CEO Elon Musk characterized the arrival of the Model S, a month earlier than previously expected, as a continuation of the company's plan to reduce oil dependence and to transform the company into a mass-production automaker.
Musk's other company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Tuesday successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon spacecraft into orbit to rendezvous with the International Space Station, a first for a commercial company.
Tesla Motors currently has more than 10,000 reservations for the Model S. The company plans to deliver its cars to reservation holders first, some of whom have been waiting for more than three years.
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The Model S matters because it's one of the first mass-market electric vehicles (EVs) that's viable for family transportation. As such, it can serve a wide variety of transportation needs and is thus more likely to obviate the need to also own a gas-powered car than the company's Roadster sports car.
Other automakers like Nissan and Ford are selling all-electric cars to the family market segment, but Tesla is something of a Silicon Valley darling because it's as much a technology company as an automaker. Part of Tesla's allure is also that it's a new American manufacturing company at a time when so much manufacturing has moved abroad.
The Model S is a luxury vehicle and is priced accordingly. It starts at $49,900 with a 40-kWh battery, $59,900 for a 60-kWh battery, and $69,900 for an 85-kWh battery. It can seat five adults and, with optional rear-facing seating, two children. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 4.4 seconds.
The Model S includes a 17" in-dash touchscreen that can connect to the Internet for streaming, Web browsing, and navigation.
The 85-kWh Model S is expected to have a range of between 250 and 350 miles during highway driving at speeds of 50-70 mph, significantly better than the Tesla Roadster. The company claims the Model S has the longest range of any electric car in the world.
"The Model S sets a new benchmark as a high-performance premium sedan that is fun to drive and goes further than ever thought possible with an electric car," said Musk and CTO JB Straubel in a blog post earlier this month. "We are looking forward to rolling out Model S to our customers this quarter and are always interested to hear back from you about your EV experience."
At this year's InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they're rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.