Tesla Model X
Its doors hoisted like raptor wings, an all-electric Tesla Model X basks in the spotlight at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, California. The Model X, which Tesla Motors plans to begin building in 2013 for sales starting early 2014, is just one of the new electric models scheduled to descend onto the market in the year ahead.
Already, owners of more than 2,300 electric Tesla Roadsters have logged nearly 27 million miles on battery power since 2008. Some 37,000 Nissan Leaf owners around the globe have covered more than 100 million miles. Last Sunday, tens of thousands of people attended events organized in 65 U.S. cities for the second annual National Plug-in Day, and this weekend, electric models are sure to gain attention at the Paris Motor Show.
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Yet today many industry watchers harbor only cautious hope for the future of a technology more than 100 years in the making. "A lot of the early adopters have kind of gotten out of the way, but the costs are not low enough to be affordable for a mass market," said Mike Holman, research director for the market research firm Lux Research.
On Tuesday, Tesla disclosed that the company will be forced to raise at least $128 million and change the terms of its $465 million loan agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy. Deliveries of Tesla's second-generation car, the Model S sedan (priced from $58,570) have fallen at least a month behind schedule, and the Energy Department has granted a waiver for Tesla to delay next month's payment until February (the rest of the 10-year loan is to be repaid early).
As Cosmin Laslau, an electric vehicle analyst with Lux Research, wrote in an email, Tesla "is struggling in its (admittedly heroic) undertaking of starting a car company from scratch, and an EV-only one to boot."
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Pictures: Eleven Electric Cars Charge Ahead, Amid Obstacles
From Tesla's futuristic Model X to the pint-sized Smart Fortwo ED, the latest electric cars are turning heads, but face challenges in their bid to transform transportation.