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When Dave met Elon...and his Tesla Model S

When's the last time a car was on the Letterman show? Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk commits to a "low-cost" electric car and shows off the prototype Model S sedan.

Tesla Motors' Elon Musk has a friend in David Letterman.

Musk, the CEO and product architect of electric car maker Tesla Motors, was a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman" Wednesday night. Also making an appearance on the set was the prototype Model S electric sedan, which made its first trip to New York this week.

But even though Musk and the Model S were the main event (well, after actress Jennifer Garner), Letterman did most of the talking. Actually, "complaining" might be a better word.

David Letterman finds a sympathetic ear with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. Screenshot by Martin LaMonica/CNET

Letterman is frustrated, downright irritated, that electric motors, which have been around for 100 years, are still considered cutting-edge technology. The Chevy Volt's 40-mile range is "crap," good enough to get the paper at the end of the driveway, he joked.

"If (auto companies) were actually working on technolgies that were actually in showrooms, they wouldn't need to be closing down plants and filing bankruptcies," Letterman griped.

As for the electric Tesla Roadster sports car, Letterman called it "bulletproof" and said it drives like a "bat out of hell." He admitted, though, that the first time he charged the car he was nervous it would burn down his house and "magnetize his nuts."

Musk did manage to get a few words in. He reiterated that the company's long-term plan has always been to build a mass-market car. "Anyone who does buy the Roadster is helping pay for the development of low-cost cars to follow," he said.

The reason Musk is pouring his energy and much of his personal wealth into Tesla is to spur the electric car revolution. "I thought that the existing car companies would do it," he said.

Both Musk and Letterman took digs at General Motors and its decision to cancel its EV1 electric cars, which were crushed when the program was canceled despite loyal customers. "With the benefit of hindsight, I think that (GM) should have built an EV2 rather than crushing them," Musk said.

After a commercial break, a curtain lifted and the Model S electric sedan rolled out, welcomed by oohs and ahs from the studio audience. Tesla will open a showroom later this year in New York.

While Letterman opened the door and poked about, Musk tried to make an "important point" about the Model S, which he said will be ready in "a couple of years."

But we may never know what Musk had to say. Letterman grabbed the steering wheel and started yelling "I'm being electrocuted!"

"Late Show with David Letterman" airs on CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.