Tesla has been heralded by the tech and motoring presses for its innovation, stirring up a fairly traditional market and introducing electric cars with a distinct buzz about them.
Tesla has taken more than its fair share of headlines over the past few years. But what does Tesla really offer, what's coming in the future, and how can you you join in the fun?
Here's everything you need to know about Tesla Motors, from the Roadster through to the new Model Y.
What is Tesla?
Tesla is an electric vehicle (EV) maker located in Palo Alto, California. Its goal is to produce electric cars that are can be either premium or affordable for everyday consumers. The company is run by CEO and founder Elon Musk.
Outside of EVs, Tesla is also exploring a wider ecosystem, offering a number of other solutions that leverage its experience in battery power, such as solar panels and power storage.
Which Tesla car is right for you?
Tesla is expanding its offering. With the Model S making a huge impact on the market as one of the first pure electric cars, it's a company that's being hugely disruptive. There are four models, with a number of different versions to choose from. All the ranges given are Tesla's cited ranges from its US pages, but vary depending on driving style and environmental factors.
Tesla has also changed the positioning of its models recently and in some cases offers an upgrade to unlock power or issues firmware updates which changes the official figures on ranges, with changes to the line-up pretty regular.
Tesla Model S
- Starting price: $74,990 / £77,980
- Availability: US, UK, and Europe
- Read our Tesla Model S review
The Model S originally launched in 2012 and helped to put Tesla on the map as an automaker. Tesla has continued updating the Model S since its release, and the most recent model has two different versions: the Long Range Plus and Performance, the Standard recently being dropped. The Model S is very much an executive saloon, with similar long and low design lines as you might find on a Jaguar.
While some earlier editions of the Model S offered rear-wheel drive, all the latest Model S operate in all-wheel drive (AWD). Now available in two models, the Performance has Ludicrous mode for that insane acceleration. Both offer Autopilot as standard - which brings a range of driver assistance - but there's the option for the full self-driving upgrade at $7,000 (£5,800), which adds navigation to Autopilot, self-parking, Smart Summon, traffic light recognition and automatic city street driving (you'll still need to be in control of the car at all times). Note, in some regions the current model is called the Long Range Plus in others it's just called the Long Range.
- Long Range Plus: AWD, 402 miles, 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds
- Performance: AWD, 348 miles, 0-60mph in 2.3 seconds
If you're looking at pre-owned or older stock, you'll find many Model S versions with different specs, including 60-100kWh batteries, single or dual motors, rear or all-wheel drive options, and various ranges and top speeds. Past versions include the Model S 60, Model S 60D, Model S 70, Model S 70D, Model S 75, Model S 75D, Model S 80, Model S 80D, Model S P85, Model S P85+, Model P85D, Model S 90D, Model S P90D, Model S 100D, and Model S P100D.
Tesla Model 3
- Starting price: $37,990/£40,490
- Availability: US, UK and Europe
- Read our Tesla Model 3 review
The Model 3 launched in the US in 2016 as the affordable alternative to the Model S, with prices now dropping to make it the most affordable Tesla. It is also available in the UK and across Europe.
A four-door sedan, the Model 3 launched with a range of options, but that's been refined to just three that are currently available. Ranges are based on combined figures. Autopilot is standard, but the full self-driving upgrade is $7,000/£5,800.
- Standard Range Plus: RWD, 250 miles, 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, partial premium interior
- Long Range: AWD, 322 miles, 75kWh, 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, premium interior
- Performance: AWD, 299 miles, 75kWh, 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, premium interior
- Starting price: $79,990 / £82,980
- Availability: US, UK, and Europe
- Read our Tesla Model X review
Tesla's Model X is the soccer mom or dad's answer to the electric car. It's an SUV-style EV capable of seating seven people, but owes a lot of its design to the Model S, especially with that interior display.
It uniquely features rear Falcon Wing doors (think the Delorean in Back to the Future) that, along with the huge touchscreen inside, will make all your kids think you bought a car from the future. There are two models, but three different seating configurations, with additional costs based on your choices for seats. Autopilot is included, the full self-driving upgrade option is $7,000/£5,800.
- Long Range Plus: AWD, 351 miles, 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds
- Performance: AWD, 305 miles, 0-62mph in 2.6 seconds
As with the Tesla Model S, there are a number of different versions of the Model X as Tesla has realigned the model naming, with a 75D becoming Long Range, and the 100D and P100D shifting into the Performance line.
- Starting price: $52,990/£TBC
- Availability: US
The Tesla Model Y fills the space between the Model 3 and the Model X, as a compact SUV. It will seat seven (a $3,000 option), offer plenty of space, but really appeal to those looking for something more affordable.
The compact SUV segment is the biggest selling at the moment and isn't hugely populated with electric models, so it's a key target for Tesla. Tesla originally suggested four models would be available, but currently only offers two specifications, currently only available in the US:
- Long Range: AWD, 316 miles, 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds
- Performance: AWD, 315 miles, 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds
Those are likely to be the launch models, before a Standard Range is introduced, which might bring the price down to the $39,000 (£30,000) that was suggested when the car was first unveiled. It's thought this will be introduced in 2021; the car is unlikely to reach the UK or Europe until around 2022, but this is still to be confirmed.
- Starting price: $39,900/£TBC
- Availability: Late 2021
The Cybertruck was unveiled in November 2019 as Tesla switches its attention to a pick-up truck format. This is likely to be a lot more popular in the US than other regions, although reservations are open in other regions too. The Cybertruck has a unique angular design, with a stainless steel body and armoured glass - it will also have 100 CU FT (2830 litres) of storage, and towing capacity of 7,500+ lbs. All these specs are for the US, with Tesla saying international specs will be developed depending on demand.
There are initially three versions of the Tesla Cybertruck being suggested:
- Single Motor RWD: 250+ miles, 0-60 in <6.5 seconds
- Dual Motor AWD: 300+ miles, 0-60 in <4.5 seconds
- Tri Motor AWD: 500+ miles, 0-60 in <2.9 seconds
The Dual and Tri Motor versions will arrive first, with production expected in late 2021, while the Single Motor is expected for 2022.
- Starting price: $200,000, reservations open
- Availability: 2020
The Tesla Roadster started the whole thing in 2008 and is returning in 2020. The aim is to be the fastest electric car on the road, with some impressive figures announced so far, with a 0-60mph speed of 1.9 seconds and a top speed over 250mph. It will seat four and has a removable glass roof.
There will be several versions, with a Founders Series and a Base model, and a $50k difference in price between the two. The Base specs break down as follows:
- Base Spec: AWD, 620 miles, 0-60mph in 1.9 seconds
What about the Semi?
The Tesla Semi is exactly what it sounds like: a Semi-trailer truck. A prototype debuted in late 2017 and is planned for production in 2020. Tesla initially claimed the truck would have a 500-mile range on a full charge and would be able to run for 400 miles after an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes using new "Tesla Megacharger" charging stations.
Musk said the Semi would come standard with Tesla Autopilot, allowing semi-autonomous driving on highways.
What is Tesla Autopilot?
Autopilot is part safety feature, part James Bond-level car tech. It uses cameras that are strategically placed, allowing the car to do things like keep in the centre of a road lane, change lanes, and be more adaptive while in cruise control. At a basic level that will allow adaptive cruise control and steering, while Autopilot Enhanced also allows automatic lane changes, parking and Summon (from the app on your phone).
The goal of Autopilot is to eventually lead to autonomous driving. Starting in October 2016, every car Tesla produced came with the inherent hardware to use Autopilot and in 2019, it is standard.
Tesla continues to push update options, with more enhanced self-driving features, the latest of which include integration with navigation - so the car knows where you're going. In the future it will also be able to react to street signs and traffic lights, as well as drive on city streets.
What are Tesla Superchargers?
Tesla Superchargers are charging stations that have popped up all over the globe in the past 10 years. It's the electric car equivalent of a gas station. While users can charge their car at home with wall-mounted chargers, Superchargers can recharge a near-dead 85kWh battery in about 70 minutes or get it to 50 per cent in 20 minutes.
Tesla cars ordered before January 2017 can use the Supercharger stations for free, while all other cars are allotted 400kWh per year for free. After that users will have a small fee, but it's still nothing compared to what filling up a tank of gas costs.
Tesla recently introduced V3 Superchargers, which will increase the charging to 250kW, potentially halving the charge time for compatible vehicles. Tesla's cars are also compatible with other chargers (as long as the plug fits), but Superchargers are exclusive to Tesla cars.
How can you buy a Tesla?
In 2019, Tesla announced all its dealerships would be shuttering. It's moving to online-only sales via Tesla's site. However, a few select shops in high-traffic areas will stay open and serve as showrooms for Tesla cars.
- Go here to order a new Model S
- Go here to buy a pre-owned Model S
- Go here to reserve a Model X
- Go here to find a Tesla dealership
Does Tesla make anything else?
Most of us have seen the homes with gigantic solar panels strapped to their roof. Sure, it'd be cool to lower your electric bill, but it's not exactly pleasing to the eye. That's why Tesla came up with Solar Roof. The concept is simple: What if every shingle on your roof was a solar panel? To find out more, see our guide here.
Tesla's Powerwall is designed to store solar energy. One problem that plagues solar power users is the ability to store energy for use when the sun is down. Powerwall solves that issue. The list price for a new Tesla Powerwall 2.0 battery, which offers twice the storage capacity of the original Powerwall, is $6,700. To find out more, see our guide here.
At Tesla's online shop, you can buy some nifty Tesla-branded apparel, but more importantly, you can get car accessories, like a wall mounted charging port for your home or mobile connectors to charge your car on the go.