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Tesla Model S electric saloon

Is this the future of saloon cars? This is the Tesla Model S sedan, which is electric, has a range of up to 300 miles, and looks fantastic. It has an anticipated base price of $49,900, a 45-minute QuickCharge capability, and Tesla is taking orders now.

The Model S can be recharged from any 120V, 240V or 480V outlet, with the latter taking only 45 minutes. By recharging their car while they stop for a meal, Tesla says that drivers can travel from LA to New York in around the same time as a petrol car.

The Model S has a floor-mounted battery pack which is designed to be taken out in less time than it takes to refuel, allowing for the possibility of battery-pack swap stations.

The floor-mounted powertrain also results in large amounts of storage space, both under the bonnet and in the boot.

With flat folding rear seats, Tesla says the Model S can accommodate a 50-inch television, mountain bike and surfboard simultaneously, although we’re not sure how many people – even Americans – would want to transport that combination.

“The Model S doesn’t compromise on performance, efficiency or utility – it’s truly the only car you need,” said Tesla CEO, Chairman and Product Architect Elon Musk. “Tesla is relentlessly driving down the cost of electric vehicle technology, and this is just the first of many mainstream cars we’re developing.”

Tesla expects to start Model S production in late 2011. The company believes it is close to receiving $350 million in federal loans to build the Model S assembly plant in California from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Programme.

Tesla is the only car manufacturer already selling highway-capable EVs in North America or Europe. With 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, the Roadster outperforms almost all sports cars in its class yet is six times as energy efficient as most petrol sports cars, and delivers 244 miles per charge. Tesla has delivered nearly 300 Roadsters, and nearly 1,000 more customers are on the waiting list.

Teslas do not require routine oil changes, and they have far fewer moving (and breakable) parts than internal combustion engine vehicles. In the US they qualify for federal and state tax credits, rebates, sales tax exemptions, free parking, commuter-lane passes and other perks. The Model S costs roughly $5 to drive 230 miles – a bargain even if petrol was $1 per gallon.

The anticipated base price of the Model S in the US is $49,900 after a federal tax credit of $7,500. The company has not released options pricing. Three battery pack choices will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge.

“The Model S costs half as much as a Roadster, and it’s a better value than much cheaper cars,” Musk said. “The ownership cost of Model S, if you were to lease and then account for the much lower cost of electricity vs. gasoline at a likely future cost of $4 per gallon, is similar to a gasoline car with a sticker price of about $35,000. I’m positive this car will be the preferred choice of savvy consumers.”

The standard Model S does 0-60 mph in under six seconds and will have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph, with sport versions expected to achieve 0-60 mph acceleration in well below five seconds. A single-speed gearbox delivers effortless acceleration. A 17-inch touchscreen with in-car 3G connectivity allows passengers to consult Google Maps or check their state of charge remotely from their iPhone or laptop.

Tesla is taking orders online and at showrooms in California. Tesla will open a store in Chicago this spring and plans to open stores in London, New York, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC and Munich later this year.