The countdown to the Tesla Model S being released in Australia is excruciating, but it's not far off. We've had it confirmed by a few sources that a single Model S is in Australia at the moment, and it's undergoing official certification for local sales.
According to our source, Australia's sole Model S is apparently in Canberra, being inspected and tested by the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch to make sure that it complies with the Australian Design Rules (ADR). All cars imported or manufactured and sold in Australia must meet these standards, which mandate certain levels of occupant and pedestrian safety in an accident, anti-theft features and so on.
It's just a formality, but it's especially interesting because the particular Model S sitting in our nation's capital is one of only five right-hand drive Model S chassis that apparently exist in the world right now. More will be manufactured when production starts, but the current right-hand drive models are pieced together by hand.
Undergoing ADR testing doesn't mean the Model S will need to be crash-tested in Australia just yet; the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has a Niche Vehicles Test Policy that means that vehicles expected to sell less than 600 cars a year can rely on international trials and Tesla's own testing. If the volume of Australian deliveries is substantially increased — not likely, given that Tesla is already selling Model S sedans worldwide faster than it can build them — then we'll eventually see local ANCAP testing.
Tesla should be submitting the Model S for standard, high-volume compliance; the two-door Roadster, which was sold from 2009 to 2012, complied as a low-volume import under Australia's Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles exemption. The Low Volume Scheme notation meant that only 100 Roadsters could be delivered and sold in Australia every year, but Tesla obviously has higher aspirations for the mass-market Model S.
The Model S, sold since 2012 in the United States and since mid-2013 in Europe, is currently only produced as a left-hand drive version, despite being available in the right-hand drive UK market. A right-hand drive variant will open up sales across the world — including in Australia, where it's actually illegal to import a left-hand drive car unless it's over 30 years old.
With a massive 60kWh or 85kWh lithium-ion battery and electric motors driving the car's rear wheels, the Tesla Model S can scoot from 0 to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds — as fast as the $350,000 BMW i8 — and can travel up to 500km on a single charge. It is Tesla's second vehicle; the next in line for production is the Model X, and after that is the company's mainstream city car.
Compliance for the Model S being undertaken now means that an Australian unveiling — and the announcement of a local price — should be imminent. Given the relatively low pricing already announced in China, we're optimistic about what the Model S should cost for Australian buyers.