Tesla D Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Tesla Unveils New Electric Car for Bad Weather

The new version of the Model S will feature the letter D for dual motor, one of which will be in the front and one in the back of the vehicle.

LOS ANGELES - Electric car giant Tesla (IW 500/384) (TSLA) on Thursday unveiled a new two-engine vehicle designed to perform in bad weather, featuring four-wheel drive and anti-collision technology.

Performance in inclement conditions was considered one of the weak spots of Tesla's existing models and, with the new car, the company is trying to win over drivers in regions where the weather is not the nearly year-round sunshine that its California base enjoys.

Founder Elon Musk said the new version of the Model S will feature the letter D for dual motor, one of which will be in the front and one in the back of the vehicle.

Musk unveiled the new car at an event at Hawthorne airport in Los Angeles where Tesla has a design studio and engineering lab.

Musk said the new car will come in three versions: 60D, 85D and the top of the line P85D, with progressively higher engine power and speed.

The car's anti-collision features include forward-looking radar.

"It scans the car in front of you in the fog, snow and sand," Musk said.

The car can also read speed-limit signs and adjust the car's speed to comply.

The top of the line model will be able to reach 155 miles per hour, with acceleration that Musk described as "insane." It can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, he said.

That top-line new version will increase range by about 10 miles over the current version, to about 275 miles. The price will start at about $120,000.

Musk said having two engines will not slow the car down.

"You can dynamically shift the power from rear to front and constantly be at the optimal efficiency of both motors, so we actually overcome the penalty of the increased mass," Musk said.

Delivery Starts This Year

The P85D will be delivered in North America beginning in December, while the 60D and 85D will be delivered starting in February. Deliveries in Europe and Asia will come in the months to follow, Tesla said.

Electric cars represent only 3.5% of sales in the U.S. but that stake is growing.

Tesla last month announced plans to build the world's largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada, as part of an effort to bring down costs and boost popularity of electric vehicles.

Tesla will run operations, while its Japanese partner Panasonic (IW 1000/56) will make battery cells destined for the plant and invest in equipment and machinery.

While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality.

A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion.

Tesla's Model S, which came out in 2012, sells for about $75,000.

The company is working on a 4x4 crossover model that is supposed to come out next year. It is also working on a less expensive Model 3 that is expected to cost between $35,000 and $40,000.

Musk had created a frenzy of speculation with a tweet earlier in the month, which read: "about time to unveil the D and something else." He did not elaborate.

At Thursday's evening event he said, "since I've tweeted about the D I've learnt a lot including things I didn't think were physically possible."

He was joking about all the speculation as to what the D could mean.

Veronique Dupont, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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