Tesla rakes in over $2.6 million from Model S reservations

In a slight modification to the old mantra, "If you promise to build it, they will come" seems to be the order of the day at Tesla Motors, which has become a darling of Silicon Valley with its $100,000 electric roadster built atop the Lotus Elise platform.

The company announced Wednesday that it has taken over 520 pre-orders for its recently-unveiled fully-electric Model S Sedan, which is expected to cost $50,000 after a $7,000 federal tax credit. Tesla doesn't actually take orders, since the vehicles won't enter production until late 2011 at the earliest, but is instead selling "reservations" for $5,000 each. And some buyers surely plopped down $40,000 to reserve the first editions of the car to roll off the line.

But $3 million isn't enough to get the car built. Tesla is seeking a $350 million loan from the US Department of Energy to build the production plant that will manufacture the Model S. The company intends to have the capacity to build 20,000 electric sedans by mid-2012, an audacious plan considering Tesla has only delivered just over 300 roadsters since reservations went on sale in 2006 -- and another 1,000 people are on the waiting list.

If things go as planned and the Model S does go into production, it will be the first mass-produced all-electric highway-capable passenger car (say that 5 times fast). The specs are as impressive as the vehicle's looks: 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, top speed of 130mph, two LCD touch screens, 45-minute fast-charge capability, and battery packs that provide ranges of 160, 230 and 300 miles depending on how much you want to pay.

The Model S is a bold endeavor that left many Tesla critics questioning how it could ever be accomplished, especially in the current economic environment and as the future of the three big US automakers remains in question. But there seems to be enough interest that potential buyers are willing to risk that $5,000 or $40,000 (it helps when your customers are Internet moguls).

Tesla will show off the Model S tonight at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, where it will likely take even more orders reservations.

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