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Tesla Model S "Alpha"

The Model S' 17" center display
First comes Alpha, then comes Beta

When we think of the terms Alpha and Beta in the technology sense, we normally think of software applications that are in development or early revisions of computer hardware. Tesla Motors likes to use the terminology as well, and the company is showing off its latest "Alpha" hardware:  a running prototype of the Tesla S sedan.

Tesla explains that there will be both Alpha and Beta versions of its Model S sedan before it finally settles on a production model to make available to the public. Tesla explains that the Alpha version of its Model S first began testing last year, but the public is just now getting its first look at the test vehicle.

Things have changed slightly from the version of the Model S that was first shown in 2009. The front bumper/grille/headlights have been slightly tweaked, and the rear valance panel has also seen some updates (likely to meet federal bumper height, and lighting requirements). You can see the changes that have been made along with footage of the Model S in motion here.

"The first Alpha is amazingly agile for a car of its size. It has great handling balance and poised ride with communicative steering," noted Tesla Motors in a blog post. "Just goes to show what combining a low center of gravity with a very stiff body structure can achieve." 

Tesla Motors will continue with Alpha testing throughout 2011 in various climate conditions and will likely move on to the Beta phase either later this year or early next year. The production Model S is due out in 2012. 

The 4,000-pound Model S will have a driving range of up to 300 miles and can move from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Preliminary pricing for the Model S puts the base model (160-mile range) at $57,400 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. 





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