Almost exactly four years to the day since it was first announced, Tesla’s S class, the electric car for the masses, rolled out to its first customers Friday.
CEO Elon Musk, the Tony Stark-inspiring entrepreneur behind Tesla and private space travel company SpaceX, got his S class sedan delivered earlier in the month, and the first customers who pre-purchased the cars with advanced deposits began receiving theirs Friday.
The S class has its fair share of skeptics, like Paul A. Eisenstein at MSNBC who thinks the its pricetag is too steep to make it a “slam-dunk,” to some environments who rightly claim that just because the car is electric that doesn’t mean it’s truly “green”—we supply most of our electricity to the power grid by burning coal, after all.
But even when you account for that, electric cars are still greener than gas-burning cars. And the Tesla is a milestone for the electric car: unlike other mass-produced options like the Chevy Volt, which still have gasoline engines that kick in after their short-range electric capabilities run out, the Tesla can do 265 miles on a single electric charge—enough to get you from New York to Boston. With its long range and upscale design, it may be the first truly viable (and desirable) all electric car ever to hit the market.
Of course, with its starting pricetag of about $50K after after a $7K tax credit, it’s not exactly cheap. But as MSNBC points out it’s comparable to, say, the Lexus GS hybrid—and Tesla drivers will save thousands every year in gas costs. Assuming an average savings of $250 a month in gas, that effectively brings the price down over 5 years by $15,000 to $35,000—a totally normal price for a great car.
One potential hiccup: Tesla cars are based on gigantic lithium-ion batteries laid into its floorboards. Last week BusinessWeek reported that iPad sales, which also run on lithium-ion batteries, have led to tightening lithium supplies. The price of lithium has already tripled since 2000 and it’s projected to double again by 2020. Considering the amount of lithium that Tesla’s huge batteries, if demand really explodes for S-class it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t further impact the lithium market.
Tesla pre-sold 10,000 S-class cars prior to Friday, and they’re now going on sale at four dealerships.