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Tesla To Announce "Affordable" Electric Sedan

Tomorrow, California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger will take the podium to announce Tesla Motors' new family-oriented electric vehicle, as part of a partnership between Tesla and the State of California. The car will be produced in Tesla's new factory in California, thanks in part to a $9 million incentive package, and its 2010 release date will closely rival the delivery timeline of the other much-anticipated electric vehicle coming to the market: GM's [NYSE:GM] Chevrolet Volt. Both cars are aiming at the eco-friendly family market; both the Volt and the yet-unnamed new Tesla will be 4-door, 5-passenger models. Chevy's price point is the more ambitious of the two; while Tesla claims their sedan won't break $60,000, Chevy has promised the Volt for around $40,000. The Tesla, however, will boast a 225-mile driving radius off of one charge, compared to the Volt's measly 40 miles per charge. Part of the Volt's value will be a small gas engine incorporated into the car's drivetrain, not to drive the wheels, but to act as a generator when juice is running low. Tesla's version will be completely electric.

While both cars will offer attractive specs, the success of each may hinge on which vehicle makes it to market first. Like the Toyota Prius before it, the firstborn electric car will have seminal appeal to eco-conscious consumers, who will doubtless be on waiting lists for the vehicles months in advance. For Chevy to capitalize on the phenomenon, they'll have to stick to their 2010 timeline and hope that Tesla runs into snags.

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  • Tony Ripley

    This is exciting at the innovation level, but somewhat disappointing at a practical level. These electrics cars will help to keep discussion up about alternative sources of energy, though I imagine they will also fuel debate about cost. I think everyone has forgotten that people’s incomes are a limited resource too. How many years do I have to drive a new $40k electric car before I start really saving money if I have a paid for car that gets 20 miles to the gallon right now?
    Granted, there is always the cost of first to market and usually there are sufficient numbers of consumers eager to be first adopters to help get economies of scale to start kicking in, but I would suggest more effort be directed to initiatives that would help people not have to drive as often. Yep, good old mass transit options.
    What if the state of California partnered with Tesla to build electric shuttle busses for cities and large towns? Even if the cost per vehicle were 3-4 times greater the cost per individual would be a lot less. Additionally, instead of getting just 1 car off gasoline per sale, they could get multiple cars of the road altogether per shuttle brought into service.
    Just a thought. If California really wanted to make a significant statement I would have liked to have seen them do something that would positively impact a lot more people than only those who have the $60k price of admission.