Tesla Cars on Sale for Half the Price

PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- You know who you are: There are 12,200 of you who have put down deposits ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 for the new Tesla ( TSLA) Model S electric supercar. Only 10 of you have actually taken delivery.

The price that most people pay for the first 1,000 units of the Model S is around $100,000, or $90,000 after tax incentives. What if I told you that you could get a Tesla almost right away for half the price, instead of waiting as long as nine months?

It's true. Yes, there are some caveats, and I'll get to them in some detail, but here is the background: Two years ago, Toyota ( TM) had invested in Tesla, and the companies agreed to jointly develop a Toyota-branded all-electric car with Tesla's signature battery and electric motor, among other components.

For the body, they chose the small SUV called the Toyota RAV4, which is everywhere on U.S. roads. The fruition of this conversion will be hitting the dealerships a month from now, and the price is $50,000 before tax adjustments, so $40,000 after, in California.

Speaking of California: The only place it will be sold is in that state's four major cities. That's the biggest caveat. The second caveat: Toyota and Tesla are committing to build only 2,600 units, compared with Tesla's 12,200 for the Model S.

Starting in a couple of weeks, you will be able to place an order for the Tesla-based Toyota RAV4 Electric, pay $50,000, take delivery of the car in California by September, and then get a $10,000 tax credit. If you were waiting for a Tesla Model S and prepared to pay twice as much -- and you didn't know whether to expect the car in September 2012 or in May 2013 -- this can be a terrific deal for you.

I got the chance to drive the Tesla-based Toyota a few days ago, to the tune of 60 or so miles for a couple of hours. If you have already driven another Tesla, a Chevrolet Volt or any of the other excellent powerful electric cars, you should be able to guess what to expect once you have read the specifications of this unique vehicle.

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