(Pocket-lint) - Tesla has been heralded by the tech and motoring press 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 and what's coming in the future? Here's everything you need to know about Tesla Motors, from the Roadster through to the 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 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 always looking at 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 hugely disruptive.
All the ranges we've provided are from Tesla's cited ranges (from its US pages, the UK pages might be slightly lower), but will 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.
There are four current on-sale models, with a number of different versions to choose from.
Tesla Model S
- Starting price: $89,990 / £91,980
- Availability: US, UK, Europe
- Read our Tesla Model S review
The Model S is very much an executive saloon, with similar long and low design lines as you might find on a Jaguar.
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 a trio of versions: Long Range Plus and Plaid. The Standard and Performance models were recently dropped.
While some earlier editions of the Model S offered rear-wheel drive, all the latest Model S operate in all-wheel drive (AWD). The latest addition - and new flagship - is the Plaid model, offering sub-1.9s 0-60mph - with the Plaid model offering tri-motor propulsion (over the Long Range's dual-motor).
All models offer Autopilot as standard - which brings a range of driver assistance - but there's the option for the full self-driving upgrade at $10,000 (£6,800), 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). Forthcoming for 2021 is automatic driving on city streets and Enhanced Summon - where your parked car will come find you in a car park.
- Long Range: AWD, 405 miles, 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds
- Plaid: AWD, 396 miles, 0-60mph in 1.99s
Tesla Model 3
- Starting price: $41,990 / £40,990
- 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 having dropped to make it the most affordable Tesla.
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 $10,000/£6,800.
- Standard Range Plus: RWD, 262 miles, 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds, partial premium interior
- Long Range: AWD, 353 miles, 0-60mph in 4.2s, premium interior
- Performance: AWD, 315 miles, 0-60mph in 3.1s, premium interior
Tesla Model X
- Starting price: $99,990 / £98,980
- Availability: US, UK, and Europe
- Read our Tesla Model X review
Tesla's Model X is the "soccer mom'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 original 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 - you can choose 5 (included), 6 ($6,500 extra), or 7 ($3,500 extra). Autopilot is included, the full self-driving upgrade option is $10,000/£6,800.
- Long Range: AWD, 360 miles, 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds
- Plaid: AWD, 340 miles, 0-62mph in 2.5s
As with the Tesla Model S, there have been a number of different versions of the Model X, but it's now distilled into the Long Range and Plaid - the latter having that tri-motor arrangement.
Tesla Model Y
- Starting price: $54,990 / £54,990
- Availability: US / UK (from 2022)
The Tesla Model Y fills the space between the Model 3 and the Model X, as a compact SUV. It will seat five, offers plenty of space, but will really appeal to those looking for something more affordable than the Model X.
The compact SUV segment is the biggest selling at the moment, so it's a key target for Tesla. Tesla originally suggested four models would be available, but currently offers two specifications:
- Long Range: AWD, 315 miles, 0-60mph in 4.8s
- Performance: AWD, 303 miles, 0-60mph in 3.5s
As with other Tesla models, some of the lower-tier models have been dropped: the most affordable Standard Range is no longer available.
- 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 <4.5s
- Tri Motor AWD: 500+ miles, 0-60 in <2.9s
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 was due to return in 2020 (it's been reviewed by some US sources, but otherwise is still only up for reservations only).
The Roadster's 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 are two versions up for reservation: the Roadster and the Founders Series, with a $50k difference in price between the two. The base specs break down as follows:
- Roadster: 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 was planned for production in 2020 - but it hasn't officially surfaced yet.
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. By 2019 it was 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. Later in 2021 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 more 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 close. 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. 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.