IDEA 2013 Best in Show: Tesla Model S

With the introduction of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, the company became known as an innovator. But CEO Elon Musk was committed to exceeding this reputation. He set out to design not only the best electric car on the market but the best car on the market, period.

It had to be beautiful. It had to be safe. It had to deliver uncompromised performance. Above all, it had to overcome one major obstacle—range. The Tesla Model S design team knew that extending the range was essential to winning over American consumers. This meant the design would have to accommodate a battery large enough to take drivers where they want to go.

The architecture of a traditional car made these goals impossible. Placing the battery at the front or rear of the car would compromise the distribution of weight and would negatively impact both performance and efficiency. The designers needed to build the electric car from the ground up.

Looking at the car’s design in a new way, the team began to see the battery not as an obstacle but as an opportunity. Focusing on the unique needs of an electric-powered vehicle, Tesla designed a new architecture around the powertrain, with the battery pack flat under the floor and the motor and gearbox between the wheels. When combined, these factors add up to superior handling that drivers expect from the world’s best sports cars with the smooth, comfortable ride of a luxury sedan.

Lightweight and Lean
The elegant-yet-aggressive design rivals any high-end sports car. But the sleek design does more than look good. Its improved aerodynamics reduce wind resistance. The stamped aluminum body helps keep the weight to a minimum. Extrusions, stampings and castings are expertly joined for rigidity and strength, providing safety and maneuverability. The redesigned suspension system offers improved performance, comfort and efficiency.

No discussion of an electric vehicle would be complete without pointing out the obvious: zero emissions. The Model S is offered with three battery options, so consumers can select the one that accommodates their needs—or their wallet. The largest, 85 kilowatt hours, delivers an EPA-certified range of 265 miles. A full charge takes about six hours from an ordinary 240-volt outlet.

Innovation at Its Core
Designing a car from the ground up required innovation at every step of the way. Tesla claims more than 250 patents on the Model S, with additional patents pending. The originality has not gone unnoticed. In addition to being named the IDEA 2013 Best in Show, the Model S has been named Automobile Magazine’s 2013 Automobile of the Year and Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. Consumer Reports gave it a 99 out of a possible 100 points, calling it the best car it has ever tested.

Hand-in-hand with the design of the Model S came an aggressive marketing strategy intended to attract high-end consumers. Rather than advertising the car as an eco-friendly alternative that will save gas money, Tesla has positioned the Model S as a luxury vehicle with superior performance and styling.

No single new car can overhaul the auto industry, but the Tesla Model S has changed the name of the game. Eco-friendly, functional and attractive, the Model S is a vehicle any driver would be proud to own. The Model S has turned green into gold.

 

Designed by Franz von Holzhausen of Tesla Motors

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 INNOVATION; original article by Lydia Bjornlund; excerpt by Jennifer Yankopolus