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Tesla shows off alpha build of Model S

Tesla showed off the alpha prototype of its hotly anticipated all-electric Model S sedan on is blog today.

Rather than go with a formal announcement, the company put up a series of videos (see below) on its blog showcasing its vice president of vehicle engineering Peter Rawlinson talking about the various parts of the alpha build. It appears to have built more than one prototype, as the blog refers to alpha “builds” in the plural. VentureBeat broke the story on Tuesday, citing a Tesla employee’s online comments on a Tesla story.

In the videos, Rawlinson walks through the prototype and talks about the engineering behind various components, from the car’s internal structure to its suspension system, as well as the company’s “obsession” with optimizing packaging design — making components fit on the car in the most efficient way possible. He also shows off the battery pack, which is built under the floor of the car and is reportedly designed to be removed and swapped out with a new, freshly charged one within five minutes.

The company announced an aggressive production plan last month for the car, and will be assembling vehicles from start-to-finish for the first time at its newly acquired $42 million Fremont factory. Many regard the Model S as a major testing ground for the company and the foundation for future revenues after its hot IPO last year.

On one hand, this should make Model S gear-heads happy — it’s perhaps the most detailed look at the Model S yet, and the company will likely be showing off the car at the North American International Motor Show. Investors should celebrate the news considering it means Tesla has delivered on the first of the promises it outlined in last month’s report on the Model S timeline. According to that report, Tesla planned to finish its first prototype of the hotly anticipated 2012 Model S all-electric sedan by the end of December (the blog today carefully points out that the Model S “Alpha testing phase began in 2010.”)

On the other hand, an unspecified prototype or two is probably not a huge deal to anyone except fans and stock enthusiasts, considering automakers like GM typically build dozens before going into full production. Perhaps that’s why Tesla chose to make the announcement via the videos rather than an official press release. And Tesla has showcased at least one Model S prototype publicly. Given that car makers must crash 20 or more cars in safety ratings tests, Tesla has many more alpha and beta builds to make.

Tesla Vehicle Engineering – Part 1:

Tesla Vehicle Engineering – Part 2:

Tesla Vehicle Engineering – Part 3:

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