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Tesla opens King of Prussia showroom

The atmosphere could be electric over a car that hopes to change the future.

One of the two Tesla Model S sedans on display in the showroom at the Plaza of King of Prussia, which opened Friday, May 17, 2013.
One of the two Tesla Model S sedans on display in the showroom at the Plaza of King of Prussia, which opened Friday, May 17, 2013.Read morePeter Mucha / Staff

Tesla Motors, the upstart maker of electric cars, opened the doors of its first area showroom at 10 this morning at the Plaza at King of Prussia.

When a similar showroom opened at Tysons Corner, Va., ten thousand people showed up the first weekend, according to Will Nicholas, senior regional manager.

That's how great the buzz is about Tesla, whose stock started soaring even before Consumer Reports came out with a rave review. Motor Trend and other publications had already named the Model S sedan the car of the year.

Reviewers have seriously debated whether the Model S is "the best car ever made."

Tesla Motors, named after famed inventor Nicholai Tesla, is the brainchild of visionary Wharton grad Elon Musk, who helped start PayPal and whose SpaceX made business history last May when it sent a payload to the International Space Station.

The King of Prussia showroom is the ninth in the Northeast, the 24th in the United States and the 35th in the world, Nicholas said.

Few visitors are expected to be looking to buy. The Model S is Tesla's only new vehicle now on the market, and the cost ranges from about $70,000 to more than $100,000.

But people know they could be looking at the future.

Or even test driving it. (Scheduling can be done online.)

Perhaps it's fitting that this sexy bit of tech is across from Victoria's Secret and near the Apple Store, on the side with Nieman Marcus.

Just two examples of the Model S are displayed in the small storefront showroom. They certainly fulfill the expectation of a roomy luxury sedan, with a large iPad-like touch screen that controls everything from music and synced phone calls to the rear-view camera.

Also attention-grabbing, though, is a third major piece of hardware on the floor – the chassis of a Tesla Model S.

The battery compartments are in the middle, out of the way below the passengers, explained spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson.

Between the rear wheels are side-by-side round devices: the inverter, which converts the batteries' direct current into alternating current, and the motor, which is closer to the size of lawn mower engine that a regular car's.

With no huge engine, there's room for a trunk in the front, and a third set of seats, although sized for two small children.

The showroom also has large touch screens where models can be customized for purchase -- or curiosity -- as well as assorted Tesla promotional merchadise, including a baby outfit that says "0 emissions ... almost."

The hope for electric cars is that they could help dramatically reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels. But to catch on with consumers, they need to match the affordability, performance and convenience of gas- or diesel-powered cars.

Tesla has made strides toward that goal.

The Model S can go from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds, and has a range of up to 265 miles between charges. It plugs into any electrical outlet, but recharges faster in a 220 outlet. At a Tesla supercharging station, like the East Coast's in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn., both along I-95, the batteries can be fully recharged in just 45 minutes – for free.

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