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Former Tesla Model S Chief Engineer is bringing a new all-electric luxury sedan to market


Last year, we reported on Atieva, an electric vehicle startup founded by Bernard Tse, a former Tesla Vice President and board member. Tse was on Tesla’s board from 2003 to 2007 and he headed Tesla’s short-lived energy division during his last year at the company – long before it relaunched a new and improved ‘Tesla Energy’ division in 2015.

Tse resigned from the board to head the ‘Tesla Energy Group’, but left not long after Martin Eberhard, then Tesla’s CEO and longtime friend of Tse, was ousted by Elon Musk. Tesla reorganized to adjust their worrying cash burn at the time and focused on the Tesla Roadster instead of energy storage solutions.

After leaving, he found Atieva with the ambition to make it something similar to what he and Eberhard hoped the ‘Tesla Energy Group’ could become; a company developing cell agnostic battery packs both for third-party electric vehicles and other energy storage applications.

But as we reported last year, the company eventually hired Peter Rawlinson, Tesla VP and Model S Chief Engineer, along with several other EV experts from Tesla and other companies, and then changed its focus to bring to market a new electric vehicle from the ground up and not just the drivetrain.

The company received hundreds of millions in funding from investors including Mitsui & Co and Venrock to develop its EV platform and its first vehicle. While details have been sparse for a long time, Reuters recently got a few new tidbits of information to share.

Atieva is reportedly testing its drivetrain in a Mercedes-Benz Vito commercial van named “Edna.”

Reuters reports some specs:

“The drivetrain propels the van from zero to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, a fraction slower than the fastest Tesla Model S. Atieva’s 0-60 acceleration target for its 2018 sedan is 2.7 seconds, faster than a 12-cylinder Ferrari supercar.”

Rawlinson, who is now CTO at Atieva, was instrumental in the development of the Tesla Model S from 2009 to 2012 – when the automaker brought the first all-electric luxury sedan to market. He is now behind the technology powering Atieva’s vehicles.

While the publication didn’t share any pictures, it apparently got a sneak peek at the actual first vehicle Atieva plans to release and offered a short description:

“The Atieva sedan, being developed under the code name Project Cosmos, looks like a futuristic descendent of the Audi A7. Its headlamps are ultra-thin, with thousands of insect-inspired micro lenses. Its dashboard has a three-piece reconfigurable digital display that can be controlled by voice or touch.”

Here’s an Audi A7 and a Mercedes-Benz Vito for a visual reference:

The company hopes to bring the sedan to market as soon as 2018 and then leverage its EV platform to release two luxury crossovers in 2020 and 2021.

Atieva is also working on autonomous technologies for its lineup of vehicles. The company hired senior researchers from Bosch’s Palo-Alto lab to lead the effort.

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