The Tesla Roadster is a rocket. And all-electric, too

Sep 22, 2009 04:00 PM in Energy & Sustainability |

By Mark Fischetti



tesla-roadster“Are you ready?” the young driver beside me asked, as we sat in the two-seat Tesla Roadster
convertible, facing a straight, steep, quarter-mile road that rises
from the water of San Francisco Bay up the headland to the Golden Gate
Bridge. Then he floored the accelerator. I was driven into the
seat-back behind me—and I mean driven, like I was strapped into some
insane amusement park ride—for several full seconds as the car
accelerated and accelerated like a rocket up the climb. Only there was
no screaming flame blasting behind us. There was no engine roaring
either. I was being shot up this road so fast my emergency senses were
on full alert, yet all was eerily quiet.

The Tesla Motors roadster is an all-electric vehicle. Which means zero
emissions. There’s no engine, no fuel tank, just a deep bank of lithium-ion batteries
and a single-gear, direct-drive motor that hits maximum torque
instantly (that’s the beauty of electric propulsion). The car is
blistering fast; the sport edition goes from zero to 60 miles per hour
in 3.7 seconds. Not up on car specs? The Chevy Corvette, with a monster
6.2 liter, eight cylinder, 430 horsepower engine takes 4.6 seconds. The
Tesla accelerates faster than the Porsche 911. Faster than the Ferrari
Spider. The typical sedan takes a good 6.0 seconds or more to reach the
same speed.

The Tesla is not a one-trick pony, however. It has a range of 244 miles on a full charge,
which it has proven in real-world driving tests. It meets all the
standard safety requirements and looks and handles like any other
exotic roadster, particularly the Lotus: it is a low-slung, two-door,
hard-top convertible with tight cockpit seats and little room for much
else. The price tag is $128,500, which sounds like a lot until you
start looking up exotic roadsters, which can cost even more. If you
want to save some money for sushi lunches on the pier, you can buy the
regular Tesla Roadster for $101,500, but you’ll have to wait a full 3.9
seconds to hit 60 miles per hour.

Few people can afford this car, of course, but the pin-drop quiet
Tesla makes a loud statement: an all-electric car can compete with
gasoline roadhogs. And if they can do that, they can certainly make it
as mainstream vehicles. The Roadster is much more than a proof of
technology; it proves to the world that all-electric automobiles are
for real. The company has begun offering a four-door sedan for $49,900
that will be delivered in 2011.

Sales manager Dan Myggen gave me my ride outside the GoingGreen conference
in Sausalito, Calif. All day he took passengers for a spin around the
half-mile circle in front of the Cavallo Point hotel, then up the steep
road to the bridge. Every person who returned climbed out of the car
with a big smile on his or her face. It was impossible not to grin. The
car looks hot and rides hot. It’s a smile machine. Whether Tesla will
succeed commercially remains to be seen, but other startups are making
their own all-electric models, and the major car companies are diving
in too. Whether the standard claim that volume production will bring
down cost proves true also remains to be seen, but I can say with
certainty, now, that if anyone doubts whether all-electric cars can
compete: they can.

Credit: Courtesey of Tesla Motors

Read More About:

alternative fuels,
electric cars,
Tesla Motors

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