"Some people don't need a 300-mile range," he said. "If you commute to work 50 miles, you don't need that much range."
The Model S also includes Tesla's first attempt to address the "road trip question." People generally don't drive 300 miles per day, but there has always been the question of how an EV can offer a longer range for the occasional longer trips. The new vehicle includes a direct current fast-charge capability that can recharge the vehicle to about half its maximum range in 30 minutes. Drivers could conceivably drive very long distances and stop every 150 miles or so for 30 minutes to recharge.
He said Tesla has already taken more than 10,000 reservations for Model S vehicles and is already sold out for 2012.
Next year, Tesla plans to introduce its first electric SUV, the Model X.
Straubel said Tesla has begun development of what it's referring to as its third-generation vehicle, which could be priced at around $30,000.
Tesla, which is often knocked for the price tag on its original Roadster, continues to refine its technology and drive down the cost of the batteries, Straubel said. It estimates that customers can save as much as $2,000 per year in fuel and maintenance costs compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles.
That presents an interesting business model challenge, considering that EVs have a higher up-front sticker price. "People aren't used to paying for fuel costs up front, when they buy the car."