News

Tesla Model S draws crowd to Menlo showroom

Tesla S is an attempt to build a luxury car with a sports car feel

Click on photos to enlarge and see captions.

By Daniel DeBolt

Embarcadero Media

Dozens of prospective buyers and curious gearheads formed a line on Saturday at Menlo Park's Tesla Motors dealership to sit inside the first mass production car to be developed and built entirely by a Silicon Valley company.

As members of the public got their first close-up look at the new Tesla Model S sedan, Menlo Park resident Rich Shane said he'd already made up his mind to buy the new Tesla, potentially the first electric sedan that can go as far as a conventional gas powered car on a tank of gas.

He said he canceled his reservation for a Nissan Leaf because its 100-mile range is well beat by the Tesla, which can run for 160 miles if you buy the $59,000 base model and as far as 300 miles with an optional $20,000 battery pack. "I couldn't accept not being able to get to and from Sacramento," Shane said.

Set to compete with BMW's profitable five series, the Tesla S is an attempt to build a luxury car with a sports car feel. With a compact electric motor, no transmission and a lithium-ion battery spread flat under the floor, the company claims the car has twice the storage room as the BMW five series, with substantial trunk space at both ends. It can also seat seven, if two optional rear-facing seats are installed in the back that can only be used by small children.

The placement of a battery that weighs as much as 1,000 pounds under the floor gives the Model S the lowest center of gravity of any production car, Tesla claims, helping the 3,700 pound car to handle better than other car in its class and almost as well as the Lotus-designed Tesla Roadster, said store manager Neil Joseph.

The electric motor generates 306 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 362 foot pounds of torque until a 14,000 rpm redline. Tesla claims it can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds and reach 130 miles per hour. A sport version is said to be able to do that in less than five seconds.

Once inside the car, most could not get their eyes off the 17-inch, high-definition display in the center of the dash. It functions like an enlarged iPad with Internet access over a 3G connection, allowing clear access to Google maps and climate controls.

More than 6,000 people have already put themselves on a waiting list to buy the car and more than 600 have put down a $40,000 refundable deposit, said Tesla sales adviser Kyle Thompson. The car is set to be built in 2012 in Tesla's new assembly line at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, with 5,000 to be manufactured in the first year and 20,000 a year after that.

A federal tax rebate brings the price of the car down to just under $50,000, "which sort of seems in the range I would expect," Mr. Shane said. The price can go up for those who want more than the 160-mile range. An intermediate option for a 230-mile battery pack costs another $10,000.

Mr. Thompson said the expensive battery was well protected from road hazards by a steel plate and a frame. It can also be removed from the bottom of the car in minutes, should the need arise.

Hooked up to a 240-volt outlet, the 300-mile battery can charge in only five hours. Unlike the Nissan Leaf, the battery charger comes standard in the price of the car. Tesla expects the battery to retain 70 percent of its capacity after 100,000 miles.

The Model S has yet to undergo crash testing, but Tesla expects a five-star rating.

While the $50,000 car may be too expensive for many, Tesla may use profits from the Model S to pay for the development of a cheaper model. Mr. Thompson said in three years, Tesla expects to sell a $30,000 to $40,000 electric car.

Note: An earlier version of this story said the 17-inch, high-definition display in the center of the dash is a $1,900 option. The display is actually standard in every Model S sedan and not an option.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by driveyou
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:26 am

The model S is much cheaper than a BMW 3 series, when one considers the gasoline and maintenance saved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Poster
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2011 at 11:51 am

There is another thread on this topic: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

"The model S is much cheaper than a BMW 3 series, when one considers the gasoline and maintenance saved."

Electricity doesn't cost anything?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Driver
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm

This picture Web Link accompanying the article is disturbing.

It depicts how a driver can circumvent all existing laws regarding cellphone usage, texting, and distracted driving.

Additional photos showing how a driver can use a full-size browser to read the New York Times while driving can be seen here Web Link (scroll down to the Photo Gallery of the Autoblog article).

Given the car has Internet connectivity, a driver could also stream Hulu movies to watch while driving to work which is a violation of many laws such as California Vehicle Code 27602 which can be read here Web Link

The Tesla S is NOT a robot-driven autonomously-operated vehicle using GPS such as those in the last DARPA competition or the Google self-driving car -- it requires the FULL attention of the driver while on the roads.

Unless something is changed before the 2012 debut, the Tesla S will likely be the most dangerous vehicle (for other drivers) on the roads
given all the opportunities for distracted driving.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I saw this story in the Palo Alto site also. What makes you think that the driver can watch films or read the paper while driving? That would be against the law in many states as well as a bad idea.

It sounds like the car displays must come on when the 'ignition' switch is on. I would hope that the Tesla, Cadillac's version of the Volt, and others come with a training mode where a voice quietly speaks to you about how to operate whatever you bring up, with the ability to turn it off of course and a good collection of standard settings (defaults) for those drivers who aren't interested in tech. Unfortunately speech would be a burden to the company in the beginning because of the varied language support required.

It sounds like Tesla's basic idea is a performance car with a high degree of civility, that is, that they can raise the bar in cars enabled by being electric. Batteries should improve rapidly in the coming years both for capacity and charging time. The car business must be one of the toughest around. But Tesla looks equal to the challenge provided they execute and deliver. I hope they succeed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Driver
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

maguro_01 wrote "What makes you think that the driver can watch films or read the paper while driving? That would be against the law in many states as well as a bad idea."

People do that now (read, text, watch) and the Tesla Model S makes it easier to do.

What part of "circumvent all existing laws" did you not understand in my posting?

I even cited California Vehicle Code 27602 which can be read here Web Link which clearly states:

"A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other( )1 similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver's seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle."

[Portion deleted.]


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 3,399 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 20 comments | 2,598 views

Go Giants! Next Stop: World Series!
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,931 views

Charter School Proposal Steeped In Unintended Consequences
By Erin Glanville | 41 comments | 1,903 views

Measure M-- I am not drinking Greenheartís expensive potion
By Martin Lamarque | 14 comments | 598 views