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Tesla set for August EV debut Down Under

Red leader: Tesla says it will begin deliveries of its Tesla Roadster in August from a new Sydney store.

US electric vehicle leader Tesla to break new ground with 201km/h Roadster here

25 May 2010

AMERICA’S Tesla Motors is set to become the first car-maker to hit the Australian market with a mass-manufactured zero-emissions vehicle when it begins delivery of its all-electric Roadster to customers from a new Sydney store in August.

Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Tesla Motors Australia’s recently appointed general manager Rudi Tuisk said the company was already taking orders from Australian customers for its 200km/h-plus Lotus Elise-based plug-in sportscar, which has been re-engineered into right-hand drive and altered to accept this country’s 240-volt electricity.

Pricing for the Tesla Roadster and its higher-performance stalemate, the Roadster Sport, will be announced within a month, but expect a price tag above $200,000.

The confirmation of the Australian launch of one of the most advanced EVs in the world comes just days after the Silicon Valley-based company sealed a joint-venture deal with Japanese giant Toyota Motor Corporation to co-operate on future EVs to be built at a former Toyota-General Motors plant near San Francisco.

The factory is expected to begin production next year, producing Tesla’s all-new sedan, the Model S, which has also been slated for Australian release at a date to be determined.

The Tesla Roadster – currently undergoing Australian Design Rule certification – is expected to beat the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to Australia by several months, becoming the first factory-backed EV on sale here.

Like the American version, Australia’s first Tesla uses a bank of lithium-ion batteries and a 375-volt electric motor to generate 215kW of power from 5000-6000rpm (redline 14,000rpm) and 370Nm of torque from 0-5400rpm. The Sport version offers extra torque – 400Nm – from 0-5100rpm.

55 center image Left: Tesla Roadster. Below: Model S.

The lightweight 1238kg two-seater rear-drive sportscar can accelerate to 60mph (97km/h) in a claimed 3.9 seconds (Sport: 3.7 seconds), on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 125mph (201km/h), matching some of the world’s finest supercars for acceleration, if not top speed.

Tesla claims the driving range is 236 miles (380km) and that a full recharge takes about 3.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet. The expected battery life is seven years or 100,000 miles (160,930km).

Mr Tuisk, an Australian technician seconded from Tesla’s European arm to set up the company’s Australian satellite, said cars should be delivered three months after order.

“We’re taking pre-orders for Australia. We’re actually selling the vehicle – we’re taking orders right now,” he said.

While Mr Tuisk would not divulge the size of the order bank, he said the first shipment of Australian cars would include stock cars as well as ordered vehicles.

He said the Roadster, which entered RHD production for the UK in January, had already cleared the main hurdles of official Australian regulatory certification.

“We’re just in the process, in the final weeks of certification, but we’re already clear technically,” he said.

Mr Tuisk said Tesla was “actively recruiting” staff for its Sydney-based office, but the store location had not yet been finalised.

“We’re looking at Sydney,” he said. “We’ll be using our own dealership Tesla does that worldwide, so we’ll be sticking to the same method here in Australia, which is a Tesla-owned store.”

Tesla Australia’s launch variants, the base Roadster and Roadster Sport, will arrive with a full array of features as available in the US market.

“We’ll have the full options packages that are available in the US, so we’re bringing in a fully optional vehicle,” he said.

Mr Tuisk said the cars would have Tesla’s standard power connectors – low, medium and high – offering charging choices ranging from overnight on the low-charge system to four hours on high charge.

“Australia is a unique situation in that we have 240 volts and we have single phase up to 100 amps, so therefore you can run a home connector (high-powered connector) on a dedicated line into your house, and therefore you’ll end up with a four-hour charge time,” he said.

Servicing for the Roadster will be done from the Sydney store – a process that already works well for Tesla in Europe, where the company has sold about 200 Roadsters.

“Tesla is in the unique situation where we can upload a lot of the data from the vehicle, which gives us a very clear indication of what the issues are with the vehicle – or we actually go to the customer,” he said.

“Our experience in Europe is that we’re able to adequately cover Europe with quite a small number of service engineers. So basically once we have the data we’re relatively accurate with what’s wrong with the vehicle.

“If not, we’ll fly someone in, or if the vehicle presented itself as needing to attend the base we would return it to base.

“It’s like a travelling service – we offer a home service on the vehicle. If that doesn’t work, we return it to base.

“Last year in Europe there were very few vehicles we misdiagnosed. Very few had to come back to base.” Mr Tuisk said Tesla’s main goal is to establish the brand in Australia with the two Roadster variants, which would be offered with a three-year warranty.

“We want to move electric vehicles forward in Australia and get Australia on the program and get people to experience electric vehicle technology,” he said.

Mr Tuisk said Tesla has not endorsed any particular infrastructure supplier in Australia, in line with the company’s worldwide policy.

“Any move forward with electric technology is a great step for the environment and also for urban living,” he said.

“Tesla espouses an open-source charging opportunity for people and it’s important that everyone’s able to access the charging infrastructure, whether it be in their house or whether it be a charge port on the street – so long as they can get access, that’s fine.”

In recent weeks, Tesla has introduced a leasing option for the Roadster that allows US customers to take immediate delivery of the vehicle with a three-year/30,000-mile contract based on monthly payments.

Mr Tuisk said it was too soon to discuss such leasing options for the Australian market.

The Roadster does not require the same sort of servicing as conventional cars, such as oil changes or exhaust system work, and does not have spark plugs, pistons, hoses, belts or clutches to replace.

Tesla recommends a standard service and diagnostic inspection once a year – which could be done at the customer’s home or office.

Mr Tuisk said the Tesla Roadster was unique.

“It has a unique driveline and it has a unique brand, so I don’t think there is anything that will be direct competition to our vehicle,” he said.

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