Electric car maker Tesla is set to launch its most ambitious model to date on Friday.
The sleek luxury Model S sports sedan is expected to be the best electric car ever to hit the road. It boasts a driving range of almost 500 kilometres on a single charge of its 85-kWh battery and can travel from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds.
The pioneering vehicle goes on sale in a limited edition run of 1,000 and a price tag of almost 100,000 dollars. But once the company hits regular production later this year, it will sell a version with a smaller 40 kWh battery and more limited range for around 47,500 dollars including a 7,000 dollar federal tax break.
"In 2006 our plan was to build an electric sports car followed by an affordable electric sedan, and reduce our dependence on oil," said Elon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO and Chief Product Architect.
"Delivering Model S is a key part of that plan and represents Tesla's transition to a mass-production automaker and the most compelling car company of the 21st century."
The introduction of the new car will take place at Tesla's factory in northern California at a site where a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota folded in 2010. Tesla set up its production facility there with the aid of a 465-million-dollar US government loan.
The company was founded some ten years ago by former Paypal founder Musk, who in addition to pioneering electric cars also founded SpaceX, the leading private space company which last month successfully docked a supply ship at the International Space Station.
Tesla's first car, the Roadster two-seater, was a favourite of the likes of George Clooney and Justin Bieber but the company made only 2,500 of the 109,000-dollar cars, which it discontinued last year.
By contrast Tesla plans to ramp up production of the Model S to 5,000 this year and make 20,000 next year. More than 10,000 people have already put down deposits of 5,000 dollars each to order one of the cars. The company also has contracts to develop electric drive trains for companies such as Toyota and Mercedes Benz.
In addition to what is being hailed as its remarkable performance, attractive styling and state-of-the art electronics, the Model S can seat five adults and two children in rear-facing seats, and boasts impressive interior space because it doesn't need an engine or transmission tunnel.
The debut comes after more basic electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the GM Volt have failed to spark strong sales, though they also have far lower ranges than the Tesla.
US markets seem confident that the Model S will be a success.
Shares in the company have been rising steadily in recent days and a Goldman Sachs analyst urged clients to buy Tesla shares which he predicted would rise to 50 US dollars within six months from their current level of 36 dollars.