Tesla unveils new electric car for bad weather
LOS ANGELES - Agence France-Presse
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. AFP PhotoElectric car giant Tesla on Oct. 9 unveiled a new two-engine vehicle designed to perform in bad weather, featuring four-wheel drive and anti-collision technology.
Performance in inclement conditions was considered one of the weak spots of Tesla's existing models and with the new car, the company is trying to win over drivers in regions where the weather is not the nearly year-round sunshine that its California base enjoys.
Founder Elon Musk said the new version of the Model S will feature the letter D for dual motor, one of which will be in the front and one in the back of the vehicle.
Musk unveiled the new car at an event at Hawthorne airport in Los Angeles where Tesla has a design studio and engineering lab.
Musk said the new car will come in three versions: 60D, 85D and the top of the line P85D, with progressively higher engine power and speed.
The car's anti-collision features include forward-looking radar. "It scans the car in front of you in the fog, snow and sand," Musk said.
The car can also read speed-limit signs and adjust the car's speed to comply.
The top of the line model will be able to reach 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour, with acceleration that Musk described as "insane". It can go from zero to 60 mph (100 km) in 3.2 seconds, he said.
That top-line new version will increase range by about 16 km over the current version, to about 470 km. The price will start at about $120,000.
Musk said having two engines will not slow the car down.
"You can dynamically shift the power from rear to front and constantly be at the optimal efficiency of both motors, so we actually overcome the penalty of the increased mass," Musk said.
The P85D will be delivered in North America beginning in December, while the 60D and 85D will be delivered starting in February. Deliveries in Europe and Asia will come in the months to follow, Tesla said.
Electric cars represent only 3.5% of sales in the US but that stake is growing.
Tesla last month announced plans to build the world's largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada, as part of an effort to bring down costs and boost popularity of electric vehicles.
Tesla will run operations while its Japanese partner Panasonic will make battery cells destined for the plant and invest in equipment and machinery.
Panasonic and Tesla said the plant should drive down the cost of batteries and eventually help popularize electric vehicles.
While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality.
A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion.
Tesla's Model S, which came out in 2012, sells for around $75,000.
The company is working on a 4x4 crossover model that is supposed to come out next year. It is also working on a less expensive Model 3 that is expected to cost between $35,000 and $40,000.
Musk had created a frenzy of speculation with a tweet earlier in the day, which read: "about time to unveil the D and something else." He did not elaborate.
At Thursday's evening event he said, "since I've tweeted about the D I've learnt a lot including things I didn't think were physically possible."
He was joking about all the speculation as to what the D could mean.