Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced his company’s plans for two new electric vehicles to attendees at the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs this week. Palo Alto-based Tesla will unveil the Model X SUV, which will be “cooler” than any SUV or minivan on the market, later this year, said Musk, and in about four years will have developed a mass market sedan that be purchased for around $30,000.
Considering that Tesla has its hands full with getting production up and running of its premium Model S sedan at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, just outside San Jose, and then add to it Tesla's history of not meeting its own launch schedules, one has to wonder how they will meet this timeline.
One option is to utilize an outside source for the basic vehicle, much as to company did with the Tesla Roadster. In this case, the Roadster is based upon the Lotus Elise sport cars, which is shipped from the UK to California for the fitting of the electrical infrastructure as well as final assembly. This has been an excellent arrangement for both parties, with Tesla gaining a nimble partner with decades of small-scale automotive production experience, and Lotus gaining an additional outlet for its cars and components.
Fittingly enough, one contender to partner with Tesla on the Model X SUV is again Lotus. Lotus displayed its APX concept SUV at the Geneva Motor Show as proof-of-concept for its Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) which allows for changes to be made to the configuration of the vehicle platform quickly and at a much lower cost, thus meeting Tesla's engineering and manufacturing needs.
Further, Santa Rosa-based EV manufacturer and distributor showed a AWD EV Lotus APX Concept at the 2007 NADA Show in San Francisco. The company claimed 4.8 second 0 - 60 times for the electric APX, but nothing further came of the project and the APX is no longer on Zap's website.
It will be interesting what comes from Tesla HQ over the next few weeks or month, but if you read of confirmation that the Tesla Model X will be based upon the Lotus VVA system, you heard it here first.