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Ok so the title might be getting a little ahead of itself, sure it hasn’t done it yet and it also won’t do it alone but I think it’s safe to say that the Tesla Model S was the real turning point that began the death of the combustion engine. Today I want to talk to you about how the Tesla Model S came to be and what it meant for the car world at its release. So site back, grab a coffee and recharge while we discuss this fine motor.
Not in the mood to read? That’s ok, I made a video for you
How it all started
Tesla started out basically the same year that the GM EV1 project was scrapped and it wasn’t started by Elon Musk at all as some people might have thought, he invested and became CEO shortly after the companies inception, which was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003. In early 2004, Elon Musk led the companies Series A investment round of $6.5 million and became Chairman of the Board. It wasn’t until 2008 when the company was faced with the Great Recession that he took the reigns as CEO, something he wasn’t willing to do beforehand as he wanted to focus on SpaceX.
Tesla had shown their capabilities in 2008 by making the original Tesla Roadster, which was a heavily modified Lotus with batteries and electric motors. This car was never going to be a mass production car, very few cars of its category are, they are too impractical and expensive. It did however do two things for Tesla, it put the company in the public spotlight as a forward thinking and quality brand (to most with the obvious exception a certain Top Gear presenter), more importantly it helped the fledgling company earn the money it would need to get working on the next vision of Mr. Musk, a luxury car.
In 2008, Franz von Holzhausen left Mazda and began working as the Chief Designer for Tesla, which would turn out to be a long and healthy relationship as he has since designed all other Tesla Models. Thus began work on the Model S, which would be Musk’s first product in the race towards making a truly mass production electric car and the company had began focusing on an expensive sports car, so the next logical step was to create a high end Luxury electric car.The Model S was announced to the press on June 30th 2008, and at the time the reporting around the car was that the company would be releasing a hybrid extended range version but in September of the same year Elon Musk put that to rest at the GoingGreen conference when he stated that all Tesla models would only be sold as full electric vehicles.
The Model S was unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009 but the car would not reach customers until 2012 as the company had various issues with production beginning with selecting a plant, originally the company was going to produce the car in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a central hub for shipping. These plans fell through and in 2010 they instead began work on the now main Fremont California factory. After this it would be another two years of working out kinks in production before the car would eventually reach the public.
The Car Itself
The design of the car changed a little from that initial prototype and became a more traditional looking sedan, although the fact it looks traditional might more be my hindsight as the car has now gone unchanged other than some small tweaks since it was finalised in 2010, an entire decade ago now. The cars styling is sleek and stylish though, with an almost timeless design that has since been replicated in different shapes and sizes across the range.
Enter caption for image The cars power is driven mainly by an induction motor, invented by Nikola Tesla, I know right? This motor is then wired up to a flat pack “skateboard” of Lithium Ion batteries which are not dissimilar to the rechargeable batteries you buy in the shops. 7,104 of these were wired together to allow for the nearly 300 mile range that the Model S debuted with. The electricity from these batteries is sent to the induction motor which causes a magnetic field to be created and by alternating the currency to cause the rotor inside the motor to spin, as you press the gas, this AC current is modified to make the motor go slower or faster. Interesting stuff.
This is where the Model S decided to set itself widely apart from the rest of the Luxury sedans in its price range. Luckily for them, clean and minimalist design was setup over the past 10 years by Apple, less had truly become more and this worked in Tesla’s favor. Considering this car went on sale at around $85,000 you’d probably be a little annoyed with the lack of interior design if this weren’t the case.The car was styled with simple yet comfortable seats, and a touch screen replacing the entire center console. The cars vibe of simple and elegant was a winning combination, with the center console making the car feel futuristic. This again was a great result and allowed owners not to focus on the sheer level of cheap plastic fitted in the car.
Credits: JalopnikThis is where it really got interesting and further set this new luxury car aside from its ICE based competitors. The range of around 300 miles allowed the car to remove the range anxiety that cars like the GM EV1 failed to do and allowed the car to be as usable as the standard petrol engine. Where the car really shone though and where electric cars just beat out all of their rivals is in acceleration as the electric motor can send power instantly to the wheels.In 2012 the standard Model S was delivered with 362 horsepower, 325 lb-ft of torque and a the 0-60 mph time was just 5.6 seconds. The “Performance” model increased this to 416 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque and brought the 0-60-mph time down to only of 4.4 seconds. The latest iterations of the car will bring that figure down to only 2.3 seconds, which is madness for a luxury sedan. That’s Lamborghini territory.
So I mentioned at the beginning that it was a little too soon to view the Model S as the car that killed the combustion engine car. The real cars that are already starting to do this are the Model 3 and Model Y, along with the current pandemic forcing all automakers to focus heavily on an EV future. It can be said though, this is the car that really started it all and forced the industry to look at the future of electric vehicles more than the EV1, Tesla Roadster or other electric cars ever did.