Tesla Motors delivered the first of its Model X all-electric SUVs, which not only produces zero tailpipe emissions but is also designed to be the safest car in the world.
The launch of the Model X represents a milestone for the Silicon Valley automaker during a period of high spending and modest growth, because it can now boast a second model in production beyond its Model S sedan, launched in 2012.
“I think we got a little carried away with the X,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told reporters ahead of a launch event near the company’s Fremont factory, where luxury Model Xs have been moving down the production line in recent weeks, nearly two years behind the company’s original schedule.
The Tesla Model X is priced as high as $144,000. Musk estimated that 25,000 customers had pre-ordered the crossover online or in its stores and that it would take 8-12 months for those ordering from now to receive the SUV.
The Model X uses much of the Model S hardware in a different type of package. It seats seven passengers in three rows of seats, for instance, so it can haul more kids to after-school games than the five-passenger Model S. Its “falcon-wing” doors open upwards and use sensors to help them clear obstacles, such as garage ceilings. The company suggests this will make it easier to put young children in car seats without hitting their heads on the roof. The biohazard button activates the air filtration system, which fills the cabin with “medical-grade air”.
The Model X also features a panoramic windshield that extends overhead, which Mr. Musk said was the largest single piece of glass ever used in a car.
Tesla says the vehicle, which has two electric motors, can travel about 250 miles (400 km) on a single charge and features automatic functions that bring it “ever closer to autonomous operation”.
The base all-wheel drive Model X 90D has a range of some 257 miles (414 km), with a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds; a “Ludicrous” P90 version of the SUV takes 3.2 seconds, Musk.
Tesla predicted its SUV would receive 5-star safety ratings in all categories, based on data from its crash tests, due to its low center of gravity, which helps reduce rollovers.
The Model X, like the Model S, will be continuously improved, Tesla said, due to software transmitted “over the air”. A highly anticipated update expected within the next month will allow for an auto-pilot function, in which cars can be driven hands-free on freeways.
Six Model X SUVs were delivered on Tuesday to a group made up of Tesla board members, investors and friends of Musk who had pre-ordered.
In August, Musk said Tesla would make between 50,000-55,000 Model S and Model X vehicles this year, with the capacity for 1,600-1,800 vehicles per week on its production line next year.