The future of the motor industry seems to rely very much on the next generation of electric cars. The major manufacturers are ploughing money into designing electric cars, not only to meet the demand for greener cars, but also to meet the likely slow down in oil production as oil becomes more difficult to find, or extract. The recent announcement by Daimler and Tesla of Daimler’s acquisition of a ten per cent stake in Tesla Motors Inc, brings together the old and the new. Daimler with over a hundred and twenty years experience in the motor industry realises that change has to come and has linked up with one of the most modern thinking companies in the field.
Tesla Motors are based in San Carlos, California and make electric cars with a feel of the future about them. It began development of its first vehicle, the Roadster in 2004. Subsequently the car was launched to an enthusiastic reception due to its sporty good looks and fuel efficiency. It still remains the only highway capable electric vehicle on sale in Europe and North America. The Tesla Roadster is the first production car to travel more than two hundred miles on a single charge. It is also the first car to receive certification in the United States and Europe as a lithium-ion battery powered vehicle. Reaching a staggering 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and able to travel the equivalent of 256 miles to the gallon, the Roadster is managing to produce the type of statistics that the car enthusiast and the motor industry want to hear. A single electric charge will allow the car to travel two hundred and forty four miles with no emissions from the tailpipe, which made it the first production car to achieve this. The car is based on a Lotus design, is a few pounds heavier, but is actually faster than the original car.
Building on this success, Tesla has recently launched a new model, Model S, a family car which is due to go into production in 2010. As well as a flair for car design, Tesla will produce a family vehicle capable of meeting stringent European environmental, durability and most importantly, safety standards. The new model has already reached over a thousand in advanced orders since its launch in March 2009. At a launch price of £49,900, which is less than half the price of the sporty Roadster, the car produces zero emissions. It has a range of three miles on a single charge and the option exists for a quick forty five minute charge. The Tesla Model S can also reach an impressive 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, and has a top speed of a hundred and thirty miles per hour. A sports version of the Model S is likely to be able to reach from 0-60 in less than five seconds. The Model S also has a single speed gearbox which allows responsive handling and effortless acceleration. It can be charged from any 120V or 240V outlet, although if you have a 480V outlet available it will only take forty five minutes to become fully charged. There are far fewer moving parts, which make it less likely to break down. A Tesla does not need regular oil changes which help to reduce on road costs. In addition because of the floor mounted power train, the front space which would normally be used to mount the engine, actually becomes more boot space. The car is advertised as being able to carry up to seven people in comfort, as with some of the standard people carriers. In addition, the car will have a touch screen TV with 3G connectivity which will allow passengers to check the car charge from their iPhones.
Reviewers have generally been extremely enthusiastic in the praise of Tesla cars. Some have referred to the fact that Tesla have at last managed to improve the electric motor, which had basically not changed since its introduction in the early part of the last century. Electric power quickly fell by the wayside in favour of petrol powered cars. Even electric cars produced towards the end of the twentieth century still had many of the basic faults which used to bedevil the early electric cars. Cars would perform poorly if the ambient temperature dropped below a certain level, even on a full charge. Tesla have managed to eradicate this problem by introducing a cooling/heating system which allows the battery to be kept at a constant temperature.
Tesla have now moved the appeal of the electric car to a new level, and it may well be that petrol powered cars will soon be seen as museum pieces.
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