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Tesla in Toronto awaiting orders Add to ...

After displaying its all-electric Model S sedan in Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary, gutsy little California EV maker Tesla is displaying its upcoming mid-size sedan in downtown Toronto up until Saturday as it takes Canadian orders for the EV scheduled to begin production in late 2012.

Located near a former Lamborghini showroom at Front Street and Bathurst, the Model S Alpha prototype will show off its near production styling, sharpened notably since the rounder Model S concept debuted and was shown at various Canadian auto shows. The larger Model S will be a much less expensive four-door than the firm’s current two-seat Roadster sports cars, and will offer a choice of three batteries that promise to increase the range from 260 km, to 370 km, or a mainstream-like 480 km.

Canadian prices have not been set, but in the United States the car will start at $57,400 when equipped with the base 260 km battery. Each of the larger capacity batteries will add about 10 grand to the asking price. In both countries, a $5,000 refundable deposit is required, although if you’d like to be among the first to receive one, you’ll have to pony up a $40,000 deposit for the Model S Signature series, which includes the largest capacity battery and a few unique features.

The first deliveries of the Model S are scheduled for mid-year 2012, although Canadian production is not set to start until three months after that, according to teslamotors.com. It will be a particularly practical family hauler, with an optional rear-facing jump seat that can carry two small children to make it a seven-seater, as well as a front and rear trunk, made possible by the batteries being distributed underneath the cabin and around the vehicle’s substructure.

A permanent Canadian showroom, located in Toronto, is in the works, said the company.

Ferrari hypercar design school contest announces shortlist

Three European design schools and one each from the United States, South Korea, and India were chosen from among 50 internationally recognized transportation design schools, the seven finalists separating themselves from more than 200 entries.

The goal of the contest is to create the Ferrari supercar of the future: super light and hyper fast, but also super green. The winners will earn cash prizes from Ferrari and contest sponsor Autodesk, a firm with Canadian DNA that date back to the early 1980s.

Back then, Toronto-based engineering software firm Alias Research was about to come up with what became an industry standard design software, AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design) that could be run on relatively inexpensive PCs. The company is now part of a huge software conglomerate based in Silicon Valley, but its Toronto and Montreal offices are also highly regarded for their special effects software, garnering multiple Academy Awards.

The American school among the seven shortlisted is Detroit’s College For Creative Studies, as well as schools in Barcelona, Turin, and London. All finalists will now create 3D Autodesk Alias versions of their creations, as well as physical models to large 1:4 scale representations. And similar to Ferrari’s usual design practice, competing teams will present their proposals to Ferrari executives to crown a winning team. The design winners will then receive cash and coveted internships at Ferrari.

Ford C-Max loses third row

Electric car fans looking for the possibility of seven seats will be disappointed with the news that Ford has pulled the plug on the planned – and long announced – seven-seat C-Max microvan. But interestingly, it will make the C-Max a hybrid-only vehicle, maintaining its plan to offer a plug-in version to compete with the Chevy Volt, and a more conventional hybrid gas-electric version that will best the firm’s current fuel efficiency champ, the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

It’s all part of Ford’s plan to triple advanced alternative fuel vehicles, further integrating electric propulsion into its mainstream products, said the Dearborn-based powerhouse last week. The C-Max Energi will be the most advanced version, with its plug-in capability and long range (targeting more than 800 km of electric-only and gas-powered range combined).

Ford doesn’t hazard a similar prediction for the Energi’s electric-only range, but says the two new electrified vehicles will arrive in North America in 2012 and in Europe in 2013.

Mitsu’s i-MiEV to be lowest price EV

Mitsubishi’s upcoming i-MiEV four-seat electric vehicle will be the lowest price EV in the country when it goes on sale later this year or early next, starting at $32,998. But even that price is still $5,008 more than the i-MiEV’s starting sticker price in the United States.

More fully equipped models with the premium package will start at $35,998, not counting Mitsu Canada’s $1,350 freight charge. Provincial rebates of $8,230 and $7,769 for the four-seat hatchback will be available from Ontario and Quebec governments respectively. This will bring its starting price down to $24,768 in Ontario and $25,229 in Quebec, which is still much higher than similarly sized hatchbacks, but at least in the realm of the sweet spot of the compact car market.

Why the higher price in Canada? As usual, it comes down to tariffs, taxes and a little bit of extra equipment. Mitsubishi says the Canadian version adds fog lamps, auto headlights and a cold weather package to the party.

So let’s compare west coast costs here, just for fun. By the time you add the Canadian freight to the top-line i-MiEV, you’re looking at $37,348 – and that’s before sales tax. Further down the left coast, California residents will be charged $16,310 U.S. for the same vehicle, after the American federal $7,500 tax credit and California’s $5,000 EV rebate are factored into the equation.

Under those circumstances, it won’t matter how good the car is, or how many condo developers have been mandated to rough in EV charging stations in Vancouver: without national and/or provincial financial incentives in such a key Canadian market, EVs will remain a hard sell in that province.

If EV sales numbers here don’t meet early forecasts, would it be enough to convince already winter-wary auto makers to keep their electric-only offerings to the U.S.? It’s a risk, and at this early stage of the Canadian EV era, a very real one.

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Correction: The popular AutoCAD program was designed by California-based Autodesk in 1982. An automotive visualization program called AutoStudio was developed by Toronto-based Alias Research, before the firm was bought out, eventually becoming part of Autodesk in 2006. Incorrect information was reported in Globe Drive on June 17.

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