It has been a long journey, but it looks like the Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan is one step closer to series production as the California-based automaker announced it is moving on to the final road tests. The first phase called Alpha, which began in 2010, includes both computer simulations and test-drives of prototype vehicles. There will be a Beta phase as well.
“The first Alpha is amazingly agile for a car of its size. It has great handling balance and poised ride with communicative steering. Just goes to show what combining a low center of gravity with a very stiff body structure can achieve”, said test drive Graham Sutherland.
According to Tesla, Alpha cars will be tested in the coming months in all sorts of climatic conditions, which should help engineers improve the EV’s driving dynamics.
Tesla’s second model after the Roadster offers seating for five adults and two children. The Model-S' drivetrain consists of an electric motor coupled to a single-speed transmission and a floor-mounted lithium-ion battery pack. Customers will be able to specify their cars with one of three available battery packs offering a driving range of up to 160, 230 or 300 miles (258, 370 or 483 kilometers).
Roughly the same size as a BMW 5-Series, the Model S sprints to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 5.6 seconds and can reach a top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h). Production is set to begin in 2012 and Tesla is currently taking orders, with the base price set at US$49,000, including a US$7,500 Federal tax credit.