Tesla electric SUV to fly on "Falcon Wings"

Tesla founder Elon Musk builds spaceships, so it’s perhaps not surprising that his latest car has wings.

The Model X battery-powered crossover SUV was revealed on Thursday evening at an event in Tesla’s Hawthorne, Calif., design studio, right next door to Musk’s Space X rocket company. The all-electric seven-passenger vehicle set to be the second car in the company’s lineup when it goes on sale in late 2013.

Built on the same platform as the company’s upcoming Model S sedan, Tesla says the seven-passenger, three-row Model X will be available in rear and all-wheel drive models and that the high performance version is quicker than a Porsche 911, despite being as large as an Audi Q7.

In other words: it flies. Not literally, but open the doors and you might think that it can.

Along with conventional portals up front, the Model X features what Tesla calls “Falcon Wings” in the rear. A new take on gull-wing doors, they open upward and are hinged where the sides meet the roof to keep them from swinging out too far from the car, facilitating their use in tight spaces. Combined with a low floor, the unique design lets second and third row passengers to enter the car without ducking their heads, making ingress and egress easier than in a conventional car.

The per-charge range of the Model X was not revealed, but it will be offered with the same 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery packs found in the Model S. In the smaller sedan they provide 230 miles and 300-320 miles of range, respectively.

Read: Tesla Model S boasts 320-mile range, one-hour recharge time

Pricing of the Model X will be set closer to launch, but Tesla says it will be close to that of the Model S, which costs between $67,400-$105,400 with the same size battery packs. A $57,400 version of the sedan with a 160-mile range is also planned.

Both vehicles are being developed with the help of a $465 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, and will be produced at the automaker’s facility in Fremont, Calif., which it purchased in May 2010 for $42 million from a discontinued GM-Toyota joint venture. At Thursday’s event, Tesla confirmed that Model S production will begin by July of this year.

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