By Jerry Hirsch Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Tesla Motors Inc. said it will begin delivering its first mass production electric car — the high-end Model S — to customers starting June 22, about a month ahead of the expected schedule.
The Palo Alto, Calif.,-based company says it has more than 10,000 orders for the battery-powered car but that not all will be delivered this year.
The announcement of early deliveries by the company co-founded by tech industrialist and chief executive Elon Musk came on the same day that SpaceX, another Musk company, became the first private business to launch a spacecraft to the International Space Station. The mission is the first test of NASA’s plans to outsource space missions to privately funded companies.
Tesla announced the Model S news in a company blog post in which it also explained that the vehicle will offer a high degree of personalization to individual driving habits.
For example, electric vehicles such as the Model S as well as hybrid cars come with what is known as regenerative braking systems, which feeds braking energy back into the battery to preserve the vehicle’s charge. Some drivers complain that such systems can be abrupt, slowing a vehicle with a feel that’s similar to a sudden down shift in a car with a manual transmission.
Tesla said Model S drivers will be able to adjust the braking feel, but warned that a lighter touch to the brakes will feed less energy back to the battery and reduce the electric car’s range.
Similarly, Tesla said the Model S will let drivers to adjust steering feel between comfort, standard and sport modes. They will also be able to set a preference for suspension and ride height. A car that’s lower to the ground will produce less drag and feel more firmly planted, but wouldn’t be great for zipping across a rough road or through a parking lot with speed bumps
The sedan offers seating for five adults and, in some configurations, room for an extra two children’s seats. It also is to have some speed, with an anticipated zero-to-60-mph acceleration of less than six seconds.
The price of the Model S ranges from $49,900 to $97,900, depending on its mileage range and options and after a federal $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. Early sales will be of the most expensive model.
Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, forecast that Tesla will sell close to 3,000 cars this year, 16,000 next year and 19,000 the following year.
That would make Tesla the first U.S. auto start-up in many decades to launch volume production, though it would still be a tiny fraction of the approximately 14 million autos expected to be sold annually nationally for the next several years.
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