Tesla unveils falcon-winged Model X prototype

Article by Anita Panait, on February 10, 2012

Tesla Motors unveiled on February 8 the prototype of its newest car, the Model X, even before selling the pioneer Model S.  Built on the same platform as the Model S, the Model X electric car is powered by two electric motors, fixed at the rear and the front, allowing the seven-seater to accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said.

Customers could choose between two battery packs that are also installed in the Model S – the 230- and 300-mile power packs. Model X, however, will have a range lower by 10% than the Model S since the former is larger and heavier, Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen revealed.

Model X’s most remarkable feature is not its fast-accelerating engines, but its doors. Tesla built double-hinged “falcon-wing doors” doors on the Model X, resembling the famed gull-wing doors of 1950’s Mercedes coupe.

Musk said the rear door’s upward swing is around the same height as a tailgate on most SUVs. The Tesla CEO revealed that the prototype has yet to undergo computer-aided crash analysis.

He expressed confidence that the model will perform well, even in a side-impact crash. Tesla will commence prototype production in at its Fremont, Calif. site in 2013, and will roll out finished versions of the Model X in early 2014.

Tesla’s latest product will be more expensive than the Model S, which starts at $67,400 for the 230-mile version, before a federal tax credit.

Tesla’s chief designer said that while there is definitely "a familial feel" between the designs of the two cars, the Model X's door system and cargo carrying features set it apart from other crossovers. Tesla aims to sell around 15,000 Model X units annually, the same target as Model S.

Tesla’s Model X was built electric from the ground up and was designed to be the most secure and the safest vehicle on the road. The company’s own crash tests showed that the Tesla Model X gets a five-star safety rating in every category, the first SUV to do so.

Without the need for a large gasoline engine under its hood, the Model X got a big crumple zone to absorb energy from high-speed impact. The Model X’s battery is positioned on the floor, and this gives the car a very low center of gravity, thus lessening the risk of rollover which is common in most sports utility vehicles. Aluminum pillars that are reinforced with steel rails not only serve to improve roof stiffness but also to protect you and the other passengers as well as the battery.

An automatic emergency braking (AEB) system and side collision avoidance mechanism come as standard to the Model X. These features prevent accidents from taking place. Tesla is the only one with a standard AEB system that functions at high speed.

All Model X units carry a forward-looking camera, a radar, and 360-degree sonar sensors that enable the car’s advanced autopilot features. The brand’s over-the-air software also updates on a regular basis in order to improve the sophistication of the car’s features. This also enables increasingly capable convenience and safety features such as Autopark and Autosteer, as well as brings the Model X closer than ever to autonomous operation.

Additionally, the Tesla Model X is the cleanest SUV in the world in terms of the inside. Its front fascia was engineered with a functional duct pushing air through the HEPA filter system. This HEPA filter system, which is considered to be the first true one available in a vehicle, allows for medical-grade air inside the cabin, regardless of what’s going on outside.

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