Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley start-up building a mass-market electric sportscar, has raised $40 million in a third round of venture capital from a bunch of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and other gearheads you’d expect in this sort of deal.

They include the wealthy co-founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who have owned Prius’, but who are now probably looking to upgrade. The news was reported this morning by VentureWire (subscription required).

The news is significant because alternative energy cars — like the Prius — until now have lacked flash, and some of the wealthy yet environmentally-conscious set have been hankering for something cooler — a little more like a Ferrari.

We reported last month that PayPal co-founder Elon Musk had made an early major investment, and that Woodside resident Martin Eberhard had co-founded San Carlos-based Tesla. It has 70 employees.

And BusinessWeek reported Tesla had earlier raised $25M, had hired design firm IDEO to help with appearance, and suggested Tesla is customizing the chassis of the sporty Lotus Elise. (Update: Folks, sorry about this, but we’ve since been able to interview company founder Martin Eberhard, and he says BW got the IDEO and Lotus Elise stuff wrong — no truth to them at all, he says. We’ll be updating tomorrow with a link to our upcoming Mercury News story)

In this latest round, VantagePoint Venture Partners co-led the round, again with Musk. Musk is chief executive of SpaceX, a southern California company which is building space launch vehicles.

Other investors included Draper Fisher Jurvetson, another firm known for investing in early, risky technology, and the JP Morgan Bay Area Equity Fund. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Nick Pritzker (through his investment partnership, Tao LLC), and Jeff Skoll, the first employee at eBay (through his investment company, Capricorn Management LLC), also invested, according to a company announcement cited by VentureWire.


Further details out in July, apparently. Sorry, no pictures. For now, we’ll leave you with shots from the only real competitor that we’re aware of, the Loremo, which is making two versions, a low-end zippy car, and a high-end one, but these will only be hitting the market in 2009.

Update: Here’s Friday’s Mercury News story about this.

Here’s the official Tesla announcement.

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