Tesla Says a Cheap EV Is Coming Soon, But First Comes the World's Quickest Car

The Model S Plaid will dash from 0-60 in less than two seconds — but it's a $25,000 EV that could change the world.

tesla model s
Tesla

If last week's September Apple event left you feeling a little deprived of cool new Silicon Valley hardware, Tesla's Battery Day event on Tuesday was a chance to score an unexpected follow-up rush of new product joy. The biggest news for those of us who care about the rush of speed was the long-anticipated debut of the Tesla Model S Plaid, which promises to be not just the quickest and fastest Tesla yet — but arguably the quickest, fastest production electric car ever to go on sale.

The Plaid powertrain marks the first time Tesla has used a three-motor powertrain in one of its cars (past versions have all used one- or two-motor layouts). Together, the trio creates more than 1,100 horsepower, according to the carmaker — enough to vault the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than two seconds, through the quarter-mile in less than nine, and on to a top speed of 200 mph.

It won't just be a dragster, either. As the company revealed in Twitter, the Tesla Model S Plaid is capable of lapping the famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca race track in California in 1:30.3 — which makes it less than a second slower around the track than a McLaren 720S was in Motor Trend's testing.

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(The company also released video of the lap from the on-board camera, showing the Plaid prototype's cracking lap. It's worth the 90 seconds of your life to watch.)

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While Musk & Co. didn't reveal what sort of battery pack lies beneath the Plaid's body, it seems liable to be a bigger one than currently found in the car, as the new Model S reportedly has a maximum range of 520 miles — 117 more than the current model offers. (Perhaps not coincidentally, those performance and range figures juuuust exceed the claims recently released by Lucid for its new Tesla-fighting Lucid Air.)

Of course, performance always comes at a cost — and in the case of the Model S Plaid, that costs is a starting price of $139,990. (That's still $45,000 cheaper than the base price of a Porsche Taycan Turbo S, however.) Should that not put you off, you can place a pre-order as early as today, although Tesla says production models won't roll into driveways until late 2021.

But while 1,000-plus horsepower cars with record-breaking performance certainly drive headlines, it was Elon Musk's other hardware announcement that could have bigger implications for the electric car market — and indeed, the world at large. During the event, Musk announced that Tesla would be building an electric car that sells for $25,000, and that it would go on sale in about three years' time.

This, presumably, would be a smaller car that the company has hinted at before, in particular for the Chinese market. While details are few and far between about it, reports have suggested it will be a hatchback model, possibly based on the Model 3. (During the event, Musk revealed plans for a new chassis design in which the battery pack itself serves as the primary part of the car's underbody, but it's unclear whether that will be ready in three years' time.)

Of course, as with all Tesla's future plans, it's worth taking the timeline with a grain of salt. In the last few years, the carmaker has announced a new Roadster, a semi truck and a pickup truck — none of which have yet to go on sale, or indeed, even be seen in final production form. And Tesla's long-promised Full Self-Driving capability has been an (expensive) option on the order sheet for years, but its date of delivery remains to be determined — if a fully self-driving car is even truly possible. (Musk did admit in Tuesday's event that developing full autonomy has proven difficult...but also claimed the $25K car would be capable of driving itself.)

One thing Tesla's Battery Day didn't reveal, though? What Wall Street expected the company to about batteries. Investor speculation had swirled around the idea that Tesla would announce it had found a way to make batteries cheaply enough that it could bring the price of EVs down below their gas-powered equivalents, or build a battery that could last for a million miles of driving — neither of which was announced. As a result, $TSLA was down 6.68 percent today as of this article's publication. Don't feel bad about anyone who owns a bunch of Tesla stock, though; the carmaker is still up 400 percent over where it was last year.

And, yes, in case you were wondering: like "Ludicrous Mode," the "Plaid" name is also an homage to Spaceballs.

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