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Tesla Motors gets ready to unveil the Model S

Tesla Motors, the maker of the eye-catching, all-electric Roadster sports car, is set to pull away the tarp tomorrow on a street-ready prototype of its highly anticipated Model S sedan. The first look at the new ride will occur at the Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters of Space-X, a private space company also headed by Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk that doubles as Tesla’s design studio.

After this sneak peek, though, it will still be a couple years before the Model S hits the road, pending funding from the Department of Energy. “When Tesla begins production in late 2011, the Model S will likely be the world's first mass-produced, highway-capable electric vehicle,” says company spokesperson Rachel Konrad.

The company aims to generate enough buzz and pre-sales to justify mass-producing the Model S by promising style as well as a cleverly manipulated sticker price. Though still a bit steep at $57,400, when coupled with a $7,500 federal tax credit, the purchase price for the new electric whip falls to $49,900, just under that potentially psychologically imposing $50,000 mark.

That’s less than half the cost of the $109,000 Roadster. The company says that the Roadster is competitive over its lifetime with other luxury vehicles given its fuel savings and cheap maintenance. It's questionable how many non-Tesla trained mechanics know their way around battery packs and other Tesla-specific hardware. But the company points out that the engine has far fewer moving parts than a standard internal combustion engine, which translates into no oil changes or exhaust system tune ups, meaning far fewer trips (than an ordinary car) to the service department.

The Tesla vehicles rely on a hefty complement of lithium-ion batteries to deliver speed (a blazing 0-60 in 3.9 seconds for the Roadster, the company claims) and stamina, with the Roadster able to rack up almost 250 miles on a single, $4 charge.

The company recently sold its 250th Roadster since the sports car took to the road about a year ago. Tesla also plans to open a dealership in Chicago soon, the first of a slated seven this year. The Windy City showroom will be Tesla’s third and the first outside of the company’s home state of California.

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

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