Lotus helps build electric car
21 July 2006

This familiar-looking machine isn’t a redesigned Elise, it’s the new Roadster from American firm Tesla. Unlike any Elise, the Tesla doesn’t have a petrol engine – it’s powered by an electric motor – but with 0-60mph in ‘about four seconds’ and a top speed in excess of 130mph this is no milk float.

The similarities with the Elise are no coincidence: Lotus has had a large hand in the development of the Tesla, with the basic chassis and tub coming straight from the Elise. This can be seen in the windscreen and surround, and even in the door mirrors, which come from the long-defunct Rover 111. The cabin will be familiar to Lotus owners too, although the dash, centre console and door skins are all bespoke.

Where the Elise packs a four-cylinder Toyota engine, the Tesla uses an electric motor weighing just over 30kg that produces 185kW – about 245bhp. Peak torque of around 180lb ft is generated from 0rpm. It is powered by a micro processor-controlled lithium-ion battery pack weighing around 450kg that gives a range of around 250 miles (helped by regenerative braking), and has a lifespan “in excess” of 100,000 miles. The batteries can be charged in as little as three and a half hours, and the car comes with all the leads necessary for overnight charging from a home mains point.

Unusually for an electric vehicle, there is a gearbox, albeit a clutchless two-speed unit; first gear giving acceleration up to 60mph and second providing cruising above this. Suspension is independent all round, with braking (an anti-lock system is standard) by an AP Racing disc set-up. As on the Elise, the wheels are 16-inch at the front and 17-inch at the rear.

The Tesla goes on sale in California next summer, with sales in other major US cities to follow. There is no word as yet on pricing or availability in Europe.

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