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Tesla begins assembling beta models for Model S electric cars

Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors has begun assembling beta models of its second electric car, the lower-priced Model S sedan (pictured right), the company said.

“We have started assembling the Beta vehicles,” Tesla Motors’ Model S Program Director Jerome Guillen said. “While most Betas are intended for testing to prepare for production, a few are earmarked for visits to North American Tesla stores later this year.”

The Model S sedan (shown in an image above) is geared toward casual car buyers and those buying electric cars for the first time. The production model will come out in the United States around the summer of next year and in Europe toward the end of 2012. It recently completed its alpha models for the Model S and has begun quality testing them, meaning demonstration models for press and analysts will be out by the end of the summer.

Tesla added 900 new reservations for the Model S last quarter — which requires a cash down payment of $5,000 — bringing its total reservations for the Model S up to 4,600. The Model S is priced at $57,000 before government incentives for purchasing an electric car. About 75 percent of the reservations for the Model S came from U.S. car buyers, while the rest came from European buyers.

Tesla Motors’ cars have some of the longest plug-in electric car ranges. The company’s first car, the sporty Tesla Roadster, can travel more than 200 miles before needing to recharge. The Model S is expected to have a range of up to 300 miles between charges for the top-level model. The Nissan Leaf — though much cheaper, at $32,000 — can only travel around 100 miles before needing to recharge.

Tesla Motors is also working on a sport-utility electric car called the Model X. That will use the same powertrain the Model S uses, but the company hasn’t said when the car will come out. Tesla also inked a deal with Toyota to provide additional powertrains for the company’s RAV4 sport utility electric vehicles, which brought the company $100 million.

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