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Tesla unveils new electric car prototype

March 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The prototype of a new electric car from Tesla Motors was unveiled Thursday in Hawthorne. Tesla already has a high-performance two-seat electric roadster on the market, selling for a base price of $109,000. It's been described as a niche sports car for the rich. The five-door hatchback sedan unveiled Thursday is designed to be far more practical. It's a family car, selling for less than half the price, at around $50,000, after a federal tax rebate.

Tesla says the car will hold five adults and two children, and travel 300 miles on a single battery charge. The company calls it the world's first "mass-produced highway-capable electric vehicle ... with the versatility and practicality of a conventional car."

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, the SpaceX rocket entrepreneur. Tesla was founded in 2003 with $40 million from investors. Musk recently predicted that the company would become profitable by the middle of this year, after it secured another $40 million in venture capital. Tesla has also applied for a $350 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tesla says that amount is necessary to go forward with production of the new "Model S" sedan. Tesla is hoping to build 20,000 sedans a year in Southern California, starting in 2011, if the federal loan is approved.