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. But it's also been criticized for being slow to launch its EVs.
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.
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, 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.
Tesla Model S
- Starting price: $80,200 / £72,850
- 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 three different versions: the Standard Range, Long Range, and Performance. These replaced the 75D, 100D, and P100D. 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 just rear-wheel drive, all the latest Model S operate in all-wheel drive (AWD). Technically, Tesla now sells the Model S with the same 100kWh battery, but in some versions it is software locked so it behaves like a 75kWh battery. Ludicrous mode is available for $15,000.
- Standard Range: AWD, 270 miles, 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds
- Long Range: AWD, 335 miles, 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds
- Performance: AWD, 315 miles, 0-60mph in 2.4 seconds
If you're looking at pre-owned or older stock, you'll find more 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: $36,200
- Availability: US, pre-orders open in UK and Europe
The Model 3 launched in the US in 2016 as the affordable alternative to the Model S. Tesla recently began taking preorders in the UK and Europe from early 2019.
A four-door sedan, the Model 3 has an array of options. There are lots of versions, and much like the Model S, the different options mostly affect battery size and performance, but there's also interior to consider. Ranges based on combined figures.
- Standard Range: RWD, 220 miles, 50kWh, 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, standard interior
- Standard Range Plus: RWD, 240 miles, 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, partial premium interior
- Mid-Range: RWD, 264 miles, 62kWh, 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, premium interior
- Long Range: RWD, 325 miles, 75kWh, 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds, premium interior
- Long Range: AWD, 308 miles, 75kWh, 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds, premium interior
- Performance: AWD, 308 miles, 75kWh, 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, premium interior
- Starting price: $88,000 / £81,050
- 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 Falcon Wing doors (think the Delorean in Back to the Future) that, along with the huge touchscreen control center, will make all your kids think you bought a car from the future.
- Long Range: AWD, 351 miles, 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds
- Ludicrous Performance: AWD, 337 miles, 0-62mph in 2.8 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: $39,000
- Availability: Fall 2020
The Tesla Model Y fills the space between the Model 3 and the Model Y, as a compact SUV. It will seat seven, 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.
- Standard Range: RWD, 242 miles, 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds
- Long Range RWD: RWD, 336 miles, 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds
- Long Range AWD: AWD, 314 miles, 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds
- Performance: AWD: AWD, 298 miles, 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds
What about the Semi and Roadster?
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.
The Tesla Roadster is the first car ever produced by the company. It's also the car that Musk's other company, SpaceX, shot into space on the back of a rocket in 2018. Although it was eventually phased out by the Model X and Model S cars, the Roadster is going to make a comeback in 2020. A new version of the car currently in development.
Musk has said some truly mind-blowing things about the latest version of the Roadster, including that it will go 0 to 60mph in 1.9 seconds and have a top speed of 250mph. The car will also reportedly feature 200kWh battery, too, which could give it up to 600 miles in driving range. That's more than any other Tesla car.
What is Tesla Autopilot?
Autopilot is part safety feature, part James Bond-level car tech. It's an add-on package for Tesla vehicles. 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. The car can even park itself or be summoned.
The goal of Autopilot, which debuted in 2014, is to eventually lead to autonomous driving. Starting in October 2016, every car Tesla produced came with the inherent hardware to use Autopilot (though it starts at $3,000 to activate). This is important because this hardware can't be retrofitted to a Tesla.
Autopilot has had its fair share of controversy, with a number of accidents caused through mis-use of the system.
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.
To find a Supercharger station near you, see Tesla's Supercharger map.
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.