries) from mid-2013.

As GoAuto has reported, Tesla Australia’s national marketing manager Jay McCormack has hinted that the Model S will be priced in the region of $120,000 - $130,000 here, a relative bargain compared with the low-volume, Lotus Elise-based Roadster, which costs from around $220,000.

The Silicon Valley-based car-maker recently released a video of three all-black Model S ‘Alpha’ test vehicles as they underwent final performance and suspension testing before the almost production-ready ‘Beta’ vehicles – which are now in production – hit the road to weed out any remaining flaws.

The nomenclature used by Tesla for its test cycles is borrowed from the software industry, echoing CEO Elon Musk’s belief that the company has more in common with technology firms such as Apple or Google than with traditional car-makers like General Motors or Ford.

55 center imageFrom top: Tesla Model S testing, Tesla Model S lighting effects, Tesla Roadster on Australian tour.

The Model S, which is described by Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen as being like “a world-class endurance athlete… designed to be the epitome of efficiency,” appears to combine the best of Aston Martin, Audi, Citroen, Jaguar and Maserati design into one unique and elegant package.

It will have up to seven seats accessed via four frameless doors, pipe-lit graphics integrated with the head and tail-lights, flush door handles that emerge from the bodywork when the driver approaches and a hidden charge port that “looks nothing like a traditional fuel door”.

“The freedom of having a blank slate was also my biggest challenge,” said Mr Holzhausen in an interview on Tesla’s blog site. “In addition to defining Model S, Tesla’s brand is still evolving.”

He said the pre-production models look so similar to the original concept revealed in March 2009 because the designers worked closely with engineers from the start, enabling them to create a prototype “with fundamental understanding of the realities of production”.

Model S program director Jerome Guillen said the aluminium-bodied Model S will not come with a spare wheel or be offered with a tow-bar although the roof can accommodate roof racks that mount on the door frames.

“That said, because the Model S will have nearly twice the storage capacity of other sedans in its class, we suggest using the front or rear cargo areas to carry your gear,” he added.

Mr Guillen said the car’s air-conditioning system uses an environmentally-friendly refrigerant gas (the refrigerant currently used in most cars, which superseded ozone layer-depleting CFCs, has been identified as a major greenhouse gas).

He also claimed the glass in the panoramic roof uses a special coating to reduce infra-red solar radiation by up to 80 per cent, compared with 50 per cent “on similar sedans”.

Because the Model S has fewer moving parts than an internal combustion-powered vehicle, Mr Guillen claims the number of scheduled services required is reduced. He said that in addition, Tesla will offer mobile technicians who can make house calls and that the car can be diagnosed – sometimes even repaired – over a wireless or 3G internet connection.

Tesla claims the rear-drive luxury sedan can complete the 0-100km/h sprint in less than six seconds and go on to hit a top speed of 200km/h.

It also says the battery can be fully charged from empty overnight using a standard electrical outlet overnight. Charging can complete in as little as 45 minutes using a fast charging station.

Rather than the traditional approach of offering variants with different accelerative and top-speed performance, the Model S will be available from launch with three battery capacities offering ranges of up to 260km, 370km and 480km on a single charge.

The latter variant, designated Signature, accounts for about a third of reservations placed in Australia. In addition to the extended range from its bigger battery pack, the flagship is expected to be offered with an exclusive range of colours and options, which are due to be announced later this year.

Australians must lay down a $6000 deposit for the Model S unless they specify the Signature variant, in which case the figure rises to $40,000.

If the Australian dollar remains above parity with the US dollar, after local taxes the Australian-delivered Model S will still cost more than twice the $US57,400 asked of customers in the United States.

Furthermore, unlike Australians, customers in the US can also claim up to a $7500 federal tax credit as an incentive to go green, bringing the price below $US50,000.

Sales of Australia’s first factory EV, the Tesla Roadster, have reached double figures, with every state now represented on the brand’s customer list. Some 1500 have been sold in more than 30 countries worldwide so far.

The Roadster also recently became the first production EV to record a time at the British Goodwood Festival of Speed and participated in the V8 Supercar Celebration in Queensland at the Sucrogen Townsville 400.

As GoAuto reported in May, the Roadster was taken on a 21-day, 6187km tour of Australia’s East coast in April/May, consuming 1067kWh of electricity worth $213.40, or just 3.4 cents per kilometre.

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