Never heard of Tesla? Our quick guide tells you what you need to know.

Tesla the company

Tesla Motors is a Silicon-valley company founded specifically to create desirable electric cars.

  • Founded 2003, first product launched 2006, first deliveries 2008.
  • Public company, quoted on the NASDAQ. IPO in 2010.
  • Now manufactures all its cars at a factory in Fremont, California (early models had bodies assembled on a subcontract basis by Lotus in the UK).
  • Sells direct to the end customer through online ordering supported by company-owned ‘stores’ and service centres – does not use conventional dealerships.
  • Only makes electric cars – has never made a model powered by anything other than electricity.
  • Does not advertise – has achieved exposure through PR buzz created by their unique products, and social media following.
  • Sells in most major markets – USA, Canada, EU (including RHD models for the UK), Japan, China, Australia.
  • Has installed its own charging infrastructure – Superchargers – in all the parts of the world where it operates.

The cars

Tesla Roadster

  • 2-seater sports car with a 0-60mph time of sub 4 seconds.
  • In production 2008-2011, approx 2500 built.
  • Range 245 miles  (as measured in the old EPA 2-cycle test).
  • Retrofit upgrade option – Roadster 3.0 – announced in 2014 (but not yet available) offering improved battery and other modifications to boost range by 40-50%.

Tesla Model S

  • Large 5-door sports saloon car seating up to 5 adults (plus 2 children in optional folding third row seats).
  • First deliveries in the USA 2012, spreading to Europe in 2013 and other markets 2014.  Over 100,000 built by mid-2015.
  • Range of 85kWh model: 265 miles (as measured in the stricter EPA 5-cycle test).  302 miles range (as measured by the NEDC test), about 30% greater than Roadster tested like-for-like.
  • Originally launched with a $50,000 base model, although the base model was never produced and early customers ordering that model received a special deal.
  • Range of powertrain options with different performance levels – exact line-up has changed over time.
  • Frequent design improvements introduced throughout production, but major new features announced in mid-2014: ‘Autopilot’ driver aids and ‘D’ models with dual motor all-wheel drive.
  • Winner of numerous awards – notably Motor Trend car of the year and Consumer Reports best car 2014, 2015.
  • Enormous touch-screen display (far bigger than any other car) replaces all minor switchgear.
  • Many ‘connected’ features, including remote control from mobile phone app.
  • All-aluminium body (for lighter weight) and auto-retracting door handles for better aerodynamics.

Tesla Model X

  • Larger, ‘crossover-SUV’ bodystyle built on Model S mechanicals.
  • First deliveries expected mid 2015.
  • All variants will be all-wheel-drive, with two motors.

Tesla Model 3

  • Due in 2017
  • No concrete details have yet been officially confirmed although the project has long been featured in published corporate plans.
  • 20% smaller than a Model S – has been described as similar in size to a BMW 3-series.
  • USA pricing of base model claimed to be $35,000 (in numerous press interviews).

Want to read more?

For more background on Tesla’s philosophy and why Tesla drivers like their cars so much, read our longer article: Tesla: what and why?.

Alternatively, if you are ready to think about ordering, see: Quick Guide 2 – Thinking of ordering a Tesla?.

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