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Tesla Motors has more fully discussed its price goals for WhiteStar, an all-electric passenger sedan coming in late 2009 or 2010. The premium model will cost between $65,000 and $70,000, a company representative said, while the standard model will cost closer to $50,000.
The cars will differ by more than fancy seats. The company has said that the premium version will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 6 seconds and go about 200 miles before needing a charge. The standard version will accelerate from 0 mph to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds. Of course, these performance figures and prices could change before then.
Auto manufacturers and electric car manufacturers, though, will likely closely eye the sales of the more premier model. The 200 mile mark is sort of a magic figure for electric car makers, UC Berkeley Researcher Tim Lipman told us in a separate interview (about hydrogen cars) recently. Consumer surveys indicate that consumers are more willing to buy an electric or hydrogen car when it can go 200 miles. (A year ago, Tesla was mostly talking about a $50,000 sedan; it's unclear when the more expensive model was added.)
Is there a big market for $65,000 cars? Apparently so. Cars that cost $65,000 or more account for about ten percent of cars sold in the U.S. according to Todd Turner of Car Concepts, which conducts market research. 20 percent of U.S. cars cost more than $50,000.
Buyers, though, get a lot of car for that amount of money, Turner added. Companies like BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover dominate the category. Turner says he is a bit skeptical about consumers flocking to electric sedans in this price range just yet.
2007 is shaping up to be a big year for electric cars. Think Nordic, a Norwegian company, is coming out with an electric town car in Europe this summer. The car will cost $17,000 but consumers will have to lease the battery for an additional fee. Pheonix Motorcars will begin to deliver all-electric SUVs to municipalities. Tesla will also start shipping its sports car, the Tesla Roadster, to consumers toward the end of the year. It costs $92,000 and a few hundred people have put down deposits already.