Tesla unveils electric SUV "faster than a Porsche 911"

Tesla has opened its US order book for the new all-electric Model X, probably the world’s most enigmatically named SUV, ahead of the first commercial deliveries in 2014.

Founder Elon Musk unveiled the hotly anticipated car last week, claiming performance models will be able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds, making it faster than a Porsche 911.

No details on range or pricing have yet been announced, although Tesla did say the seven-seater will be offered with a 60kWh or an 85 kWh battery and Delorean-style “falcon doors” that open upwards rather than out.

Production of between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles will start in late 2013, but for now Tesla is concentrating in rolling out its Model S electric sedan, which will begin manufacturing in July.

About 5,000 Model S units should be produced by the end of the year, retailing at between $49,900 to $97,900, after a federal $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles.

The highest grade models can travel 300 miles on a single charge, three times longer than current all-electric models, which the company is hoping will prove the game-changer analysts say the industry needs.

Tesla expects the Model S to become profitable from as early as next year after receiving 8,000 pre-sales reservations.

This would be welcome news for both the company, which has not made a profit since it was founded in 2003 by Silicon Valley investors, and the wider low-carbon vehicle industry, which has faced criticism over relatovely slow sales for early models.

Low sales have hit even bellwether models such as the Chevy Volt, forcing some EV companies to reassess their business plans. Tesla’s rival Fisker Automotive announced last week it was ceasing work at its plant in Delaware, where it planned to build a family-sized plug-in hybrid dubbed Project Nina, laying off 26 workers. A further 40 contract employees were also let go from the company’s headquarters in Anaheim, California.

Fisker’s Karma, a plug-in hybrid that won Top Gear magazine’s luxury car of the year award 2011, is already on sale in the US at $102,000 and is being rolled out internationally this spring.

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