The age of the electric car is upon us. At least, that’s what the motor industry is trying to tell us. The industry is recognizing that a new power source is needed, and it appears to have decided that the electric motor is the future. The truth is that it is, to some extent, still very much in the past, but that’s something we will talk about later. Pioneering hybrid and electric vehicles are on the roads now – the biggest seller, the Nissan Leaf, reached sales of 21,000 across the world in 2011. Taken as a sample of worldwide automobile sales, that’s barely a drop in the ocean.
Still, there is no doubt that a market exists for high end, luxury electric vehicles. They tend to be popular among wealthy people who like to be seen as ‘doing something for the environment’. This is where Tesla comes into the picture, for this small and innovative company leads the way in the luxury electric car market. Take the Tesla Model S, a proper electric sedan with luxury trimmings that will begin delivery in the middle of 2012. Is this the future?
Tesla Model S – Electric Avenue
The first thing to say about the Tesla Model S is that it is a good looking car. From the front it resembles the current Maserati range, with a large grille area and neatly swept back lights, and the rear is akin to current Jaguar models, neat and well styled as we have come to expect from Tesla. The best selling electric vehicles in the world may be small utility cars, designed to get you – quite literally – from A to B, but Tesla is clearly not aiming at that market sector.
This is a car that is intended to compete with your Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and top end Audi models, as well as Jaguar and the like, and first impressions say it does so very well. Tesla is known for its quality, and the Tesla Model S is sure to be no exception. So, it’s good looking, great quality and eco-friendly (to a point). As with all electric cars, the big question is: how far does it go?
Tesla, unlike many makers of electric cars, is committed to vehicles that are solely electric. There is no supplementary petrol engine to keep you afloat when the battery goes flat, which it will after a claimed 160 miles (250 km). That is a decent range for a good sized electric vehicle, and when you consider that it can be charged for 62 miles (100 km) in an hour from standard voltage points it doesn’t sound too bad at all.
Performance is pretty good, too, with acceleration to 62 mph (100 km/h) in less than six seconds, and a top speed – as yet to be officially disclosed – well in the range of rival machines. Oh, and there’s also the price: £36,000 ($57,000) for the standard model. All in all, the Tesla Model S – for which the company claims it has orders for 3,000 already – is a much anticipated car that could signal the way we drive in the future.
Tesla Model S – Green Credentials
For a moment, let’s consider the advantages of electric cars: they offer smooth performance, they don’t use fossil fuels, they have very low emissions levels, they are – so the claim goes – the ‘greenest’ form of motoring around. This will, undoubtedly, be the sales pitch that Tesla uses to push the Model S onto the world market. But do the pros outweigh the cons?
The Tesla Model S, like most electric vehicles, is expensive to buy. The range is limited, and batteries are also pricy. The Model S will, it is claimed, feature a changeable battery – something that the electric car market needs to work on – and the company also says it will offer longer range battery packs, with the ultimate version offering 300 miles (480 km) on one charge. To be honest, that sounds like a very bold claim, but if anyone can do it, Tesla will be the one.
Back to those green credentials again; yes, the car has no emission problems, and does not burn fossil fuels, but it does have batteries that need recharging. Recharging, of course, uses electricity, and most of the electricity in the world is produced by burning fossil fuels. It follows, then, that an increase in the number of electric cars will lead to more fossil fuels being burned to produce the power to charge them up. It’s a vicious circle that nobody has yet come up with a sensible solution to, and it remains the electric car industry’s Holy Grail.
Tesla Model S – Refined and Respected
Despite the shortcomings we have to admire the Tesla Model S for what it is; a bold attempt at getting the future of motoring right. It’s a clever car, a well made and attractive vehicle that offers excellent performance, luxury accommodation and excellent detailing, and it is certainly among the finest vehicles of its type on the road. That’s the good bits, and they are appealing.
The downside is that while Tesla offers more efficient performance than most – if not all – of its rivals can claim it remains an expensive, rich man’s toy. That’s not to take anything away from its very fine credentials, and you could also level that accusation at many other luxury, expensive vehicles, but it is a valid point. Criticism aside, the Tesla Model S undoubtedly achieves what it attempts to do in providing luxury motoring from an electric engine, but is it the future? Not quite, there are many years to go.