F you had watched a certain episode of the National Geographic series Megafactories, it offers some insight into one man’s ambitious dream to propel humanity away from fossil fuels into an electric future. That man: Elon Musk. That dream: Tesla Motors.
To Musk, hybrids are nothing more than a stop- gap measure. In the mind of the serial entrepreneur, the only way to hasten the arrival of the electric era is to dump legacy baggage, make a clean break from yesterday’s technology and start from scratch.
That takes guts. And lots of money. Musk has both.
The result was the Model S in 2012, the first all- new electric car from Tesla. Before this, it had produced an electric roadster but that was based on an existing car – the Lotus Elise.
Although Musk was one of several co- founders of the electric car maker, the Tesla CEO has emerged as the charismatic and very public face of Tesla.
Against these backdrop, the Model S arrived at CarSifu’s doorsteps recently, ready to be probed and prodded.
It came courtesy of Greentech Malaysia, a government agency that has been promoting green technology and sustainable mobility through electric cars, among others, as an alternative.
Greentech had shipped in two such cars through Tesla Hong Kong late last year. Both had identical specs having an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and 85kWh lithium- ion battery. Tesla now only sells Model S with batteries in 70 and 90kWh capacities and there’s every likelihood a 100kWh battery could show up soon. The 85kWh battery, which can lasts up to 426km, was recently dropped in favour of the 90kWh for better range and performance. At present, the variant with the longest range is the dual- motored 90D with 460km.
The Model S is a big car, about the size of a Porsche Panamera and looks every inch a luxury sports coupe with a long body and soft curves to please the eye. It’s the best looking electric car we have seen locally so far and is certainly desirable on styling alone. Others like Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi iMiEV look conventional, cutesy, or small and are mainly designed as city cars with limited range.
As for Greentech, using this Tesla as the poster child is an easier play to gain support – and tax breaks – for electric mobility from decision makers and influencers in government. Sex appeal works.
The Model S is the first electric car that aims to match or outdo internal combustion engined ( ICE) cars in range and performance. Tesla’s goal, after all, is to make its cars so compelling that people would be willing to switch over.
The 7,000+- cell battery pack is laid on the floor and because the compact electric motor drives the rear wheels, there’s only a single- speed transmission to grapple with. The absence of an engine also frees up more storage space under the bonnet if the rear one isn’t enough.
To maximise range, the car is made of mostly lightweight aluminium. It also has far fewer components than an ICE car. The body is moulded to be aerodynamic; even door handles retract when the car is on the move to minimise drag.
The car was specified with two non- foldable rear executive seats with a fixed centre armrest. This option is no longer available. You could order the Tesla online and specify it with extras like you order a laptop. One of the options is the ability to turn the standard 5- seater into a 7- seater with two rearward facing child seats in the boot zone. ( Or get the Ludicrous package for the P 90D that shaves off sprint times for an even more impressive turn of speed.)
Apart from four seats and a flat floor, the interior is very unlike an ICE car. Facing the driver is a clean a b p m f s w
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Warning of object in front of car. Always watch the range status shown as green bar ( lower left) to ensure you are not stranded. Charging port. Cables are provided.
Rear seats with fixed headrests are deep seated and lack thigh support but floor is flat as there’s no transmission tunnel.
Driving made easy. Flip the gear stalk down to D, ala MercedesBenz, press the accelerator and go.
The key fob shaped like a car.