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Next New Tesla Sedan Will Be Smaller, Less Expensive, In 2016

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2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Electric-car startup Tesla Motors has been in the news a lot lately.

In the last few months, it achieved its first profitable quarter, delivered more plug-in electric cars than any other maker (Nissan and Chevy included) from January through March, and issued more than $1 billion of new capital--some of which it used to pay off its entire U.S. Department of Energy loan.

Last night at its annual shareholder meeting, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a few more details of the company's future product plan.

Joining its current Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan late next year will be the Model X crossover utility vehicle, with its top-lifting "falcon doors" and available all-wheel drive.

But it's the next generation of Tesla vehicles that are most intriguing, and Musk offered up a few tidbits about them as well.

"What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car," Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg.

"I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

To that end, Tesla's third-generation car (known as Blue Star), will smaller--about the size of a BMW 3-Series--and about half the price of the Model S, which starts at $69,900.

Musk said the new sedan would have a range of about 200 miles, for a price various cited as $30,000 or less than $40,000--which may reflect the effect of the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit buyers will receive.

The new, smaller Tesla will continue to use lithium-ion cells from Panasonic, one of several companies that has a minority stake in Tesla Motors. But they'll be of a new and more advanced chemistry designed specifically for use in electric cars.

The styling will bear a family resemblance to the Model S, Musk noted.

It's a long time until fall 2016, when the car is expected to go into production as a 2017 model.

And Tesla has many hurdles to cross before then.

But that hasn't stopped the growing number of U.S. electric-car owners (100,000 as of last month) and fans from speculating about the less expensive Tesla sedan.

Look for more of the same over the next four years.

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