Tesla Charging Up for New Car Debut

VC-backed Tesla Motors opened its Chicago store this month, the company’s first outside California and its third store overall, after Los Angeles and Menlo Park.

But that’s not why you’re gonna hear a lot more about Tesla over the next week.

Tesla—which has raised $86 million funding according to Thomson Reuters from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, VantangePoint Venture Partners and individual investors such as Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page—is set to debut its Telsa Motor’s Model S sedan on March 26.

The vehicle will be priced at about $60,000, if all the blogs I’m reading are correct, compared to the more expensive Tesla-made Roadster at $109,000 (high-profile customers to date include George Clooney, Michael Dell and Arnold Schwarzenegger). The Model S will have a 440-volt fast-charging battery capability, which can be fully charged in about 3.5 hours using a 220V/70A system.

But executives and investors of the San Carlos, Calif.-based company may want to check out this story in The Economist. The article details how researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new battery material that may pave the way for all electric cars to become mainstream.

The point of the MIT research is that electric cars available today are unable to go long distances without being charged, and the charging itself requires hours, limiting the market of people who would want to purchase one. Actually, I thought the $109,000 price tag and the two-seater capacity of the Roadster is what kept buyers away.

The article asserts that the “…great prize in the battery world has thus been a material that can both store a lot and discharge rapidly,” something both standard batteries and supercapacitors have been unable to do.

Electric car battery aficionados will also want to check out this article from the Cleantech Group of how professors at the University of Maryland use nanotech to increase the energy density of a new type of capacitor, similarly opening up possibilities in the electric vehicle and device markets.

Meanwhile, one week to go before the scheduled Model S comes out.

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk said last month that the company would reach profitability later this year. The company says it is opening its next store in London, is finalizing site selection for stores in Manhattan, Seattle and Miami, and is scouting sites in Washington D.C., and Munich.

So buckle up.