Palo Alto, CA is a fun, sometimes weird, but always high-tech place. The latest proof: these exclusive images of a 2012 Tesla Model S prototype testing on the street, in closer-to-production form than you've ever seen it--even closer than the Alpha build.

Taken just minutes ago during a test drive of Buick's new eAssist LaCrosse (that's the dash you're seeing in some of the photos), these images show the Model S as it nears more production-ready form.

As you can see from the photos, some of the more dramatic elements of the concept Model S' styling have been toned down, though it retains most of the proportions that made it so attractive.

All of the core details appear to remain in place: the same swooping roof line, glass hatch and roof, the same flared, bulging fenders, and the same basic front and rear-end designs--but with a more production-ready take on the headlights and tail lights, bumpers, door handles, and side mirrors.

In other words, this is the first look at what may be a near-final Tesla Model S exterior--perhaps even the "Beta" that was said to be replacing the Alpha build sometime this year. The production Model S is expected to debut in the middle of next year. It will offer all-electric range of up to 300 miles with a range of available battery packs.