Tesla Motors and the robots that build the Model S (pictures)

During a test drive event today to show off the new Model S rolling off the production line, CNET gets a look into the future of electric cars.

James Martin
1 of 19 James Martin/CNET

Inside Tesla's Model S factory

In a sprawling Fremont, Calif., warehouse -- once an old, dark industrial car factory, there's a new spark of innovation. The wide open space is clean and glistening with white floors and flooded in bright light.

Starting this week, Telsa Motors is rolling its first production vehicles off the line, and the Model S is impressive. It's sporty, fast and sleek. Is this the next generation of electric cars? CNET toured the factory floor. Come take a look at Tesla Motor from the inside.
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Tesla Motors

Tesla says its Model S is the world's first electric car engineered from the ground up.

The company says it's rethought every aspect of what a car is, and every aspect of the production cycle. The result is that everything in the factory was developed in-house.

The first 1,000 cars off the line this month will be the North American Model S Signature Series. Those vehicles will have an 85 kWh battery pack, unique badging, and an extensive complement of options, Tesla says.

By the end of 2012, Tesla plans to produce about 5,000 Model S sedans before ramping up to 20,000 units per year. After the Signature Series, deliveries in North America will continue with 85 kWh cars, followed by the 60 kWh, and 40 kWh battery pack options.

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Scaleable systems

Tesla is currently building one car a day, but by the end of the year, its goal is to be moving 80 vehicles a day off the production line.
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CEO Elon Musk

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to clients at Tesla's factory in Fremont, Calif.
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Musk's own Model S

CEO Elon Musk's own Model S is parked at the Tesla factory Friday during an open house and test drive event.
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Five-door sedan

Tesla says the five-door sedan competes with the top cars in its class in spaciousness, handling, and style, and produces zero emissions. Tesla has already taken over 10,000 reservations worldwide for Model S.
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Brake tech

A technician works on assembling the braking system on a Model S Friday at the Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, Calif.
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Right side panels

Right side panels for the Model S wait to be assembled on the factory floor.
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Roof mounting

A robotic arm moves into position to mount a roof piece onto a Model S on the factory floor Friday. The mechanism photographs the vehicle to accurately determine its position before performing work.
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Frame inspection

A technician inspects an assembled frame of a Model S on the factory floor.
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An unsusal car facility

Compared to other car-making facilities, the Tesla factory is bright and shiny, well-lit, spacious and clean. There's plenty of space and, most notably, its strangely quiet.
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Assembly carts

The "assembly line" at Tesla isn't an assembly line in the traditional sense. Tesla moves Model S vehicles throughout the assembly process using automated guided carts they call SmartCarts, which are mobile electric vehicles that follow magnetic tape on the floor. The SmartCarts contribute to an extremely flexible, agile, and modern factory architecture.
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Seat fitting

A robotic arm lifts and fits seats into a Model S under production.
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Robots at work

Many robots in typical automotive factories perform one task (or maybe two). Robots in the Tesla's body shop can perform up to five different tasks, increasing efficiency and flexibility.
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Wheel assembly

The wheel assembly station at the Tesla Motors factory.
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120v or 240v outlet to charge

The Model S can plug into any conventional 120v or 240v outlet to charge, and can be charged for 50 percent battery capacity in 30 minutes with a Tesla Supercharger.

Model S is offered with three battery pack options: 40 kWh, 60 kWh and 85 kWh. It has the longest range of any electric vehicle currently in production. The 85 kWh battery achieves 265 miles of electric vehicle range using the 5-cycle EPA test procedure.
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Factory floor

Inside Tesla on the factory floor.
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Training workers

Employees work on a test vehicle as Tesla trains workers in preparation for ramping up production later this year.
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Elon Musk's Model S

CEO Elon Musk's personal Model S sits on the factory floor during the open house and test drive event.

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