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Electric cars

Tesla Motors to release high-performance electric car

Thursday, July 20, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: electric cars, Tesla Motors, electric vehicles

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(NewsTarget) Martin Eberhard has started what is likely to be Silicon Valley's first real automotive company: Tesla Motors. Spearheading the company's foray into the competitive market, is a 130-mph, electric powered supercar.

Electric cars have a reputation for lacking in power and looking as if they were designed by people who didn't think the vehicles should actually be driven, says Eberhard. But when the man who designed the handheld digital book reader -- Rocket eBook -- decided he wanted an electric-powered sportscar, he discovered he would have to build one himself.

The closest thing to what Eberhard was looking for was GM's EV1, a vehicle that had failed to launch due to prohibitive pricing, insufficient marketing, and the big turnoff: lead-acid batteries (and later nickel metal hydride cells) that could barely get the car 130 miles per charge.

Over a three-year period, Eberhard managed to recruit the financial assistance of ex-eBay chief Jeff Skoll, PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin. After commissioning a design and pilfering more than a few employees from GM-owned British automaker Lotus, Eberhard finally managed to ready Tesla Motors' sporty Roadster, codenamed "Dark Star," for mass production.

Tesla customers will be treated to an incredibly silent, sleek car that is powered by 6,831 rechargeable lithium-ion laptop batteries, and able to go from 0 to 60 mph in about four seconds. It can run for about 250 miles without a charge at a MPG cost of roughly 1 or 2 cents a mile. It is also a steal at $80,000 when compared to such contemporaries as Ferrari's Enzo or Begatti's Veyron.

Named for famed 19th century AC induction motor inventor Nikola Tesla, the Tesla Roadster engine has no moving parts save a copper-and-steel rotor that spins through the force of a magnetic field. It has three gears -- two forward, one reverse -- and takes roughly three and a half hours to recharge.

Tesla Motors will roll out a "White Star" family sedan by 2008, although its size, weight and lack of aerodynamic lines will reduce its range. Eberhard plans to ride the coattails of the computer giants that are continuously trying to make smaller batteries with bigger power. He is hopeful that by the time his car is released, battery technology will have evolved enough to power his sedan into millions of American driveways.

"We're going to ride that technology curve all the way home," he said.


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