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Tesla S Alpha · 21 March 11

GigaOm has a short photo feature on Tesla’s newest electric car, Inside Tesla‚Äôs Model S Alpha Workshop. Their next model shoots to have a 300 mile range and, if you check out the previous post about pricing, is shooting for a price range of around $80k, a little less with tax credits.

Of course $80k is a bit much for most of us, but it is a sports car and they don’t give those away for free, especially custom built electric ones.

The article has a nice collection of photos, giving a glimpse into what powers the new Tesla, starting with the sleek power pack which integrates into the floorboard. What really caught my eye is the drivetrain. I headed over to Tesla’s technology page to read up on it. Basically it’s everything outside of the batteries: electric motor, gear box, drive inverter (motor controller) and computers to run it. All liquid cooled and all integrated into the rear axle.

For those who aren’t keeping score, that means there’s nothing under the hood. The car will have both a front and a back trunk. That’s one of the big advantages to starting from scratch and designing your own car: you don’t have to use existing parts or preconceived notions as to how it should be assembled.

Now, you and I may never come close to buying a Tesla but we will benefit all the same. Other budding auto engineers are gleaning ideas and coming to realizations about what is possible, perhaps making a few advances of their own. As the price of gas goes up the incentives for coming to market with alternate designs, like electric, only increase. Technology continues to advance, design and simulation tools improve, and suddenly an integrated electric drive train becomes commonplace, perhaps even a commodity that electric car hobbyists can use.

Every day is bringing more news of commercial electric cars. Now that the industry is starting to “step outside the box” it will be very interesting to see what they come up with and where things go over the next few years. I applaud Tesla Motors for their part in making them more mainstream.