Although the Tesla Model S, which had its first customer deliveries last week, is just a car, it is in many regards more than a car for both the company and for the electric vehicle industry. As John O’Dell, green car analyst for Edmunds.com put it, “Make no mistake: the Model S is a make-or-break product for Tesla. If it delivers on its promises – not only in sales volume, but also in quality and reliability – the S will propel Tesla into the black and provide working capital to develop of the next line of Tesla vehicles, which the company promises will be priced at more consumer-friendly levels. [The car starts at ~$57K before incentives and quickly goes well north of that.] And while the company is still quite a way from being a mass-market automaker, the Model S should give the electric-drive industry a lot of very visible EVs on the road, with many influential opinion leaders behind the wheels.”
The rear-drive vehicle can be fitted with 40-kWh, 60-kWh, and 85-kWh battery packs, with the largest of the three providing approximately 300 miles of range (assuming traveling at 55 mph). The car in the Model S Performance version has a stated 0 to 60 mph of 4.4 seconds. The standard version can do it in 5.6 seconds. And it can, when equipped with rear-facing child seats, can seat seven.
But one of the more interesting, from a technology point of view, aspects of the Model S is the 17-in. touch screen infotainment and navigation system. That’s right: 17 inches. It is said to be the largest ever in a passenger car.
It is driven by the NVIDIA Tegra Visual Computing Module (VCM). It uses what is said to be the “world’s first mobile superchip”: the integration of a multicore ARM CPU, an ultra-low-power NVIDIA GeForce GPU, and dedicated audio, video and image processors.
There are actually two Tegra modules, with the second being used for the instrument cluster, which has a high-resolution, 12.3-in. LCD display with 3D graphics.
Whether it will be a success remains to be seen. But what is quite evident—17-in., full-color evident—is that the car is a technological tour de force.