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FREMONT, Calif.— Five years after shocking the automotive world by unveiling what was basically a battery-powered Lotus Elise, Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Tesla Motors, debuted his electric car company's first all-original car, the Model S, and announced that it "will build a high-performance version of the Model S that will go zero to 60 (mph) in 4.5 seconds. That's faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera."
The crowd, naturally, went wild. Hundreds of deposit-paying customers had already taken quick rides around the parking lot at speeds over 70 mph when Musk drove a red pre-production Tesla Model S "Beta" show car — albeit somewhat less quickly — up the ramp and onto a stage inside Tesla's U.S. factory (formerly known as NUMMI, the facility Tesla purchased from Toyota just last year and revamped for a fraction of what a new car factory normally costs to build). Production versions of the Model S will start rolling out of here in mid-2012.
"The oil companies said electric cars can't work, but the truth is, they don't want them to work," Musk said.
"But here it is," he continued. "They would say this car is the equivalent of a unicorn. Well, tonight you had the opportunity to ride a unicorn."
After driving the Model S onto the stage, Musk exited his seven-passenger sedan along with seven other occupants (and their luggage), three from decidedly unconventional spaces: two children climbed out of optional rear-facing bucket seats and through the rear hatch, and a surprising eighth guy popped out from beneath the hood carrying a backpack. Check out the video:
And here's Musk demonstrating the interior controls in the Model S:
Specifications and other notes:
Make and Model
2013 Tesla Model S (available mid-2012)
Seven-passenger (5 adults + 2 children) sport sedan
17-inch HD touch-screen display "like a giant iPad" controls everything
160 miles (optional 230-mile or 300-mile range available)
220V or 110V
415 Nm (306 ft-lbs) of torque
Zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds (4.5 seconds promised for future high-performance model)
$49,900 (after U.S. Federal Tax Credit)
Welcome to the future.