Tesla Motors to begin Model S electric car production in 2011

The United States Department of Energy announced Tuesday the recipients of the first phase of its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program totaling $8 billion. This program is intended to foster development of advanced, fuel efficient vehicles and has been allotted a total of $25 billion to be apportioned among various manufacturers with achievable and promising business models. The recipients of this phase include Ford Motor Company with $5.9 billion, Nissan North America at $1.6 billion and California based startup company Tesla Motors, with $465 million.

Tesla plans to apply $365 million of the loan proceeds to construct a plant for mass production of its Model S sports sedan, which it unveiled earlier this year. It expects to complete the factory by 2011, and to be manufacturing as many as 20,000 cars annually by 2013. While the sticker price is quite steep at $49,900 after the $7,500 tax credit, Tesla says that taking maintenance, fuel and sales tax savings into account (there are no sales taxes on electric vehicles), the overall cost is roughly comparable to that of a conventional, gas guzzling vehicle with a $35,000 sticker price. Still beyond what most Americans can afford, but that's always the case when new technologically advanced products first appear in the marketplace. Remember when flat panel televisions cost $20,000 just a few years ago?

Furthermore, the Model S is no ugly duckling or slouch on the road, as many believe all-electrics are. This sleekly styled, richly appointed automobile can zoom from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, has a top speed of 120 mph, seats five adults and two children with rear-facing pull down seats, and holds more luggage than a conventional sedan because of the placement of its battery pack and the relatively small size of the motor, with no need for bulky transmissions or exhaust systems. And of course, there is no annoying engine noise.

With the other $100 million of the loan package Tesla will build a second plant, this for the manufacture of battery packs and electric drive trains for other car manufacturers. When completed, both factories will provide a total of 1650 new green jobs.

German luxury carmaker Daimler AG announced in May that it planned to acquire a 10% interest in Tesla Motors so as to take advantage of its technology for use in its Smart Car and Mercedes Benz lines. This should provide additional credibility and confidence in Tesla Motors.

The Tesla Motors website is updated continuously and contains a wealth of information, photos, and videos on its two electric cars, the Model S and the sports Roadster, including test drive reviews. I highly recommend it. This company could be what America needs to get back on top of the automobile business. Detroit is simply too stodgy and set in its ways to compete with Japanese, German and other foreign companies, I'm afraid.

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