TelsaReady or not, here it comes: Silicon Valley's upstart automaker Tesla Motors (TSLA) confirmed on Tuesday that its groundbreaking Model S, a luxury-sports sedan powered entirely by electricity, was on track to enter production by this summer.

It's easy to dismiss the idea of an upstart competing with the likes of Toyota (TM) and Ford (F), but the Model S is no joke: Tesla already has more than 8,000 orders for the car, and each of those orders came with a $5,000 deposit.

When you consider that this is a car that starts at nearly $50,000 (and that's after a big tax break), and can run up to almost double that fully loaded, that's an impressive total. Add in the fact that almost nobody has actually test-driven a Model S, and it's clear that there's some excitement brewing around this sleek new machine.

But excitement for the next big thing among technophiles and early adopter types is nothing new. Here's the bigger question: What does Tesla's new ride mean for the rest of us?

Will Your Next Car Be Electric?

All-electric cars aren't exactly new to the U.S. market, of course. Nissan (NSANY) has been selling its Leaf compact for about a year now, and Ford recently put an all-electric version of its hot new Focus into production. General Motors' (GM) Chevy Volt is arguably also an electric car, with its onboard gas engine serving as a backup generator rather than as part of the driveline, as in the regular hybrids that have become familiar to us over the last decade.

Those hybrids, meanwhile, are getting more and more advanced. Toyota just introduced several new versions of its popular Prius, including a "plug-in" version that can be charged up at home to go short distances without using any gas at all. And Ford, which has become Toyota's closest rival in the hybrid game, has promised a plug-in version of its stunning new Fusion sedan for later this year. The Fusion Energi, as it'll be called, might come with enough range for you to drive to work and back without using a drop of gas while offering you the security of knowing that you've got plenty of gas-powered range if you need it.

The new Tesla is a different beast altogether, though. Even in its base model, Tesla is promising a 160-mile range on a full charge -- considerably better than the 100 miles or so that you'll get with a Leaf or the electric Focus. Optional, albeit expensive, battery upgrades will expand that to a whopping 300 miles, as much as most "regular" cars manage with a full tank of gas.

Sounds good. But will it catch on?

Fill'er Up with Electrons ... but Where?

There are good reasons to be skeptical of the idea that we'll all be driving electric cars anytime soon. The big one is infrastructure: In a world with gas stations on every corner, not too many folks worry about the range of their cars. But electric cars are a different story. High-speed recharging stations are still few and far between, and recharging your ride on household current takes hours -- it's something you do overnight, not in a pit stop with your kids in the car.

Plain and simple, most folks aren't likely to make a major investment in a car if they're not sure it'll bring them home at the end of the day.

That alone is likely to limit enthusiasm for purely electric cars for a while. Hybrids offer many of the advantages of pure electrics with the security of being able to refuel at any gas station. And while electric cars are still an unknown for most, at this point hybrids are familiar to most consumers: While you might not drive a Prius or one of Ford's hybrids yourself, chances are good that you know someone who does.

And that's where I think the mass market is likely to go over the next decade. Teslas may become the favored ride of well-heeled gadget geeks for a while, but the ever-improving hybrids from more familiar automakers seem much more likely to be the cars of the future for most of us.

At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear owned shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Tesla Motors, General Motors, and Ford Motor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor.



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January 27 2012 at 5:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nthereoff

collected soda cans and return them .made $1.65. life is good

January 26 2012 at 11:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Alsamerican Retiree

Where is clean diesel like all over Europe?

January 25 2012 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
waldoknowswhere

The average family in America these days can't afford to play with over sized golf carts. Electric cars were cast-offs back when they were first invented and will never be a replacement for gas or diesel. Look at the Volt, a dealer Hendricks Cheverolet) in Fresno California told GM to quit sending them to his dealership because no one is buying them. His sales are about 1 per month

January 24 2012 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
mn4470

Sir, interestinf, but economically out of the publics's hands in terms of price. I would like to see a study done comparing the cost of electricity and gas; and, the cost of running your a/c unit at full blast and running an electric car.

January 24 2012 at 9:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mn4470's comment
CaptTesla

#1 user of electricity are the refineries producing gasoline for automobiles. so yes electric cars do use electricty and thus use coal. but they use much less than the process of producing the gasoline for the ICE cars. and this does not take in to account the further waste of delivering the gasoline to the stations and further electric use to get it in your car.
so, you slow down the need to produce as much gasoline in the refineries you use less electricity overall.

January 27 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
crsau007

I rather used the gas for more power and it can tow a big trailer..An electric car is not enough more power for towing a trailer...

January 24 2012 at 1:07 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Chad Schwitters

"Lack of infrastructure" would indeed be an impediment if we were trying to throw away all the gas cars and replace them with plug-ins. And if there were no PHEVs.

But they're not making nearly enough BEVs to do replace gas cars, and PHEVs do exist. So infrastructure doesn't matter at all--my wife and I have been driving BEVs without any for a few years now. If you only have one car, buy a PHEV. If you have multiple cars, you can still get a PHEV, or buy a BEV--either way you still have gas. The electric car will be your primary car because it's nicer to drive; used to most of your short daily trips. Got a long trip? Take the gas car.

Seriously, there is no sacrifice here. No extra work or planning. You never have to plug it in anywhere other than your garage. (Of course, once you buy one and realize how much better it is than driving your gas car, you may want to plug it in somewhere else just to avoid the gas car...but that's entirely different than being forced to).

January 24 2012 at 12:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chad Schwitters's comment
hgeorgech

Only 13.3% of vehicles have a garage ... virtually no electric stations exist in shopping malls, movie parking lots, church parking lots, gas stations, office parking lots, gov't buildings, etc., etc., etc ... so charging 'em (often requiring 6 - 8 hrs) is just NOT feasible; nor will be for YEARS to come ... electrtics might be fine to use for P. O. delivery vehicles .. but that's about it!

January 26 2012 at 11:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mbernst126

I would not buy an electric car at this time . Limited milage, no electric station available, and cost to much.

January 23 2012 at 11:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mbernst126's comment
hgeorgech

The best immediate use for electric vehicles might be for Post Office route delivery to replace the boxy Jeep-like ones in use ... at least they could be re-charged over night back at the P.O garage

Throw a delivery body over the Volt chassis; rename the vehicle Watt

January 26 2012 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
CaptTesla

and 300 miles is not enough for you? most people on long drives do not drive over 6-8 hours in a day. with a Model S you could easily do that. start out, drive just less than 300 miles ( planning ahead on your charge station thourhg Tesla supercharger network) 45 minute charge while you eat your lunch or dinner, and you are off on another 45 minute drive. teh only difference from an ICE car - in an ICE car you coudl top off in 10-12 minutes and eat your fast food while driving. so maybe a 40 minute difference. so the limited range thing is not true anymore. many tesla roadster owners have driven cross county trips with no problems. and no delays.

January 27 2012 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

On a trip, where would you plug it in?

January 23 2012 at 8:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to savemycountry911's comment
Chad Schwitters

On a trip, you'd take your gas car. If you don't have another car, you'd buy a plug-in hybrid. So either way you'd be using gas, rather than plugging it in.

January 24 2012 at 1:08 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
CaptTesla

if you buy a Tesla , the only long range true electric vehicle, they will have a supercharger network set up and it will take all of the range anxiety away. 45 minute quick charge while you grab a bite to eat and you are off again for another 300 miles.

January 27 2012 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alblonie116

We would never consider buying one from this company or any other..we still have many questions..If it breaks down away for town,do you go to a t,v,repairshop or generator shop?..How much 'Weight' in addition to passengers can they handel before a reduction in efficency?..how do they do on ,'Mountain roads"?..theres many other questions...They run on battries right?...Battery technology has not changed much in 75 years...a U-Boat,,could never outrun a destroyer very long,,or last very long,before recharging...do you think its any different today?

January 23 2012 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alblonie116's comment
Chad Schwitters

If it breaks down, you go to a mechanic. Of course with only one moving part in the motor, and one moving part in the transmission, it's not very likely to break down.

They can handle as much weight as a gas car, and are fantastic on mountain roads. Locomotives and cruise ships use electric motors because they have more torque than gas engines. If I'm going 60mph up a mountain and hit the accelerator, my wife gets a headache from her head snapping backwards.

Battery technology has changed a great deal in just the last 5 years. You should test-drive one.

January 24 2012 at 1:16 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply