THE NEW MODEL D: Tesla owners look at the interior of the new model D after CEO Elon Musk unveiled the automaker's all-wheel-drive version of its Model S electric sedan in Hawthorne, California. Image: AFP/ Kevork Djansezian
LOS ANGELES, California - Battery-car giant Tesla has unveiled a vehicle with two motors and designed to perform in bad weather with all-wheel drive and collision avoidance technology.
Performance in bad weather was considered one of the weak spots of Tesla cars; with the proposed model the company is trying to win buyers in regions lacking the year-round sunshine of its base in California
Founder Elon Musk said the next Model S would have an extra letter - D - for '"dual motor", one up front, the other at the rear. He has shown the D at an event a Los Angeles airport where Tesla has a design studio and engineering laboratory.
Musk said the new car would come in three versions: 60D, 85D and the top-of-the-line P85D... note the progression in motive power.
The car's anti-collision features include forward radar. "It scans the car ahead in fog, snow and sand," Musk said.
The top model will make 250km/h after what Musk described as "insane" acceleration. Deliveries of the P85D will start in early December 2014 in the US, the other models in February 2015, and reach Europe and Asia later in that year.
Battery cars represent only 3.5% of sales in the US but that stake is growing.
Tesla in September 2014 announced it would build in Nevada the world's largest lithium-ion battery factory to reduce costs and boost the popularity of electric vehicles. Tesla will run the plant; Japanese partner Panasonic will make battery cells destined for the plant and invest in equipment and machinery.
While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality. A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value beyond $30-billion.
TWEET SPARKED FRENZY
Tesla's Model S, which came out in 2012, sells for around $75 000 (about R825 000). The company is, however, working on a 4x4 crossover for release om 2015 and a less-expensive Model 3 for around $37 000 (about R407 000)..
Musk created a frenzy of speculation with a tweet earlier in the day. It said: "About time to unveil the D and something else." He did not elaborate.
At Thursday's (Oct 9 2014) evening event he said: "Since I tweeted about the 'D' I've learned a lot, including things I didn't think were physically possible."
He was joking about all the speculation over the letter D.