Tesla has taken more than its fair share of headlines over the past few years. The Californian company has been heralded by the tech and motoring presses for its innovation, stirring up fairly a traditional market and introducing electric cars with a distinct buzz about them.
Some of this has been driven by the excitement of the much talked about “Ludicrous” mode on some Tesla cars, some through the company’s drive to move away from fossil fuels. There’s been a good helping of savvy media handling by CEO Elon Musk, as well as endorsements from many excited customers, as well as the sort of fan enthusiasm usually reserved for brands like Apple.
But what’s does Tesla really offer, what’s coming in the future and how can you you join in the fun? Here’s everything you need to know about Tesla Motors, from the Roadster through to the new Model 3.
What is Tesla Motors?
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers, including CEO Elon Musk (who also happens to be the founder and CEO of SpaceX and co-founder of PayPal).
The company, named after inventor Nikola Tesla, designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars, electric vehicle powertrain components, and battery products. It launched its first car, called Tesla Roadster, in 2008.
What Tesla models are available?
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S is a full-sized, five-door, lift-back electric vehicle introduced in June 2012. It’s available in many different configurations, including multiple performance options as well as both exterior and interior design options.
If you want to buy a new Tesla Model S, Tesla offers the following versions of the electric vehicle as of March 2016:
- Model S 70: 70kWh battery, single-motor, rear-wheel drive (230-mile range, 5.5 seconds 0-60mph, 140mph top speed)
- Model S 70D: 70kWh battery, dual-motor, all-wheel drive (240-mile range, 5.2 seconds 0-60mph, 140mph top speed)
- Model S 90D: 90kWh battery, dual-motor, all-wheel drive (288-mile range, 4.2 seconds 0-60mph, 155mph top speed)
- Model S P90D: 90kWh battery, dual-motor, performance all-wheel drive (270-mile range, 3.1 seconds 0-60mph or 2.8 seconds 0-60mph with Ludicrous Speed upgrade, 155mph top speed)
If you want to buy a pre-owned Tesla Model S, you can find the following versions of the electric vehicle as of March 2016:
- Model S 60: 60kWh battery, single-motor, rear-wheel drive (215-mile range, 5.9 seconds 0-60mph, 120mph top speed)
- Model S 85: 85kWh battery, single-motor, rear-wheel drive (265-mile range, 5.4 seconds 0-60mph, 130mph top speed)
- Model S P85: 85kWh battery, single motor, rear-wheel drive (265-mile range, 4.2 seconds 0-60mph, 130mph top speed)
- Model S P85+: 85kWh battery, single-motor, performance rear-wheel drive (265-mile range, 4.2 seconds 0-60mph, 155mph top speed)
- Model S P85D: 85kWh battery, dual-motor, performance all-wheel drive (249-mile range, 3.2 seconds 0-60mph, 155 mph top speed)
Tesla Model X
The Tesla Model X is a full-size crossover SUV you can reserve from Tesla right now, though the first deliveries of the electric vehicle began arriving for select customers in September 2015. Similar to the Model S, it’s available in many different configurations, including multiple performance options as well as both exterior and interior design options.
If you want to buy a new Tesla Model X, Tesla lets you reserve the following versions of the electric vehicle as of March 2016:
- Model X 70D: 70kWh battery, dual-motor, all-wheel drive (220-mile range, 6.0 seconds 0-60 mph, 140mph top speed)
- Model X 90D: 90kWh battery, dual-motor, all-wheel drive (257-mile range, 4.8 seconds 0-60 mph, 155mph top speed)
- Model X P90D: 90kWh battery, dual-motor, performance all-wheel drive (250-mile range, 3.8 seconds 0-60mph or 3.2 seconds 0-60mph with Ludicrous Speed upgrade, 155mph top speed)
Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 was announced on 31 March 2016, pitched as an affordableelectric car. It has been designed for high volume and low cost, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirming at the launch event that over 115,000 pre-orders for the car have already been placed – that’s before it was revealed.
The Tesla Model 3 will be a 4-door, 5-seater car offering a full-electric powertrain. Not all the details about the car or the options you’ll be able to get have been revealed, but some core specs have been confirmed.
The Tesla Model 3 is going to be aiming for a five star safety rating in all categories, promises a range of 215 miles and will offer a 0-60mph time of under 6 seconds. Musk also confirmed at the launch that there will be faster Model 3 versions available.
Supercharging is included, so if you park at a Tesla Supercharger, you’ll be able to power up the car for free.
The Tesla Model 3 has a minimalist interior, with a central display, looking more like a concept car than anything else currently on the roads, although Musk says that the Model 3 offers more luggage space than any comparable size car currently available. The Model 3 will also come with the Autopilot features as standard.
The Tesla Model 3 will cost $35,000 before incentives and it is aiming for delivery in 2017. There’s no confirmation of international pricing or availability, but you can pre-order the Tesla Model 3 for $1000/£1000 right now.
What happened to the Tesla Roadster?
The Tesla Roadster was a 2-door sports car produced from 2008 to 2012. Tesla only sold about 2,450 Roadsters in over 30 countries, before it announced in 2011 that it was discontinuing the Roadster – including direct sales – to focus on the Model S.
The car was sold with three different electric-motor powertrain options: 1.5 (2.0), 2.5 non-sport, and 2.5 sport. The standard model has a 0 to 60mph acceleration time of 3.9 seconds, while the top speed is electronically limited to 125 mph. It also has a range of 231 miles.
A new Tesla Roadster is coming however, and you’ll have to wait 3 years it. Musk confirmed in 2015 that it’s getting revived. After talking about Tesla’s new speed upgrades during a press conference, which you can read about here, the CEO said: “There is of course one speed faster than Ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: Maximum Plaid.”
The Ludicrous mode and Maximum Plaid references are from the 1987 film Spaceballs (Musk is showing is true inner nerd here). All jokes aside, he later confirmed the upcoming Roadster would be an all-new car. So, expect a fresh Roadster that’ll be just as fast as the P90D.
What is the Tesla Model Y?
The Model 3 was previously called the Model E, as Musk wanted to name Tesla’s three main car models so that they’d spell out “SEX”. Now it’ll be “S3X” – because Ford’s lawyers have reminded Tesla that it owns the Model Etrademark. Party poopers, much?
In October, Musk tweeted that the Model 3 would go into production in 2017. But he also posted a tweet confirming that the company was planning to roll out another vehicle called the Model Y, meaning Tesla’s lineup would eventually spell-out “S3XY”. Musk later deleted that tweet, which effectively drummed up publicity, even though JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO, also teased in June 2014 that a crossover vehicle was coming.
There is not much known about the Model Y. It could have Falcon Wing doors, like the Model X. When Musk tweeted about the Model Y in October, for instance, he said that either the Model 3 or the Model Y would have Falcon doors.
What is Tesla’s Autopilot mode?
If you own a relatively-new Model S or are itching to get a Model X, you’ll be glad to know that after this week both cars are capable of enabling some of the fancy Autopilot features that Tesla first showed off last last year.
When Tesla launched the dual-motor Model S, it unveiled a $2,500 add-on hardware package coming to Tesla vehicles (the Model S and Model X) that would enable Autopilot functionality. The hardware, which is not available as a retrofit meaning you can only get it on new Teslas, works with software updates to deliver a range of safety features.
These features include adaptive cruise control, automatic lane changing as well as lane guidance. These are aimed at helping the driver, rather than replacing the driver: “Our goal with the introduction of this new hardware and software is not to enable driverless cars, which are still years away from becoming a reality.”
How can you buy a Tesla?
You can buy a Tesla car directly from Tesla’s website or a Tesla dealership.
What are Tesla Superchargers?
Supercharger stations are Tesla’s answer to the “range anxiety” problem. The idea is that a Supercharger will charge a Tesla car more quickly than a typical J1772 public charging station, which provides roughly 10 miles of range for every 30 minutes of charging. A standard outlet in a garage can provide 15 miles of range in 30 minutes. As for a Supercharger, it provides 200 miles of range in 30 minutes.
As of March 2016, there are 604 Supercharger stations across the world (with 3,542 Superchargers). Tesla announced in 2015 that Supercharger routes span the entire width of the US, and it claimed that by the end of 2016, 98 per cent of the country’s population would be within 100 miles of a Supercharger. The company also said it would expand the network in Europe and Asia.
Information about how Superchargers work and where they can be found are available on Tesla’s website
Does Tesla make anything else?
Tesla announced a home battery system in 2015 that took the energy-saving scene by storm, and then, in early 2016, the carmaker began to tease a “version two”. Powerwall is basically a home battery designed to be paired with rooftop solar systems. Within a month of debuting, Tesla had received 38,000 pre-orders, with some customers reserving more than one battery.
The original Powerwall is a lithium-ion battery that comes as a single unit or in multiples for those who need more power. It stores excess energy produced from your own solar generation (so that energy not used at the time will be available later) and can store power when electricity from the power grid is at its cheapest rate (off-peak), It’s also able to juice up everything in your house.
From a 0.2kWh fridge to a 2.3kWh washing machine, the 7kWh or 10kWh Powerwalls should be able to keep you running. For those who know their electricity consumption numbers, the Powerwall offers continuous power at 2kW with a peak power output of 3kW. You can read all about the original Powerwall from here, or you can read about the Powerwall 2 from here.
Tesla also sells apparel, charging accessories, and various driving-related goods, including iPhone cases crafted from automotive-grade leather from the interior of its vehicles, which it designs and manufacturers. You can browse through the different collections at its online shop.