PALO ALTO, Calif. — “You can’t drive a press release,” Elon Musk told me in a wide-ranging video discussion in his California office. He was referencing the competition, which has mostly talked about the electric cars they were preparing for the market. But all that’s changing, as Fisker (Tesla’s nemesis), Wheego, Coda, Smart and others prepare electric vehicles for the market late this year or early next.

There was a lot going on at Tesla headquarters, including a Wired photo shoot and a chance for the first-ever drive in the company’s electric-conversion A-Class Mercedes. Here's the first section of what turned out to be a 25-minute talk I had with him:

Musk’s Tesla was way ahead of the pack with its ultra-fast $109,000 Roadster, announced in 2007, and now after selling 1,300 of those and going public with an IPO, the company is racing to get the Model S sedan to market in 2012.

This interview will be in several parts, and this is the first. In this section, Musk talks mostly about the company’s finances. With the combination of its $465 million Department of Energy loan and $250 million raised through the IPO, Musk says he has more than sufficient capital to get the Model S into production.

The company has now acquired the ex-GM and Toyota NUMMI factory to produce the Model S, and has built partnerships with Daimler and Toyota. Tesla's newest investor is longtime battery partner Panasonic, which said Wednesday that it is investing $30 million in the company. Buy a Smart electric drive, and you’re in tune with Tesla, too.

I’ll let Musk do the talking. Stay tuned for Part Two.

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