2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.
Well, after years of giving electric car hopes and dreams, the Tesla Roadster is winding down toward an end. According to paperwork filed with the SEC, Tesla plans to stop Roadster production in December.
Instead of a sexy, Lotus-based convertible, Tesla will be transitioning to more practical cars. The Model S sedan will debut next year and Tesla has a crossover planned for a 2014 launch. Called Model X, the crossover will make a debut later this year (LA Auto Show?) as a concept.
No word on exactly what engine and battery pack will power the crossover, but Tesla did indicate that it will be based (not surprisingly) on the same technology as the Roadster and Model S. The Roadster uses a 215 kW AC motor and lithium-ion battery to deliver numbers such as its 3.7-second 0-to-60 mph time and claimed 245-mile range. The Model S will come in three different lithium-ion options, each separated by $10,000 and 70 miles of range--from 160 to 300 miles.
In January, Tesla began testing on an Alpha prototype of the Model S and plans to test a Beta version before beginning production. The sedan will arrive at dealers toward the middle of next year with a post-tax-break base sticker of $49,900.
While little is known about Tesla's crossover, the SEC filings say that it will "incorporate the functionality of a minivan with the consumer appeal of a sports-utility vehicle"--whatever the heck that means (I thought sports-utility vehicles provided the functionality of minivans with the appeal of sports-utility vehicles. Isn't that what the late 90s/early 2000s were all about?). Model X will be based on Model S architecture, and past rumors have pointed to a newly developed all-wheel drive system.
The Model S platform will support several other models including a van and a convertible.
While the move to less expensive, more practical everyday cars will undoubtedly help Tesla to sell more vehicles--it's planning to work production up to around 20,000 models per year for the Model S alone, it will leave the electric sports car market in dire straights. Depending on how you want to classify the Roadster's super-quick acceleration but low, 125-mph top speed, it's either the only real electric supercar or the only real attractive electric sports car.
Either way, it will leave a hole in the market that won't get filled until we start seeing cars like the 2013 Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell, Jaguar C-X75, Audi R8 e-tron, Porsche 918 Spyder and 2012 Li-Ion Inizio (if you call that attractive). And with the exception of the Inizio, those won't be anywhere near the same league in terms of price.