Only a handful of battery-electric cars are sold in the U.S., and none is nearly so audacious as the 2012 Tesla Model S. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, the Silicon Valley automaker created an all-electric platform that will hold not only a mid-size sport sedan but also an all-wheel drive sport-utility vehicle (the Model X) to be launched next year.
The option of three different ranges, corresponding to different battery pack sizes, is something no other maker offers. The Performance version of the high-end Model S is stunningly quick, and all but silent while accelerating.
And best of all, the EPA rates the 85-kWh Model S at 89 MPGe, or "miles per gallon equivalent," a measure of the distance a car can travel electrically on the same amount of battery energy as is contained in 1 gallon of gasoline. That Model S figure is not as high as those of the Nissan Leaf (99 MPGe) or Ford Focus Electric (105 MPGe), but it's impressive for a much larger, faster, and heavier five-seat vehicle.
As with all zero-emission battery electric vehicles, we give the 2012 Tesla Model S our highest rating of 10 on the Green scale.