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Tesla Model S

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The Tesla Model S is designed to turn the pioneering electric car company from quirky niche brand into (almost) a mainstream manufacturer.

The five-door, 300-mile range car is due to go on sale in the US in mid-2012, and Tesla has used the NAIAS show in Detroit as an opportunity to reveal a few more details about its construction and capabilities.

The car will be built around an aluminium casing, which is both lightweight and particularly rigid. As the car doesnt have an engine, Tesla can fit more bracing in the bonnet area. It predicts the structure will give the car unrivalled ride, handling, refinement and crash performance characteristics.

Tesla says the ride and handling should also be boosted by the cars low centre of gravity, made possible by packaging its electric motor, gearbox and electric inverter between the cars wheels and a low-slung battery pack in its floor. The battery is detachable from under the floor and is a structural part of the car, benefiting ride comfort, noise and safety.

The air-suspension set-up is designed by Tesla.

The claimed 300-mile per charge range is based on the buyer opting for the largest battery on offer. Versions with a range of 160 miles and 230 will also be made available.

A full charge will take 45 minutes on a three-phase plug point. Charging without a fast charger will take 'several hours' because of the size of the battery pack.

It will have both front and rear luggage areas because it doesn't have a conventional engine and its underfloor powertrain layout.

Estimates suggest prices will start at around 50,000 when the car goes on sale in the UK, sometime in 2013.