Tesla Motors is a California-based company that manufactures and markets electric powered automobiles. Its stated objective is to make electric powered vehicles available to and popular with ordinary car buyers. It hopes to accomplish this by selling vehicles in its own showrooms, by licensing some of its engine and power train components to other auto manufacturers for use in their own electric vehicles, and by serving as an example to other car manufacturers, inspiring them to bring out their own models of electric cars. It is worth noting that the Vice-Chairman of General Motors in 2007, Robert Lutz, credited Tesla with inspiring him to encourage the company’s development of the Chevy Volt, a hybrid sedan that can be recharged at plug-in stations.
Tesla’s chairman, Elon Musk, has made headlines recently with his well-publicised venture into the commercial rocket industry, having successful launches of the Space-X Falcon-1 and Falcon-9 launch vehicles, and the first successful docking of the Dragon capsule with the International Space Station.
Models currently in production from Tesla include the Tesla Roadster sports car and the Model S sedan. Another vehicle, the Model X is a crossover (CUV) utility vehicle with a passenger capacity of seven people. It is scheduled for release in 2014.
The Roadster sports car was the first production model electric vehicle to use a lithium ion battery, and the first with a range of 200 miles on a single charge. Motor Trend magazine tested the vehicle and reported that it accelerated from 0-60 (mph) in 3.7 seconds, and achieved a top speed of 102 mph in a quarter-mile. The Roadster also was the first electric vehicle to win the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Car Rally, in 2010. And in an Australian rally, the Global Green Challenge, the Roadster completed 313 miles on a single charge at an average speed of 25 mph.
At present, pricing for Tesla vehicles puts them out of reach for the average consumer. The Roadster retails at $109,000. The Model S sells for $95,000, and a Limited Edition series is priced at $105,000. However, one of the company’s aims is to bring out a vehicle class similar to the Audi, Mercedes-Benz, or BMW, that will have features, driving range, and price tag (about $30,000) that can compete in the mass market.
The safety of the Tesla Model S sedan was questioned recently after a collision in which a Model S ran over a large piece of metal dropped from a septic tank truck and caught fire. The curved metal object pierced the battery from underneath the car, causing it to ignite. The battery’s protective shielding contained the fire, preventing it from reaching the driver cockpit, even after firefighters inadvertently pierced the top of the battery compartment while trying to extinguish the fire. The driver received a warning from the car’s safety systems and had enough time to pull over to the side of the road and exit the vehicle. He was not injured. The company pointed out in its news release on the accident that a gasoline-powered vehicle involved in the same kind of accident may have suffered far more serious consequences.