Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has announced the electric car maker is launching a new battery pack for the performance versions of its Model S and X cars that will extend the range and mean faster acceleration.
Elon Musk hailed the upgraded charger as a “profound milestone”.
The battery cell chemistry is the same, but the reconfigured product stored more energy in the same space, he said.
Tesla, which this month posted a steeper-than-expected loss, is adding a new sedan car to its sports line-up.
Elon Musk claimed that the new 100-kilowatt hour battery pack means high-end versions of the Model S sedan, called the P100D, will be the world’s fastest accelerating car in production.
The P100D will do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds. Elon Musk said there were faster cars on the market, but these were limited-run vehicles, while the Tesla is aimed at the mass market, he said.
“These are very profound milestones and I think will help convince people around the world that electric is the future,” Elon Musk said on a conference call with journalists.
The new battery extends the range of performance versions of the new Model S well beyond 300 miles, from about 290 miles, Tesla said.
Elon Musk said that in cool weather, a driver could travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles – a nearly 400 mile drive – without recharging.
In May 2016, Tesla said it was stepping up production plans for its upcoming Model 3 mass-market sedan and would build a total of 500,000 all-electric vehicles in 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
The Model S and X vehicles with the upgraded batteries will help fund the more affordable Model 3 still in development, Elon Musk said. The performance versions of the S and X without the new battery currently start at $108,000 and $115,500, respectively.
However, Tesla Motors also warned that investment would ramp up as well.
The company has been under investigation from US safety regulators following a fatal crash in Florida earlier this year involving its drive-assistance feature known as Autopilot.
Elon Musk said a software update of the feature is nearing completion, adding that it will result in “material improvements in the autonomy of the car”.
Tesla has unveiled its long-awaited Model X with a “bio-weapon defense” system and Falcon Wing doors.
The Model X is the third vehicle produced by the electric car-maker, and was unveiled nearly two years later than originally planned.
Tesla – which has yet to make a profit – said about 25,000 people had pre-ordered the all-electric SUV.
Analysts say the Model X should be a success because it will be seen as a status symbol.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the car launch in Fremont, California: “I think we got a little carried away with the X.
“There is far more there than is really necessary to sell a car.
“And some of the things are so difficult, they make the car better but the difficulty of engineering those parts is so high.”
Analysts say the model filled a gap in the market.
The sports utility vehicle (SUV) can fit seven people at a time.
The Model X’s Falcon Wing doors open upwards and use sensors to help them clear obstacles, such as garage ceilings. Tesla suggests this will make it easier to put young children in car seats without hitting their heads on the roof.
The biohazard button activates the air filtration system, which fills the cabin with “medical-grade air”.
The Model X also features a panoramic windshield that extends overhead, which Elon Musk said was the largest single piece of glass ever used in a car.
Tesla says the car, which has two electric motors, can travel about 250 miles on a single charge and features automatic functions that bring it “ever closer to autonomous operation”.
It will be continuously improved, Tesla says, via software transmitted “over the air”.
An update expected within the next month should enable an auto-pilot function, allowing the cars to be driven hands-free on motorways.
The Model X is priced as high as $144,000 and Tesla expects the pre-orders will take between 8 months and a year to fulfill.
Tesla has not disclosed pricing for the base model, but Elon Musk said that in the future there would be a “lower-cost” version.
The Model X is the third vehicle unveiled by Tesla. Its first was the Roadster sports car – which is no longer in production, and its second the Model S saloon.
Tesla has pledged to make its next vehicle – the Model 3 – lower cost. It is due to be revealed in 2017.
The company hopes to disrupt the car market by demonstrating that vehicles with electric motors do not need to compromise on speed or handling.
Tesla has yet to make a profit and its costs are mounting.
The company’s spending on fixed assets totaled $831.2 million over the first half of the year due to its investment in the Model X and Model 3 as well as a new battery factory in Nevada.
The Model X, Elon Musk said, “gives us a cash flow stream we can use to develop and facilitate” production and development.
In August 2015, Elon Musk said Tesla would make between 50,000 and 55,000 Model S and Model X vehicles this year, and would have the capacity to roll 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles off its production lines per week in 2016.