Will Range Anxiety Run Tesla Off the Road?

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Things are looking up for Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA  ) .

Jefferies analyst Jesse Pichel initiated coverage of the electric car maker with a buy rating. His price target of $35 is welcome, though not far ahead of where the stock is already.

Tesla isn't profitable. It certainly won't be in the black when it posts its quarterly results in two weeks. Even the bullish analysts see quarterly losses continuing until next year.

However, there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about Tesla. The company is expected to unveil its SUV crossover -- Model X -- next week. Its first mainstream-priced electric car -- the Model S sedan -- hits the market this summer. Toyota's (NYSE: TM  ) RAV4 EV, an all-electric car that the Japanese automaker is rolling out in cahoots with Tesla, is also slated to launch later this year.

The rub for Tesla is that consumers have been slow to take to all-electric cars. The infrastructure is starting to fall into place with charging stations popping up in surprising places including restaurants and hotels, but the cars remain rare sights on the road.

Outside of the high initial price tags of the all-electric cars on the market, "range anxiety" may be eating at the niche's popularity.

General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) took out full-page ads last week, letting the consumers know regulators have finally cleared its Chevy Volt's battery-pack fix for the problematic engine fires that were reported days after some extreme collisions.

Running off plug-in electric and gas, the ad managed to take a jab at the "range anxiety" that drivers of all-electric cars may feel if they're on extended road trips.

Tesla's entry-level Model S comes with a battery packing an estimated range of 160 miles at 55 miles per hour with a full charge. Two more powerful batteries are available -- pushing the car's range to 300 miles -- but the upgrades don't come cheap. Nearly doubling a car's battery range adds $20,000 to the already stiff $50,000 Model S price tag.

The Model S is going to be a great car for well-to-do and eco-friendly commuters and parents running daily errands, but it's going to take a fair deal of planning to make it feasible for a long summer road trip.

This is only a near-term concern. If the market grows for electric cars you will see more establishments and gas stations install charging stations, and technology may improve the capacity of the lithium-ion batteries.

Pichel calls Tesla the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) of green cars, and it's a fitting tag. Tesla will never be the cheap player in this niche, and its brand and penchant for design make it stand out over what the masses are driving.

However, even Apple would have a hard time moving $50,000 cars. And, as bad as Apple's antenna woes got for its iPhone 4 and early reputation for dropped calls, no one used "range anxiety" as a reason to hold back on Apple.

Tesla is revving up to be another potential winner recommended in the Rule Breakers newsletter service, but there's a different multi-bagger that has the growth stock service's attention these days. Find out what that stock is with a free report.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of General Motors, Apple, and Tesla Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (4)

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  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2012, at 4:23 PM, spectechinvest wrote:

    How can range anxiety be an issue for Tesla and not even mention it as an issue with Nissan Leaf. Where is the negatives about the leaf which gets over half the range as the model s?

    Check out new rumors of the debut of the model X:

  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2012, at 8:35 PM, TheDetails wrote:

    Good point spectechinvest...

    If one owns an electric car and notices their E-tank low, you plan for it - like charging it the night before. Folks who've bought the Leaf KNOW of its range and obviously planned around it. I'll assume those who buy the Model S, will know their range and buy accordingly as well.

  • Report this Comment On February 01, 2012, at 8:37 PM, Hawmps wrote:

    Model S is a sexy ride. The folks at Tesla have outdone themselves.

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