Tesla’s financial success and uncertain future depends largely on how well their upcoming Model X sells. Luckily for the electric car pioneer, the X has more than a few things going for it that gas-powered SUVs just can’t touch:
Whether in the front, middle or rear of the car, an engine hogs valuable space that could otherwise be used for storage as well as crumple zone to absorb the impact of an accident.
The Model X doesn’t have an engine. Instead it comes standard with a relatively tiny 300hp rear mounted electric motor and an optional 150hp front mounted motor.
With either setup the X leaves a gaping storage space under the hood large enough to hold an extra set of luggage. In a head-on collision with a Ford Explorer for example, the X wins the crumple zone battle while scoring points for a unique way to destroy a spouse’s unnecessary set of extra luggage.
X-Factor Bonus: 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds – on par with the 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0.
You know that giant hump on the floor of most every gas-powered car you’ve ever been in? That’s the transmission. The X’s drivetrain is linked directly to its potent little motors, eliminating the need for a space-wasting transmission and drastically increasing interior space.
X-Factor Bonus: Optional all-wheel drive, hump not included.
LOW CENTER OF GRAVITY
The cliché SUV of years past is a top heavy beast that rolls over with ease during an emergency lane change at highway speeds - sometimes the faulty tires blowout for added effect.
Where the aforementioned transmission would be in such vehicles, the X has a flat battery pack that runs from the front to rear wheels, lowering the center of gravity and significantly improving handling.
X-Factor Bonus: The X’s electric powertrain is a universal platform on which Tesla plans to build other vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this should help drive the price point down to the $30,000 range on an upcoming “Mass Market” vehicle.
FALCON WING DOORS
They might seem like a gimmick, and to a certain extent they probably are, but falcon wing doors do actually have a practical purpose.
In a presentation to the media, Elon Musk stood up inside the X with his head sprouting above the roofline to show how the doors opened up a gaping space to load and unload the vehicle.
Keep in mind these are Falcon wing doors, not to be confused with Gullwing doors. The distinction is important. Gullwing doors open out before up, making it harder to exit a vehicle equipped with them in a parking stall without smashing the novelty hunks of metal on adjacent cars.
The X’s Falcon Wing doors shrug upwards before moving outwards, eliminating this embarrassing problem.
X-Factor Bonus: Tesla claims if passengers can fit between a parked car and the X, the Falcon wing doors will have ample space to open. Can “normal” doors do that?
As mentioned above, these unique attributes had better be worth the X’s estimated $60,000-$100,000 asking price to potential buyers, not only because of the lofty cost, but also for the amount of money Tesla spent developing the technology that make the X a cutting edge electric vehicle.
In 2011 Tesla spent $208 million on research and development alone. That same year they lost $254 million after losing roughly $154 million in 2010.
On paper these numbers might seem like the gambling debts of a man who lost his mind making his hair stand up from touching a static electric ball too many times, but in reality the losses could prove to be valuable investments.
Outside of their own sales, Tesla understands the technological advances produced from their expensive work have a definite street value to major automakers. The young company has signed contracts with Toyota and Mercedes to help them develop their own electric cars.
That’s right – the minds behind the ever-popular Prius want Tesla's help to develop electric cars.
Tesla’s earnings from such deals increased from $19 million in 2010 to $55 million in 2011, indicating the X has much more to offer than bird doors. (1)
Still, there’s no denying that how well the Model X sells will play a huge role in Tesla's long term viability. After all, the company doesn’t produce a single gas-powered car to fall back on and won’t be able to rely on government grants indefinitely.
As of February 16 of this year Tesla had confirmed more than 500 reservations for the X at a cost of $5,000 per reservation. Tesla estimates the resulting sales could total $40,000 million. (1)
For American taxpayers, those figures should
grant some optimism for return on their investment, especially if Tesla technology eventually finds its way into an entry-level electric car, even if it’s not a Tesla.