The mother of all horse races is underway, and from our humble vantage point, the race is already won before it’s officially begun. Sure, there are a lot of entrants into this field vying to win the title of EV (electric vehicle) clean transportation champ, but our money is on the Tesla S because of its ability to rock leading technology for the Tesla power plant (posting 0-60 times as good as any gas-powered BMW or Mercedes) and to think outside the box in designing its luxurious cabin which can seat seven with cavernous storage in the boot.
Right up front, first-things-first, our prejudices out of the way: We love big, fast, luxury sedans. Quattroporte. Panamera. Mulsanne. We’re not as concerned about anthropogenic global warming and carbon footprint as we are about the radar-assisted distance control in our Audi A8L, or the carbon fiber trim in its interior. As devoted free marketers, we believe in the consumer’s right to chose, and if our readers desire an all-wheel-drive Porsche Panamera with twin turbos to get it down the road all that faster, then so be it. Likewise, if our readership wants the best automotive technology Silicon Valley has to offer, with earth-friendly composite materials for their car’s interior, who are we to snicker from the sidelines?
2012 is the chronological line in the sand when many manufacturers are pegging as their deadline to rollout their EV lines for general consumption. The field includes or will include: Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, Honda EV, Fiat 500 EV, Toyota Rav4 EV, Audi E-Tron, and our two luxury faves: the Fisker Karma and the Tesla S.
The titular personalities for Tesla and Fisker are two imposing figures who have suffered the slings and arrows that being an entrepreneur in the rough-n-tumble world of the auto industry brings. Henrik Fisker is a car designer’s designer. He was the principal designer for luxury stalwarts the Aston Martin DB9, Vantage and BMW’s Z8. No doubt the strength of the Fisker Karma is its design. The car is gorgeous, and does have an electric motor. However, the range is a mere 50 miles, and then an anemic gas motor kicks in to help generate electricity and power the Karma for another 200 miles. Karma is a start, but not quite a purist in the eco-chic luxury car market. Besides, it’s also assembled in Finland (granted, it is at the plant that puts together the Porsche Boxster).
Then there is Elon Musk, CEO Tesla and CEO SpaceX. He is an engineer’s engineer, who has been successful with startups Zip2 and PayPal and launching men into space commercially. Dude is wicked smart, as they say in Boston. The strength of Tesla would have to be its technology, so much so, that both Toyota and Diamler have invested a combined $100 million into Tesla (and Panasonic with another $25 million). But, Elon Musk is also the embodiment of that technology, and on his personal investment of almost $100 million into the company, Tesla has been able to win-over critics and skeptics alike since first introducing the Tesla Roadster.
Beyond belief, Musk was in fact able to work out a deal with GM and Toyota to purchase their recently shuttered joint-assembly plant in Northern California (valued at $1 billion) for a paltry $48 million. To-date, Tesla has raised via IPO, government loan, and private capital about $980 million to help launch the second phase of Tesla cars, the Tesla S.
This car is very much in line with BMW and the Mercedes and their luxury offerings, but about $20k cheaper. Tesla S has a price-point at about $49k, and with an EV tax rebate, pegs the car at $42k. Not bad for a luxury sedan that seats five very comfortably, with 0-60 times in the 5-second range. But, how about the distance the Tesla S will go per charge? The entry ‘S,’ with its array of thousands of small batteries, will go 160 miles on a single charge, all the way up to 300 miles for the high-end model. These distances are remarkably longer (2x – 3x) than any other competitors, luxury or not.
Whilst we like that both Fisker and Tesla are designed here in California, and each exude a California laid-back vibe, a final reason we are placing our bet on Tesla and their S sedan is because of their OEM commitment to California. Much of the OEM of the car’s component parts will take place on the plant site, and all of their cars will be assembled there as well. This is a clean tech company that, along with its executives, is betting a billion dollars that Silicon Valley can build sports, luxury, and urbran transpo cars as good as anything out of Detroit or Germany. We’re betting a single dollar that the Tesla S will come out on top. We’ll all know next summer.