PARIS -- Next-generation electric vehicles are likely to be lighter, stiffer and safer -- simply by virtue of being designed from the start as EVs, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says.
"I don't think any manufacturer, Tesla included, has really designed a car to optimize the electric powertrain," Musk said in an interview here last month. "It's a bit like the early days of automobiles where you had horseless carriages.
"It works, of course. You can take a carriage and put an engine on it and you can drive around, but it's not the best way to use an internal combustion engine."
Similarly, retrofitting existing petroleum-powered vehicles with electric powertrains misses the mark, he said. That's what Tesla did with the Roadster, which is based on a Lotus. But, Musk says, the Model S sedan due in 2012 will be built on a new platform.
"That's why, for example, we've got the battery pack in the floorpan as an integrated part of the chassis," he said. "This is an important point. You don't want to carry the battery pack like a sack of potatoes."
That will improve vehicle attributes such as weight and stiffness, as well as freeing up interior space. By taking out elements like the firewall, exhaust and catalytic converter, Tesla will be able to fit seating for five adults and two rear-facing children's seats into the Model S.
Musk also said that Tesla's role as a supplier of electric powertrains, as in the electric RAV4 it will produce for Toyota in 2012, could grow.
"It's very difficult to predict because the powertrain side of the business is dependent on the decisions of a dozen CEOs of other car companies," he said.
But, Musk added: "We're very interested in supplying electric powertrains. We'll supply them as long as people want them from us."