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Tesla shows next-gen electric car chassis

Electric car manufacturer Tesla fleshes out the bones of its next-gen vehicle

While other manufacturers presented concept cars that hinted at the design and capabilities of future designs, Tesla took a more straightforward approach at the Auto Show in Detroit.

It’s no secret that the company responsible for the stunning all-electric Roadster is working on a SUV-style vehicle – the Model S. Today, it showed off a skeleton chassis of that car and was frank about its capabilities.

Unlike Ford’s big announcement of the day – the all-electric Focus. The upcoming Tesla is designed purely as an electrically-driven vehicle. A fact that is evident in many parts of its chassis.

The most notable feature of the engineering sample on show was its unusual battery design. It’s a long, slender slab that sits at the base of the car, filling the space between the wheels. This gives the car a very low centre of gravity, which aids in handling. It’s also an essential part of the car’s structure, which Tesla claims will add rigidity and so reduce vibration and make the Model S more resistant in crashes.

Tesla 4

Moving the battery to below the car has other advantages. There’s sizeable front and rear storage spaces, for example – a stark contrast to the Focus’s limited rear boot. In fact the Model S will have twice the storage space of a BMW 5 series.

Tesla 3

Battery sizes will vary, with three different models on offer. These have 160, 230 and 300 mile ranges respectively. Even the bottom model outperforms the Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf, but then it should do, as Tesla has committed itself to a price of $49,500 dollars for the basic model. This makes the Tesla a luxury electric vehicle compared to its rivals.

Having being thrilled by the Roadster in a test drive, we’re very excited to see the Model S moving towards completion. It’s due for launch in the US in mid-2012, and though we’d imagine importing one would make an already expensive car even more costly, it’s encouraging to see the small manufacturer make real innovations in all-electric vehicle design.

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