For devotees of alternative-energy vehicles, Tesla Motors is already a household name. The company manufactures the world's only high-performance battery-powered roadster, a hot little number capable of zipping from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and covering up to 220 miles on a single charge. Whether any Tesla Roadsters have actually been delivered is up for debate, but they have opened a dealership in Los Angeles. Wherever the sales figures stand, the company is already planning a second, more practical, more affordable vehicle.
Codenamed Whitestar, Tesla's family-sized four-door electric sedan is slated to debut sometime in 2010. Details are few, but plans to build the Whitestar in New Mexico have been scrapped as Tesla has instead chosen a location close to its San Carlos, California, headquarters. Early estimates for sedan pricing start in the $60,000 range, while the company notes that lessons learned in the vehicle's production and development will help reduce prices on future models.
"Make no mistake," said Ze've Drori, President and CEO of Tesla Motors, "we are not a niche player with a car only for the rich and famous. As our agreement with the state of California so clearly demonstrates, we are building a high-volume Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV), manufactured in California for mid-range family use. And we aren't going to stop there. We will continue on and build even more affordable cars."
Somewhat slowing the Whitestar's launch is an ongoing legal battle with rival Fisker Motors. Tesla hired Henry Fisker to help design their new four-door, only to see Fisker start up his own electric car company and show a production four-door electric vehicle at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. Tesla is suing Fisker, claiming he stole company secrets and retained the best looking design studies for his own car. Fisker has since filed a counter suit denying the allegations and asking that Tesla's suit be thrown out. Stay tuned.