Tesla: An American-built EV? Not yet.

Tesla: An American-built EV? Not yet.

Headlines about Tesla Motors and its electric vehicles often mention the company's founding by Silicon Valley engineers and the 3.7 seconds its roadster takes to go from 0 to 60 mph. But what is often lost in the details is the fact that the roadster is built on a Lotus Esprit chassis. There's a good reason: The roadster is also built by Lotus in U.K., making the car more European than American at this point. What happens to the cars in the U.S., according to the Tesla Motors Web site, is minor finish work and installation of the battery.

The roadster's real point of origin is easy to overlook given the fact that Tesla Motors received $465M in loans from the Dept. of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Tesla says it plans to use $365M of the money to finance a manufacturing facility for its Model S sedan and $100M for a powertrain manufacturing plant in the SF Bay Area.

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