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Tesla unveils new battery pack

The battery pack that will make Tesla’s upcoming Model S luxury sedan run.
(Credit: San Jose Mercury News. Courtesy of Tesla.)

Tesla Motors is most known for its all-electric sports car, the Roadster. The Model S sedan will be released soon, and the battery pack used to power this model was unveiled.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that while the battery pack for Tesla’s Roadster is essentially a large box containing thousands of individual battery cells, the Model S battery pack is flatter and nearly the width and length of the car. It lies beneath the floor of the car’s cabin and can be swapped out as needed.

“The Model S battery is perfectly flat,” says Peter Rawlinson, vice president and chief engineer for vehicle engineering. “We’re using the battery pack as a structural element of the car.”

Tesla plans to manufacture 20,000 Model S sedans, using the design of the battery pack as an aerodynamic element of the car. This jump in manufacturing is expected to offer about 500 new jobs.

For the Roadster, Tesla strung together nearly 7,000 laptop batteries into one battery pack. But for the Model S, Panasonic and other Li-ion vendors are creating batteries specifically for an electric vehicle. Tesla has yet to choose a battery vendor for the Model S.

Practically every company that makes a Li-ion battery has sent its cells to Tesla, which puts them through rigorous testing, with a focus on extending their life and safety. Tesla has not chosen (or perhaps revealed) its Li-ion manufacturer yet.

Tesla claims the energy density of the Model S battery pack will exceed 135 watt-hours per kilogram. The sedan, which will be capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, will come with a choice of three battery packs, capable of ranges of 160, 230 or 300 miles.

The base price for the entry-level Model S with a 160-mile range will be $49,000 (after a $7,500 federal tax credit).

And, if you need more to sate your Tesla appetite, go to the newsstand, pull out your iPad or go online and check out the newest edition of Wired magazine. Its cover story (“How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future) is on CEO Musk and his fascinating adventure in getting Tesla Motors off the ground. Here’s a taste, as they hastily prepared a prototype to show Daimler exec Howard Kohler:

“[Tesla CTO J.B.] Straubel and his team removed the 83-horsepower gas engine and set to work building a custom battery pack that would fit in [a Smart] car’s engine compartment. Next, they refashioned a Roadster motor to power it. When they got too tired, they napped underneath a staircase, but the pounding of feet overhead made it hard to stay asleep for long.

Finally, at one o’clock in the morning, five and a half weeks after setting to work, the re-engineered Smart was fully assembled. Straubel got in the driver’s seat and switched on the power. He goosed the accelerator and rocketed out of the garage and into the parking lot. When Straubel floored it, the front wheels lifted off the ground and the back tires left marks on the asphalt.

. . .

Kohler examined the car. Straubel had been careful not to alter its shape or interior, so it was impossible to tell that it had been modified.

Kohler got behind the wheel and Musk hopped in the passenger seat. When the German stepped on the accelerator, the car bolted out of the garage and disappeared. Straubel waited nervously with the other Daimler executives. After 15 minutes, the Smart tore back into the garage. Straubel noticed that the normally taciturn Kohler was trying hard not to smile.

“Let’s explore a partnership,” Kohler told Musk.

Wired also provides a review of four electric vehicles you can drive now, and a summary of 13 that are in the pipeline.